Friday, December 21, 2012

Biblical Peace

The biblical idea of peace
is not so much the absence of war
as it is the presence of
a right relationship with God.
We sometimes forget
that peace begins in the human soul.
A Chinese proverb explains why:

“If there is right in the soul,
there will be beauty in the person,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.”


Mission 2000

by Mark Link, S.J. 

Reflection Questions

How has my relationship with God changed over the last year?
What has been the major factor in producing this change?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Real Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled;
when the star in the sky is gone;
when the wise men have gone home;
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
then, the real work of Christmas begins.

find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nation,
to bring peace among peoples,
to make music in the heart!

Adapted from the prayer,
Work of Christmas Begins
by Howard Thurman

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Les Miz and Me

Bishop Myriel's
unconditional love
changes Jean
Valjean's life
I don't usually share anything publicly about a work in progress. Like most writers,  my computer is loaded with partially completed projects--some abandoned altogether, gathering digital dust. As a rule, it's best to keep my current projects to myself. Considering the imminent film release of the musical, Les Miserables, I'm going to risk an exception. 

First, some background. My all-time favorite novel is Victor Hugo's masterpiece. For me, it's more than a story. It ranks next to the Bible as a literary sign and sacrament of God's love for our frail, often broken humanity. No surprise, then, that my most beloved fictional characters are Bishop Charles Francois Myriel and Jean Valjean (in that order). 

Over a 25-year novel writing career, I have "fathered" dozens of fictional children. Now, this is where I risk sounding a little bit weird. I have this mystical theory, you see. Its hypothesis is this: every character of fiction created in the mind of an author or original storyteller has a real life in an alternate or parallel universe. I base this on a common phenomenon that fiction writers experience upon completion of their stories. In my case, having lived with my characters for a year--or more--and knowing them as intimately as I do, letting go and moving on sets in motion a grieving process. It's similar to the emotions generated by the loss of a loved one.

My parallel universe theory plays out in There's More (working title), my current work-in-progress. The story begins with Hugo's Bishop Myriel being called from his existence in another realm to serve as companion and guide to Afterlife. A young priest has just died in a freak accident--one that turns out to be a murder. This is not the bishop's first experience in this capacity on Earth, but he considers it the most remarkable. 

Like the bishop in my story, this is not the first time Hugo's characters have populated my own writing. In The Wisdom of Les Miserables: Lessons From the Heart of Jean Valjean, I reflected on my personal life experience in light of the spiritual/theological themes embedded in the novel. Also, one of my most-read blog posts on this site is "A Model for 21st c. Catholic Bishops," in which I urge the hierarchy of my church to become servant leaders after the manner of the Christlike Myriel.  

I can't wait to see the latest earthly incarnations of Bishop Myriel (Colm Wilkinson) and Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). I wish Director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) success with Les Miz's most recent rendition. And, in that faraway universe, where our fictional characters live, may the real Myriel and Valjean also delight in it.

(c) 2013 by Alfred J. Garrotto
All rights reserved