Not Me!

Watching television today leads me to believe that all I have to do to be happy is to buy the right car, live in the right neighborhood, eat the right food or take a particular pill–the list goes on ad infinitum. I don’t think so, in fact I truly doubt that any of that will make me happy. I believe that grappling with life’s struggles, even when I feel completely helpless and abandoned, rewards me and all of us with life.

That seems to be the theme of  Andrew Solomon’s new movie “Far From the Tree”. With this movie Solomon examines life as lived through the lives of five main characters, none of which claim to have any of the above.  I watched, I laughed, I cried and I left the theatre understanding a little better what it means to truly live and not run away, my first choice of action when confronted with a challenge.

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Making Peace

Zack Beauchamp in hisYouTube video, Three big reasons war is going away, admits that there are many reasons but then gives us just three as to why we are living in the most peaceful time in history*:

  1. The Democratic Peace
  2. Nuclear Deterrence
  3. Sovereignty

I suspect Mr. Beauchamp is onto something here, but I think there is another, and I would add, much more significant reason. I think we are living in the most peaceful time in history of the world because of people like Mahatma Gandhi, (1869 – 1948), Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968) who taught us how to respond to violence, marginalization and oppression with love and service. Also, people like Ethel Percy Andrus, Jane Addams, Dorothy Day and a whole host of others who may not have had the experience of marginalization or oppression, chose a life of love and service as well. Thanks to people like these and oh yes, Jesus (c 0 – 33). They taught us not only by their words, but more especially by their actions, how to make peace.

P.S. Happy Feast Day to all my Passionists friends around the world and all those celebrating the joyful memorial of the Passion of Jesus tomorrow, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

*Mr. Beauchamp is not the only one who thinks this. The Human Security Report “…an independent research centre affiliated with Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada.” gives a similar assessment.

The Secret to a Happy Life

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Some people need no introduction. Mother Teresa is one of them. Her message to the world, though thousands of years old, strikes me as new and earth shattering and more refreshing today than a hot loaf of bread just out of the oven. Thank you Mother, now Saint Mother Teresa for pointing the way. I will try to follow.


Twice, I Cried Tears of Joy

From "Now You Know Events"
Picture From “Now You Know Events”

I don’t ever remember crying tears of joy in church except for this past Sunday’s AGLO liturgy and the previous week’s as well. This comes from a guy who doesn’t miss Sunday Mass, one who in fact was a daily mass attendee for many of the last 71 years.

At the end of Mass this Sunday, the 47th Annual Pride Sunday here in Chicago, Fr. Bob announced that Pope Francis today said the Church should ask forgiveness for their marginalizing of gays and of women. There followed a thunderous round of applause and I cried for the second week in a row. As soon as I got home I searched Twitter to confirm Fr. Bob’s announcement. Sure enough, there it was all over Twitter. The Catholic News Service wrote quoting Pope Francis in part:

Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

I said this was the second week in a row, I cried tears of Joy. On the evening of the Pause Night Club tragedy I cried my first tears of joy. After Mass, Fr. Dennis, the celebrant, read a letter from Chicago’s Archbishop Blasé Cupich. It read in part:

“…For you here today [I took that to mean us assembled at AGLO] and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orland, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: the Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you.”

I truly didn’t know that, i.e. that the Archdiocese of Chicago, that Archbishop Blasé stands with us. I cried tears of joy the first time. Two weeks in a row, I’ve heard from people representing the institutional church that has been very good to me and that I have loved in return, that they love me and stand with me. Wow!

Yes, I know, it’s not all about me and it’s not even just about the gay community or the tragedy of the Pulse Night Club. It’s about all of us. We are one people despite all our many differences. When I send love to anyone, I sent it to all, but it sure is nice to be a recipient of that love and hear my name. It’s made me cry, twice now.

If you are wondering where the Church can go with this you might enjoy Bondings 2.0’s response written by Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry. I was especially impressed with Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, thoughts which sounded like they came right out of the catechism I studied when I made my first confession, 1952:

“In order to bring about the full healing of the relationship between the Catholic Church and LGBT people, the Church must not only acknowledge the wrongs of the past, but take concrete actions that demonstrate its commitment to treating LGBT people justly from now on.  For example, Catholic institutions must stop firing LGBT people simply because their sexual orientation or marital status becomes known.  The Church must stop conducting public campaigns that seek the right to discriminate unjustly against LGBT people in the civil arena on the specious grounds of ‘religious liberty.’  It must cease campaigns against same-sex civil marriage and LGBT civil rights protections around the globe.  And it must speak out strongly and clearly against the horrific violence and discrimination that is often directed against LGBT people in countries around the world, including our own, many with substantial or majority Catholic populations.”

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey


Relating to Each Other

Every time I saw Mike, a wise old man, he would share the same time-worn testimony: “Don’t waste time seeing how you are different, but take the risk and time to see how you are alike.” That was in the 80’s. Mike is dead now and I wish I could tell him how much I appreciate that sage advice, and what a difference following it has made in my life.

My Dad’s mother and father were betrothed to different people when they asked their priest uncle to marry them and then tell their parents after they had time to elope. Leaving family and friends in Ireland they dared to follow their dream. They ended up in Chicago around 1909. Today, they have passed on leaving me with six fantastic siblings, 45 beautiful first cousins on my Dad’s side and god knows how many great cousins. Just today on Facebook, I read of another being born.

Thanks to Global Citizens for the above great YouTube video of couples willing to share their love no matter what their families or others may think.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believe transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Danny & Annie

Every once in a while, albeit, not very often, I hear or see something that leaves me speechless. “Danny & Annie” is that something. I thank Troy from the Chicago Center on Halsted for introducing me to this five-minute video, which I will never forget and wish to share with you.

This video comes from Story Corps founded by Dave Isay, (the recipient of the 2015 TED Prize) in October of 2003. It’s mission is to:

…preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell 2015 survey of 600 National Public Radio (NPR) listeners, reported that they were better able to understand people with different backgrounds,  people with disabilities or serious illness. Thank you Dave Isay and all of your membership as well as your donors and storytellers for bringing the world a much-needed tool for creating understanding.


In a 2015 survey of 600 National Public Radio (NPR) listeners, 88% reported that they were better able to understand people with different backgrounds, and 96% reported they were better able to understand people with disabilities or serious illness.

To find out how you can get involved telling your story or interviewing a friend or family member click here. Thank you Dave Isay and all of your membership as well as your donors and storytellers for bringing the world a much-needed tool for creating understanding.



Mother, Mother Earth, Space and the Sacred

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.Mothers Day is a special day on the American calendar, joining Thanksgiving Day and Christmas and maybe the 4th of July as similarly important days. Not far behind is Fathers Day, the birth of one’s first child, the marriage anniversary, and then other special days, cherished by us for their significance to us.

Mothers Day: might we regard it as a holy day? Like a holy day of obligation, on the Catholic calendar? Well, maybe yes, or possibly so. It’s a holy day because it concerns one of the truly sacred things near and dear to our hearts: our own life, and that special person who, in conjunction with God Himself, has brought us into life, and nurtured us to the point where we can provide for ourselves.

There may have been a time when we took life for granted, primarily because we had not reached the point where we could step back from life and look at it from some distance away. In our early years we were engulfed and swallowed up in our life, with no way of disengaging our self from our dependence on our family. It was like being on a ship on the high seas, living our entire existence on that vessel, unable to distance ourselves from that ship so as to think of our life apart from it. Of course, it was a pleasant and comfortable life, from the early phase within our mother’s womb to the later frightening experience of stepping out of our front door and walking through the entrance to kindergarten. Till then our family, and especially our mother, was like a ship on the high seas of life where we found security, care and comfort, day in and out. Those on shore could observe us at a distance, sailing by, with our mother at the helm.


An even more graphic example of this sense of being enveloped by our mother has been the development of space exploration and the manufacture of space craft to traverse outer space, from where we can look back safely at earth and see for the first time what the world out there looks like, from our vantage point within the space capsule. Though we would soon join our earth home, for the present we can watch the world go by, having all we need for a comfortable life.

These examples are how it is with our mother. Early on we were so embedded within the folds of our mother, first, within the womb, then outside of it, that we had no sense of living our own distinct life.   She was our ship on the seas of life, and our space capsule, within which all our needs were handled.

But once the first sensation arrived of having a life distinct from hers, I became able to focus on this person who was a mother to me, and develop a sense, as I grew in age, that I was my own person, so much so that I forgot the early sensation of being one with her. Life then entered a new stage where very personal adventures occurred for me as I began to live a life separately from hers, but never to the point where I dismissed her from my self-awareness completely. That early bonding between us never disappeared, forming a linkage unlike any other in our experience, regardless of the geographical distance I put between her and myself.

This is what we celebrate on Mothers Day—an experience of life in which she was intimately involved, so that I can look back on it, as if from outer space, and marvel at the wonder of what I now see, which I could not see earlier on. It is a profound feeling that borders on our sense of the sacred. And as sacred, it is holy, and for this reason is aptly regarded as a holy day. Corresponding to Mothers Day is my birthday when for the first time I can reach land and look back at the ship on which I have spent my life, to this point. Or similarly, my birthday lays out the possibility of appreciating Mothers Day like the opportunity provided the first astronauts of looking out the porthole of their space craft, back at the earth from which they just separated themselves, and for the first time fully observe it teeming with the white cloud cover, the blue seas, the dark-hued earth, and can fully appreciate it as mother earth, where life unfolded and blossomed.

This is why we should regard Mothers Day as a holy day on our Catholic calendar. We can look at it as a day of appreciating my dependency on the nurturing elements of life I earlier relied on, and can begin to feed myself, as with the eucharist. It’s a day when the factors comprising our traditional holy days, such as the sense of awe before the mystery of the sacred, converge into sentiments of reverence and respect before a sense of something religious. For life is sacred and to be revered as Godlike. Life is how Jesus identified God in His dealings with the Sadducees: “He is not God of the dead but of the living”. (Mk 12.27)

Fink Murphy

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

“Fink” is a name that most people would prefer not to be known by. It would be strange, to say the least, that any parent would name his/her child “Fink”. There is a bit of shadiness or suspiciousness attached to the moniker, regardless of the actual character to whom it is attached. A very upright, law-abiding person may go by the name “Fink”.

Such was the case years ago in a Midwest city, a medium-sized urban area, with the usual amenities of urban life such as it was fifty or so years ago. These included the electrical grid that empowered the then expected amenities of life, such as a phone system that connected every business operation and household in the vicinity, or at least the vast majority of them. At that time, there was a common, and less expensive, arrangement known as “a party line”, which enabled several parties, usually neighbors to one another, to use the same phone line, that is, the same phone number. The only way of knowing when an incoming call was for one’s own family rather than another party on the same line, was in the distinctive “ring” of an incoming call. This enabled a particular customer on a three or four party-line, to know that the call was for his/her family rather than another party on the line. For example, two long and one short ring indicated one party, rather than another party whose distinctive ring might have been one long and two short rings. This meant everyone on that line had to listen carefully to incoming calls to make sure that they were for someone else, not for him or herself. Of course, mistakes were made, especially by children, who would mistakenly answer a phone call meant for another party on the line which, when this occurred frequently, agitated the other parties on that line.

Such was the arrangement in the case at hand, involving a party line, one of whom was a bookie named Fink Murphy (this surname is fictitious). He was the recipient of many calls because this city featured a famous racehorse track, attracting bettors from across the area, and Fink was quite busy accommodating their desires. Understandably, the other parties on this party line were fed up with Fink, since most of the incoming calls were for Fink, and he was occupying the line on his own initiative the remainder of the time. There was one young single woman in particular who was agitated at his constant presence on the phone line, especially on weekends, as she awaited phone calls from her boyfriends inviting her out on a date.

Now there are obvious lessons to glean from this example. One, for those who could afford it, was to avoid securing a party line for their use, and procure their own private line.   The other, less charitable than this, was for those sharing the party line with Fink, to sit close to the phone and repeatedly interrupt Fink as he conversed with another party on the line. Or, in much the same fashion, was to try beating Fink to the phone when it first rang, and proceed to announce that Fink was unavailable. Or yet another strategy, more charitable in nature, was to bear this cross patiently and suffer this inconvenience in silence.

But every cloud has a silver lining. In this case, it was a daughter of Fink, who could not bear this Incessant warfare, but who happily met a young man whose family was also on this party line, eager to avoid the rancor accompanying this situation.   It was out of this situation that a Romeo and Juliet situation developed that more than compensated for their grievances. Each of them was privy to this internecine conflict, and brought their mutual interests to bear upon it, to the relief of all.

For us, living in a less tension-filled situation than just described, an incident such as this helps us appreciate that there are advantages living in a more technologically advanced society where we do not have to put up with such an upsetting scenario, since we now carry about our cell phones or I-phones or smart-phones, whereby we can achieve instant communication with our friends and family, without fear of interference from unfriendly, intrusive or belligerent neighbors.   And while even these devices can occasion ugly scenarios, such as the recent standoff between the FBI and the Apple Inc organization, they are relatively infrequent, providing more privacy and less rancor than the party-line arrangement. We need not worry about Fink Murphys dominating a party-line system. This occasions a sense of gratitude for the benefits we enjoy (not taking them for granted), of seeing the silver lining around the inevitable clouds overshadowing us, and of providing better ways for a Romeo and Juliet to meet.


Daring to Feel

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

So, being the good Catholic that I am I went to Mass this past Sunday and as is often the case, got there early and sitting quietly in my usual pew read the weekly bulletin. The first sentence I read kind of disturbed me.

Gospel Love is not about feelings. It’s about choosing to care regardless of how we feel. It’s about making decisions based upon the vision of Jesus regardless of how many other visions are demanding our allegiance. (Rev. Joseph J. Juknialis)

I doubt the author meant for me to conclude this, but after reading the sentence I grasped why I believe Chesterton was and still is right: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” (Gilbert K. Chesterton quotes from The difficult part of this Christianity thing if you ask me is precisely what the above author downplays, feelings. Speaking for myself, if I don’t feel my brother’s pain (compassion) I won’t act. Fear that I’m not capable will keep me aloof, above the fray. I must feel the pain before I will dare to act.

Christianity for me is not done by people who just know the right answer, although this is the beginning; it’s done by people who take the next step and feel, like parents, teachers, health care givers, ordinary everyday people who love their children, students, patients, and neighbors. While it’s material for another whole post, I think it’s important to note here that the opposite of love is not hate; it’s fear.

Hillary Cottom says the same thing, but a little differently in today’s TED selection. She calls it relationships. She is talking about fixing the welfare state, reducing 80% of the waste. Sounds improbable, but I think she’s got something and what get’s me most excited, it involves using modern technology. In less than 17 minutes she tells three stories to demonstrate her findings. Enjoy!

Ms. Cotton kind of reminds me of the Catholic women religious whose history is one of building relationships through teaching, health services, social services and a whole host of other ministries. You can hear about that at the You Tube “A Different Path – Catholic Nuns”.