A Tomorrow Called Hope

As a teacher, I always thought my first job was to create a safe space for all. If I was successful at that, then some learning on my students’ as well as my part could take place. I can’t tell you how amazed I was to see that the great Jesuit teacher of our day, Pope Francis agrees. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though, we had the same teacher.

Pope Francis in his April, 2017 TED Talk, Why the only future worth building includes everyone, tells us how to create this safe space, this safe world. We do this, Pope Francis tells us by understanding that none of exist except with each other, “none of us is an island”. Secondly, Pope Francis shares his dream of a world that recognizes that life is really about, loving one another. A life of love gives us a tomorrow called hope. Finally, he talks about a revolution that needs to take place, “the revolution of tenderness”.

This distilled version does no justice to the loving, hopeful version Pope Francis shares in his TED Talk.

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

Come Dance with Me

You might ask me: “What in tarnation makes you think: ‘you are God’s gift to the world?’” Well, I’ll tell you. Actually, no, I’ll let Aimee Mullins do that with her inspiring October 2009 TEDMED Talk: The opportunity of adversity.

If you take the time to listen to Aimee’s talk above I’d bet you’ll realize that Aimee is not the only gift God has given the world. We are all God’s gift to the world. Aimee ends her talk with the following poem from a fourteenth century Persian poet.

“Every child has known God,
not the God of names,
not the God of don’ts,
but the God who only knows four words
and keeps repeating them, saying,
‘Come dance with me.
Come, dance with me.
Come, dance with me.'”


I think it’s time to tell the real story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, those characters we hear about from the evangelists. They probably did not have the hindsight that the gospel writers had. They probably wondered why they were given the adversities they experienced, a child being born out of wedlock in a world that believed the woman in such a situation should rightfully be stoned. And they were afraid. Why else would we keep hearing the words: “Be not afraid.”

So, it’s not even Christmas and I’ve received the gift, the gift of life, the very particular gift of who I am with all my frailties, talents and fears. Like Mary I can say yes to these and in turn give that gift back to the world, a world so in need of what I have to offer, myself—yourself.

Merry Christmas!

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

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


Thank You Caregivers

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Nancy Reagan once said her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease was worse than the assassination attempt on his life in 1981. She described it as “The long goodbye” in 1995. Eleanor Clift and Evan Thomas capture former First Lady, Nancy Reagan’s witness of compassion with the ten year day to day coping with the slow creeping disease of Alzheimer’s, what she described as “The long goodbye” in a Newsweek’s reprint of a 2004 article.

What’s it like to be an Alzheimer’s patient? If you’re brave enough, go with Cynthia McFadden of ABC News and the son of a victim of the disease as they experience for themselves just that in the above YouTube video. McFadden says that experience changed her life, and it only took twelve minutes.

With the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan, may she rest in peace, I’m reminded of not only the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s but also of the tremendous compassion she showed to her husband. I can wax eloquently about compassion, but will never be able to communicate that reality like the witness of an actual caregiver.

When I think of a caregiver, I think of my brother Dave who took care of our father in his last days. I think of Penny Sue and Nancy who did so much to help my dear friend Penny through her last days. Thank you all caregivers for your tremendous witness to compassion.


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.

Make Peace Happen Now

Can such a simple (though not necessarily easy) accomplishment as subordinating our ego, lead us to world peace? Is compassion different for Muslims than for Christians or are we all really “Partners” searching for the same reality? What does the Qur’an have to say about compassion? These are just a few of the questions Feisal Abdul Rauf , spiritually answers in today’s TED Talk. Feisal retells a story from the Sufi (Inner mystical tradition of Islam) master, Runi, that I will never forget. It simply and magically tells the answer to realizing Peace on Earth.