Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Ash Wednesday Blessing

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For my brother Buddy, his son Matt, my son and all the men and women in my family.


I never understood fear.  Anger, yes.  Courage, yes.  But never fear.

It is funny how God imposes graciously on us slices of life that enkindle in us a thought, a feeling that gives us light when light has appeared to have dimmed, when problems created by the multiple disappointing aspects of weak and frightened humans threaten to block the Natural Illumination.

Last night I saw the early parts of Good Willing Hunting, a movie about my early life in Boston Irish poverty and its unavoidable grit.

In that life and its circumstances there was no room for fear.  Each day tested your mortality, tested it so routinely as to be a proving ground for eternity and humility.  Grounded in humility, and eternity.

Last night I sat in a crowded room of members of a religious community, men who had lived most of their adult life as vowed religious.  They were captivated by the movie, puzzled by it – its coarse language, the way its young men lived, their conversation, attitudes and the confusion of seeing among them a brilliant mind occupying one of these strange young renegades.

The innate rebellion, the intellectual gifts of the lad, the nascent violence triggered so easily, the fraternity of these young men and this place was something that they did not know and had not lived.  This, in itself, makes one ask: How can the Church survive when its members know so little?  Have experienced so little? Lived so little?

Sequestering is a bad thing it you wish to witness Christ.  Being sheltered when others are not does not get it done if witness is your cause.

An old Celtic prayer reminds us: Jesus is of earth/Every bone and sinew/The Word enfleshed.

In hiding from the combat of life we forget that we are from “a holy earth birthing” which is, ironically, our “heavenly ending,” too.

In Him there was no fear.  In this there is no fear.  We know the unalterable story: heavenly dust to heavenly dust.

To those who hide from life fear grows, resentment too – for them we are more dust in the wind, than sacred ground.

For those who hide dying is hard for want of life, for the practice of death that a lived life gives.

Fear never made much sense to me.  Where I stood humility was taught with each blow delivered and absorbed.  There was no hiding.  Combat gives you Jesus of the earth, the basis for belief … and Truth itself.