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Friday, December 30, 2011

Is God a Dictator?

At School of Community we are currently reading the last chapters of "The Religious Sense" by Monsignor Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation. I quote from the back cover: "This is a book for all faiths and no faith…Christians, Buddhists and Jews celebrated the spiritual and religious renewal that Luigi Giussani's work has inspired throughout the world (1997 United Nations Conference)".
I love all his books, and from now on I'll blog mostly about what I gather from these readings.

During our last meeting we talked about the freedom that can be experienced in the faith. As I anticipated last week, my son has started to read the Gospels and, having a problem with authority, he's taking them the wrong way.

Is God a dictator or a peace-maker? Is He someone who enslaves us or someone who sets us free? Apparently, it's a matter of opinion. Those who embrace Him find in Him unexpected, all-encompassing freedom. But others reject Him on the ground that not only His existence is not proven, but it's also undesirable.
Questioned about the possibility of the afterlife, Bertrand Russell said that, should he die and find himself before a Creator, he would tell Him: "Sir, you did not give me enough evidence".
Christopher Hitchens, author of "God is not Great", died a couple of weeks ago. He wrote:
"It would be horrible if it were true that we were designed and then created and then continuously supervised throughout all our lives…and then continue to be supervised after our deaths…It would be like living in a celestial North Korea. You can't defect from North Korea, but at least you can die. With monotheism they won't let you die and get away from them. Who wants that to be true?"


As a Christian, Hitchens' misconception seems to me huge, but understandable. God may be mistaken for a tyrant by anyone who doesn't experience His love. Converted at the age of fifty, I've found true freedom for the first time in my life in Jesus Christ. It is the kind of freedom that Buddhists strive for, achieving it, if they are diligent enough in their practices, after years of meditation. It is freedom from attachment, suffering and sin. It's nothing but peace.

We Christians believe that God chose not to impose His presence on the human race; that's why He doesn't offer us evidence of His existence. Jesus actually died to preserve our freedom of choice: We are free to believe, as were the people of His time, that He was a failed prophet crucified by the Romans or the Son of God raised from the dead. But atheists are angry at God precisely because He gave us the option of accepting Him or rejecting Him. And yet, our society has come to value freedom as the most important aspect of civilization. Why then is it so hard for them to appreciate it when it comes from God?
I have posed this question to my son, and the answer was that there is no freedom where there is punishment, even if punishment consists of being separated from a God they didn't love. It seems to me that, given these premises, God just can't win. For the atheist, the act of creation itself implies dictatorship, for whatever system of relationship with His creatures the Creator would choose, would be an imposition on them. Therefore they don't want a Creator, and they are ready to give up eternal life to eliminate God.

I want to conclude quoting Giussani: "To be conscious of oneself right to the core is to perceive, at the depths of the self, an Other".
Can being in contact with yourself right to the core enslave you? Of course not. It can only set you free.


At each School of Community meeting, the partecipants share their everyday experiences related to the reading. Would you like to do the same here? How do you experience freedom in God?  (Moving around my posts I've lost all your comments. ..I hope to get new ones!)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Remembering Christmas in Italy

Here we are, my family and I, on our eleventh Christmas in the USA. For the first time we receive the Italian TV channels and that increases our nostalgia. Actually I should say my husband's nostalgia and mine, because our son doesn't miss Italy.
I miss Christmas in Rome, with the life size Nativity in Vatican Square. On TV I'm watching Piazza di Spagna at night (over there it's already late, six hours later than here). White Christmas lights are wrapped around the trees and shining decoration is hanging from the branches like fruit.

My son was nine years old at the time of our last Christmas in Italy, and I took him to every Nativity display both in Rome and Naples, so that he could have some memories. Unfortunately he doesn't remember much, but I do remember the huge villages full of shepherds dressed in real fabric in Santa Chiara Monastery, and most of all the live Nativity with camels, elephants and sheep at Naples' harbor. What a night, and what beautiful songs!

We do our best to recreate the Italian Christmas atmosphere. My husband and I have built a typically Neapolitan Nativity in our living-room. I painted on carton board a night sky full of stars and high mountains dotted with small houses. We struggled with aluminum foil to make it look like a stream. Dipping brown paper in a bucket of liquid glue, he made papier-mâché hills, a lake, and of course a barn where, according to the tradition, Mary gave birth to Jesus.
It might seem awkward to you, but the Neapolitan Nativity, which in Italy is called Presepe, also includes a restaurant complete with chunks of prosciutto and mozzarella hung from the ceiling. We brought our hand-made terracotta figures from our country, and besides the classic Nativity characters we have two small terracotta tables with people sitting around them, happily having dinner. Jesus, as you probably know, loved to share good meals with his disciples, so the pizzeria is not so out of place after all!

My husband and son like to keep the Presepe tradition going, but their are not believers. However, this last Christmas I felt that something was changing. My husband found on U-Tube the Neapolitan version of an old Christmas song and kept listening to it all day long. He said that it was touching, because it showed that Baby Jesus was a human baby born in a magic world where, although it was winter,  flowers were blossoming, birds were singing and sheperds were waking up in the middle of the night at the beat of their heart. I thought what he said was important because, from personal experience, I would say that the first step towards faith is to understand Jesus' humanity. Isn't it for this reason that he became man?

Our son also manifested his will to take an important step. He said that when he's done with studying he will read the Gospels, and he will do it with an open mind. I hope he will perceive Jesus' humanity, his frustration and his suffering. I hope that next Christmas will mark another step towards faith for them.
  
Here in the States Christmas is fun because of the outdoor lights that decorate people's houses, but there isn't much to see about the Nativity. To preserve the spirit of Christmas I sculpted the one you see right here, on the right.
Merry Christmas to all! See you next week.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Messenger of Christ

First, a message to my readers: This is the last time that I re-post. Starting next week I'll try to write about what I get from my weekly meeting with my School of Community (Communion and Liberation). See you soon!

The weather has been chilly for a couple of weeks. I was already bracing for winter when a glorious sun emerged from the clouds, warming up the air. Immediately, I run to my summer closet, unpacked a pair of shorts and walked past my balcony to sit on the fire-escape, where I could have a better view of the courtyard. For some reasons, this reminded me of a day, about five years ago, when I was sitting on some steps waiting for a bus. My car was broken and I had missed the bus, but I wasn't upset. It was a beautiful summer day and I was content, as I always am when I can sit in the sun. Yet, as I recall, I had reasons to be worried. You know, the usual staff: loss of jobs, uncertainty about the future and so on.

At the time, my interest in Jesus Christ had just begun. I was going to church already, but I hadn't met my CL friends yet and I was quite alone in my faith. As a was waiting for the bus, a tall Hispanic man walked by and, completely out of the blue, said to me:
"Don't worry, madam. Jesus will take care of you."
I was surprised, but something inside of me instinctively assented. I smiled back at him and said:
"Of course!"
And, at that moment, I actually had no doubt: Jesus was going to take care of me and my family.

Five years later, I must confirm that He has kept His promise. I've had moments of doubts, when the rational aspect of my personality was still peeping out, sometimes overbearing. But today I look back at that first messenger of Christ with gratitude. He had no reason to talk to me that way. I wasn't crying or asking for help. True, I was sitting on some steps, but so what? I didn't look desperate! I always make a point of being nicely dressed when I go out, and I never live the house without wearing some make-up and a pair of earrings. I believe that Someone up there wanted to send me a message. That's why that man spoke to me.

"Don't worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."
I love this saying for the lightness that brings into our life. But it's easier said than done. How can one not worry about tomorrow when one doesn't know where the next meal will come from? And yet, in my experience, Jesus' sayings work precisely because they are so extreme. Only aiming at the impossible I can get half way.
Take for instance "Love your enemies". I might not be able to go that far, but if I try to love them I will overcome my resentment.
This is the meaning of "transcending our humanity". Let's reach higher. Get past our limitations. Leave behind the everyday evil, for there is plenty of it without us adding more. Let's go through life like children climbing up the hill on a sunny day and then rolling down only to climb up again. Let's play in the grass and then lay on our back looking at the sky. Let's bring home some flowers, arrange them in a vase and put them on the table. Soon they'll be surrounded by the most delicious dishes we have ever tasted. It's going to be an abundant meal, for Jesus came because we may have life, and have it more abundantly.
 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Time and Free Will

Most of my catholic friends, here in the USA, have not two, not three, but five children. It seems like a lot
of children to me, because in Italy child number three is usually the last one.
I have great respect for these mothers. I've had only one child and I could barely cope with fatigue. But probably having more children forces women to approach motherhood with more balance. I insisted on picking up my baby every time he cried at night, and as a result I was badly sleep-deprived. As if that wasn't enough, he wanted to be held all the time also during the day. He cried in his stroller, on the floor, in his chair, basically everywhere except in somebody's arms. Exhausted, one day I went out and bought a baby-walker. As soon as my baby's feet touched the ground, he became the happiest child in the world. I guess he felt more in control of his surroundings. He would run around all day long laughing and cheering, so I thought that I had found the perfect solution to his tantrums. But there was only one problem…my son was only seven months old! In my defense, I can say that I didn't know any better. Today it's common knowledge that baby-walkers don't help toddlers' physical development and that it's much better for them to crawl and learn how to walk on their own. Anyway, to make a long story short, my little boy got into the habit of walking on his toes, and for that I blame myself and the baby-walker. Countless times I've wished that I could go back in time and correct that mistake. But I can't change the past; what's done it's done.

The past is unchangeable, but what about the future? People have different theories. When something they wished for doesn't happen, some find consolation in the idea that "it wasn't meant to be". They believe in destiny.
Others believe in will power. If you want something strongly enough, they say, it will happen. From a religious perspective, this is pretty much what Jesus said:
"Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there', and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
But is our destiny determined by our actions? The protestant thinker John Calvin thought that God chooses
who is going to be saved and who is not, and called this "predetermination". Of course Catholics rejects this idea: They believe that God gave us free will and our salvation depends on our choices.

Free will is an old philosophical problem, which is coming up again in the light of modern physics. As a matter of fact, it's giving nightmares to the above mentioned son of mine, who on and off tiptoed all the way to his twenty-second birthday.
He recently discovered that Einstein special relativity says that time doesn't flow at all, rather it's simply there as a part of the physical universe. Time burst into existence, together with space, in the great explosion known as the Big Bang. We presume that the past is gone and the future is still unformed, we think that they don't exist, but apparently they do. Space-time is like a book and, to say it with the physicist Paul Davies, change occurs because objects move about through space in time. According to some physicists, this implies that free-will is an illusion. But before we get into that, let's look at the problem of time more deeply.
Christian thinkers have always been intrigues by the notion of time. Remarkably, St. Augustine had an exact intuition of modern physics. He wrote:
"The world and time had both one beginning. The world was made, not in time, but simultaneously with time."
Boethious thought that a metaphysically simple being must be eternal and immutable, for it is an imperfection of temporal human beings to have a past that is lost and a future that is still unknown.
St. Anselm also held an intuition of the truth. He wrote:
"You (God) exist neither yesterday, today, nor tomorrow, but You exist right outside time".
He claimed that God is present at different times at once, and that the eternal and temporal entities exist all at once in eternity.

If God is not in time, how does He act in it? John Polkinghorne, a physicist and theologian, rejects the classical idea of the atemporal God in favor of a temporal and eternal One. In other words, a God who observes the succession of events and can act in the physical world, lasting forever within our time. Polkinghorne gives up omniscience in favor of omnipotence: His God doesn't know the future of our universe of true becoming.
I admit that it's difficult to reconcile the atemporal God of classical theology with the God of the Bible, who is deeply engaged in history. Yet, I find Him more consistent with the idea of divinity. I believe that God has knowledge of events that are in the future, but our future is not predetermined because it takes shape according to our actions. If space-time is like a book, then the end couldn't be what it is unless something happened in the storyline to determine that specific end. This makes perfect sense to me, but I have to acknowledge that some imagination is necessary to be at peace with the discoveries of modern physics, for they contradict our perception.
It is precisely for this reason that we should stretch our imagination as a spiritual practice. This doesn't mean, as my atheist son maintains, "wasting time entertaining meaningless speculations". Rather, it means to look at the universe from a broader perspective. It means to overcome our boundaries and take a glimpse of the beyond.

My son thinks that, since his future is somehow already existent, his life resembles the one of a robot. But how can he come to this conclusion if he doesn't know how space-time actually works in respect to our existence? Science doesn't have an answer to that. John Polkinghorne writes:
"Science's inability to reproduce so fundamental an aspect of human experience is to be interpreted as indicating the incompleteness of the scientific account rather than the illusory character of our experience".

We all perceive our actions as dictated by our own free will. Why should we doubt its reality when it takes only a small leap of imagination to figure out how it may be compatible with special relativity?
Pride is what prevents people from seeing the Kingdom. The kind of pride that makes them say: "Unless we understand every aspect of an idea, that idea is unworthy not only of our faith, but also of our time."
But why should we, limited human beings, understand everything? We are like travelers, equipped with all the necessary gadgets; we have laid out a map to reach our destination, but can't find the means of transportation to get there. We need a ride. Let's hope that Jesus will take us all the way to His Kingdom.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dedicated to Atheists

My son and I have an ongoing debate over religious terminology. He's an atheist and I, an agnostic until five years ago, can see his point. It feels funny even to me to use words such as evil and sin. The new me fully understands their meaning, whereas the old me laughs condescendingly at this nonsense invented by the Church to undermine human dignity.
Expressions that praise the greatness of God are also controversial. If you have read my last post, you'll know that my son described as "meaningless slogan" this statement of mine: Jesus transcends my humanity. For my son's sake, I'll try to show how this statement is, instead, profoundly meaningful.

The New Atheists, which my son often paraphrases, maintain that we don't need religion to lead a morally sound life, and I agree with them. But the problem is much more complex than it may appear at first sight. At the risk of upsetting my son before he goes on reading, I'll say that the inability to probe deep into the human soul is characteristic of his fellow atheists. They believe that knowing how to achieve well-being will be, in the future, sufficient for the human race to stay on the right track. I believe that human beings are basically faulty and more than capable of telling themselves lies to adjust to their imperfections. It's all a question of where to draw the line between good and evil.

To illustrate my viewpoint, I'll describe the dynamics that may cause major problems to apparently happily married couples, both atheists and Christians.
Let's say that the husband looses his job, clearly a possibility in this economy, and the wife works hard to keep the family afloat. She, a good woman who loves her husband, is determined to face the situation in good spirit. But a year later her husband is still unemployed. They are about to loose their home. She obsesses over their financial problems, desperately looking for a way out. When it becomes obvious that they have no choice but to move into a rental apartment, she reluctantly admits to herself that she's harboring some resentment towards her husband. It's not her intention to turn against the father of her
children. Yet, unable to suppress her resentment, she looks for reasons to justify it.
"All women want to have a good provider as a husband", she thinks. "Why should I be different?"
If she believes in God, she will pray, but that won't necessarily help her. She'll feel better for a while, but then her resentment could come back, maybe in the form of bad dreams and fantasies of a better life with another man.
If she's an atheist, she might go see a therapist.
She feels guilty, but she can't control her thoughts. They build up inside of her, until one day she will burst out saying something that she will regret.

Here is another scenario.
A different woman has had many pregnancies and has lost her figure. Her husband loves her, but he's not attracted to her anymore. Instead, he can't help being drawn to a beautiful coworker. He feels guilty but, unable to suppress his feelings, he finds a way to justify them.
"I'm only human", he thinks.
If he's a good Christian, he will pray for strength and self control, but he might still not be able to win the temptation. Haunted by erotic dreams and fantasies, sooner or later he might do something that he will regret some day.

These two individuals, the working wife and the tempted husband, are telling themselves something absolutely true, namely that they are only human. Yet, the moment they accept this truth, they loose all hope of overcoming their weaknesses. We human beings are faulty and weak. This is the original sin we carry within us. The serpent, the evil one, is a liar. He wants to convince us that it's OK to pursue our impulses.
"Go for it", he says. "You have the right to be happy."
But no real happiness can derive from destructive behavior.
Or, if we are stronger than him and would never act on illicit desires, he will take away our peace of mind anyway bringing back unwanted thoughts and dreams. There is only one way to overcome them, and that is the way of Christ. Or, I should say, His way is the easy one, much easier than struggling with one's own demons.

My yoke is easy, my burden light."

If we are Christians not only by denomination but by experience, if we have experienced Christ's presence at some point in our life, He will come to the rescue. All of a sudden, He will be there with us, freeing us from our nightmares. A small miracle will take place within our minds. It has happened to me more than once. I have no better words to describe Him than "a Presence that transcends my humanity". The Savior. Someone so impossibly high and yet reachable. Not only a God, not only a man, but rather someone who unites God and men by merely existing. Someone who led the life of a man who was united with God, to show us that we can, with all our imperfections, do the same.

Be perfect, like your Father in heaven is perfect."

A healing presence, which dissolves my problems like snow in the sun and gives me joy. All I have to do is let His splendor shine on me, and I'm effortlessly brought to transcend my humanity. He doesn't turn me into a saint, He just shows me that it's possible to live above the lies.

I realize that I have no choice but to resort to sentences that may sound like religious slogans the atheist's ear, but unfortunately it's impossible to put into words even the most modest mystical experience.
Being unable to say what Jesus is, I'll say what He's not. He's not an inspirational character who tells you how to think and act. He's not the face of an Aha! moment. He's not a spiritual teacher. When you are in need of healing you don't have to meditate on Jesus' teaching. You must CONTEMPLATE Jesus. If you are able to perceive His presence, you'll be filled with love in overflowing abundance and you'll give it to others. You won't have to climb a steep ladder to reach the sky. Take His hand and you'll be there in one single leap. You might fall again because you are human, but you'll know, by then, that you can transcend your humanity. Thanks to Him who lies within.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Town Fair

I live in a small town near Philly. During the summer the township organizes weekly events with good music, food and things for sale.
There is nothing like a town fair to make one wonder about human destiny.
It seems unreal that so many persons, that multitude of human beings, will all have eternal life. And what about all the other people walking the earth? It must be one crowded heaven up there! But surely a merciful God wouldn't pick some and leave the others behind! With all their differences, they look basically the same to me: Children holding ice creams and balloons, who will become cool teenagers in tight jeans and flip-flops, who will grow into adults pushing strollers and then into old people leaning on each other.

This year a friend of mine, who owns a shop on the main street, let me borrow her windows to display my paintings. Among Neapolitan landscapes, colorful birds and portraits, I hung a large painting depicting Jesus walking in the desert. The apostles are standing behind Him, while a woman is kneeling on the ground stretching her arms towards Him.
I sat between the two windows with my easel and started painting a young Mary, also kneeling on the ground while the Archangel Gabriel tenderly lays a hand on her head.
People stopped to watch me painting and to ask questions. Some of them had comments about the painting I was working on. Most of them realized that it depicted the Annunciation. A woman stood there for a while, then said:
"You are brave! Taking up a subject like this…!"
"I'm not afraid of affirming my faith", I answered.
"Me neither", she retorted, "but…to paint Mary…not all churches are devoted to her."
Not being in the mood for a theological debate, I said:
"Well, I just think that it's a nice subject for a painting".

A little later a man stopped by and, with a conspiratorial air, whispered that he knew what really happened when Mary became aware that she was going to give birth to Jesus.
"There was no angel!" he stated. "That part was made up by the Church! I'm Catholic, but I don't buy everything they say!"
Kind of annoyed at his attitude, I asked him how he could be so sure.
"Because I can think!" he answered.
Undeniably, people have very strong opinions about what supernatural event took place when Jesus was born. Unfortunately Christian churches find necessary to fight over it. Some even split hairs over the elements that lead to salvation.Which comes first, grace or good work? As for me, I enjoy the uncertainty.
Later on, a girl approached me and asked what my interpretation of the Annunciation was.
"I think that Mary felt very humbled at that moment", I answered.
Only then I realized that both the women I had depicted in a religious setting were kneeling.
"What's up with that?" I thought. "Have I forgotten everything about women's dignity after my conversion?"
Then it occurred to me that I was probably representing my own state of mind. I am humbled before the Mystery. I'm grateful for the gift of faith that Jesus bestowed on me and for all the grace that came with it. But although I feel that I've received a revelation, I can't be sure that I've got it entirely right.

Religion is essentially Mystery, for revelation is always cryptic and it's mediated through the person who receives it. Let's say, for example, that God "speaks" to an Indian yogi; he will verbalize grace according to his cultural background. Therefore the resulting message will be different from the one of an inspired Christian. Pope Benedict XVI examined this issue in depth in his "Many Religions, One Covenant".
There is nothing unassailable in matters of faith, except for our own personal experience of revelation. We may be filled with certainty, yet we know that others are too, even though their beliefs do not coincide with ours.
But what gives us certainty? How can we define revelation? I would say that it must be something that gives us no choice. We may not live up to it, but we must feel its commanding nature. This kind of revelation lies at the heart of the Christian faith. A true Christian will not carry out Jesus' message because it's appealing or morally sound. He will carry it out because Jesus will take over his or her whole life. If you let Him, little by little He will annihilate your old self and give you a new one, and you will be whole.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Going with The Flu

It has been raining for days and there is no sign of stopping. When last week I tuned on the Weather Channel, on the screen appeared a long line of small squares featuring dripping clouds, with one exception: The one marked Sunday showed a bright yellow sun. And so, in the attempt to catch the last rays of summer, on Sunday I headed for the pool. Trying not to pay attention to a looming head-ache, I plunged head first into the freezing water. The following day I had a stiff neck and a cold, but I still roamed around the house obsessing over things I had to do and things I wanted to do. Frustrated because of the pouring rain, I picked up a fight with my husband and son over a possible move to California.
"I refused to go on living in such a horrible climate!" I yelled at their perplexities about relocating.
Then, trying to channel my negative energy into something positive, I took up scrubbing the kitchen floor, only to strain my arm's muscles.

Have you ever felt so miserable that not only your present, but also your past and your future seemed to be overshadowed by a grey curtain of pessimism? Have you ever said to yourself that you haven't accomplished anything in your life and are just too tired to face the future? Luckily, I don't have a lot of days like that, but when I do, I pray to Jesus for some relief. This time, He wisely decided to knock me down. I'm home with the flu and, thanks to God, I have no choice but to relax. I've canceled my appointments and now I lie in my bed, this time praying for Him to alleviate the pressure between my eyes. Then I start looking for Him. How can I find Him, right here in my room? Maybe concentrating on that old snap-shot of my mother, sitting on the beach with Capri's coast in the background? No, that's just awakening my nostalgia. We used to take pictures of each other when we were on vacation. I can almost feel the weight of the big old-fashioned camera in my hands, while I was holding it in front of her smiling face. It must have been before my teen-age years, and now I'm probably older than she was in that picture.

My mother is not among us anymore, and the thought of her makes me feel lonely. Longing for some company, I call my son by my bed.
"Sweetheart," I say to the non-religious fruit of my womb, "Would you read a few passages from the Bible to me?"
"Are you out of your mind?" he rebels.
"Come on!" I insist, "I have a terrible headache and I can't read that small print. But that's what I need to hear right now."
With a sigh, he sits next to me and grabs the Bible that I'm holding out to him. He opens it at random.
"I lie prostrate in the dust; give me life in accordance with your word. I disclosed my ways and you answered me; teach me your laws. Make me understand the way of your precepts; I will ponder your wondrous deeds. I weep in bitter pain; in accord with your word to strenghten me."
He turns to me: "I can't read this. To put oneself down before an imaginary being…it's humiliating! Why are you so fascinated with this depressing stuff?"
"Because in it I see the hand of God. It gives me hope, it speaks to my heart. Because I want to hear a message that transcends my humanity".
"These are just meaningless slogans, mom."
"That's because our vocabulary is limited, sweetheart. There are no words to describe God's love, not to mention to open your mind to its meaning. But it's OK; you don't have to read if you don't want to. Let's listen to the Pink Floyd together."
And as the room is filled with music, I perceive Jesus' love bringing us together in a bundle of tenderness. In a drug induced daze, I see tens of doves rising towards the ceiling, carrying small black musical notes in their beaks. Angels in disguise, breaking through the boundaries of my imagination.
 
 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Simply Art

I do some volunteer work at my parish, feeding the people in need. The space used for this purpose is called "Day Room", as it is open from 9 o'clock in the morning to 3 o'clock in the afternoon. It is crowded all day long with Mexican moms and their children, whereas American customers show up at lunchtime. Adult men are not allowed to hang around before or after the meal, except for one man, who is treated like a member of the family by all the women who volunteer at church. He's 67 years-old but looks 97, thus awakening that maternal instinct that good women feel for old people. His name is Paul, and he shares his apartment with Francis, a 77 year-old black woman who takes care of him. They are the most peculiar pair of individuals I've ever seen. Except for the fact that she's blind in one eye and toothless, Francis looks like a teen-ager in her jeans and colorful t-shirts. Perfect posture, lean muscular body, she runs around the Day Room tirelessly, carrying weights that would give a back-ache to most men of her age. Paul instead, ten years younger than her, moves cautiously leaning on a walking stick. All I know about him is that he was married and has two children, but bipolar disorder and drug abuse ruined his life. I have a hard time understanding him, because is voice is reduced to a hoarse whisper. He doesn't seem to have enough strength to breath, yet once in a while he shamefully walks outside and lights a cigarette. He's dreadfully pale and thin. There is something ethereal about him, as if his body were just a shred that hung on to life.

But sometimes, half-way through the morning, Paul does something incredible. He sits at the table and Francis, who already knows what he wants, places in front of him an exercises book and a few colored pens. He opens the book, grabs a pen with his callused hand and start drawing a flower. His flower is nothing but a green stem with a small sphere on top, which he colors in red, blue or yellow. And then he starts all over again, drawing another flower. Soon many pages are filled with those small colored spheres balancing on their thin stems. Now and then one of the women lays a hand on his shoulder and says:
"That's nice, Paul!"
He smiles and turns the pages, looking for the prettiest flower that he could show her.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…"

The beauty of Paul's act consists precisely in its poverty. It reminds me of an event that happened in Italy in 1973, when I was a junior in high school (Liceo of Art). During a visit to a mental institution in Trieste, two artists run into a woman patient who was sketching a horse. Drawing some lines, she divided it into six compartments and drew something else into each one: a flowerpot, a duck, a pot, a house, a tree and a Pinocchio. She said that the horse was named Marco, like the old horse who carried back and forth the dirty laundry and was about to be sent to the slaughter-house. That's how Marco Cavallo (horse in Italian) was born. Run by the two artists, for two months the laboratory welcomed hundreds of patients. All were invited to write and draw on large white leaves of paper. They told stories, organized shows and finally built a big blue horse in wood and papier-mache, talking about how to save the old Marco from his horrible destiny.
Marco Cavallo laboratory turned upside-down once and for all what was left of the old order and discipline which had reigned in mental institutions for centuries. But in my eyes, Paul's flowers represent something even more moving in their simplicity. They depict his poverty of spirit, which is necessary to open our heart and mind to the love of Christ. My son, who is an atheist, confuses poverty of spirit with naivete and even stupidity. Instead, it's the factor that allows us to realize that our faith doesn't come from within, but from without, and in order to embrace it we have to be open to the Mystery that is engaging our being.
Acknowledging this was fundamental to my conversion, because it helped me understand that I wasn't deluding myself.


Writing is, to me, a constant reminder of Jesus' presence in my life. I am certain that I couldn't do it on my own, whereas, when I paint, I rely on my technique. I have struggled to master it, and I've never had the feeling that my ability to paint was a gift from God. But maybe that's because I was a painter before I converted. I don't need inspiration to paint, all I have to do is call for my sense of aesthetics. There is no poverty of spirit there. But when it comes to writing, I have to place my trust in God. In fact, I never know if I will ever be able to write again. My inspiration comes from without, and not only that: If I'm looking for a quote or a book that might clarify what I'm trying to say, it systematically appears before my eyes like magic. For example, here is what happened when I was writing my book. Part of it is about Jesus' journey through Palestine, so I wanted to include some descriptions of the landscape. I thought about looking it up on the Internet, but I never did it. One day I was at the Public Library, browsing the "memoirs" section. I randomly picked up a book from the shelf, and to my amazement it was about a woman writer who had taken a trip to Israel! Now, what are the chances for that to happen?
The white page is the place where I encounter Jesus, which is synonymous of encountering my soul. Leaning down to me, He helps me probe into my "I".

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Ultimate Question


Yesterday I drove to the pool under a luminous blue sky, the car windows open to the breeze. Days like that are rare down here, and as glorious as the memories of my Italian summers.
The YMCA was hosting a summer camp, so I sat in the sun watching the unfolding of the games. It was beautiful to see teen-age boys and girls taking care of younger children, unconsciously getting ready for their own future parenthood. And it was beautiful to observe how the children looked different from one another: the pale Irish girl with wavy red hair, the muscular young boy honey-colored from head to toe, the bright-eyed black girl who looked even darker in her white bathing-suit. Maybe it's because I'm Italian, but I was moved by their diversity. In Italy children look pretty much the same: nice tan, chestnut hair, but more blue eyes than American people might think.

As I was delighting in the children's playfulness, the image of a Somalian kid popped into my mind. I had seen him on CNN the night before, his limbs skeleton-like, his face covered with flies. I didn't have the courage to keep watching.

…"Give as our daily bread"…God, why aren't You listening?

On one of the blogs I follow, "Being! Or Nothingness", appeared with much delay a post by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, who is very active in Communion and Liberation. The article was previously posted on "America - The National Catholic Weekly" after the earthquake in Haiti, and had generated a lot of comments, some angry at a silent God, others accepting suffering as imposed by His mysterious hand. Those capable of acceptance argue that God has reasons for permitting suffering, and that if we are tempted to doubt the value of suffering patiently, according to His will, we only have to look at the Cross. There is a lot of truth in this statement, but I disagree with the premises.
The theologian Bonhoeffer wrote:
"God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, He is with us and helps us".
I'm comfortable with the idea that God is omnipotent only in that He is omnipresent. Nobody can figure out God, yet it's only natural to try. I believe that when God created the universe He put in motion a sort of chain reaction that we call evolution, and chaos, or evil if you want, is still present in it. He can't step in here and there to fix it. It's in our hands; we have to make it work. In fact, we have evolved to the point that we can do a better job at anticipating natural disasters and building safer structures.

Albacete point of view is very subtle. He writes:
"I do not want an explanation for why this God allows these tragedies to happen. An explanation would reduce the pain and suffering to an inability to understand, a failure of intelligence so to speak. I can only accept a God who 'co-suffers' with me. Such is the God of the Christian faith. But faith or no faith, Christian or not, our humanity demands that the question 'why' not be suppressed, but that it allowed to guide our response to everything that happens."
Albacete doesn't want an explanation because he knows that we can't unravel the Mystery. Yet he insists on the importance of the question. Perhaps that implies that we ask "why" to ourselves and not to God: Why didn't we do something to prevent a tragedy of such magnitude? Why did we wait to evacuate the area? Why aren't we taking action to alleviate our neighbors suffering?

The Christian aim is the perfect world, heaven on earth. The prophet Isaiah predicted the coming of a new Garden of Eden, where all the wars, diseases and misery would disappear. Christianity, as opposite to eastern religions, doesn't wait for the end of this illusion that is our world, but only for the end of its imperfections.
Jesus never said that he would wipe away the sorrow from humanity. He told us to love our neighbor, because he would be hidden inside of him. He told us to take care of the poor and the outcasts:
"Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me."

Jesus asked "why" on the cross:
"My God, why have You forsaken me?"
Reading Psalm 22 we realize that his "why" was not intended as a question, but rather as a cry for help. The mocked Jesus, who had not been rescued by his Father, who had been surrounded by evildoers and tortured, whose life was draining away, whose heart was melting, that same Jesus was still praising God, seeking Him, trusting Him. As always, Jesus' response is the only possible one.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Body according to St. Augustine, John Paul II and...my dreams.

Over the years I've done a lot of climbing in my sleep, usually on stairs. I've ascended all sorts of buildings, modern and old, made of steel, glass or stone. Many of my dreams were about reaching the top, and according to Freud the meaning of this image is the desire for sexual climax. I'm not sure about that; I'd rather think that I was trying to reach Heaven.

However, I do believe that some of those dreams had a hidden sexual connotation. For example, let me tell you about a nightmare I had about thirty years ago. I was running up the stairs, and a monkey-like man was running after me, growling. Short and ugly, he was equipped with an extendable arm that would twist like a serpent in the attempt to catch me. But he failed, and I arrived safely at the top of the building.
As you probably know, the serpent is a phallic symbol. Looking back, I think that the monkey-man represented the negative effect that my sexuality was having on my life.

A few months ago I had a beautiful dream. I was walking on a steep path, among gorgeous plants and flowers. The path led to a fantastic villa. I entered a cozy room full of colorful pillows and looked out of the window. About fifty feet down I could see a pond, and under the surface I saw three gigantic dormant beasts: a dragon, a lion and a rhino. I looked at them in disbelief. Flat under the still water, they seemed to occupy the entire pond. I woke up with a sense of peace.
Of course, the rhino is also a phallic symbol. I think those beasts represented my sexuality, finally at rest.
I'm fifty-five-years old, so I can't take credit for having tamed my sexual impulses. They have simply subsided. I converted to Christianity five years ago, therefore I didn't have to struggle to keep them under control when they were at their peak. I just set them free. But sometimes I wonder: had I converted in my youth, would I have been able to live without sin?

Some of us, both women and men, encounter a lot more obstacles on the path to purity, simply because their hormonal level is higher. St. Augustine was one of them. He identified sexual desire with the factor that enslaves men and cannot be overcome. For him, sexuality expressed itself in a "diabolical excitement". He wrote:
"…These members are rightly called pudenda (parts of shame), because they excite themselves just as they like, in opposition to the mind which is their master, as if they were their own master".
He accused ascetics of being arrogant and deranged, because they didn't accept the plain truth, namely that they couldn't win over their sexual impulses.
The historian Elaine Pagels informs us that the most passionate of his opponents, Julian, wrote that "Augustine's view of the world expressed the emptiness of a person who is spiritually dying, and having failed to cultivate his own possibilities, projects onto the world his own sense of loss".
But St. Augustine was engaged in a constant struggle against his sexual impulses, of which Julian had probably little experience. For some, the struggle is a lot more difficult than for others.

Today, Catholics can find inspiration in John Paul II Gospel of the Body. He was convinced that we can regain a culture of love and understanding of God through nuptial communion, because sexuality is by no means purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person. The family relationship is founded on the union of the sexes, and family is the fundamental call of society. If man does not encounter love, his life remains senseless. We want to know another person and be known by another person. But men and women must know each other spiritually first, to integrate body and soul. When this doesn't happen, people feel disintegrated, at least in the long run.
Man can only find himself through the sincere gift of the self. Sexual union represents this gift. We all seek to become unique for our partner, and John Paul II wanted to demonstrate that the moral teaching of the Church is not against human nature but, on the contrary, they correspond to the deepest desires of the heart. Modern man is disconnected from this desire. If we fail to realize this, living a moral life will inevitably become a burden of imposed and arbitrary rules. To follow the moral rules without understanding them would be sterile. Original sin is a mystery confirmed by human experience, for it has turned our heart into a battlefield between love and lust. Jesus speaks about committing adultery in the heart because the heart is the core of our personality.

Speaking about marriage, Jesus repudiates Moses' permission to divorce, Moses, he says, made a concession to the "hardness of heart" of human beings, but it wasn't so in the beginning, when the Creator made them male and female so that they would become "one flesh", leave their parents and live together for the rest of their lives. The disciples aren't pleased to hear this teaching. Their response is that, in this case, it's better not to marry at all. Jesus answers that celibacy is not for everybody, although some renounce marriage "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven". In conclusion, all Jesus ever said about sexuality is that marriage is a sacrament and should be avoided only by those who prefer the ascetic life and can handle chastity.

But what about sexual impulses that we accept as normal? What about lust that we mistake for love? According to John Paul II, the first step to overcome lust is to recognize that it isn't something that we really wish to pursue in our heart. We identify freedom with the possibility of indulging without restraint in lust because we feel bound by it, therefore we are not free at all. To say it with John Paul II, lust is at the core of the human being, and "…it invades his senses, excites his body, involves his feelings and, in a certain sense, takes possession of his heart". To get rid of this enslavement is not an impediment to Eros, which only exists when a true communion of the two people is achieved. To seek redemption doesn't mean to seek disembodiment, whereas a separation between body and spirit is taken for granted in our culture. We may learn how to control sexual impulses instead of being controlled by them, but if we only constrain them we'll never achieve freedom. Respect and love for ourselves and for others are the ultimate answer. In our divorce culture, the "other" only has value so far as he or she is an instrument of enjoyment. As soon as she or he doesn't allow our self-gratification, we don't love anymore and seek the next useful person. This is the "hardness of the heart" of which Jesus spoke.

John Paul condemned lust even among husband and wife, but he was misunderstood and the media reacted negatively all over the world. What he meant was that especially the conjugal relationship shouldn't be reduced to a mere satisfaction of sexual needs, but should be founded on love and respect. The Song of the Songs shows that fascination with the spouse's body is biblical, but we know that concupiscence is a distortion. Looking at our spouse's body through the latter we see just an object, but looking at it through the first we see a person and not just a body.

No one can deny that John Paul's ideas are beautiful and truthful. I was surprised to learn that the Pope exhorts men to care for their wives pleasure. He wrote:
"Sexologists state that the curve of arousal in woman is different from that in man - it rises more slowly and falls more slowly…The man must take this difference…into account…so that climax may be reached by both…and as far as possible occur in both simultaneously."
I also found interesting that he insisted on restoring Michelangelo's original nudes in the Sistine Chapel, which had been covered up by prudish clerics.

If you are not Catholics and are still thinking that the Pope is the representation of an old-fashioned prudery, think again. The late Hindu Master Meher Baba expressed exactly the same ideas not only about sexuality, but also about contraception. For him, we must overcome both indulgence and repression to free ourselves from the bondage of sexual craving. Sex within marriage achieves perfection when even the slightest shadow of lust is overcome. Artificial control methods are to be avoided, for they prevent us from exercising mental control, which leads to spiritual awakening.
I bet that these concepts sound acceptable to modern intellectuals, when they come from a Hindu Master instead of from the Pope!

So listen, religious or non-religious people, it's hard but you can do it! And if you can't, don't despair. According with St. Augustine you are in good company!
 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Miracles

My parents, whom I loved deeply, both passed away after I had moved to the USA, so I didn't have a chance to say good-by. My father, however, came to visit after my mother died, when he was almost ninety years old. We used to sit on the porch together, talking about her. A few years later, after his death, I found myself sitting on that porch all by myself, overwhelmed with anxiety. My problems were keeping me awake at night in spite of the medications, and the lack of sleep was driving me crazy. I thought that I was loosing my mind.
All of a sudden I felt my father's presence. It was a very matter-of-fact feeling, almost emotionless. He was simply there, as if he were sitting behind me so that I couldn't see him. He stayed for a while and, although I couldn't hear his voice, he told me that I shouldn't worry.
That night I slept well, and I haven't had major sleeping problems since then.
At that timeI wasn't a believer, yet I had to admit that something out of the ordinary had happened to me. I had been healed.

When years later I started reading about Jesus, the first thing I tried to understand was the claim that He had been a miracle worker. I decided to read A Marginal Jew, an ambitious historical investigation in three volumes written by a catholic priest, the historian John P. Meier. At the risk of annoying you, who are Christians and don't need any convincing, I would like to write briefly about what I learned, because it was so fascinating to me at the time, and it still is.
Today the word "miracle" is for many synonymous to the word hoax, but that wasn't the case in the ancient world. Back then people took for granted that God would intervene in earthly matters and sometimes even change the laws of nature. On the other hand, they weren't more gullible than a lot of 21 first century people are, for they weren't prone to accept an exceptional event as truthful on the basis of a rumor.
A great number of modern scholars admit that we can only explain the huge impact that Jesus had on the crowds if we reckon that he performed deeds for which there was no natural explanation. His miracles played an important role in His fate, for they differentiated Him from the other itinerant prophets of His time. Because of his deeds, He appeared more dangerous to the authorities and more appealing to the people.

In the ancient world, extreme ascetism was identified everywhere with the acquirement of supernatural powers. The path of renunciation was well-established among Buddhists and Hindu yogis long before the rise of Christianity and its saints. Silence, solitude and self-denial were the three imperatives of the ascetic, who had to achieve spiritual discernment to learn what comes from God and what from the devil. But the outpouring of miracles in the Gospels outnumbers by far the amount of miracles performed by any other religious figure in history. The Gospels say that Jesus was charged with being in league with the devil, and it's highly improbable that the Church would have deliberately added such a claim if it wasn't true. Therefore, He must have been performing remarkable deeds.
Some historians maintain that the evangelists aimed at making certain theological points when they wrote their accounts of Jesus' miracles, but this is true especially in John and concerns in particular the nature miracles, namely the stilling of the storm, the cursing of the fig tree, the walking on water, the catching of fish, the changing of water into wine and the feeding of the multitudes.

However, the words used by the Gospels writers to describe Jesus' deeds are not correctly translated with the English word "miracle", which carry the idea of the supernatural. Rather, they imply that something unexpected happened within the natural world that made it more "whole". Jesus' healings were not performed to impress or prove His divinity, but to bestow the gift of wholeness to those who lacked it. In ancient Israel, to carry a physical imperfection was considered a shame, and those who were already suffering because of their illnesses or deformities were also marginalized by the Jewish society. Jesus restored their integrity and welcomed them into the new Israel He was professing.
The exorcisms have a specific meaning because, except for King Solomon, they are not part of the Old Testament tradition. Jesus alone was engaged in a battle with the devil, and he was winning:

"If I by the finger of God cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

Meier made use of scholarly criteria to establish the historicity of Jesus' miracles, but also to extract the historical Jesus from the Gospels' narratives. Here are the most important ones:

The criterion of discontinuity: It focuses on the originality of the Gospels narratives. For example, the ancient texts don't talk much about exorcisms, so it makes sense to conclude that something that was understood as casting out demons was really happening rather than being an invention of the Church.
It also focuses on words or deeds of Jesus that cannot be derived from Judaism or from the early Church, but rather contradict them. For example, the prohibition of divorce, the rejection of fasting on Sabbath and so on.

The criterion of embarrassment: It focuses on actions or sayings of Jesus that would have created difficulty for the early Church. There are several examples that fall into this category. Among others: Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist, Judah's betrayal, Peter's denial, the women as the first witnesses of the resurrection (women were not considered reliable).

The criterion of multiple attestations: It focuses on those sayings or deeds of Jesus that are attested to in more than one source or genre. This criterion abundantly satisfy the attestation of His miracles, for they are mentioned in more than one Gospel and in general in Josephus, an historian of the time of Jesus who did not believed in His divinity but described Him as a powerful miracle worker.
 

An overwhelming majority of people believe that miracles still happen. Meier writes:
"…hence, the academic creed of 'no modern person can believe in miracles' should be consigned to the dumpster of empirically falsified hypotheses, After all, that is what is done when other hypotheses are empirically falsified by the social science. I fail to see why this particular creed, however passionately held, can apply for a special exemption, simply because so many academics keep reciting it".
The cures that take place in Lourdes serve to testify that what was claimed to happen by the hands of Jesus is still claimed to happen today in a religious setting and is thoroughly investigated by the International Medical Committee, therefore the miracles stories in the Gospels deserve to be historically investigated. To dismiss them as a creation of the evangelists because "they couldn't possibly occur" is a faulty procedure.

As for me, needless to say, I've come to believe in miracles. Sometimes I think that my entire life is a miracle. I used to enjoy living dangerously, and I could have ended up in big trouble. I thank Jesus every day for His mercy. And my father too, for loving me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Padre Pio

A few days ago it was the feast of Padre Pio.
Apparently, some devotees believe that he would do just about anything from up there to celebrate the occasion. For example, today I saw a guy on TV enthusiastically holding his picture in front of the camera after Naples's soccer team won a game against Villa Real Spanish team.


I was born in Naples, and although I've never met Padre Pio, I've heard a lot about him. My mother went to visit him when I was a young girl, and I remember her returning home in a state of shock: He had refused to give her the absolution. I wonder why. He was known for his ability to see into people's heart. She never went back, which makes me think that he saw something in her that she couldn't easily change. My mother and I had a wonderful relationship, but she didn't get along with all the members of our family. Perhaps Padre Pio condemned her temper, or saw that she couldn't love her neighbor as she loved herself.

My husband met Padre Pio at the age of five. He remembers that, before celebrating Mass, he kicked two women out of the church because they were dressed inappropriately. That was scary. But later he took him on his lap and talked to him in Neapolitan dialect, and that was sweet. My husband is not a believer, yet Padre Pio's picture has been sitting on his night-stand since we moved to the USA.

Padre Pio was a man who strived towards perfection and wanted others to do the same. Like St. John of the Cross, he tried to achieve purification of the senses and suffered the Night of the Spirit. He wrote:
"I find myself enveloped in a profound night and no matter how I turn and toss I cannot find the light. How then can I walk before the Lord?"
And somewhere else, like Mother Theresa:
"My Father, how difficult it is to believe!"
Many saints have experienced interior darkness. Theology attributes this phenomenon to the increasing closeness of the saint to Jesus, who also suffered the absence of God on the cross. The saint will remain obedient to God even during years of darkness.
Another explanation could be that mystics perceive the evil nature of temptation more deeply than ordinary people. Maybe Padre Pio was horrified at the kind of thoughts that would simply remind us that we are human and therefore subject to temptation.


But of course Padre Pio had an insight of the truth: The devil's most cherished activity is to mess up with our minds. For decades I did not realize that I was, so to speak, a toy in his dirty hands. Then one night, a few weeks into the process of returning to the faith, I fell pray of an unusual sensation. I was sleeping on my side, and I felt as if someone was pressing hard on my chest and on my back at the same time. I woke up more than once because of the discomfort, realizing every time that it wasn't caused by stomach pain. Exhausted, I fell asleep again and again.
The morning after I rushed to church and asked for the priest. He was a thin, dignified man with snow white hair. I was embarrassed. "This is ridiculous!" I thought. But I told him my story and he took me seriously. He advised me to keep a crucifix next to me the following night.
"Father," I said, "I don't own anything of that sort. I'm not a religious person."
"Nothing at all?" he exclaimed. "Well, no wonder…Wait here, I'll get you what you need."
I went back home with two crucifixes and a Bible, and they have been in my bedroom ever since.


It is said that Padre Pio had physical confrontations with the devil. I certainly don't envy him. Yet, sometimes I do welcome temptations, because they allow me to recognize Jesus' power against the Big Liar. What can I say? Every so often I need to see Jesus in action.
Jesus engaged in his own private battle with Satan, whom he understood as the real cause for the wickedness of Rome. He couldn't be the kind of Messiah who would fight Rome in a war, because the one thing that God can't do is to go against His nature. Jesus couldn't fight evil with the devil's weapons, but only with the love he had for his people. So he went to the cross. He was afraid, but he trusted His Father, and Christianity won against the evil empire of Rome

Friday, September 2, 2011

Words and Flowers

This post is a follow up to the previous one, so please, if you are new to my blog, read "Simply Art" first. It's about Paul, the sweet old man who likes to draw flowers. Today Francis, his roommate, told me something I didn't know: When they are at home, Paul spends all his time drawing his little flowers, from morning to night.
"We use up note-books pretty quickly in our home!" she said.
That got me thinking. Paul doesn't seem to draw because he suffers from a compulsive disorder. When he picks up his pen, he's at peace with himself. He draws flowers because that makes him happy. He likes to be told how pretty they are, but he finds pleasure in the simple act of drawing them. In one word, he has a healthy relationship with his flowers, probably one of the few healthy relationships he has ever had in his troubled life. That is how any artist should relate to his art, including me. Old Paul is teaching me a lesson.

As far as painting goes, very rarely I have painted for the sake of it. I've always had a second goal in mind, such as getting good grades, learning a new technique or making money. And I've never been completely satisfied with the result. I always expected something more from myself, or something different. This attitude has prevented me from finding real joy in my work. I don't want to make the same mistakes with writing.

When I was working on my book, I felt more "whole" than I had ever felt while painting. Nevertheless, when I was finished I put my manuscript away and never wrote again until I started this blog. Why? Because I though of it as an "unproductive" activity. But then I learned that even my little stories can speak to the depth of the human soul. A friend of mine told me that she made it up with her son, to whom she hadn't talked for years, after listening to my "Witness for CL" (check the page on this blog), and that made my day. Still, when after writing the first two posts I saw that no one was leaving comments, I was tempted to stop again. Why writing if nobody is reading me? Because, I should answer, it's good for me. It helps me reflect upon things that would otherwise go unnoticed. It brings me closer to my "I" and to Christ. It gives me joy. But, if you are reading me and don't feel like leaving a comment, please click on one of the boxes below. Like Paul, I too need a little encouragement!

Maybe I find writing more fulfilling than painting also because I believe that words are at the root of everything.
"In the beginning was the Word…"
Our universe is made of words, for we couldn't describe what we see without them. Like God, we create our world through words. Yet, Paul's flowers are the product of a humble creative act performed in the sacredness of silence. I couldn't tell you about them without resorting on words; that much is true, but those flowers speak directly to my heart. I asked him to give me one of his drawings and I put it on my desk, to remind myself that beauty can be found in the smallest and simplest things, if one looks closely enough. Then I volunteered to show him how to draw a butterfly. He smiled and accepted the offer. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011



These are some of my paintings, gouaches in the 18th century style. They express my longing for a world that I would have loved to inhabit and it's now lost.