My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Keep Silence this Advent

Photo by Bartholomews, taken at Basilica of Saint Mary, St. Paul, MN

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is a 4th Century chant of Eucharistic devotion popularized by composer Ralph Vaghan Williams, who set the stanzas to the French tune Picardy in 1906. The verses describe God descending to Earth with “blessing in his hand,” as he gives “His own self for heavenly food.” 

“Let all the Earth keep silence before him,” urges the book of Habakkuk 2:20, the Scripture from which the chant is based.

Do we seek silence? That still disposition of preparing to receive our “heavenly food,” should resonate through our days.

Under the frenetic onslaught of modern life, souls crave silence…silence punctuated by winds rustling, fire crackling, pages turning or gentle conversation. Silence stirred by heartbeats and contemplation. A silence sipped like fine wine, because it is so rare in our world. Just as important as developing a love of fine music, is learning to appreciate silence. Cultivating a listening silence in our hearts that extends beyond church and Eucharistic adoration, will help us hear God’s whispers each moment.

Even amidst children crying, phones ringing, the mad race of traffic and the day’s pressing demands, we can capture a breath of silence, casting our heart and mind heavenward. Pockets of silence, sought amidst the din, sanctify our day.

Enter into the mysteries of Advent peace and Christmas joy. Move beyond busyness. To make Advent more than a commercial or culinary adventure, seek silence:

Silent Joy

In silence, we welcome You, newborn babe
We tremble with joy in Your presence
We adore You

We marvel that God’s greatness is hidden 
In such a fragile child
A newborn, shivering in the manger

We listen and hear Your feeble cry
Our hearts meet Yours

We draw softly closer
In tender reverence, we bow our heads
Knowing the sacrifice Your life will bring

Even now, a shadow falls upon You
Only a crossbeam from the stable roof

But now, may we think only of joy?
May we welcome You in trembling joy?

In silence, first
Our souls speak Your language

We prepare carefully to meet You
Newborn King

Any attraction we have for the wayward path
We lay aside now

May we join in Your journey toward heaven?
Soon, we will raise our voices in prayer and sacred song

In the Eucharist
In Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity
You are born anew each day

But now, we reflect, we rejoice
In silence, we are deeply moved

Angels hover
Creation trembles with Your coming

Little Lord Jesus, we love You
We embrace You
In silence

Please be born into our hearts
And be beloved to us

By Marianna Bartholomew
Christmas Day, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fifty-nine Things Mom and Dad Did Right

Photo by Marianna Bartholomew

What do canoe paddles and toe shoes have in common? 

When I was a toddler, Mom wore me like a leg warmer because I was a shy, clingy kid. To peel me off, she bought Size Zero dance slippers and put three-year-old me into a ballet class for five-year-olds. I was hooked, eventually asking for a ballet barre for Christmas. Graduating to toe shoes, I was so excited I wore them to bed. 

When Miss Yvonne Brown (God rest her soul), offered me a dance scholarship, I faced a dilemma. I could attend public high school and accept the scholarship, teaching and taking dance classes four days or so a week. But I also loved to write, and the historic, Benedictine-run academy my brothers attended, beckoned. This former orphanage featured monks in robes and sandals, 19th century orphans' graves on the property, rambling brick buildings, and even resident ghosts on the fourth floor of St. Joseph Hall. (Along with modern science and computer labs, and devoted religious and lay staff, of course!)

Wearing my two favorite kinds of footwear...
my parents join me, left photo.
I dreamed of going to historic, Benet Academy.
I was a romantic, but, also, a realist. My Charlotte Bronte-loving soul longed to step back in time and attend this school. But I also knew I couldn't meet study demands of a college prep school and accept a dance scholarship.

At this point, my parents did an amazing thing -- they left the decision to me. At age 13, I needed to wrestle it out and discern God's plan for my life. My parents seemed impartial, not lobbying for one choice over the other.

With Thanksgiving's approach, I'm feeling thankful for lots of things Mom and Dad did right. Trips down memory lane can be scenic if handled with care, and it's good to be grateful for all God's I made a list. You might recognize therein things your parents did well.

Mom and Dad, made for
each other.
Whatever your age, situation or vocation, may you draw inspiration, like I do, from this unique couple's strong, upbeat approach to life. Maybe you'll decide to draw up your own list, and thank your Mom and Dad. So, here it is, definitely not in order of importance, Fifty-nine Things Mom and Dad Did Right:

1) Created family traditions, such as after-dinner Romping with Kids and Cats in the living room, weekend visits to grandparents, Sunday evenings watching All Creatures Great and Small, movie nights with homemade hot fudge over Neapolitan ice cream, and holiday charade-playing.
2) Allowed us to get dirty camping in the woods, digging gargantuan holes in the next-door prairie or stirring Mud-and-Berry Backyard Pies.
3) Permitted household messes with a purpose, such as forts of blankets, tables and chairs; endless hot wheels highways, cooking supplies flung around the kitchen as a brother made his awesome baking powder biscuits or as 12-year-old me created World-Famous Italian Dinners from Scratch Complete With Homemade Bread and Multi-Layered Pudding Dessert.
4) Plied us with classical music, playing "Guess that Composer" when pieces came on the radio, and sharing their love of Gilbert and Sullivan songs, Wagner arias, Beethoven and Bach concertos, Mozart and even Bartok.
5) Allowed "NO TV ON SCHOOL NIGHTS," jettisoning us onto our own resources so we (gasp!) did homework, read, chatted or challenged each other to Yahtzee, Chess, Boggle, or my favorite card game of all time ...Pounce!
Photo by Arvind Balaraman
courtesy of
6) Planted organic gardens and made us help, piling kitchen counters and dinner plates with asparagus, zucchini, swiss chard, rhubarb, tomatoes, red raspberries and the tartest green grapes known to man (Mom turned those into jelly).
7) Explored roads less traveled, driving and camping through the midwest and western states, reaching as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico and as high as Estes Park, Colorado. Like a circus, we'd hoist a vast, striped, canvas tent that took a strong kid and Dad to heft from the car.
8) Divied out treats sparingly.  Pop and chips were for weekends, and candy and desserts, limited. I might be the only kid with half a Ho Ho in her lunch bag, but I was well into my 20's before I had my first cavity.
9) Modeled a philosophical approach toward discomfort.  Mom and Dad endured all sorts of inconvenience lugging our tribe around, so I took it in stride when I was packed in at my sibling's feet for a car drive to Colorado. (Before seatbelt laws.) I was cozy down there with sleeping bag and pillow, until things got tense with carsick siblings above!
10) Depended on us for every imaginable household chore. Working with Mom and Dad, we learned household tasks, handling our own laundry, unplugging drains, scrubbing on hands and knees or using our terrifying electric floor cleaner (the thing was powerful) and cooking meals.
11) Encouraged lively conversations over dishes -- a good thing since we lacked a working dishwasher for years.
12) Established civilized dinner etiquette, such as combing hair and donning shoes for dinner, restraining ourselves from whipping dinner rolls the length of our trestle table, and engaging in the art of general-interest conversation. 
Every family member pitched 
in to upkeep our garden.
13) Never accepted age limitations. Mom, a registered nurse, earned a Piano Performance Master's Degree in her 50's, and teaches Suzuki piano (at age 78). Dad, an electrical engineer, worked until his 80's. Now 93, he's a cancer survivor, and still accompanies Mom line dancing. They hiked, camped and cross country skied into their 70's.
14) Refused to let lack of funds stop them. It's a family joke that Mom proved to Dad on paper how summer family vacations were cheaper than remaining home. In winter, they laid out and flooded old plastic tablecloths to form an ice-skating rink in our back yard -- and often brought us ice-skating at the outdoor rink at the park before school! They pursued free and inexpensive outings for the family: touring Fermi Lab, hiking in the woods around a historic grist mill in town, fishing expeditions, etc.
15) Put top priority on sending us through good Catholic schools, forgoing luxuries and working extra hours to meet tuition payments.
16) Familiarized us with Chicago, so we wouldn't be intimidated by the big city. We attended Taste of Chicago and Fourth of July fireworks, took in Christmas windows in the old Marshall Field's and Carson Pirie & Scott, accompanied Mom to music classes at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and learned to ride city trains, buses and the "el."
17) Pursued their interests. Dad never read just one book at a time, but trod toward his reading chair with a stack of nearly a dozen (I have a picture to prove it). Mom practiced up to six hours daily on the piano. The kids all grew up great readers and music lovers.
18) Discouraged overscheduling and allowed time for boredom and daydreaming, leading us to develop hobbies, write poetry and find creative ways to fill our time. 
19) Compartmentalized problems. Mom and Dad had serious talks on "The Couch," then put problems aside to play a game at the kitchen table. 
Chicago born and raised, Mom and Dad made sure their kids
were also at home in the "Windy City."
Photo by Marianna Bartholomew
20) Told us how much they loved and enjoyed us. Dad bypassed job opportunities requiring more travel so he could be a good husband and father. Mom scratched her head when friends gleefully sent kids off to summer camps. Mom's and Dad's favorite times were family times.
21) Read classics aloud. When we were young, it was Milne poetry ("Christopher Robin goes hippity-hoppity"), The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (we rode broomstick steeds through the house), and satisfying reads such as Beatrix Potter books, Alice in Wonderland and Little House on the Prairie. On a camping trip when I was a teen, we read Les Miserables by lantern light. Later, we read aloud The Old Man and the Sea.
Music by Johann
Sebastion Bach and other
master composers filled
our house. Painting is by 
Elias Gottlob Haussmann 
courtesy of Wikimedia 
22) Said it was fine to be a "late bloomer." Since I struggled with acne-prone skin, crooked teeth and mediocre grades through mid high school, this philosophy removed pressure.
23) Had full confidence their kids would bloom. Even when nothing ran smoothly in our middle school or teen lives, I still knew Mom and Dad believed we had great things to offer the world. 
24) Never pressured us about less than stellar gradesjust encouraged us to do better.
25) Promised to promptly fetch us for whatever reason if we ever needed to escape a party or event.
26) Showed sensitivity to family dynamics by not leaving certain family members alone together if siblings made that request.
27) Encouraged family sing-alongs and drama productions. After-dinner singing with Mom (and, sometimes, Dad) at the piano "entertained" the kitchen crew, and exempted a child from dishes. Mom produced little musicals for family, including Hansel and Gretal, landing me a starring role, for a change (I was Gretal). My red-haired older sister played the witch, being a great sport since she was in her 20's.
28) Insisted we choose words carefully. We weren't supposed to call each other "stupid," make denigrating personal comments or say "shut up." Mom and Dad worked on our language, teaching us to speak grammatically and keep our words decent.
29) Taught us to love words! We picked up a monstrous dictionary at a garage sale, the type you'd expect to see at the Library of Congress, and it held a place of respect in our living room. I grew up reading the dictionary for fun and having cousins try to trick me by giving me hard words to spell.  
30) Took calculated risks. Exploring Canadian wilderness captivated Mom's and Dad's fancy,  so they set  us to learning "orienteering" with a compass and map, and other outback survival skills. We took canoe trips when I was 13 and 14 into Canada's Quetico territory, seeing no airplanes (it was a no-fly zone) and scarcely a soul for 2 1/2 weeks at a stretch. 
31) Taught us to rough it and love it. We learned to appreciate stars and the Northern Lights; cool, potable lake water; portaging; silence; little cubes of sausage and cheese that kept us from starving when fish wouldn't bite; ziplock bags of chocolate-laced "gorp," a sort of granola; late night chats caccooned in sleeping bags; the simplicity of changing one t-shirt or plaid, flannel shirt for another; the no-care joy of sweeping hair back into a bandanna; and the first shower and diner meal after canoeing back into civilization. 
Mom and I pursuing paths less
32) Creatively problem-solved. Mom and Dad encouraged us to think "outside the box," even if solutions might seem silly. When we found an old swing set dumped blocks away in a field, we attached to its posts snap-on roller skates, and rolled the cast-iron structure blocks down the street to our house. 
33) Shared family stories. Dad's trials after his first beloved wife died from a brain embolism (leaving him with four young children), and Mom's episodes as a young Registered Nurse working in emergency rooms and confused wards, made for riveting conversation. Learning about life during the Depression or World War II  was invaluable. Exploring the roots of my Pennsylvania Dutch, Quebecois and Irish ancestors became a lifelong hobby, as did traveling to destinations important to my husband's and my family history. 
34) Gathered us at mealtimes, although this did get sketchier as kids reached their teens and older, and started working.
35) Gave us the opportunity to put ourselves through college. Knowing I was paying for each credit hour got me serious about attending classes.
36) Toured us through museums such as The Art Institute, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Planetarium, and Aquarium. My feet hurt even thinking  about it!
What would we have
done without our
dog-eared book of
37) Gave us a family night out at a dinner playhouse for a Christmas present, making for a life-long favorite memory. We saw Oliver!
38) Took us to see student operas, plays and concerts, an affordable route toward sparking their kids' appreciation of fine arts.
39) Brought home gigantic art books about Michelangelo from the library,  inspiring me to read The Agony and the Ecstasy and to savor classic art.
40) Encouraged us to read poetry, short stories, and essays we wrote for school assignments aloud. Our biggest fans, Mom and Dad always asked about and gave feedback on our work.
41) Took time to help us with homework. although I admit, those evening multiplication table sessions with Dad could be torture. He talked about it into my 30's.
42) Showered each other with spousal affection and appreciation. Mom and Dad still hold hands. 
43) Never gave up, no matter how challenging the crisis. They needed plenty of fortitude, raising seven kids. We always trusted our parents would work out whatever difficulties came their way.  They always said divorce was not an option.
Dad bursting with joie de
vivre as he "kicks the habit."
44) Helped us value people more than things. With nine people in one house, we lived frugally, not following all the fashion trends, or buying the latest in TV's or appliances. But we wouldn't have traded in our siblings for any material gain. 
45) Showed us family life was interesting and fun. Some of my favorite memories from childhood are having giggle fits with my two older sisters when all three of us shared a bedroom, and meandering from room to room to see what complicated projects my electronically-inclined brothers were doing. 
46) Didn't shelter us from death or sickness. While in middle school, I lost both grandpas and an uncle within a six-week span, spending countless hours trotting from one wake and funeral to the next (wakes were three days back then). I saw family members support each other warmly and prayerfully. Later, as cancer claimed Grandma and she suffered through her last six weeks of life, we took her into our home, establishing her in a hospital bed in our living room. My grades plummeted that high school year, but I never regretted those precious final days with Grandma, nor the lessons I learned about caring for the critically ill. 
47) Had role-playing and assertiveness-training sessions in the living room with the kids, so the shy ones learned how to stand up for themselves. After a summer working through such exercises with Mom, I astonished friends by returning to school my Junior year with new confidence.
48) Started us managing finances early, taking us on Saturday morning runs to the bank to deposit part of our allowances into college bank accounts. (Then, to the old-timey dime store next to the bank!) I also helped write checks and manage household bills in a hand-written ledger. 
49) Encouraged us to start young in working jobs outside the house to add to our college fund. By the age of 14, I had a job at the library.
50) Prompted us to be optimists, seeing potential in every situation, and quoting this favorite poem by Edgar Guest: "Somebody said that it couldn't be done, but he with a chuckle replied, that maybe it couldn't but he would be one, who didn't say so 'til he tried..."
51) Lapsed into silliness. Mom and Dad were known to tickle each other, and chase each other around the house. In response to a dare when he was at least 60, my dignified father skipped through a crowded parking lot to the car. Mom got goofy singing old love songs, improvising words.
52) Viewed adversity as a school for character, saying "Every knock is a boost" and "Offer it up."
53) Insisted we honor our father and mother in tone of voice and deed.
Our canoes lashed together catamaran-style.
Finally, drumroll please, the final, most important things Mom and Dad did right:

54) Stayed open to life so I could exist! As the youngest of seven, I'm so blessed to even be alive. How many families of seven children do you know these days?
55) Kept the faith, through thick and thin, even through those tumultuous 1960's (and '70's, 80's, 90's, etc!)
56) Explained the sacramental nature of marriage and intimacy, and how it was all a beautiful mystery -- and how living outside of God's plan stripped the mystery and complicated everything.
57) Modeled a lifetime of service and charitable giving, lining up envelopes for charitable causes alongside bills, taking us to nursing homes to sing Christmas carols and visit residents, channeling Christmas money into buying cows for third-world families, and sponsoring a little girl in Africa. 
58) Took us all to weekly Mass and kept practice of our Faith alive in the home, leaving me with rich memories of mealtime prayer, candlelit family rosaries, bedside prayer, missionary magazines around the house, Dad reading scripture, Mom teaching me to pray the 54-day-rosary novena,  togetherness at Sunday Mass, Christmas Midnight Mass and devout observance of Holy Week.
59) Taught us God must be our top priority and best friend, and that seeking and following His will in everything leads to fulfillment and peace.

So, back to the opening story. What do canoe paddles and toe shoes have in common? 

Remember when Mom and Dad left the decision to me as to whether to choose dance or academia? I was 13-years-old and still pondering this choice when we headed off for our Quetico canoe trip. I paddled and prayed about the issue for days. By the end of that trip I knew: dance made me happy but it needed to step aside, pun intended. I passed up the dance scholarship, so I could be taught by Benedictine monks. It was a great decision. I love writing more than I miss dance.

Sometimes the wisest thing for a parent to say, is nothing...
My well-loved toe shoes, and the map we brought
into Quetico.

Please share your stories! In the comments section, feel free to tell what your parents did right, and how it impacts you today...
A Special Message to Readers: 
Maybe you lost a parent to death or divorce as a child, and practices on my list seem foreign to you. Perhaps addictions or abuse broke your home, and your childhood was lonely or unhappy. If so, I'm deeply sorry. (See message below for "My home was broken.") May God ease your pain. Time and again, He has healed mine. I experienced a miraculous renewing of a family relationship after a healing Mass in my 20's.  Like any home, ours had its share of crises and tragedies, rivaling any soap opera on TV. No community lacks conflict, after all. (Imagine, my parents had teens in the house from the 1960's through early '80's!) However, focusing on the positive refreshes the soul.  
"My home was broken." 
Aspects of every home are "broken" in one way or another, but some homes are especially so. If thinking about your childhood pains you or you're in a hurtful home setting now, please don't despair. Pray for healing and reach out to others for prayers and practical help. If your first attempts to seek help aren't successful, then try again. Aid is available but you need to initiate the process. Don't remain isolated. Forgive those who trespassed on your childhood. Confess your own failings.  Take heart: 
"For I know the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot." Jeremiah 29 11-14
About the art: you may have noticed, the paddle shown is not a canoe paddle, simply because I didn't have one around the house! I did, however, have this pirogue oar, given to me by a Cajun gentleman who lived on a Lousiana I took a little artistic license and used what I had! I wonder, did anyone notice?

Friday, November 4, 2011

For the Month of Holy Souls

Taken October 7, 2011, Feast of the Holy Rosary,
and my husband and my anniversary. Colors at Kline Creek Farm.

Photo by Marianna Bartholomew
By Marianna Bartholomew

such a mystical fascination
to watch the dropping leaves

the transition from
green and growing life
to blazing fragility

as each leaf
reaches its climax of beauty
at the threshold of death

then falling
nestles peacefully
with its fellows

glowing still
as with inner fire

seems to promise
a like transition
for us all

the end should come softly
but with a blaze of glory...

I wrote this poem some years ago and imagine it describes that very last moment in life, when the suffering of death has passed its climax and we're in our last moment, escaping the bonds of earth for eternity with God...Eternal rest grant unto our loved ones, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them…

"I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord, in the land of the living." Psalm 27

"A great happiness is granted to the Holy Souls that grows as they draw nearer God. For every glimpse which can be had of God exceeds any pain or joy a man can feel. The Holy Souls clearly see God to be on fire with extreme love for them. Strongly and unceasingly this love draws the soul with that uniting look, as if it had nothing else to do than this." Saint Catherine of Genoa

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Season's End

"Hanging the Laundry Out to Dry" by Berthe Morisot
National Gallery of Art. 
This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. 
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Season's End
By Marianna Bartholomew

It's sweater weather 
says the voice on the radio 
and stepping outside
is like walking off a cliff into fall.

The air snaps
like freshly-hung laundry.

You see a cardinal, a female.
I pinch shriveled blooms from the rosebush 
and scatter petals like confetti.

The grass is still green
but looks uncombed.
The garden crunches underfoot
like stale toast.

I pull my jacket tighter
over skin still peeling from our day at the dunes.
Was it just last week?

The waves were like hedges
rolling and green.
We vaulted over them for hours
then rode them to shore.

There were clouds then, too
but harmless puffs
like lamb's wool.

The clouds today are flannel.

Thought I'd share this poem I wrote as a newly-wed, in my 20's...Just for the love of words! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Part II: Bridging Cultural Divides Can Be Inspiring

Happy Columbus Day!
What do we love most 
about America? 
Hopefully, her people...

America is a melting pot and we should enjoy that reality.
Photo by Bartholomew Family
Attending a Catholic conference alone near Chicago one year, I sat amidst a sea of Filipinos. Some people understandably hate ice-breakers, but I figured I'd might as well be a good sport. Before the conference officially opened, I joined in singing a jaunty little tune that had everyone nodding and greeting each other: "Roll over the ocean, roll over the sea, open up your hearts and build community." 

It sounds corny, and it was. We rolled our arms 1970's disco fashion to represent the ocean. (I hesitate admitting this, since such activities get some people skittling for the door!) During the refrain, "It's you, it's you, it's you who build community," we all nodded, grinned and pointed to each other.  

Sounds like the stuff of nightmares? It was a bit surreal! But then I got over myself. Here I was on a Saturday morning, singing to a little, elderly Filipino man, who had this mischievous expression in his eyes as he belted out the song in heavily-accented English. I learned you absolutely cannot sing a bouncy song and point your finger at someone, while keeping a straight face. All the work-week cares, family conflicts, traffic aggravations seemed to lift off that crowd and fly out the window. Along with cultural divides, of course. By God's grace, we were building community. All ages, all ethnic groups were one in that moment, simply giving in to the goofiness and amiability of it all. Afterwards, we sat predisposed to glean good out of the talks and prayer, the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. Was that song dignified? No, it was childlike. It gave me a kick to see adults lightening up in that moment. Something important clicked inside me, or I wouldn't remember the scene so clearly after all these years. I can sing that tune even today.

Why should we try bridging cultural divides? 

Father Augustine Tolton, the first
African-American priest, fervently
bridged cultural divides. 
"When we look beneath the surface of our national life, we see that the septic undercurrent of racism flows largely unabated," writes Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers in the forward of the 2006 edition of From Slave to Priest (by sister Caroline Hemesath, SSF), about the first African-American Catholic priest, Father Augustine Tolton. "Racism is alive and well, and is intricately woven into the fabric of American culture. But unlike the 1950's and 60's, where racism was overt, extreme...racism today is more subtle and covert." Racism today, writes the deacon, is characterized by a "now unconscious and tacit philosophy of dehumanization." Whether it's antagonism toward African-Americans, Anglos, Hispanics or Laotians, that "septic undercurrent" is one of the fallen characteristics of human nature. 

But who wants to live in a sewer?

We're all God's children and created equal. The Apostles reached out to different peoples, and so should we. We're surrounded by a wide variety of ethnic groups and cultures, and should make extra effort to be neighborly. After all, America is a melting pot. We should enjoy it. What's the alternative? Isolationism. Misunderstandings. Even terrorism. Ultimately, if we're willing to embrace the beauty of other heritages and step out of our comfort zone, real living awaits.  We have to be prudent. Not everyone can be a friend, and obviously, some will mean us harm. But often, it's all so simple. What a pity we don't approach friendship like little children. I remember clasping hands with my friends as we ran off to play. We didn't need many words to have a fabulous time. 

In Part I of this series, I wrote about how food can help bridge cultural divides. But faith is the most powerful unifier. Attending Mass delves us into worship on a global scale. I've felt just at home at Mass in Chicago as I have in Italy, Canada or Austria. I always marvel at all the different cultures mixing with the Holy Father at World Youth Days. 

Dehumanizing the "other" leads to 
tragedy. Above are survivors of the
Wounded Knee Massacre. We should 
continue to pray for healing for a 
troubled America, with its often
sorrowful history. May all life be 
respected. http://www.
A couple weeks ago, a Maryknoll priest spoke at Mass about his 30-plus years serving in China. He told how people had kept the Faith for decades, praying the Rosary, baptizing their children and teaching them the Faith, after Communists murdered clergy and religious, and forced the Catholic Church underground. When September 11th occurred, these Chinese people grieved with America. The missionary ended his homily with a Chinese blessing, exotic in the confines of our suburban church. Missionaries' tales are always such a great wake up call. We're in a universal Church. The first step in spreading the light of faith is befriending people. To do that, we have to allow God to change our "hearts of stone" into "hearts of flesh," scripturally speaking. God thought "outside the box" in forming so many diverse types of people, and  so should we, in opening our hearts and minds to enjoy His creativity -- a creativity visible through each other's very existence.

Back to that song mentioned at the beginning...."Roll over the ocean, roll over the sea, open up your hearts and build community." Columbus "rolled over the ocean," and I'm grateful. We should pray for healing for this troubled land with its complex and often sorrowful history (genocide of native peoples and the pre-born, slavery, corporate and individual greed, dishonest politics, etc.) But how I love this nation with all its diverse peoples! As for getting along, it's like any family -- not easy, although eminently worth the effort. Listening respectfully to others, then standing up for our beliefs, is always in season, if done with genuine warm-heartedness and appreciation of the other. If we fall flat on our face, we can always remind ourselves how drab it would be if all our friends looked, acted, thought and ate, just like us. Having just commemorated the 10-year-anniversary of September 11th, let's pray the world learns to seek the face of God in all its varied beauty. Different cultures are a gift. May we all enrich each other. 
Photo by Marianna Bartholomew