Our Lady of Guadalupe

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, who came to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill speaking words of love to him in his own native tongue, hear our petitions. You come to us, your poor and powerless children, a good mother who knows us intimately and listens intently to the longings of our hearts.  You hear our cries and weep with us.  We who work in the shadows of power and wealth ask for your protection for us and for our beloved who remain borders apart.  Just as you spoke to your much-loved son, Juan Diego, “Am I not your mother?  Are you not in the crossing of my arms?” so you speak to us.  Take all of our yearning, aching and sorrow and create with them a beautiful bouquet to lay at the feet of your Son, Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.   Amen.

by Andrew

Paving the Way of Peace

In explaining why he chooses to hang out with the  “lowlifes” of his society, Jesus makes it very clear that people are not expendable, to be dismissed or shunned.  My large extended family is peppered with “lost” souls: the divorced cousin who drinks too much; the nephew who will be spending the holidays in prison; the cousin whose God is wealth.  While some of us roll our eyes and shake our heads at the mention of their names, Jesus says, “Let’s break bread. Be one as I am one.” (Note: not “let’s lecture”)!  So as the pregnant virgin from Galilee swells large with the second person of the Trinity growing in her womb, our helpless Baby King, I will try my best to “prepare the way of the Lord” in my heart, laying low the mountains of my judgment and filling in the valleys of my righteousness. With God’s help, I can pave the way for peace.

by Andrew

Prophetic Voices

I am grateful for people of courage and faith who are willing to stand up for justice and peace like beacons in the night.  This past Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 25:31-46) speaks so succinctly about our responsibilities for each other.  Jesus made it so clear! Feed the hungry. Welcome the stranger among us. Cloth the naked. Take care of the sick. Treat the imprisoned with mercy. ML King of America, Gandhi of India and Romero of El Salvador and Christ the King were all martyred for following this call.  Heeding the cry of the poor, providing decent health care for all, embracing immigrants fleeing persecution and economic hardship, and showing mercy to the incarcerated and those imprisoned by addiction are dangerous pursuits to be sure. I hail the prophetic voices that speak up for the demonized, the forgotten and the shunned. Am I a sheep or a goat?

by Andrew

Optimistic Love

I’m sitting in a cozy coffee bar on a crisp fall morning in the city of San Juan Bautista just east of Salinas. My dear friend Raoul is getting married this afternoon at the Mission to his fiancé, Julieta, (what a lovely name!), a beautiful and loving Latina woman. I’ve known Raoul since 1967 when we were both 12.  Together we’ve hitchhiked up through Oregon, camped all over California and survived the carelessness of youth.  Today he marries this delightful woman who I only know through Facebook posts and second-hand sources.  But knowing Raoul as I do, I can only assume that she is loving, caring and altogether wonderful.  Just as my optimism concerning her loving character has its roots in the person of Raoul, my love for you has its roots in the person of our forever-loving and shared Advocate, cheerleader and parent.

by Andrew

Place of Respite

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I spent the weekend on retreat with 120 men up at the Serra Retreat Center in Malibu. The Franciscans bought this prime piece of real estate in the early forties, turning a half-dilapidated mansion into a place of respite and peace.  The Franciscan charisms of hospitality and joy are ever evident in the kind and welcoming spirit of the friars and staff.  The church in her wisdom has always created spaces of retreat; venues often up and away from the daily noise and distractions of life for us to breathe and restore our weary souls.  The Franciscans welcome people from every walk of life to come and refresh their burdened hearts. Often, it is not until I come to such places that I am able to notice how tight my chest is and how beaten down I am. I am grateful for these milieus of peace and refreshment, the healing of silence and the love and care of these followers of St. Francis.

by Andrew

The Night Watch

Thursday night I picked up my brother Hank and a crew of two paid observers, a kayaker and a first mate, at the Isthmus on Catalina Island so that he could, for his fifth time, swim over to Palos Verdes. He chooses the depth of night to undertake this challenge for it is then when the sea is most settled. For ten hours and fourteen minutes, it was my job to guide the boat near the kayaker who was escorting my brother.  Hank has said these night swims are akin to being in a watery womb. That night, with the engine purring quietly and nothing but a bobbing green light against the ebony water revealing his location; with the half-moon red and sinking down into the sea, the night black and snug and the crew silent and sipping strong coffee, observing, I intuited a waiting, a guarding, a shepherding and a cherished loving that felt like hope, that felt like life.

by Andrew

Here For A Season

liquidambar sty moraine

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24

Evergreens are static throughout the year, exhibiting their coat of needles or leaves in perpetuity. Deciduous trees drop their leaves, often in a glorious show of gold, orange and red. People travel from afar to witness the “turning of the leaves” in New England. Chlorophyll is to a leaf what blood is to a human. As the green chlorophyll breaks down, the beauty of the dying leaf is revealed.  We trust that next spring new sprouts will emerge, fresh green shoots from barren limbs, feeding the tree, hungry from winter’s hibernation. I too am here but for a season. I pray that I may be a humble leaf, swaying with my fellows in the movement of the Spirit, being of some small service to the Holy One and trusting in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

by Andrew

Holy Water

In the cool silence of this morning before dawn, steam from the iron hisses. I am ironing a linen handkerchief, folding it and pressing it into a triangle of white.   I often cry at baptisms, weddings, funerals and other profound rites of passage. Today I will be attending an old family friend’s memorial service. Janet, 93 when she finally breathed her last, was an only child pre-deceased by her two sons and husband with no one but her friends to call family. Tears are holy water, an outward symbol of something deeper, that connect me to God and to my fellow sojourners. Whether a mist or a river, they sooth and wash away the grit of sorrow and flow joyfully in gratitude alike.  I fold and press this sober linen, steam rising like incense into the awakening of this day.

by Andrew