Happy Fasting!

I attended a meeting with some friends the other morning and one person said she would like to have a future meeting to address the question: “Why fast?” She justified the question with: “After all, lent is coming.” I thought to myself, yes, and while we’re at it, we might address, why suffering, injustice and the cross. For me, they are all intimately bound one to each other.

Bryan Stevenson in his TED2012 talk We need to talk about an injustice says: “Ultimately, you judge the character of a society, not by how they treat their rich and the powerful and the privileged, but by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated. Because it’s in that nexus that we actually begin to understand truly profound things about who we are.”

That last phrase, at least for me, contains the answer of why I fast (less than two normal meals per day and not eating between meals): “…it’s in that nexus that we actually begin to understand truly profound things about who we are.” I suspect that you are not too different from myself in that when life is going along fine, i.e. my bills are paid, there’s still some money in my bank account, and I even have some left over to drop in the “Poor Box” at church that I fool myself and think: “I’ve got this life business down–I know what’s it all about.”

On the other hand, when I’m hungry and there’s no dinner on the table to satisfy me or I’m broke and still have a pile of bills to pay that I’m brought immediately to the present moment, the moment where I can find God. That’s a scary moment for me. At first I realize how totally inadequate I am to satisfy the injustices of the world, I can’t even satisfy my hunger or need for money. I experience my neediness. It’s also at that moment, if I am willing to actually face it and not run away through some addiction, that I realize, “we” can. We can fill the hunger in each of our bellies. We can satisfy the hunger for justice. We can give sight to the sightless. We can set the downtrodden free. In short, I can’t; we can.

So for me the answer to why fast, is to wake myself up the present moment. When I’m hungry, I don’t think about tomorrow, or yesterday. I am totally in the moment. That moment is filled with many good things, but it is also lacking in many good things. When we work together, we address that hunger, that suffering, those crosses, and we find new life.

Happy fasting!

Posted by Dan O’Donnell, a layman who has covenanted with the Chicago Community of Passionist Partners. 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

Serving the Wounded of the World

I suspect there’s not a person over the age of reason (I’m not sure what that is these days) that has not been wounded. That wound might be as insignificant as a scratched knee or it could be as tragic as the death of a parent or loved one. I often wonder what this wounding is all about. Sometimes I get an answer but more often, I just have to wonder why.

Jason Gray a 44 year old folk singer who is also wounded—he suffers from a speech impediment, although you’d never suspect that by listening to his recordings—shares his insight to that question with the above recording, The Wound is Where the Light Gets In.

Jason is not the first person in history to address wounds. Another person, Paul Danei (1694-1775) an Italian also struggled trying to understand why people suffered from poverty or were marginalized and ignored. His response was to found a religious group of men and women who devote their lives to answering that question for themselves and others. Catholics in the United States celebrate his life today by naming today his special day remembering his contributions in helping us all understand suffering. Way to go Paul and thanks for helping me answer my question, why do we suffer. We Are the Passionists will tell you all about this modern day religious community of priests, brothers, sisters and laity who follow in the footsteps of Paul Daneii.

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

Why Suffering?

“I don’t think anything liberates you except suffering.” (Harold Talbott)

I had a good friend, Bob Shea who is dead now. He used to like to say: “…pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”. While he never explained what he meant by that, I took him to mean, that I could avoid suffering if I only had the right attitude. I’ve changed my mind after listening to Harold Talbott.

Harold Talbott in the YouTube video, The Almost Final Days of Thomas Merton: The Role of Suffering tells a mythical story of Buddha walking along meeting a tigress who was unable to feed her cubs. What the Buddha does next is superhuman. He offers himself to the tigress as food for her and her cubs.

I’m beginning to understand that suffering freely chosen is not painful or at least it’s worth the ordeal. Suffering not accepted is merely pain. Following the above story further, we don’t get to choose our pain; we merely encounter it along our life’s journey. What we do with it turns it into gift or pain.

As I look at my own life’s journey, that’s truly been the case. Just to share one example. For forty-five years I did not accept my sexuality. I denied my feelings and I ran from any truly intimate encounter. That was mere pain even though I thought it was just life. When I began to accept my sexuality, eventually embracing it, it was no longer a source of pain, but truly a source of life. Accepting my “suffering” truly liberated me. I think Talbott ‘s above quote is accurate.

Finally, Talbott equates Jesus’ acceptance of his cross to the Buddha’s offering of his body for food for the tigress and her cubs. Interesting, don’t you 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 believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Meet Debra Jarvis a Modern Day Paul Daneii

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

I often wonder what it would be like to meet some great person of the past, you know, like Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. or Paul Daneii? Paul Daneii you ask? Yes, Paul Daneii. He’s been recognized as the greatest mystic of the 18th century. After turning down the wealth his uncle left him he chose a life of solitude and penitence. This led him to eventually take a new name, Paul of the Cross and found what today is a worldwide religious community of men and women. With this community he hoped to help heal the division taking place among Christians who for the previous 200 or so years had been spending more time proclaiming their differences than recognizing their similarities. He did this by espousing the cross.

I first heard about this man when I was in grammar school. I eventually joined this community by attending their minor seminary and have kept involved ever since. Even after all these years though, I still wonder at times, what this cross that Paul preached is all about. I think I may have gotten a new insight after listening to Debra Jarvis, a chaplain in a cancer treatment center.

If you’re like me and wonder what you are suppose to do with the cross or crosses in your life, check out Chaplain Jarvis’s TED Med talk above. I think she has something. I think I’ve finally met a great person on the past.