Archive for December, 2010

more hope

The Advent season has passed. Christmas has come and we continue to celebrate its octave. Now the New Year hovers. They say that “Hope springs eternal” but there is much in these days that wants to stamp it out.  I needn’t begin a list but one statistic I read this morning is enough to start me down the dismal path: more than 3100 murders in Juarez, Mexico in 2010. What is the answer there, God?

How do I hold on to hope when I am slammed up against such realities?  I sat in the living room early one morning this week, staring at our small potted Christmas tree with its merry lights and jumble of ornaments. It was a melancholy moment but I don’t remember what exactly I was wondering. I do know that it had to do with the future: mine, ours, the world’s, the planet’s… “God, what are you thinking?” Suddenly my eyes were drawn to an ornament I had never noticed before. It was a simple thing, a single word, and it sparkled in the darkness: Hope.

“What’s the difference between hoping and wishing?” I wondered. Many people would say that the things I’ve said I hope for are just wishful thinking. I might as well write a letter to Santa Claus.  But there is a difference. Wishing has a passive sigh about it.  Hope asks me to roll up my sleeves and get to work. And I have been willing to work for what I hope for, even when I haven’t seen the results I for which I hoped.  God has planted hope in my heart again and again. Without hope, mine and others for me, I wouldn’t even be here today!

God hopes in me. God hopes in you. God hopes in us. We are the answer. We are what God thinks about all this mess. For as a friend of mine is fond of quoting, “The Incarnation is a messy business.” I have not approved of how God is handling some situations that seem hopeless. My two cents worth of suggestions and elbow-grease don’t seem to be working. But I know I don’t see the big picture. God’s picture.

And so as the New Year rings in tonight, I will hold onto hope and I will share my hope with others. I will sign-on for another year of hope. Please join me! 


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On the fourth Sunday of Advent I was reflecting on hope and what keeps me from living in hope.  Disappointment- or the fear of being disappointed- is what squelches hope in me.  The Gospels this week tell us of people who hoped in the midst of fear and anxiety.  Mary and Joseph were afraid at the angels’ greetings.  They were confused at messages that seemed impossible and at requests that seemed beyond their capacity.

During my retreat last month I spent some hours with Henry Tanner’s painting The Annunciation.  He seems to capture the moment between the angel’s greeting and Mary’s “yes”.  Everything about it says, “How can this be?” I know that I wonder and worry about whether I am hearing God clearly and if I am capable of doing what is asked of me. These are two separate movements: discerning the call and having the faith to respond.

It is helpful to me to look to my heroes in hope, people who have lived a vibrant faith despite their own fear and the criticism and nay-saying of others.  My cast of exemplary characters include those you would expect: Dorothy Day, Archbishop Oscar Romero, St. Elizabeth Seton and of course Jesus! But I also have been blessed with mentors like my mom, many teachers, Sisters of Charity, friends, patients and co-workers who have shown me what living in hope looks like.  The women of the Santo Niño Project in Anapra are among my current mentors as they go on day by day amid violence and uncertainty, caring for their handicapped children and those of others “with love beyond all telling”.

A song by Rory Cooney is in my mind today: “Do Not Fear to Hope”.  In these last dark days of 2010 I pray that my hope is not eclipsed by fear.  I will choose to spend some more moments looking to God and letting that light overcome the darkness. Advent blessings to you all!

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just saying “no”

Yesterday we were in Anapra at the Santo Nino Project.  As Christmas approaches the wait-time at the international ports of entry to come back to the U.S. gets longer so we went to one of the downtown bridges where there are more lanes. Nevertheless, we were backed up almost to the Cathedral some ten blocks south of the bridge when we began to wait. For the next two hours we inched along the bottleneck before three lanes became five lanes became ten lanes open at the U.S. end of the bridge.

During those hours we were approached countless times by men, women and children who wanted to wash our windows or dust off our dirty Subaru for a dollar.  We said, “No,” firmly but in many cases at least part of the job was done before we indicated that we would not pay.  “It breaks my heart,” Tracy said. “They should be playing and here they are washing car windows.”

Vendors displayed various items as they walked up and down the lines of cars inhaling the exhaust.  We could buy rosaries, bottled water, churros, dvds, artificial poinsettias and a variety of large posters featuring my personal favorite: “Las Princessas”.  We said, “No,” again.  There was a preacher-amputee sitting on the pedestrian sidewalk praising God and a family band with dad on saxaphone and son on snare-drum.  People in wheelchairs and ragged indigenous women with dirty cups in their hands passed by the car asking for money. “No,” again.

A thin young man with a dazed expression tapped on the car window.  He moved with us, tapping and tapping, gesturing for a handout. Years of sniffing glue have wasted his life, I thought to myself. I felt my heart closing in on itself. “No” and “No” and “No” again.  I hate crossing this bridge downtown.  I hate saying “No”.  I hate keeping my eyes from looking into the eyes of these people.  When we finally got away from that young man I felt a sigh of relief – and then a horrible thought: “O Jesus, I hope that wasn’t you.”

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