Crisis Leads to Life

Abha Dawesar may not look like a Passionist, but she sure does think and preach like one. In this TED talk she tells of her experience with hurricane Sandy. Half of New York City was in a blackout, and that’s where she found herself, living in a high rise with no electricity. Talk about a crisis. No elevators, no water, no light, no Internet. OMG—no Internet? How did she survive? Listen and then if you feel so moved, share your thoughts by clicking on “Comment” below.

Katharine Preston

I came by this Youtube video quite by accident, but then maybe not. I read an article entitled “Mourning for the Earth” by a Katharine M. Preston. Yes, she spells her name with an “a” (I believe it should be Katherine). I enjoyed the article so much I went online to see who she was. I found this Youtube Interview and was totally taken with it. Then I wondered if this was the same Katherine. I don’t think she is, at least I couldn’t corroborate that fact.

At any rate, Katherine would make a good Partner. She may never have heard of the Passionists, but she does know the value of taking up her cross daily and following Jesus. The video is quite long, twenty-six minutes, but if you are interested in seeing the Passion of Jesus being lived today, I think you will enjoy the video and think your time well-spent.

David and Goliath

Today there seems to be a great battle going on between the mega rich and the average American. According to Wikipedia in 2007  “the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.” [1]  I suspect that spread has widened greatly since 2007.

This is hardly a new battle. History is replete with example after example of this battle. Malcolm Gladwell in his book “David and Goliath” (2013) tells of some of these battles, starting with the title battle of his book. What is interesting to me is Gladwell chooses battles where the little guy, the underdog wins. He tells us how recognizing our weakness leads us to success even against the worst odds.

I believe “recognizing our weakness” is just another phrase for recognizing who we really are. All of us have weaknesses. All of us have disabilities. All of us are little people needing others in our lives to love us, to heal us and simply to be with us. Not all of us recognize this. Many of us think we are self-made heroes. Many of us think we are better than another person because of our economic standing, our education, or our position of authority over others (earned or bestowed).

Recognizing who we are is at the heart of Passionist spirituality, or any spirituality for that matter. Alcoholics’ Anonymous (AA) calls this step one: “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”[2] St. Paul says: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” [3]

I think Mr. Gladwell would make a good partner and on top of that he’s a good storyteller.

More on Suffering

A couple weeks ago, Father Sebastian, C.P. wrote about suffering. He said: “The CPPs treasure the memory of the Sufferings of the Lord as the centerpiece of our lives. ” That post has elicited more comments than any other since the inception of our blog. Evidently, Father struck a chord with our followers.

Pico Iyer has written an opinion piece on suffering for the New York Times that you can read in it’s entirety  by clicking on the link below. I think you’ll find it interesting, at least I did. I was especially struck by the following paragraph.

“As a boy, I’d learned that it’s the Latin, and maybe a Greek, word for “suffering” that gives rise to our word “passion.” Etymologically, the opposite of “suffering” is, therefore, “apathy”; the Passion of the Christ, say, is a reminder, even a proof, that suffering is something that a few high souls embrace to try to lessen the pains of others. Passion with the plight of others makes for ‘compassion.’”

I love his last statement above: “Passion with the plight of others makes for compassion.” I don’t think I would agree with Mr. Iyer that only a few high souls embrace suffering. I personally know many souls, i.e. teachers I’ve worked with, fellow Partners, family members, friends and people I read about in the news who seem to live their life with passion. Maybe I live in a bubble.

I’ll end with one more thought. It’s a quote from Robert Hutchins: “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” – Robert M. Hutchins at BrainyQuote

What do you think?

Pico Iyer is the author, most recently, of “The Man Within My Head,” and a distinguished presidential fellow at Chapman University.

The Memory of Suffering

by Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
the race

The CPPs treasure the memory of the Sufferings of the Lord as the centerpiece of our lives. To onlookers, perhaps this orientation sounds somber and depressing. Who wants to embrace the thought of suffering as a focal point? Well, as a matter of fact, suffering is not the focal point but simply the consequence of what IS the focal point: the attainment of a goal or task one wishes to accomplish. For instance, if a prophet like Jeremiah badly wants to communicate the word of the Lord, he or she will suffer whatever consequences follow from announcing the message, should it be bad news to those hearing it. Or if one is engaged in a race, as St. Paul mentions, then one readily accepts the often tremendous effort, and exhaustion, needed to compete well. In these examples, suffering is a follow-up to what one badly wants, and so it proves acceptable. Christ died on the cross to save us all: He wanted this badly. So the CPPs treasure whatever suffering accompanies what they badly want. The secret here is: badly wanting something. And it is our faith that provides us a treasure-trove of things we should sincerely desire, and in view of which we are willing “to pay the price”.

Kissing the Cup

Winning Cup

by James Paulin

All hail the mighty champion! So often we see a sports figure pictured embracing a prized golden or silver trophy, holding it on high, even endearing it with a kiss. Often times, the object is represented in the form of an elaborate cup. The Wimbledon cup in tennis, the Stanley cup in hockey, the Ryder cup in golf, the Americas cup in sailing are but a few examples. The investment of effort, talent, teamwork and commitment are undeniably essential to becoming the one who successfully overwhelms all opposition both from competition and inner struggles.

What are the ingredients that combine to separate the extraordinary from the mediocre, the elite from the extraordinary and a champion from the runner up? Some would argue that it is just luck but that doesn’t hold up with consistency. Work ethic, intelligence, preparation, determination, and sacrifice are required to meet ones full potential. Isaiah Thomas, maybe the best point guard ever, was asked once if he would still play in the National Basketball Finals with what turned out to be a fractured ankle. His response was adamantly yes. He said, “ I am playing. I am not dead yet.” Leadership, responsibility and courage dominated his attitude. There is always a steep price to pay to gain a cherished prize, to be the final victor, to kiss the cup.

If everyone knew the cost in terms of preparation and pain they would have to endure to even have a chance to become the one to take it all, they might agonize over their ability to persist and succeed. Putting their long term health at risk and doubts of how the odds are greatly against them would deter most of us. Spirits soar when the winner claims the prize but tears often come to the eyes of the defeated. There was a time when full knowledge of what was required to gain the most precious prize in history tortured the mind and human instincts of the only one able to complete the task.

“If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” These were the words of Jesus as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. He even sweated blood with his doubts. Of the betrayal, arrest and injustice, he knew. Of the mockery, crown of thorns and severe lashing, he knew. Of the weight of the cross he carried, the nerve searing pain of the nails and the hours writhing on the cross, he knew. Of the sorrow in his mother’s heart, the lance in his side and the bitterness of those who were against him, he knew. All his life he knew what was coming and he not only accepted it, he embraced it. His sacrifice won our victory over sin and death. God’s love was outpoured in the person of Jesus. He was the Lamb of God, the only offering necessary. It was and is God’s plan. Jesus kissed the cup.