Monday, December 6, 2010

Daily Bread

Culinary entrepreneur, master baker, and cookbook author Danny Klecko understands a thing or two about trust: he's earned it through years of sweating on the line with his crew, leading St. Agnes Baking Co., and feeding the hungry citizens of Minneapolis-Saint Paul. But how does Klecko feel about his Maker? Here he discusses faith, baking, and the ingredients of miracles.

So how do you get a Master Baker of thirty years to write a column for your blog? Just tell him that his contributions will be the equivalent of Bono's musings in the New York Times.

Although I am not a rock star, I would respectfully submit that a person who feeds a city on a daily basis understands modern culture better than a pop culture icon. (But with that said, I sure wouldn't mind obtaining some of the swag that comes along with gaining celebrity.)

The first thing I should point out is that the Baking Guild has been held in the highest esteem for centuries. The primary reason for this is because everybody hated Millers. When a family gathered its wheat after a harvest, the only option they had was to bring it to the Millers. The milling process always took place inside of a large building, and the families were never allowed in to watch. Records show that everybody felt that portions of their bounty were stolen, but they could never prove it.

The Bakers on the other hand invited people into their space and allowed them to watch as their wheat was baked into loaves. Respect for bakers grew rapidly. In fact 1/4 of the Roman Senate was comprised of bakers...is this just a coincidence?

My friends at Dingo Prayer have been kind enough to share their platform. My take is to offer a sort of "Blue Collar Theology" to their fan base, but remember I've been steeped in the principles of the hospitality industry.

Have you ever noticed how many times Christ never opened his mouth until he was certain that his guests were rested and fed? I'm pretty certain that's because he knew that words without trust were like casting pearls before swine.

In my three decades of feeding people, I have traveled the globe preparing food for prostitutes and nuns, homeless people to American presidents, street gangs and college professors--and through these experiences I've learned one thing: if I can keep my mouth shut long enough to figure out what ingredients a person covets, I can gain their trust, and trust is the most important component when you are trying to create miracles.

OK--there's nothing worse than a guy who doesn't know when to relinquish his soapbox, but before I shut it down, feel free to track down your favorite columnist. You can find me under Danny Klecko on Facebook, or just swing by the bakery if you are in the Twin Cities!


Dingo note: Klecko's K-9 Nation Biscuit Book: Baking for Your Best Friend makes the perfect gift!

Read Klecko's post Polish Sourdough.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Find Some Plans for Me

A few years ago, on a cold winter afternoon outside of Philadelphia, I stood alone at the edge of a forest and wondered aloud where God had gone. The sunny field behind me was covered with a bright crust of snow, but the pines in front of me were somber and dark. What are your plans for me? I asked God. What now?

One of my homeless clients had been stabbed earlier that week in front of my workplace, and I'd followed his blood several blocks to the hospital. The cops said my client was lucky. Had he been stabbed at a quieter time, his assailant would've finished the job.

Street violence had become almost a mundane thing for me, but this experience set an awful new precedent. I couldn't stop thinking about the ragged trail of brown drops. With that thought came a sneaking suspicion that God had left me holding the bag.

Faith, I learned for the first time that winter, is often more struggle than peace. Since then I've looked for artists who can express that struggle.

Minneapolis-based indie folk duo Peter Wolf Crier gets it. In their song "Untitled 101," singer/songwriter Peter Pisano articulates a poignant blend of love and loneliness and spiritual darkness. Combined with Brian Moen's nuanced instrumentation, the piece is stunning.

The two hit a powerful stride by the song's climax. "Lord, I'm yours to take" Pisano belts straight from his chest. "Although bruised I've got life within these legs." Moen's beats reverberate that intense longing. "By your word make me whole" Pisano continues, "Send your saints for me / by my sword I will pray to keep."

They put into music what I still try to comprehend. That winter I developed a panicky, grasping need to recapture my sense of God. If I talked to one more addict, if I helped one more homeless family, if I brought one more ounce of stability to my battered neighborhood, God might return.

Of course that says more about my own vanity than it does about God, and I quickly worked myself into a very dark place. It took the strength and faith of some dear friends to lead me out of it. If saints teach us humility and patience, then those friends became my saints.

Peter Wolf Crier's salty emotional candor is why their album, Inter-Be, is a mainstay on my playlist. Not all of the tracks hit as hard as "Untitled 101" -- some hit you harder, and in a different, earthy way. Each is polished and muscular. You remember these songs.

And while I'm several years beyond my time in Philadelphia, I haven't yet returned to the place of spiritual comfort I knew before those experiences. Maybe I never will. But I do enjoy listening to this track. I like its honest prayer and hint of hope. And I can't help but have faith that someday God's plans for me will be revealed.





Untitled 101

Lord I want your kiss 
Would not beg for one more if one’s all you’d give 
Send your grace I’ll enlist your army 
Be that you’ll find some place for me. 
Lord show me your face 
Show me once and I’ll keep you all my days 
Will be tamed not conspire to treasure seek 
Once my eyes find your skin in reach. 
Lord I’m yours to take 
Although bruised I’ve got life within these legs 
By your word make me whole 
Send your saints for me 
By my sword I will pray to keep. 
Love for thee I pledge to keep 
Once when you find some plan for me.

  © Peter Pisano 2010                  

Check Peter Wolf Crier out here.                          

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Road Ahead



My Lord God, 
I have no idea where I am going. 
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end. 
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following 
your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. 
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. 
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Look Behind You


I'm always humbled when I look at history and see God's capacity to unconditionally forgive and redeem such a flawed creation as humanity. I don't have to look very hard, either, to see how God takes our worst and draws goodness from it: the roots of my own faith, which go back to medieval Scotland, stem in part from a bloody feud in which my family participated.

My maternal ancestors, Clan Ross, come from the Tarbat peninsula in northeastern Scotland. Unlike much of that area, the soil is very rich and as a consequence, lots of fighting has happened over who owns that real estate.

Our fifteenth-century neighbors -- Clan MacKay -- did not have good land, so they extorted other clans to survive. Oftentimes MacKay clansmen rowed across the firth to burn the Ross' wheat harvest. That is, until the night my family caught them in the act. After that the story gets a little dark.

The trouble began when the MacKays got cornered in a church. Everyone was Roman Catholic in medieval Scotland, and churches were strictly off limits to violence. The MacKays were safe, even if they were trespassing.

What to do? Let the MacKays free and they could return. But harming them would be the height of sacrilege, violating the community's most sacred space. No one would respect Clan Ross if it violated the church's sanctuary.

Clan Ross, however, had suffered too many years of extortion to worry about the long-term consequences. Time for talking was over. The Rosses barred the church door and torched the roof with all the MacKays inside. The Ross chief stood nearby with a poleaxe to cut down anyone running out.

The heat from the fire was so intense that it scorched the sandstone walls a bright orange. Stripped of all politics, this was a place of worship turned into a furnace by its own parishioners, with neighbors massacred in the flames.

God's forgiveness was needed for all involved, but the human consequences were unavoidable. Clan MacKay responded by invading again, this time with a powerful army. They brutally defeated Clan Ross and destroyed its leadership. The Rosses never recovered their previous power and wealth. Communal reconciliation never happened, and like so many other acts of violence, the bitter feud was largely forgotten over subsequent generations.

Every person on the planet is connected to a historical event similar to what happened on the Tarbat peninsula. Violence is a regrettable tendency of human nature, and we all have to reconcile ourselves to that harsh reality. We must then work to avoid it.

The goodness I draw from the event comes from my own perspective: the feud's consequences sparked the Protestant Reformation in Ross-shire, which reframed my family's understanding of God and faith. I could not have become a Catholic had I not first been a Presbyterian. Both traditions are important to me. Both emphasize forgiveness.

And even in light of that terrible history, I believe that we all can receive forgiveness because it comes first from God, without exception. God sets the example for all to follow, which I find as empowering as I do challenging. Remembering daily to forgive increases the size of my compassion not just for humanity, but for my own self as well.

Read how one community is encouraging communal reconciliation and healing from violence here.  

Read more on the history of this battle here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Three years ago today

from Andrew J McIlree

date Thu, Aug 11, 2007 at 2:32 PM

subject a successful finish to a rewarding year

Dear friends and supporters of my Jesuit Volunteer year --

My final week in North Philly started out with the usual news: another
shooting on our corner, twenty-five year old Jason Brewer, who died at
the scene of multiple gunshot wounds. But it ended positively when I
helped get another of my clients, Yolanda Blossom and her family, out
of a shelter and into affordable housing.

The hike was just what I needed to sweat out North Philly and to start
processing the past year into positive lessons and experiences. My
fellow JVs and I hiked the Blue Ridge stretch of the Appalachian Trail
in eastern central Pennsylvania, the same line of mountains used by
Robert E Lee to screen his army's invasion in June of 1863. The trail
was some of the most gorgeous and challenging I've been on, and I
really loved it. A handful of JVs and I opted for the "extended"
portion of the hike, completing 42 miles in three days.

Now I'm back in Wisconsin to start the next big adventure, which is to
be determined. Thank you all for supporting me emotionally,
spiritually, and financially during my time as a Jesuit Volunteer.
I'm truly blessed.

Peace,

Andrew


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Unusual Light

'Many times after camp is made and chores are finished, there is a moment of quiet when reality comes and the outside world seems like a mirage. With a wilderness vista before me, the world's conflicts and confusions suddenly are unimportant, and I know within myself evil will pass, and the real world, the one of the spirit, will survive.'
Sigurd Olson, 1978

Photos taken around Grand Marais, Minnesota in July 2010





Friday, July 16, 2010

Matterhorn


This month I read Matterhorn, a novel thirty-three years in the making by Karl Marlantes. You won't hear about this one on "Reading Rainbow," but the book is excellent, some of the best fiction I've read in a long time.

What impressed me the most about the book is how Marlantes articulates the spiritual struggle of the protagonist, a Marine lieutenant named Waino Mellas.

The author, himself a highly-decorated Marine combat veteran, informs the book with his own Vietnam experience. Marlantes' ability to describe these raw emotions is what makes this novel so brutally powerful. He is also humble and direct about the challenges of telling such a story.

"War is mostly drudgery," Marlantes explained. "Spreading wire and picking scabs and dumb shit like that. How do I write a novel that makes the reader really understand that about war and not bore the hell out of them?"

His words certainly engaged my imagination, so much that the following passage seems less like fiction and more like authentic prayer. I've never read anything quite like it. The scene happens after Mellas accidentally kills a fellow Marine:


There came a moment during the lull when Mellas, lost at the center of the swirling fog, knew beyond any ability to lie to himself that he had, indeed, killed Pollini--and he was overwhelmed by an emptiness that knocked him to his knees. Slumped in his wet hole, cocooned by two flak jackets, he broke. He was the butt of a cruel joke. God had given him life and must have laughed as Mellas used it to kill Pollini, to get a piece of ribbon to show proof of his worth. And it was his worth that was the joke. ...

Stripped to a scream, undressed to a cry of pain, he sobbed in anger at God in hoarse words that hurt his throat. He asked for nothing now, nor did he wonder if he'd been bad or good. Such concepts were all part of the joke he'd just discovered. He cursed God directly for the savage joke that had been played on him. And in cursing Mellas for the first time really talked with his God. Then he cried, but his cries were the rage and hurt of a newborn child, at last, however roughly, being taken from the womb. ...

What a great joke--that Mellas would probably get a medal for killing one of his own men. It seemed appropriate that the president would probably get reelected for doing the same thing on a far larger scale. Then a new voice within him started to laugh with God. ... He kept laughing, shaking his head in wonder at the world.

You can find more on Matterhorn by clicking here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

North Country Heart


Late summer, 1999. A typical August afternoon, hot and humid in Upper Michigan's Porcupine Mountains. My best friend and his dad had introduced me to a week of wilderness camping. The three of us, sweaty and tired, had just filed out of the woods and into the van for the long ride home. Then a snare shot from the radio kicked off a song that would reshape my whole spiritual identity.

"How does it feel?" Dylan's voice sang as a chant, as a taunt, as a prayer, as an exaltation all wrapped together, straight into my skull. As if God, and not Dylan, was amused and asking a wondering child, "How does it feel?"

I felt alive. Awake. My own self. The hike through birch and pine had been miles of sudden wild rain, muddy trails, and granite cliffs. Those days encompassed my first long journey alone, without my parents. I'd never carried a heavy pack before, had never walked so far over such stark terrain. My best friend had shown me a leaner, more intimate way of appreciating the world. That sense of empowerment made every sight and smell seem fresh and vivid. And beyond it all, the most powerful impression: the mutable and dark blue Lady of the Lake, Superior.

Dylan himself was born on the shore of that great water, and its unforgiving, surreal nature fused with his art. I was in the very spot where his muse lived, and I could feel the magnetic energy of his lyrics rising like steam off a marsh. Once upon a time, Miss Lonely lived in the thick forests. Napoleon in rags drank from the brooks with his Siamese cat. And the mystery tramp sat on that rocky beach letting no one off the hook without a price. Those characters were as ancient as the North Country itself.

The song had the force of an ore freighter hauling a potent and exhilarating challenge. I was no longer a spectator in life, amused at the bums and the folks just hangin' out. I was a complete unknown committed to my own life's path, responsible for my own success. Dylan, backcountry prophet, made clear that no excuses were acceptable. I had to carry my own gear and hike my own trail. I was an adult.

Over a decade has passed from that revelation in the wilderness, and I have never gotten over it. Like a Rolling Stone, more than anything else I've come across since, redrew the inward map of my spiritual journey. I've listened to Dylan hundreds of times and know his entire canon. I've gone on many long journeys since then, too. But even now, when I hear that song, my life immediately becomes new again. I carry that memory of the North Country with my best friend, listening to Dylan, in my heart. It's my touchstone place for understanding Creation.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

I'm younger than that now


I officially feel old.

My students from St. Joseph University's Service-Learning program graduated this May, which makes me very proud. Stanley, Michael, Tim, and Kristin (pictured above) all taught me the most important lesson about community outreach: how to relax and to listen.

At the start, the four freshmen were not enthusiastic about their Service-Learning assignment. Other St. Joe's students had more tangible service sites, like teaching children to read at an after-school program. Walking around downtown Philadelphia and engaging homeless people in conversation, oftentimes without seeing any direct result, seemed a waste of time.

I wasn't too enthusiastic about their Service-Learning assignment, either. I envisioned forming a dedicated cadre of outreach workers who would discuss serious issues about community empowerment. College students sharing the highlights of parties from the night before were not the type of volunteers I desired.

The root of my frustration was how I saw myself. Four months earlier, my main concerns were drinking beer, chasing women, and passing exams -- in that order. Heck, I had been hosting the kind of house parties that these students were all about. But now I was a bad-ass Jesuit Volunteer setting the streets on fire with social justice. It was time to focus on ending homelessness. We had work to accomplish. What didn't these freshmen understand?

It took a frustrating month for me to learn that lecturing about street outreach just made me seem dumbass and pompous. Instead, I realized that actively listening to the students was just as important to a successful outreach as listening to the homeless.

Hearing these students talk about parties -- all of which were funny stories -- got us to relax and relate to each other while on outreach, and it helped me to understand who each student was as a person, which made me a better leader. 

"Narrative is the most powerful thing we have," says Jerry Kellman, who taught a young Barack Obama the ropes of civic engagement. "From a spiritual point of view, much of what is important about us can't be seen. If we don't know people's stories we don't know who they are. If you want to understand them or try to help them, you have to find out their story." I discovered that finding stories about one another strengthened our collective ability to engage the homeless in a more authentic, casual dialogue.

These Service-Learners soon became my best outreach team, and I looked forward each week to spending an evening with them. And we began to talk about homelessness, substance abuse, and civic engagement while conducting outreach, which they then shared in class. Most importantly for me, their insights on the importance of our service were critical during what became a long, bitter winter filled with inner turmoil. We learned how to understand one another through caring about each other as a team. We became friends.

The memories of these students remain some of my most rewarding of Street Outreach. Congratulations, guys! I can't wait to hear about your future accomplishments.

Update: Tim has joined Teach for America and will be serving in Philadelphia next year!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Grandpa McIlree's Legacy




McIlrees tell a lot of stories.

From my perspective as a four-year-old, Dad told the best stories. He talked about Grandpa McIlree, a World War I soldier who took care of the Army's horses. When Grandpa returned from winning the war, he became a respected veterinarian in rural Wisconsin. Even as a little boy, I understood that Grandpa lived his faith by serving his community. The man, gone eight years before I was born, grew stronger and bolder with each telling.

"Could he lift up a house?" I asked.

"Sure," my dad replied, swiftly corrected by Mom.

Whether or not Grandpa McIlree could accomplish that feat was unimportant (although even today I imagine him single-handedly picking up a house). His wide-brimmed cavalry hat, wool Army blankets, and black leather cartridge box made his war stories come alive. I'd wear the hat and ask about Grandpa in combat. Was he sad when his horse got shot out from under him? Was he scared during the fighting? Did he shoot any Germans?

From that time onward, Grandpa's legacy made a large, if quiet, impression on what I wanted to accomplish in life. I chose a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for many reasons, but one was because I wanted to do national service like Grandpa. Like the war stories I devoured as a little boy, I had big ideas about helping the homeless in Philadelphia.

Sometimes the task was going to seem hard, I knew, but God wanted me to help them all. And Grandpa and I were both in our early twenties when we started our respective adventures. Did I need a better motivator than that? I just didn't realize that I wanted, in my own naive way, to live the myths about Grandpa McIlree.

Within a week, North Philadelphia killed my silly dream of being a champion for the poor. 2006 was a year of record violence for the City of Brotherly Love, featuring a triple-digit murder rate and rampant crime. Many of the homeless I was talking with had been addicted to crack, alcohol, or heroin for years. Living in poverty was the norm, the violence of living on the street an unavoidable reality. 

Within months I had my own stories of a housemate being mugged, of homeless people being assaulted, of neighbors being killed. I even obtained a souvenir: a knife with a six-inch blade confiscated in my agency's day center. I got a small taste of what helplessness and anger and sadness and despair felt like for a person living in North Philadelphia.

My own experience removed the myths of Grandpa McIlree's stories and made him more relatable. When I reflected more deeply, nothing about his experiences as a cavalry officer seemed redemptive. His stories never described war as an adventure. He never bragged about any heroic achievement.

My own research embellished the harshness and brutality of his stories in war-torn France. For example, while hauling cannons to the front at the battle of Chateau-Theirry, Grandpa described rows of dead soldiers so thick that it was hard to move forward without stepping on bodies. 

That would have been a normal experience for him. And according to my dad, Grandpa responded with silence when asked if he had killed anybody, which I believe is the answer itself.

Yet for me, Grandpa's most poignant story is one he never talked about: his chance survival of chemical warfare. He only described being unable to put his mask on before the shells filled with gas exploded near his position.

But I can imagine seeing him through the words of poet Wilfred Owen: in a "thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning."

That was how my grandpa finished his service in the First World War.

Grandpa's return home was not easy. He had a lengthy and painful recovery, one that left him gaunt and weak for a long time. His future bride's family worried that his physical condition would make him a poor choice for a husband. More than any war story, however, the story about his return home remains the most helpful for me as a young man.

I returned home from Philadelphia feeling very confused. Most of the homeless addicts I met on my first day were just as homeless and addicted on my last day. I had witnessed the worst of what drug abuse, violence, and apathy could do to a community. I was not convinced that I had accomplished anything helpful toward bettering the neighborhood. I felt like a failure.

Reflecting on Grandpa McIlree's stories helped me to reevaluate my faith and my sense of self. Grandpa, rather than become cynical, disenfranchised, and angry like so many other World War I veterans, made a different choice. 

He chose to focus on civic engagement and compassion for his community, despite what terrible atrocities he had witnessed. He chose to evaluate his life goals not just on that initial and formative wartime experience, but on what good, long-term goals he could accomplish as a community leader, a veterinarian, a husband, and a father. He chose to love others.

That life long choice is the legacy that Grandpa McIlree left for his children and grandchildren, and it is what I try my best to emulate.

Read more about my journey with Grandpa McIlree on Isle Royale.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Corner Office

Adam Bryant’s Corner Office column in the Sunday Business section of the New York Times is one of my weekly must-reads. The CEO he interviews always has creative insight on best leadership practices. But what about a leader who combines an awareness of God’s presence with daily management practices? This is the kind of person I aspire to be, so I took a letter written by the late Abbot Norbert Calmels, who led the international Norbertine Order for twenty years, and applied his words to Bryant’s Corner Office questions.

Q: Wha
t would you tell yourself starting out as a leader?

A: Don’t fool yourself. You will find it hard to command, a crucifying experience. It is never easy to direct the activities of others and remain patient. Don’t forget: the one who obeys has to obey only one person; the one who governs has to obey everyone.

Q: How do you do that?

A: You will command better if you learn not to say everything. Keep silent as often as you can. A true leader says only what is necessary, without too many words; to the one who needs it, directly; when it is needed, immediately; and as it is needed, straight and to the point.

Q: You're elected by your Norbertine peers to a position of authority. What does that responsibility mean to you?

A: The first duty of a Norbertine abbot—I was going to say his job par excellence—is to lead people to holiness on the path of St. Norbert. You do this in all simplicity, with a firm and (if needed) energetic hand, but without adopting an air of 'dominative power.' Maintain an ongoing, deep, genuine, human contact with your religious, even if through necessity they keep a respectful distance.

Q: How does one lead others to holiness?

A: The office that elevates you makes you indebted to all. To be an abbot means to have the heart of Christ. A person is not born an abbot; he must become one. To be an abbot is something you learn. You will become one more each day by devoting yourself to each of your religious and by carrying them all in your heart. You will have to accept good and bad moods and sulky acts of obedience, and transform them into evangelical annoyances. You will have to rule in order to serve and serve in order to rule better.

Q: How do you keep from getting too comfortable in your leadership role? How do you keep the community's sense of mission alive?

A: You are called to build up the Body of Christ in love. You must begin over and over, from the beginning. Begin again to live, begin again to convert, begin again to do good, begin again by enduring. Stones do not make up an abbey. An abbey is made up of a group of men who aspire to holiness by devoting themselves to souls. Rather than symmetrically laid stones, an abbey is hearts that are united, hearts that make a single heart, a community of men living together in order to seek God together.

Q: We live in a challenging and confusing time for a religious order. What helps you to move forward as a leader?

A: A multitude of people, invisible but truly present — the souls of the many religious who became holy within these walls and whose sovereign voice alternates with us, this morning, the verses of the psalm of trust and hope—all these fraternal souls accompany you and encourage you. Every abbey must be a place of encounter with the reality of an incarnate God, in order to make real—I was going to say begin again—God’s incarnation among us and make God present to the people of our time by the witness of our faith.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The solitary and meditative




No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life can say anything that hasn't already been said better by the wind in the pine trees

Thomas Merton






Photos taken on November 30, 2009

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Under the Mercy


We were standing, fifty of us, outside the Luther College chapel ten days after the earthquake in Haiti. A full-throated and mournful wail came from a young woman at the front of our group. The cry seemed ancient, held no words, and its raw pain wrapped around us like an icy fog. Her husband Ben was dead.

Ben and his wife Renee, both Lutheran seminarians, were serving the
Church in Haiti for the January term. The two were working in an orphanage when the earthquake pulverized the building. Renee escaped the collapsing ceiling, but Ben was trapped.

Hearing Renee cry out awakened within me a livid, searing anger at God. Thousands of Haitians are dead, hundreds more dismembered and broken, homeless and starving, with families destroyed. Once more, humanity has an epic disaster with no person at fault or action to blame. Ben’s death distilled the catastrophe for me into pure, vitriolic pain. What merciful God would allow this to happen?

That question, old as faith itself, inflamed my anger as the funeral continued. Ben is my sixth friend to die under twenty-five years of age. Living in North Philadelphia, too, I grieved with the community as dozens of youth were murdered over drugs. The paradox of worshipping an all-loving, omnipotent Creator that allows innocent suffering feels like a cruel joke, a God that allowed his own Son to be nailed to a cross. I reflected on Job, on Elie Wiesel, on Jesus of Nazareth. Where is God? No answer, but always a Mystery too complex for human understanding.

How, in the midst of this paradox, do I stay faithful? How do I heal?
I believe that declaring one’s anger with God is the best way to draw closer to the Divine Mystery. Anger is an emotion I try to avoid because I am embarrassed by it even in the midst of my fury, ashamed by my lack of control. Admitting anger with God, I have discovered, helps me share that suffering with my Creator. The pain does not vanish, but embracing my vulnerability makes the experience less lonely. God becomes present in my suffering.

And I know that Ben does not want me to be angry with God, the One he
served so joyously. Trapped under bricks and iron, Ben started singing hymns to reveal where he was buried. Renee could not reach him, however, before an aftershock piled more rubble on him. The last words he sang were "God's peace to us we pray." I pray, too, that God’s peace embraces and comforts all in their suffering.