Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Feast of the Holy Family

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I write this post after several days of truly enjoying myself here in Birigui, Brazil. I am meeting new people, making new friends, fumbling through little phrases, jumbled sentences, mispronounced words in a foreign but exciting new language. All of this has been tremendously life-giving...the only times that I am feeling kind of down or scared is when I begin to think about the transition back to the states! With the help of God and community, I pray I can re-aquaint myself with Chicago and school, make a temporary home there for my Spring semester.

My continued Christmas greeting and prayers are with all of you and your loved ones. I have been so busy just getting into the flow of things here and wanting to soak in all of this newness, that I haven´t posted in a few days. But this morning, as I woke and decided to take a break from my usual morning run, I figured I´d catch up on a little spiritual reading.

Today is the feast of the Holy Family in the Catholic church. This feast always falls on the Sunday following Christmas. There is a wonderful reflection written by a Jesuit priest named Larry Gillick on Creighton University Ministry´s Daily Reflection page about this day...why the church celebrates it and what it really means to be a Holy Family. I´ll admit, for me the word ´holy´is often intimidating and evokes thoughts of a stale, reserved, firm, but richly devout kind of spirituality or prayer life that centers around tradition and structure and ordinary-ness. I think sometimes of holiness as a straight, narrow path to God that is walked only through rigidness or rock-solid convictions. But Gillick, in his reflection, tries to shed a new kind of light on what holiness is in context of the holy family. He describes his childhood and his memory of family life as holy, but not in a rigid, expected kind of manner. He says his family rarely said prayer before eating (unless a priest was invited for dinner), didn´t begin long car rides with prayer, went to mass, but not always as a tight-knit family unit. It seems that Gillick´s childhood experience of holiness is random, is anything but what some might consider the straight, perfect way to understanding and appreciating God. But he says that his parents obeyed with certainty the Law of Love---he says they seemed to love each other very much. They would always kiss before parting, would cuddle on the couch and make their kids feel awkward through public displays of affection.

This type of love that is kind of random but nevertheless real---a neverending, exciting, but not totally structured kind of love, seems alright in a life that we know not fully how to react or respond to. That is, we are always kind of guessing, or interpreting the mysterious of our faith, our existence, our meaning. To treasure the gift of life without taking our life so seriously might be a way for us to better unlock the unexpected surprises that await us in the future. With the Spirit of a clown, but with the Heart of a saint, we can come to laugh and cry in a most Holy of ways. Here in Brazil, Rafael says there is a kind of saying (I can´t remember the exact wording) that it is always better to laught than to cry about things. Thinking in this positive way, we can bring hope and joy and love to others, and we can allow those same treasures to fill our own hearts.

Here is a prayer for your family (or you can use it for your friends or loved ones or anyone close to you). It is borrowed from the Creighton University Daily Reflection page. Realize that, in whatever family unit you might be living in, you have the opportunity to be holy. Trust in the power of faith to pull you through hard times and to give you joy in moments of gladness. PEACE

God of such faithfulness,we are a big and messy family;both as humans - and in my own family.
Help me today to be especially patient and loving,and to forgive those who have hurt me.
We may not look like "The Holy Family" I see in paintings,yet we are united with Jesus, Mary and Josephbecause in your great love for us you sent your son to live in this world and to share in our human experience.
Sometimes I forget the sacredness of our family lifeand the privilege it is to be together in this bond.
Help me not only love others as you love us,but to be more aware of those families in the worldwho struggle so much with poverty, war and disease.
Help me to pray with and for them todayand to carry an awareness of all families fleeing for safety, longing for the peace you offer to us all.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

with love to my Network of Love FAMILY,

seu amigo bob.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve!

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Keeping you posted about my whereabouts in Brazil...I am in Birigui, the city where my friend Rafael grew up and where his mom, dad, grandpa, and many of his closest friends still reside.

Right now, at this very moment, Rafael is holding a chicken (rooster) that his dad bought just a little while ago. Rafael´s grandpa told him that they had to buy a second chicken (a female one) to compliment the constantly coo-cooing male. He still makes his noises in the morning (believe me, I heard it loud and clear!), but he is more satisfied and at peace now that he has his female bird counterpart. As Rafael said this morning, he is kind of having fun with the chickens. It is sort of neat to see chickens hanging out in a small yard in a more residential, populated city.

Birigui is actually considered a very small city (100,000 people). Here in the state of Sao Paulo, that is very small. Last night, we went to a neighboring city Araçatuba to go out for the night with a few of Rafael´s friends. It was amazing! The city was charming, warm, full of people and life. The lights, the sounds, the breeze as we drove around. Rafael said his favorite part about going to the city is driving on the highway at night. I will agree with him that night driving on hot, sweaty summer nights, wind blowing on your face, thoughts drifting to the center of the moment and the wonderful people you are with, is a wonderful way to spend the last few moments before falling asleep.

The rhythm of the day here is really beginning to excite me. I can´t quite explain it, but it´s so unique and new to me. We anticipate the coming night, the cooler weather, when we can go outside and share in fellowship with friends and family. It is only fitting that tonight, we will anticipate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the baby in a manger that would influence so many people to try and live there lives wrapped up in the swaddling clothes of the moment...wrapped up in a reality that tries to bring peace to a struggling but hope-filled world.

There are moments in life that you can´t quite explain using words---it doesn´t matter who you are or what language you are trying to communicate in---many of the time spent here has been like that for me. I am learning what it means to anticipate life while appreciating what gifts are put in front of us every minute we breathe and try our best to live as people filled with joy.

May joy come to all of you tonight. PEACE ON EARTH and GOODNESS be with ALL PEOPLE.

A Christmas prayer from Henri Nouwen, a spiritual writer, psychiatrist, priest who has, as of late, been a real influence on me. I hope the poem, if you stumble upon this blog in the next few days, brings you joy and a sense of belonging while longing, during a season that can bring us the happiest of feelings mixed, uncomfortably, with some of the saddest of feelings. The Holidays seem to be about extremes...maybe this poem can bring you a leveling sense of peace and meaning during this Season.

A Christmas Prayer - by Henri Nouwen

O Lord, how hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live or me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.
As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation which continue to assail me. but I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?
I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your JOY and PEACE.
Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will ind your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, Come. AMEN.

(Borrowed from Nouwen´s book The Road to Daybreak)

May we all come to a sense of friendship with loved ones and those we find difficult to spend time with or think about. We long to celebrate birth and life, celebrate the moment, and wish to remember those who struggle in our world.

Peace and Feliz Natal!

with love,

seu ´bawbi´ (that´s how it sounds when people here say my name) - bob : )

Monday, December 22, 2008

Simply Surrendering on Sugar Loaf Mountain

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Sad to say that today Rafael and I leave Rio de Janeiro. However, I am very HAPPY to say that that means tomorrow I meet his parents and family and friends---I experience my good friend's hometown. After having welcoming him to spend time with my family over the past two Thanksgivings, I am excited and anxious to now be the "foreigner" (we always joke about him being the "foreigner"). To be a guest is a way to experience life as a true traveler, only anticipating that you will be in the moment, not necessarily knowing what that moments holds in store for you. (I hope you can sort of understand my ramblings.)

I'd like to share a short reflection I wrote yesterday while sitting at a table atop of Sugar Loaf Mountain. We took cable cars up to the top to witness the truly breathtaking panoramic view of Rio de Janeiro. The reflection tries to capture what I felt in the totally peaceful, soothing time in a place where my words can't describe both the natural and developed beauty of where I was...


Simplify. Naturalize. Life is about living and doing and thinking---but it is LIVING that moves us to do and to think. One thing I keep coming back to on top of this mind-blowing view of Rio here on top of Sugar Loaf, is that I am but a spec. How do I move from spec to something special? How do I give myself enough strength without forgetting the wonders of this world? A way I do it is through Christ. Not strictly in some image, or a particular church, or through a particular discipline (though the Christian life encompasses all these things), but in the larger picture; the awe-inspiring, life changing, heart warming, spirit glowing view that God only knows how far up in the sky in Rio de Janeiro stands. This stay in Rio is becoming one giant metaphor, but it's stirring my heart to stretch, think, consider breaking, consider reawakening, and, ultimately---through experience, support, community, LOVE, God, Spirit---to consider simply living.

peace to all my friends!

with love,

seu amigo bob.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Three White Roses on a Beach

Greetings fellow network of love lovers!

This post is a combination of a saved post from a few days ago and a short update on where I am now (at Rafael´s home with his family!)

Remember Rio---Copacabana Walk

Rio de Janiero---this place is letting me reflect slowly and hopefully about the things deepest and dearest to me. I can´t thank my friend Rafael enough for providing me with a plan and being enough of a friend to say yes to letting me spend winter break with him in his home country. He is a gift from God---a gift I am truly grateful for having been given.

I never expected I would find myself at any age, let alone as a 20 year old, spending three weeks in Brazil. What I knew about Brazil before coming here was that Sao Paulo was a really, really big city (around 16 million ppl. and growing) and that Rio was a place with a beautiful beach. Well, both of these pre-conceptions have been verified---but Rio, Rio has been more in one day than I ever imagined it could be.

I know I am being melodramatic. And I apologize. But it is SO difficult not to be caught up in this whimsical moment, this time of intense de-stressing, de-studying, de-LIVEry from anxieties and the struggles we all face. Oh the struggles are there---I am a human...struggles are a part of our core. However, the struggles are being faced in positive and creative, thoughtful ways. I am reflecting on the past semester, the past year, the past few years, my whole life in a sense. It´s difficult not to in a place like Rio de Janiero, on Copacabana Beach.

One thing that hit me as Rafael walked down the beach searching for seashells to collect for taking home (as if we were little boys all over again) was the sight of three white roses laying comfortably and peacefully near the moving waters of the ocean. What did they signify? Who left them there? Why were they still there?

Now that that moment has come and passed, I find myself still able to create a picture of the three white roses. At a basic level, when I think of a white rose, I think of purity, freedom, resurrection, redemption (Rio de Janiero is the place where the Christ the Redeemer statue stands on top of a massive mountain!). I think of weddings, baptisms, life, love. I think of a white flag, surrendering to war, giving in to peace. I think of creation, of beginnings, of the sun, of the moon, of the stars---all of these things and so much more.

And then thre is the image of the rose---of course, a flower of immense beauty. A flower used to say Í do´ or ´I still do´or ´thank you´ or ´you mean so much to me.´ We use roses for all types of celebrations---we use roses to express how intimate we want to feel at some of the most delicate moments of our lives---moments of complete surrender to life and death really.

So these snow white roses on the beach in Rio de Janiero, what I take from them is much. I don´t think I can find a perect explanation for why there were there or why my eyes met them in the sand on Copacabana beach. But what I do know is those roses symbolize the beauty and peace I am feeling in Brazil.


Rafael and I have just arrived in his parents home! I was greeted by a ´how are you´ from his father Angelo (I tried to stumble through a how are things in Portuguese), a warm hello from his mother Rosa, turning my lips to the left of her cheek to give the traditional Brazilian, Sao Paulo greeting of a hug and a kiss. (In Rio, there is actually two kisses, one on each side of the cheek, like in France). And then, of course, there was the third person in the house, Rafael´s comical grandpa sporting two different types of shoes, one sock, white khaki shorts. And to ward off the very warm weather in Birigui, Rafael´s hometown, Rafael´s grandpa Cuca comfortably walked around shirtless. He made me laugh and Rafael says he makes the entire family laugh. He complains and stretches stories in a light-hearted kind of way to get family and friends to laugh. Cuca´s room decorated with religious artifacts and a picture of his grandson nestled near his bedside, seems to tell the real tales inside the man´s heart. He seems like an awfully sweet old man.

More about Birigui a littler later. I hope to keep everyone updated and I keep all of you in my prayers during the holidays.

Christmas Eve wishes to all planning to celebrate. Feliz Natal! I wish everyone continued blessings during this winter and holiday season.

Until the next post...Bom dia!

I thank all of you who encourage me to continue blogging. Your kind words warm my heart even more than the beautiful warm weather here in Brazil! Hopefully some of this warmth can be transferred to the midwest, where all of you have seen some pretty snowy weather. In my dreams, I will think of a white Christmas! haha.


with love,

seu amigo bob : )

From Rio to You! Bom Dia!!!

Greetings from Rio de Janiero to my fellow network of love lovers,

A brief, brief update from Brazil...

Rafael and I are having a wonderful time! I am so intrigued and transfixed with Brazil and the people, the natural beauty, the flavors, the vibe, etc.

Wow...I can´t wait to see what else our trip has in store for us.

Some highlights thus far:

-Walking around Sao Paulo, drinking a coffee at a STARBUCKS in Sao Paulo - very Brazilian right?
The Starbucks had a quote on the wall that included God as a part of your goals in your life...ha...God and Starbucks. God probably drinks Starbucks? Maybe a vanilla latte?

-Staying in an INCREDIBLE apartment in downtown Sao Paulo with Fernanda, Rafael´s friend who had studied in Chicago for several years (pictures when I return)

-Spending a night at la Catedral do Chopp (Cathedral of the Chopp---a Chopp is a very special, very smooth beer poured exclusively at that particular restaurant Campinas---we were in a restuarant that was meant to pour this kind of beer. Now we´re talking, huh dad? haha
Also, at the place, we grilled our own steak. That is, Geraldo, Rafael´s cousin (he´s about 45 and has a family...he´s more like an uncle to Rafael) grilled our steaks and then would periodically fill our plate with a petite and delicious filet. As you all know, I am not a red meat kind of person. But this beef was absolutely delicious. The entire evening was incredible. I struggled to communicate, but Rafael, the faithful translator between English and Portuguese, helped all of us out. He was the bridge that brought together two languages and helped us all have such a wonderful evening.

More to come in the coming days. Feel free to send this to anyone who might have any interest in reading about what two young college seminarians are doing in Brazil (one a native Brazilian, the other a redheaded foreigner).

Until the next e-mail...Tchau!


seu amigo bob.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Anticipation that Leads to Participation

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I want to share with you a Christmas reflection. Exams are done, meaning I hopefully have just enough time to write some Season filled words before leaving for Brazil to spend the Season with my friend Rafael and his loved ones. I hope this reflection finds you and your loved ones in Joyous Spirits anticipating and realizing the Love around you. Thank you for your continued support, generosity and prayers. This reflection is a small gift from me to the network of love community to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. ~ PEACE ON EARTH ~

When I think of Christmas, I think of family, friends, food, festivities–––people and ways to bring us together in a Spirit of Love. Our five senses allow us to capture the essence of the promise of Christmas. The taste of eggnog, the smell of a fresh Christmas tree (though many of us use artificial trees…it’s easier to maintain…I understand), the sight of an uncle, aunt or cousin we haven’t seen in months, maybe even since last Christmas. We embrace loved ones as they enter our homes, we hold those dearest to us on Christmas Eve night, and we see sights that make our imaginations jump: lights painting neighbor’s yards, newborns and young ones growing seemingly in front of our very eyes. Tis’ the season to be jolly; that’s what we are told to be and how we are told to be–––we hear it trumpeted through the airwaves (93.9 and 105.9 here in Chicago play Holiday music non-stop), we watch it on our televisions in the form of Christmas specials and images of Winter wonderlands in T.V. land, and recognize it in advertisements and almost everywhere we shop. Our workplace or our schools throw a holiday party before Christmas break, and we find ourselves rushing to get presents for loved ones to keep the season jolly, to give gifts that show we care.

This is all wonderful; it shows the sense of hope that comes with the Season of Christmas. But, I propose (like countless others before me), that the Spirit we shine during the season, the Love we foster during this most giving season, becomes a Spirit that consumes our being even after the music has stopped, the trees have shed all their pines (or if it’s artificial, the tree has been shoved back into the attic where it hibernates for ten months), and the eggnog (or any other of your choice Holiday drinks) pours no more. The surprise of a rapidly growing young one in our family can spark a desire for us to metaphorically grow in action and word with the child physically growing in our midst. Now, during this season of anticipation, is the time to anticipate how we plan to re-energize our Spirits for another year of communal and neighborly living. No matter where we live, the people we meet, the jobs we work or the schools we attend, we all have the potential to lay claim to an anticipation that will lead us to greater participation.

Our life is full of anticipation. After I take a morning run, I anticipate the coming meal that will replenish my body for the day ahead (I also anticipate, like many others, the morning cup of coffee that will help me complete the tasks of the day!). As a person who believes in prayer and community, I anticipate the times of the day where I can join with a group, whether it be with fellow seminarians at my college, with small prayer groups on the campus of Loyola, with friends at All Saints Church in Milwaukee singing and clapping to give thanks and praise God while entering into fellowship, friendship, and, above all, Love. I also value the times in my day alone spent pondering, reflecting, reading a good book, running or simply taking a walk. These silent times are difficult to come by and even more challenging to appreciate when I am busy with schoolwork and other commitments. Stress enters life, forcing me to try and find creative or beneficial ways to slowly show such a hindrance the way to the exit. Prayer and community and alone time–––a health mix of solidarity and solitude–––are amazing stress relievers. But it is a constant struggle, and, even when I think I am fully alive in the moment, content and at peace, I feel as if there is a kind of anticipation nudging me.

I think this anticipation, this restlessness, as many spiritual writers have referred to it, can be of great value to our lives and our desire to grow as a strong person holistically. When I anticipate something that is going to bring great fruits to others and myself, my anticipation is for something with possibility. For instance, as a Christian, I anticipate Christmas Day in the form of Advent. In the four weeks before December 25, we take time to prepare our homes, minds and hearts for what is to come. The birth of Jesus is like any other birthday celebration in that we honor and thank the Creator for the gift of life made real through the womb of a woman. But the birth of Jesus becomes different than any other birth before if we believe that through the life of Jesus, God becomes fully present in a radical, life-giving, sin-taking way. The gift of life to which the Christian anticipates during the season of Advent helps prepare him or her to be individual with constant potential–––a potential that is fully unique, fully divine.

When we look at the world through the eyes of an anticipator, one who is in the present, but always longing, we understand there is a kind of restlessness or stirring within ourselves. This stirring, when understood and appreciated to be some kind of stirring of a Great Spirit that is infinitely larger than us but, incredibly enough, present and powerful in us, can bring us to a form of anticipation that touches the Divine in unbelievable ways.

I think of the good works of so many faith-filled people who struggled with but ultimately listened to the Spirit within. I think of people like Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero–––three people who walked with the poor and, by doing so, influenced countless others to do the same–––to realize that the Spirit of Charity can work through each and every one of us.

I think of the love pastors like Martin Luther King Jr. and Henri Nouwen had for the people they ministered to–––Dr. King and his work for African Americans and all people to usher in truthful Civil Rights laws, and Fr. Henri Nouwen and his constant love and devotion to mentally handicapped individuals at L’Arche community. Both of these men were prophets in pen, peacemakers in person. As believers in the Spirit, they brought justice, hospitality and peace to people whose voices were–––and still are–––often quiet whispers in the world.

I think of people I know and have known who show me the power of the Spirit. Friends that have been there along my journey, pastors, parish and community members and religious leaders that have helped me grow in faith, and a family that has shown me a Love starting at the moment of my own anticipation, my moment of conception, that continues forward in a kind of anticipation that leads to active participation. In raising me, my parents have been guides to beginning a journey to the Heart of the World. For the Heart that my mother and father have given me­­–––for their love and support at all times, I truly thank them. They have helped prepare me to anticipate times when I will struggle and witness a struggling community and world.

And our community and world struggles. We face challenges and seek solace and reconciliation in so many complicated ways. To write only about happiness and the Spirit of Love would be to disregard the fact that there is always more work. “The laborers are few,” Jesus says in the gospel, “but the harvest is plentiful.” In this season of anticipation, I encourage all of us to look into our own heart and challenge ourselves and our loved ones to try and consider a way we can personally be an active, fluid participant in this world. How will we go about bringing a Kingdom here on earth, that is, a place where all are truly welcome and where peace and harmony remain a realized reality? We need more leaders, more communities that Love because they Love to Love. We need people who constantly anticipate how it is they are called to participate in the shifting tone of society. We need believers in a Spirit that resounds within them and that calls them to achieve wonderful things. There is a will in each and every one of us; there is a way in each and every one of us. Where there is a will there is a way.

In small ways, in everyday ways, we can show others how much we care about them and how much Love we receive from them. These ways are the most critical ways to anticipate your own participation in the world, for it is only by understanding how to bring about Love on a small scale that we will come to realize the potential of an entire Community of Love, an entire world of Love–––a world in Spirit that comes to realize the workings of the Great Spirit within, the Spirit that calls us to service, to giving, to Love. It is in the anticipation of this Spirit that Christians say, “Come Lord Jesus, send us your Spirit and Renew the Face of the Earth!” Before even having a Teacher like Jesus, a person to show us God in human form, he needed to be born. Jesus, as true person, dwelt in the womb of Mary, his mother, for the months before breathing on his own on this earth. However, Mary carried a special secret within her womb, a secret that God really can breathe in our midst every single moment of our life. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that us Christians come to believe Jesus really did become Word made flesh in a fourteen-year old girl. It is with faith, with an understanding that much of this life is truly a beautiful mystery that we come to believe the nativity story. And thus we anticipate a birth that allows us to actively participate in the world we live in. Live the paradox! Anticipate but always create–––create relationships that will lead you and others closer to the center of the Spirit of Love.

“For unto us a child is born.
Unto us a son is given
And his name shall be called
Wonderful! Counselor…Prince of Peace.”
-Isaiah, prophet

~Wishing you Peace in this Season~
with love,

your friend bob.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Taking the Plunge

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

As my friends and I here at Loyola University Chicago enter into a week of gruesome exams, late night study shindigs, too much caffeine drinking, too little sleeping, I thought I'd share a reflection with you about a "plunge" I took this past weekend.

Thursday night, my friend Elena brought it to my attention that there was going to be a group jump into Lake Michigan in a few days. She asked if I would be willing to make a small donation to the cause, and I said that I'd be willing to jump right in the lake with the group of plungers! (It was a "Spoerl" of the moment decision you might say). The group on campus that my icy money would go towards is called Invisible Conflicts. Elena told me they help with the education of children; it sounded like something worth a few minutes of frozen time.

On Saturday, I ventured over to meet and greet other plungers at an event hosted by Invisible Conflicts. It was 20 degrees F, blistering winds, and, well...needless to say I was cold. I was actually a little nervous...fairly nervous actually. I told some of the people at the event that I was more nervous to take this plunge than I had been before starting the 26 mile Chicago Marathon run! At least the weather was warm that day.

However, when we actually prepared to march out of the Crown Center and over to the beach a few blocks away, my adrenaline took over. Standing next to my friend Monica and a young Jesuit priest from Uganda who was going to take the plunge with me (I thought both of them were crazy; each had grown up in a climate far more comfortable than this mid-western winter mess), I walked and talked my way through any remaining anxiety. Turns out the priest from Uganda and my friend from California were far more relaxed than I was.
As I had come to learn a little bit more about Invisible Conflicts, I realized what I was jumping in freezing water for was something really worthwhile. If you go to Invisible Conflicts website, , you can browse through all the organization has done and continues to do for people struggling in areas where conflict makes it very difficult to live.

The mission of the organization puts it better than any summary I could try to provide:

We recognize that the world is full of invisible conflicts ignored by mainstream media and governments. We enable the victims of these conflicts to tell their stories, and we establish real and personal relationships between communities of power and privilege and those of poverty and oppression. Through the mutual exchange of values and knowledge, we find practical ways to help one another, and transform communities in conflict regions as well as our own. Committed to cultural relevance and positivity, we encourage everyday people to take action by giving them simple and concrete ways to make a difference. By taking action ourselves, we lead the way for our peers.
(-from Invisible Conflicts website).

S,o what are some concrete ways Invisible Conflicts has help transform communities in conflict? Well, they have, with the help of their members and in association with an organization from Uganda, provided the financial support for over 100 children in war torn northern Uganda to attend school, and tell their story through arts and learning. 21 children that Invisible Conflicts has been able to foster a personal relationship with have seen war firsthand and have experienced suffering that many of us here in the U.S. would have difficulty imagining.

An Ugandan woman now living in Chicago had nothing but praise for Invisible Conflicts (IC). She spoke in front of us plungers (and plunger good friend Stephen, a fellow Milwaukee seminarian who grew up in Kenya, denied my several pleas that he also jump in), telling the group how very important the work of organization like IC is for people in struggling communities. It was her personal philosophy that through providing education for the children in areas in conflict, these areas can be transformed into beacons of hope. It was only when people gain knowledge, she insisted, that injustices might someday be erased.

Taking the plunge was easier than I expected. The rush of coldness hit my body hard, but it was a kind of exhilarating moment that is difficult to explain. Wading in the water for a few seconds, I looked for a friend to share the experience with. My body was numbing, but my spirit almost felt on fire. It was an amazing feeling! I spotted my friend Cory, running in the water a few feet away from me. "Cory!" I called out. We laughed...I met him only a few weeks ago while in Georgia at a vigil/protest event with campus ministry. When I asked Cory about going underwater, he said he done it last year. It was a crazy thought, but...I was already knee deep in near ice. When else was I going to realistically find myself in Lake Michigan in December in my skivvies?

"Cory, let's go under!" I called out. It didn't take any convincing for him. We both went under, and then I gave him a kind of brotherly embrace, bear hug kind of thing. A very touching moment. We ran back to dry, freezing land, surrounded by dozens of other extreme-freezers.

My entire body was numb...I think of the title of a 1960's book called "Soul on Ice." Wow, it was cold! As the wind whipped my body, I turned and laughed as Cory came towards me. Smiling, Cory said to me, "I felt like you were baptizing me in that water!" I couldn't help but smile. We had taken a plunge, had helped raise money for a worthy cause, and had had a really fun (freezing fun) time in the process. I came up to my friend Lauren, a thin freshman girl, hair in icicle form, towel wrapped around her like another layer of skin, and hugged her, smiling in the process. "Wasn't it fun? You're probably freezing!," I think I said, though I don't quite remember. My brain was about as numb as my feet, which felt like Captain Hook pegs in snowshoes. Finally, the cold was starting to get to me. I ran back to the Crown Center, still overjoyed, still freezing, but entirely warm in the Spirit of Community and hope that surrounded me. We were a group of people helping to in small and large ways helping to overcome invisible conflicts in our world–––and in entering into a struggle, we were entering into a Community of believers.

In a way, our plunge did kind of baptize us. Symbolically, we washed in the waters of hope that change can come about when people come together from all walks of life. To plunge is to not worry about what lies simply go for it. When we plunge towards goodness, we plunge towards the Spirit of Charity.

I am honored to have been a part of the "IC Plunge" on Saturday afternoon. The people involved in that organization are people who want to bring charity to the world. These people are learning that it is in giving that we receive. I pray that I can learn alongside of them and that all of us, as we plunge towards the Holiday Season, plunge toward fellowship with family and friends, that we might come to share in the gift of receiving the fruits from that for which we had given ourselves to.

As a Christian, I anticipate December 25 as the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as a day where my tradition comes to celebrate in the hope of a person fully human and fully divine, a person that brings hope to all generations, all people.

Whatever is your tradition, I invite you to plunge into the coming days invigorated and energized, ready to bring about hope to a world that needs joy filled individuals creating the bonds that bring about joy filled communities.

with peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Picture a road

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Picture a Road:

A road is an open doar to an endless abyss. It takes us where we want when we want, but we are always subject to its twists and turns, its signs, its rules. Roads are paradoxical. They have limits, but they don't. They are off in the horizon but they are right under are feet. We travel on roads to get moving, but it is at that metaphorical fork in the road where we find ourselves frozen, discerning which way way to go. So maybe, just maybe, picture a road.

peace and with love,

your friend bob.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Peace Within, Peace Without

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

It's hard to believe we have come to the first of December! The snow covering just about everything outside makes it somewhat more believable and the pending papers due in a few days make me realize that indeed I am coming to the end of a semester, the beginning of December.

In the liturgical cycle of the Catholic Church, a New Year begun yesterday. We anticipate the birth of Jesus...the season is Advent, a time of waiting, anticipating, hoping for a change, praying for a miracle.

This past weekend, I received plenty of mini-miracles. Just being back at the place I grew up, the city I was born, Milwaukee, WI, led me to people I have not seen in months and led me to a feeling of peace and hope I rarely am accustomed to during moments of life---the end of a semester---that should be so very hectic and unsettling.

Rarely am I one to quote Psalms. But today, I feel moved to do just that. This morning, while reading through the daily readings of the Catholic church, I was struck by a particular line in Psalm 122:
"Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, "Peace be within you!"
Because of the house of the Lord, our God
I will pray for your good."

This weekend made me want to pray for the good of all the sisters and brothers that have touched me in a particular way, that have made me reflect on my own existence and own path. Returning to Milwaukee for Thanksgiving weekend made me especially aware of those friends and family that have been there for years as sources of wisdom, of knowledge, of love.

A concrete example: my friend Libby. I hadn't seen Libby months until our paths crossed this past weekend. She had been a good friend of mind during high school, a friend I occasionally went running with. As some of you might already know from previous postings, I really enjoy running and I especially appreciate the bond that can be formed when someone is willing to share a run and conversation with you...even if the tiredness of the run limits our ability to carry on a normal conversation. I remember one time, while on a run with Libby had had enough running. We were running past a farm field filled with grazing cows, and I recall Libby shouting in an aggressive, but not un-friendly manner, that walking would be a great idea. It was probably my fault for constantly asking her questions on the run, gabbing away and expecting a person to not get tired!!!).
At a party on Friday night at a friend's apartment in Milwaukee, Libby told me with great happiness that she had switched her major from advertising to art education. She had never really settled into was like a size seven foot trying to snug into a size six shoe---manageable but uncomfortable. But now, she was doing something she seemed really proud of. When she first started school, she said she was worried about money. Now, she said she didn't care about that. For her, there was something else she desired besides money. All the money in the world couldn't give her the comfort of knowing that where you are at is a place you feel contend and called to be. She seems to have found peace in this moment of her life. She is fulfilled in her choice of major and possible career path. I pray for her because I think she has the potential to positively touch the lives of many kids through something as wonderful and inspiring as the arts. "Peace be within you Libby!"

"Because of my relatives and friends...I will pray for your good."

This week, I want to continue to reflect on this Psalm. It seems like a practical fit for this season...we are anticipating continued time with friends and family, the holidays, the joy that comes with being in community. We are anticipating winter. We are anticipating continued love. We are hoping for change in our local communities and in the world at large.

I ask you to reflect on your relatives and they help to bring peace within yourself, and how that peace within yourself makes you feel called to work towards creative ways to bring good to the world around you.

In this season of anticipation, may we find peace within and without. May we bring good to a world that needs to reminded that God is good...all the time.

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SOA Vigil - Remembering Martyrs

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Hope your Tuesday is starting off terrific. If not, then I hope it gets better! May this time find you anticipating spending time with friends and family. May this time also help us to reflect on the ways we can be in close connection with the poor and the powerless---Thanksgiving time is a time to give thanks and to understand that because we have the ability to give thanks puts a responsibility on us to spread joy to all of our sisters and brothers.


This weekend, I had an opportunity to go to Columbus, Georgia with a group of fellow Loyola students to protest the School of the Americas and to remember victims of military crimes and government oppression in Latin America. Gathered together in union with 20,000 people, many students from other Jesuit Universities and colleges from around this nation, still others from various parts of the world, all with different backgrounds, stories, perspectives, reasons for feeling called to participate in the event. However, the goal was a universal one among the thousands gathered: to non-violently protest an institution in the U.S. that has trained soldiers who have returned to their home countries and used tactics learned in the School of the Americas (SOA) to kill their own people. The deaths are in the millions in some countries–––it is believed that the SOA has trained soldiers that in one way or another have contributed to the death of some 2 million Columbians since the 1970s.

What brought me back to the SOA was my experience in El Salvador this past summer. The group I went with had an opportunity to visit El Mozote, a village in northern Morazon, a region in El Salvador where soldiers trained in the SOA killed some 800 innocent villagers in what can only be considered a massacre. Many of the victims included children---some under one year old, some just born. Other victims were women and men from the village, people who had a relatively moderate stance on the Civil War taking place in that country. This event didn't receive a ton of media coverage really until years after the fact. Miraculously, someone who escaped the mass murders and hid in a tree, hid for days, was able to relate some of what she saw, the atrocities, the slaying she witnessed with her own eyes.

At the SOA vigil this weekend, held at the gates of Ft. Benning, the military facility that houses the School of the Americas, there was an artistic representation of the El Mozote massacre. Clothes lay sprawled out on the ground, names and ages of victims of the massacre pinned to the clothes. When I passed several victims age 20, I froze and couldn't do anything but take a picture. It was the only way I could pray at the try and remember the martyr through a picture of a representation. A distant, distant way to remember something I have no first account knowledge of---but nevertheless, my way to make a small contribution to the idea and hope that we are all connected---that these deaths help us to live and to work for a better world both near and far from our own communities.

I froze by the clothes and name of a 56 year old man. I thought about my own father---how good he has been to me and how much I have to be grateful for. I took a picture, in a way I prayed.

I froze at the name of a two year old child. This one stirred my heart, brought the tragedy to home in a different way. I thought about my beautiful two year old nephew, A.J., who I will see this weekend. I also reflected on what it would be like to have someone so young, so close to you be taken from you in one moment. The tragedy of such an event seems unimaginable. I took a picture, a prayer to remember the innocent toddler, a victim of a mass murder, a martyr that keeps us all alive and working to end terrible injustices.


A famous Liberation Theologian named John Sobrino, a Jesuit priest from El Salvador, came to the SOA vigil/protest and spoke to us. It was an honor for many of us to here from this very holy person, very real liver of the gospel. Sobrino was fortunate to escape death in El Salvador. Six of his colleagues were not so fortunate, and were part of a 1989 killing at the University of Central America in El Salvador. The Jesuits killed, along with their house keeper and her teenage daughter, became martyrs of a civil war---killed in innocence, killed as non-violent faith filled people. They became Jesus of Nazareth in the moment their lives were taken from them---taken in an incredibly violent manner.

When I was in El Salvador, our group took a tour of the University of Central America. We saw pictures of just what happened to those martyrs. To think that a human being is capable of ending a life over and over again with a gun, to walk away from blood, death, brains on a floor is unfathomable. Those pictures stay in my memory. On the surface, I am so incredibly unattached to those killings---but by visiting the site, by seeing the pictures, by struggling to cope with what my eyes saw in a photo, made me think about just how absolutely devastating it must have been for the people who saw those bodies firsthand---for people like Fr. Sobrino who were among the best of friends with these people.

And Sobrino is able to continue the memory of these people. When he talks about the University martyrs in El Salvador, he is able to bring about a message of hope. It's amazing how a person can bring hope out of so much suffering. Sobrino seems to know the gospel so well, the Passion of Christ, because he experienced a modern day realization of absolute martyrdom. Sobrino said of the martyrs, "from their love, from their justice, from their kindness, we live." We live from the martyrs because they stir our hearts to want to bring about a kingdom of Love and Peace.

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Realize that in all the struggles of the world---in those personal struggles that make some of our days so very difficult---in those societal struggles that split our heart, tug at our flesh, at our being, may we come to some sort of message of hope. Without a bit of hope, all will seem lost. But, with even a tiny spark of faith, we can move mountains.

peace and with love,

your friend bob.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Long Haired Dude & Navy Seal

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

I hope all is well with you on this Hump day, the Wednesday before the Thursday before the Thursday that is Thanksgiving here in the United States. (That makes Thanksgiving sound like it is far off in the distance, sorry if that does anything to your turkey anticipations). As for me, I'm doing fine...I tried my best to clean my room this morning. At some point before the Holidays, I hope I find the ambition to donate some of the many books scattered all about my little 12 X 12 foot (roughly speaking) abode. Books, like music, are something I collect and collect to no end at times.


I opened my Runners World magazine to a few articles about people who are using running to do some pretty amazing things, and I'd like to share with you a little about these people. The first person I read about, David Goggins, is a 33 year old Navy Seal who runs 15 - 20 miles every morning before breakfast and bikes 50 miles a day in commute to his job. For starters, that's sick. But that's not even the half of Goggins story. The man runs races–––intense, body aching races–––for charity. In three years, he has raised $200,000 for a fund that grants full college tuition to children of whose Special Ops parents were killed while serving the country. His races include 150 milers, Ultramarathons (a 48 hour run!), and the death-defying race through the Death Valley (135 miles of running in that desert heat). Goggins says when he crosses the finish line, he is thinking about what he is going to do tomorrow. "It's as if my journey is everlasting and there is no finish line." What a way to ponder our existence here in this world. In some way, our journey is everlasting, never ending. To draw from my Christian tradition, after death, we hope for an eternal peace filled with love, in a word, heaven. Goggins passion for running, his commitment to it and to people is a great metaphor for anyone seeking to dedicate themselves to a cause or to a particular way of life. There is no finish line and the journey is everlasting.

The other person I read about isn't a Navy Seal. He's actually a long haired dude, a vegetarian running coach from New York city. After visiting Kenya in 1995, he was inspired to give his time and effort to contributing to some of the poverty he witnessed on the continent of Africa. At first, he started Shoe4Africa, because, during his first visit, he found himself giving running shoes away to the point of where he returned home barefoot.

The long haired dude, Toby Tanser, felt compelled to do something different for people in Kenya after witnessing the aftermath of the December 2007 elections that left many cities ravaged. He tells a story, in Runners World magazine, of a woman who told him that she witnessed her own baby burn to death, an innocent victim of the politically-induced violence of last year. A church in this same village, Kiambaa, had been burned down with 35 people inside of it. Hearing about these terrible tragedies understandably struck a deep chord in the soul of Tanser. "What the hell am i doing donating shoes?" he asked himself. He decided to do more, starting a "peace run."

Interestingly, I had just posted about a peace run I was a part of last Sunday here in Chicago. Tanser's peace run struck a deep chord inside my own soul, and that's why I felt compelled to write about this long haired dude.

His next hope is to build a $15 million children's hospital in a Kenyan town. It would be the largest of its kind on the continent of Africa. I pray that his vision becomes a success. Tanser, along with David Goggins the Navy Seal, are doing things with their talents that might inspire all of us to look at ourselves and ask what can we do to spread love, spread peace.

It reminds me of a parable Jesus talks about in the gospel of Luke. He tells of three servants who were each given a coin. The king told the servants to engage in trade with the coins. Of the three servants, two of them were able to turn a profit from the original coin. The first returns bearing 10 coins, the second bearing five. The king seems happy that both of the servants were able to do such with what had been given to them. However, the third servant took a different path. This servant, stored the coin away in fear of the king. The servant seems to be frightened that the one coin will be lost in trade. The king is angered, takes the coin from the servant, and gives it to the first servant who had turned his one coin into ten coins. "To everyone who has, more will be given," says the king. (taken from Luke 19 : 11-28).

Goggins and Tanser might be comparable in ways to these two servants. They are both taking different paths to provide more with what they have been given (the talent to run and the desire to help others). They have done a wonderful job of fostering and developing their gifts. But the third servant might be someone who is frightened to use some of the talents they have to help, in whatever way possible, the world around them. I am guilty of this. I'll be the first to admit that for fear of rejection, for fear of standing out on a limb, I often find myself caught between "I should and I'm scared to." Maybe, you sometimes find yourself playing this game of limbo too often. I hope that all of us, in small ways, will have the courage to step outside of our fears, to step outside of ourself, and to give back to a community, to a world that needs us. To work together will bring us together and will bring us to the task of working for peace on this everlasting journey.

peace friends.

with love,

your friend bob.

Monday, November 17, 2008

O Come O Come Immanuel!

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

Rise and shine---it's dang near winter weather time! Yesterday night those of us residing in Chicago had one of our first glimpses of snowfall this year...more to come, I'm sure!

Hope all is well with all of you. Hope this post finds you looking forward to spending time with friends and family over the coming Turkey holiday. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your loved ones, wherever you may be.


Yesterday morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 7:30 am to go for a run. Why? Well, a friend of mine had invited me to run a race sponsored by a local restaurant called the "Heartland Cafe." The place sells scrumptious food and also sort of doubles as an activist, trendy place. The run was for an organization called Athletes United for Peace, or something along those lines. It made sense to me: run for peace. I like to run and I like peace. But do I like to run 8 am on a 32 degree morning? Well...I'm flexible I guess.

Anyways, two friends and I waddled our way out to the cafe, bracing the lakefront winds, to register for the race. When we got there, the crowd seemed to be a decent size; 30 to 40 people waiting to run. After I filled my form out, I went to a large jug of what I think is water and filled a cup. Steaming hot Joe poured out of the jug...that's ok, I thought to myself. A nice little perk before running 5 km.

I figured the only two people I would know running the race would be my friends Laura and Monica. However, I was mistaken. Running the race were two little friends of mine from last year, from a local grade school called Northside Catholic Academy. I had tutored at their school and was really surprised and excited to see them. It was amazing to see that 11 year old Sergio was going to be running a 5 km race. When I was 11, a chubby, video game & TV watching chap, I would have shrieked at the idea of running for that long. But this little guy was for real...way to go Sergio!

There was someone else I saw yesterday. Last year, he was a person I would run into (quite literally) on the Loyola track. His name is Immanuel. Though I had forgotten his name (I am terrible at remembering names and had to ask him to remind me yesterday what his was), I vividly remembered his soothing Spirit, his welcoming Smokey Robinson-esque face and smile, and his overall love of running and life.
I remember Immanuel came up to me one day while I was doing a track workout and told me I was a pretty good runner. It was totally unexpected but so very appreciated. This compliment came from a middle aged dude in tip top shape who runs a pace that would make most of us runners look like Santa Claus trying to run a marathon after eating one too many of Mrs. Claus's cookies. That is to say, Immanuel is quite a runner. So, to have him give me a compliment really boosted my Spirit. And seeing him periodically on the track, maybe once a week or once every couple weeks, reminded me that there are other people who share in the joy of running. Even more importantly, he reminded me that there are people in this world who seek to spread joy in whatever way they can, to whomever is present to receive that joy. I was the fortunate recipient Immanuel's encouragement and captivating personality... When I saw Immanuel yesterday, in some small way, my Spirit leaped for joy, to see a kind person who had brightened up several of my days.

When I told Immanuel I ran the Chicago Marathon, his face beamed and he gave me a truly heartfelt congratulations. He said the last marathon he ran was the Boston Marathon---that's quite impressive indeed. Boston requires racers to qualify with a certain time during a previous race. I told him that I would really like to run the Boston Marathon someday, but I would have to cut my time by some 30 minutes for my particular age group. Without hesitation, Immanuel told me I could do it. With some more training, he was confident I could one day be there.

It is that kind of optimism that we need more of in this world. With more people like Immanuel to be examples of how light can be spread, we might just light our world up with something more than artificial brightness this holiday season.

O Come, O Come Immanuel!

peace and blessings~

with love,

your friend bob : )

Thursday, November 13, 2008

There is a Kingdom Here

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Hope this post finds you enjoying your Thursday morning. After breakfast and a cup of coffee, I'm feeling pretty solid. (I'm trying to not think too much about impending research papers, term papers that need to be completed in the coming days---one of those days being tomorrow! It's only a rough will be rough).


This morning while sitting in the chapel here at my seminary college, I was reading a short reflection from a website The content, written by Mark Link, a Jesuit author and priest, challenges readers in a very practical and simple manner to ponder a line or two from one of the Gospels. Link will generally quote a short passage and then offer a one or two paragraph reflection or story that in one way or another relates to the gospel reading. He will then ask a question and follow the question with a sort of universal truth or some kind of tidbit of wisdom. It is this latter section I want to talk a little bit about. Today, the passage Link had readers reflect on was from Luke's Gospel:

The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed..."The kingdom of God is among you." (Luke 17:20-21)

These were the words of wisdom Link wanted readers to think about after the end of the reflection:

"The greatest treasure isn't far, far away; it is closer to you than your own breath."

This got me thinking a little. In my opinion, its a very beautiful thing to ponder. Often times we think that the treasure or the life we are looking for is miles and miles away, way outside of where we are now. But these words will have us think otherwise.

God dwells within us AND all around us. God is, to quote the late great George Harrison, "within you and without you." The kingdom is an intimate, human, breathing treasure. And in that sense, since the kingdom of God sustains our life, it is closer to us than our own breath. The kingdom of God can give meaning to our breath, meaning to our every action, meaning to all of our loves, meaning to all of our moments. Recognizing that the kingdom of God really isn't some distant Shangri-La, but part of an inner peace can bring us among other people in a most intimate and real way. "The kingdom of God is AMONG you." We need not fear those trials we will inevitably face if we can somehow believe in this message.

Jesus tells us that we can't passively observe the coming of a kingdom. We must fully partake in the joys and sufferings inherent in the life of a human person. It is in understanding and contemplating our humanity that we are most intimate with a God who loves us more than we can imagine. The kingdom of God is at hand, dwelling among each and every one of us.

peace friends!

with love,

your friend bob.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!'s cold this morning! I heard this morning on a political talk show, during a weather segment, that the wind chill in Atlanta was 28 degrees. WOW. The only suggestion I have is to look at this in a positive light, as an ushering in of the coming Holiday season. Winter isn't so bad until after Christmas and New Year' let's think about how wonderful December can be! (We'll deal with January when it comes...and who knows, maybe you find January to be one of the most enjoyable months of the year.)

Anyways...onto a short Monday reflection.

Yesterday, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated the "Dedication of Saint John Lateran." Up until yesterday, I would have no clue what that meant. What it is, for those of you who, like myself, would not know the meaning of such a dedication, is a feast day that celebrates the building of the Lateran Basilica erected by Emperor Constantine way back in 324 A.D. Constantine...that's right...the dude who legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. The church is considered the "mother church of Christendom." So what? That's what my response would be. It's just a building.

Some will say that that building allows people to worship God, to show love for the Creator, to show love to Jesus Christ through prayer and liturgy. Moreover, others might say that the building shows Christianity transforming from the early house churches to a widely public display of religion. A priest gave a homily yesterday that brought up an interesting point. He said that sometimes he feels that the church might have been better off by staying more underground. Obviously, we can't turn the clock back and change the course of history. By the Roman Empire accepting Christianity, the world officially became exposed to the message of Jesus Christ. However, that message was twisted and altered at times, for people to get what they wanted, not what God might have wanted. Wars, crusades, killing. All in the name of Jesus Christ. It was hypocritical and the absolute antithesis of the gospel Christ brought to the world.

And yet, the building was built to worship, to love God. The building was an attempt for people to build a holy place, a holy ground. Maybe the church would have been more peaceful, more true historically to the teachings of Christ if it had stayed underground. But it didn't. And now, it is our job, if we are Christians, to show the world that, though the church is obviously grounded in this world, it can still have underground tendencies at the grassroots level. That is, we can show people that the gospel doesn't require large flashy basilicas or extravagant dress or loud organs or well-trained choirs or large institutions. These things don't run counter to the gospel, they can work with the gospel...if they are always true to the gospel.

gospel with a small "g"...I'm referring to spreading peace, love, being understanding of others. Showing your neighbor that Christ or God comes down to a person to person relationship. Basilicas, churches, places of worship are good...if and only if they bring people closer to God and to each other, and if and only if they help people to leave the building and spread Good News.

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

PS - try not to freeze today! Drink plenty of hot chocolate, hot tea, coffee~

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Historical Day, A Day to Pray

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Last night, at 10 pm central time, on the dot, CNN announced the next presidential elect. "Zips Lounge" a student lounge in the student union building at Loyola University Chicago, erupted with cheers from nearly every student watching the big screen. A change was not just a possibility; it became a reality.

Along with fellow students, I embraced the moment. Politics are exciting, dream-developing, hope-inducing. Politicians often give people reasons to believe in something. My hope, after the dust settles and Barack Obama is officially sworn is as the 44th President of the United States of America, that his message is made manifest. I think it's crucial for all of us living in the U.S., putting stake in the people here, to be critical of Obama. We supported Barack because we saw in him a person who has the potential to fuel this country forward. Now we need to make sure that we help the cause and we fight for the cause. We have to make sure that we practice what we preach, in a sense---at least try as best as we can. Likewise, we need to hold our politicans accountable to the same standards. If we look up to the office of the president, then we need to expect that person to carry out the role to the best of his or her ability.

A few hours before finding out Obama had been elected, I was sitting at a computer in the library on campus. As I glanced to my left, staring off into space waiting for the slow computer to boot (those library computers know how to take their time and test students' patience), two posters caught my eye. I had seen them before, but tonight of all nights they seemed especially fitting. On the left hung a poster of Malcom X delivering a speech, looking full of passion and fire. On the right of Malcom X hung a poster of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivering a speech in a serious, but soothing face. These two men, of course, are remembered as two of the most prominent African-American leaders to ever have lived. But the content of their character is why we really honor and remember them. Both of these men not only preached change but delivered change. Both of these people were willing to stand up for what they believed, stand up for the oppressed, and bring about a more perfect, more civil, more just society. They were history-in-the-making in their actions and in their living.

Wherever we stand on the political spectrum, it would be hard not to grasp the history-in-the-making of a Barack Obama as the next president. Less than 150 years ago, there were African-Americans in the United States that suffered through the most oppressive institution of slavery. Now, we are part of a country who has just elected a black man to be the next president of the United States. Virginia, a state that fought for the Confederacy during the civil war, chose to elect Barack Obama. Chris Matthews, a journalist for MSNBC, couldn't help but show his enthusiasm last night for a country that seems to finally be able to look past the color of a person's skin. He was amazed and overjoyed to think of how far his country has come in his lifetime.

My prayer for Barack Obama is that he strives to challenge this country and to serve this country and especially the greater world community with a Spirit that comes from the Highest Good we can imagine---that he may be a voice of change in this world, a positive voice of change. We need to follow the hope of Dr. Martin Luther King and really judge Obama on the content of his character. In time, we will see what the policies of President Barack Obama will bring our country.

He has inherited one of the most difficult jobs in this world---the most difficult persona, arguably, currently in existence. Since the United States is a world power, the leader of this country is a world power figure. May the power Obama inherits be aimed at helping those with less, allowing all of our brothers and sisters to prosper. May Obama keep his vision, but understand more fully what it actually means to govern at a day-to-day level. However you voted, it is important to try and put yourself behind Obama.

It is going to take a united country to support the next president. I hope that, divided as we sometimes are, this nation will come together to give Barack a chance. In doing so, we might proclaim to the world community we are a country united to strive for goodness. May we be humble. May all of us be a group of people who want to love and serve, seeking, at times, nothing more than a smile or a handshake in return.

I am excited as a young person. I am excited as a citizen of the United States. I am excited as a person who believes in God, in Love. I am excited as a person who desperately wants to believe in the Goodness of Humankind.

Realistically, Barack Obama can't solve all of this nation's problems. Realistically, Barack Obama is going to do things, say things I won't agree with. I hope I---along with others---have the courage to stand up for beliefs. And I hope I have the resolve to accept the fact that the leader of the United States is a human being with human faults. It is in this realization that I think we can start to finally build on what Barack has promised. We can't do it all by ourselves. But, joining in community, a community of believers, we can do great things.

My prayer is for Barack Obama today and for his wife and two daughters. My prayer is also for John McCain today. Both of them helped to make this country excited about politics and excited about change. The next four years will be a change. May it be a change for the better---a moving forward and a greater realization that in our common struggle we find hope and we find an unmovable Love.

peace and with love,

your friend bob spoerl.

Monday, November 3, 2008

How can we feed the hungry? - Part One: Martin de Porres

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

We really are fortunate to have the weather we have today. It's unseasonably warm...and sunny! I suppose the weather wouldn't suit a vampire from Transylvania very well, but I'm assuming it's highly unlikely that among the Network of Love Lovers we have vampires from that area. If we do, then I apologize; I don't mean to offend, just to say that from my viewpoint, the weather couldn't be any better today. Thank God!


This week, a number of groups on the campus of Loyola University here in Chicago unite to bring awareness to a worldwide struggle: hunger. November 2 - November 8 marks the annual "Hunger Week," at my school. We begin the week running by fasting (Though it would be really difficult to begin fasting with a run). Today, nearly 200 students at Loyola University Chicago have committed to fasting for nearly 12 hours, abstaining from both food and drink to remember the millions around the world who go without today. Known as the "Fast-a-Thon," and sponsored by Loyola Muslim Students' Association, the event is a time to feel hunger and fight hunger."

I signed a student pledge form that binds me to this fast. It was interesting to sign for a fast, and it made me seriously feel committed to the cause. For every student pledging to forgo food this day, a local business is donating food/supplies to our cause. The money we would be spending on food is instead being donated in our name to provide food for those who don't choose to fast. It is a rewarding trade-off.

The saint honored by the Catholic Church today is one that I actually recognize fairly well, and is one who was known to do his fair share of fasting. His name is Martin de Porres, and he lived in Lima, Peru in the late 1500s, early 1600s. His father was a Spanish knight, his mother a freed woman from Panama. Martin was accepted as a brother in a religious order known as the Dominicans. Martin worked with the sick his whole life, caring for them with what his peers would refer to as an endless patience. He would establish a hospital for sick children in his hometown and would also provide food for African slaves in Lima.

St. Martin de Porres holds a unique place in my heart because of his incredible love and service for the most poor and needy of his time and his work with children. I also find him to be a hero because he broke racial boundaries. He is remembered as a patron of social justice and a patron saint for African-Americans. Here is a link to a newspaper from today that gives a little more detailed blurb about Martin:|081103139730.html

I see a saint like Martin de Porres as a figure who could appeal to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, seeking to bring social justice to society-at-small and society-at-large. It is interesting to note that, though he dreamed of being a missionary, Martin never left Lima. With all his work focused in one place, he was able to bring health care, food, healing to those in his city. His concentrated ministry can teach us all a thing or two about really putting stake in the place we are. As good as it is to give to organizations and to people all over the world, it is just as good to look to assist those in need in our own backyard.

How can we feed the hungry? How can I feed the hungry? I invite you to, along with me, reflect on this as you journey with me during our Hunger Week.

Blessings to all of you and I wish you a less-than manic Monday...How about a Miraculous Monday? Or at the very least a Middle-of-the-road Monday.


with love,

your friend bob.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat - Perception, Knowledge, Discernment

Greetings Fellow Network of Love Lovers,

BOO! ha, it's Halloween, it's Friday, and it's unseasonably warm outside. What more could you ask for?

This morning as I was going to retrieve laundry from the dryer, I unconsciously brought my cup of coffee from breakfast. I have this coffee cup that says "Loyola University Chicago" (it looks really classy, especially for a 20 year old guy to be carrying around). Anyways, as I get to the laundry room and gather all the fresh, clean laundry into my laundry basket, I realize that the walk back through a hallway and upstairs carrying a coffee cup and a giant laundry basket is going to be more difficult than I imagined. I guess I never even imagined having to partake in such a balancing act.

Thankfully, with the concentration of an acrobat in a Ringling Brothers Circus show, I managed to make the journey without spilling coffee on my just-washed clothes. That's not to say there wasn't one really, really close call! For a split second, as the coffee cup tilted in my left hand, I pictured my clothes all turning an intense shade of coffee-black. But the balancing act worked, and my clothes remained in the original color. AMEN!


My reflection today has to do with a reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians. It comes from the beginning chapter of that letter. In particular, I want to focus on a line that really caught my eye as I was reading it this morning.

"And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value." (Phil 1: 9, 10)

Paul writes to the Philippians while he is in exile at a prison and facing the possibility of being executed. Despite the fact that he faces these adverse, hostile circumstances (to say the least), Paul continues to pray for the Christian community in Philippi. It is the place where he helped establish the first community of its kind in all of Europe and he seems to keep a special place in his heart for these people.
I could probably write about how much of a statement Paul is making when he decides to turn away from his own personal struggle to pray for the people living outside of the prison walls he is trapped in. That seems like an unconditional act of love, an act that brings greater glory, greater good to society. But rather than focus on the personal life of Paul during the time of this letter's distribution, I would prefer to talk briefly about three ways he hopes love will increase among the people he is praying for; in knowledge, in perception, and in discernment.

I'd like to think of these three values (I can't think of a really unique or proper term to accurately categorize knowledge, perception, and discernment), as working in union but also having a bit of a structure or–––dare I use this word–––"hierarchy" system when working together. I say they work together because, for instance, when we gain knowledge we are perceiving something. Moreover, when we perceive something, we inevitably will turn what we perceive into some kind of form of discernment–––whether it be perceiving what options are on a menu at a restaurant and then discerning, from all the options, which meal will satisfy our hunger.

But in trying to unfold how these three values which seem to bring us closer to love–––closer to God–––we can see some kind of structure forming. That is, in some cases, one of the terms must come before the other so that we may more clearly enter another stage that will bring us closer to love. Let me try to make sense of this. I would say that, in a very general way, we might make this order of the three values: 1. Perception 2. Knowledge 3. Discernment. In establishing this order, I mean to say that we first perceive things–––we observe what we say in nature or in our day to day, we realize we are attracted to another person or a group of people, etc. Second, we grow in knowledge about what we have observed or perceived. For instance, we date a person to better learn about that particular person. We go to school to learn and see if we want to continue on the path of what we are going to school for. This is where the third value, discernment comes into play. Our perceptions and the knowledge we obtain from what we perceive seem to bring us to a state of discernment. Knowledge can only take us so far; we have to discern what it is we want to do with that knowledge.

Paul's prayer for the community at Philippi is that they all use what they find out within these three values to establish further connections with each other and with God. He desires that his Christian sisters and brothers in Philippi come to realize that it is through love and only through love that they will understand why they are perceiving what they perceive and how the knowledge they come to can best be spread throughout their society. It is through discernment that they can go about making such choices that will bring them closer to the love they seek–––to the love Paul seeks for each and every one of them.

It's kind of neat to think that Paul, in some way, wishes the same for each and every one of us. I think anyone that really seeks what is best for his or her sisters and brothers will want each and every one of them to grow more in love with the people and places around them.

That would be my prayer for each and every one of you who have taken the time to read this Network of Love. May you love and be loved more fully. I ask you to pray in the same way for me; that perception, knowledge and discernment will lead you and me to do things for people that will allow all of us to love and be loved.


with love,

your friend bob.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Barkley on Obama

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

Cheers to you on this sunny but cool late October morning. From my bedroom window, I can see autumn in all its beauty. When I walk out to class in an hour, I'll feel love in all It's beautiful until it gets really really cold. Then, we have to focus our attention on the other beauties of the season, the kind that don't revolve around the feeling of the weather. sorta maybe get what I am trying to say.

Anyways, I thought I would share a quote from Charles Barkley. He was a basketball player in the 1980s and 1990s and since retirement has been an announcer on TNT. He is a very vocal person and as of late as gotten involved in politics. Campbell Brown, CNN correspondent, sat down with Barkley to interview the man and talk about his decision to run for governor of Alabama, his home state. Brown talked a little bit about race in the upcoming election. Barkley, an African-American man, said something that really struck me as profound and thoughtful in regards to what an Obama presidency would mean for young African-American students.

"I see him as a great role model 'cause we got to get more black kids educated. And you know we have this terrible thing going on in the black community about if a black kid does well in school we make fun of him. We've got to get more black kids getting their education, carrying themselves with great dignity, and self esteem. I've always looked at this as bigger picture."

-Charles Barkley, from

In one week, we will go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States of America. We are casting a vote for the present, but also for the future. Who knows what positive influence the next president may have on the children of our country. Role models keep kids motivated, keep all of us motivated.

When you go to the polls, I ask that you seriously reflect on the young people in our nation. Which candidate will drive them toward success? Which candidate will motivate them to do things for our country, for our world, that will move us forward to a kingdom of Love?


with love,

your friend bob.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Little Leaves

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

It's Thursday, the grind of the week is more than halfway over. I don't know about you, but this week has been all about waking up and entering the grind, falling asleep cozy enough, and then waking up to enter the grind again. I've been busy, which isn't to say bad. I've just been incredibly busy. I hope all of you, especially if, like me, you find yourself loaded with work and whatnots, find the time to take a minute and enjoy something that will completely take your mind off of any of the stresses of life.

Yesterday, despite having to crank out a philosophy paper on Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas (yawn), I found one particular moment where stress simply fell away. The stress left me somehow in the form of a plain dark red, brownish leaf lying innocently near the sidewalk. I was walking down Sheridan, the busiest of roads near my campus here in Chicago, and, winds of the city hitting my body, I swiveled my head to the right and down, only to notice the multitude of leaves scattered all along the ground. I know leaves are's October, Autumn. But rarely, rarely, have I had the time to actually sit and observe the fallen leaves. This was only the second time of this season I can consciously recall actually making a mental note of the leaves. The texture, the shape, the color of the leaves. Some of the leaves had stems, some of the stems were long, some short. Some of the leaves looked fresh, just fallen. Other leaves seemed more prehistoric, as if they had been let go a month ago and were still milling about, waiting for someone to pick them up, or waiting to be carried to their next destination.

I decided to give one of the leaves a home. I picked up one of the leaves, the plain dark red, brownish leaf that temporarily relieved stress. I had just bought a belated birthday card for a good friend of mine, and I thought the leaf would fit perfectly into the card I had purchased. Sometimes the little things relieve our stress, soothe our inner being. Maybe, as my card finds its way to my friend, the leaf might help relieve, in some small way, any of the stress I know she feels.

Let the stress fall away, fall, fall like a new-fallen leaf, happy in Autumn, but hopeful for May.

peace friends.

with love,

your friend bob.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

All Things Must Pass (But that can be a positive thing!)

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

This post comes to you on a Sunday afternoon. I finally have enough free time to crunch the keys a little and post a small reflection on the Network. Hope all is well with all of my friends. Hope all gets better in time as you continue on whatever you are doing. (That's vague I know, but if I am specific, then someone might feel like I am not writing this blog to them). To be more specific, I guess, I hope your Monday morning finds you rested up and ready to tackle a brand new week of learning, loving, listening, paying bills, stressing out, and loving. (Notice I tried to sandwich the not-so-good stuff in between the stuff we look forward to).

Ok, so this reflection has to do with my internship at a community center near the Loyola University Chicago campus, the university I attend. I tutor children at Centro Romer as part of my community service requirement at St. Joe's College Seminary as well as part of an internship program in collaboration with the English Department. I keep a journal (or try to keep a journal) for the program to help fulfill the internship credit I will receive for completing a year of tutoring with Centro Romero. Background done...onto the reflection...

I feel as if my relationships with the children are growing. Last week, I was able to help one student, Angel, finish most of his math assignment. He seemed to be strong at times in some of the concepts, but at other times I was surprised that he didn’t know a particular concept. For instance, he still has trouble with adding negative numbers together. To his credit, he seemed to grasp it more as we went on in the assignment. The old adage practice makes perfect could apply in that particular situation.

I received an e-mail about a week ago from my site supervisor at Centro. Azalea is a recent graduate from DePaul University who has been at Centro Romero for over three years I believe. Actually, she started first as a volunteer during her undergraduate studies, and then accepted a paid position on the Centro staff. As the assistant of the tutoring program, she deals primarily with the middle school students (ages 11 – 14 approx). Azalea was the person I first contacted when I was interested in doing volunteer work at Centro Romero. She was very welcoming and strong spirited, and, after seeing the way she interacted with the kids during my very first volunteer session, I could tell her heart was in the right place. She loved working with the students at Centro Romero and she still does. Witnessing her helped solidify for myself I was in the right place.

But all things must pass (I mean this in the most positive of ways). Azalea has accepted a job offer that will allow her to continue school and will allow her, in time, to achieve her goal of obtaining a doctorate. Good for her, I say! I sent her an e-mail telling her that I was grateful for what she did to help me start my internship at Centro Romero and wished her luck in any future endeavors. It is neat to watch as other people’s journeys unfold. Azalea seems to be moving from one good to another as she pursues dreams and looks forward to continuing to solve some of the problems that plague our society. She is interested in doing research in Psychology that focuses on Community and Social Psychology. It seems like a practical approach to the field of psychology, an area that will allow her to positively impact the community at large, as well as individuals struggling within those communities. I pray that she continues to glow as she works towards becoming Dr. Azalea. She is an example of a person who has touched my life in a small but meaningful way. Her dedication to the children at Centro Romero is a model for all of us who desire to love the people we find along our path in this life.

peace and blessings friends,

with love,

your friend bob.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chicago Marathon!

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

Yesterday I completed the Chicago Marathon! I am very proud of that accomplishment and after many prayers, hard work, and support from friends and family, I can say that I did something I never thought I would ever do. In all honesty, I'm excited for the next marathon I run. My final time was about 3 hours and 43 minutes, which puts me only 1 hour and 37 minutes behind the Kenyan runner who won the race. Haha. Well, the headband I wore during the race says "in my DREAMS I am a Kenyan." So, in my dreams, I was running stride for stride with Evans Cheruiyot, the winner of the marathon.

But in all seriousness, the race was an incredible experience that opened my eyes to the diversity of people who run and the determination each and every runner came to the race with. There were us young folk running, there were middle age persons (one woman from Grand Rapids who I met before the race had given birth eight months ago. Here she was, trim and ready to run a full marathon! Wow. Determination, resilience, will.

We all ran for a purpose. Some of us wanted to say we could do it, never thought we would. Some of us were running for charity, myself included. Some of us were running for family and friends who had supported our running for years. Some of us ran because we enjoy the crisp feeling of the wind hitting our face, the sun shining down on us, our feet moving freely, our mouth smiling, our spirit content with not a care in the world. Anxieties become unacceptable thoughts as a runner plunges ahead to mile 16, 17, 18. What gets us through the race is the support of people we cherish: friends, family, companions. I remember the crowd from yesterday. They pushed me to the end. I remember thinking about people close to me and they helped pushed me to the finish. I remember thinking about my Creator, the beauty that can be found in tender moments in this life. That pushed me to the edge, a runner's edge, an end that is an accomplishment.

I am grateful for all who supported me. I thank God for being able to run, it has been and I hope will continue to be one of the lasting joys of my life.

God, help us all run fearlessly into the finish line, into the arms of our loved ones, into the arms of a world that needs assistance, light and hope. Help us realize the difficulties of the race, but help us pursue the end of that race, PEACE, JOY and Love for all sisters and brothers.

Peace and Amen.

with love to all my friends,

your friend bob.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Blogging on Megabus - Part Two of France Trip

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

This might be one of the coolest things I've ever done–––I'm typing and posting my blog while using a Wi-Fi connection on a Megabus ride to Chicago! I had no idea there was wireless internet on this bus until I pulled out my lap top and my computer kindly asked me if I would like to sign onto the Megabus wireless network. WOW! This probably won't sound nearly as interesting to someone actually reading the blog...but oh well. It's sometimes the little things in life, right?

I'd like to continue my reflection of an experience I had while in Lourdes, France as a chaperon and pilgrim to a place of faith.

Part Two of "The Tender Moments:"

Being, walking, partaking in the culture of Lourdes was no doubt a journey, a spiritual marathon of sorts. It was sometimes long, sometimes painful and often tiring. As the director of the pilgrimage Wayne Watts, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, warned us before we left Chicago for Lourdes, “this will be a pilgrimage, not a vacation.” He was right. Four to five hours of sleep was standard protocol, six hours of sleep felt like heaven on earth. We prayed as a group frequently and were almost always together even outside of required events. I would often wander from the group only to be pulled back in by our leader. On several occasions Watts had to remind me to “stay in the group!” I guess I sometimes like meeting new people a little too much for my own good. His poignant insistence that I stay with Chicago seemed to keep me in line, for the most part.

When we worked, we worked. It wasn’t so much the physicality of the labor, though pushing wheelchairs and chariots carrying disabled persons (referred to as malades in Lourdes) got tiring. I think what affected me the most, however, along with many of the other youth pilgrims, was the emotional labor of each day. Most of the people we escorted around Lourdes were struggling, in one way or another, to cope with the state they found their bodies in. If those with the actual ailments weren’t struggling, us young able-bodied persons struggled with the thought of being physically or mentally disabled.

There was one couple I grew especially close to in the week we had at Lourdes. I found it so moving to work with and simply be with these two people, and I think they serve as a great example of how tender moments can be joyful, painful, and everything in between. Through their own struggles, I was forced to face my own inner turmoil, and I grew to accept and appreciate our common struggle and our common need for communal forgiveness and communal love. I realized that Lourdes is a place where faithful come to realize that there is hope beyond their fears. It is funny to note that Rolheiser’s collection of essays, the one where I found the Tender Moments, is called Learning to Love Beyond Our Fears. Not only is their hope in Lourdes, there is much love to be had and enjoyed by all. However, to feel this love, one must put an amount of trust in faith and community that is not easy. Even in Lourdes, it is a struggle to fully commit one’s self to the tender moment.

I came to know Judy and Don, the couple who most touched my heart in Lourdes, by way of serving as their escort to the healing baths of Lourdes. Father Wayne Watts had asked me to go with a married couple from the Chicago Archdiocese who desired to bathe in the waters that so many pilgrims to Lourdes put their faith and hope in. When he explained the situation of the couple to me, I was a bit taken aback. The wife had multiple sclerosis and the husband was experiencing the initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Having a mother who had worked with Alzheimer’s patients for many years of her nursing career, I was familiar with the strain the disease puts on family and friends of those stricken with it. I did not fully know what to expect when I met Don, but I was a bit nervous to be the escort for these two. This was going to be an especially important moment in their life–––a tender moment full of joy and pain–––and they were going to be led to the baths by me! I am just a twenty year-old college student, a seminarian who struggles day after day with what his true calling is and how he can best serve people. I was not so worried about having to make sure these two people were physically able to get to the baths, for I had walked the path to that area near the grotto several times before. I believe, in my heart, that what I feared most was helping these people in some capacity spiritually. Though Watts had not said anything about saying a prayer with the couple, or making sure they felt secure and at peace while waiting to feel the healing waters wash their skin, I felt compelled to be in a mental and spiritual state that would allow these people to remain peaceful and calm and hopeful. We all know how the anticipation for a tender moment can be the most tense of moments. I felt like, in some small way, I had to encourage content, hopeful anticipation for the baths for Don and Judy. That meant making small talk that would possibly make me feel uncomfortable and make me face some of my most internalized fears.

Why would I be forced to face my fears you might ask? Well, to begin, it was highly publicized on this trip that I was a college seminarian. In fact, my seminarian identity was what had helped me obtain a spot on the pilgrimage. Through the generosity of Watts, I had been given a hearty scholarship to help pay for my trip to France. In return for the money that came my way, I was to be part chaperone for the high school group going and part presence for the church as a seminarian. The latter end of the deal was what scared me the most. It was, in fact, one of the fears I did not know would have to be faced while in Lourdes.

As my family and close friends know all too well, I consistently struggle with being a Catholic college seminarian. After my first semester last year, I was fairly certain I wanted to leave seminary. But something inside of me yearned for another semester. I am very happy that I chose to stay, for many opportunities came my way and many friendships became stronger as a result of staying in seminary. However, a trip to El Salvador in May, an experience that seemed to change my young life in many, unexplainable ways, seemed to make me, for a variety of reasons, so incredibly uncertain about my future as a seminarian.

This summer, I worked and lived at All Saints Catholic Church on the north side of Milwaukee. The community there helped to foster an environment where I felt like I could bathe in some of the tender moments I was going through as a young person considering a particular vocation. While at All Saints, I was able to struggle, toil with the future of the priesthood, and my own connection with that future. As the seminarian on staff, I was forced to publicly display my intent to be a college seminarian and to test the waters of ministry. I felt comfortable doing that at All Saints because I had a community that I felt comfortable with. Though the question of whether or not I would ever seriously become a priest was something I could not answer this summer, it was a question I was able to face in my mind and invite into my soul. But in Lourdes, I really began to have serious doubts about my immediate future as a college seminarian. One day, I had even begun to plot how I could leave seminary upon my return from Europe. Doubts and fears about plans that were as much as set in stone, that is my continuing as a junior enrolled in St. Joseph’s College Seminary on the campus of Loyola University Chicago, came unexpectedly and seemed to linger with me every day I spent in Lourdes. I was having what my good friend Raphael calls a “vocational crisis.” I didn’t see a realistic future after leaving seminary in my mind, but I felt like I could not return for another year. This is where Judy especially comes into play.

*** To be continued...

peace and have a great Tuesday friends!

with love,

your friend bob.