Tell Your Story/Listen to Mine

Coming home from a political rally downtown I wondered to myself if there was any hope. Can we as a country ever come together? Can we stop our verbal attacks on each other just long enough to listen for a moment? How can we as Max Ehrmann suggests in his Desiderata “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” A possible answer came when I later watched and listened to Deeyah Khan’s April 2016 What we don’t know about Europe’s Muslim kids.

Deeyah has received awards for her documentary films and is the founder of Fuse, a company that gets minorities to tell their stories. Deyah’s story which she shares above is moving and truly for those of us that think in those terms, the Way of the Cross today. She also shares her discovery that the perpetrators of violence are themselves wounded persons and that if we are ever to move beyond more violence, we must learn to listen and understand.

In her TEDxExeter talk she quotes the African proverb: “If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth.” While Deeyah is addressing the Muslim community, she could just as well be addressing Chicago, the Catholic Church, the schools…. We must she insists learn to relate and understand each other and listen to our young.

I believe the answer to my initial question, can we ever come together is—yes. We can if we come together to tell your stories and just as important listen to others’ stories with the same compassion we hope to receive when we tell ours.

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


On the Power of Telling Our Stories



Some stories leave me speechless. Alex Landau in his StoryCorps sharing with his mother in Traffic Stop is just such a story. In Traffic Stop, Alex recalls a horrendous encounter with a three police officers who pull him over, find some weed on his white passenger friend (Alex is a 19 year old African American) and because Alex has the nerve to ask for a search warrant is beat up by the officers and then asked: “Where’s that f#*@& warrant now you nigger”?

Yes, I’m speechless, but I can’t remain silent. I believe silence is the problem. I also believe it’s not my job to place blame. What I can and must do is recognize and identify not only with the victim (that’s easy), but also with the perpetrators. That’s not easy. It is necessary if any healing will take place. I, like the officers involved, often treat others terribly. Worse than that, I ignore them and don’t even admit to their existence.

In the September 28th Chicago Tribune’s Commentary, “I’m a 78 year-old racist—Mel Novit tells his story. Mr. Novit courageously identifies where he needs to grow. and gives me a powerful example of how I can learn and grow, no matter my age, by recognizing my mistakes, owning them and then most importantly do something to make up for them. Often, as in Mr. Novit’s and Mr. Landau’s cases, I can simply tell my story.

Thank you Mr. Novit and Mr. Landau for your bravery and willingness to share so that I can grow.

Swords into Plowshares

Monica Araya may not look like the prophet Isaish, but she truly speaks like him in her June 2016 TED Talk: A small country with big ideas to get rid of fossil fuels. According to Monica in 2015, Costa Rica produced 90% of their electricity from green renewable sources. She further tells how in 1949, Coast Rica abolished their army and because of that today, they are able to provide free education and health services to every citizen. WOW! Sounds like heaven on earth to me.

United States’ President, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the build up of the military industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address and Ronald Reagan in his 1987 address to the United Nations said:

“Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity.”

I think Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan’s words are as relevant as ever, if not more so, today than when first spoken. Many will laugh at me, when I say, it’s time for us, the US to stop investing in arms and start investing in people through universal education and healthcare for all, just like Costa Rica. They will call me naive. So they did Isaiah and I suspect Monica in her TED Talk about the small little country of Costa Rica who in 1949 abolished their army. I think I’m in good company.

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

Statement on Racial Violence in the U.S.

Just sharing some well thought out ideas about the role each of us plays in today’s violence and things we can do to stop it. I especially liked: “We need to reflect on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. – “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

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

Blame vs. Compassion

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

I was the number four boy growing up during the ‘50’s in a family of seven children. I had four brothers, two older and two younger and two sisters, one younger and one older. As a boy in that era, the worse thing that could happen to you was to be called a girl, usually couched in the term “sissy”. I did all sorts of crazy things to avoid that moniker, like playing football, pretending to be interested in baseball and choosing clothes that looked very manly.

Ameera Ahmad Harouda, “Mr. Rambo” works as a fixer in the Gaza Strip and in the above TED Talk, shares what I believe to be the real face of bravery, perseverance and strength—in short, all the masculine virtues (Latin root vir means man) that I have always aspired to. “Mr. Rambo” is a woman. She has another virtue not often demonstrated by men, compassion. If you doubt that statement about men, read the comments that follow Ameera’s talk. While there seems to be one woman, Louise, involved in the discussion that follows, the rest look to me to be men who I think have missed the point of the talk all-together. Ameera is telling the moving story of people caught up in conflict. The men continue to discuss who is right and who is wrong. If my life’s experiences have taught me anything, trying to assign blame, rather that compassionately learning to live in the present moment will surely continue the war.

There’s another woman’s story told in the May 2, 2016 New York Times article: Departing Judge Offers Blunt Defense of Ruling in Stop-and-Frisk Case whose strength, I believe, far exceeds that of the men she has had to work with. Judge Shira Scheindlin, is stepping down after 22 years as a federal district judge in Manhattan. During that time she had the nerve to stand up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly in her 2013 ruling in the stop-and-frisk case. Her response to interviewers demonstrates compassion rather than fear:

“Think of the lives that that has changed, the lives that that has touched,” she said, “the lives of people who were stopped for no good reason and how intrusive that is.” The policy had “bred nothing but distrust,”

Just as important, Judge Scheindlin noted that her ruling reduced the number of stop-and-frisks from 685,000 to 24,000 in just a few years. Maybe we should change the word virtue to mulierue (Latin root mulier means woman) and encourage little boys to be more like the girls.

Aside: This post has nothing to do with the 2016 politicking going on right now. I'm actually supporting Bernie Sanders

It’s Time to Speak Up and End the Violence

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine sent me a notice of the USA Tour of the major relics of St. Maria Goretti and suggested that I might want to join her in venerating these at St. John Cantius Church where they would be displayed October 12, 2015. This started quite a discussion beginning with my gut reaction of: “Are you kidding?” Without going into all the in-between back and forth arguments, I attended the viewing of these relics and was pleasantly surprised at how well the whole story of saint/sinner played out, Maria being the saint and her slayer, Alessandro Serenelli being the sinner. What I expected when I first received the invitation goes like this: the sinners, men are evil sexual predators and the saints, women are the poor victims of men’s lust. I know from dealing with my own demons, as well as my work with young men, this kind of thinking gets us nowhere.

I am part of a privileged group(s) and I know it. That doesn’t mean I always know how to respond to people who don’t share my status. One of the privileged groups I belong to is that of men. As a man I need some good coaching and training.

Upon visiting the museum set up in the basement of St. John Cantius’ I learned the story of the rehabilitation of Maria’s killer, Alessandro Serenelli. It’s an amazing story of reconciliation and recovery. In Serenelli’s words:

“I atoned for my sin. Little Maria was truly my light, my protectress. With her help, I served those 27 years in prison well. When society accepted me back among its members, I tried to live honestly with angelic charity. The sons of St. Francis, the minor Capuchins of the Marches, welcomed me among them not as a servant, but as a brother. I have lived with them for 24 years. Now I look serenely to the time in which I will be admitted to the vision of God, to embrace my dear ones once again and to be close to my guardian angel, Maria Goretti and her dear mother, Assunta.”

Now, I don’t think I’m ready to read here: “…and they all lived happily ever after”. No, I think we, especially we men, have a lot of work to do and Alessandro can be our patron saint if you will. Jackson Katz in the above TED talk gives us some real good ideas on where to start. I’ll leave it to Katz to take it from here.

Through the Lens of a Camera

What is it like to be an Arab woman in an Arab world and why would a Passionist Partner care about that? In today’s TED Talk, Laura Boushnak gives us an idea of the answer to that question. She also gives us a simple way to respond non-violently to the violence we witness in our world. She does this imaginatively through the simple use of a camera and challenge a to be who we are. Think I’ll have to try that. Thanks Laura!