Try Again Tomorrow

There was an irony to William Bennett’s blockbuster Moral Compass: the juxtaposition of ideas and ideals with the very human behavior and choice of the author, a man who lived in his time.  And now, under the microscopic scrutiny of social media, such discrepancies belong to the public realm in a whole new way.  But underlying the accusations and shaming in so many spheres lies a deeper truth: right now, determining what is right, what is acceptable, what is offensive, what is humorous versus insensitive or what is classified as dangerous and destructive to others versus exercises of individual rights and right to privacy, all that is terribly unclear just now.  Common understandings of meaning are increasingly elusive, defined by small groups rather than shared by broad swaths of Americans and a keen reflection of the idea that there is no longer, if there ever was, a shared cultural literacy or deep values or principles binding generations and ethnic groups.

Instead, discourse is increasingly vulgar and the beauty of language and rhetoric is reduced to bitter diatribes.  Rather than exploring discordant views, searching for common ground, or applying the philosophies set out in the Preamble of the Constitution as guidelines, there is name-calling and labeling, angry reactions without reflective responses, and a deepening sense of victimization and alienation among all stakeholders.

As a Catholic, these situations remind me that there is a deep need for compassion and empathy in our culture, that there is an age old distance between the real and the ideal, and that life is extremely difficult no matter who you are, where or when you live and whatever you are doing.  As a Catholic, I bear responsibility for myself and for contributing to the whole in a positive way.  As a Catholic, I understand that it is not mine to judge, but it is mine to do the right thing. And above all, I am aware that there are moments that I will fail in  choices and behavior, and that I will need to experience as well as practice forgiveness.  Catholicism invites me everyday to live the examined life, to actively reflect and deliberately choose responses.  Even the history of Catholicism promises me that change may be in the smallest of increments, but it will come. Catholicism is the reminder that no matter what happens, what matters is the response and choices that are made.  Catholicism helps me begin to understand that not everything is about me.

And just now, in the messy space of 2017, Catholicsm is the invitation to live better, become better, be better.  It is the invitation to dare to live more deeply, to strive for choosing behaviors and communications consistent with the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, to rigorously examine what I do and how i do it, to forgive others and myself, and above all, to try again tomorrow.  Because, in a country where such suffering and loss is evident in every news cycle, healing and hope cannot be reborn without courage and compassion. To find the path to a culture where discourse can occur without diatribes and conversation can occur without deepening division, each of us needs to be just a little bit better.  And we must believe it is worth trying.


In the bitter diatribes of politics and activism, in the allegations about sexual harassment in workplaces, and the gut-wrenching stories of violence and assault,  there is an underlying sense of betrayal, a fear of more of the same and a question.  It is the question that seems to lie beneath all the horror.  What is it that can be agreed upon? What is it that is held in common? Is there something, anything, that can be seen as both shared and sacred, some thing that transcends and unifies?

Perhaps,  a people, that cannot be discovered until we realize the very sacredness of self, of life, of the colors laced across an evening sky or the cool Autumn breeze of morning, of a baby stretching to a parent or a nurse cradling the hand of a dying patient.  Because beneath the differences that are so easily defined, there is a fundamental sameness in the reality of humanity.  Perhaps, to begin to see the sacred, it is important to realize it within ourselves, to take that moment’s pause, the breath that reminds this is a new and precious space that will be what can be made of it.  Perhaps it is time to recall that it is impossible to control what is happening, but it is possible to control and mediate reactions.  Perhaps it is time to realize that each of us is always contributing to the world in some way or another, and making conscious and careful choices can be a gift to the whole.

Catholicism reminds me of all that, that life matters: that each life matters and is intertwined and affects the other.  Sacred, then, is something found within somehow, and shared in the reality of daily decisions.


Autumn is creeping into the trees and the temperature, and that is a reminder to find a moment to appreciate the gift of now, to find in this moment the tokens of love  that life can offer.  The practice of Catholicism, the daily prayers and the weekly liturgies, the symbols of stained glass and the statues of saints are simply reminders that there is more to life than the social media assault that occurs each day and the draining frenetic pace of life and work.  Catholicism is a reminder to breathe deeply, to trust that our lives and worries rest in Hands bigger than ours, and it is possible to simply breathe deeply and know peace as well as purpose.

It is odd to me that this morning, kneeling with my family and surrounded by neighbors,  that there in the weaving of words and silence, is the shared sense that God is present.  And more so, that there at the altar, is the place for worries, for stress and anxiety to be laid down.  There, before the altar, the place for flaws and weakness, sin and sorrow and celebration, laid there, offered there.  And there, God simply being with, being present to, weeping with us and smiling with us.  And there, too, as we depart, the sense that life is ours for the living, ours for the choices, ours for the decisions about what to do and how to live and whether or not to rush out of the parking lot or fly into road rage…..but looking back, not matter what the choice, there is a continuity to Catholicism that allows today to become yesterday and tomorrow to remain a promise. That poised position, so  intensely now and so elegantly eternal, that is the gift of Catholicism to me….

And so it seems the ordinary moments are actually quite extraordinary perceived through a different lens.  This moment matters.  Today matters.  You matter.  In that Eucharistic moment, the reality is that each of us can be the Hands and Heart of Christ for each other.  Each of us bound to something bigger, each of us with lives that matter.  Each of us is part of the carpet of color that flows over the hills in the richness of autumn, and each of us has a place at home.

Sometimes I wonder if the strains that are engulfing society are due not only to the rise of social media but to the abandonment of the inistitutions that seemed so much to have failed us but nevertheless still offer those reminders, those moments.  Perhaps it is about the fact of flawed ness, the brokenness, and the need to be bound to something greater than self….Catholicism invites wondering…..




mystery of sameness

There is a certain sameness to ordinary days, routine and habitual.  And then there is Sunday, savored for the disruption of work and difference.  As a Catholic, there is the Mass which can be an experience of sameness and at the same time, an invitation to change and difference.   Last night, seated in upholstered pews, I heard the Liturgy of the Word: first the Scripture read by a man with a wonderfully fluid and rich voice and then the Gospel with the clearly Bostonian intonations, and then the homily.  Maybe it was that I really tended, or that the church was not my home parish.  Maybe it was simply an occasion of grace, but that Scripture spoke as if I had never once heard the story.

And then, in the closing of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the words about being transformed into what we have received….transformed into Eucharist.  Startling and revelatory, clear and simple: hidden in that sameness, that regular pattern of Sunday’s, a  moment  of surprise, of hope and even promise and purpose, all the things sought in a world engulfed by controversy and conflict.  Something, a thought, a feeling, that makes today different and had the potential to change tomorrow…..if I have the courage and perseverance to keep listening and growing, if I can believe in the difference that sameness offers, if I can so believe ……




Homes are full of comfort and conflict, and the Roman Catholic  church is no different.  It bursts with personalities and styles; some mesh better than others just like the members of an extended family.  But just as something draws families together, so there is something that holds this family of the church together as well. At the heart of it is faith.

Within miles of each other, priests of a diocese can promote very different perspectives in the church.  One may be offering  a Latin Mass and preaching the evils of modernism while the other may be focusing on mercy and hospitality to all.  But beyond those personal perspectives, they both are offering the same sacrifice of the Mass, both carrying on traditions of centuries and both attempting to contribute to the best of their ability to the life of the Church and the care of the people.

And so it is that a traditionalist  can find the cadence of Latin and a Modernist can find the words most needed.  This church is a house with many doors, many avenues, and there is one waiting, a home open for those who seek it out.   And there is the majesty of it: to believe means effort and work, intellectual endeavors and conscious choices.  Faith is not simple, and it is not easy.  It is the challenge of a lifetime on a thousand different levels.  It is a onstage invitation to grow and to learn, to become a better person.

The institutional church provides process, a means, assistance.  But the journey of faith, of shaping a house into a home, is intensely personal and undeniably unique for every individual.  It is perhaps, the path not taken for so many.  It is, perhaps, far easier to find reasons not to embark on the journey than to embrace the challenge of exploration, of reflection and thought and decision-making.  It is, perhaps, easier to live without the gift of a worldwide community that simultaneously is a reminder that all humans are always participating in something greater than self and that pain and suffering and joy are ever present in life.

And on the other hand, for those who accept the invitation, who trust through the hard times and continually choose to learn and reflect and grow, there is that incredibly humbling, indescribably powerful moment of revelation, that awareness of something far greater than self.  That is home.