Saturday, December 17, 2011


December  17,  2011

Quote for Today

"One of the most influential handclasps is that of a grandchild around the finger of a grandparent."

Herald, Azusa, California

Friday, December 16, 2011



The title of my homily for this Friday in the 3rd Week of Advent is, “What’s The Bottom Line?”

One of the habits in Jewish religious tradition was to ask a Rabbi to present the bottom line - to sum up the whole of Judaism in one word or one sentence or with one basic message. “What’s the bottom line?”

One added thing was to keep their answer short - so sometimes a Rabbi was asked to do this while standing on one foot. How about that for homilies?

As you’ve heard in various homilies there were 613 commandments revealed to Moses. I have not done it myself, but if you comb through the Pentateuch - the first 5 books of the Bible - that’s how many laws you find.

365 were negative commands: thou shall nots - some say it’s 365 so there can be a law for every day of the year.

And there were 248 positive commandments: some say that corresponds to 248 parts of the body. I don’t understand how that works. I have 10 fingers and toes - 2 eyes, one nose, etc..

Now, all those 615 laws didn’t have the same importance - so over and over again people asked in various ways, “What’s the Bottom Line?”


Rabbis answered that question in various ways. Let me give a few.

Some rabbis said David summed up the 613 laws with the following 11 principles. I found this in a Jewish book. I couldn’t figure out if these 11 principles were gleaned from the Psalms.

               1) Walk uprightly.
               2) Work with righteousness.
               3) Speak the truth from your heart.
               4) Practice no deceit with your tongue.
               5) Don’t do evil to your neighbor.
               6) Don’t do anything that your neighbor can reproach you for.
               7) Don’t be a vile person.
               8) Honor the person who fears the law.
               9) Don’t be like those who swear they are not hurting themselves, but won’t change.
             10) Don’t lend money to others out of usury.
             11) Don’t take a reward against someone who is innocent.

Some went through Isaiah and said he summed up the 613 with 6 principles:

               1) Walk in righteousness.
               2) Speak peacefully.
               3) Don’t make money by making fraudulent deals.
               4) Don’t take bribes when they are waved at you.
               5) Put your hands to your ears when people talk about people.
               6) Shut your eyes when you start to see evil.

Some said Micah the prophet summed up the 613 with 3 principles: Do justly, love mercy and walk modestly with your God

Others summed up Isaiah in a different way than above, so upon further examination Isaiah has 2 commandments. We heard them in the first sentence of today’s first reading:

               1) Keep justice;
               2) do righteousness.

Habbakkuk summed it up the whole 613 laws with 1 principle: The righteous shall live by faith.


How do you sum up life? What do you think life is all about? What would be your bottom line?

We know Jesus was asked that question several times and in Matthew 22: 34-40 he sums it all up with two quotes from the Old Testament. He quotes part of the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:5 - which every Jewish service begins with - and then something from Leviticus 19:18. He says that the Greatest commandment is, “You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and your whole soul, and your whole mind.” Then he says that the second commandment is like it: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s his bottom line. And when we see Jesus’ life we know he practiced what he preached.

So the title, the theme, the point of my homily today is to ask, “What’s your bottom line?”

Speak up! Try answering that standing on one foot or in 25 words or less or what have you.

December 16, 2011 Quote for Today

The following is a letter of C. G. Jung to a Mister N.

1 November 1951

Dear Herr N.,

I am sorry to be late with my answer. I was away on holiday and your letter was lying around for some time.

You have experienced in your marriage what is an almost universal fact - that individuals are different from one another. Basically, each remains for the other an unfathomable enigma. There is never complete concord. If you have committed a mistake at all, it consisted in your having striven too hard to understand your wife completely and not reckoning with the fact that in the end people don't want to know what secrets are slumbering in their souls.  If you struggle too much to penetrate into another person, you find that you have thrust him into a defensive position, and resistances develop because, through your efforts to penetrate and understand, he feels forced to examine those things in himself which he doesn't want to examine.  Everybody has his dark side which -  so long as all goes well - he had better not know about.  This is no fault of yours.  It is a universal human truth which is nevertheless true, even though there are plenty of people who will assure you that they'd be only too glad to know everything about themselves.  It is as good as certain that your wife had many thoughts and feelings which made her uneasy and which she wanted to hide even from herself.  That is simply human. It is also the reason why so many elderly people withdraw into their own solitude where they won't be disturbed.  And it is always about things they would rather not be too clearly conscious of.  Certainly you are not responsible for the existence of these psychic contents..   If nevertheless you are still tormented by guilty feelings,  then considere for once what sins you have not committed which you would have liked to commit.  This might perhaps cure you of your guilt feelings towards your wife.  With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,
C.G. Jung

C.G. Jung Letters.

I found this quoted letter on pages 175 and 176 of The Education of the Heart, edited by Thomas Moore, Readings and Sources for Care of the Soul, Soul Mates, and The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life. Harper Perennial, 1996

Thursday, December 15, 2011


December  15,  2011

Quote for Today - the day the United States forces declared  in Bagdad an end to their operations in Iraq.

"Imagine two generals, each having to decide whether or not to commit a division of ten thousand men to battle.

To one the division is but a thing, a unit of personnel, an instrument of strategy and nothing more.

To the other it is these things, but he is also aware of each and every one of the ten thousand lives and the lives of the families of each of the ten thousand.

For whom is the decision easier?

It is easier for the general who has blunted his awareness precisely because he cannot tolerate the pain of a more nearly complete awareness.

It may be tempting to say, 'Ah, but a spiritually evolved man would never become a general in the first place.' 

But the same issue is involved in being a corporate president, a physician, a teacher, a parent.

Decisions affecting the lives of others must always be made.  

The best decision-makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain the ability to be decisive. 

One measure - and perhaps the best measure - of a person's greatness is the capacity for suffering.

Yet the great are also joyful.

This, then, is the paradox.

Buddhists tend to ignore the Buddha's suffering and Christians forget Christ's joy.

Buddha and Christ were not different men.

The suffering of Christ letting go on the cross and the joy of Buddha letting go under the bo tree are one."

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, pages 75-76.

The above quote was one paragraph. I broke  it down by sentences  - because I and others don't read something that is long - like a long paragraph.

Painting on top: 1887 Civil War Battle Scene by William Trego [1858-1909]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



The title of my homily is, “In The Dark.”

Sometimes we are in the dark; sometimes we feel like we’re in the dark.

Life is both light and darkness. No kidding!

We’ve seen the Chinese philosophy symbol of the ying-yang black and white circles - complementary opposites - each having the opposite within - both sides part of the whole. If it’s daylight here, it’s night darkness there - changing over and over again as the earth revolves around the sun.

Light needs dark and dark needs light. We appreciate Caravaggio and Rembrandt's paintings - many of which have light in faces - and light that glows especially because there are shadows and dark areas in the rooms the characters are featured in.

The Calling of Saint Matthew [1599-1600] Caravaggio [1571-1610]

The Night Watch [1640-1642] by Rembrandt [1606-1669]

The title of my homily is, “In The Dark.”

Hopefully, a homily sheds some light. I’m not so sure about this one - because this topic has a lot of stuff in it which - I’m very much in the dark about.

Perhaps that’s the reason I find myself repeating over and over again what the Talmud says, ‘”Teach thy tongue to say, ‘I do not know.’”


We heard in today’s first reading: “I form the light, and create the darkness….” [Cf. Isaiah 45: 6-8, 18, 21-25]

Don’t we love the opening words of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water. God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God called light ‘day’ and darkness he called ‘night’. Evening came and morning came: the first day.” [Genesis 1: 1-5]

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to begin….”

Sometimes we see - we have answers - and sometimes we feel like we’re in the dark and so we go to Jesus with questions - as we heard John the Baptist do in today’s gospel. [Cf. Luke 7: 18-23]


Today - December 14 - is the feast of St. John of the Cross - and one of his major themes is the dark - as in the Dark Night of the Soul.

In this homily, let me present a few fragments of what I hear Saint John of the Cross saying - especially his ideas about darkness.

It’s not original with him - it’s a theme that we find in Christian Spirituality - down through the years.

If we pray, hopefully we pray, “Let there be light!”

But sometimes the light doesn’t go on at our command!

So if we pray, we know about the darkness of God in prayer.

“Where are you, God? Where are you? I feel like you’re keeping me in the dark.”

I pray and my prayer is filled with distractions. I pray and I feel like I’m talking to myself. I pray - but it seems like mumblings - or whistling in the dark - and I’m the only one in a dark alley - or a dark valley - or in a dark night - or in a very dark universe.

If you know about all this, you know the Psalms. They are filled with screams and yells to God - they are the history of people down through the years praying to know where God is - especially when the valley we’re traveling though is dark - and we’re wondering and wandering like lost sheep without a Good Shepherd.

Having conducted lots and lots of retreats for 14 years in two different retreat houses - also having taught Spirituality for 9 years to men who were hoping to become Redemptorists - 9 classes - each of which took a year and a day - as a Novice Master - one task was to teach others how to pray - so I know about this theme of Darkness when it comes to prayer.

So once more, , “Teach thy tongue to say, ‘I do not know.’”

The beginner of prayer - if he or she is just saying prayers - doesn’t come to the Night - the Darkness - issue right away.

At first - all is bright - light - “honeymoonish” - the stuff of beginning - excitement - as in marriage - as in any new job - as in having a new car - the first week at college, moving into a new home - or what have you.

As Blaise Pascal put it, “Things are always at their best in the beginning.”

Then time takes away the newness…. and the newness becomes oldness. The light of day hits noon - and the so called, “Noonday Devil” starts walking with us on the long journey.

An as we continue the shadows of afternoon move into the dark of evening and night.

In time dryness - boredom - emptiness - aloneness - arrives.

It’s night.

The beginner feels at first the Dark Night of the Senses - then the middler feels the Dark Night of the Soul.

The Dark Night of the Senses has to do with the Spiritual that hits us through our 5 senses. The Dark Night of the Soul - now that’s the down deep inner Black of God - the Black Hole of God - whom some atheists - don’t realize they are at black door of God - and miss his knock (Oops that’s an ear metaphor - hearing - something that goes with the Dark Night of the Senses).

Flashes of light appear from time to time - moments of consolation arrive at times - insights - inner lights go on - but from what I learned from 51 years of Religious life - and prayer - most of the life of prayer is darkness.

Sorry - if you don’t know that yet.

Beginners - as in marriage need consolation. They need rich rewarding experiences of light. Then when they are long on the journey - they get to know and experience that they don’t know what’s around the corner. Then they discover that walking in the dark - is how God operates - that God is so often a Night God.

In the meanwhile we have statues and stained glass windows - candles and music - spoken prayers - but in time, the honeymoon is over and we enter the life of faith.

In due time we understand the words of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 2: 5, “We walk by faith and not by sight.”

In due time we can understand and learn why the Muslims didn’t want images in their mosques. It’s the same reason we have iconoclasts - those who break and destroy religious images - or their use in veneration. It’s the same reason the Jewish people were opposed  to the use of God’s name - and proclaimed the first two commandments:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.”

Make an object a God - and you’ll always have iconoclasts. Luther thought that statements by preachers like Johann Tetzel about Indulgences went too far - as if we humans could dictate how God is. Raising money to renovate Saint Peter’s in Rome with statements about what you’ll get for your money was too much for some Reformers.

Make the Bible more than it is - and you’ll also have iconoclasts.

Don't we get angry or frustrated or what have you, when someone says what we think or who we are - and we know they are totally in the dark about us?

Life is tricky. Relationshiop are tricky. People are tricky.
Religion is also tricky stuff - because religion is not about stuff - as it's about relationships.

Spiritual teachers - like John of the Cross - teach that when you think you have God - you probably don’t - and when you feel like you’re in the Dark - you might very well be in God.

Hey we don’t see all the stars up there - in the light - only in the night. They are always there, but we don’t always see them. We can be blinded by the light.

So keep praying. Keep walking by faith - and every once and a while the light goes on - and when we get to heaven - who knows what we’ll see?

The scriptures say there will no longer be any night. We’ll see.


This sermon is a first draft and I’m dabbling in the dark a bit - but on purpose. I like the night for praying more than the day - always have - but others are just the opposite.

Moreover in spirituality, there is not only the so called “kataphatic” “with images” - “the via positiva” approach to mysticism and prayer - but there is also the “apophatic” - without images - “the via negativa” - to empty oneself of images - and in doing so one can also move into God.

Eastern mysticism - and Oriental mysticism - and meditation techniques have a voice here - along with Neo-Platonist writers like Pseudo-Dionysius - who stressed emptying oneself to meet God.

Let me close with two quotes of John of the cross:

“Desolation is a file, and the endurance of darkness is preparation for great light.”

“If someone wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”


December  14,  2011

Quote for Today - feast of St. John of the Cross

"The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them."

Questions: Can you picture an experience or a moment where you had this same thought that St. John of the Cross had? Can you figure out what words of Jesus that John of the Cross might have been reflecting upon - when he came up with this comment?

St. John of the Cross [1542-1591]


The title of my homily for this feast of St. Lucy, December 13th, is, “Lord, That I Might See.”

It's the prayer and the cry of the blind man of Jericho in Luke 18: 35-43.

Today is the feast of St. Lucy - an Early Church martyr who died for being a Christian - around 300.

She is one of the 4 great women martyrs of the 4 months of the cold weather months in the northern hemisphere: Cecilia, Lucy, Agnes and Agatha - November, December, January and February.

She is sometimes pictured with a plate with her eyes on it - because that was one of the legends or stories about her: that her eyes were gauged out by her torturers.

She is especially venerated in Sicily - and Italy. When I lived in Long Branch, New Jersey, I noticed in the various Italian homes I visited that they all had a picture of statue of Lucy with the eyes.

But she’s also venerated and celebrated in Sweden and in the Scandinavian countries - as well as in various other places - for example, Omaha, Nebraska.

So St. Lucy has always been popular. Lucy is a neat name. Everyone has eyes. Everyone has eye problems now and then. So pray to St. Lucy.


At this time, if you drive around Annapolis you’ll see people on their front lawn or at the front of their house setting up lights. December is the month of light - obviously because of Christmas - and obviously because December 21 is the darkest day of the year - and then we move towards the light.

Every year, when I come to this feast of St. Lucy - I always remember standing in the back of some church on some parish mission - around All Saints Day - and all the kids are dressed up in Saint costumes. Sheets are the secret. Well there was this one girl with a sheet around her and electric lights flashing around her head - battery powered. Pointing towards her, I asked someone, “Who is that?” And the lady, probably an Italian, looked at me as if I were blind, “Saint Lucy dummy!”

Let there be light.


So as you know I push the rosary for more than Hail Mary’s. Simply take the beads and say 59 times the prayer of the Blind Man, “Lord, that I might see.” That’s what he said he wanted when Jesus asked him why the yelling. “What do you want?” He said, “Lord, that I might see.

Or even shorter, use your rosary beads to say 59 times, the death bed words of Goethe, “More light.”

Goethe had said earlier in his writings, “Someday perhaps the inner light will shine forth from us, and then we shall need no other light.”

That would be nice.

Or simply use your beads to pray 59 times, “Light.”


Painting on top: St. Lucy [1521] by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi [1486-1521]. It can be found in the Pinacteca Nazionale, Siena, Italy

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


December 13,  2011

Quote for Today

"A secret is something you tell only one person at a time."


Picture: two people walking along and talking in Florence, Italy - September 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011


December  12,  2011

Quote for Today

"There is plenty of courage among us for the abstract, but not for the concrete."

Helen Keller [1880-1968]

Sunday, December 11, 2011



The title of my homily for this Third Sunday of Advent B is, “Do Not Quench The Spirit!”

It’s a command, an imperative, from Paul - in today’s second reading. It’s Chapter 5, verse 19, from his First Letter to the Thessalonians.

“Do not quench the Spirit!”

Other translations: “Do not dampen the Spirit.” “Do not snuff out ….” We’ve all blown out candles. Well, “Do not blow out this Fire, this Spirit - the Spirit of God in our midst.” “Do not extinguish this Spirit.”

As you have heard at times, First Thessalonians is the earliest New Testament writing - dated 50 or 51 - so it’s before the Gospels.

And it’s well before 1870 when electric lights started to go on. It’s from a time of oil lamps and candles - so people would know exactly what Paul is picturing - putting out a light - blowing out a light.

Paul is telling the Christian community in this city of Thessalonica not to put out the fire of the Spirit in each other - that he Paul had lit when we was with them. Don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t dampen the Fire - the Spirit of God burning - enlightening - warming our community - huddling us together in the cold - bringing us light in the dark.

I’d like to preach on that theme today. “Do not quench the Spirit.”

And I’m picturing three fires - the fire in me, the fire in others - the other persons in our home, in our places of work, in our groups, - and thirdly, the Spirit of Christ, the Fire of Christ Himself. Don’t quench, don’t blow out any one of these three fires.


Let’s start with oneself - because if the fire has gone out in me, it’s difficult to be someone who brings passion and fire to others. It’s difficult to feel the presence of the Fire of the Spirit of Christ - all around us?

So here are 10 questions:

What happens when I walk into a room?

What happens when I walk in my front door or through the side door from the garage - or outside?

What happens when I walk into my place of work?

If you’re married, what is the state of your union?

If you’re single - divorced - widow or widowed - where are you - with your past?

Do I still live there or have I moved on into my future?

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, how happy - how joyful - am I most of the time?

Am I an optimist or a pessimist?

Is there anyone scared of me - and avoids me?

Is there anyone who rejoices when they see me?


I would assume walking into church - should be at times an eye opening experience. I would assume that church is a vision center.

So when we’re sitting there getting our I examined - I spelled “I” not “E-Y-E”, we’re asked all kinds of questions. We’re being asked how we see. I can never get the difference between this lens and that lens at times when I get my eyes examined at an eye doctor.

When we’re sitting in church, I assume that we’re being asked at times, how we see ourselves - for example compared to something that is said in the readings.

Today is Gaudete Sunday - “Gaudete” is the Latin word for “Rejoice” - or “Be Joyful”.

If we were sitting in a waiting room to see an eye doctor or any doctor and we picked up a magazine and we spotted a self test and we started answering the questions, how would we answer these 5 questions?

“I am a joyful person.” Circle one: Always, Sometimes, It all depends, Never. Don’t know.

“I was a happy child.” Circle one: Always, Sometimes. It all depends. Never. Don’t know.

“I am a complainer - a whiner - a grumbler.” Circle one: Always, Sometimes. It all depends. Never. Don’t know.

“I am a blamer.” Circle one: Always, Sometimes. It all depends. Never. Don’t know.

“I am someone with enthusiasm.” Circle one: Always, Sometimes. It all depends. Never. Don’t know.


Every once and a while someone says to me sort of by accident that they talked about something I said in a homily - on the way home from church - or at breakfast after Mass or what have you.

That brings me joy. That ignites my fire.

Here is something to do today after Mass. You can do this by yourself - but better - as a couple - or as a family. Get a candle. Put it on a table in front of you. Then light the candle and watch it burn. Then blow out the candle and watch what happens. The smoke rises and fades away. The wax hardens. What was hot becomes cold.

That’s it.

Then discuss: "When do I blow out your candle?" Or,  "When do I realize I blow out your candle?"

If you do this by yourself, you can ask the same questions.

When do we quench the Spirit in the other?

When does this happen to me - or  when do I feel this happens to me?

Last week I was with about 50 of our high school kids on a Kairos Retreat. Part of the retreat we're in small groups. At other times we're in a semi-large group and at other times we have full group discussions. In one group session - with no one as leader - it was a free for all discussion. I noticed that some people didn’t speak. I noticed that some raised their hands - but someone else jumped in - and they didn't get their chance to speak. I noticed some people cutting off some people.

I kept thinking: wouldn’t it be great if someone said from one side of the circle to the other members of the group: “Sam had his hand up three times and nobody gave him a chance to speak. Sam what did you want to say?”

Would that let Sam’s fire - Spirit - personality - fire - burn brighter?

Married folks could talk and face the question: Do we quench each other’s Spirit? Better. Name 5 things that ignite sparks and 5 behaviors that quenche the other's Spirit.

When it comes to a serious discussion about all this, I would assume it would be better to start with out there first. In other words to ask about how this happens at work or school. Only then - having gotten used to talking  to each other about this issue of quenching or squelching another's Spirit - then bring the question home to each other. If you have a fireplace in your home, you know what it's like to have a roaring fire - or a steady fire - and what it's like to see a fire going out. What is the fire like in our home: burning brightly, steady but low key, or burning out?

Married couples: when was the last time you had a honeymoon?

Families: when was the last time you have a family meal when all were laughing and not leaving the table?  I heard kids last week saying they don’t have family meals - or if they do,  they sit on the couch with the TV on.

Talk about quenching the Spirit….


The title of my homily is, “Don’t Quench The Spirit.”

Start with self. Could I make the opening words of today’s first reading from Isaiah 61 my words:

                       The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
                       because the LORD has anointed me;
                       he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
                       to heal the brokenhearted,
                       to proclaim liberty to the captives
                       and release to the prisoners,
                       to announce a year of favor from the LORD
                       and a day of vindication by our God.

Jesus made those words his own - in the famous synagogue service we read about in the Gospel of Luke (cf. Luke 4: 18-19.) Could I say them of myself?

Circle one: Always, Sometimes. It all depends. Never. Don’t know.

Can I look in the mirror of self each day, each night, and say with Isaiah, I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul…?

Circle one: Always, Sometimes. It all depends. Never. Don’t know.

Jumping to the gospel, I love the words of John the Baptist, “but there is one among you whom you do not recognize…” Do I recognize that Jesus among us as the lamplighter - the Fire Bringer - the Light of the World?

Circle one: Always, Sometimes. It all depends. Never. Don’t know.

Christmas is all about the coming of Jesus - as a baby - an infant - but most of us are well along the way of Salvation - and Jesus is an adult to us - but maybe we need to sit down with Jesus as well - this Advent - this Christmas  - and ask the heavy questions: “Jesus have I quenched your Spirit in me?” “Have I blown out your light?”

Circle one: Always, Sometimes. It all depends. Never. Don’t know.

Get out that candle and say to Jesus, “Do you have a light please?”

[Today is called “Gaudete Sunday” - “Gaudete” being the Latin word for “Rejoice.” So I was trying to come up with a story that brings out the theme we heard in the readings for today: to be joyful - filled with joy. I wrote the following story last night - with the hope that it will bring out the idea that we are called to be joyful people. So once more the title of my story for today is: “Twin Sisters.”]

Once upon a time there were two sisters: Winifred and Mildred. They were named after their grandmothers on each side - who were named after their grandmothers on each side. So those very interesting old fashioned first names, Mildred and Winifred, go way, way back.

And it was just these 2. They didn’t have any brothers and sisters.

It was just the twins - and mom and dad.

Winifred was the oldest - being born 15 minutes earlier than her twin sister Mildred - and from then on they were thought of as the youngest and the oldest.

And once you got to know Winifred and Mildred - you too might say - what a lot of different people said, “They can’t be sisters. They can’t be twins. They are so, so, so, so different from each other.”

But they were twins - identical twins - born just 15 minutes apart.

Winifred always - ever since she was a baby - had a great smile - almost from the beginning of her life.

Mildred - on the other hand - never smiled. In fact, she frowned. She always seemed down. She always seemed to pout - always ready to shout, “It’s not fair!”

Being the youngest - if just by 15 minutes - is that why Mildred ended up being sort of sour - about everything?

I don’t know. All I know is that they were different kids.

Mom and dad couldn’t figure it out. Sure people are different, but why their two daughters were so different - now that was a mystery. Maybe there was a mistake at the hospital. Nope. Impossible. They were identical twins. See one and you saw the other. Yet,  once you watched their faces and watched them in action - you could tell,  one was different from the other.

Mom and dad said that Winifred was obviously the optimist - while Mildred was obviously the pessimist.

As little kids they didn’t understand just what those two words - optimist and pessimist - meant. But even if you didn’t know the meaning of these two words, everyone knew Winifred was the optimist and Mildred was the pessimist - sad and glad.

And sometimes kids can be cruel. Winifred - one kid started comparing her to her sister - called her "Wonderful" - and then called her sister, Mildred, "Dreaderful".

Some kids shortened their names to Wondy and Dredy.

Their parents felt this just made things worse. They tried to console Mildred. In the meanwhile, Mildred became even more sour - when kids put her down or when other kids made fun of her. Winifred tried to cheer her sister up. She too failed time after time.

Mom and dad often talked about personalities - because these two daughters of theirs had such different personalities.

When Mildred walked into a room - she brought along with her a dark cloud - like a pet dog. When Winifred walked into a room - she only brought sunshine - which filled the room.

Nothing was ever right according to Mildred. Her constant whine was that mom and dad liked her older sister better. It was the same with teachers - both being in the same class all through elementary school. Mildred claimed that teachers picked on her. She would say every year her teachers would say she never did anything right. She would say that Winifred was getting away with murder.

However, there’s hope. There’s always hope. People can change.

It happened in the 6th grade. From what I heard later on, the change happened this way. But who knows? Who really knows how people change?

Another set of twins - both girls as well - both identical twins - Rachel and Rebecca - came into their school - and into their class.

And Mildred got mad and thought it wasn't fair because nobody could figure out which twin was which - but could always tell she was Mildred.

This reality planted a seed in Mildred’s head - which like most seeds - took a while to grow.

This new set of twins in their class loved to play the game, “Which one really was Rachel and which one was really Rebecca?”

Well, one night Mildred told her sister, before they got to sleep, “Why don’t we play that game as well - to see if we can have people guessing which of us is which of us?

“What do you mean,” said Winifred.

“Well,” said Mildred, “Tomorrow you look sad and I’ll look happy.”

And Mildred then jumped up - got out of her bed - and turned the light on and showed her sister Winifred what she meant. It was difficult at first, because Mildred wasn’t used to using the happy face muscles on her face. And Winifred had difficultly using sad face muscles.

Then Winifred got out of her bed and both went over to the big mirror they had on their bureau. And as they practiced using their different face muscles both started to laugh.

Mom and dad thought they heard laughter coming from their daughters’ room - but dismissed it - because they never heard laughter coming from their girls bedroom before.

Mildred and Winifred kept practicing and practicing and practicing - and laughing and laughing and laughing.

The next day they put on their performance. Mildred came in all smiles. Winifred came in all sadness.

At the first bathroom break that school day morning, Mildred came running over to her sister - all smiles - in the back of their classroom, “It's difficult, but it works. It works.”

Winifred almost let out a smile - but Mildred went, “Shush no!” And they hugged each other. Good thing nobody noticed that - because the game was on.

It worked, better and better each day.

They became better than Rachel and Rebecca, because someone pointed out that Rebecca had a brown freckle or brown something on the thumb of her left hand while Rachel didn't.

So every day - in the morning - they would flip a coin - to see who was whom that day.

Surprise in time - nobody could tell who was whom - really - not even their parents - except Mildred and Winifred.

Surprise - both became so joyful - Winifred even more - Mildred growing and growing in joy - and that laughter poured out of their bedroom every night - and their parents got used to seeing both their daughters filled with joy.

Their dad said, “Women. I don’t understand women.”

Their mom said, “That’s why you married me and God gave us daughters!”

And both laughed and laughed and their daughters heard laughter coming from their parent’s room.

December 11,  2011

Quote for Today

"Divine worship is as natural for humans almost as neighing is for horses or barking for dogs."

Marsillo Ficino, Platonic Theology


Where have been the places on the planet that you automatically found yourself worship, praising, becoming aware of God as Creator and Artist?

Is there a place in your house that feels more sacred than other places?

What has been the most easy to pray church you've ever been in - anywhere?