Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RRR: The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1, The Inferno

I finished reading volume one of Dante's Divine ComedyThe Inferno, about a month ago and was very delayed in posting this, though I wrote most of it at the time.

I was about three-fourths of the way through the book, when my husband asked me how I liked it. I responded, “I'm looking forward to getting out of hell” without thinking. This led to a number of jokes throughout the remainder of the book – “Only 34 pages of hell left” etc....

The Inferno was not “hell” to read, but at the same time, I am looking forward to Dante's portrayal of purgatory and heaven. I enjoyed and was challenged by this version, translated from the Italian with ample contextual notes by Mark Musa.

The Pilgrim (symbolic of Everyman) and his guide, Virgil (human reason), travel deeper and deeper into the realms of hell, from one category of sin to the next. I truly appreciate the symbol of Virgil as the Pilgrim's guide, revealing the limits of human reason. Human reason can explain and direct the Pilgrim though hell, but alone, can not be the bridge to the divine.

Virgil and the Pilgrim meet figures of Greek and Roman legend, of the Bible, of Italian history and Florentine politics. Dante's selection of figures to represent various sins and to warn the Pilgrim (and thus the reader) is artful – intertwining myth, history, politics, and religion to get his point across. Clearly he had some fun poking at contemporary rivals also.

I could not have read through the The Inferno without Musa's notes, reminding me of the stories of mythological figures I had forgotten, and explaining the figures and politics of Florence that are referenced throughout.

Yes, despite a bit of perseverance needed, I enjoyed “hell” but am happy to move onwards to purgatory and paradise. But I have a number of books on my reading list in between...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Voices of Richard III

I have been studying for the GRE literature subject test, in case I decide to apply to additional graduate schools in the fall. Yesterday, I was pleasurably reviewing Shakespeare's plays. In the evening I ironically came across the video posted below on the literary blog, The Elegant Variation.

His impressions are brilliant! Enjoy...

Monday, August 8, 2011

RRR: War and Peace

I finished reading War and Peace a few weeks ago, and typed this up, afterwards.

I am amazed how quickly War and Peace flew this time. I started it a few years ago, and somehow didn't have time to get very far. I thoroughly enjoyed this lengthy narrative this time, following the lives five Russian noble families throughout Napolean's campaigns against Russia. Such stories and characters Tolstoy crafted and intertwined! And I could have kept going, reading on about the children's lives, had it been possible. One night I even dreamed of a calvary battle...

Admittedly, I did issue a few sighs as Tolstoy's essays on war, history, and freewill interrupted the story. Though this does not mean that these opinions were not interesting, and some were quite ironic.

I find Tolstoy to be quite an evangelist, both in Anna Karenina and in War and Peace. Through his characters, namely Prince Andrei and Count Bezukhov, Tolstoy challenges surface reality and explores individual quests for truth. Much of Tolstoy's life and spiritual journey is reflected in these characters also, as it was in Levin in Anna Karenina.

At the end of the book, post wars, Pierre challenges government failures, asking and seeking to act on “What do we do?” The characters have differing responses, each valuing something else more. This is always challenges me, "What am I to do?"

War and Peace was truly cross genre – historical and romantic fiction intermixed with essays critical of how history is recorded and interpreted. His novel itself is history, portraying levels of reality through fiction.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Incomplete Reflections on Harry Potter

Warning - this may contain spoilers...

Mr. Lambert, my Spanish 5 teacher, was collecting our homework. Frantically I flipped the pages of my thin Spanish text book through my fingers. Where was it? I always do my homework. Always. I had to have it. I couldn't have left it at home? Never. I always double check. Oh my. I slammed my hand against my head; I spent the entire night before reading Harry Potter! And completely forgot my homework.

And then I woke up, in my bed in Budapest, Hungary. Over five years and almost 5000 miles from my high school classroom in Virginia. I guess I was feeling guilty for my complete immersion in the stories, doing little other than working, sleeping, and reading Harry Potter for those two weeks in December 2008. How quickly the pages and action flew – it was as if I was watching a movie.

And other dreams – I was so immersed in the books, right until I went to sleep, that I even woke with a start once or twice, surely my dreams taking a darker turn as I read farther and the books became slightly more startling. I woke up one night and frantically grabbed my arm. I do exist, and that is MY hand grabbing my arm. Perhaps a result of my immersion – a moment from the books twisted and replaying itself in my dream. I recently finished reading War and Peace – also in about two weeks – and yes, I also had a dream about a calvary battle.

And yes I cried. I cried when Sirius died, when Dumbledore died. Alas, these deaths were necessary to the story. And I cried when reading the ending.

I had just began book seven when I had a twelve hour train ride from Budapest to Sarajevo. I have never had a more enjoyable train ride across Europe, turning my head to watch the passing plains and villages in Hungary and then back to reading, and then back to watching. I was mostly alone in my train compartment as I journeyed with Harry, Hermione, and Ron throughout magical and muggle England.

Harry, and his friends, following a mission they do not completely understand. Staying true to a plan in which they do not know where they will be led next. Dealing with doubt and disillusions of Dumbledore, who gave them the plan. Yet, they continue, on and on, following a hope, against ridiculous odds, even though they cannot see the conclusion. Then Harry realizes he too must die to destroy Voldemort, the one who seeks to control or flee from death (ultimately the same thing). All fear originates with fear of death, my dad often says. How true this is throughout the books. Voldemort's fear of death – the fortress, excluding love and relationship, he has built up to protect him from death – leads to his own death.

And Harry learns that he must die for there to be true victory against Voldemort. He has followed Dumbledore to the end. He has lost all family, his parents, his godfather, and Dumbledore along the way. But he still has close friends, family if you will, to live for. And he is willing, for them, to die so that this evil may end.

How this question challenged me when I was younger, challenged me on that train ride to Sarajevo, challenges me today. What am I willing to die for? And Harry was willing; he went unarmed to face his death. He had been raised in a school, with a mentor, who knew it would inevitably come to this. But Dumbledore couldn't bear to reveal this harsh truth to Harry until Harry could truly understand and be able to make the sacrifice. When the quote on Harry's parents' tomb, which he didn't understand and was angry about at the time – for all he wanted was to have them back by his side – revealed its truth: “The last enemy to be defeated is death.” A secret Voldemort would never understand, a secret many of us fail to understand. A secret Dumbledore tried to reveal multiple times, “There are worse things then death...Love is more powerful...” etc.

I finished the final book as the train was nearing Sarajevo. Tears were pouring from my eyes, and I kept using an old tissue to wipe them and blow my nose. A Bosnian lady had entered my cabin at some point; she didn't speak any English or Hungarian. She handed me a new pack of tissues, and with hand motions I came to realize that she was giving me the entire packet. I thanked her as best I could and proceeded to write out my thoughts in my journal. Then I picked up the book, flipped it over, and started reading it again.

As I realized a few weeks later when reading the Bible, the quote on Harry's parents' tomb is a direct quote from 1 Corinthians 15:26. There are many details in the books that I enjoy, especially Harry's use of the expelliarmus curse to disarm rather than to harm, but most of all I appreciate the way Rowling dealt with death. Life, growth, loss, death, and life – the story goes in full cycle.

I am excited to see the final movie tonight...

Friday, June 24, 2011

RRR: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

I am going to try to start blogging again, though I was never a faithful blogger. Perhaps I will be better now. In my state of new and in between (newlywed, in between jobs), I will hopefully catch up with reflections on recent readings.

I finished reading my first Anne Tyler novel last week and wrote this brief reflection. Please be warned that this may contain spoilers.

Tyler paints reality with her words and characters, telling of a single-mother and her three children seeking unconditional acceptance and a true home. The wounds of childhood affect each of the three siblings in different ways as they grow older. Jealous Cody, though he has everything he ever wanted he still imagines that his younger brother, Ezra, has bested him. Because Ezra was his mother's favorite, at least in Cody's eyes. Ezra spends his life comforting those around him, but can not bring peace to his own family. Jenny, the youngest, labored through childhood, med school, and three marriages; she has adapted by covering worry with laughter.

The story is saddening in its gritty reality. The mistaken choices, the selfishness of the characters, the tragedy of abandonment. The grudges held onto and flash moments of stress and anger that shape lives and relationships. The struggles of not knowing how to love. The constant striving to remove or hide vulnerability.

Yet it's loving – capturing the motivations and fears, positive and negative that shape the lives of a single mother and her children as they seek a secure future, all carrying splinters and seeds of home with them. And it's a story of triumph. Despite hurts from a domineering mother and absent father, all three children grow up and succeed, if they can let themselves realize it. And they do, after the matriarch's funeral and in her memory, finally, sit down for an entire meal together in Ezra's “Homesick Restaurant.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Living Pilgrimage – the Taizé way.

I wrote this lengthy reflection in 2009 after a trip to Taizé. It can be found in the 26th issue of Mozaik, a publication of the World Student Christian Federation - Europe region.

A Living Pilgrimage – the Taizé way
...do everything to render more perceptible for each person the love that God has for all human beings without exception, for all peoples. He [Brother Roger] wished that our little community – through its life and its humble commitment with others – might manifest this mystery. So we brothers would like to take up this challenge, with all those who across the earth are seeking peace. Brother Alois, Prior of Taizé1

From 2-8 August, 2009, I had the privilege of joining the newly formed Western European Subregion (WESR) of the Europe region of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF-E) on a pilgrimage to Taizé. WESR had its first gathering last year, during a work camp in Manchester, and currently involves co-operations of the British SCM and ESG (Evangelische StudentInnengemeinde), the SCM in Germany. They have been trying to include other SCMs (Student Christian Movements) in Western Europe in their activities.

The Taizé symbol is a unique cross – a combination of a cross and a descending dove. At the beginning of my week in Taizé, my initial reaction was to first perceive an odd, sort of modern style, curved cross; I had to focus to see the dove. But by the end of the week, I saw the descending dove of peace or the Holy Spirit (depending on interpretation) much more prominently – the two symbols now permanently enmeshed when I think of Taizé.

Perhaps I sugar coat things in my reflections (the chocolate addition to the simple Taizé bread and butter breakfasts – making our own pain au chocolat – still echoing positively in my mind). It has been a few weeks since I have been back, but these impressions remain in me: the transcendence of this living community over the divisions separating us and over the selfish consumerism and artificial speed of Western life, and the beauty of spirituality and faith that naturally leads to action.

Church of Living Dialogue
The dialogue of life is a vital part of any meaningful dialogue. It also functions as an important counterweight to theoretical thinking, because it is first and foremost concerned with alleviating suffering and healing wounds, not with correctness of thought. Brother Johannes2

The Taizé community was founded in 1940, by Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche, today known as Brother Roger.3 He found the mostly abandoned village of Taizé on a long distance bike ride from Geneva, raised enough money to purchase a home and, seeking to live out a biblical call to the poor, began to provide a place for political refugees during World War II. Brother Roger initially began praying privately, but gradually the prayer times played an important part in the daily schedule for much of the community. Brother Roger later set up a Protestant and Catholic monastic community, an ecumenical community today.

Brother Roger saw the divisions in the Church as ridiculous, for Christ came not to create a new religion but to give people communion with God. The brothers seek to live a parable of reconciliation – not only of reconciliation of a divided Christianity but also of the whole human community.4 He said, 'Since my youth, I think that I have never lost the intuition that community life could be a sign that God is love, and love alone. Gradually the conviction took shape in me that it was essential to create a community with men determined to give their whole life and who would always try to understand one another and be reconciled, a community where kindness of heart and simplicity would be at the centre of everything.'4

Today, about one hundred brothers from 30 countries and Catholic and Protestant backgrounds form the Taizé community. They welcome tens of thousands of visitors, mostly young people, from all backgrounds each  year, especially during the summer and holy week.  Some of the brothers live abroad, in Asia, Africa and South America, sharing in the living conditions of the locals and striving 'to be a presence of love among the very poor, street children, prisoners, the dying, and those who are wounded by broken relationships, or who have been abandoned.'5

Brother Roger's life and death overshadowed much conversation at Taizé (as it does in my brief history here) and clearly he sat an example in faith, action, dialogue and ecumenism. Through the daily bible studies, discussion groups, working teams, prayers and meals together, the Taizé community  lifestyle of church together calls and challenges us as individuals and the Church to a dialogue of life.  I was surprised at the sense of refreshment I had after leaving, a sense a rejuvenation for ecumenical work (especially that of WSCF).

The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, visited during the week we were at Taizé and he spoke of finding a true sense of Church there: “What often we see most of is the Church in its institutional form and not enough of the Church in its worshipping, communal form. What is realised in a place like this is the Church in its most central reality. I have often spoken of some of those experiences where a Christian can say, ‘I have seen the Church for the first time.’ A person may have spent many years going to church, reading the Bible, saying prayers and yet never quite have seen the Church – the Church which is the new creation, the Church which is the New Jerusalem, the Church which is the hope of humanity. And so for that I want to thank you all for your continuing witness. Continue with that life.”6

Transcendence of Beauty
Veni Creator Spiritus. Viens, Esprít Créateur. Ven, Espítitu Creador. Come, Creator Spirit. Komm, Schöpfer Geist. Przybądź, Ducho Stworzycielu.  Taizé song 13

Silence, broken by the rustle of feet, cracking joints, and hidden whispers, as thousands file in for morning prayer – and the Taizé chapel is filled with a spirit of peace. Such a simple, utilitarian chapel extended almost as a warehouse to accommodate so many people, yet so beautiful. From the candles, the creative piling of 'boxes', to the orange fabric – a space made elegant.

After a few days, we had scouted the 'best' location.  In the middle of the second meeting room, we seemed to be at the meeting point of sound – 4500 voices singing 'Cantate Domino' in round, a harmonised prayer sung again and again.  A repetition of beauty – of course the harmonies did not always come out so well and the melody prevailed, but to sit in silence or to sing along was transcendent. In one small group meeting, Brother Pedro said, “North Americans tend to get it wrong when they use Taizé songs. They use them for choir concerts and performances. But they are meant to be prayed, sung by all, the quality of sound is not important.”7 Wandering in the hills above the monastery of Montserrat outside Barcelona a few days later, I couldn't help but sing Taizé songs while I hiked. They flowed out as beautiful prayers (though I'm sure they did not actually sound so nice to any hikers that passed me on the trails).

Icons also are incorporated into Taizé worship life and practice, helping to lead the visitor into meditation; 'Icons contribute to the beauty of worship. They are like windows open on the realities of the Kingdom of God, making them present in our prayer on earth...By the faith it expresses, by its beauty and its depth, an icon can create a space of peace and sustain an expectant waiting. It invites us to welcome salvation even in the flesh and in creation.'9 In our bible study, Brother John referred to 'The Friendship Icon' and said, 'We like to describe the yoke of Christ in this way – Christ's yoke is his arm draped about your shoulders.'4

Simply by providing the community space, the simple songs, the icons, the play of candle light and the structure of silence, Taizé invites all to share in worship. The astounding linguistic abilities of the brothers as well as the languages and translations of the songs and scriptures add an extra dimension to the beauty – celebrating cultural diversity.  In our bible study, Brother John explained the inadequacy of the translation of the word 'blessed' in the Beatitudes in English. In our discussion groups we farther evaluated this in the context of our different native languages, thinking perhaps the German, 'selig', fit the context more accurately.

This living community – from the artistry of efficiently feeding thousands of young people three meals a day to the intercultural atmosphere where every question is encouraged in a genuine search for truth, all on a hilltop, dusty from so much daily trodding,  surrounded by green hills and the romantic French countryside – truly is a pillar of beauty.

A Visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Lord calls folk to Him in many ways, And each has his particular gift from God, Some this, some that, even as He thinks good.  Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, Prologue of the Wife of Bath's Tale8

While we were in Taizé, Dr. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, came to visit and cameras followed him everywhere, even in chapel, breaking normal Taizé rules. As he clamoured awkwardly onto a table at one point, he commented 'perfect photo opportunity'. While I am normally not so impressed by church hierarchy (coming from the Church of the Brethren tradition, with the reformed belief in a 'priesthood of all believers'), I was very inspired by Archbishop Williams in a question and answer session he held during the meeting. He answered tough questions from the young people present – ranging from homosexuality to prayer – with honesty, intelligence and good humour.  To one question about entrance fees to churches like Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, after conferring with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (who was also present), to ask if they also charged fees in York, he commented 'solidarity in sin' before explaining the necessity of the fees for restoration costs.

In answer to one question, he described vocation as God calling you to be yourself, your unique self, in a way that isn't  anxious, selfish, or destructive.9  He also found his vocation as a poet in addition to a priest, as he found he needed to use words to express faith (and by the way – he has a very nice voice. I would like to listen to him reading his poetry sometime). Prayer is a stream, he explained, we must step into it and God can deal with all thoughts that come along the way. He has found that those who pray the most tend to be the most aware. Archbishop Williams came to Taizé  before going to university and explained that 'it does shape a vision.'

Communion Together
The desire for communion with God has been set within the human heart since the dawn of time. The mystery of that communion touches what is most intimate in us, reaching down to the very depths of our being. Taizé Letter 2004, 'To the Wellsprings of Joy'

I was awed when I found that I too could accept communion each day in Taizé as it was open to all. This is normal in my Protestant tradition, but I am used to the deeply felt challenges we face in WSCF when discussing the Eucharist in an ecumenical setting.  On Friday afternoon, Archbishop Williams led a special communion service. As Brother John explained in our Bible study, they usually do not like to do this because it emphasises disunity. Simultaneously, Catholic communion was offered at another part of the church.  So even Taizé gets caught, needing to appease at times – but they do this in the quest for overall unity.

I was able to receive communion from a female Anglican priest (I diverted especially to her line). Coming from a tradition where we normally are able to have female pastors, I was surprised at how positively this affected me. Perhaps it was because I had only seen brothers around all week. There are sister orders, the Sisters of St. Andrew, the Polish Ursuline Sisters and the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul, who also serve in Taizé, but they are not 'Taizé sisters'.  As it is for the Church in general, gender roles also appear to be a challenge for Taizé and form perhaps my main critique. But I know from reading about Brother Roger that females played a large role in the community. His life and vision was largely influenced by his mother and grandmother. His sister, Geneviève, contributed much to Taizé. Women still play a large role in the community, from long term volunteers to the sister orders listed above.

Though it does not fully compensate, it must also have been someone from Taizé who asked the female Anglican priest to help give communion. Female nuns from the other orders did lead workshops, etc., but were not present, for example, with the brothers in the centre of worship or as visible in the community.

Solidarity in Sin
The Gospel encourages simplicity of life. It calls believers to bring their own desires under control in order to succeed in setting limits, not by constraint but by choice. Taizé Letter from Kenya 2009

Taizé life is vibrant, but what of the churches? This also became one of the informal WESR discussions. Churches throughout Europe and North America complain of dwindling numbers, especially of young people. Are the churches out-dated, over-compromised, or what are they missing? Taizé seems to suggest new life, issuing a challenge and giving hope. As Archbishop Williams said, in Taizé they do not patronise young people – modern worship and special services are not necessarily essential to maintain high numbers of young worshipers. Taizé is an example; the services of silent prayer and meditative singing require introspection and are far from easy-access entertainment-style services. There are no easy solutions as churches look for answers on these questions, but the example of Taizé should be looked on for encouragement and perhaps accountability.

While discussing the financial crisis, probably while waiting in the line to drop off our dinner dishes in Taizé, someone commented 'The Taizé brothers had no blame in the crisis.' No sin of capitalism here – the brothers do not accept regular donations or even inheritances for their livelihood. They live off of their own work, from making pottery in the shop to writing books for publication. All pilgrims who come to Taizé are asked to pay a very small sliding scale amount depending on their ability and nation of origin (which does not even seem to be enough to cover the simple meals and basic water/electricity costs), though donations are accepted to help cover the costs of pilgrims who cannot pay their own way.

No, the Taizé brothers had no part in the Western accumulation of wealth, rather they separated from it, setting an example. But how to live by this example and spread it? This is a challenge of our Christianity, the challenge I was reminded of and refreshed by in Taizé. Yes, from failing to truly witness our faith as individuals and churches to economic matters, we seem to be in 'solidarity in sin'. But Taizé shows a different way.

Recipe for Taizé Tea
If we are at present undertaking a pilgrimage of trust on earth with young people from every continent, it is because we are aware of how urgent peace is. We can contribute to peace to the extent that we try to respond to the following question by the life we live: Can I become a bearer of trust where I live? Am I ready to understand others better and better? Brother Roger, in a Taizé meeting in 2004

With our WESR group, we discussed previous critics of Taizé – is it truly radical enough? The brothers don't openly call for all visitors to march in protest or to rally around a specific cause. Compromises are made for visiting officials and there is the challenge of gender equality.

We came to the conclusion that perhaps this type of direct advocacy is not Taizé's role. Clearly in our Bible studies, we were challenged 'So what now will you do?' in response to the devastating need in the world. Clearly they were advocating action and allowing seekers to sort out the lifestyles and answers on their own journeys for truth. The brothers, by living separately in community, live themselves a radical lifestyle compared to our norms. As Brother John said often, 'God is doing something new, and you have to do something too.'

This reminded me somewhat of what we have done at recent WSCF conferences, always closing with 'And what will you do now?' But I guess the answer is up to each participant, up to each of us.

During our week in Taizé, about 4500 young people visited. Somehow the promise and challenge of a universal church could be felt in the spirit present in the community. In my meeting with others from North America (they always have regional meetings with a brother), someone asked if they would start another Taizé community elsewhere. Though Taizé will not multiply upon its physical community, building other similar monasteries, Taizé does hold meetings throughout the world,  'Pilgrimages of Trust on Earth' that gather thousands of young people. All pilgrims who come to Taizé and these gatherings are sent out with experiences of peace, reconciliation, prayer, silence and community. Hence the need for these regional meetings on 'how to continue when you get home'.

I have tried to search for a recipe for Taizé tea online. At the beginning of the week, the powdered tea mixture offered at breakfast and tea time wasn't so appealing. But by the second day I looked forward to each sip. Needless to say, google has failed me. Just as Taizé will not multiply their communities and challenges us all to continue in this 'pilgrimage of trust on earth' so I will have to make my own tea to share, adapting Taizé's challenges to daily life. If we had counted, I'm almost sure we sang Taizé song 115 the most during the week, and the echoing words follow me: The Kingdom of God is Justice and Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit. Come Lord, and open in us, the gates of your kingdom.

1 http://www.taize.fr/en_article3148.html
Brother Johannes. Dialogue and Sharing with Believers of Other Religions: Reflection based on a life-experience in Bangladesh. Short Writings from Taizé. 9.
It seems that before this, from 1937 to 1940, Brother Roger was a leader in the Swiss SCM of WSCF! He directed a spring conference near Geneva on 'The formation of personality' in 1940 - “The whole exercise was aimed at encouraging students to develop personal habits and spiritual discipline...At a time when so many others were fighting in Europe and elsewhere, it was also a means of inviting participants to join in a scheme of intercession for peace.” Weiser Thomas and Potter Philip. Seeking and Serving the Truth: The First Hundred Years of the World Student Christian Federation. WCC Publications, Geneva, 1997. 145.
4 Brother Roger, 'God is Love alone'
5 A 'parable of community' http://www.taize.fr/en_article6525.html
6 http://www.taize.fr/en_article8248.html
7 These are my paraphrases, taken from my memory and notes.
8 Given my literary, and not theological (or Anglican) background, I must ashamedly confess that the Canterbury Tales always jump first to my mind immediately when I hear of Canterbury even in the context of the Archbishop. But Chaucer was writing of a pilgrimage (and dialogue) of diverse characters then too...
9 Also from my notes - I could not remember the last word, though I think it was 'destructive'.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I'm sitting by the window at a coffee shop in Budapest. All of the walls are windows here. Women walk by below, clinging to their purses or shopping bags. Men, large steps, hands in pockets, rush onward out of the cold. Snow flakes line jackets. Street lights reflect off wet pavement. The dirt-encrusted train station, beautiful in the dust and darkness, with its metal accents and arched bricks, its curves and spires, ironwork, and interior lights beaming out, overlooks this wintery square and its comings and goings. How ironic and iconic of this time, the McDonalds in this stately building designed by Eiffel. One can only laugh.

The red lights, two by two, race away. The white, two by two, keep slowly approaching. Occasionally, someone rushes forward pulling a suitcase, off from this westward train station, off to somewhere beyond this unsettled resplendent city on the Danube.

Here by this window, I have just finished reading Endo's Silence. How do we live in a world that keeps cycling despite the suffering? How do we face the suffering around us? All of the clocks and watches keep ticking, and each moment we make decisions. The desire to rest, the desire to be useful, the desire to ignore pain often wrestling, each with their own justifications. And yet I live in safety and comfort. I have not felt this suffering in my easy life. Yet I have complained and apostatized at times, though not even truly persecuted.

Endo's persecuted priest, who apostatized to save the lives of others, hears an answer to the silence he cannot comprehend, "I was not silent. I suffered beside you." Silence provides a window and the priest can honestly say "Even now I am the last priest in this land. But Our Lord was not silent. Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of him."

What an honor to be able to say that...