Saturday, 1 January 2022


Today is the first day of the year 2022. I have been ‘on the road’ for the last month or so and have found it difficult to settle in for some ‘blogging.’ Today, however, I feel a duty to conquer excuses and to write something. The duty is to myself because I promised myself to keep my blog alive even when circumstances were not conducive to pondering and to writing. This duty is not to be confused with a new year resolution. This duty is more in line with discipline. I said I would be faithful to my blog and so I need to discipline myself.

The photo above shows the duty of the sun. However natural is this duty, the sun is supposed to shine every day. The sun in this morning’s sky over Montana is fulfilling its duty, yet rather than glaring with heat, the sunshine filters its heat and light through crystalline clouds making for a rather beautiful invitation to enjoy the new year. The natural duty of the sun and of all of nature is to follow a daily routine, a fixed responsible for the whole earth, one side at a time. This natural flow springs from the common understanding that a creative God set all things in motion for a purpose.

This means that even though the sunshine may not be visible, daylight is clearly here from sunrise to sunset. Even if it may not shine brightly, the sun is doing its ‘thing,’ shining high above the clouds. I think it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who commented on this regular and sometimes unnoticed duty: “All I know of tomorrow is that the sun will rise with providence.”

This year we will all have duties to fulfill. Duties to God, self, family, work, country, community. For many, some of these duties will be easy to fulfill because they are natural, such as to sleep and to consume food and water. For others, even this natural duty will be too difficult to fulfill because food and water will not be available. This, some say, is the cruelty of nature at work. Others will claim that the lack of natural resource requires the duty of everyone who has to share. Yes, even duty conjures up a moral code.

May this year bring with its 365 days a sense of duty to fulfill a moral code that rests upon all humanity. May we all be somewhat like a New Year’s Day sun, as shown above. We may not be able to give enough light and enough warmth to everyone, but we will be able to give it intensely to someone. In that one duty fulfilled, a beauty will be revealed. This beauty is not of or for oneself because duty does not seek its own reward. This beauty will be of all of and for humanity, including that which is divine.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 28 November 2021


Today, the Republic of Panama celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of independence from Spain. A few weeks earlier, on 3 November, Panama celebrated Separation Day, which commemorates independence from Colombia. These separations are noted in the logo that Panama is using in its bicentennial celebration. The Spanish flag colors blend into those of Colombia and finally into Panama’s national flag colors.

Independence is a natural yearning. Everyone, everything wants and needs independence. From the moment we are born, we are on the path to independence. Erik and Joan Erikson collaborated in the human development theory known as psycho-social development. This 20th century theory gained widespread acceptance for its practical and immediate application to human life. In other words, the theory of the proposed eight stages of development seemed to match reality and so the Erikson stage theory became very popular among laity even while it was only one of several theories of human development.

Stage Two, according to the Eriksons involves a period of self-doubt/dependence versus independence. Read what is presented below and see for yourself that you very likely went through this period successfully or unsuccessfully. Parents will note this stage as a difficult stage that requires tons of patience!

  • Toilet training plays a major role; learning to control one’s body functions leads to a feeling of control and a sense of independence.
  • Other important events include gaining more control over food choices, toy preferences, and clothing selection. 
  • Kids in this stage of development often feel the need to do things independently, such as picking out what they will wear each day, putting on their own clothes, and deciding what they will eat. While this can often be frustrating for parents and caregivers, it is an important part of developing a sense of self-control and personal autonomy.

Societies, nations, and cultures also desire independence. In fact, world history seems to be a story of constant struggle for independence. Biblical history makes the claim that Adam and Eve fell to the urge for independence and this narrative reflects both the reason for order and disorder. God created all as dependent on a created and right order and the break for independence resulted in a sort of chaos. Human history is the story of seeking independence for good or for bad.

In 1985 President Jimmy Carter published a book called The Blood of Abraham: Insights into the Middle East. It was well-received in its day as an insightful way of understanding the Middle East Conflict and how a solution to it might be found. From a biblical perspective, Carter attempted to show how Patriarch Abraham’s blood flowed through the veins of all parties which were part and parcel of the conflict. Carter’s point was that independence for any party was essential to each party’s survival and that none in the conflict would ever be independent if they weren’t all independent.

Of course, the Middle East is not a particular epicenter of conflict for independence. It’s not just a special commemoration in the United States of America or of Mexico, but a worldwide tapestry of celebrations. As indebted as I am to the compiler of the list below, it remains to be said that it is incomplete, so powerful is the quest for independence. Just this month Barbados became completely independent from the British Monarch and thus was established as a republic with its own head of state.

1AfghanistanAugust 19
2AlbaniaNovember 28
3AlgeriaJuly 5
4AngolaNovember 11
5AnguillaMay 30
6Antigua and BarbudaNovember 1
7ArgentinaJuly 9
8ArmeniaMay 28
10AustriaOctober 26
11AzerbaijanMay 28
12Bahamas, TheJuly 10
13BahrainDecember 16
14BangladeshMarch 26
15BarbadosNovember 30
16BelarusJuly 3
17BelgiumJuly 21
18BelizeSeptember 21
19BeninAugust 1
20BoliviaAugust 6
21Bosnia and HerzegovinaMarch 1
22BotswanaSeptember 30
23BrazilSeptember 7
24BruneiJanuary 1
25BulgariaMarch 3
26Burkina FasoAugust 5
27BurundiJuly 1
28CambodiaNovember 9
29CameroonJanuary 1
30CanadaJuly 1
31Cape VerdeJuly 5
32Central African RepublicAugust 13
33ChadAugust 11
34ChileSeptember 18
36ColombiaJuly 20 and August 7
37ComorosJuly 6
38Congo, Democratic Republic of theJune 30
39Congo, Republic of theAugust 15
40Costa RicaSeptember 15
41Côte d’IvoireAugust 7
42CroatiaOctober 8
43CubaJanuary 1
44CyprusOctober 1
45Czech RepublicOctober 28
46DjiboutiJune 27
47DominicaNovember 3
48Dominican Republic27-Feb
49East TimorMay 20
50EcuadorAugust 10
51El SalvadorSeptember 15
52Equatorial GuineaOctober 12
53EritreaMay 24
54EstoniaFebruary 24
55EswatiniSeptember 6
56FijiOctober 10
57FinlandDecember 6
59GabonAugust 17
60Gambia, TheFebruary 18
61GeorgiaMay 26 and April 9
63GhanaMarch 6
64GreeceMarch 25
65GrenadaFebruary 7
66GuatemalaSeptember 15
67GuineaOctober 2
68Guinea-BissauSeptember 24
69GuyanaMay 26
70HaitiJanuary 1
71HondurasSeptember 15
72Hong KongJuly 1
75IndiaAugust 15
76IndonesiaAugust 17
77IraqOctober 3
78IrelandApril 24
79Israel(On or between April 15 and May 15, depending on the Hebrew calendar).
80JamaicaAugust 6
81JordanMay 25
82KazakhstanDecember 16
83KenyaDecember 12
84KiribatiJuly 12
85PDRK (North Korea)August 15
86Republic of Korea (South Korea)March 1
87KosovoFebruary 17
88KuwaitFebruary 25
89KyrgyzstanAugust 31
90LaosOctober 22
91LatviaNovember 18
92LebanonNovember 22
93LesothoOctober 4
94LiberiaJuly 26
95LibyaDecember 24
96LithuaniaFebruary 16
97MacauDecember 20
98MadagascarJune 26
99MalawiJuly 6
100MalaysiaAugust 31
101MaldivesJuly 26
102MaliSeptember 22
103MaltaSeptember 21
104MauritaniaNovember 28
105MauritiusMarch 12
106MexicoSeptember 16
107MoldovaAugust 27
108MongoliaDecember 29[4]
109MontenegroMay 21
110MoroccoNovember 18
111MozambiqueJune 25
112MyanmarJanuary 4
113NamibiaMarch 21
114NauruJanuary 31
115Netherlands, TheJuly 26
116NicaraguaSeptember 15
117NigerAugust 3
118NigeriaOctober 1
119North MacedoniaSeptember 8
120Northern CyprusNovember 15
121NorwayMay 17
122OmanNovember 18
123PakistanAugust 14
124PanamaNovember 3 and 28
125Papua New GuineaSeptember 16
126ParaguayMay 15
127PeruJuly 28
128PhilippinesJune 12
129PolandNovember 11
130PortugalDecember 1
131QatarDecember 18
132RomaniaMay 9
133RussiaJune 12
134RwandaJuly 1
135Saint Kitts and NevisSeptember 19
136Saint LuciaFebruary 22
137Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesOctober 27
138SamoaJanuary 1
139São Tomé and PríncipeJuly 12
140SenegalApril 4
141SerbiaFebruary 15
142SeychellesJune 29
143Sierra LeoneApril 27
144SingaporeAugust 9
145SlovakiaJuly 17
146SloveniaDecember 26 and June 25
147Solomon IslandsJuly 7
148SomaliaJuly 1
149South AfricaDecember 11
150South SudanJuly 9
151Sri LankaFebruary 4
152SudanJanuary 1
153SurinameNovember 25
154SwedenJune 6
155SwitzerlandAugust 1
156SyriaApril 17
157TaiwanOctober 10
158TajikistanSeptember 9
159TanzaniaDecember 9
160TogoApril 27
161TibetFebruary 13
162TongaJune 4
163Trinidad and TobagoAugust 31
164TunisiaMarch 20
165TurkmenistanOctober 27
166TuvaluOctober 1
167UgandaOctober 9
168UkraineAugust 24
169United Arab EmiratesDecember 2
170United StatesJuly 4
171UruguayAugust 25
172UzbekistanSeptember 1
173VanuatuJuly 30
174VenezuelaJuly 5
175VietnamSeptember 2
176YemenNovember 30
177ZambiaOctober 24
178ZimbabweApril 18

I’ll close this blog with a warning about independence. It really doesn’t work without interdependence. As ironic as this sounds, we must remember the blood of Abraham, the father of many nations. Reminiscent of a common human blood, we also hear from the poet John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Image borrowed from:


Thanksgiving Day will soon be celebrated in the United States (of America) to commemorate the original day of thanksgiving, when according to some historians, “In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. ( The traditional image of this feast looks like this:

However, chapters 42 and 43 of the Book of Genesis give us a different insight into what is meant by the word, thanksgiving. Rabbi Menachem Feldman, in his article The Thanksgiving Jew (, offers some excellent similarities between what we read in the Bible about Jacob and his 12 sons and what brought puritans to Plymouth in the first place.

The two paintings I have shown here are remarkable in similarity and perhaps this is not an accident when we ponder the meaning of thanksgiving. The first painting shows Joseph (in Egypt) with his youngest brother Benjamin at his feet. Joseph’s brothers who once sold him into slavery do not recognize their brother seated on the throne, but Joseph knows who they are. Judah, the fourth brother has convinced their father, Jacob to permit them to bring Benjamin to Joseph, a condition for freedom for one brother who was kept as a ransom. The painting suggests various serious life-or-death moments of personal encounter and supplication for freedom.

The second painting shows a woman offering food to the Wampanoag chief. All eyes seem to be upon him. The scene is serious, but the friendly smile of the Puritan woman suggests that all those gathered can peaceably depend on each other now that they have gotten to know each other in trust. Looming in the background, however, are trees that simulate a dark fog that clears as it goes up the so-called ‘plymouth rock,’ the first step into or place of freedom.’

The important background to each story is the common hardships that Jacob, his sons, and in particular Joseph and the Puritans faced during their journies to freedom. The Puritans had been searching for a place of tolerance while Jacob and his sons has been searching, however unwittingly, for freedom from their sin of selling Joseph and thereby putting their father into slavery to grief. Knowing the harsh claim of trouble and the absolute need for freedom, both the tribes of Israel and the Puritans naturally feel a closeness in knowing each other, and therefore, as Feldman suggests, feel thankful.

Rabbi Feldman points out that Judah, the fourth brother who takes on the responsibility for the life of Benjamin and his imprisoned brother, means thanksgiving. When Judah was born, his mother Leah said, “This time, I will thank (odeh) the L-rd!’ Therefore, she named him Judah (Yehuda). ” By the way, the Hebrew word for ‘gratitude’ is hodaah. Feldman adds and further indicates that hodaah is the root for the word Judah. Interestingly enough, todah is the Hebrew word for Thank you.

Thanksgiving usually comes from a common struggle with a problem as we see with the pilgrims and the sons of Jacob. It can be argued that this is still true today. Feldman illustrates this by making this analogy: “A mother does so much for her child, yet does the child really appreciate it? The child may only take the mother for granted, thinking that she is doing what she is supposed to do as a mother. After all, argues the child, isn’t this her job? The only way the child can genuinely feel grateful is if he adopts her perspective, if he appreciates all her sacrifices and all the time she lovingly dedicates to him.”

Now I add that in early colonial times and up to the American Civil War, the thanksgiving day meal was celebrated in different ways in different colonies and later in different states. After the civil war, however, President Lincoln realized that both sides of the war had suffered as Americans. He had declared throughout the war nine various times days of thanksgiving and praise but the ninth proclamation set the day as the last Thursday of November 1863 and this day was eventually declared a national holiday.

Civil War artist Alfred R. Waud sketched this Thanksgiving scene at a Civil War camp in 1861 (Library of Congress)
Image borrowed from:

Being thankful is natural to the human heart, but gratitude still seems to come stubbornly from the recesses of the most difficult human experiences. I don’t think that it has to be this way, but we humans seem to learn only the hard way. Perhaps this is why gratitude and the reasons for true thanksgiving are, in fact, precious.

Saturday, 13 November 2021


Socks, I suppose are not the subject of too many deep thoughts among us. I need and use them and probably have gone through hundreds and hundreds of pairs in my almost-66-years (yes, even baby socks). Here is a photo of my socks (not the only pair I presume!) when I was three years old (c. 1957-58). I never knew these socks but they look pretty good with the shoes as I am seated for a portrait photo. I often wonder if the phototogher liked the shoes and socks and decided that they should be featured in the portrait. Of course, my parents get the credit for this fashionable display. As I said, hundreds of pairs have fit my feet through the years, but this is the only pair that are featured photographically in nearly 66 years of wearing them. Clearly I wasn’t thinking so fondly of those of socks some 63 years ago. But, now I am.

There are lots of different types of socks and socks made for various activities. Here’s a brief list I culled from google search. Socks are part of the huge fashion industry: Loafer, tennis, workout, no show (I think these are, in some circles, called ‘invisible’, casual, everyday, athletic, dress, crew, golf, running and low-cut, just to name a few. As I say, I have not given much thought to these varieties, but I am aware of these appelations. Some of them refer to the actual fit of the sock while others refer to the activity during which one would wear them. I’m not sure of the difference between casual and everyday socks, but these I guess would be my type of sock. Dress socks fit the bill as well, but are less and less what I need or want.

In recent history, socks for a man always matched the color of his tie. This was the fashion for the well-bred in the 60s and 70s. It’s probably still the rule, but rules don’t seem to mean much to anyone these days. The rule is akin to the old rule that one drinks white white with fish and poultry and white wine with meats. This has also gone out the window.

Socks these days are more a personal statement than a functional need. Every once and awhile I wear ‘statement’ socks. When frivolous I wear socks with designs reflecting popcorn, lemons and the Mario Brothers. When I think I need to be noticed, I wear bright striped socks. If I’m feeling reserved, serious or not otherwise wishing to call attention to my ankles, I wear dressy patterned socks in grey and black. As I write this, I guess I really do think about socks and almost on a daily basis.

There was a time when I wore nothing but black socks. In religious life as a Benedictine, black was the color de rigueur. They blended in with black shoes and black pants and a black habit (what members of religious orders wear). Even going out to work in parishes, I stuck with black shoes (this is still pretty much the case) and matching black socks and never gave it a second thought.

In the monastery, black socks were a dime a dozen and they were washed in large washing machines along with everybody else’s black socks. The tradition then was to have sewn into your socks (and most other clothes) a name tag. Despite the tags and true to the nature of socks, every once and awhile a missing sock would show up on your room’s doorknob or in your mailbox. One black sock seeking to escape could easily blend in with all the other escaping socks, but the name tags distinguished and brought them home. The fraternal thing to do was to return the wayward sock to the rightful owner.

Religious and secular holidays are a time for festive socks to make an appearance. It’s interesting to note that there, to my limited knowledge and experience, have never come across an ‘ugly socks’ contest. Sweaters yes, but not socks. Perhaps, socks have an understated role in our fashion, offering just a hint of color or design. These holiday socks are whimsical while others I have seen are more serious with the intent of really showing one’s devotion or religious faith. To this end I have seen nativity scene socks, Jesus and saint socks. Here, I remind the reader that all socks are a part of a huge fashion industry!

One of my brothers is an excellent knitter who uses the very best of yarns. He knits his own socks and wears them proudly. To me, they look warm, but I guess the quality of the yarn contributes to both comfort and good wicking. At any rate, they look great on him and distinguish his ankles in any crowd. I once noticed that one of his socks had two different colors and I took it to mean it was an intentional design for that je ne sais quoi look. “No,” he said, “I just ran out of yarn.”

Another brother fits well into my thoughts about socks. It is his Christmas custom to gift his siblings with homemade almond roca and a practical gift. One year, he sent me some black Dickies socks. Black was good, but they were pretty thick to wear with dress shoes. Of course, I kept them and brought them down to Panama. They rested in my drawer for a long time until I thought to give them a try. The reason for the trial was that all my other socks had absolutely no wicking properties and would have to be rolled off at the end of the day. The humidity in Panama is quite high and walking around only adds to the wicking problem. I got tired of the peeling off of socks and decided that the Dickies might serve me well. They did and they stretch on comfortably and stretch off without sticking to me! This is what I call a gift that was waiting for the right moment!

So ends my epistle about socks. But, before I sign off I leave you with a photo of a pair of socks that do double-duty. They warm your feet and keep your money and passport safe. It would be interesting to see the wearer of these socks roll up his pant leg to pay a restaurant bill. By the way, the enclosure pocket has a zipper.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Image borrowed from


We often hear that the devil is in the details. While that may be true in contract law (haha), it isn’t true with regard to the purpose and necessity of details. Even simple things in nature or in human design are complicated in detail. For example, dissertations have been written about so many things we take for granted. There are amazing details of the general phenomenon of sorption and its varieties, absorption, adsorption, and ion exchange. All we know is that a paper towel absorbs well or it doesn’t. The details explain why one towel is better than another. The details of nature are equally brain-boggling yet most of us settle for less detail and opt to react to it with lazy descriptive words such as beautiful, or awesome. Remember the inquisitive child’s question, “What makes the sky blue?” We are naturally disposed to detail, but just as naturally dismiss it.

The photo above shows a beautifully designed building. One can marvel at the gathered forces, which ultimately manifested themselves in this façade and we say, ‘cool.’ To look at the pages of architectural drawings will boggle the layman’s mind, but entice the trained architect to analyze the details and appreciate the quality of the design details with all its nuts and bolts.

As a priest, I have been part of three major architectural ventures. During my first parish assignment was built a new parish church. In another parish, I worked with an architect to completely renovate a rectory and during one of my last assignments, I was part of the construction of a small mission parish church. In all three cases, I was always amazed by the details that went into the final product. Professionals who were trained in various parts of construction knew the details well when they looked at architectural plans. In the end, something came together. I truly appreciated the details that went into floorplans, electrical installations, water pipes, etc.

Details have everything to do with appreciation for design whether it be natural or manmade. I was visiting a Scottsdale museum with my sister and brother-in-law. Lots of artifacts were under or behind plexiglass shields or cases. My brother-in-law had earlier introdcuced me to an interesting term, ‘museum quality.’ This quality indicates a well-made plexiglass case in which edges were joined in crisp and perfect clarity. This is a detail I would not have been aware of, but now I am keen to make judgments about the quality of display cases. Not that I am an expert in such design, but now I at least know which required details of design make the difference between museum quality and shall I say an ‘inferior-quality?’

I was once in the hospitality industry. Detailed training of staff in all departments of a hotel was essential to good and profitable management as well as helping staff to enjoy and take pride in their work. For the customer, the details at work in the service at a hotel are a non-issue, but the customer also knows the difference between good service and poor service. To this day, I still notice if restaurant servers use trays to serve something like a cocktail. I think this detail of service is losing traction and quickly disappearing.

I am not a sportive person and have never paid attention to the details of sports like baseball or football. Completely incompetent in these sports, I am amazed when I am made aware of the details at work in any game. I once listened to a lady who was viewing a tv football game. With each play in the game, she was so appreciative of a great pass and a great catch and equally concerned about the details of a coach’s play plan. This kind of attention to detail probably makes the game more exciting to people who appreciate the details that are a blur to me.

Appreciation of the arts such as drama, literature, cinematography, music, photography, and graphics all have at their heart, details. Sometimes a masterpiece is simply appreciated as a common reaction. Everyone says it is a masterpiece, so I agree and give no other thought to the details of what makes for a masterpiece. This is not bad in and of itself, but the masterpiece is called such because of the intricate details applied by the master. The details of perspective, color, texture, subject are all purposeful. Without the details, a would-be-stellar masterpiece would only be a dull piece of art.

While the devil may be in the details, and it is in certain circumstances in life, beauty far outshines comeliness. Beauty is the product of natural or manmade details while ugliness is the product of generalities and thoughtlessness. By our own human nature, which is extremely detailed, we know the difference between coordinated details and chaos.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Image borrowed from


Yesterday, I was in a car parked in a lot, waiting for some friends visiting Panama City. They soon will return to the United States so they were busy in the lot getting the needed negative covid antigen tests. Passing the time, I was looking around and my eye came across a wall with glass shards embedded in a layer of dried cement. Immediately, my mind went to Ein Kerem (a Jerusalem suburb) where I lived for six months during my seminary training. The Franciscans there had the same shard glass topping on their wall. When I saw this for the first time, I thought that it would be quite a deterrent for someone thinking about climbing the wall! Through the months I saw many such walls in Israel and yesterday in the San Francisco neighborhood of Panama City.

I did not grow up with outdoor walls, but white picket fences. They were very pretty and fun to keep one’s balance while walking on the upper support beam, but they were also a nuisance to have to paint! They also allowed for a clear distinction of property lines yet permitted for over-the-fence chit-chat, the petting of friendly neighborhood of dogs, and old-fashioned seeing what neighbors are up to. As such, outdoor walls were friendly in nature to me.

I didn’t give much thought to walls until I was a monk at Saint John’s Abbey. The community was concerned about some degree of privacy in the front area of the monastery. The concern was not selfish because it also intended to provide more privacy for those who were lodged in the first-floor guest rooms. It was common that visitors to the campus would wander into more or less private areas, not to invade privacy, but just to see more. A wall was the agreed-upon solution, but the community was also very sensitive to any perceived violation of the Benedictine spirit of hospitality. The design therefore of the wall was to be high enough to say, “I am a wall”, yet the community elected to insert a large open space in the middle length of the wall. The open space said, “We’re here.” The main entrance of the wall did not have a gate and this said, “Welcome.” It was a good wall.

Being in the priesthood studies program at the School of Theology at Saint John’s University, I was privileged to spend a semester in Jerusalem. This is where I saw my first menacing wall. I also saw many more walls of such a nature in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Some walls were covered with barbed wire, some had razor-blade-like toppings. As I said, my upbringing never put me in contact with scary or mean walls. Although, I do remember visiting a penitentiary in Montana; That had scary mean walls!

When I moved to Phoenix, I encountered outdoor walls galore. Six-feet high walls were part and parcel of every development. I often wondered why walls were so prominent, especially in the newer areas of the metropolitan area. Surely, they provided a modicum of privacy and perhaps even safety? Some suggested that walls were a way of keeping blowing dust at bay. That also made sense, but Phoenix is not particularly known as a windy city unless it is in monsoon season which produced (at least in the old days before the city grew so large) rainstorms and huge walls of dust called haboobs. A six-foot wall could not protect any property from dust and debris. Alas, Phoenix is a city of walls no matter the rationale for them.

A wall of dust (haboob) invades the Phoenix area. Image from

Above is a photo of a portion of the Great Wall of China. This wall is enormous, as high as it is wide and long. It was built during various centuries to keep enemies from the west out. Today, of course, it is a tourist attraction. Most people remember the misery of the Berlin Wall and its famous erection and demise in 1961 and 1989 respectively. Israel has built a wall, the United has built a wall and so have many countries, nations, and principalities. The basic idea was for protection, but walls also grew out of hatred, fear. A general idea about walls too is that they never deliver on their promise to protect. No matter the wall, people will find and have found a way to crash it.

There are lots of wall in the Bible. Psalm 18:29 indicates that God can help you leap over a wall…. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall (English Standard Version). Of course, everyone knows about the crashing of the walls of Jericho: By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days… (King James Version, Hebrews 11:30). Depending on your bible, walls are mentioned from 58-63 times!

I have no regrets about encountering walls in my life, but I have certainly known they are of various characters: protective; mean-spirited; delineating, and even aesthetically necessary. In the wend, the best walls eventually fail or get by in their duty without a gate.

Monday, 25 October 2021

Image borrowed from


Bilocation has been a conceptional quagmire for centuries. And why has such an imbroglio come to my mind? The answer is simple. Today, I received an advertisement from a French Catholic tv network about a special film that was going to be shown on KTO (a channel) at 8 PM. Being seven behind Paris, I was able to tune in at 1 PM here in Panama. The special show was about Mère Yvonne Aimée de Jésus (de Malestroit), that is Mother Yvonne Beloved of Jesus (who lived in Malestroit, France). She was a member of the Augustinian religious order of the Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus. Rather than to complicate things any worse with technical lingo, here is a photo of her as a girl and as a sister.

Mother Yvonne (I will take the liberty to abbreviate her name to Yvonne) was born on 16 July 1901 and died at the age of 49 on 3 February 1951. Her life is recounted in several biographies and each mentions extraordinary events. These events include bilocations and spontaneous displacements from one place to another. The latter includes not only the person but objects as well.

Sound interesting? Here are some accounts of each, which come from a blog attached to (Bloggers are encouraged to read blogs other than their own!) Believe these accounts or not, it is interesting to note that the religious order to which Mother Yvonne belonged adds that three well-qualified and esteemed religious advisors who knew Mother have no argument with the stories.

In several instances of spontaneous displacements during one early morning, Yvonne is asked by Jesus to deliver a secret message in her own voice and therefore in person. Yvonne, at the time was in Paris and was ‘transported’ to a beautiful country chateau. She rings the bell and announces (à la Gabrielle) the message to an unidentified person. This happened about 1:30 in the morning. Yvonne thought that she would have to spend the rest of the very early morning in the nearby forest, but all of a sudden she found herself in front of the convent in Malestroit at about 4:00 AM. Paris, by the way, is about 368.4 km (229 miles) from Malestroit.

At about 5:00 AM, she found herself in front of the Carmelite House in Vannes (35.8 km or 22 miles between Vannes and Malestroit) when at around 6:00 AM, she meets her spiritual director Fr. Crété. Later that morning, Yvonne needs to return in a train to Paris and, in her need, she finds in her hands 200 French francs! At the train station in Vannes, she planned to buy a second class ticket, but she encountered a family that could not afford their fare so Yvonne uses her money to buy them second class fare. Of the money left, she was only able to buy a third-class ticket for herself. She got into the crammed car and didn’t find a seat, but then her third-class ticket turned into a first-class ticket. She was able to sleep comfortably all the way back to Paris.

What is interesting in this account is that the details all seem so normal as opposed to being experienced as paranormal. Yvonne apparently knew where she was and the spiritual director is not shocked to see her nor is the poor family in the train station or anyone there for that matter. That she was able to sleep on the train indicated that she was at peace with her busy early morning travel schedule.

In 1941, there is the claim that Mother Yvonne bilocated to be right in front of Adolf Hitler to whom she admonished in the name of Jesus to go no further with the war. In this case, it is clear that Adolf didn’t listen to her. Perhaps, he did not see her? Obviously, this story may be lore as in “I can top your story!)

Yvonne was arrested, however, in 1943 by the Gestapo but was free two days later. The odd part of this story is that the Gestapo did not release her. Instead, and I say this fecitiously, she took the train to freedom. Actually claimed is that she bilocated to a Paris subway to tell Fr. Labutte, her spiritual son, that she was in prison and being tortured. In a second bilocation, she returns to the metro to tell Labutte that her release depends upon his prayer. As the expression goes, he ‘prayed as hard as he could.’ Yvonne then is in a courtyard with the others who will be loaded onto a train and sent to Germany. In the courtyard, however, some sort of brouhaha erupts while Yvonne’s Guardian Angel takes her by the hand and puts her in a room in Paris, all without unlocking any doors.

The end of the story is equally happy. The valise and the hat that Yvonne left in prison (it would not be needed in Germany.) showed up by displacement a little later and to welcome her home, the valise and hat were accompanied by a beautiful bouquet of flowers!

These stories of possibility are interesting to me for a couple of reasons. I do holocaust research in France and have never come upon this material before. This shows that research leads to lots of other research questions and, as the editors of her stories that I have summarized point out, Mother Yvonne made lots of appearances to captives to offer hope an consolation. The question posed then, is there any documentation from any holocaust survivors who might have met Mother Yvonne?

The second interest flows from the theological part of me. What does the Catholic Church teach officially about bilocation? The answer is that physical bilocation or multilocation is impossible. But wait! This is a reference only to physicality. What about a mixed mode of location? On this matter, the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on bilocation points out that whatever the second location is, it’s form (called the local extension) is not dependant on the essence of the first location. This is of interest to the Catholic Church because this explains how Jesus is in heaven and, at the same time, really present (body, soul and divinity) in each consecerated host all over the world. Now that’s multi-location!

I am a priest and am not making light of the Church’s Eucharistic theology. I bring this issue up in the context of the other possibilities of bilocation, which perhaps should not be dismissed without thought, or at least a ponderance. Afterall, we are also taught that with God nothing is impossible. Anyway, how I came to such a musing was by reading my emails from France this morning! Because of the historical timeframe of World II and the subject of Nazism and nuns in France, as a researcher/priest I felt compelled to think more about, of all things, bilocation.

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Image borrowed from


It’s that time of the year when, in parts far north of the equator, the season is making a definite change. Fields lie fallow. Deciduous trees let loose their foliage. Fruit trees bear their fruits. Human thought turns to mortality for what happens in nature happens to all of nature. Isaiah, the great prophet Isaiah puts it this way and rather euphemistically, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth…” (40:8, King James Bible).

As a pastor, I always used this time of the year, which includes All Saints and All Souls Day, to write to parishioners about the practical part of being prepared for an earthly ending. This advice comes from an epitaph, Where you are I have been and where I am you will be. For many, this sounds morbidly creepy, but it is an inescapable truth. So, I encouraged parishioners to recall their beloved dead and to consider their own eventualities.

I considered my demise several years ago. I thought it would be difficult, but it wasn’t. I took a very matter-of-fact approach to my burial and I think came up with a plan that will be efficient and not a hardship. I will be cremated and niched in the Alcove of the Saints in the Crypt Mausoleum of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, California. A well-established mortuary with which I have ministered for many years in Phoenix is entrusted with my latest wishes, preceded by those of my nephew and family.

This was the easy part of preparing. The hard part is a growing awareness that time waits for no man. By this I mean to say that this time of the year calls to mind the many who have gone before me. Where they have gone, I must follow. I think, for example, of those I knew in grade school who never made it to high school: one by suicide, one by an equestrian accident and one by a vehicular accident. These have been gone so long even as I approach my 66th year. Why are some lives so short while others are so long, reaching into the centenary years?

I think about those who made it to high school, but did not live long enough to be graduated. I remember as well those who were ordained along side of me and the one of five who is no longer among us. Such is the universal call to all of us.

Many have the same reflections and feelings that I have, this I know. When I watch a television program that was new when I first watched it and then realize that everyone in the cast is now deceased, I get the sobering feeling of being old and vulnerable. These feelings are often linked to generational thinking that posits that once your parents are gone, your generation is next. This is natural course of events, which when reversed causes the greatest pain for there are no greater pangs of hurt than those of a parent who loses a child. This grief comes from the feeling that the natural order was unfairly usurped. Even death cares not to adhere to the convention of nature as we imagine it to be.

The response to death is basically two-fold: 1.) It is the end; 2.) It is not the end. For those who see death as an absolute end to life, there is nothing more to be said or to be experienced. For those who see a continuation after death, there are two schools of thought. The first constates that we are essentially energy, that is we spend our existence doing something. Energy can only be converted to conserve itself so somehow it continues in a different form or is transferred to a different object. This viewpoint depends on materialized energy. An example is that the energy of a decedent could become become part of an apple tree.

The second perspective asserts that we essentially spiritual. This spiritual aspect is appropriated or gifted at baptism when our physicality is immersed in and overcome by God’s Spirit in Christ-Jesus. He is the one who is eternal, yet took on the weight of the quality (including but limited to suffering) and quantity (including and limited by dying). He was raised from the dead and reappeared to humanity as a glorious (from the Greek, doxa, the absolutely perfect inward or personal excellency of Christ) body, not as a ghost, who could be discerned as truly spiritual in human form.

This sounds a lot like the conservation of energy as discussed above, but spirituality is different than energy in that a spirit is not quantitative and it does not depend on material. Physicality in this sense precludes the necessity of a material body as we know it. Thusly, Saint Paul speaks of a ‘glorious’ body which no longer does, but eternally is. Energy does whereas spirit is. The latter never has to conserve itself and because of this, those reborn of the Spirit remain unique creatures, thus they are never to be charged with transforming into someone else (reincarnation) or into something else (transmigration).

It’s always good to end something so serious with a little humor…

Image borrowed from

Friday, 22 October 2021

Image borrowed from Showing at WatchTime New York 2021: MB&F Legacy Machine 101 | WatchTime – USA’s No.1 Watch Magazine


Preface: The reader might note here the introduction of a sub-category in my blogs titles, which is called Rabbit Hole. I have added the number 1 to indicate that I suspect that other rabbit holes will appear. Merriam-Webster denotes a rabbit hole thusly: a complexly bizarre or difficult state or situation conceived of as a hole into which one falls or descends…especially one in which the pursuit of something (such as an answer or solution) leads to other questions, problems, or pursuits. (

I entered into a rabbit hole this morning as I started to think about something that has long intrigued me. Through the years, I have been struck by the advertisements for expensive watches. Billboards, for example, that advertise the luxury watch Rolex. In every edition of the New York Times, there are small, but purposefully placed, advertisements for Mont Blanc watches or those of Tourneau or Bucherer1888. Frankly, it always struck me as odd that heavy advertising would have to be given for such a small, albeit a can-be-luxurious item as a wrist watch. I don’t think I have ever seen a billboard advertisement for a cheap watch.

I entered the rabbit hole when I googled my question. It led me directly to multitudinous websites which concern themselves with the wristwatch industry, which is a HUGE and SERIOUS business. For watch enthusiasts, a watch is not just a time piece. In fact, I stumbled upon and went further down the rabbit hole when I was introduced to WatchTime. This magazine was founded in New York City in 1999 by an Ulm, Germany publishing group. The magazine is called America’s number one watch magazine and has sister magazines around the world.

WatchTime is published bi-monthly and by its own self-described mission covers several fields:

In fact, the magazine is co-sponsoring an international convention at New York’s Gotham Hall from today through the 24th. Other co-sponsors are BMW, Tourneau and Bucherer1888 There are over 28 watch manufacturers participating in the event. Of the 28 listed on the event’s website, I recognized only a few…like two.

I dug a little further in the hole that I had entered and found that expensive watches are part of a competitive market. So, it makes sense that high-priced watches would be advertised in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, but billboards? Perhaps, expensive watches are kept in public view to press the point that you really should have one too or at least desire it.

How about a Rolex Yacht-Master II (an 18k yellow gold men’s luxury watch) that sells on line for the sale price of $54,995.00. The product description of this watch is found at

– With Manufacturer Serial Numbers
– Swiss Made
– White Dial
– Square Hour Markers
– Polished Solid 18k Yellow Gold Ring Command Bezel
    Blue Cerachrom Ceramic Insert with Gold Coated Numerals on Bezel
– Regatta Chronograph Feature
    Programmable Countdown with Mechanical Memory
    On-the-Fly Synchronization
– Small Seconds Sub-Dial at 6 O’Clock
– Stop-seconds Feature for Precise Time Setting
– 72 Hour Power Reserve
– Self-winding Automatic Movement
    COSC Superlative Chronometer Certified
– Rolex Caliber 4160
– Vibrations Per Hour: 28,800
– 6 Year Warranty
– Guaranteed Authentic
– Certificate of Authenticity
– Manufacturer Box & Manual
– Polished Solid 18k Yellow Gold Case
– Brushed with Polished Solid 18k Yellow Gold Oyster Bracelet
– Scratch Resistant Sapphire Crystal
– 100 Meters / 330 Feet Waterproof
– 44mm = 1 3/4″ Case, 6.5″ Adjustable Bracelet
    Will Fit Up to 7 1/2″ Wrist
– Bidirectional 90 Degree Rotating Bezel
– Chromalight Blue Luminescent Hands & Hour Markers
– Screw Down Crown with Triplock Triple Waterproofness System
– Screw Down Case Back
– Folding Oysterlock Safety Clasp with Easylink 5mm Comfort Extension Link

This particular watch along with its details and including the manufacturer’s box and manual might be a bargain for a watch enthusiast or for anyone who has the money available for a nice watch to wear or in which to invest.

I don’t remember my first watch, but chances are good that it was a play watch. Later, I probably had a Timex (that takes a licking and keeps on ticking…remember that slogan?). My current watch is a French brand, Louis Pion. It did not cost more than $90.00 and it caught my eye when I went out looking for a watch. I also have a watch by Fossil. It’s more expensive than the Louis Pion and was received as a gift from my master barber in Phoenix. I wear them intermittently. By the way, I have long worn a silver watch because my dad cautioned me that a gold watch should never be worn by a man over 25 or so. I guess gold is garish on an old wrist.

Some retired people I know who have ridded themselves of their watches. It’s a proclamation of liberty from time’s demands. Something that has replaced many a wristwatch is the cell phone, which many people carry in their hand…all day long. The technical rage these days also seems to be the Apple watches which I guess is like carrying a computer on your wrist. It tells time and keeps you in touch with the world in real time.

Watches have also taken sides in the battle of the sexes. There are men’s watches and there are women’s watches and never the two should meet. Women’s watches tend to be smaller in circumference although through the years they are getting bigger. My mother’s watch was so small I don’t know how she was able to read it. My dad’s watch was larger, but simple in design. I think it had the elegant sweeping second hand and showed the date. For which ever wrist a watch is designed, I have never heard of a watch company being accused of sexism.

This rabbit hole I fell into was an interesting search, but the only answer I came up with to my basic question is speculative. Expensive watches are advertised to make a sale in a competitive market. I just had no idea that watches were such a hot commodity that falls into so many economic levels. Clearly, I have been at the bottom of the expense level for all of my life. And that’s ok. I have a basic idea of what time it is all through the day and strangely enough, I rarely look at my own watch. The time is found on my wall, at my bedside, above my desk, on my computer and tv screens. Further, I have lots of church bells around me that joyfully mark the hour and quarter hours throughout the day. If I’m desperate, I have my trusty wristwatch which I put on everyday lest I feel undressed.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Image borrowed from


The Book of Ecclesiastes* tells us that ‘There is an appointed time for everything…’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1), but it does not explicitly tell us about first times. It is implied, I suppose, because logic tells us that everything that happens must happen for a first time. Philosophically, this viewpoint is positive while the other side of the same coin, which says there is nothing new under the sun is negative or cynical. Negativism doesn’t necessarily contradict the thought there there is a first time for everything, but it certainly takes away the fun and adventure in the experience of first times for all of us. I’m not looking to be philosophical, but particularly personal. The fact is that we all have first times in life.

Just think of your first times and the list will be endless. For me there is the first time I took an intentional step or blew out a birthday candle. There is the first time I was able to ride a bike, drive a car and ice skate. There are also first times in which I didn’t have to do anything when, for example, the first time I became an uncle and a great uncle.

First times expose us to all of our senses. There is the the first time I saw a skyscraper; smelled jet fuel; tasted a brandy; heard a symphony and felt a dead body. First times tend to be memorable moments not so much in detail but in general recollection. I distinctly remember smelling jet fuel at Montreal’s Dorval Airport (since 2004 Montreal-Trudeau Airport). The circumstances? It was ‘a dark and stormy night’ and someone must have opened a gate door and fumes were pulled into the air system or the windows of the terminal were leaking. Details are not exactly pertinent, but I do remember the time and the place and what jet fuel smells like! Why should this first time remain in my head?

Sometimes, we find it odd if not funny, that someone experiences his or her first time years after we had the same first time experience. This is the wonderment of first times. They simply keep happening, but they are not scheduled for any particular age group. No one should be able to say, “At your age, I’m surprised you haven’t already been on a flight.” Just because that first time was many years ago, there are plenty of reasons why a 65 year old man may have never flown.

There are, however, social norms wherein first times pretty much apply to everyone. Generally speaking, most babies take their first steps around the time of their first birthday. By the time we are 20 years old, we will have most likely experienced the death of a beloved pet or, on the other end of the emotions spectrum, felt a physical attraction. We also like to share word of our first times and we especially like watching someone experience a first time.

The exuberance of riding a bike for the first time is shared by the person who ran along side of us and gently let go while we felt a sense of balance and control. Even if you have been to Reykjavik a hundred times, it is always interesting to see someone’s reaction to seeing this city for the first time. As is said, there is a first time for everyone. Sometimes we just have to share it. Maybe this is what makes Facebook so popular! I remember the first time I was in Nice, France. I loved it. Everything was beautiful! I called a friend in Paris and told her that Nice was fantastic and why do people still live in Paris. She quickly responded, “Everybody says that!” She was on to something about first times, their invigoration can quickly fade. Hence, that horrible expression, “Been there, done that.”

There is a phenomenon attached to first time experiences and it is called appreciation. Sometimes our first times don’t make much of an impression and for whatever reason. Frankly, this is how I live most of my first times, non-appreciatively. I take the first time experience in, but it takes me a long time to process it and thereby really appreciate it. This phenomenon can come up when we experience something again, and for any reason, it seems like the first time. Our appreciation level is tripled and a second time experience is a first time experience.

The Book of Ecclesiastes hints at this in its closing line, which is about judgment. “…because God will bring to judgment every work, with all of its hidden qualities, whether good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:14b). Repeated experiences that feel like a first time, is application of a discerning judgment that we all bring to experiences. All experiences have hidden qualities and sometimes we just don’t appreciate them the first time around. So, let the first times be repeated and let us not be so cynical or jaded. There is a first time for everything and for everyone. There is always something new under the sun.

*”The book’s honest and blunt appraisal of the human condition provides a healthy corrective to the occasionally excessive self-assurance of other wisdom writers. Its radical skepticism is somewhat tempered by the resigned conclusions to rejoice in whatever gifts God may give (2:24; 3:12-13, 22; 5:17-18; 8:15; 9:7-9; 11:9)” (Didache Bible [Revised edition of the New American Bible, 2015.]