The word schizophrenia literally means “a broken mind.” It is classified as a lifelong mental illness that a person must simply learn to endure: the delusions of grandeur, the emotional distance, the feeling of being out-of-touch with reality, the lack of personal relationships, the anxiety about daily living, and the trouble communicating effectively. Yet, if you ever did meet such a person, beyond the pity, you would probably feel, somewhere deep, that this was an honest human being, that this person’s brokenness was the actual nature of things, and that the only thing wrong with this person was her or his inability to hide their suffering. Indeed, while most of us find socially acceptable ways to medicate our pain and addictions to keep ourselves together, the schizophrenic person is a living reminder that life, underneath it all, is truly perilous and that we have a desperate need for both the love of God and neighbor to remain intact (Mk 12:28-31). Let us, therefore, look to Jesus who was himself crushed and broken (Is 53:5), but who nevertheless lived with utter integrity, especially crucified, nestled safely between the arms of his loving Father and carried along by the wings of the Spirit (Ex 19:4). May we have the courage, with our schizophrenic sisters and brothers, to dig deep and learn to walk this same narrow path that leads to life (Mt 7:14, Gal 2:20). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Francis of Assisi appears in gardens and front lawns around the world. Holding a dove in one hand and a bird bath in the other, he is a symbol of good will who enjoys a unique universal appeal. Indeed, people from all sorts of cultural and religious, or non-religious, traditions are attracted to his loving version of humanity. Yet, do we see that beneath the gentle and sentimental exterior, there is the spiritual man, painfully aware of his capacity to sin and unapologetically dependent upon the living God. Francis kept vigil, slept on the ground, fasted, prayed with Scripture, preached, reached out in service to the poor, and respected the authority of the Church. His ability to connect with people and capture the imagination was thus not just some kind of natural charisma, but a firm decision, a constant commitment, to make Christ the center of his life (so much so that he bore the very wounds of Christ in his hands and feet!). You and I would be agents of reconciliation and ambassadors of peace if we too allowed Christ, especially crucified, to be the point of reference for each and every one of our relationships (cf. Eph 2:13-22). We would attract others like Francis if we too imaged the invisible God (Col 1:15) with bold risk-taking and unhesitating generosity. May we become like Christ precisely by becoming like his Francis. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
I have a friend who, when she’s having a rough day, says, “I need to get down from the ladder!” All of us probably know this ladder well – it is that interior capacity to stand above everyone else – in all of our ego-glory – or to go low and live a grounded life. There is no in-between. From the time we are children, indeed, the world sweeps us up to the top of the ladder (cf. Mt 4:8), and insists that it is the natural place to be. The paparazzi blind us with their flashbulbs and the roaring crowds deafen us. We begin to think that this is what life actually is! Nevertheless, a still, small voice continues to whisper to us in what’s left of our hearts (1 Kings 19:12), and we, as my friend indicates, have a decision to make: Will we take that first step of descent? Yes, there is both spiritual paralysis and complacency to deal with, but a single decision in that moment will in fact become the seed that will bring forth a lifetime of authentic human living. Let us, therefore, look to Jesus whose last act on earth was to go down from the ladder of the Cross into the very dirt of the earth (Jn 19:38-42), and let us, here and now, commit to only ever ascending the ladder to invite our sisters and brothers into that same low place (cf. Jn 1:51). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Wall of Love, you allow me to be happy, joyous and free! You are that blessed and good darkness that constantly upholds my inner light (cf. Gen 1:3-5). You are that thick and fruitful brush that guards the way to my inner room (cf. Gen 2:9, Mt 6:6). You are that awful trial – the call to sacrifice my only child – that separates out all that is not the risk of faith (Gen 22:9-19). You are that monument of trust which rises up from the waters and allows safe passage from worldliness into open spaces and new life (cf. Ex 15:19, Ps 119:45). You are the stone tablets which discipline my heart and guide me ever into experiences of grace and truth (cf. Ex 20:20-21, Jn 1:14). You are the bricks around my holy city, as you engineer space in me for a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8). You allow my beloved to “peer through the lattices” and see me as I am (Song 2:9). You are the wings, the shelter, the fortress, the pinions, the buckler, the shield and the refuge (Ps 91) that provide a private place for me to be with “the one whom my heart loves” (Song 3:3). Wall of Love, you are the Cross, my only hope, and through you I shall find life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.