MY SPIRITUAL FATHER recently reminded me that: “ A priest is a real fighter when he can begin again at every moment! “

He is here paraphrasing the wisdom of those most wondrous of all fighters in spiritual warfare, the Fathers of the Desert!

What does it mean to be a real fighter?

 Who has shown us how to fight?

 Why must we fight and whom?





There is within us..a warfare…[aq]

It is by means of thoughts that spirits of evil wage a secret war against the soul. For since the soul is invisible, these malicious powers naturally attack it invisibly. Both sides prepare their weapons, muster their forces, devise stratagems, clash in fearful battle, gain victories and suffer defeats. But this..warfare lacks one feature possessed by visible warfare: declaration of hostilities. Suddenly, with no warning, the enemy attacks the inmost heart, sets an ambush there, and kills the soul through sin. And for what purpose is this battle waged against us? To prevent us from doing God’s will as we ask to do it when we pray ‘Thy will be done’. [ar]

We know from Sacred Scripture the evil one is the real warring enemy [Rv.12:17] seeking always to seduce us into forgetting whom we truly are and by Whom we are truly loved [Rv.2:4, 5].

 St. Paul, for example, [Ep.6:11, 12] is clear on precisely what this warfare really is.

The reality of spiritual warfare is on my heart today not only because of this section of the story of Divine Mercy at work in my soul, just as He is lavishing Himself upon you in this moment, but also because in the mail today letters arrived from souls for whom I am spiritual director.

I see in their lives the battle rages on.

It is a day to dwell humbly in the virtue of trust, to admit that Christ alone is the Real Fighter, the True Warrior, the Victor. Our only weapon is Him, His Holy Name. Our constant battle cry, simply: LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF THE LIVING GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME A SINNER.

It would take decades after I stepped down from that train which brought me back from the monastery, – decades after I sought out the hanging tree and gave myself over to the enemy, became a traitor to the Gospel, embraced the death of distrust rather than the solace of the embrace of Trust Himself, – before I could even admit there was such a thing as spiritual warfare.

As I turn again to the original notes which I use in this writing I am struck time and again by how often, as I lay severely wounded on the field of battle, Jesus and Mary came to my rescue.

SOME years ago I was visiting one of the many cities which, during the sixties, had within it one of the large concentrations of hippies, of flower children.

I strolled in that former area of hippies, now given over to expensive shops, restaurants, galleries, lofts.

In a small urban square is a large bronze figure, put there during that decade about which no one seems capable to recall the truth that, once ideals were displaced by drugs the flowers became thorns, the communes places of rage and despair, where a generation of children were born never sure who was their actual mother and with no hope of certainty as to whom had fathered them!

The statue is charcoal coloured, neither male nor female, bent in upon itself: rigid, hardened by time, mute.

Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home —

Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene — one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou

Shouldst lead me on.

I loved to choose and see my path; but now

Lead Thou me on!

I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it still

Will lead me on,

O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till

The night is gone!

And with the morn those angel faces smile

Which I have loved long since and lost awhile.

 — John Henry Cardinal Newman


To say that I was in a state of culture shock, future shock, traumatized by the speed at which I had gone from seven years of total isolation from the world of the late fifties into the world of the mid-sixties, is to hardly convey the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, sexual, linguistic, attitudinal, confusion which I experienced.

It was not only among my family, the very city streets and people on them, I moved as a stranger in a most strange land.

The Church itself seemed to be casting off all that had held secure within her for the centuries since Trent, in favour of some apparently ill-conceived attempt, at least by clerics and nuns, to become so relevant they no longer appeared to have a clue as to whom they really were.

Though since I had abandoned faith this latter was rather irrelevant.

Within a week or so of being back in the city I was on the prowl, with limited success.

The appetites were similar to before the monastery; the skills of the hunter were less.

Seven years of chaste living had taken their toll.

Thanks to the tradition of nepotism in the postal service I soon had a job as a postal worker.

I was the typical postman from hell — interested only in the money, often getting addresses wrong, not caring at all about how I did the job — and thanks to the power of the union I had no fear of being fired.

Typical of my attitude was the day I broke a tooth during lunch and so I just dumped the undelivered mail into a corner box and took the rest of the day off to find a dentist.

I was years away from understanding, let alone accepting, the implicit moral contract between employer and employee — a just day of labour for a just wage.

With the good money I was making I soon was able to buy fine cloths, lots of books, material for writing, painting, indulge my passion for movies, going to bars.

I was getting a rapid education into this new culture and learnt quickly how to hold down a job during the week and blend into the hippie culture on the weekend.

Authentic religion was a no go, yet my being hungered for some intellectual affirmation of purpose, of existence, so I studied existentialism and Marxism in my spare time, bought the whole angst idea and Marxist theory.

The imperative impulse for revolutionary re-ordering of society was intensified within me through the experience of delivering mail in the projects, the allegedly wonderful alternative to tenement clusters of inner city slums.

The buildings themselves were not that old but since the poor had been put in there with no change in their educational opportunities, social skills, employment, as is all too well known they quickly became jungles of violence, despair, abuse of drugs, alcohol, children, each other, peopled by the hopeless and the angry.

The buildings were filled with graffiti, garbage, unsupervised children, sullen and violent juveniles, mainly fatherless little families cared for by overworked and exhausted women.

It is the coal I’ll never forget.

The coal which lingers, is treasured, deep in my being as the rock hard symbol of why welfare fails as a substitute for true charity — the dignified loving service of one another.

In the old slums, the thick tenements, part of the rental deal was you kicked in your share of bags of coal or slum-lords would cut the heat.

I had a court-order registered letter which had to be signed for. When the woman had me step inside her apartment, as she searched for a pencil to sign for the letter, I could see the usual chaos of a poor little home, right through to the bathroom and the tub filled with coal.

Had no one from the housing authority bothered to explain oil or gas fired boilers?

THE gas furnace in this little house kicks in regularly as I write this very chill late fall evening.

One great thing about being a priest is I can, during Holy Mass repent, of my failure to be a good, caring postman and rest in the mystery of His Mercy, pray for that woman with the coal filled bathtub and trust in the mystery of His Mercy, rejoice in the Church’s predilection, Her preferential option for the poor.

Her preferential option for everyone!

As my wonderful teacher of writing used to say: “Interruptions ARE my work!”

A soul, utterly fearful of everything about life, just phoned long distance. So I stopped this writing to be attentive.

The Church’s, every Christian’s, preferential option MUST be for everyone, for, truly, we are ALL poor.

IT IS LATE in the night as I resume this writing.

The two main rail lines which run through this neighbourhood rumble as great freight trains haul the materials and goods from this industrial city across the expanse of this great continent.

The factories run twenty-four hours, churning out a seemingly endless supply of cars, trucks, vans, cd players, stoves, refrigerators.

On and on relentlessly workers produce in order to consume what their sweat has made.

Their fear of being alone, poor, urges them to consume, consume, consume, until their muscles burn out from the effort, their hearts suddenly stop beating, drained of all life because they have been devoured empty by their very consumption.

Instead of going into a church and stillness before the Real Presence, when I needed solitude, which an inner ache seemed to be pushing me towards, I’d go back to those places of the waterfront, the old fortifications, abandoned factories, the breakwater, sit, gaze out at the ocean, wonder were the freighters were headed, and what had become of me.

I was living in the family’s home, which was terribly crowded and where I felt like a boarder among strangers.

Parents and siblings alike tried valiantly to assimilate me back into the family as if those seven years of separation had not happened. But I was unwilling to be assimilated.

Even when my father announced he had retired from the navy and accepted a foreman’s job at a major factory in the industrial heartland and the whole family would be on the move again, I welcome to come along, and I agreed, it was simply as one accepting passage in steerage to yet another foreign land.

Deep in my heart was the inner hope that in that place of workers I could affect a Marxist stirring of great social change in the thriving city of factories.

It was also a city of universities, tv and movie production, theatre.

It would be a good place for the restless, needy, famished heart of the hunter to prowl.

The house we were to live in was not quite ready so we all crammed into a little cottage some miles outside the city.

My father traveled back and forth to work each day, while my younger siblings were bussed to school and a couple of the older ones found jobs.

I initially seemed unable to function.


Perhaps it was that the stress of the past few months seized the silence of that isolated cottage.

Perhaps it was simply I finally had no fight left within me.

I had some type of nervous collapse the first weeks there, surely, for I did nothing except sleep for eighteen hours at a stretch, rising only for a bit of food, some water or pop, then slept again.

By the time we moved into the city, ( I had a small room in the basement with the elder of my younger brothers), my brain was mush and I knew if I didn’t force myself to find work and stimulate my intellect I’d sink into such a complete depression I might never recover.

The fastest way to get work, money for books and other pleasures was to take the easiest job, so, back to the Post Office.

The city we were in had lots of flights to other cities, such as the not so distant one where the exploding so-called sexual liberation was at its most unbridled.

My job often afforded me a four day weekend because of alternating shifts and I was making an unnecessary huge amount of money given I had none of the usual expenses of a single person.

 Living at home as I was, long weekends of dissipation were easily indulged in.

Here is a peculiarity of a man with appetites:  he is always dissatisfied and bitter, like someone who is hungry……it is plain that the appetites are wearisome and tiring for a man. They resemble little children, restless and hard to please, always whining to their mother for this thing or that, and never satisfied……A man with desires wearies himself, because he is like someone with a fever whose thirst increases by the minute and who feels ill until the fever leaves. [as]


In the city where I traveled most often to satisfy my appetites lived a cousin whose own confused hungers were a cover for mine.

She was only too happy to accommodate my need for secrecy as she knew I would likewise never reveal her life either.

Little by little, with my poetry, looks, intellect, radical ideas, capacity for drink and drugs, I began to move in circles of the art world, hippie world, emerging radical politics, the drug world, with ease and increased popularity.

Not knowing, but when I suspected suppressing, that each movement in those various worlds was splitting me off from myself more and more, I came to accept the constant terror of knowing I was incessantly walking beside myself.

The double life I was leading, dutiful hard working son in the city of my family, acting out various roles in the city of my degradation, meant a constant increase of tension and anxiety.

Fear was the only constant in my life which transcended all the roles I was acting out.

The only antidote to such inner fear is exterior terror and so, like most addicts, I became addicted to danger.

In a movie theatre.

Early afternoon.

Maybe six people in the place.

Hunters all.

Man sits right next to me in a row where all other seats are empty.

Makes his gesture, and then gets up.

I know where he is going.

Accept the invitation even though all my instincts scream: danger.

It is the scent of danger which has me seduced.

Mid-activity I am being strangled with my own scarf.

Couple of vice-squad wandered in at that point.

The man and I covered for each other.

The cops left.

The man had lost interest after that and left without saying a word.

The real horror of that experience is not what it appears to be, that I was almost murdered.

In so far as that fact goes it was not my first brush with a possible violent death.

Nor would it be my last.

The real horror was that I was getting so out of control, becoming so controlled by my appetites and addictions that the experience of being strangled was a hedonistic elixir.

Torment and affliction is the…kind of damage the appetites cause in an individual…similar to the torture of the rack, where a person has no relief until freed from the torment of being bound by these cords…A person is tormented and afflicted when he reclines on his appetites as is a man lying naked on thorns and nails. Like thorns, the appetites wound and hurt, stick to a person and cause him pain….[at]


FINALLY the urgency to get beyond the passages written this day has eased and blessed fatigue is setting in.

How hard it is to recall those terrible years, knowing that they are not the darkest yet to be written about.

Were it not this sabbatical duty of the moment to write this I would likely have taken the binder notes and burned them…then suddenly my heart understands it is a good and holy thing that confession be wearying, painful, cause for weeping, experience of true penthos.

What a gracious and all merciful Father You are to forgive us so much!

How You infinitely honour the sacrifice of Your Son who poured Himself out drop by drop to the last drop of redemptive love that we might have mercy, again, again, again, again.

THROUGHOUT human history, within the ebb and flow of every civilization, cascading across time as bearer of the nation’s, the tribe’s, a family’s hopes, dreams, joys, sorrows; erupting from the deepest regions of the human heart; firing the imagination, pleading for mercy, lamenting, praising, vibrating a tiny bone which electrifies the brain and shudders the heart; soaring across the planets; strolling through the seasons; as solitary as a single voice lulling the Newborn to sleep in ancient cave, after the glorious clamour of celestial hosts, as tempestuous as the heated blood of opera, music is as if there were a permeable spot within heaven’s veil through which, under no doubt the incalculable interior pressure of the infinitude of Beatitude eternally sung, drips into creation angelic love song to Love.

Resonating within the human heart and soul, man takes his own capacity for speech and it is uttered melodiously, mingling with the sound of wind, dance of sunlight, choral of bird, tintinnabulation of first rounded metals, sensing too if tree were but dried and shaped and strung the very tears of angels would vibrate as violin, viola and join the every growing orchestra of the Children of God crying, crying, crying: Hear us O Father, bring us through the veil into the eternal dance and never ending song of Your glory!

These thoughts began to stir in my heart as I strolled about the neighbourhood along the railroad tracks, praying over the pulsating city, this dark, wet, late fall evening, praying the Sorrowful Mysteries as the millennia of sorrow seeps away into the dark mists of history’s night, while among the small houses of the countless factory workers strings of Christmas lights perform their own dance of anticipation that He will be born anew and hope will be the most universal aspiration of the human family as we cross the threshold of the new millennium.

Then I sat here at my desk, fired up the old computer to begin this writing and was moved to place a new CD in the machine…..ah how this poor priest is humbled by the stuff of his art…no music of fountain pen as it dances across paper, not even the experience once mine to sit, eyes closed, fingers barely touching a friend’s violin as I, the hearing one, kept my other fingers on the cheek of a deaf child to show her how the fingers could hear and through my fingers on that shaped wood, bowed with love by the elderly musician I heard for the first time!

 Now I listen as Chopin’s Ballade No.1, Op.23 in G minor, played exquisitely upon a finely tuned piano, travels through the mystery of lazar and electrical wire, magnified in headphones, sweeps through my ears, and dances across the pathways of my mind, dagger like plunges into my heart wounding my being with sheer delight!

….the pilgrim Church on earth lifts her gaze to heaven, to the immense throng of men and women to whom God has given a share in His holiness……Dear friends, this is our future! This is the most genuine and universal vocation of all humanity: to form the great family of God’s children……[au]


The sixties!

Sometimes I wonder if all of us who were young adults in the sixties need some kind, still, of spiritual purging of the impact upon us, physically, psychologically, intellectually, socially and above all within the depths of our souls.

Art, literature, music, hair styles, scientific effort, weapons of war, terrorism, drugs, sex, religion, Berlin Wall, Cuban missile crisis, drought, revolution, civil wars, Viet-Nam, assassinations, riots, Vatican II, the pill, Humane Vitae, the love which dare not speak its name by then never hesitating to scream, the Green Revolution, the millions of Red Guards terrorizing an entire nation, walking on the moon: and seemingly an entire generation either face down dead in rice paddies or walking dead stoned all across the globe in search of the ultimate affirmation of their being, denied them by the very means, mostly, of their searching.

My heart sees in the sixties generation the breaking out from the dusty shelves of philosophical disputation in the lives of the children of flowers and communes a nexus between the theories of the Enlightenment and the completely selfish determinism of the Utilitarianism mindset, resulting by century’s end in the inevitable materialist satiate of soul.

It is said that modern man has lost the experience of sin; unfortunately for him, he has not. Frequently he has no experience of anything else………Where sin goes unrecognized, so does salvation. More precisely, when the Christian word ‘sin’ no longer  evokes the modern experience of that reality, the offer of ‘salvation’, so expressed, will find few takers. People will look elsewhere for what they need to be saved from time experienced as dread and the bringer of death. [av]


Only now in my life do I dimly begin to understand that the immense effort and energy expended, so I thought, in the search for self and for some tangible affirmation of my being, was indeed that horizontal opposite: flight from true self.

Because I was fleeing the true self, my very being, this necessarily drew me into the constitutive flight from the Original Being, the Eternal One, the unique source and sustenance of my being: God the Father.

By this time in my life flight became not only a pedestrian activity, an interior struggle, nor merely flight by means of the drug induced wings which sheared the normal functions of the human brain off from any true experience of the mind as a touchstone for grace, but, the actual experience of flying.

With the need to replace immense inner panic with some more controlled fear, hence a powerful antidote to the fear I could not, would not face, flying was the ideal solution being at one and the same time terrifying in its experiential definitude and symbolic in its obvious aloofness.

Of course it also allowed me to extend the range of my hunter’s roaming for hedonistic adventure and enhanced anonymity.

I began to fly to various cities virtually every weekend, exhausting myself with terror and pleasure, arriving at work the following Monday barely aware of my environment, pulsating with the determination to forge through time with a frantic rapidity towards the advancing Friday of flight.

To use the old adage I was indeed burning the candle at both ends and my life was as a result becoming a pool of pungent tallow.

Like most other human beings my first flight was of those incredible first experiences which become a litmus test before which subsequent repetition of the activity always fails to excite as sweetly.

The jet left the city near midnight during a snowstorm and seemed, by sheer force and shudder of its engines to claw its way up some atmospheric mountainside until it reached the peak!

I was as one inside a Jona whale’s belly of steel and aluminum, not though as fleeing prophet, though now I understand the prophetic aspects of flight.

Once we were high enough in the night storm that I could no longer marvel at the toy-town aspects of lit city beneath I became so totally aware there was, discounting the jets hull, nothing beneath my feet, nothing but this throbbing jet belly between me and the ground, the sought for definable terror took hold and overwhelmed the normal state of panic in which I existed.

Some hours later as we began the descent towards the city I was traveling to the sheer beauty of flight, its mystery, the incongruity of the earth bound out distancing the winged creatures for whom the sky was originally blessed, took hold and I almost prayed.

But I did not.

To pray implied a taste for reality, for which, at that juncture, I had a total aversion.

For this is a characteristic of the person who is blinded by his appetites; when he is in the midst of the truth and of what is suitable for him, he no more sees it than if he were in the dark. [aw]


IT IS, [as I continue this written pilgrimage across the mystery of a life wherein the truth where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more, must by now be surely self-evident], the last morning of the last day of the last Liturgical Year of the last century of the Second Millennium of His Holy Incarnation!

For some weeks now I have written many letters, articles, poems, traveled, in a word struggled against this, which means frankly I have struggled against the ‘goad’ of His Holy Will, until finally grace conquered.

Truthfully I was given the grace to say yes to grace, and these past couple of days I have resumed this work, having been granted the further grace to accept a particular poverty, difficult for any writer, that my obedience is NOT, per se, for my writing ever to see the light of day.


{There was just a phone call, which has left me smiling, for I had outlined my whole day on a separate sheet, alternating this work and prayer, and planned an evening’s painting. My spiritual father has stressed the need during this sabbatical for suitable time for recreation and friends have offered a movie, right in the middle of MY schedule! }


My obedience is the Holy Will of the Father, which is, that I write.

Publication is His will to permit or not.

{I said yes to the movie.}

Again I draw from the original notes for this:

THE OVERCAST sky is swollen with yet another winter storm, soon to be born upon the wind.

The chickadees gorge themselves on seeds from the feeder outside my window, while frequently blue jays swoop down from the cedars trying to steal the food of the little ones.

Here in this priests’ dorm the raspy coughing of brothers not yet healed of the flu mingles with the constant hum of the blower, pushing wood furnace heat from the basement into each of these small rooms, which house the awesome mystery of weak men strengthened by sacramental ordination so that even our experience of the flu becomes a fragment of oblation!

It is the seventh and last Sunday of this season of Ordinary Time.

We have touched today the threshold of Great Holy Lent!


The turning, returning, season of grace.

The time to turn away from sin, self-preoccupation, other idols, and re-turn, or rather by a yes to grace be turned once more towards, enter the embrace of, the One Holy God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

O that every breath I take be Triune!

The season of metanoia, conversion, change of heart.

Those embraced in my childhood with all the passionate exuberance of giving up candy and saying extra prayers with exhilarating fervour; the less childlike Lents of my monastic days, when the fasting was deep, the hunger true, the silence profound, the metanoia exquisite, if painful.

As Lent most often in these climes occurs in the dead of winter, one of my un-Lent-Lents, my non-turn-return ones, was, unbeknownst to me at the time, a lent of great grace in the person of a woman.

I’d been doing community work with ex-cons, becoming rather close to one in particular. Sadly, not from any altruistic motive. He shared much in common with me, age, artistic talent, brokenness.

One day he suggested I come with him to the city where his family lived and meet THE woman in his life.

At first I was disturbed by this, rather desiring there be no woman in his life. But in spite of my own weirdness we were friends and I was always up for another trip.

It was an uneventful journey, and no surprise at all his family lived in the local projects.

His family embodied all the unfortunate stereotypes of project housing family life, yet their kindness to, and acceptance of me was genuine, though I was a bit taken aback at their casual assumption my friend and I would be sleeping together.

It was an approach to homosexuality I’d never encountered before and its affect upon me was to cause an inner sense of shame and confusion, feelings I immediately suppressed due to their potential danger of twisting into mature reflection.

After being there for two days and still not having met the woman of his life, in the evening while we were having beer and shooting pool in the neighbourhood hall I pressed the point, suggesting she was a mythical cover-up among his wider group of friends, those ignorant of his actual predilection.

He ignored my dig by assuring me I was to meet this very real woman the next day.

Morning came and he awakened me early.

We had some coffee and then got in his car and drove to the downtown, stopping in a lot across from an immense grey stone building, clearly built at the end of the nineteenth century.

It was a hospital!

Even at this very moment as I write these lines, reliving what I now know to have been, with the woman, a major graced friendship in my life, I recall nonetheless the deep sense of unease, indeed of being appalled, as we walked ever deeper, it seemed, into the bowels of that huge hospital complex, filled with the chronically, terminally ill.

Not the well insured ill either, but the poorest of the poor.

The hospital itself was poor: paint peeling, worn linoleum floors, ancient, rebellious elevators, windows of cracked glass in warped wooden frames which teased light through brownish grime to the music of incessant drafts while the entire place smelled heavy of the detritus human beings.

After walking some time down a particularly pathetic corridor in that palace of pathos we entered a room which seemed medieval in its atmosphere of the dark and hopeless rage of a putative existence.

I could not have been more wrong.

The putative existence was not that of the person in this room, rather it was the chosen state of attitude, purpose, of late twentieth century medicine which seeped into that room like some overflowing cesspool, whose waves slapped against the diamond hard soul of the room’s occupant, yet were incapable of drowning her.

As my senses tried to interpret the paradox experience of repulsion and being drawn towards the image before me, ‘ it ‘ , moved slightly and announced ‘ I AM ALIVE.’, and I staggered backward a step for the announcement was not of the fact of this woman.

It was He who spoke within me.

That was too much to bear.

On the bed before my eyes lay a mere hint of a human being, a woman whose body was all skin, bones, every limb twisted out of normal shape, eyes sunken as if they almost were not there, yet as they moved to search who has entered the room they flashed like the turning lamp of a lighthouse!

Tubes were running from various parts of her body, some upwards towards glass bottles of clear fluid, or cylinders of oxygen beside the bed, or downwards towards containers hidden under the bed.

The tv, small, black and white, fuzzy of picture, hung from a short chain embedded in the ceiling. It swayed ever so slightly, as if asserting it would un-expectantly crash to the floor. All the while the sound blared. A film of plastic was crudely tapped over the window, billowed by the pressure of winter’s wind, sounding as if enraged at its denied entry. An old iron radiator leaked steam with a constant hiss, but appeared unwilling to heat the room, which was cold indeed.

My entire being wanted to flee.

My entire being wanted to be accepted.

THIS was THE woman?

My friend motioned me closer to the bed in which lay what appeared to my rational being as more a creature of some medieval peasant’s nightmare than a human being, must less a woman whom I had just seen my friend bend down and kiss as if she were the Blessed Mother herself!

Indeed my friend, as he turned and motioned to me after he kissed her, was radiant. His eyes, normally hard, cold, cosmic black-holes, shimmered with brightness and tears.

I approached as easily as one cutting a path through dense jungle or swimming in a sea of molten lead, trembled as I bent down and barely brushed with reluctant finger tips the protruding collection of small bones which hinted at being a woman’s hand.

I would have been safe had I not dared glance towards the face and was struck in the core of my being by a glance from those heart-reading eyes.

She smiled silently and landed a dried flesh extremity upon my hand and declared: “ I think we shall become the best of friends. “

This was too much.

The leper’s kiss.

I fled in a heat of outrage that my friend had dared subject me to this encounter with horror.

Indeed I was in such a rage that when, about a half-hour later, my friend emerged from the hospital and was walking towards me, leaning against his car in the parking lot across from the hospital, I screamed my rage. We almost came to blows.

When the next day we returned to the city in which we were living, and he dropped me off, I walked wordlessly away from the car.

It didn’t take long after that incident for the friendship to dissolve.

Years later I heard he died in some prison.

Some years after my first meeting with her, in the meantime she had started writing to me and I was, at first strangely, almost as one mesmerized, compelled to write back, I found myself living in the same city.

By then the power of her insights, the passion of her compassion had touched me deeply and we were, indeed, the best of friends.

During the years I lived in the city I would see her often.

Many of her friends became mine, for she little by little roped us all in as volunteers in the seemingly endless projects she organized for that phenomena we have come to accept as a whole class of putative persons: poor, handicapped, elderly, homeless, unborn.

Though I was an atheist at this juncture she unabashedly spoke of the Suffering Christ, of the Loving Christ or the marvel of a life lived in complete union with Him.

These conversations were not easy for it could take her ten minutes of immense struggle to weave together the few words needed to form a complete sentence.

This created silence between the words, a silence like the jewellers cup bearing molten gold and each moment of silence tipped that fire-fluid into the recesses of my heart.

From this, the first of several “THE” woman-women in my life, comes my own passion for the anawim.

She told me once of the only gift she begged from her Divine Lover, having been crippled and abandoned at the outset of her teenage years with a disease that promised death, but failed to deliver: “ My one is to walk once more before I die.”

The last time I saw her was a few days before leaving the country on a planned Christmas holiday.

I had just completed the last of her Christmas cards, which I would write and then she would somehow manage to sign with her name. We agreed I would visit her immediately on my return and tell her all about the trip.

On my return I was met at the airport by my best friend, whom I’d met through her, and he told me what had happened:

       He and a couple of her friends had brought her to the hospital chapel for Midnight Mass.

At Communion time she had suddenly stood up and out of her special wheelchair and walked up to the astounded priest to receive her Lover Christ in the mystery of Holy Communion.

That evening she had died in her sleep.

She was not the first woman to have crawled a great distance in faith and hope to touch Him [Mt.9:20ff]!