Friday, April 1, 2011


Monday I received devastating news from Nashville, where a dear friend since high school had lived with his partner of 35 years, Stephen. I'd visited them many times over the decades, most recently last summer.  As always, they were kind and generous hosts. As always, Stephen knew every bird, flower, tree, lizard egg, creek, path, and blade of grass on the family property on which they'd built their house together.

Early Monday morning, Stephen was shot and killed on the front porch of their home by a relative--a second lieutenant on active duty in the U.S. Army--who then turned the gun on himself.


Other reflection-worthy, and somehow related, items that passed my desk this week.

From Fr. Joseph Adams, a chaplain to our troops in Afghanistan:

"I got to celebrate Ash Wednesday about 12 times this year, since I only get to visit each outpost only once every couple of  months I try just to hit the highlights, Ash Wed. in March and probably Easter all through April.  Lent's pretty real for the soldiers right now, and the fighting’s due to start up again with the snow melting, so please pray.

In Christ,
Fr. Joe"

"What difference do our human conditions make to God? Our pretensions, our positions, our superior advantages: what does he care about such things? Poor little gnats, strutting about, despising other gnats because their wings are a little less sleek and their feet not quite so thickly furred: of what consequence is all that to him? Whether we are great or small, in his eyes our conditions are equal, and since no one of them corresponds to his nature, did not his honor demand that he sould choose the lowest? Only thus could he manifest his indifference. By identifying himself with the negation of our glories, he would show that he is sufficient unto himself."

--Father Antonin Gilbert Sertillanges, O.P. (1863-1948), was a renowned Dominican preacher, apologist and philosopher)


"I think what makes the Cross, and by extension, Christianity so scandalous, mind-bending and paradigm shattering is the utter powerlessness of the Cross. In the Nicene Creed, We affirm that Christ existed at the the beginning of time; indeed, “through him all things were made. Yet this Person of unimaginable power and Glory “does not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied Himself taking the form of a slave.” This echoes and reverses the serpent’s promise of being God’s equal.

I know the Fall is meant to be a rich metaphor and allegory. I can’t help thinking of it literally, as though our First Parents fell out of a tree, and are running around with devastating soul breaks that are poorly set and bandaged. And, our souls continue to hurt, because whatever method we try to use-food, drugs, sex, video games, is poor medicine. Christ entered into time, enfleshed in a mortal body and submitted to suffering, because in our current condition suffering is absolutely unavoidable. It is simply part of being human-living in frail bodies with petty jealousies, calcified hearts. He knew how much we hurt, and short of the End of the World, there is not much he can do to stop this condition. Jesus himself says that he could call on the angels to stop his suffering, but he chooses not to. Instead he shows us the way through suffering, which is love, faith, forgiveness and perseverance."
--from Betsy Cullerton, a correspondent from NYC

Fr. Clem said that we are like little children who have been playing with matches and inadvertently burn the house down. We empty our piggy banks and offer to our father our $1.98 to rebuild his house.
--from Taos, New Mexico, via a poet friend

My Jesus, good night!

We sit down in tears
And call to thee in the tomb:
Rest softly, softly rest!
Rest, ye exhausted limbs!
Your grave and tombstone

Shall for the unquiet conscience 
Be a comfortable pillow
And the soul's resting place.
In utmost bliss the eyes slumber there. 
--J.S. Bach

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
-- Camus

Rest in peace, Stephen.  And with Fr. Joe, let us all please pray.


  1. Oh Heather, how horrible. He, and you, will be in my prayers.

  2. This is shocking and awful news and my heart and prayers and thoughts go out to you.

  3. I'm so sorry, Heather. Prayers all around for all these, and for you, too.

  4. This is a tricky time of year.

    Prayers for Stephen, for Fr. Joe, for the troops, and for you.

  5. I love this blog.
    Thank you for writing!

  6. I am so sorry to hear about your friend Stephen. Thank you for sharing these quotations -- they are powerful medicine for the hurts of this life. Thanks also for the reminder to pray for those stationed overseas.

    Peace to you as you live with this tragedy.

  7. I read your book. I recognize how much he meant to you and I am so very sorry. Prayers for you all.

  8. For Stephen and the person who took his life,then his own,and for you, I will pray this weekend and offer my communion

  9. Dear Heather,
    Oh my goodness! So very, very sad!
    Just last night I finished reading your book, Parched. So, who Stephen is as a loyal friend to you is fresh in my mind (and heart)...and Terry as well of course. Oh very sad!!! God love him and keep him...and you and Terry and everyone hurt!
    Your entire post here is written so Gracefully!!! Thanks.
    Take Care & God Bless!

  10. Yes, these are the folks who sheltered me near the end of Parched, i.e. near the end of my drinking--I first sincerely prayed in the woods behind their house. And yes, of course we pray for the nephew as well...Thank you all for your consoling words and prayers of communion...

  11. In my prayers here, in England, too. I found your books very helpful, and knew who you were talking about straight away.

    I'm currently reading, "Into your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us", by Carmelite priest, Wilfred Stinissen OCD, just republished by Ignatius Press.

    The opening line: "A problem many people have today is that they no longer recognise God's will in everything that happens.", and then proceeds with an astonishingly beautiful and engaging exposition of suffering and surrender in the face of what seems incoherent and out of control in light of a God who supposedly loves us. To me it shows the 'how' of St Therèse's humility and acceptance in the face of her trials.

    It needs to be taken in small doses, but I'm finding it a wonderful ray of hope in the face of tribulation and those 'Why, God?' moments...

    I'll buy you a copy through Amazon as a little 'thank you' if you like...

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  13. Paul, lovely to know of another reader in England and your offer is beyond kind--I'm sure I could VERY WELL use any book about abandoning myself to God (I once got paid to go through all of de Caussade's Abandonment to Divine Providence and "translate" it into contemporary language). Why don't you email me at


I WELCOME your comments!!!