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 : )