Letters

My good friend, Jim writes letters. Now, every time I receive one of these, I vow that I will write a response. You see, Jim doesn’t use email, so I can’t just send off a quick response. I used to be pretty good at writing letters. I started when I went off to another state for high school and pretty much kept it up until I discovered email and the Internet in the early 1990’s. It’s been downhill ever since, at least as far as letter writing goes.

Lakshmi Pratury in her 2007 Ted Talk, The lost art of letter-writing challenges her listeners by suggesting we should not give up on letter writing sharing how rereading her deceased father’s letters connects her to him realizing “…the paper that touched his hand is in mine…”

I’ve kept a few of the many letters I have received over my 73 years on this earth and periodically look at them and remember another person, time and place. One letter in particular from my older sister, Marianne who in the midst of starting and raising a family took the time to tell my what she thought of my “vocation” and how our family influenced that. I won’t go into the particulars here, but to this day fifty-five years later, I think of that sage advice and sometimes actually reread it.

The founder of the Passionist, Saint Paul of the Cross (1694 – 1775) whose feast day we celebrate this coming Saturday, October 20 wrote more than 20,000 letters.  In his day letter writing was the new technology, kind of like email today. In their book The Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, two Passionists I claim as friends and mentors  Fr. Roger Mercurio (1918 – 2001) and Fr. Frederick Sucher (1917- 2013), building on the work of other Passionists translated  over 2,000 of these opening to English readers the thoughts, struggles and mysticism of this simple man. Thank you Roger and Fred, for introducing this saint to me and happy feast day to all celebrating the gift of letters.

Posted by Dan O’Donnell, a layman who 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

Who Will I Feed Today?

Thanks to the Jesuit Post which I read faithfully, I discovered a new site, Happify, that I subscribed to today. This short, simple, well animated story from Happify tells how to make friends out of enemies. Often, I’m tempted to think your are the source of my angst, my anger or my discomfort.  In my more sober moments, I remember the lesson of this animation, and live a much more peaceful day. Hope you have time to enjoy.

Posted by Dan O’Donnell, a layman who 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

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

“Why Wonder Why”

“Just as modern mass production requires the standardization of commodities, so the social process requires standardization of man…”   (Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving)

Sometimes I just wish I could be a great singer, or a famous writer, or just anything but me. At those times, I turn to my old buddy Kermit the frog and listen to his words of wisdom, especially his: “…why wonder why…”

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be

Thank you Joe Rapozo, Jim Henson and Sesame Street.   It’s Not Easy Bein Green.

Each day each of us get to be who we are and that’s enough.

Posted by Dan O’Donnell, a layman who 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

We Are All Called to be Builders

Can you imagine a world “of hopes, dreams and visions…where prophets speak…where peace and justice meet…where outcasts and  strangers bear the image of God’s Face and the cross stands as witness”?

Posted by Dan O’Donnell, a layman who 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

Remembering Our Baptismal Call on the Anniversary of Dr. MLK’s Death

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King on the 50th anniversary of his death, Tony Magliano of Pax Christi shares Dr. King’s warning: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” in the following post. He goes on to point out that this is exactly where the U.S. and many other nations are, citing facts to support his claim. Luckily he doesn’t leave us with that sad news, but shares another King quote: “The time is always right to do what is right.”

A Sign of Hope

As students at Immaculate Conception grammar school, we would say the “Stations of the Cross” on Fridays during lent. I kind of liked them as a great diversion from the classroom. Like many of the pre-Vatican II devotions in the Catholic Church, this practice has lost its appeal and I sometimes wonder if younger people even know what those fourtreen paintings or bas-relief sculptures adorning the church walls are doing there.

The Passionist, a Roman Catholic monastic community commit their lives to keeping alive the memory of the Passion of Jesus and one of the ways they do this is to continue to encourage people coming to their retreat centers to join them on that short pilgrimage. Today in honor of Holy Week, Brother John Rockenbach, of the Passionist’s Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center near the Los Angles area leads a group on their journey. It’s a twenty-five minute trip, one that promises not only to inspire, but also to give you a chance to “retreat” to a much more peaceful and hopeful time. Happy Easter!

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

 

The Power of Asparagus

My mother assigned daily chores to each of us. I remember periodically having to pick some wild asparagus that grew in our rock garden and bring it in for dinner that night. I never dreamed that this simple act was unusual or that it would ever become a means of fighting climate change or of building community.

Tim Rinne in a 2014 TEDx talk Growing food, growing community — the example of the Hawley Hamlet, shares a charming story of how the fear of missing a meal at some future date, led him to revolutionize what his neighborhood looked like and how he grew from knowing just three of his neighbors to now knowing all of them. As a result of their combined work, they lessened their carbon footprints and learned to grow food, much like that asparagus I picked when I was five years old in 1950.

I’m meeting with an activist group leader tomorrow to talk about what we might do to fight the bad effects of gentrification in our Chicago north side neighborhood. Maybe we will plan a demonstration in front of the alderman’s office, or maybe we will organize individuals asking them to stand on corners requesting people to sign petitions. Both ideas I suspect have been successful in the past, but I’m hoping that we will come up with something more revolutionary like the Hawley Hamlet. Thanks Tim for the idea.

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

Why Blog?

People who know me, know I’m always pushing blogging. I push it because I believe it will lead to more face-to-face meetings and allow all of us to overcome our time and space limitations as well as provide a venue for people with differing opinions to come together to share them.

In the above TEDx talk, Celeste Headlee presents ten ideas on how to be a good conversationalist. While I think they are all effective strategies, one in particular impressed me, number two: “Don’t pontificate.” In her comments about this suggestion she says, kiddingly I think: “If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for response or argument or pushback or growth, write a blog.”

Unlike simply listening to a homily or watching a program on TV, blogs do offer the reader an opportunity for response, argument, pushback and growth. As a blogger, I appreciate someone taking the time to respond, whether with an Emoji or a comment. Both communicate, and after all, that’s the whole idea.

Finding the time and space to meet face-to-face limits the number and variety of people with whom I can converse. The blog opens up many more possibilities for discussions with people. If we apply Headlee’s ten suggestions for conversation to blogging, I think we will enjoy blogging and be better prepared to effectively participate in face-to-face conversations.

Any comments?

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