Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day.  I’m just getting back from one of our most successful and meaningful Making All Things New retreats.  I met so many great people, all trying to improve themselves: body, mind, and spirit.  St. Ignatius called that approach cura personalis (care for the whole person).  Sometimes we think that such thoughts/concepts are new, but Ignatius was writing about a whole person approach almost 500 years ago.  Thanks to everyone who participated, and I’m very grateful for all those who helped make everything go so well.

Back to Memorial Day.  It’s wonderful to have a three day weekend, to enjoy time with friends and family, maybe catch up on some rest or yard work, but let’s not forget why we have this holiday.  It’s a reminder to every person living in the United States today that countless lives were lost for the freedoms which we enjoy and often take for granted.  The majority of those who have lost their lives fighting for our country died young.  Their adult lives were just beginning, and I’m sure they had dreams of happy, fulfilling and long lives spent with friends and loved ones.  May God bless them for their sacrifice, and may they rest in peace.



Joy Comes With The Morning

“Sing praise to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.  For his anger is but for a moment, and is favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:4-5)).

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a morning person.  With a little help from a cup or two of coffee, I try to approach the new day with some level of excitement.  From either my bedroom window or in my back yard, I can watch the sunrise, which at this time of year, is about 5:45 am.

I guess the thing I like best about the beginning of the new day is that I’ve got the chance to start fresh.  As the Psalmist wrote, no matter what happened yesterday/last night, we can approach the new day with joy. Our God is a God of second chances, and how often we take that for granted.

Over the next few days, pray about someone who needs a second chance from you.  Offer it, as much for you as for them.  It might just bring a renewed joy to both your lives.

Well, I’m off to see the sunrise!  Have a blessed day.


Planting Time

So, I know I’m a bit late with this post, but if you haven’t gotten your veggie plants/seeds yet, it’s not too late!  In my area of the country, Mother’s Day is the usual weekend when it’s safe to start planting things outside.  Wouldn’t you know that two days after I got my plants into the ground and several containers, we had a frost warning.  In mid May!

If you want to get healthy, eating fresh vegetables is one sure way to achieve your goal.  Many centuries ago, Hippocrates said, “let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.” Doesn’t that make perfect sense?  Sometimes we think raising fresh food is hard, too time consuming, or not worth the effort.  Wrong on all points.  Start small and find things that can easily be grown, especially in containers. Although they are harder to find today, seek out an independent garden center and ask for some guidance.  Those folks love to share their knowledge, and like the people you meet at farmer’s markets, they need our financial support.

I have a wonderful garden center not too far from my house, and I make several trips there during this time of year.  They have dozens of varieties of tomatoes and peppers, many of them heirlooms.  In each of the two Earthboxes my brother gave me several years ago, I plant two tomatoes, two peppers, and two dwarf eggplants.  I’ve been planting the same mix in each box for the last few years, and I’m amazed at the results.

What a joy it is to eat something that you’ve grown, and even better, to share the fruit of your labor with those you care about!


The Cave in Manresa

St. Ignatius  still seemed a bit unreal to me when we left Montserrat and headed down the mountain to Manresa, where he would live for nearly a year, living as a hermit, having mystical experiences, writing in his notebook, and, in a moment of despair, even contemplated suicide.  God revealed himself to Ignatius in this little town, and even though he planned to stay there just a few days, it would be nearly a year before he left.  His experiences in Manresa were profound and shaped the rest of his life.

There is now a  church built over the cave where Ignatius lived, and the cave is now a chapel.  My fellow pilgrims and I had the blessing of celebrating Mass there, and as rich as that experience was, I wasn’t feeling the real Ignatius.  Then, someone pointed to two small crosses carved into the stone.  Fr. Paul told us that, so the legend goes, Ignatius himself was the carver.  Now, I could imagine Ignatius doing that.  I closed my eyes and in my mind, I saw him holding a stone and making the marks.  Simple signs to keep him going through the dark days he experienced right here, on this spot.

Our time in Manresa was short, and I wished we could have spent the whole day there.  It seemed like a place that called for reflection, for imagining, for discernment.  Like Robert Frost pondered in his poem The Road Not Taken, I doubted if I should ever come back. Somehow though, I think I just might make it to Manresa again, and I can’t wait.




It’s almost 400 miles from the castle of Loyola to the Benedictine Monastery high up the mountains of Montserrat.  When you are riding in a coach bus, the miles pass slowly, but painlessly.  No so for St. Ignatius.  After months of recuperation from his battle injury and subsequent surgeries, he was ready to head out of the family castle and visit the famous Shrine of our Lady of Montserrat.  His conversion underway, he went to the Shrine to reconcile with God.

It must have been an incredibly painful trip, sometimes limping along, sometimes riding a donkey. When I first saw the mountains, I simply couldn’t imagine how Ignatius made it to the Monastery, which sits high up, nearly to the top,  on March 21, 1522.  Those who study Ignatius know that, after his conversion, he was a very determined man, and he knew getting right with God was essential to his mission.  His sacramental conversation with one of the monks there, a Frenchmen named Jean Chanon, took three days.  When Ignatius headed down the mountain to Manresa, he had removed all trappings of his former life of a nobleman.  Now, dressed as a pilgrim, he thought he would spend the rest of his life in the Holy Land.  God had other plans for Ignatius, plans which would he could never have imagined.

Have you ever been to a place where you could just feel the holiness?  Up until my own pilgrimage to Montserrat, the little Umbrian town of Assisi in Italy was it for me.  The presence of St. Francis is everywhere.  In Montserrat, you have the sense that many, many saints have climbed the mountain and made their home here.  It’s no wonder that Montserrat is the number one spiritual destination in Spain.

I was blessed to visit for two days.  I wish it had been two weeks.  Maybe next time…




His Eyes Were Opened A Little

A year ago today, my fellow pilgrims and I were in Loyola, the ancestral home of St. Ignatius.  Amongst the baroque grandeur of the  17th century Basilica built in his honor, it was a bit hard for me to find a glimpse of the real Ignatius, who probably wouldn’t have been thrilled with the huge and fancy church.

In an unexpected way, I found what I was looking for in what’s now known as the Room of the Conversion, located in the Loyola family castle, right next to the Basilica.  Ignatius spent months in that room, unable to get out of bed, recovering from the surgeries he had after being seriously wounded in the battle of Pamplona.  As he read from two books, one on the Life of Christ and the other on the lives of the saints, Ignatius said in his autobiography that, in this room, “his eyes were opened a little,” and he began to perceive things with spiritual vision.

He came to realize that when he thought about his former way of life, one which was quite sinful and worldly, he felt sad.  When he thought of Christ and the Saints, he felt happy.  He slowly came to realize that he wanted to leave his past and move forward, aligned with God and desiring to serve Him.

We celebrated Mass in this room, now a place of prayer and reflection.  It was good to be with my fellow pilgrims in this space, each of us contemplating the beginnings of Ignatius’ conversion, which took place right here.  Maybe some of us had our eyes opened to perceive what God is calling us to.  Maybe just a little.