28            BETWEEN UNREAL AND THE REAL

FROM VESPERS of this Advent Sunday of Joy:

Creator of the stars of night,


 Your people’s everlasting light,




 Jesus, Redeemer, save us all,

 And hear Your servants when they call.

 Now, grieving that the ancient curse

 Should doom to death a universe,

 You heal all men who need Your grace

 To save and heal a ruined race.

 {Anon., 7th Century }


As I continue to draw from the reams of original notes for this book, written originally nearly a decade ago, it has become clear to me that back then I was not exercising proper discernment about detail.

The point of this book is to show how, in one particular life, where sin has abounded His grace has abounded all the more.

For that it is neither necessary, nor salutary, to include details which would distract hearts from openness to metanoia, true change of heart, conversion.

Details then are not as important as excerpts from a life which show that no matter what we may consider to be our capacity for sin, His mercy, is greater.

God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, is never outdone in generosity.

True, my obedience is to write, not to get published.

Hence this work may never be seen by anyone other than my spiritual father and a few persons close to me.

Discernment applies however, for there is always the danger when remembering of forgetting, forgetting to name sin for what it is and having an equally sinful type of romantic notion of a past for which the only proper attitude is contrition for my actions, unrelenting thanksgiving for His.

So once more from the original notes:


Feast of The Real!

The opening prayer for Holy Mass of the feast acknowledges this mystery of Christ dwelling among us, alive in the Holy Eucharist, as we make a pledge to offer ourselves to the Father, an undivided love to all our brothers and sisters.

Our lives poured out for them.

The life we are called to pour out is our very selves vivified by His own Self-Gifting in the Holy Eucharistic wherein we receive Him, communion of love, and because He fills us with His own Self-Gift we are enabled to make the gift of self, especially upon the poorest of the poor: our enemies.

I am on a doctor ordered rest before resuming my duties back in my own diocese.

Resting here in this small town air-conditioned rectory of a dear friend, and brother priest, there is time to resume this writing.

From time to time I leave this air-conditioned coolness to go, stand upon the porch, gaze about the neighbourhood of this southern town, which is sweltering in the unique mixture of heat and humidity that seems to form the very cadence of life in these parts.

I have been here long enough to recognize a — what is the day’s politically correct term, mentally challenged? — man who delivers flyers for local businesses.

If he sees me outside when he comes by he will smile, greatly, and rush towards me with genuine excitement: “Here Father!”, thrusting a fist full of flyers towards me, rushing away instantly I take them, my ‘ Thank-you.’ chasing him down the sidewalk.

Today was a flyer day and after the benediction of his smile I suddenly was transported in my heart back to the old neighbourhood of my childhood and saw again the little girl, challenged as this man, in the days when having a retarded family member was cause for shame.

But, perhaps because in our neighbourhood every family had been devastated through two World Wars and the Depression, by polio epidemics and the vagaries of life in general, there was no shame for her or her family.

 Indeed even the majority of we children saw her as joy, and she was indeed a joyful child.

She would always run up to me whenever I saw her and announce: “I pray for you all the time.”


Between my original leaving the neighbourhood, and my eventual return some few days after my priestly ordination, a quarter of a century would elapse.

The child’s now elderly mother, came to my Mass of thanksgiving.

Not seeing her daughter I asked about her.

I was told she had died the previous winter but, her mother assured me, even to the last day of her life, every evening, she had prayed for me by name.

…suffering…has a special value in the eyes of the Church. It is something good, before which the Church bows down in reverence with all the depth of her faith in the Redemption………TOGETHER WITH MARY, Mother of Christ, who stood BENEATH THE CROSS, we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man…….. …we ask all YOU WHO SUFFER to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak TO BECOME A  SOURCE OF STRENGTH for the Church and  humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil, revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your suffering in union with the cross of  Christ be victorious! [bi]

After that noxious incident with the voice from the phone I eventually started going to the out-patient psychiatric clinic at the main city hospital. Unfortunately the doctor assigned to my case had such a hatred for the Church he claimed nothing was wrong with me. It was all ‘them’.

Just before that happened my former superior tracked me down, how I forget. At any rate when he learned of my plight he contacted a friend of a friend and soon I was on the move again.

This time far out in the country to work as a hired hand on a farm.

Only these decades later do I realize how truly proverbial that was!

It was late fall when I arrived there.

 The situation I found myself in was terrible.

Suffice to say the elderly couple appeared to hate each other.

The old woman was an awful cook who favoured lumpy porridge, salty beef and boiled potatoes, never varying the fare the whole winter I worked that farm.

My whole time there I was denied access to all but a small attic alcove when it came to the house.

It was so cold at night I’d sleep with all my clothes on.

Eventually, to cope with the isolation and loneliness, I bought a transistor radio with a little earpiece.

During the long cold nights I would lie there in my attic room, listen to the radio station from the city, so far away often times the static cut out the music.

 I’d yearn to be back in the city.

IT IS eight months since I wrote the above, beginning with reflections on the feast of Corpus Christi.

I remember seeing around the same time a film version of one of my favourite Graham Greene novels: Monsignor Quixote.

Most powerful scene in the film, which remains on my heart, is the final struggle of the priest to surrender to faith in The Real.

The dying priest, clad in pyjamas as vestments, fire filled eyes as candles, the passion of his struggle compelling him to approach the seemingly barren stone altar, he celebrates Holy Mass with no book, no chalice, no un-consecrated bread upon paten.

He is there, going through all the gestures as if he were at the high altar in St. Peter’s, or in the poorest chapel in the most remote of mission territory, and was at table with Jesus in the Upper Room.

In order to become healthy, we must honestly narrate our heart’s love story to God and seek His insights as to how our hearts became so confused…..we can look at the past in total honesty and see it as it truly was….[bj]


This moved my heart to recall a powerful teaching of Pope Paul VI:

WE ALL – YOU, ME, EVERYONE – need a solid basis on which to build the edifice of the spiritual life.

The foundation for me comes in two words, two concepts of St. Augustine.

The great mystery of God for me has always been this: that in my MISERIA I still find myself before the MISERICORDIA of God; that I am nothing, wretched; yet God the Father loves me, wants to save me, wants to heal me out of this MISERIA, something I am incapable of doing left to myself.

Then the Father sends His Son, a Son who represents God’s mercy (MISERICORDIA), Who translates it into an act of love towards me, an act of complete self-abandonment to the Father because He must save me too, wretched as I am. But a special grace is needed for this, the grace of conversion. I have to recognize God the Father’s action in His Son in my regard. Once I acknowledge that, God can work in me through His Son: He gives me grace, the grace of Baptism. After the grace of being reborn to God’s life, my life becomes a tension of love, with God drawing me towards Himself. And the loving hand of God draws me onwards towards His mercy, which raises me up when I fall; I have to fix my gaze on Him to be drawn upwards yet again.

Always in all of us, there is this tension between my MISERIA and God’s MISERICORDIA. The whole spiritual life of every one of us lies between those two poles. If I open myself to the action of God and the Holy Spirit and let them do with me what They will, then my tension becomes joyous and I feel within myself a great desire to come to Him and receive His mercy; more than ever I recognize the need to be forgiven, to receive the gift of mercy. Then I feel the need to say grazie, grazie, grazie, thanks, thanks, thanks. And so my whole life becomes a grazie (gratia/thanksgiving/Eucharist) to God because He has saved me, redeemed me, drawn me to Himself in love. It is not anything I have done in my life that saves me, but God’s mercy. [bk]

Towards the end of that winter I had occasion to be in the city.

 I had a day off and was on the prowl.

I did not score either drugs or sex and as the time came to take the bus back to the hinterland, the job and living condition I hated, I was in a rage.

Running to catch the last bus in such a state I was incautious and tripped over a snow bank, crashing onto the street with such force I smashed my glasses and cracked open my skull.

Pressing a handkerchief against the wound to stop the blood, stubbornly I got on the bus, ignored the headache, was further enraged at what ‘deity’ would allow pain upon pain in my life.

 A few weeks later, winter past, my rage enduring, I quit that farm job and returned to the city.

Within weeks I was fully committed to such a depraved existence even the proverbial prodigal son would have been embarrassed by the depths of depravity and anger.

I had chosen to wallow in MISERIA, denying and declining any openness to His MISERIDCORDIA.

Suddenly I pause in this writing, and I see that young man, face smashed against the pavement in his rage, so utterly convinced in his broken being he is un-cared for, un-wanted, even of God, and I see YOU!

You, battered and beaten by the soldiers, in Your passion, took upon and into Yourself the real force of every blow, physical and emotional, self or other inflicted, which ever comes against us.

I see You kneeling beside my crumpled form, and it is Your hand, rather than a dirty self-held handkerchief, which stems the flow of blood.

Your shimmer this night of Your Holy Resurrection Octave Day, to the farthest reach of my consciousness, to the most profound depths of my being. Within the mystery of Your communion of love You are closer and more intimate to me than I am to my very self.

You lavish Yourself, but never overwhelm.

You gift Yourself, but never impose.

You love me so ardently I then yearn to be loved by You who has already, first, loved me, and in the loving You render me ardent to love everyone!

In the giddiness of being loved by You I yearn to run throughout the earth, crying, shouting, singing of You to all: HE IS RISEN!

Suddenly my heart understands there is no depth of miseria within which You hesitate to descend to seek us — and You will seek and find us again and again and again — even among the dead You descend and seek and seek and what can we do but cry out: Lord have mercy!


Allow my heart this night O Risen One to go with You into every street, to kneel with You beside every man and woman who has fallen, believes they are so crushed none is there to care or lift them up — let me be Your hands to lift and comfort them —

This pen must stop. These words, this night, must cease.