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29 Dec

Jacques de Jesus

Lucien-Louis Bunel, a Carmelite friar known as "Jacques de Jesus," was the headmaster of a French prep school during the second world war.  The three Jewish boys he was hiding in the monastery were discovered by the Gestapo and they, along with Bunel, were transported to Auschwitz and executed.  Bunel would be named by the state of Israel "Righteous Among the Nations." The 1987 movie Au revoir, les enfants was based off the life of Julien Quentin, a twelve-year-old student under Bunel.

22 Dec

Prisoner 22356

For many, the day after Christmas is one of the saddest days of the year.  The thrill of opening presents has evaporated and is perhaps replaced by disappointment in what we did not receive or, even worse, something we did receive but thought would be better.  (Take note: material items never completely satisfy.) Trees and decorations are, in some households, already taken down and we are confronted by the sober awareness that it will be another 364 days before we experience a similar excitement.

15 Dec

Give Me God What You Have Left

It is that time of year when we ask for gifts for ourselves.  What if we replaced our Christmas List with the following prayer?  It was composed by André Zirnheld, a paratrooper in the British Special Air Service killed in action in Libya in 1942.  This was found among his personal effects:


Give me, my God, what you have left.

Give me what no one ever asks of you.

I do not ask you for rest or tranquility, neither of soul nor of body.

I do not ask you for wealth or success or even health.

08 Dec

Ah, Her Smile

Advent is a time, Pope Benedict XVI once said, to retrace the paths of old and "make the light that illuminated the stable in Bethlehem shine anew in our lives."  The world was in a dark place during Mary's pregnancy 2,000 years ago, but God reentered the world and gave it hope.  So too can God reenter our world and our lives, despite the darkness, to give us light and hope.

01 Dec

Rest on the Flight to Egypt

We who are nervous and anxious about many things can learn from the Holy Family depicted in Rest on the Flight to Egypt  (Merson, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1879).  Mary, holding the baby Jesus, rests in the arms of the father-like sphinx.  Joseph sleeps by the dying campfire.  Though under extreme duress, fleeing from the murderous Herod, Joseph is at peace, knowing the protection of his wife and son are secured, not by his own devices, but by God the Father.