Sunday, January 13, 2019

A girl (boy) wants to be a boy (girl) - What do you say?

I'm delighted to be able to share below what one woman said to a prepubescent girl who loudly declared that when she grew up she wanted to have a sex change to become a boy.

Our times are certainly not boring when new situations seem to frequently come along that are not only unexpected but even surprising; when they are not shocking or disturbing! What we are looking at here is gender dysphoria as a serious condition, but also general confusion regarding thoughts, feelings, and issues around gender identity that often have nothing at all to do with dysphoric states or medical or psychiatric conditions.

It appears that human beings have always experienced confusion about many things, as well as different types of dysphoria, such as those relating to hormonal conditions or to emotional states or mood. Who would have guessed or predicted decades ago, though, that today some people would experience gender dysphoria or confusion regarding their gender?

Gender dysphoria as a medical or psychiatric condition

We owe great sympathy, and all the understanding and compassion we can muster, to anyone who suffers from a genuine condition of dysphoria regarding their gender. Such a condition would have caused a person to suffer real symptoms in their mind, body, psyche (thoughts and emotions), heart, yes, and even in their soul, because we human beings are all together one complete and whole being, with every part connected to every other part. As a human person we breathe, feel, think, decide, act, and behave as one single living entity called human of the "Homo Sapiens Sapiens" kind.

A truly serious condition simply won't go away and will generally be diagnosed and confirmed by one or more competent medical and psychiatric doctors. It is not our intention here to discuss the merits of the various approaches or treatments available to those who suffer such conditions.

The one true God, the Creator, is truly innocent, i.e. incapable of harm, capable only of good

As a Christian, though, I would like to indicate our strong conviction that God our Creator never stops caring for us, loving us, watching over us, guiding us, or leading us, in every situation and under every condition in which we may find ourselves at any given time. God does have a plan and design for our collective and individual lives, and it is always for our welfare and not our woe.
"11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." Jeremiah 29:11-14
Anyone can come to a personal knowledge and experience of the living God through faith, which is our capacity to accept on trust something as true that we cannot personally verify or prove to be true. We fly in planes on faith, trusting that there is a pilot flying the plane and further that he or she will fly us safely to our destination and land us safely there. We make hundreds of big or small acts of ordinary commonplace faith and trust every day; otherwise we would be unable to leave home.

We can live a fully human life only if we accept both pleasure and pain

Also, as human beings we have an amazing capacity for pleasure, satisfaction, excitement, and joy, but those capacities have their reverse side of pain, frustration, indifference, and misery. We cannot find peace or give lasting meaning and purpose to our lives without a willingness to accept both sets of feelings and emotions. They help us connect more directly and intensely to the reality at hand.

God works for good in our life through both pleasure and pain

Whenever we suffer any serious condition or situation, God knows all about it and allows it to happen because He knows that every situation in which we find ourselves becomes an occasion for us to put all our trust in Him and to look to Him for guidance, strength, and whatever else we may need. All things work for good for those who know, trust, and love the Lord. In addition, God knows that we are not yet ready today for some of the gifts and blessings He has in mind for us... we need to make room or be stretched or purified or in some other way to be made ready in order to be able to take receipt of whatever that might be that He desires for us, for our growth and improvement, or for our correction and perfection....

The God in whom we believe is sovereign over all of his Creation, over the visible universe and all the invisible realm in his eternity. All power and authority are his, and all wisdom and love; so He doesn't need our counsel or opinion, nor does He need our consent or permission; even though most of the time He does wait for us to say yes, because what God seeks is a true relationship of love and not any kind of subservience. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Matthew 9:13

Here is what one woman said to a girl who declared she wanted to become a boy

Just last week I hear a brilliant reply from a woman who told about having just such a conversation with a prepubescent girl who reported and declared loudly that she felt she was a boy and one day would go out and get herself a medical gender change.

The woman said to her something along these lines. She completely understood the girl because when she was her age she felt exactly the same. Then she gave that experience a name: she said
"We call that being a "tomboy'. That's when a girl doesn't feel 'girly' like those other girls who look all sweet and pretty and gentle and love to get together in a circle with their dolls. I was more at ease hanging around with the boys and joining them in boys' games." 
Then she continued to tell the girl that being a human female, being a girl and later a woman, isn't only being one way or style or category of girl or woman, because there are many kinds or styles or ways of being a girl or a woman, and they're all okay, as long as you are doing the best to become the person you are meant to be, as long as you live as fully as you can - trying to decide, say, and do what is good, and trying to avoid deciding, saying, or doing what is bad or harmful.

Then she went on to talk to the little girl about what is really special and amazing about being a girl or a woman, that is, a female human being. You have within you all that you need in order to give life. If you get married, you and your husband can love each other and you, as a woman, can conceive a whole new human person within you, and carry that life within you like in a nest or cradle, and love that little life for 9 months until it is time to bring it into the world to live its own life by giving it birth. That is what our mom did for us and you, as a girl, have the capacity to do it yourself and give life to one or more children of your own.

The woman reported that the girl was so grateful to hear these things - because no one had ever said anything like that to her before - and she felt very relieved to hear that there was nothing wrong with her because she felt more comfortable hanging out with boys rather than with girls. She said that she was beginning to realize that she could calm down about her feelings and that it was possible to find ways to better understand how she felt.

Technology helps us understand things but we need wisdom to understand human beings

The current trend to jump to the hasty conclusion that a person needs a sex change just because they "feel more like" a member of the other gender is, I am coming to understand, an error in thinking that comes from simply living in such a technological age. We have become so familiar with technology that we tend to "think tech" even when we focus on and discuss non technical things.

For a boy to think he needs to be changed into a girl just because inside he "feels more like" a girl or for a girl to think she needs to be changed into a boy just because inside she "feels more like a boy is to treat ourselves, our lives, our beings as though we were just one more piece of technology. So if there's a "problem", the thinking goes, all we have to do is "fix it".

A car is a car is a car... and a computer is a computer is a computer... they and so many other things we find convenient are pieces of technology. They are what they are and they don't stop being what they are. A car doesn't become a PC and a PC doesn't go off flying into the stratosphere. When they break down, the problem has to be diagnosed and the solution has to be specific to the exact problem.

A human being is a complex living being, a person engaged in a lifelong process of development

Each and every human being is a very complex living being, a human person engaged in a lifelong process of development, which has been mapped out in all of its complexity, but even then, remains partly mysterious and ever changing. This is true of every human being, whether or not they have any faith in a Creator God. It is unwise, if not downright stupid, to jump to hasty conclusions about what a person may be feeling or thinking or going through at any given time.

Unlike other living beings, we human beings have an incredible capacity for self-awareness and for self-understanding. More than that, we don't need to try to figure ourselves out only on our own, but we can learn a lot about ourselves from listening to the experience and acquired wisdom of others.

In addition to that, those who do believe in the Creator God can also benefit from what God has said to people in the past and what He has revealed to us about Himself and also about us, our life, our world, and what is happening in our lives and in our world.

Here is just a partial glimpse of how complex we human beings really are

Our human life could be divided into 7 great stages:

  1. Our time in the womb - from conception to birth
  2. Our "second birth" - Baptism - when God gives us a share in the divine life of the Trinity
  3. Our initial stage of human development from birth to adulthood - around 18 years of age
  4. Adulthood - from around 18 to the end of our mortal life at the moment of death
  5. Our "first death" - the period, long or short, leading to the dying of our body
  6. The "second death" (Rev 21:8) to be avoided - where one chooses eternal rejection of God
  7. Eternal life - (Rev 21:1-7) - where the elect, the just, enter in with God after the trials of Earth

Here is a brief glimpse of the many complex developments that happen within each of us from birth until around 18 years of age, when, in our western culture, we approach the threshold of adulthood. In other cultures, the timing of this roughly 18-year process could vary a little, but keep in mind that much of these stages are natural developments that keep pace with our overall development in body, mind, psyche / heart, will, conscience, and soul.

  1. 0 - 1 year - the BODY IDENTITY - we learn to connect to the world through our skin - all over our body - and our mouth. We naturally develop an "organ mode" around our mouth, simply "preferring" one which remains our preference for life; which means we need to make an effort to use the "other mode" whenever it is needed. The two modes are : (1) active / captative or (2) passive / receptive. The active person spontaneously "goes out to get" what they want or need; while the passive person "simply waits for what they need to come to them". You can see how we need both in order to get by in life, but it is useful to know what our preference is; that way we know we need to make efforts to do it the other way.
  2. 1 - 2.5 years - IDENTITY of the DOER - A lot happens between the first year and the mysterious period around 2 and a half. We start to move around - crawling, moving on our bum, and in time we learn to walk - we learn to talk and communicate, we learn potty training, we learn how things are done in our family, we learn about rules and respecting others, but mostly, we learn to manipulate things and how do do things, not very well at first, but we can't get enough of trying to do things. Once again, we naturally develop a second "organ mode", only this time it is around our anal sphincter, that circular muscle that acts like a valve to keep in or to release the stool. Just like last time, we come to "prefer" one which will remain our preference for life. Once again, this means we need to make an effort to use the "other mode" whenever it is needed. The two modes are : (1) eliminative or (2) retentive. What is really fascinating is how this later develops and spreads to everything in our life: money, things, relationships... just about everything... so we would prefer to "hold onto" those things, or we would prefer to "let them go". For example, some people find it easy to spend money but hard to save, or vice versa, easy to save but hard to spend. You get the idea.
  3. 2.5 - 3 years - INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY - This is the truly fascinating and mysterious moment when we suddenly developed an awareness of being "me" and "I". The little boy or girl starts saying "Me do it." "I want to do it." It doesn't matter whether or not they can actually do it, because what is going on here is the emergence of an "I", a "Me", a unique individual who is now conscious of being an autonomous individual. That is why it is so precious for parents to realize that this is really a wonderful thing, though at times frustrating, when the little child flexes its "individuality power" to say "No." Parents have to find creative ways to continue to socialize their child, to "win their consent" to do what they need to do in order to be part of this family and in order to continue to learn the things they need to do and the behaviours they need to learn in order to function and develop well. By now, children develop a knack for asking "embarrassing" or difficult questions. Parents can be reassured simply by asking their child to say more about their question and what it is they really want to know. One simple example: "Where do I come from?" This may simply mean what country our family comes from due to a question put in kindergarten or at church, and may not be at all about sex. 
  4. 3 - 6 years - PSYCHOSEXUAL IDENTITY (GENDER IDENTITY) - Reliable research which has been confirmed time and again in peer reviewed literature has mapped out what goes on during all of these six stages of human development. Current new "designer trends" are causing a lot of confusion around these developments, but mostly what people are talking about are "how they feel" or "how they think they feel" about themselves or about these things. What follows is what we can reliably understand about what is naturally going on at this stage of human development over a period of around 3 years. The child, who is now an autonomous person, an "I", begins to develop greater complexity and depth in their interior sense of who they are. They are now more capable (brain development) and more motivated (psyche) of more complex connections with the world around them. They notice for the first time (this is not really conscious, but rather subconscious, but nevertheless very real and powerful) that they have two parents, one each of two distinct genders or kinds (this is the optimal situation). So what happens is that the child develops a desire to "shine" in the eyes of their opposite gender parent, because it is the difference which attracts them, which would seem to make them more "complete". At the same time, they notice that the other parent is of their same gender, and sort of "in the way" - as in "2 is good but 3 is a crowd". The same gender parent becomes an enemy or competitor, which is the classic cause of nightmares. Psychotherapy has discovered that what helps parents quickly resolve the nightmares is for the same gender parent to bring the nightmare troubled child back to their own bed. That way, a greater connection and intimacy of friendship develops with the same gender parent and the "monster goes away". It is important for both parents to affirm the child to understand and embrace its own natural gender as it is inscribed in their body, that is, in accord with their genitals. When children below six years of age "explore" each other's body, nakedness, or intimate parts, it is more about curiosity and perhaps imitation of what they see in the adult world, but it cannot be about sex, which won't become a reality for them until puberty. It is a grave wrong for adults to meddle and intrude in the innocence of young children to impose on them their own adult sex ideologies. When little children are adversely affected or disturbed by the intimate behavior of adults - which they should not normally witness - then care must be taken to help them preserve their innocence. They will have plenty of time to examine these things once they are older and more capable. If by the age of 3 parents have not yet begun to help their children understand their emotions, then it would be high time to do this. It will be much easier for them to explore the complex issues around gender, sexuality, fertility, dating, marriage, chastity, and so on, if we begin by helping them to understand their own emotions, those of others, and all about friendship and civil relations in society.
  5. 6-12 years - PSYCHOSOCIAL IDENTITY - When life unfolds simply and naturally without undue interference of distortion from the environment or society, little boys congregate with other boys, and little girls with other girls. Yes, the "tomboy girls" will want to hang out with boys and the "girly boys" will want to hang out with girls, which simply indicates preferences of temperament, and is no indication of a rejection of their own gender as such.  During these six years, boys and girls learn to relate to others of their gender and to accept many variations of preference and style or ways of being a boy or girl. They learn to cooperate, to lead, to follow, to contribute, to argue, to make up, and many other dimensions of human relations. They learn to share what they know, what they can do, and to learn from others. The sky is literally the limit. Regarding any kind of intimacy - whether emotional or sexual - children at this stage normally react with an emphatic "Yuck!" which is for them quite normal. They are no interested in those things. However, when children during this period are adversely affected or disturbed by the intimate behavior of adults - which they should not normally witness - then care must be taken to help them preserve their innocence. They will have plenty of time to examine these things once they are older and more capable. By the age of 6 is a very good and interesting time for parents to help their children understand their emotions, and what will help parents best is all the work they are willing to do to understand their own emotions as well as those of their spouse. It will be much easier for them to explore the complex issues around gender, sexuality, fertility, dating, marriage, chastity, all the new issues around social and gender "engineering" and so on, if we begin by helping them to understand their own emotions, those of others, and all about friendship and civil relations in society.
  6. 12-18 years - the IDENTITY OF SELF - These final six years are a time of great change, including the upheaval of puberty with all the changes that come about, a time of greater socializing, of socializing with members of the other gender - at first generally in groups and after a few years in smaller groups and, in time, in couples. This period is also a time that begins the integration of all the developments at the previous five stages of development into the beginnings of a cohesive sense of the SELF. All the work that parents will have done earlier to help their children understand their own emotions and those of others will now help these young adolescents to know themselves, to be at greater peace within themselves, to have a good sense of who they are and be able to withstand the undue and at times aggressive attitudes and influences of others, including the bullies. Children who have learned young that pain is as normal a part of life as pleasure are more likely to go through these difficult and challenging times with greater personal clarity, stability, and serenity. They will even attract their peers who will find them to be a source of strength and encouragement. 

Preliminary Conclusions 

Perhaps by now you can begin to see the sheer complexity and fluidity in the development of the human person, and just how many years it actually takes (minimum of 18) to go through all the profound processes of emergence and development of the interior dimensions of a human being.

To go off drawing hasty conclusions and slapping "labels" (homosexual, lesbian, wrong gender, or any other such artificial category unrelated to the uniqueness of this individual at this particular point in their development) prematurely on young people who have not yet gone through their initial period of human development is to do them violence, and perhaps the worst form of violence at that.

God our Creator has such profound respect for us, for our unique individuality, for our free will, for our fragile sense of self; that He does not interfere or intrude rudely into our lives, but leaves us free to find our own way. We should have enough respect for others to try to treat them with the same respect and kindness with which God treats us.

Above all, we must resist all the "social engineers", all those people pushing ideologies of all sorts, trying to impose labels and categories on people that do violence to them by convincing them to abandon or ignore their great complexity, their great depth, their great fluidity as human beings on a journey of life-long development into the best person that we can possibly become....

Peace to you and your families....

Monday, November 05, 2018

Why does losing a loved one hurt so much?

A loved one dies and we are suddenly plunged into depths of pain and suffering we had no idea existed.... Why does this happen to us? Why does our loving God allow us to endure such agony? How long will it last? Will any good come of it?

Such questions only scratch the surface of all that goes on in our lives when we experience serious losses. What it all means varies considerably, but we can catch clues from just a few key reference points: myself - the other who has died - our relationship to each other - our openness or not to God's presence, action, and love.

Who am I and what has been going on in my life?

Who was this person who has just died and what was happening in their life?

How were we towards one another and what does their death mean to me?

Did either of us make room for God in our own life and in this relationship or not?

BITTER SORROW

When such pain of loss tastes rather bitter, it is often an indication that our God is allowing us to catch a glimpse of something not quite right in this situation, and the bitterness is coming from that matter or issue that was or is wrong.

If in any of the key questions above there has been any selfishness, any sinful or unholy desires, anything evil, or unjust motives or manipulation, or anything at all that was evil, unholy, or selfish; then these realities are quite likely to manifest themselves through a bitter quality in the sense of loss.

As a simple example to illustrate this point, let us say that I cared for an elderly rich person, but because I was in dire financial straits myself, my motivation in caring for this elderly person was tainted by my survival instinct and secret desire for some monetary gain in return for my help. Fear of not receiving anything or not enough could generate a bitterness in my sense of loss.

If this elderly rich person for whom I cared was not a nice person but nasty, angry, even cruel, and by the grace of God I still loved them; then all through the time of my care for them, I could have accumulated a taint of bitterness affecting even what might have been in me a pure motivation to care for them.

If upon the death of the one I had cared for and loved their immediate family were to step in and unceremoniously cast me aside - as though what I had done was irrelevant to them - then this too could render bitter my sense of loss.

As you can see, at any point, any factor of impure motives, or evil intentions, or sinfulness, on the part of any of the parties involved could turn bitter any sense of loss which I might experience after having cared for a person whom I loved and who has now died.

Such bitterness is the kind of experience and feeling that almighty God wants to use in order to draw my attention to those dark factors; so that I might repent of any sin of which I may be guilty, that I might dissociate myself from any dark factor in the motivations of others and pray for them as I would pray even for enemies, and that I might allow the Lord to purify my intentions and my soul in order to become freer to love with a pure heart.

SWEET SORROW

Perhaps one of the sweetest kinds of loss might take place when a beloved elderly person dies - one who had become a pure soul - and you who have been caring for him or her out of love experience deep and intense pain of loss.

In such a case we can easily understand how you, the care givers, would be in pain because the great love you exchanged with that elderly pure soul has come to a temporary end, temporary because one day, in the Lord's good time, you shall be reunited with him or her in the Father's House. The pain may give you pause or bring confusion and doubt, temporarily, but make no mistake. Now you are tasting a glimpse of Heaven... the only difference is that when it is our proper time to enter into the presence of the most Holy Trinity - the Father and Jesus his Son and the Holy Spirit - on that day we will be fully purified of human imperfection, sinfulness, and woundedness - and we will be able to endure the full intensity of the love of God without any pain.

That will be then, but for now, whenever God's love touches us, there can be pain, but it is like the pain caused by a doctor in the process of healing us. The cure often hurts for a while until the infection is completely cleansed and health returns. Remember when you were a girl or boy and you fell and deeply scraped knees and elbows and it hurt like hell? Then the medicine burned like crazy and bandages were applied. They continued to hurt, the wounds, until you got closer to healing. The first sign of healing was that the scabs began to tickle; so you began to pick at them even though your Mom told you not to. If you picked hard enough a scab came off and the wound hurt all over again, and you learned your lesson.

You are right. Your elderly charge was a pure soul. She / He lived long enough and was humble enough to allow God to purify her / him from all life's hurts, faults, and sins, and all that was left was a child-like soul in love with God and with people. She / He accepted to receive love, and did so with such a pure heart, that God's love radiated out from her / him to anyone who came close to her / him with pure intentions.

These wounds which you now suffer are glorious wounds... witnesses of God's forgiving, purifying, and healing love at work in you. All that God expects of you is to be docile, to trust, and to gently accept these sufferings as proof that the Holy Spirit is at work within you, distilling the pure life-giving love of the Father into the deepest recesses of your souls, cleaning out any gunk that may be lurking in those deep dark corners and admitting the pure light of eternity to make everything into light and love.

This is the most perfect form of patience - accepting to endure the pain caused by the purifying love of God, as in this case right now - or accepting to endure the pain which accompanies pure intentions and good actions, or accepting to endure what others cause us to suffer in order to love them. This is the example Jesus gave us when He accepted to endure the suffering we caused Him, and He did so in order to reveal to us the true nature of the pure love that God has for us.

All of this is the manifest action of the lordship of Jesus within you because you have been putting your trust in Him, you have been believing in Him, you have been accepting his call to follow Him and serve Him in others, like the elderly pure soul who just died, and now you are becoming more like Him, the One who wept over ancient Jerusalem because she would not receive his love. You have been giving the Lord Jesus permission to do his work with the Holy Spirit within you - which most of the time goes unnoticed - but on this occasion you feel pain at what the Lord is doing within you, purifying and cleansing. Rejoice and be glad, because this pain is not the kind that comes from hell, but rather the kind that prepares you for Heaven; in fact, it is even now a glimpse of Heaven which is so intense and wonderful that, for now, it hurts, but the hurt will not endure... while the love itself will endure without end.

Please feel free to share these words with whomever you will....

Peace to you and your family.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Evil, pain, suffering - how can these be God's will for us?

One most awesome truth, and at times a little unnerving, is that nothing happens to us except that almighty God permits it.

It is a heresy to think that Satan and the rebellious angels exercise runaway power, as though the Creator had lost control over them. Part of the truth is that angels are not changeable as we are - once they make a decision it is final and forever.

While they work against God's will; God is so almighty that He continually extends his power over all the harm they do in order to bring greater good out of it. It helps us in our reflection to remember that our Creator God sustains in existence the whole universe - with its hundreds of billions of galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars with their countless planets. On a smaller scale, our Creator God sustains each of us and all living things in existence with the breath of life. In a true sense, our every breath is coming to us with vitality from the most Holy Trinity... an awesome and oh so intimate thought.... Into this mind stretching vast scenario enters evil, temptation, sin, pain, and suffering of myriad sorts....

You may not now be suffering anything, dear Reader, or perhaps you are, but it is likely that you have at least at one time suffered. When I who write these thoughts indicate "you", I of course include myself; for we share what we call the human condition. So, whether what has happened to you has simply happened naturally, or whether there came forth any shadows of hell to do you harm, or whether what you suffer is the result of your own human frailty, or a combination of the above; it remains true that God has allowed it to happen and that He fully intends to make use of your suffering to bring about the best for you and for others through you.

It is true for all of us what Saint Paul came to understand as a grace of revelation from the Lord Jesus: what he suffered and what we suffer does indeed complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. The human Jesus has finished suffering and is seated at the right hand of the Father, but because He is also Son of God, He unites to Himself in the Holy Spirit all the baptized until the end of the world; so that mystical Body of Christ of which we are a member lives on and is bringing to completion in each of us personally and in all of us together the life which Jesus Himself lived while on Earth.

This is how it happens that all that we live and endure and love acquires infinite value in the collective Body of Christ, who continues his mission to bring the light of the Father's love and the peace of the Holy Spirit to all of mankind in all places and at all times. This is the beauty, value, and significance of the Church of Jesus and its vast and every expanding collective life on Earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven.

The opportunity we each have at every moment to be aware of these awesome truths, to offer freely and deliberately and generously and confidently to the Father's love our whole hearted consent, and in this way, to allow the Lord Jesus to join us to Himself in an ever increasingly intimate union of mind, heart, body, and soul....

In prayer we visit, as it were, with the three divine Persons of the most Holy Trinity, welcoming them within us and attending to them as we would to the most precious and important guests.... In this way, we renew moment by moment our consent to the Father to bring about in us his most holy will through the action of his beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power, peace, and love of the Holy Spirit.

Peace to you and your family in your ongoing convalescence....

                Pax + Caritas, Fr. Gilles

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

We are never far from God... in fact...

Hello dear Reader. I hope that his reflection finds you well, you and your family, or that whatever was ill may now be recovering.

When coming out of prayer, often my spirit wanders in wondrous regions of our life on Earth.... That which rarely elevates my spirit in the heat of the action during the day, now, admits the light.... Life often complicates our existence, but it is good to remember that we are always in the awesome presence of the Most Holy Trinity.


Our God is ever present and dwelling within us, with the only exception of when we commit grievous sin, in which case we cannot force God to remain with us and become our accomplice in evil. At such times our God is saying to us "Are you done already? Can we go home now?"


Our every breath comes into us from our Creator God... who breathed into Adam his own breath of life (Genesis 2:7)... we are only able to breathe at all because we have within us the breath of life from God, and when our earthly existence comes to an end, God will take back his breath, and our soul will immediately find itself in the awesome and wondrous presence of the most Holy Trinity....

This meeting with God face to face will be more than impressive, or awesome.... The light will be so brilliant that in an instant we will see ourselves in all our truth - even that which at the moment we neither want to see or admit, for good or for ill - and at the same time we will see God in all his splendour of goodness, truth, and beauty....

Only the saints - who let themselves be purified by the trials of life and who finally chose to resist their evil impulses in order to surrender themselves completely to love of neighbor, even love of the enemy - only the saints therefore will be able to endure the intense beauty of God and they will already be entering into Heaven and eternal happiness.

The saints will be able to endure the look of Jesus who, to reveal to humanity the true love of God for us allowed himself to be misunderstood, falsely accused, unjustly condemned, tortured, and put to death. He loves us so much that He allowed himself to be taken like a lamb to demonstrate the behaviour of a love that is pure and true.

As for the rest of us, the contrast between all that God truly is in reality, on the one hand, and our own reality, on the other hand, this contrast will cause us to be unable to endure the full intensity of the love of God... the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will have pity on us and they will allow us to withdraw from this intense light of love to go and finish being purified for loving. This time and space will allow us to detach ourselves from all that is imperfect or undeserving of our attachment for all eternity.... This reflection helps us to understand why it is good and desirable for us to live life as fully as we can and for as long as we can, until our final breath....

Useless it is to seek a premature ending to our distress; for each trouble is an opportunity for us to experience more deeply this purification which we all need in order to become better able to love purely and truly. Tragic is that scenario of those poor folks who, sick or disturbed within themselves, seek a premature ending of their life in an artificially caused death, a death which in truth brings no solution to the enigma of who they are and who they were in the process of becoming; a death which merely makes their existence all the heavier. We trust in the infinite mercy of God revealed to us in Jesus, but still, why short circuit our existence here and now? Let us pray for those poor folks who have given themselves a premature death....

We discover more of the wonder of who our Creator God is when we explore the wonders of the universe or when we explore within ourselves the microscopic universe of life itself. Only in recent decades has it been possible for humanity to look into the complex workings within the life of each living cell. The little machines accomplishing complex tasks there are more ingenious and complex than the most complicated factory built by human beings.


The very fibre of our being is kept in existence by the sheer steadiness of the will of God who wants us to exist, who at the beginning said "Let there be light!"

Peace to you and your family.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

On a Mission... Together!

I have been an active priest in Montreal for over 35 years now. We have done many things, initiated many programs, served many generations of people of all ages. Even at our worst and weakest, God still manages to do good things and to bless people through - and sometimes despite - our efforts.

I find it very encouraging that our Archbishop and his Pastoral Team are calling on all of us to "put our minds and hearts together" before we "put our hands to the plow together", because we are "On a Mission... Together!". So, here are some personal observations and thoughts about those observations.

I think we have often suffered in the past, and I believe we continue to suffer a sense of failure, often, and I believe it is in part because our goal is to "fill the church" again or for the first time.... We keep trying to throw a large net to "catch as many people as possible" all at once. Depending on our parish situation, this impulse to "rope in as many people as possible" may become very desperate indeed. Jesus was motivated and his heart pressed Him, but He was never desperate.

Of course, it is necessary and good that we address large crowds, as we do on the Lord's Day, and as Jesus Himself did in his Sermon on the Mount and before He fed the multitudes with a few loaves or loaves and fishes, or when He taught in the Temple in Jerusalem. This is normal for us - clergy and evangelists - to address large crowds whenever we have them, but it is part of living our faith; as Jesus and his apostles and disciples went to synagogue and to the Temple in Jerusalem.

However, large crowds are not the primary or most effective way of sharing the good news with people. Yes, Jesus did teach large crowds, but He evangelized in a personal way, one person or family at a time. When the Gospels mention people's lives being changed and them deciding on the spot to follow Jesus from that point on, it was usually after an intimate one on one encounter with Jesus. At WYD's when young people were with Saint Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict or now Pope Francis; Jesus is there touching them, but their lives really change when they have a personal encounter with Jesus such as during Confession or encounters with other youth or with adults.

None of our programs or approaches work very well or for very long, in the end, primarily I believe because we keep trying to catch "large bunches of people", whether it is the families who come for sacraments or whomever, without applying ourselves sufficiently to one on one evangelization. We find one on one listening and caring very troublesome and tiring, when we are not convinced it is a waste of our time and energy. People's and families' lives are messy and whenever we get "too close" we find it difficult, unsettling, and distracting us from our many duties and tasks and projects.

We may often be impatient with people who are irritating or troublesome, but Jesus would have welcomed them, listened to them, asked them what they wanted, and then He would have given thanks to his Father before blessing them, and then God the Father always did something marvelous for them, whether it was forgiving their sins or healing or whatever. God the Father touched people through Jesus' caring and loving as He gave the impression that He had all the time in the world for those who came to Him.

Then, when Jesus "breathed on his apostles and disciples" and poured the Holy Spirit into them, He enabled them to do as He had done and showed them how to do. When we were baptized and then confirmed, Jesus also "breathed on us and poured into us his Holy Spirit". However, we may have trouble believing in the reality of the Father's love, in the reality of the Holy Spirit's power, and in the reality of Jesus' trust in us and his commission to us to do as He has done and showed us.

I believe a serious flaw in our thinking and in our approach is that we keep skipping this most basic, fundamental, and essential step; that is, the step that Jesus Himself took, which is one to one evangelization. Jesus walked the roads and streets looking for opportunities to encounter people. As He encountered people, one person at a time, one family at a time, He proclaimed the good news and left them free to respond right away or not; He even left them free to walk away.

We don't want people to walk away, and when they do, we get frustrated and feel a failure or even feel a false kind of guilt based on whatever it was that we thought our goal was.... It doesn't take much to discourage us and we quit or try something else, going from one approach to another, one program to another, one idea to another, one event or activity to another, but we don't value the people, the persons we meet along the way. They come and they go, but we don't let them move us as Jesus allowed them to move Him with compassion for them; as when he wept over them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, or when He wept over Jerusalem for having rejected Him.

Jesus evangelized one person at a time, and He taught his disciples to evangelize one person at a time. That is what God is doing, and we need to "get with the program." What God calls us to do is not Jesus' commission only to clergy, religious, parish or diocesan staff, or key volunteers, but it is Jesus' commission to each and every single baptized and confirmed person and believer.

Of course we will never proclaim this to people if we do not believe it ourselves. We will find it difficult or impossible to practice Jesus' approach if we do not even try. Imagine, though, what it would be like if we did begin to employ Jesus' approach, without fear of failing, leaving people free to walk away if they are not quite ready yet to follow Jesus. If even one tenth of church goers began to do that, parish congregations would double every year or even more frequently....

Peace to you and your family. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.... 

Friday, August 17, 2018

"The gates of hell shall not prevail against it (my Church)" said Jesus to Peter

I received a wonderful grace on retreat this past week at Villa Chateauneuf - Foyers de Charité in Sutton, Québec's Eastern Townships region, where Père Jacques Beaudry c.s.v. gave what the Foyers call "Retraite Fondamentale" all about the sheer magnitude of God's love and the intimate life of spiritual marriage the Son of God initiated with humanity in his Incarnation.

Like many people I had always understood Jesus' reference to the gates of hell when He established Simon as Peter, the rock on which He would build his Church, as meaning that we the Church are under constant attacks from hell and that their very gates are upon us but that those gates would not prevail against the Church.

The Lord gave me finally to understand that, no, it is God himself who is on the offensive against hell and its gates, most potently at the very moment of the Incarnation, and then or course on Calvary, which are Jesus' "1 - 2 punch" against the devil and his rebellious demons.

Our very existence as baptized and confirmed disciples is an offensive against hell; as is our every thought, prayer, word, decision, and action on behalf of faith, hope, love, justice, and mercy for the glory of God. We are part of the army of the Lord of Hosts and the Bride of Christ who follows her Lord in his offensive against the gates of hell, and they shall not prevail against Him!

That is a wonderful answer to share with those who feel under siege by the "minions of hell" with their sexual liberation agendas and lobbies.... This is also very motivating for us to go on accepting to endure the "purifying fire" of rendering our Church more transparent and responsible and bent on the protection of the innocent and the reform of the guilty in the current environment in which human society - after thousands of years of taboo and silence - is finally addressing the issues of sexual and other forms of abuse.

Once again, in a strange and unexpected way, the Church of Jesus Christ is manifest as his "sacrament of salvation" for humanity. We need to keep in mind that before the sex abuse scandals erupted in the Church, sexual and other forms of abuse were heavily taboo in most societies. It was impossible to talk about such things and obtain a fair hearing. First, people were uncomfortable believing allegations about persons they knew, especially familiar persons like close relatives and adults with responsibility over their children.

As we are learning, the vast majority of sexual and other forms of abuse happens in the family, which is the basic "cell" of human society and the first place where children are formed and learn to become "civilized". It is therefore inescapable that whenever there is abuse, it is likely to happen within the family, where distortions of character in the adults are unavoidably cause for suffering in everyone in the family, especially those who are most vulnerable like children, youth, the aged, and the sick and disabled.

God has obviously used his Church, Jesus has used his Bride, like a scalpel to "lance" this terrible boil on the body of the human family. This terrible infection of abuse can now finally be addressed and we are already learning much more than we have ever understood about the human process of maturation and how it happens that there are interruptions of development which distort people with disastrous results like abuse of others around them.

It is becoming known that those who abuse others are almost always troubled souls suffering deep wounds and distortions of personality and character, and when they misbehave and abuse others, it is out of the overflowing of their own misery and suffering. They are sadly passing on the harm that was done to them.

The only way to stop the terrible cycle is the strategy that Jesus introduced. People who behave horribly, for the most part, have never experienced true life-giving love. Their human deficit is in effect a deficiency of development, like a big hole in the ground waiting for a house to be built there. Digging the hole deeper won't show any sign of the house to come, but only actual building materials.

Love is the primary building material composing the human person, and Jesus, being the Son of God, understood that. Our chief challenge is moving beyond the "fortress" attitude of defending ourselves in the jungle attitude of the "survival of the fittest" which is a primary motivator in human affairs, from the economy to culture, and our health, social, and justice systems.

Jesus demonstrated, however, that to commit to practicing universal love is very costly. Those who are motivated by different motives are likely to perceive the "universal lover" as a threat to be eliminated - which is how they dealt with Jesus - or an enemy to be subdued or perverted to adopt their own violent and self-serving ways. Anyone who wants to follow Jesus needs the strength He had from his Father's love and the Holy Spirit in order to remain faithful to the call of universal love to the end.

Matthew reports in chapter 5 verse 43 and following: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Luke reports an even stronger teaching and warning by Jesus to anyone who would listen in Luke chapter 6 verse 27 and following:

27 "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

39 He also told them a parable: "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.

43 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

46 "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. 48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house."

Peace to you, dear reader, and to your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors... the Peace that Jesus offers but which the world can never give or truly understand. It is a peace that comes from God the Creator's confidence in his design and plan for humanity and in his confidence in our ability and willingness to accept his love, to follow his guidance, and to choose wisely.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

To tattoo or not... I feel incomplete....

Dear reader, perhaps you or someone you know feels incomplete.

This is an important discovery, because it is our human condition since the "fall" of the first human beings - whoever they were and however many they were - from the intimate friendship and communion with their and our Creator. Incomplete is what we actually are now without the moment by moment intimate communion with the Holy Spirit and, in this divine person, with the Father and the Son, who is also the human Jesus. This realization has been verified countless times by all the saints.

To tattoo or not to tattoo

Of course, a human person is free to have a tattoo burned into their flesh, but it will add nothing to who they are. In fact, the recent suicide of "Zombie Boy" I think is a sad illustration of this truth that tattoos don't help a person become more complete or more fully who they are. This is so true that to all appearances he could no longer live with himself as tattooed and apparently felt lost without the ability to get back to who he used to be before the tattoos.

All about appearances

How a person appears shows at first glance through what others see and hear, but mostly it radiates from within, from who you really are, and the countless ways in which you give expression to who you are in yourself and who you choose to be for others. All these things evoke in others thoughts and feelings, one way or another, but other people are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, words and behavior just as we are responsible for our own thoughts and feelings, words and actions, and attitudes and behavior.

Discovering and "navigating" the "deep currents" within us

Who you really are is not only all that is within you, all the thoughts, feelings, images and imagination, memories, desires, hopes and fears, and soul / spirit interior movements which are the deep currents within us.... Who you really are is much more....

Have you noticed the deep currents that sometimes rise closer to the surface as a hunger, or a thirst, or an aching need within you? These were built into us by our Creator.... They are a little bit like the "instincts" that guide the Canada geese and all the other amazing migratory birds to fly to their proper destinations, but in us, they orient us to face the beauty and wonder of our Creator and to listen - to hear and give attention to - the whispering of the Holy Spirit deep within. In a sense, just as birds migrate back to the place of their birth, we human beings are drawn back to the "place" of our creation, which is not our mother's womb but the divine being which is our Creator.

Who and what is God, really?

We know from the Jewish Scriptures and from Jesus and all that He said and did that God is a divine being. We don't really know or understand what that really means, but we have to try to talk about it, to understand, because we are fascinated by God. We are told that we are created "in the image and likeness of God"; so by looking at others and looking within ourselves we can see something of what God is like, but not everything. I am a single being that is human and I am a single person, but God is a single being that is divine and not a single person but three persons; so God is - we could say - a community of persons but one being.

In 1996 I was for 6 weeks in Rome for the "Stage de Rome" with 11 other priests. One day we met an Orthodox woman professor who gave us a lecture about the differences between our "western" way of understanding everything and the Orthodox way. Regarding what it means to be human - in the West we understand a human being to be a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, and soul / spirit. The Orthodox take a broader view and understand that in order to be fully human we need to welcome the divine presence of God who is spirit within us and also cooperate with our Creator's plan for our full development towards complete abundance of life.

The Holy Spirit... the One whom native people call "Manitou" or "Great Spirit"

In other words, a human being is indeed a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, and soul / spirit, but is not yet complete without the indwelling presence of God. It is the Holy Spirit who "fills" us with the divine life-giving presence, vitality, and love of the Father and the Son, Jesus. That means then that a human being is a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, soul / spirit, and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

All the saints came to understand through experience that in order to be more complete and to feel more complete we need to avoid anything that might be "repugnant" to this divine being from whom we come and to whom we are returning, and also to try to do all we can that would be pleasing to "them" - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Paul wrote and taught that what this means is that God loves to dwell within us to fill us with all the vitality, love, peace, and joy that we can contain. The only thing God will not do is to participate in anything we do that is not true, not good, not beautiful, or not self-sacrificial or self-giving love / communion.

Ever our Divine companion but never our accomplice in wrong

A simple way I understand this would be to say that when I choose to do something wrong, I cannot force God be stay with me and be my "accomplice". As I move in the direction of doing something wrong or that will not give life or love to anyone, it's as if God "steps outside of me" and patiently waits, is sad for me, and then says "Okay, are you done now, can I come back to be with you again? Can we go home now and be together again?"

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits - lived in the 16th century and is considered to be one of the "reformers" of the Church in answer to the Protestant Reformation. More importantly, he is acknowledged to be the greatest teacher in human history about the "interior life" within us human beings.

Discerning our interior "movements"

He taught and wrote something called the "Rules for the Discernment of Spirits" which helps us to understand what is really going on inside of us all the time, all the apparently confusing "currents" in our interior thoughts, feelings, and dispositions.

In the first two rules out of 14, he teaches basically that when we are about to do something good, true, beautiful, and loving, the Spirit of God encourages and consoles us - which makes us feel good - but the "enemy of humanity" introduces into us contrary feelings and thoughts to obstruct our good intention. On the other hand, when we consider doing something that is not good, not true, not beautiful, and not loving, the enemy of humanity congratulates us, cheers us on, tantalizes us with anticipation of pleasures and rewards, and ultimately to push us off the cliff into self-destruction. Meanwhile, the Spirit of God is the One who tries to hinder and obstruct us, to delay or divert us from actually doing anything that might be self-destructive or harmful to others.

When I consider all the people in my life, and especially those whom I love and are closest to me, I may not agree with all they say or do, but if anything, because of the love with which God loves me, my love for them will only grow with time. I believe it is the same with our parents, siblings, and children, despite at times distressing appearances to the contrary. Our faults often obstruct the light within us from shining out....

Now, dear reader, if you will permit, I will digress.... This is just an overflow from much that I carry in my heart about many things....

Why God and his Church get a "bad rep"

Our faults often obstruct the light within us from shining out.... That is why we Christians, being so imperfect and sinful, give such a "bad reputation" to God and to his Church.... Everyone who is disgusted with such things as sexual abuse by clergy are correct to feel repugnance. It is shocking because they are given trust for their public service, but it is also shocking when parents or other relatives abuse children and youth in their family, and for this reason it is almost impossible to talk about it and the victims are often not believed when they try to complain.

Disgust at the abuse of innocent children and youth by distorted adults

I myself am disgusted by the terrible things done by adults - and most especially by clergy - to children and youth. I feel the pain and have great sympathy for all those who have in any way been abused. The vast majority of sexual and psychological abuse apparently happens within families. When abusers are people who are supposed to be trusted with the care of others, it is even more terrible. Still, it is a sad mistake to treat with equal contempt the 99 others who are pure and devoted because of the 1 twisted and depraved one, just as it would be a sad mistake for a victim to decide never to marry or have a family because of what happened to them.

What is God doing about it?

God is constantly at work invisibly deep within each human being, but is also visibly at work through the life-giving instruments that are all the good human beings who exercise right authority in the forms of justice, health, social services, and loving care. Our Creator pours into human beings all good gifts as the Source form whom all our being and life flows. We are indeed the eyes and ears, the mind and heart, the mouth, feet, and hands of God in this world as we carry out all those good actions and works of mercy that God would want to do in person.

Just as parents rightly take pleasure in allowing their children to try to do things, to make mistakes, and in this way to learn to do things and become competent and graceful in living a good life and caring for others and the world around them; so too God takes pleasure in us developing our life and caring for others and the world around us, acting as agents of truth, goodness, beauty, and love / communion in life.

The big picture - the full extent of God's love means mercy

God our Creator is always at work to give life and healing, especially to those most in need of his tender care. Of course, God takes pleasure as we have just seen in enhancing our own efforts to care for others in need. God is counting on all of us to notice the suffering of victims of abuse and to come to their aid as quickly and as effectively as possible. Victims of abuse need and deserve immediate attention and care; while the abusers need and deserve immediate attention and to be brought to justice. Only by being brought to justice can abusers possibly begin to realize the harm that they have done. Only once they admit the wrong they have done can abusers begin to experience reform and restoration.

As unbelievable and perhaps repugnant as it seems, while He is tenderly caring for all who are victims of abuse and all others of his children who suffer in any way; God even wants to forgive, repair, restore, and heal the abuser. Why? Because in most - if not in all - instances, the abuser was himself or herself abused and was damaged. The likeness of humanity was distorted in them when they became a victim, and they in effect became the harm that was done to them.... God sees the big picture and wants to restore everyone to the fullness of life He has always wanted to give to each and every human being. This means that when a human being is abused, the abuser and the victim are in effect mirror images of the same evil and harm, and God wants to restore them both in a perfect symmetry of healing grace and restoration.

When humans forgive, it is a divine act which sets free

It appears as though the only effective way to freedom and fullness of life for someone who has been abused is to forgive and let it go, not to forget because we cannot forget, but to forgive and let the abuser go. This is not humanly possible, which is why we need that life-giving presence of the living God within us to assure us that we are loved and lovable. God forgives us our faults, and once we finally accept to be loved by God, while also admitting to ourselves our faults and confessing to God our sins; then his perfect forgiveness and love makes us capable of choosing to love others with the same forgiveness and mercy. When we human beings truly forgive another, we are performing what is essentially a divine act.

Why do we need to confess our faults, our sins?

Why do we need to confess our sins to God? Logically, it is because God is our origin and destiny... our life is moment by moment being "poured" into us with every breath and heartbeat by the living God / Creator, who loves us with such a perfect love and respect that it is only right that we make good use of the gift we receive and love God back by loving not only our Creator but also everyone and everything else with the same love with which He loves us.

When we don't admit to ourselves our faults, we are only fooling ourselves and from that point on enclose ourselves within an illusion, and we continue to live our life as a fiction rather than as reality in the real world. When we don't confess our faults and sins to God our Creator, it is an offense against such a great Giver of the gift of who we are and all that we are.

The act of forgiveness can also be a mirror image but of good

Not only does God deserve our confession, but He wants to take the opportunity of our offense to love us even more by restoring our innocence and ability to love perfectly by granting us complete forgiveness and mercy. It is only right and good then that we extend his forgiveness and mercy to those who have offended us.... Once we let our offenders go, we are set free ourselves simultaneously.... In genuine forgiveness and mercy, both the offender and the offended are set free. The offender who is now forgiven remains free to welcome and accept this gift or to persist on his evil and self-destructive path. No one can be forced to accept forgiveness. As it can only be freely given; so too forgiveness can only be freely accepted. When forgiveness is accepted, even the offender is set free.

This means that when a human being truly and genuinely forgives another for their offense, and the offender freely accepts to be forgiven, in that moment the offender and the offended are in effect mirror images of the truth, goodness, beauty, and love / communion that is brought into existence in the act of forgiveness and mercy.

Peace to you, dear reader, to you and your family and all those you love or who count on you in any way.