THERE ARE A mere fourteen days left of this century, this millennium, as I write these lines.

It is hard to discern what has people more preoccupied, their dwindling fears that the world is about to end soon or that there will be come so-called Y2K catastrophic event.


My own heart seeks to focus rather on the soon to be upon us celebration of His Birth and the beginning of the Great Jubilee Holy Year!

The world has been renewed by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and every Christian, in order to achieve his own salvation and sanctification, must be in spiritual communion with the mystery of this death and this life restored. [bm]

ONCE AGAIN I have some free time in which to put pen to paper and resume work on this book, already several years in the writing — which causes me to smile because it is at times akin to chasing a leaf in a fast running stream!

I am back in the south after my week visiting The Community.

Back at work as a hospital chaplain.

The other night as I returned here, picked up the beeper from my brother priest who had covered for me while I was away, I’d no sooner gotten in my car to head here, when the beeper went off.

I drove to the hospital ER, praying for whomever was in need that they live until I could get there and give them the Anointing.

The person I was called to see had tried to take their own life.

How immense the pain of one like ourselves, another human being, a person who has come to believe they are so alone, so not beloved, their pain so overwhelming, they have no option but to mortally wound themselves.

What added weight of sadness, what effort of Self-control over divine anger, must You have endured in the Garden as the crush of such terrible darkness which flows into a person about to immolate themselves for sheer despair, pressed down upon You.

The two basic needs, if I was to satiate my multiple wants, when I got back to the city, were accommodation and food — which, after a few weeks crashing with friends — I achieved by taking work as a janitor and security guard in a college residence.

At the same time I began the ever deeper journey into the labyrinthine world of drugs, homosexuality, Marxist and atheist thought, the latter actually not so much a matter of thought as surrender to the Zeitgeist.

Little by little through contacts at the college I began to resume my poetry, essays, and started work on a novel and a play.

Very quickly the toll on my physical and emotional health of poor diet, drugs, heavy drinking, countless escapades in the pre-aids world of deviance, began to make me even more interiorly angry and anxious.

Thus when the various ‘liberation’ movements, the anti-nuclear war movement, and the ‘free’ clinics ( legal, medical) movement began I was more than willing to participate, sometimes as a volunteer, sometimes as a ‘hired-hand’ — because I need the intellectual justification for my deviance on the one hand, my restless, seemingly purposeless, existence on the other.

When I look back across the decades at the lectures I used to give, the articles written, the drivel I expounded with such authority — well St. Paul’s word to the Romans 1:18-32 tidal waves me to my knees!

The simple truth is in those days I had become completely split from my true self, had lost all sense of personhood, and was thus constantly walking beside myself.

Indeed there would be times — for example in the so-called throws of passion — when it was as if I were a mere observer of the actions of a stranger.

I had entered a type of night of the living dead.

I had become a walking-wounded, too shocked by the violence done to my being to simply lay down and die.

Eventually — perhaps inevitably — I met a particular man with whom I attempted the simulacrum of marriage.

I lied to myself that this was an attempt to give love rather than simply be a taker.

The truth is you cannot make any kind of order out of a constant whirlwind of disorder.

However with this man I did get some semblance of focus into my turbulent life — I moonlighted with him as a DJ and with his encouragement made use of my talents, training and experience and applied for and was hired on as an investigative-social worker with the local child protection services.

That latter gave some purpose to my otherwise totally dissolute existence.

The relationship was, however, fraught with its own inbuilt fatality both because, as all such relationships un-exceptionally are, it was unnatural. Also, because it is constitutive of the lifestyle to seek always more, and different, experiences.

It lasted only the norm, which is about three years, for such a relationship, for it is impossible in such a relationship to make a true and complete gift of the self — because the very nature of the same-gender basis means that the only constant possible is sterility.

That did not stop me from becoming ever more adept at arguing the contrary as I became ever more deeply involved in the radical politics of so-called liberation.

Not all of my activism was to justify a disordered lifestyle. Some of it was genuine advocacy for the very poor, the homeless, etc.

Through such work I volunteered with a street project for the homeless, a project run by a woman who had previously been a missionary with the Church in the now non-existent country of Biafra.

Age was forcing her to cut-back on her work, indeed she was about to retire, when she asked me to come by and visit her office.

What follows is another example of how He is always at the door of our being, knocking {Rv.3:20} — and how Our Blessed Mother Mary is always saying to every human heart the words she spoke at Cana of explicit trust in Him [Jn.2:5].

All who knew this woman, were inspired by her, benefitted from her love, indeed she was a totally committed Catholic who took seriously the Gospel mandate of service to others, gathered on her last day for a surprise retirement party for her.

It was a pleasant enough gathering until she and I were alone in her office as things were winding down and she gave me a gift!

It was an ivory statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

An old non-Christian African man had carved it for her by way of gratitude for her care of his people during those horrific months of Biafra’s seemingly interminable agony which ended, as history shamelessly records, with that little country being wiped off the map.

As the woman gave it to me — I the deeply wounded, neurotic, atheist sinner — she said very gently, and with a respect which, frankly, awed me as much as unintended I am sure, shamed me: ” I pray to Our Lady every day for you. I pray you will return to the Church. I pray you will become a priest. “

I refused to take ‘it’ — actually was refusing to touch Our Blessed Mother.

She would not allow me to refuse and insisted if I had any respect for her at all that I accept the statue.

When I got home I stuffed it in the bottom of a trunk.

However over the years I could never, for long, forget that it was there!

Years later, after I had begun the journey of return to the Church, I took it out one day and put it in a place of honour, lit a candle before it and, of this my heart is sure, Our Lady smiled!

Many years after that, when I had been a priest for some time, I met a man who was in the same state I had been in when that woman first gave me the statue.

I told him the story, gave it to him, asking that someday when he was ready, secure in his return to the Father, he would pass on this presence of Our Blessed Mother.

There is one other event from those early years back in the city which had a tremendous impact upon me, at least insofar as the matter of drug use was concerned, for it scared me straight off drugs.

The man I was living with being away on a business trip, and I being such a pleasure and novelty addict — the two being inextricably linked — I went to a typical party for those days where nothing was taboo.

Besides the obvious drinks and drugs which were being consumed by one and all in great quantities, and the usual atmosphere in such a gathering, my deep inner being from the moment I arrived, detected a presence I was trying to deny, but must admit now that even then I knew, though again refused to pay attention to, it was an actual evil presence.

Sometime just after midnight I was aware I was ‘tripping’ on something I had not knowingly consumed and would find out much later someone had deliberately put large doses of LSD in people’s drinks, mine included.

Avoiding unnecessary detail suffice to say when I was alone in my apartment, some twenty-three stories above ground, it was as if the exterior walls were gone and I was being urged to step into the abyss.

I remember being utterly terrified beyond describing and yet somehow deep inside of my being knowing as well the only way I would survive what was happening was if I somehow anchored myself physically, and mentally willed myself immobile.

Thus I lay down on the bed and kept repeating to myself: “I will not move. I will not move. I will not move. “

I have no accurate memory of how long that went on, though I do have a sense of night turning to day, to night, to day, to night. Knowing it was over by the excruciating pain in my hands.

I had held on to the edge of the bed so tightly, actually grasping the steel frame, that I had cut both hands.

For years I lied to myself that I had survived by grit of my own will.

The truth is I survived because long before a single drop of my blood hit the floor of the bedroom during those hours of terror Someone else had stepped into terror and bled upon the ground for me:

We participate in this mystery only when we realize and admit that its content is our sin. Mankind’s sin constantly being relived in our own deeds and omissions today and yesterday and always; in all our daily rebellion and lassitude, interestedness and sharpness; in the indescribable evil deep at the root of our whole attitude towards existence. We understand here as much as we understand that in the agony of Gethsemane the ultimate consequences of our sin had their hour. Not before we have surrendered ourselves to the dreadfulness of that hour will we understand, really, what sin is. In the measure that we comprehend sin, we comprehend Christ; and we comprehend our sin only in the measure that we experience what he experienced when He sweated blood in the night.[bn]