17 August 2012

Sacred Space

Someone asked me, just recently, what I missed most about being a parish priest.  Now that I have a little better than a year's distance from retirement, I am rested enough to consider what I valued most about those 34 years.   Everything was important, but not everything was necessary.  There is often a lot of trivia and fabricated intensity in daily parish life.  Our seminary moral theology professor would say, "the emotional intensity of a typical parish day depends almost entirely upon whose ox is getting gored."  I can now say he was absolutely right.

But it begs the question to consider what I am happy to leave behind.  I truly miss planning and doing liturgy.  Running a close second is catechesis.  I love to teach and explore ideas with folks.  I have not presided at a liturgy since 11 March (this year), when I supplied for a colleague in Independence, MO.  I'm not yet on the supply list in this diocese (where I reside) but will be soon I suspect.  However, it is one thing to preside at sacramental worship.  It is quite something else to be daily invested in planning, creating and engaging worship....seeing and feeling the liturgical seasons flow and be actively tuned in to that flow.

I am well suited to liturgical life, preaching and teaching.  My mind works that way.  I am as much a right brain intuitive as I am a left brain logician....perhaps more.   I research, gather data and prepare with resources.  Then, I let my mind go free to create what will be presented.  That's why I preach and teach with few notes.  It is why liturgy simply moves along in a flow.  I do miss that.

Saying all of that is the preamble to what I have come to realize in the last few weeks.  Sacred space isn't built.  It does not depend on an architectural design or contain set rules of physical organization.  Those things have become iconic in culture as a way of "speaking" sacred space to its people.   Sacred space is created by intention and subsequent action.  It can be anywhere.

I am forever, in this life, blessed to have been mentored in liturgy and sacramental theology by two holy men:  The Rev. Dr. Louis Weil and The Rev. Dr. Leonel Mitchell.  Fr. Weil was my professor and on-campus spiritual director in seminary.  He was both brilliant and articulate.  He obviously loved working with his students and spent a huge amount of time interacting on a lot of levels in our vocational formation.  We became close friends, and I valued his vast knowledge, his practical approach and his patient tutorials.  He taught me to pray with motion....how I stand at the Altar; how I use my hands and create gestures to impart prayer in a physical manner; how not to waste motion; how to use voice and how to make what is happening at the Altar alive to those gathered.   There are no tricks or "shell games" to liturgy.  The priest is a vessel of Grace and gives both voice and movement to the deep workings of liturgical prayer.  Fr. Weil is now retired and living in the San Francisco Bay area.

I was truly blessed to learn that Fr. Mitchell owned a home in South Bend, IN.  When he retired as professor of liturgics and sacramental theology from Seabury-Western Seminary in Chicago, he and his wife came back to South Bend.  He was an Honorary Canon of the cathedral, where I was Dean, and became my liturgical adviser and close friend during the last eight of my eleven years at St. James.  I will always remember his words, as we planned special liturgies for the cathedral:  "Will what we do and how we do it make sense to anyone present at this liturgy?"  Again, words and actions needed to synchronize and speak the intention at the heart of why we were there.  Lee was also a person of great wisdom and infinite patience.  He died in May this year, and I already miss him...even though I am retired.

Louis and Lee travel with me in the manner by which I conduct daily life.   Both taught and lived the creation of sacred space and time by virtue of presence and intention.  You see, sacramental moments happen all around us and with a great deal of regularity.  We don't recognize them because we are not looking or living with an attitude of "sacredness."

To engage this concept more completely, I like to use the Lakota way of experiencing life.   When I am with my mentors, one might say something like, "Climb Bear Butte, in a sacred manner."  Or, "As you are looking up at the sky, do so in a sacred manner."   We all look at things, but do we really see them?   The first time I climbed Bear Butte (near Sturgis, S. Dakota...just outside the Black Hills), I knew this was a sacred site for a number of First Nations tribes.  Taking my mentor's counsel to heart, I literally suspended my expectations and normal orienteering skills.  I simply allowed the mountain to "speak" to me.  Small, and usually insignificant things began to take on a new interest or focus.  It was an unspoken conversation.  I completed that climb wiser than when I started.  Popping back into chronological sequence was a jolt.

What I did was allow the entire Bear Butte to be sacred space.  I allowed myself to suspend chronological time and to, instead, experience kairos...holy time...creation time. Over the past few years, it has gotten easier to suspend the process of organizing data and allowing myself to simply let the experience happen.  It's something like looking at one of those multi-colored grouping of dots and being asked to see the picture embedded therein.  Once one learns how to "de-focus" the eyes, the picture seems to pop right out.  Engaging sacred space is a defocusing of the data gathering and analytical thought processes and allowing intuition to take charge....flipping from left brain to right brain.  Suddenly, leaves are not just leaves.  Creatures are not just creatures.  Smells are not just smells.  Sounds are not just sounds.  They have different features and deeper textures and personalities.  We are, for that moment, experiencing their true nature.

If God has created all things and is invested in us, sacred space is walking and engaging life at that level.  Now, if we are convinced that there is no God and, therefore, no reality beyond the physical presentation of what is around us, we are simply like the metal balls careening off energized objects in a pinball machine.  We are existing, or living an existence without depth.   Everything around us is, then, frightening or potentially harmful.  If we are experiencing our surroundings "in a sacred manner," we know immediately, that all creation is our friend.  We know how to respect what is more powerful; but the more powerful does not threaten us or do us harm.

In October 2007, I made an Hanbleceya (han-blay-chayah) at the center of the Black Hills...under the direction of a Lakota elder and those who assisted him.  It was a three-day experience at the center of which was a night alone at the top of a hill in a place I had never been before...and miles from anything resembling civilization.   It was me, clad only in a pair of shorts and equipped only with a blanket, sitting in a space that had been set apart as a place of vigil and prayer.  I am told this space has been used for centuries by Lakota and other First Nations people.  Hanbleceya means, "crying for a vision."  It is a process toward encountering one's holy center and experiencing the holiness and sacredness of one's surroundings.

The center of the Black Hills (the Pe sla) is a prairie dotted with wooded areas and lined with streams at an altitude averaging 5,000 feet.  As sacred space, it literally throbs with Presence and transcendent reality.  It almost sparkles.  I remember that night hearing what are normal night sounds -- owls, coyotes, cattle lowing in the distance, the rustle of bushes with the movement of night creatures seeking a meal.  It was a cloudless night and, because the nearest town is 17 miles away, the stars were brighter than I had ever seen them.  The moon was in it's first quarter.  Yet, my sight seemed clearer.  I had absolutely no fear.  I knew, somehow, that I was in sacred space and surrounded by those who would care for me.  I eased into that trust and had the most powerful night of my life in terms of revelation and engagement (yep, one must stay awake and keep vigil...I slept after my hanbleceya ended around 11am the next day).

Our new home is sacred space for us.  When we moved here, we determined that we wanted to begin this part of our life by being intentional about that.  We prayed our way into our new home and asked that we might be more aware of ourselves, one another and all that is holy in every room.  We have designated spaces for prayer and meditation outside the daily routine.  When we enter from outside, we remove our shoes and either go around barefooted or with house shoes (or socks).  Taking into account that God told Moses to remove his sandals, because he was stepping on holy ground, we are following that custom used by a number of cultures.

This is just a thought.  Perhaps we don't get as much out of going to church as we could, because we do not treat it as sacred space.  We simply see it as a necessary (or tangential) extension of daily life...analytical and mundane.  I wonder...just wonder mind you...what would happen if we had to remove our shoes at the door and become quiet as we entered the worship space?  What would happen if, in a sacred manner, we tuned out the chatter of analysis and data collection and simply allowed ourselves to be present to whatever may be around us?

Then, what would happen if we took that attitude into our homes....then into our work spaces...then into the routine of our movements about our communities.   I wonder.....

Love and Blessings,


15 August 2012

Grits and Eggs

Grits:  The most misunderstood food in America.  Even the grammar is misunderstood.  Grits IS a food.  The plural word describes A food.  I made a mistake in my teenage years that taught me this lesson.

My Dad, an eighth generation Georgia native, grew up with grits.  One morning, he was making breakfast for my brother and me.  He often did this, because Mom was an RN and, at that time, night charge nurse for emergency services (i.e. boss of the emergency room).  Dad was creative, but his favorite breakfast, by far, included grits.  On this particular day, he asked if I wanted some grits.  Typical smart-ass teenager that I could be, I responded, "I'll have a grit."  Well, Dad obliged me.  He meticulously picked out one grain of the cereal from the pot and carefully placed it on my plate...right next to the eggs.  "Eat that, and you can have more."  My Dad was very quick on the come-back.  It is one reason I avoided being a smart-ass with him  most of the time.

I did not realize just how misunderstood this food is until I started traveling north of the Mason-Dixon line (that now imaginary boundary between the cultures of south and north).  The first time I ordered grits in a northern restaurant, one would have thought I had asked for a moon rock.  "What?!!  What are grits?!"  I knew I was in trouble. First, the verb tense was wrong.  Second, the look on the waitress' face told me I had spoken a foreign language to her.  "You know, it's sort of like cream-of-wheat...."   That didn't help.  "Sir, we don't have anything like that here."

Grits:  Corn that is washed and milled (ground) into granules about the size of a large grain of sand.  Thus, the origin of the name.  Rub the ground corn in your hands and it feels "gritty"....just like coarse sand.   Grits can also be known a "hominy" or "hominy grits."  It's the same substance.

In the food world, grits is the universal solvent. One can have it with anything, because, by itself, grits doesn't have a lot of taste.  To cook grits, one cup of water is brought to the boil and one-quarter cup of grits is stirred into the roiling water.  Turn the stove temperature to low, cover the pot and cook for about 15 or so minutes.  Stir occasionally and add about a quarter teaspoon of salt (or to taste).  Once the texture of the grits is less than soupy and not yet thick, they are done.  This point is problematic for some.

Texture is important in cooking grits.  If I am served a cup of grits in a restaurant, and want to put it on my plate, the cooked substance needs to pour thickly but steadily.  If it comes out in a clump, this is a true cooking error.  Same is true if it runs like.....well, if it is really runny.

Once the grits is ready, anything can happen....and I do mean that.   That's why it is the universal solvent of foods.  Personally, the basic way of eating grits for me is to add coarse ground pepper, some butter and whatever kind of hot sauce I happen to be enjoying at the moment.  Right now, it is a particularly tasty wing sauce.

Hot Sauces:  I want to digress here a moment.  If one is going to use hot sauce on grits...or any food for that matter....DO NOT (and this is important) buy anything that is made north of an imaginary line between Kansas City, MO and Richmond, VA.  That's on this side of the  Rocky Mountains (my north-south line that divides east and west...not the Mississippi).  West of the Rockies, don't by a hot sauce made anyplace north of a line from San Diego to the Four-Corners.

Why do I say this?  Because hot sauces are made from a variety of peppers that are not grown north of those places.  Peppers that I am talking about grow in temperate or tropical climates.  Those folks understand the temperament of their produce and what spices/herbs/etc. are best added to bring out the best in that particular kind of pepper.  No one in New York City will begin to understand this process...or Los Angeles...or Omaha...or Chicago.  Just trust me on this.

Grits and...:  The universally understood southern breakfast is grits, eggs, bacon (or ham) and toast.  Of course, coffee and maybe a juice on the side.  Grits is often served with various fish dishes.  Grits and seafood is an old southern standard.  Ham and grits with greens is a long-standing farm meal.  One can find grits being served with a variety of game food.  My maternal grandfather's favorite hunting food was either rabbit or squirrel with grits.  During the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, southerners could be found eating grits with possum or armadillo.  Gator tail with grits is another meal along the bayous and rural areas near swamps [note:  if you are in Central Florida and want a truly traditional southern meal, there is a restaurant on the Black Creek that any long-time local can tell you about.  There's some good victuals there, let me tell ya'].

My favorite way of eating grits is with eggs.   Now, there are ways to do this that are probably as varied as the people who eat grits and eggs.  I will forgo that level of discussion and tell you my two favorite grits and egg dishes.

1) A serving of grits with two fried eggs.  A serving of grits is the recipe I provided above...a quarter cup of uncooked grits and a cup of water.  I like two fried eggs done sunny-side up...very runny.  Stay with me here.  I put the serving of grits on a plate or shallow bowl and put the two eggs smack on top of the grits (if you are around me, you will hear the expression, "a wad of grits."  Heck, one has to call that summary food something).  I cut the eggs up and mix the whole shebang together.  Don't forget the salt, pepper, butter and hot sauce.  I love ketchup, but, no, I don't put ketchup on grits.  Hot sauce.  That's a tasty meal with bacon or ham.  I forgo the toast to watch the carbohydrate intake (grits is a carb).

2)  A serving of grits with two eggs cooked into the grits.  I have been on this kick for a couple of weeks now.  Cook the grits as described above.  Just as the cooking cycle is being completed, add the salt, pepper, butter and hot sauce.  Stir until well mixed.  Pour two eggs into the pot and stir vigorously into the grits...insure that you break the yolks so that the mixture has a smooth and uniform consistency.  On low heat, it takes about three minutes of gentle stirring to insure the eggs are cooked into the mixture.  Pour into a cereal bowl.  Voila!  A protein packed breakfast.  It takes about 17 minutes start to finish. Very small cleanup.   To add some adventure to this recipe, I will occasionally sprinkle in a mixture of shredded parmessan, asiago and mozzerella cheeses.  Continue stirring until the  cheese is melted and is uniform in consistency.  I had that this morning.  Also, I will occasionally cook bacon crisp and crumble it on top of the bowl of grits with this recipe.

As I said, variations are only as limited as the imagination.  That's why grits are so much fun.  Oh, what to buy:  Quaker Traditional Grits is more universally found in grocery stores.  The absolute best is Dixie-Lily Grits.  That brand seems harder to find, since I have returned to Florida.  DO NOT....NEVER, EVER...buy instant grits.  No, no, no.  Some things just aren't right.  Two of those things are instant grits and instant oatmeal.  Just think of those instant foods as poison, and you will be fine.

Okay, my friends, get your grits in your local supermarket cereal section and have at it.  You will not be disappointed.  Let me know what you come up with.

Love and Blessings,


08 August 2012

Mitakuye Oyasin: All my Relations

It may seem like I am on a sudden roll with these postings.  It is more appropriate to say that the world is moving quickly, and the experiences are coming at us more intensely than usual.  As my heading suggests, I see this blog site as a place to reflect on events as they impact me, and as I process them using the gifts and skills of my craft.  Usually, some days may pass while I ruminate on an issue or event.  Sometimes, the scene gains resolution quite quickly.  This morning, an offer came my way that triggered a sudden organization of several thoughts.

For about ten years, I have been working on my ancestry.  This has not been the usual hunting the trail of grandparents and lineage.  This has been a DNA project that was begun by the geneticist, Dr. Spencer Wells, and the National Geographic Society.  It also included IBM and the University of Arizona.  It has morphed a bit over the years, but the National Geographic and Dr. Wells are still doing the project....known as the Genographic Survey.

Behind the Genographic Survey, has been the Human Genome Project, which began in 1989 and concluded in 1994.  It explored decoded the entire human DNA.  Cyber-systems and programming allowed this mind-boggling process to be accomplished in half the time they thought...such is the speed of computing evolution.  That project was overseen by Dr. Francis Collins, a physiologist and genetics expert.  He is now head of NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.  Collins' book, Language of God, and Wells' books, Journey of Man & Deep Ancestry are important reading in this field.

In a paragraph:  The male Y chromosome does not replicate when sperm and egg meet.  It is complete and is passed from father to son intact.  The female mitochondrial DNA, likewise does not replicate in reproduction but passes from mother to daughter intact.  As generations move forward, there are occasional errors in transfer...like a typographical error.  These are called "markers" in genetics and act as "bread crumbs" -- allowing the geneticists to trace backward.  Once a marker is present, it remains in subsequent generations -- along with any new markers that occur.  What was discovered is that ALL human beings (Homo sapiens) come from a single source...in eastern Africa...about 65,000 years ago.  As migration began, groups moved along different routes that eventually populated the planet.  All humans have the same first marker...male and female.  So, the person next to you is ultimately related to you -- regardless of ethnic origin, "race," or geographic origin.  Our physical differences are the result of thousands of years of geographic, environmental and genetic conditions.  If one's family of origin lived along the  equatorial regions, their skin is darker.  If one's family settled and lived its generations in the colder northern climates, their skin is lighter.

I started this project, because I expressed interest in what was being done by the Genographic Survey at the very early stages of that work.  I got to get a basic Y-Chromosome panel done for free.  Since that time, I have upgraded twice.  The advancing technology has allowed geneticists to further identify haplogroups and fine-tune marker identification.  In summary, my ancestral (and that of all my paternal relatives) route of journey from Africa included the middle east (possibly the Canaan Valley), the area of the Phoenician empire (at about that time, so my ancestors were Phoenicians) and, after the conquest by Alexander the Great, the journey moved to what is now Spain and then integrated into Celtic clans and eventually migrating to what is now Scotland.

Always the scientist, a year ago I tested this by having a Y-Chromosome analysis done by a private company (Genelex).  Alas, the same results.  PLUS, I now know that my haplogroup is in the northern European category.  This means, at least twenty generations have lived in that area and thus providing me -- and my relatives -- our physical characteristics.   I also did this, because I had been told that one of my early 19th century ancestors was Cherokee.  The Genelex study showed no evidence of markers that would validate  that claim.

Today, I ordered the latest in the Genographic Survey chromosomal study.  In about 8 weeks I will have an even tighter model of the migration track my paternal ancestors took.  It will also evaluate my maternal ancestral path (which I have not had to date).  This is very exciting.  With the first three sets of Genographic data, I have connected with a Jewish guy in eastern Europe, two people in Scotland, a person in northern England and three people in the United States whose markers are so close as to make their ancestors and mine the same folks....in two of those contacts, the branch off was about the time the Phoenician Empire was scattered by Alexander the Great.  This makes history truly real and alive!

The contact with National Geographic this morning precipitated this blog post.  Like the Aurora, CO shooting tragedy, the Oak Creek shootings at the Sikh temple touched me deeply.  My way of spirituality allows me the to explore these feelings beyond simply the human indignation, but also on the level of the transcendent nature of who these victims really are.  In spirit, they are me.  We share the intimacy of God's image implanted in us to make us uniquely human.  That's the other piece of the "Adam/Eve" journey.

It is a unique kind of fear that drives persons to bigotry and hate for someone physically different than ourselves.  We have used those differences to justify wars, slavery, abuse and genocide.  I have trouble wrapping my head around how a person, like the shooter in Oak Creek, WI, looks at a group who looks and acts differently and concludes they are another race and, therefore, not at all like him.

As I continue to grow in a lot of ways, I almost do not notice skin color, ethnic differences or different physical characteristics.  Beyond, "gosh, their ancestral migration path went in that direction" (looking at a world map), they are essentially me...sharing the same early markers that identify us as uniquely human.  I am enriched by their backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that they bring into relationship.

The First Nations people seemed to know this intuitively.  The title of this post is "Mitakuye Oyasin."  It means 'All My Relations.'  The Lakota medicine wheel is divided into four quarters with four colors:  white, yellow, red and black.  Even before they began to know immigrants into their lands, they called these the "four main groups" of the earth's people.  Mitakuye Oyasin isn't just a recognition of their own family.  It is a recognition that we are ALL related.  My learning this in my early studies with the Lakota opened a whole new dimension of understanding the spirituality behind our being human.  God is Love.  When we go there, we find no differences.   They're just folks like me...and you.


Fr. Fred+

07 August 2012

Pushing the Envelope

Like many people, I suspect, I have been engrossed in watching the Olympics.  It's the first time I have had a chance to see both daytime and prime time events that are being televised....at least the first time since I have been a priest.  For 16 days, I become an Olympics junkie.  The summer games are my favorite by far.

Growing up, I was not an athlete.  I was more of an academic.  I did the usual physical education classes, played sandlot baseball and football and did my share of running about.  I seemed always to "run out of steam" at some point.  It was frustrating.  Then, I gained a little weight in middle school.  I didn't understand that, because I was not a "couch potato."  I was a Boy Scout in a troop that was very active.  I grew up in Central Florida, so I swam daily.  Our troop hiked (did the fifty mile hike once), did extended bike trips (80 miles per trip), and canoed most of the rivers north of Lake Okeechobee.   I had long-term endurance.

In high school, I learned to run and ran distances and cross country relays.  I could not sprint for the life of me.  I simply had no speed for short races.  I trimmed down considerably in high school, but I battled a self-esteem issue.  My coach (Bill Duncan) pushed me hard, but I could not deliver.  I was strong and could run relentlessly in rough terrain (cross-country) but don't count on me in the flats...the final race to the line.   Finally, in frustration, I simply quit.

Beyond the required courses in college, physical education and endurance exercise did not exist from me during those years between 1968 and 1972.  I did quite a bit of hiking, however.

Then came my entry into the military.  People in the Army and Marine Corps like to joke about the other armed services not having their toughness and preparation.  My eleven weeks of training in the U.S. Navy  had a huge amount of physical training.  By the time I graduated from A-School, I was lean, hard and could endure long periods of physical exertion.   It was there I found out about teamwork.

My training company had 72 young men.  At age 21, I was almost the oldest...two guys were older than me.  One of the hallmarks of military training is learning to work as a team.  Ultimately, everyone helps everyone else in some way...encouragement, teasing, teaching techniques and other ways we each gave to the others that capacity to keep trying a little harder.  I was able to go farther, faster and longer because my shipmates were there to encourage and support....as I did for them.  As an individual, I became more than I was, but I did not not it by myself.

As a result, I developed a life-long love for running and weight training.  I found out in 1995, that the reason I could not run fast was due to a congenital heart condition called coronary ectasia.  My coronary arteries are 2.5 times larger than normal with "wavy' walls.  Once my heart hits a certain pace, the coronary arteries lose efficiency, and I "hit the wall."  HOWEVER, I could get to a pace good for me (around a 10 minute mile) and then run for miles -- usual 8 to 10 miles -- at a stretch.  I loved it!

My muscles responded to weights, and I learned to stretch through hatha yoga.  For a number of years I "worked the pile" three times a week (the "pile" is slang for free weights and their accompanying equipment).

I usually had a partner with whom I would both run and workout.  Free weights require a "spotter," so two or three of us would meet at the gym and spot for each other.  This included encouragement and the occasional correction to form.

One day, while stationed at the submarine base in Holy Loch, Scotland (1974), I found myself at the gym at the shore facility at an odd time.  I had to be back for an "evolution" (military slang for an event that has many parts) and had only a short time to get my weight training  accomplished.  I got cocky and tried overhead pressing more weight than usual.  After only four reps, I got the weight over my head and began losing control.  The rule, at such times, is to throw the weight bar away...let go of it so it will fall in front of the lifter.  I tried a control drop down without letting go and twisted my right shoulder...very nearly dislocating it.  I was in a sling for two weeks.

Jump ahead twenty years to 1995.  I had decided to run a half marathon and was training with a couple of friends in South Bend.  I went on a private retreat at the seminary where I did my graduate work and decided, on the spur of the moment, to do a special run/workout on my own.  I set out on a road I had not been on.  Less than a mile out, I somehow stepped in a depression in the road, began to fall and twisted my left knee -- tearing the meniscus cartilage.  Surgery was the only solution.

In both of those scenarios, I was working alone and trying to accomplish training tasks best done with at least one other person.  The long-term results are obvious.  A second meniscus tear on my right knee in 2000 and a second injury to my right shoulder with weight training led to no more running and arthritic knees; and a prosthetic right shoulder joint with arthritis in the left joint.

I grieve the loss of the activities I had come to love, but I have found replacements that, when everything is working right, allow me to achieve the goals of proper weight, muscular tightness, and healthy cardio-vascular efficiency.  Now, I work with a trainer who monitors my activity and occasionally jumps in to adjust my form on machines (no more working the pile...ever).  I work out aerobically on an elliptical rider or stationary bike.

A couple of days ago, the Jamaican runner Usain Bolt, won the 100 meter dash...becoming the fastest man in the world.  Right behind him -- placing second -- was fellow Jamaican, Yohan Blake.  Therein is a wonderful story.   Bolt and Blake train together.  They are close friends.  Blake is obsessive about training, which sometimes frustrates Bolt, who has given his friend the nickname, "the Beast."   However, Blake, the Beast, says that his friend encourages him.  In turn, Bolt says that Blake's obsessive training style, calls him to push the envelope of his endurance -- becoming a better runner.

Yohan Blake ran to win that 100 meter dash.  So did Usain Bolt.  Each encouraged the other to push through.  At the end, they hugged, laughed and shed tears of joy together.  It was a true Olympic moment.

I watched the new world record holder in the men's 400 meter race, Kirani James, remove his name badge and trade it for Oscar Pistorius' name badge after the semi-final of that race.  Kirani James won and Pistorius came in last.  Pistorius runs on double leg prostheses.  This trade of badges is a sign of deep respect for another athlete in a race.  James, of Grenada, giving respect and admiration to Pistorius, of S. Africa.  No dry eyes in the stands Sunday evening.

Every athlete who speaks with reporters or commentators doesn't simply talk about how they won but also about those who trained, encouraged, loved and supported them in the process.  They pushed the envelope of human capacity in league with a host of people in that process.

In a society that has come to value the power of individual effort, the goal of being an individualist has been raised to a place of near worship.  At a time in our society where, suddenly, folks are misusing the Bible to create a false standard, they fail to see how the disciples and the early community supported, encouraged and engaged in a mutuality of spiritual development.  Their individual efforts to share the Good News was supported by the larger community's prayers and investment.

Sportsmanship is the art and craft of teamwork.  When I hear of parents who attack coaches and referees because their son/daughter not getting what they believe they should have (individual stardom), I realize our society is, in fact, in some trouble.  One person is not the definition of a sport, or a business, or a family.  I am a priest, because folks in my home parish saw something that they believed to be the work of the Holy Spirit in me.  That continues to this day...even in retirement.  My vocation is only an aspect of community...not simply "my priesthood."

When we find ourselves in a place of success, or enriched lives, or new opportunities, take a look around.  There are those known to us...and unknown to us...who have given us support in unique ways.  I have been building a list of those who have been part of me being who and what I am now.  That list gets longer daily.  Daily I give thanks for all of them.  Thanks!


Fr. Fred+