Tuesday, December 17, 2019

On Loving Little and Loving Much

It is painful to have loved too little one who loved much.
It is more painful to have loved much one who loved too little.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ode to a Friend

With a deep gasp I saw
A changed name;
The Pyle is gone.

Speechless, with disbelief,
The day has lastly come
To reap the fruit of my own deeds.

Spurning your loyalty and goodness,
I foolishly chose instead
Another's unresponsiveness and rudeness.

Oh, that I had but loved you more,
And been a better guardian of your heart
Is my most piercing, deep remorse.

To your patient love and sweetness
I selfishly responded
By abandoning you to grief and sadness.

Now it is I who weep and mourn
Over my worst mistake,
As God's best gift from me is torn.

That you are now another's
Is difficult to grasp;
Still even more so, that you are gone forever.

Accursed blindness of the heart!
Why is love most radiant
Only after it has been lost?

If I could atone, down here on earth
For failing time and time again
To love you according to your worth.

Though I caused you untold pain,
Know that your humble, selfless love
Was not at all in vain.

Asking for your forgiveness,
I pledge to ever live
In remembrance of your kindness.

May our good Lord bring forth redemption
And heal all that was broken
By my poor choices and indecision.

May the one whom you have chosen
For many days and years to come
Love you with tenderness and devotion.

May our Lord bless, keep, and prosper
Your hearth, home and children
With abundant love, joy and laughter.

May they rekindle the radiant smile
That I so obtusely extinguished
And bring the pyle back in style.

Love them as you loved me, and more;
May they return it to you a hundredfold,
And grant you a myriad sweet memories.

Though I was most unworthy,
You have set your seal upon my heart,
And engraved it there eternally.

I pledge to offer for your family
My prayers, sacrifices and crosses;
Please remember to pray for me.

With gentle tears, one final time,
Your little red twin
Smiles and waves goodbye.

Farewell, friend, and thank you.
You have loved me well;
I will never forget you.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Daydreaming / The Sleepwalkers

עוד תהיות על עתיד רחוק
לקרבו אל מעבר לפינה
מפחד של בדידות אל בטחון בקיומך
עוד רגע אנוח בחיקך
כמעט מוחש...
בתמונת שלמות אני איתך, איתך

תחבקני עד בלי די
הישאר בזרועותיי
וביחד הלוואי נאבד
כבשת את מחשבותיי
והרגשת בוודאי
אתה ואני, אולי, אחד

התלחש לי באזניי?
בשדה רוץ אחרי
ונחלום חלום מדי מתוק
אהובי תבוא אלי
כי חיכיתי כל חיי
עד כלות הכוחות

זיכרונות, ריח עבר רחוק
פחד בדידות עמוק
אבל... הספקות שבי כבו
בליבי הוודאות איתך, איתך

התעוררות להווה פשוט
ועם כל זאת אני מחכה לך
תחושת נוכחותך היא במרחק של נגיעה
עוד רגע אני אפגוש בך
עדיף לבד
עד היחד שנועד איתך, איתך

Daydreaming / The Sleepwalkers
Performed by Shani Lachmish
Lyrics by Shani Lachmish
Music composed and arranged by Amit Ben Atar
Recorded at BIT studios, Jerusalem - Amit Ben Atar

Monday, October 28, 2019

On Love and Ties: Lessons from the Little Prince and Dante

Establishing Ties

– Qu’est-ce que signifie « apprivoiser » ?
– C’est une chose trop oubliée, dit le renard. Ça signifie « créer des liens… »
– What does that mean--'tame'?"
– "It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. It means to establish ties."
Establishing ties. Bonds. Friendships. Relationships. We were made for them. This is the stuff of which life is made. We were made to live in community and in communion with others.

Some ties are natural and familial, like those of father and son, mother and daughter, or brother and sister. Some ties are solemnly sealed, as in marriage, where a man and a woman become husband and wife. Marriage creates new family ties.

But life is also full of smaller ties that we form all the time—like friendships. When we form a friendship, we establish a tie. We create a relationship. We write a story. When we befriend someone, we begin to tame that person. The story of a friendship is a call to responsibility.

In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic book, the Little Prince is constantly thinking about the rose he left back on his planet—the rose he loves, despite her difficult character. But when he finds a garden full of roses just like his own, he is dismayed. All of a sudden, it seems as if his rose is not unique at all, but just one of many.

A little while later, the little prince meets a fox. The fox teaches him an important lesson:
– "If you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."
– "I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . ."
Because his rose has tamed him, the little prince understands that she is unique in all the world. As the fox tells him: "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."

The fox goes on to share with the little prince his most important piece of advice:
"You become responsible forever for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose."
And so, the little prince sets out to return to his rose whom he loves.

Breaking Ties

« C'est triste d'oublier un ami. » 
"To forget a friend is sad."
We live in an age when loyalty has become a rare commodity, and when betrayal and abandonment are commonplace.

When tensions or difficulties arise in friendships, relationships and even marriages, instead of valiantly working to seek reconciliation and make things right, we burn bridges. We prefer to flee by unfriending, blocking, and shutting people out of our lives (whether on social media or in real life).

Why do we resort to such childish acts of cowardice? Perhaps we don't grasp to what extent they accomplish nothing but leave behind us a trail of broken ties and broken hearts. Perhaps we don't see to what extent they wound our own nature.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I recently experienced two painful betrayals. The two experiences, which occurred one after the other in quick sequence, were oddly similar, though touching upon two different areas of life (professional and personal). Both persons involved were professed Christians in positions of leadership. I was wholly dedicated to both. Both acted in an eerily similar way:
Both took advantage of me while I was useful to them.
Both got rid of me when I was no longer needed or wanted.
Both were ruthless once they had made up their minds.
Both were more concerned about their reputation than about justice or kindness.
Both attempted to silence me to safeguard said reputation.
Both were unresponsive and stubbornly refused to respond to appeals for dialogue.
Both slammed the door to restoring or healing the relationship.
Although time heals and forgiveness becomes a little easier every day, it remains extraordinarily sad to think that these two persons violated ideals and principles that they professed to hold, and that neither made any attempt, however feeble, at repairing the harm they had done.

Why do people act like that?

Dante's World

Dante's Divine Comedy presents a magnificent theology of love. In the Inferno, we observe the tragedy of failed love and ties that have been broken forever. In the Purgatorio, we encounter the hope of redeemed love and ties that are in the process of being mended. In the Paradiso, we meet perfected love and ties that have been fully restored.

Broken Ties—Forever

In the Inferno, the damned are in hell because they refused to love. They broke ties and stubbornly refused to repair them.

In the circle of heretics, for example, Dante meets a Florentine noble and author called Farinata. Farinata is very concerned about his reputation; he ardently desires that people read his books. But when a former rival, a man called Cavalcante, appears and begins to speak, Farinata is unresponsive: he ignores Cavalcante and refuses to even acknowledge him. The two have "unfriended" and "blocked" each other for all eternity, as it were, and their bitter isolation is part of their eternal, infernal torment (Inferno X).

In the Inferno, the lowest level of hell is reserved for those guilty of "compound fraud," those who have committed acts of treachery against friends and relatives, violating "the special trust added by bonds of friendship or blood-ties" (Inferno XI, 61-63). In the frozen ninth and lowest circle of hell, we find three arch-traitors—Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Christ), Brutus and Cassius (who betrayed Julius Caesar)—being eternally eaten by Satan himself. (Inferno XXXIV)

Clearly—and not just for Dante—betrayal is serious business. It is the worst possible sin against God and neighbor. Hence we must avoid it at all costs. Yet great betrayals don't occur suddenly and out of nowhere. One does not wake up one day to become an adulterer or a Judas Iscariot. Like any other virtue or vice, we become what we practice. If we consistently exercise loyalty in small things, we will become loyal people. If we tolerate small betrayals in our life, over time we run the risk of becoming traitors.

And so, as I often tell my students: Watch for little patterns of infidelity, disloyalty, and betrayal in your daily life and in your heart. Do not tolerate them. Repent from them and fix them. Now.

Mending Ties

In Dante's Purgatorio, the road to purification and sanctification is accomplished with others, in community. Penitents climb Mount Purgatory in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration with one another. They know that they cannot make it to heaven on their own. They must learn to forgive and love one another. They must learn to become friends.

It is no wonder that reconciliation is an indispensable part of both the Jewish and Christian way of life. Jews are called to restore broken relationships especially during the Days of Awe leading to Yom Kippur. Christ takes reconciliation even more seriously: He says that one should not even approach God's altar to worship Him before reconciling oneself with one's brother or sister (Mt 5:23-26). Clearly, healing broken relationships is not an option for both Jews or Christians. Why wait for purgatory? We must have the courage to do it now.

Restored Ties

In the Paradiso, everyone is reconciled. Broken ties are mended. Wounded hearts are healed. Shattered friendships are made whole. The community of the blessed love well and love fully.

This is our ultimate goal and destiny: to love and be loved. For this reason, we must take good care of the ties in our life, and courageously mend those that we have wounded or broken.

And so, let us learn to be loyal and faithful—every day. May we learn to become responsible for those whom we have tamed.
« J’aurais dû ne pas l’écouter... il ne faut jamais écouter les fleurs. Il faut les regarder et les respirer. La mienne embaumait ma planète, mais je ne savais pas m’en réjouir. Cette histoire de griffes, qui m’avait tellement agacé, eût dû m’attendrir… »
« Je n’ai alors rien su comprendre ! J’aurais dû la juger sur les actes et non sur les mots. Elle m’embaumait et m’éclairait. Je n’aurais jamais dû m’enfuir ! J’aurais dû deviner sa tendresse derrière ses pauvres ruses. Les fleurs sont si contradictoires ! Mais j’étais trop jeune pour savoir l’aimer. »

Friday, October 25, 2019

On Loss, Grief, and Detachment: Wisdom from Saint Catherine of Siena

In this excerpt from Catherine of Siena's Dialogue, God tells Catherine why we suffer so much when we experience loss. Much of our suffering comes excessive attachment to created things (or people).

Catherine of Siena
"I have told you that the will alone is the source of suffering. And because my servants are stripped of their own will and clothed in mine, they feel no grief in suffering but feel me in their souls by grace and are satisfied. Without me they could never be satisfied even if they possessed the whole world. For created things are less than the human person. They were made for you, not you for them, and so they can never satisfy you. Only I can satisfy you. These wretched souls, then, caught in such blindness, are forever toiling but never satisfied. They long for what they cannot have because they will not ask it of me though I could satisfy them.
Do you want me to tell you why they suffer? You know that love always brings suffering if what a person has identified with is lost. These souls in one way or another have identified with the earth in their love, and so they have in fact become earth themselves. Some have identified with their wealth, some with their status, some with their children. Some lose me in their slavery to creatures. Some in their great indecency make brute beasts of their bodies. And so in one way and another they hunger for and feed on earth. They would like to be stable but are not. Indeed they are as passing as the wind, for either they themselves fail through death or my will deprives them of the very things they loved. They suffer unbearable pain in their loss. And the more disordered their love in possessing, the greater is their grief in loss. Had they held these things as lent to them rather than as their own, they could let them go without pain. They suffer because they do not have what they long for. For, as I told you, the world cannot satisfy them, and not being satisfied, they suffer."
--Catherine of Siena, Dialogue 48. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

When Fortune Turns Against You: Lessons from Boethius

Yom Kippur 2019

Lady Fortune and Her Wheel
One of the forgotten great philosophers of the past is Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (A.D. 480 to 524)—commonly known as Boethius. Scholars have called him "the last of the Romans and the first of the scholastic philosophers," as he is a sort of intellectual bridge between Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Boethius' final and greatest work is The Consolation of Philosophy, a masterful philosophical treatise addressing the timeless question of theodicy: Why do bad things happen to good people? And why is there suffering and evil in a world supposedly ruled by a benevolent and omnipotent God?

The question was not just a theoretical one for Boethius. After a long and successful career in Rome at the service of Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great, he was accused of treason, imprisoned and eventually executed. Boethius wrote the Consolation during his imprisonment while awaiting execution.

At the beginning of the book, Boethius laments his fate and impending death. Gone are the days when Fortune favored him. She has now “changed her cheating face” and resolutely turned against him. But then, a resplendent woman appears before him. This is “Lady Philosophy,” a personification of philosophy who begins an imaginary dialogue with Boethius and proceeds to console him and help him make sense of Fortune’s bad turn against him.

Anyone who has gone through a difficult season in life will find much of value in The Consolation of Philosophy. Lady Philosophy's discourse is essentially a profound commentary on God’s benevolent Providence as expressed in Romans 8:28: “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

For me, reading Boethius was an intensely personal experience. 2018 was the worst year of my life. It was a year of betrayals and a year of exile.

At the end of 2017, I had decided it was time to settle down. I purchased my first home and looked forward to a bit of stability in my life after many years of wanderings. But three months later, without warning, I suddenly lost my job at the place where I had taught for the past six years—a place that I had come to love as my spiritual community, family, and home. For no coherent reason, a new rector ruthlessly terminated the employment of three lay faculty, including myself. I was forced to relocate and start my life anew. Witnessing a man betray his own priesthood and spiritual fatherhood over the people who had been entrusted to him was devastating.

As bad as it was, this betrayal was soon dwarfed by an even greater one. In the midst of this turmoil, a person who had become a very close friend seriously misled me romantically, then became more and more unresponsive, disrespectful and distant until friendship was no longer possible. Eventually, she cut off all contact and completely disappeared from my life, just as I was going through the throes of leaving my home and life behind, starting over in a new, unfamiliar place.

The year was excruciating. I reached the bottom of this vale of tears on Yom Kippur of 2018—one year ago. Overwhelmed by sadness in the midst of this painful physical, emotional, and spiritual exile, I could wholeheartedly join my voice and tears to Boethius’ and cry out with him: “Fortune has raged against me” (1.4).

As I read the Consolation, it seemed as if Lady Philosophy was speaking directly to me. Here are a few of the lessons that I learned from her wisdom.

1. The real exile occurs in your soul, not in your circumstances.
“Indeed how far from your native land you are! And yet you haven’t been expelled; you’ve simply strayed away. If you prefer to think of yourself as banished, then you should realize you’ve banished yourself.” (1.5)
As much as Boethius has suffered, Lady Philosophy gently reprimands him for wallowing in self-pity. He is indeed in exile—but not just a physical one. The worst kind of exile is the spiritual and psychological one that occurs when we let ourselves get dragged down by adverse circumstances. This is what really harms Boethius and makes his healing impossible as long as he holds on to it. Lady Philosophy tells him: “since such a storm of passions has come upon you and you are pulled about by conflicting feelings of pain, anger, and sorrow, you can’t, in such a mind, be given stronger remedies” (1.5).

Philosophy must begin with a “gentler remedy.” She must first pull Boethius out of his self-pity by asking him a few questions about his view of the world, of God, and of himself. I had to follow him along the same path, rejecting self-pity and rediscovering God’s providence in my life, even in the midst of desolation.

2. Don’t forget who you are.
“Now I know the other, in fact the greatest, cause of your disease: you no longer know what you are." (1.6)
Boethius, as it turns out, believes that God governs the world and steers its course. But he has forgotten what is the “end of all things or the goal to which all nature strives.” Worse, he has forgotten who he is: he doesn’t believe that God cares for him personally. And so, Philosophy remarks, “since you’re overwhelmed by forgetfulness of your nature, you grieve at being in exile and deprived of your goods” (1.6). God’s benevolent providence is a concept that Boethius theoretically accepts. But this knowledge scarcely helps him cope with his loss and grief, while “base and wicked men are powerful and happy” (1.6).

Lady Philosophy must remind Boethius who he is and what is his end. Likewise, we must remember who we are and what is our own end. Life is not easy. People will let us down. As painful as life can be, there is a reason and purpose behind even the most distressing experience. The worst betrayal is not meaningless, but has a purpose within God’s benevolent and perfect plan for your life.

3. Everything you have has been entrusted to you for a time. So be grateful.
“Do you really value a happiness that will pass away? Is present Fortune dear to you when she can’t be trusted to stay and when she brings grief as she departs?” (2.1)
Boethius’ problem is that he is fixated on the passing goods of this world, thinking that they are a prerequisite for happiness. But the passing goods of this world are precisely that: passing. They come and go at the whims of Fortune. Why, then, do we think that her whims will bring us lasting happiness? Here Dame Fortune herself offers wise words of advice:
“As one who borrowed the possessions of another, you owe me thanks; you do not have the right to complain as if you had completely lost the things that belonged to you. Wealth, honors, and other things of that sort are mine by right; they are slaves that belong to me and come along with me, and so they depart with me. Let me tell you plainly: if the things you are mourning over had been yours in the first place, you would never have lost them.” (2.2)
Fortune is fickle. She doesn’t give us anything permanently. She merely “lends” us good gifts for a time. We do not own anything. Throughout life, God sends us a pyle of good things. We are to be good custodians of them while remembering that they do not belong to us. These good things may grant us a glimpse of happiness, but they are not the highest good and are thus unable to make us fully happy.

The lesson to be learned: Remember and appreciate “how many and how great are the sources of your happiness” (2.3). Be grateful for everything that God has given you—even if just for a time and season.

4. Blessedness lies within you.
“You see, there is no situation that is miserable unless you think it so. Likewise, every condition is blessed when a man endures it with an untroubled spirit… O mortals, why do you seek outside yourselves for the happiness that has been placed within you?” (2.4)
Wealth. Beauty. Fame. Power. Honor. Pleasure.

A job. A home. A friend. Human love.

All these are but passing goods, perpetually at the mercy of Fortune. What, then, can escape her reach? Our intellect. Our will. Our soul. Our self—if we are able to turn away from temporal goods and towards the highest Good. And for this, paradoxically, the fickle wheel of fortune can help us—especially when she appears to turn against us. For it is precisely when we lose the goods of this world that we are prompted—or forced—to turn to the eternal Good hidden deep within us.

5. Fortune is more truthful when she seems most harsh.
“Indeed, I think Fortune is of more benefit when she is adverse than when she brings prosperity, for in the latter case she approaches under the guise of happiness. When she seems kind, she lies; but when she shows herself fickle and unstable, she is truthful. In the first case she deceives; in the latter she instructs. In the first instance she uses the appearance of false goods to bind the minds of men that enjoy them; in the second she frees these minds by the knowledge of the fragility of happiness. And so, in her first role you see that Fortune is without substance, impermanent, and always uncertain of herself; in her second role she is sober, well girded, and made wise by the experiences of adversity. In short, happy Fortune uses her allurements to draw men astray from the true Good, but adverse Fortune, for the most part, uses her claw to drag men back to the things that are good.” (2.8)
Lady Philosophy here is providing, as it were, a commentary on Jesus’ Beatitudes. While the version in the Gospel of Matthew is better known, Luke’s version adds woes that depict an “inversion of reality” similar to Lady Philosophy’s discourse:
20 Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. "Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Lk 6:20-26)
Why this “inversion of reality,” as it were, where hardships turn into blessings, and apparent blessings turn into curses? Because apparent blessings lure us into the complacency of trusting in the goods of this world, while hardships awaken us to the reality that they are but fleeting vanity. Hardships, moreover, force us to turn towards the Highest Good—the only good capable of bringing us lasting satisfaction.

6. Seek the Highest Good and source of all blessedness.
“God, who is the most high, is completely full of the highest and most perfect Good. But we have concluded that the perfect Good is true blessedness, and thus true blessedness must reside in the most high God.” (3.10)
Riches, honors, power, glory, pleasures. Men seek these things because “they think that through them they will acquire sufficiency, respect, power, fame, and joy.” Yet these are but shadows of true blessedness, faint echoes of the long-lost bliss of Eden. The reality behind them is God, the perfect Good and source of all blessedness. Since blessedness is divinity, men acquire blessedness by acquiring divinity. This participation in the divine nature (“theosis”) is man’s ultimate end (2 Pet 1:4).

But the way to blessedness is arduous. Paradoxically, even though riches, honors, power, glory, pleasures reflect aspects of God (Boethius calls them “limbs of blessedness”), seeking these things do not draw us closer to Him. The way to God—and to lasting happiness—must be the way of purifying, purgatorial suffering. It must be the way of the cross. This is why Fortune’s harsh blows, contrary to all appearances, actually propel us towards our ultimate blessedness and final end.

7. Don’t worry about those who hurt you.
“It’s obvious that an injury done to someone creates misery for the doer of the deed and not for the sufferer of it.” (4.4)
Lady Philosophy has led Boethius to the realization that lasting happiness can only be found in the highest Good—in God. But Boethius is still troubled by a pressing question: “if the ruler of the universe is in fact good, how can evil exist or go unpunished?” Worse, if often seems that “virtue, not vice, is punished.” (4.1)

It is all fine and well to trust in the goodness and providence of God, and even to believe that bad turns of Fortune can draw us nearer to Him. But what about those who betray us and seem to go on happily with their lives? Lady Philosophy explains that despite all appearances, those who wrong others wrong themselves the most. “Good men are truly powerful and evil men weak” (4.1), for “goodness always produces rewards” and “wickedness always brings its own punishment” (4.2). Wronging others brings more misery to the wrongdoer than to the one who has been wronged.

This is why we must forgive those who harm us. Forgiving is not the same as giving up on justice. Don't get me wrong: Betraying someone’s trust is bad. It is very bad. Yet justice is God’s job, not ours. God will render to every one according to their works (Rom 2:6). Those who are ruthless with encounter ruthlessness. Those who are unresponsive will encounter unresponsiveness. Those who betray will experience betrayal. Do not worry if they don’t repent or make amends for their misdeeds and appear to go on unpunished. Lady Philosophy goes on to explain that since divine punishment is a type of restraint and correction of bad behavior, then “the wicked are more unfortunate when they are granted unjust impunity than when they are punished with just retribution.” (4.4)

Forgive, and leave justice to God. There are better and more useful ways of engaging your thoughts than to fret against those who have harmed you.

8. Learn from your mistakes (and those of others).
“To some men, Providence distributes a mixture of good and bad fortune according to the nature of their soul. Some Providence troubles, so they won’t be spoiled by a long period of happiness. Others Providence vexes with hardships, so they can strengthen the virtues of their souls by the use and practice of patience... Providence uses sorrows to teach these men to understand themselves.” (4.5)
Every affliction is an opportunity to engage in a serene yet earnest examination of conscience, learn from mistakes of the past, and better conform ourselves to God’s character: Why did this happen to me? Am I reaping what I have sown? How should this experience change me?

Personally, I have learned many lessons from the hardships of the past year. I have also reflected on my past failures and vowed, with God’s help, not to repeat them.

I have learned to be more cautious before entrusting myself to another—no matter how eager—until that person has proven to be worthy of trust.

I have learned that goodness, kindness, generosity and selflessness are far more important than keen intelligence and a strong will.

I have learned that activism for any cause, however noble, is of little value if you step on people in the process.

I have learned the value of authenticity. If I’m going to embrace some ideals, I had better live up to them before proclaiming them on rooftops. The person who misled me in an extraordinarily irresponsible way then treated me with extreme disrespect wrote a thesis on responsibility and claims that her life mission is to "cultivate community" and “humanize culture” (I am not making this up). Few things are more jarring and scandalous than incoherence between ideals and behavior. With God’s help, I will strive never to be guilty of this.

I have learned the value of loyalty. With God’s help, I will never mislead another. If I damage or wound a friendship, I will take responsibility for fixing it. I will not be a coward and run away from ruins I've created. Most especially, I will never be intentionally unresponsive towards a friend reaching out to me, as it is one of the most disrespectful and hurtful things you can do to someone.

9. All shall be well.
“Since all fortune, either pleasant or bitter, is given to reward or test the good or to punish or correct the bad, it is entirely good, since it is either just or useful.” (4.7)
Do not worry when Fortune appears to turn against you. Even when she does, she cannot harm you. As Lady Philosophy concludes, all fortune is good to the good, and bad to the bad: “it is clear that the fortune of those who either possess virtue or pursue it or are acquiring it is entirely good, whatever it is, and that it is all bad to those who remain in wickedness” (4.7).

All fortune is guided by divine providence for the sake of ultimately establishing goodness and justice in the world. Our task, then—regardless of the whims of Fortune—is to pursue goodness and justice at all times, even when it involves embracing the cross. This is the only sure way to reach divine blessedness.

In this period of the Days of Awe, it is a fitting time to search our conscience, repent of our sins of the past year, make amends with those whom we have hurt, and conform our lives to the character of the One who is the source of all goodness and blessedness.

Friday, October 4, 2019

On Stubbornness

Stubbornness is pride in disguise.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Wisdom of the Bible

Catholics for Israel presents a new course on the Wisdom books of the Bible, taught by Dr. André Villeneuve at Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, California, August 2019.

Lesson Plan

  1. Introduction to the Poetical Books of the Bible
  2. Introduction to the Wisdom Books of the Bible
  3. Wisdom in the Ancient Near East
  4. A Survey of Salvation History
    1. From Adam to David
    2. The Davidic Kingdom
    3. The Second Temple Period
  5. The Psalms
  6. The Book of Proverbs
  7. Not Abolished but Fulfilled? The Torah for Christians
  8. The Book of Job
  9. The Book of Ecclesiastes
  10. The Song of Songs
  11. The Book of Tobit
  12. The Wisdom of Ben Sira (Sirach)
  13. The Wisdom of Solomon
  14. Theology of the Body: God's Plan for Love, Sex, Marriage, and the Family
Click on the playlist icon (top right of the video) to scroll through the 16 lessons............↓

Friday, August 30, 2019


Haughty silence of pride
Refusing to face one's wrongs
Call to humility

   Tense silence of anger
   Seething from injuries done
   Call to forgiveness

Cold silence of denial
Suppressing the voice of conscience
Call to conversion

   Agonizing silence of pain
   Reeling from betrayal
   Call to healing

Odious silence of cowardice
Dreading to do what is right
Call to courage

   Sad silence of loss
   Mourning a friendship gone
   Call to reconciliation

Embarrassed silence of shame
Regretting wounds inflicted
Call to mercy

   Tender silence of love
   Waiting for your return
   Call to embrace

Monday, August 12, 2019

Le lièvre et la tortue: une nouvelle fable

"Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé." - Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Un beau jour d'été, une sage tortue rencontra un jeune lièvre qui lui semblait bien pressé. Le lièvre lui dit: "Veux-tu être mon ami? Viens avec moi. Partons en voyage vivre une grande aventure." La tortue, surprise d'un tel empressement, n'hésita qu'un instant avant de lui répondre de bonne foi: "d'accord, avec joie!"

Les deux nouveaux amis partirent en navire vers des terres lointaines. Arrivés sur une ile enchantée, ils visitèrent un château ou ils rencontrèrent une fée. "Quelle beauté!" dit la tortue. "Vite!" dit le lièvre. "Nous devons encore vivre d'autres aventures."

Ils se rendirent ensuite dans une grande ville sur une deuxième ile ou ils visitèrent des personnes très importantes. "Quelle aventure fascinante" dit la tortue. "Vite vite!" dit le lièvre. "Nous devons encore vivre d'autres expériences."

Arrivés sur une nouvelle ile, ils montèrent sur une grande montagne ou il y avait une vue magnifique sur toute la région. Alors qu'ils admiraient le splendide paysage, la tortue dit au lièvre: "C'est beau d'être ici avec toi. Tu sais, je t'aime bien." Le lièvre répondit: "Vite vite! Nous devons encore vivre d'autres aventures."

Le lièvre et la tortue remontérent sur le navire et repartirent vers leur pays. Alors qu'ils s'approchaient de la rive, le lièvre descendit dans la cale sans rien dire. Soudainement, la tortue entendit "boum! craque!" Il regarda dans la cale et vit le lièvre saisissant une hache, faisant un grand trou dans le fond de la barque. Le navire prenait de l'eau et commencait à sombrer. "Mais qu'est-ce que tu fais?" s'écria la tortue, "nous allons couler!"

Prise de panique, la tortue se jeta dans le canot de sauvetage et se sauva à tous tords. Mais elle fut vite prise de remords: "Je ne peux pas laisser mon ami se noyer." La tortue fit demi-tour et retourna vers le navire en détresse. Elle remonta sur le pont et dit au lièvre: "Mais pourquoi as-tu saboté le bateau?"

Sans dire un mot, le lièvre sauta dans le canot et prit le large, laissant la tortue sur le navire condamné au naufrage. Désespérée, la tortue cria: "Mais pourquoi me laisses-tu périr? Reviens me chercher!"

Alors que le lièvre s'éloignait du navire qui coulait et de la tortue qui périssait, il répondit: "Nous avons vécu des belles aventures ensemble! S'il te plait, ne raconte cette histoire à personne! Cela pourrait nuire à ma réputation, et j'ai encore bien d'autres aventures à vivre!"

Dans la vie, bien des gens utilisent les autres pour aggrandir leurs propres expériences. Il faut être prudent avant de nous fier à ceux qui demandent notre amitié. Et il faut sonder notre coeur et nous assurer que nous aimions les autres sans les utiliser pour nos propres intérêts et ambitions.

Thursday, August 8, 2019


As time slips by
The vivid memory of you
In the mind and heart of those you knew
Begins to fade into faint shadows

What remains?

Not how intelligent you were
    or how diligently you worked
Not how eloquently you spoke
    or how ably you wrote
Not how many celebrities you knew
    or to how many countries you flew
Not how many skills you mastered
    or conferences you attended


Whether you treated them kindly
    or left them with wounds and scars
Whether you built trust and loyalty
    or sought fleeting experiences near or far
Whether you created lasting bonds
    or left them severed and broken
Whether you lived your ideals with integrity
    or left them violated and contradicted
Whether you courageously mended wrongs
    or fled and left them unresolved
Whether you sacrificed and loved selflessly
    or served your own interests and desires
Whether you created memories to be cherished
    or best erased and forgotten

Create good memories
And if you don't
Make things right, sooner rather than later
Or, at least, later rather than never.

Mt 5:23-24

Friday, July 26, 2019

Walking through Life

If you walk too quickly through life
Racing towards your goals and objectives

You may well miss the greatest gifts
That God has set to your left and to your right

Sunday, July 7, 2019

On Pride and Humility

Pride is radical autonomy, control,
     self-assertion, and self-reliance.

Humility is openness to the radical gift of another.

Monday, July 1, 2019


עַ֥ל נַהֲר֨וֹת׀ בָּבֶ֗ל שָׁ֣ם יָ֭שַׁבְנוּ גַּם־בָּכִ֑ינוּ בְּ֝זָכְרֵ֗נוּ אֶת־צִיּֽוֹן׃

By the rivers of Babylon 
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.

Babylonian exile
Californian exile
Vale of tears


Uprooted violently
Terrifying journey
Barren wilderness

Lost home
Aborted friendship
Broken love

Drifting away
Far from Israel
Far from the ones I love



My God, my God
Why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me?

Lost and alone
Longing to love
Longing to be loved




Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude;
she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.


עָרֹ֨ם יָצָתִי מִבֶּ֣טֶן אִמִּ֗י וְעָרֹם֙ אָשׁ֣וּב שָׁ֔מָה יְהוָ֣ה נָתַ֔ן וַיהוָ֖ה לָקָ֑ח יְהִ֛י שֵׁ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה מְבֹרָֽךְ׃

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD.

I have sinned
I have trespassed
I have wounded

I have betrayed
I have rejected
I have abandoned

I have alienated
I have confused
I have discouraged

I have caused sadness
I have caused anger
I have caused despair

I have failed to believe
I have failed to hope
I have failed to love

You whom I have wounded
And betrayed
I ask for forgiveness

You who have wounded
And betrayed
I forgive

Redemptive wounds
Purifying fire

I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. 
Let your mercy be ready to comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.


New home
New friends
New mission


I shall believe
I shall hope
I shall love

I shall be found
I shall be healed
I shall be loved

Joy reborn
Renewed light

A Song of Ascents.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
Shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת בְּשׁ֣וּב יְ֭הוָה אֶת־שִׁיבַ֣ת צִיּ֑וֹן הָ֝יִ֗ינוּ כְּחֹלְמִֽים׃
אָ֤ז יִמָּלֵ֪א שְׂח֡וֹק פִּינוּ֮ וּלְשׁוֹנֵ֪נוּ רִ֫נָּ֥ה אָ֭ז יֹאמְר֣וּ בַגּוֹיִ֑ם הִגְדִּ֥יל יְ֝הוָ֗ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִם־אֵֽלֶּה׃
הִגְדִּ֣יל יְ֭הוָה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִמָּ֗נוּ הָיִ֥ינוּ שְׂמֵחִֽים׃
שׁוּבָ֣ה יְ֭הוָה אֶת־שְׁבוּתֵנוּ כַּאֲפִיקִ֥ים בַּנֶּֽגֶב׃
הַזֹּרְעִ֥ים בְּדִמְעָ֗ה בְּרִנָּ֥ה יִקְצֹֽרוּ׃
הָ֘ל֤וֹךְ יֵלֵ֨ךְ׀ וּבָכֹה֮ נֹשֵׂ֪א מֶֽשֶׁךְ־הַ֫זָּ֥רַע בֹּֽא־יָב֥וֹא בְרִנָּ֑ה נֹ֝שֵׂ֗א אֲלֻמֹּתָֽיו׃

Monday, June 17, 2019

Broken Vessels

Every day that you neglect
To mend a broken friendship
Is a missed opportunity
That may be gone tomorrow

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Empty Steps

Empty steps
Empty heart
Heavy silence
Of abandonment

Place of courage
Place of trust
That only reaped
A broken heart

Painful memories
Of past journeys
Best abandoned
Best forgotten

Looking forward
Moving on
To better journeys
And a new start

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Lost Loves

Lost loves:

One was patient;
Another, restless.

One was kind;
Another, rude.

One was loyal;
Another, fickle.

One was sincere;
Another, misleading.

One was generous;
Another, stingy.

One was selfless;
Another, selfish.

One was available;
Another, unresponsive.

One was courageous;
Another, cowardly.

One brought healing;
Another, wounds.

One reflected Christ;
Another obscured Him.

One was love;
Another, not.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

On Courage

Courage is not changing the world
It is changing yourself

Courage is not transforming society
It is giving generously

Courage is not writing about responsibility
It is treating others kindly

Courage is not talking about charity
It is listening with humility

Courage is not crossing land and sea
It is living sacrificially

Courage is not chasing holy celebrities
It is healing a broken friendship

Courage is not working ceaselessly
It is risking vulnerability

Courage is not facing great adversity
It is saying "I'm sorry"

Friday, April 19, 2019

Pomegranate Juice and Rose Petals (On Gratitude)

Pomegranate juice
A small act of love
Covered with prayers
Drenched with tears

Cajoling a friend
To carry out urgently
In the hot Jerusalem sun
A vital mission and delivery

Seeking and finding
With care and anxiety
Calling you by proxy
Mission accomplished

Have you seen the one whom my soul loves?
I will rise now and go about the city...

A soft rose petal
Timid act of love
Covered with prayers
Drenched with tears

Frail as its message
Through a mysterious code
Carrying grace and devotion
Across mighty oceans

I sought her, but found her not,
I called her, but she gave no answer...

A long, ardent letter
A last act of love
Covered with prayers
Drenched with tears

Pouring one's heart
In a final attempt
To remember the story
And redeem a few moments

The deafening roar of icy silence
The clashing gong of a gate slammed shut
The throbbing echo of infinite distance
The clanging cymbal of a steely heart

Too occupied with God's language
To utter even a small 'thank you'
Into the dark, distant night
With the nine lepers she withdrew
Life is short. It is important to acknowledge, appreciate, and return the small acts of love and kindness that others extend to you.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Test of True Character

Your true character is revealed
Not in lofty ideas or eloquent words,
Not in relentless work or great accomplishments,
But in how you treat those who love you.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The End Makes the Story

Ending badly ruins everything.
Even the best memories
Become moments of pain.
A flirt turns into deception
Conversations to wounds
Sacrifices to bitterness
Ideals to hypocrisy
A kiss to betrayal
Silence to sadness
Love to death.

Ending well redeems everything.
Even the greatest hardships
Become moments of grace.
Deception turns to forgiveness
Wounds to healing
Bitterness to peace
Hypocrisy to authenticity
Betrayal to reconciliation
Sadness to joy
Death to life.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

On Unresponsiveness

...and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen,
and when I called you, you did not answer...
(Jer 7:13)

Is anything more disrespectful
Is any act more selfish
Is any deed more hurtful
Than not to acknowledge
A friend reaching out to you?

Letters ignored
Calls unheeded
Gifts unacknowledged
Affection unreciprocated
Have turned to tears
And testify to a friendship that wasn't

Open your eyes and see
Open your ears and hear
Pay heed to your conscience
Soften your heart
Act with kindness
Acknowledge your friend
And all shall be well.