Tag Archives: workers



THE TELEVISION news this day has several stories involving workers: a coal miners’ strike in one country;

 after an earthquake men buried alive in a gold mine in another; thousands laid off by a multi-national so the company can cut costs and increase the dividends to stock-holders; and yet another series of tales from the former USSR of workers, teachers, doctors, and so forth, not having been paid in months.


Stories too: of human beings hiding in the containers on great ships, for weeks at a time, seeking to make their way into the country, in hopes of a better life.

Elsewhere, to punish and control the neighbouring nation, one country periodically closes its border so those workers who daily cross over to earn bread are kept from work, their families without bread.

How many hours have I spent in the confessional listening to the exhausted, frustrated, men and women, who feel so powerless before the corporate giants, or even just in face of the foreman, or others with power over their daily bread.

During the almost two years I worked for that company which supplied contract workers, I would work from the highest towers in the financial district to inside a print-plant six stories below ground.

I would work in stocks and bonds, accounting, as a person asking questions for a polling company, bureaucrat for an engineering firm, a folder and binder in a print shop — added to my experiences over the years as a social worker, postman, lumberjack, tailor, working in a laundry, free-lance writing, dj, some months as a mechanic, time as a farmer, even time doing stoop labour of seasonal workers around the world — each work experience a gathered fragment of insight and understanding into what it means for men and women to be workers.

My heart believes part of the greatness of Pope John Paul II as shepherd is he too has the heart, hands, bent back, of a worker.

Only a priest who has known hard labour could have written this:

( In Memory of a Fellow Worker )

He wasn’t alone. His muscles grew into the flesh of the crowd,

energy their pulse, as long as they held a hammer,

as long as his feet felt the ground.

And a stone smashed his temple

and cut through his heart’s chamber.

They took his body, and walked a silent line.

Toil still lingered about him, a sense of wrong.

They wore grey blouses, boots ankle-deep in mud.

In this they showed the end.

How violently his time halted: the pointers on the low-voltage

Dials jerked, then dropped to zero again.

White stone now within him, eating into his being,

taking over enough of him to turn him into stone.

Who will lift up that stone, unfurl his thoughts again

under the cracked temples? So plaster cracks on the wall.

They laid him down, his back on a sheet of gravel.

His wife came, worn out with worry; his son returned from school.

Should his anger now flow into the anger of others?

It was maturing in him through its own truth and love.

Should he be used by those who come after,

deprived of substance, unique and deeply his own?

The stones on the move again: a wagon bruising the flowers.

Again the electric current cuts deep into walls.

But the man has taken with him the world’s inner structure,

where the greater anger, the higher explosion of love. [cn]


Yes, I watch the television news from time to time, especially watching for stories of workers from across the world.

Jesus, God-Incarnate, spent most of His time on this earth as a worker.

Priests MUST have a special love and passion for, a particularly acute attentiveness and willingness to serve, those who work.


I recall one lunch hour going to the trading floor, that place of shouting, gesticulating, ulcer spawning, greed slacking-enhancing ante-chamber to the actual power over peoples — multi-national corporations.

The place where you could become wealthy beyond one’s ability to consume — or even quickly loose more money in an instant, more than the average human being can even conceive of.


This was a place – or rather this had become our culture — of greed and death where you can no longer assume a job for your entire working life — where human beings are declared as redundant faster than a technology becomes outmoded — stocks having replaced sweat as a the measure of a man.


No longer actually coins or paper or even a plastic card — rather increasingly a series of data on some electronic network — gone the clink of coin dropped into a man’s calloused palm at day’s end, gone the pay packet handed a woman as the store closes of a Friday evening — indeed gone the worker’s weekend — the believer’s day of rest — for money demands we never slow down, never stop, twisting in our constant search for more, even as the world turns, as if the earth were turning about looking itself for a place to rest.

I watched the relentless rush from right to left — globally from east to west — of the endless ‘ ticker-tape’ electronic spew of data — symbols and numbers assuring those on the winning end, discouraging those who’d misjudged — of fortune to be made, fortune now lost.

Not a single human face upon the ‘ big board ‘, not a single thought that this frenzy of buying and selling affected the dignity of real human beings at the end of the day as they were ‘ downsized ‘ while the cost of bread rose, interest on their mortgage rose, the corner store closed because the big box store a few blocks over now controlled things.

Money, money, money.

For thirty pieces of it you can buy and sell the Innocent One.

I returned to my office after that lunch time visit to the trading floor, returned to my work transferring billions in stocks and bonds from one buyer to another, one seller to another, and watched one town rejoice while another sank deeper into emptiness.

Something stirred in my heart that end of day as I was putting things away at my desk.

My heart saw the disposable worker, the frenetic trader, the corporate captain, the holder of stocks as not unlike myself — each of us wondering who and why, from whence to where, and fearing the answer as much as the question.

I understand now what my heart was seeing, and feeling, as a fragment of love –but I quickly dismissed it.

The Holy Spirit would have to prod deeper before I would look into the light, listen to what He was speaking to my heart.

But it was another fragment and they were — no doubt by Our Blessed Mother — being gathered into the basket of my heart.

Money, to the degree that I was making it in those days, became a problem for me for a time.

It became something of a burden, especially as I blithely walked past the seemingly constantly growing number of homeless and panhandlers.

Initially I was determined to cling to my new found money, after all I needed things, didn’t I. Besides if I gave to one person, what about the next. And the next.

Then Lent came and my heart was moved from incipient greed to a renewed awareness of charity.

I began to understand that what I was experiencing as a burden – money – was in fact a treasure and that for virtually the first time in my life I was in a position to be truly generous.

I began to make sure I always had some coins in my pocket. True, I could not give to everyone but once every day I could give to someone.

Another fragment!

For several months then my life became a rather comfortable, if somewhat insular, existence.

I had my daily job routine; stressful though it was which often included attending Mass in the worker’s chapel. There were the evenings with my companion, weekends with friends in the various bars, theatres, money with which to indulge my passion for books, the time, the security of a comfortable home in which to read.

Money for fine dining, art galleries, time to write poetry, essays, to travel in comfort whenever I went to visit my spiritual father.

There was a dichotomy however which could not long be ignored between the orthodox true teachings being placed in my heart by my spiritual father and the advice being given me by priests I consulted in the city whenever I would approach the sacrament of confession and confess sins such as greed or my disordered relationship.

The city priests assured me that if I was, as they said ‘basically’, monogamous, there was nothing wrong with the way I was living.

In the depths of my heart I knew they were not speaking truth, just as surely as I knew my spiritual father was speaking truth.

Of course I was placing myself in the heart of the dichotomy because as much as part of me desired to live in truth the rest of me clung to my fears and addictions.

Thus in the midst of a seemingly benign routine of life I was increasingly stressed.

One day I doubled over at my desk in excruciating pain and found myself rushed to the nearest emergency ward.

Once the doctors found out where I worked they spoke to me as if I were just another over-stressed achiever.

They loaded me up on some strong antacids, having determined it was stressed induced stomach trouble, and sent me home.

My stress induced trouble had nothing to do with the job I was doing.

It had everything to do with the work I was not doing.

If a man is entangled in the things of this world, caught by their many shackles, and seduced by the evil passions, it is very hard for him to recognize that there is another invisible struggle and another inner warfare. – -St. Makarios of Egypt.

Within a few weeks I was going through a bottle of the antacid medicine every day.

Summer arrived and with it the extreme heat and humidity which annually takes such a toll on my being.

My conditioned worsened and I began to miss work.

Food, which always had been a last resort source of comfort, became intolerable as it seemed to fuel the acidic burning in my stomach.

I returned to the doctors and more tests were ordered.

Nothing definitive was found.

Looking back on it, given my lifelong acute anxiety attacks, I am surprised none of the doctors recommended a tranquillizer.

Here is another fragment though, for at that stage of my life had I calmed down through drugs I most likely would not have looked into my own heart.

Filled with the physical pain, struggling with increasing anxiety, feeling like my idyllic situation was beginning to unravel, I decided on a spur of the moment to go and visit my spiritual father.

Not having checked ahead of time to be sure he was there I was very disappointed when I arrived at The Community to be told he was away and would not return for a few weeks.

Crestfallen I headed towards the shrine of Our Blessed Mother.

As I was walking towards the shrine one of the hermit-priests was coming towards me, noticed my sadness and asked what was wrong.

I told him my woes and he invited me to open my heart more and to walk with him to his hermitage.

I did.

Once in his hermitage he said he would pray for me and blessed me with a relic of a true healing saint.

I call upon You, my God, my mercy, who made me, and did not forget me, although I forgot You. I call You into my soul, which You prepare to accept You by the longing that You breathe into it. Do not desert me now when I call upon You, for before I called upon You, You went ahead and helped me, and repeatedly You urged me on by many different words, so that from afar I could hear You, and be converted, and call upon You as You called to me. [co]



CHRISTMAS EVE 1999 and I sit in the tv room of the house of priests.

We have gathered because of the live broadcast from Rome of the Opening of the Holy Doors in St. Peter’s, the Proclamation of the Holy Year, the Great Jubilee 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

Even now as I write these words several days later my heart is still seeing so brightly the person of Pope John Paul, now called in my heart: The Great!

The image which most shines in my heart is the moment when this elderly man, priest, bishop, Vicar of Christ, Peter in the flesh, was kneeling on the threshold of the Holy Doors which he had just pushed open.

At first the camera was behind him, showing the interior of St. Peter’s still in darkness for the Pope had not yet walked through the doors carrying the Holy Gospels — Christ our Light had not yet entered and torn asunder the darkness.

Then suddenly there was a camera view of the Pope from within the basilica, which showed him bathed in light!

There he was, aged, kneeling, vested in a brilliantly coloured, cope which shimmered in the light coming from behind him.

The Pope knelt very still, head bowed.

Suddenly my heart was transported back across the decades and I beheld the younger man, the forced-labourer in the Solvay chemical factory under the Nazi occupation:

Fellow workers also remember Karol Wojtyla praying on his knees at the Borek Falecki plant, unafraid of ridicule and seemingly able to tune out the racket around him to concentrate on his conversation with God. [bq]

It snows now as I resume these notes.

It is a storm worthy of the majestic ones in Mark Helprin’s “A Winter’s Tale “!

Perhaps it comes from the long winters where I grew up, the joy of being all dressed in white, more so bathed in the purity of grace at my First Holy Communion. Maybe the connection placed in my heart by Our Lady of the Snows between the onset of winter and the wonder of His Incarnation — whatever the originating blessing, I love winter!

It is for me the season of tranquility, contemplation, journey inward, vast expanse of the great liturgical feasts, one expectant stillness after another, prelude to the spring explosion of Easter joy!

Lavishness of snow.

Lavishness of grace!

From this Lent’s extra spiritual reading, an apt description of how I came to be, for more than a decade, mired in the ever deepening chaos of sexual depravity, emotional confusion, all under the guise of modern personal, individual freedom.

It was, of course, in truth, a living in the constant state of mortal sin.

The mind that is the prisoner of conventional ideas, and the will that is captive of its own desire cannot accept the seeds of an unfamiliar truth and a supernatural desire. For how can I receive the seeds of freedom if I am in love with slavery and how can I cherish the desire of God if I am filled with another and opposite desire? God cannot plant His liberty in me because I am a prisoner and I do not even desire to be free. I love my captivity and I imprison myself in the desire for things I hate, and I have hardened my heart against true love. I must learn therefore to let go of the familiar and the usual and consent to what is new and unknown to me. I must learn to ‘ leave myself ‘ in order to find myself by yielding to the love of God. If I were looking for God, every event and every moment would sow, in my will, grains of His life that would spring up one day in a tremendous harvest. [br]

It would be years, and take a complete exhaustion of my physical and emotional resources, before I would lose my love of my own captivity.

It would take the death of Pope Paul VI before I would begin to accept in my own being the sowing of His grains of life and more, only by His grace, surrender to their taking root.

In those days the man I lived with, and thought I was in love with, [though in reality it was desperately needed affirmation from him rather than love], he and I, kept getting promotions in our different professions.

This made it possible to eventually move from our small apartment into a much better one, in a more upscale area of town.

The point of work, for us, was to have money for indulgence.

The point of indulgence was to relieve the inner fear and desperation for affirmation which was a constant of my existence.

Those were the days before aids; hence any deleterious impact by the prevailing std’s could be dealt with by antibiotics.

Emotional strain was dealt with more by cover-up than facing reality.

Perhaps as a society, certainly as individuals, and I was guilty of this at that time myself, we were overly adept at denial.

Cross-culturally internationally we are still in denial over even the most blatant costs of hedonism, which is destructive and sinful, so far-reaching in its inevitable, tragic consequences.

What of the souls lost?

Those were also the days of what I have come to call, among otherwise well intentioned priests, religious sisters, even significant numbers of non-catholic Christians, the bondage of relevance.

Everyone, it seemed, experienced an urgent need to make the Church relevant to the modern world, according to the so-called ‘spirit’ of Vatican II.

Most of those who wandered into the subculture of hedonism, anger towards God and Church, found themselves subsumed.

Recalling those years and begging God’s mercy not only for my participation in those sins, but for my time as an advocate for legal and theological change to accommodate the culture of self-centered hedonism, my heart cannot refrain, since I would suggest as we enter the 21st Century, the 3rd Christian millennium things are still grossly disordered, from posing the question, first to my own heart, but as priest necessarily to all: WHAT WILL SAVE US FROM THE WRATH OF GOD IF WE DO NOT SOON REPENT? begging of the Holy Spirit that He penetrate the depths of our souls with this truth, a truth which is hope-filled, which calls to true conversion of heart: 1 Peter 2 :24.

The other day I was in a local parish church. The pastor needed a time away to rest and recover from severe bronchitis and I was asked by the Bishop to cover for the priest.

One afternoon, I was sitting in the confessional, the curtain slightly ajar that I might see clearly the tabernacle to contemplate He who dwells there.

In those quiet moments I could also observe the people, mostly elderly women, who slipped quietly into the Church, knelling before Him in silent prayer.

Often they prayed their rosary beads.

I found myself reflecting what a powerhouse of prayer they are, radiating as only another woman can, utter confidence in the maternal intercession of the woman who is the Mother of God, our Mother Mary.

I often think, when those good women add the prayer of the Angel of Fatima, given to the three Fatima children, and through them to the whole Church, therein is to be found the prayerful intercession of thousands of ordinary Catholics throughout the century, praying for souls like my own, even in those days when I was an atheist-hedonist: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.

Of course my heart clearly knows, and accepts, the truth that I am that sinner most in need in the first rank. Nonetheless I am also confident when I pray the rosary that Jesus accepts the plea for whichever soul He chooses.

Each day as a priest I lift up with gratitude all those, as yet unknown to me, faithful people of prayer, living and dead.

Such prayer-warriors, such uplifting assistants, trace their mission back through the ages to Moses at prayer on the hill: Exodus 17: 11-14.

The most dramatic grace I experienced in the period of which I write here was due, I truly believe, to the intercession of such prayers as those of people faithful to the rosary, being offered even in this moment all over the world.

This prayer is particularly efficacious because Christ suffered for us and is therefore our perfect prayer Himself to the Father.

All prayer comes to the Father only through Christ, which grace then was to come into my being after the robbery.

It was a Friday evening and I had the weekend off from my duties.

My roommate happened to return to the apartment at the same time I did.

He noted the door was ajar and at first thought he or I had left it opened when the splintered wood around the lock made a different scenario obvious.

We stepped into the foyer and it was bare.

Even the carpet was gone.

Indeed the whole apartment, save for a near dead geranium tossed with its now broken clay pot into the kitchen sink, was all that remained of the furnishings, carpets, dishes, cabinets.

Though our personal papers were left scattered on the study floor, the filing cabinets in which they had been contained were gone.

Subsequent investigation by the police revealed neighbours had seen a moving van and assumed we were moving out.

Those thieves were never caught, our possessions never recovered.

But then, the truth be told, another thief had long before stolen what alone was of value from the depth of my inner being.

It was simply that now the apartment resembled my soul. [cf. Mt. 6: 19-21]

Standing in that cleaned-out apartment there had been a flicker of light somewhere deep in my being. In the true self, my soul.

That could have been a moment of metanoia had I simply said: Yes!

I preferred my captivity.

My heart recalls as I write that a line from a poem:

For sin’s so sweet, As minds ill bent

Rarely repent, Until they meet

Their punishment. [bs]