Heschel: “Prepare a spiritual income for old age”

There is a marvellous little essay called “To Grow in Wisdom” in Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence.

Continue reading

Finding God in All Things

On this feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I thought I’d quickly scan the Internet to see what came up in connection with Ignatian spirituality and death.

I was pleased to find this 3-minute video in which a young man named Jurell Sison reflects on the death of his grandparents.

Continue reading

Suffering is a school in humility

A friend of mine just sent me this article of his, “Cancer is back, so I have a request …

In it, Charles Lewis discusses his ambivalence about writing and speaking publicly about his illness.

Of course, in reading a column about it, his decision is made clear and obvious.

The first reason he gives for being public about it is because he hopes that others will pray for him.

A second reason he discerns is that he does not want to go through the burden alone or for he and his wife to shoulder it privately.

A third reason, which I found particularly interesting comes up when Lewis concludes, “Besides, why hide it? Would not that be a form of pride?”

Continue reading

A Perspective on Danger

Here’s an anecdote:

It was the summer of 2018 when I crashed an Aramaic summer camp for Maronite children living in northern Israel. I got to have a blast singing songs and playing games with the children who are growing up navigating a complex identity with an extremely fraught history in a pretty volatile region.

One day during that camp, I decided to ask an 11-year-old girl named Marie who lives just a few kilometres away from the border with Lebanon, “Who do you think is in greatest need of our prayers?”

The preteen immediately answered, “The kids of Florida.”

“Florida?” I repeated curiously.

“Yes,” she told me. “Because of the school shootings there.”

I was quite struck by this answer to the extent that I still remember it.

It is interesting to consider this perspective on danger.

After all, I am sure that, were I interviewing 11-year-olds in Florida about who most needs our prayers that someone there would have told me, “The kids of the Middle East.”

A Final Birthday Card

Around New Year’s 2015, my grandfather had been hospitalized and was in quite severe pain. I visited him in the hospital during the holidays but had left the city by the time his birthday came around a couple weeks later on January 17th. I just came across the following letter that I wrote to him, which ended up being my last birthday card to him. When I had visited him at the beginning of the month, he told me that the pain was so bad that he wished he could die. This was obviously difficult to hear and so, in writing to him, I felt greatly responsible to give him some encouragement.

Here is what I wrote:

Continue reading

Start wondering now

This evening a dear friend and I reunited in Toronto and spontaneously decided to attend Vespers at St. Moses & St. Katherine Coptic Orthodox Church.

The evening prayer and raising of incense was set to begin at 7:00 p.m.

Aside from the priest, two young men chanting liturgical responses, and one woman from the community, my friend and I were the only ones there.

Before beginning vespers, Fr. John Boutros came over to give us a brief explanation of the prayer.

“The purpose of vespers is start wondering now: where has my life gone? It’s a journey toward reconciliation in preparation for the liturgy the following day. Accordingly, people will usually go to confession after Vespers and during the Midnight Praises on the vigil of the Divine Liturgy. As the sun sets, you are invited to ponder: What am I doing? Where did the light go? Where did my life go?”

Fr. John also gave the analogy of working on a paper or a project into the late hours of the night saying, “When you’re working late at night, you can lose sense of the time. The purpose of these evening liturgies is partly to enter into the timelessness of eternity.”

This is the structure of Vespers in the Coptic Orthodox Church:

Continue reading

Before Praying, Man Should Prepare to Die

Lately I have been reading Martin Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim. In his Introduction, Buber discusses how “the core of hasidic teachings is the concept of a life of fervour, of exalted joy” and that “The world in which you live, just as it is and not otherwise affords you that association with God, which will redeem you and whatever divine aspect of the world you have been entrusted with.”

Continue reading