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A Week of Major Surprises and a Profound Challenge

Last week became the kind of week that we all think about if, sometimes for only a fleeting moment, if we are honest. Yet we all hope that we will never face a big medical challenge. But one way or the other, unless we die a sudden death, we will all face major medical issues that will challenge us to the core of our being. I faced my first such crisis at age six. I spent two weeks away from home at the Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital. It seems like a blur sixty years later. It was during this time that the presence of God became so real in my life that I shall never forget it after six decades. Now I face a new challenge.

Hospital-Central-DuPage-HospitalThis Thursday, February 11, I will undergo open heart surgery at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield (IL). (CDH is a Northwestern University Hospital.) This news came as a complete surprise to me last Monday, February 1. Once again I am praying that God meets me in a new and deeply

By |February 8th, 2016|Categories: ACT 3, Personal|

The Passing of My Friend Joseph F. Girzone

224465_215055838545526_6641788_nSeveral years ago I shared the story of how I met Fr. Joseph F. Girzone (1930-2015). I had read Joe’s wonderful book, Jesus: A New Understanding of God’s Son (New York: Doubleday, 2009). I simply loved it. Frankly, it changed my life in many profound ways. I wrote my first ever review on Amazon and as a result someone showed it to Joe who then reached out to get to know me. Since this is the kind of thing I would do, and it is rarely done to me, I had an immediate desire to know this lovely man. Well, we began to chat on the phone and by email. The man who wrote the huge best-selling novel, Joshua (1983), was a friend. What a pleasant and divinely-orchestrated surprise. When I first encountered Joshua in the days of its immense popularity in the early 1980s I was so profoundly influenced by Puritanism that I considered a novel about Jesus a virtual sacrilege. (So much for a mind that was open!) So getting to know this unusual priest became an

A Common Struggle – An Uncommonly Fine Book

51-pONHfBCL._AA160_Patrick J. Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted Kennedy, recently appeared in an interview on the award-winning news broadcast, “CBS 60 Minutes.” The interview that Kennedy gave so intrigued me that I decided to read his new best-selling book, A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Illness and Addiction (New York: Blue Rider Press: Penguin, 423 pages). 

A Common Struggle, co-authored with Stephen Fried, details Kennedy’s personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health history in the U.S. alongside his own private struggle. Kennedy, a former Rhode Island congressman, publicly disclosed his addiction to prescription painkillers in 2006 after he crashed his car into a Capitol barrier in the middle of the night. The true extent of his struggle with bipolar disorder was not known at the time thus his plan to openly seek help caught many off-guard. Given the way public life works in Washington this could have been the end of Kennedy’s public career but instead of the end it proved to be

Pope Francis and the Faith of Non-Christians

UnknownOn Friday, September 25, Pope Francis visited Ground Zero in New York City to pay respect for life and to pray for healing and peace. Many Christians have expressed dismay that the pope did not mention the name of Jesus at this occasion. Some have specifically stated that he actually proved that he was a religious pluralist who does not believe that Jesus Christ is the true Savior of the world. This entire debate is often absent both the context and the content of his actual words and actions. The pope’s entire address can be read here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/september/documents/papa-francesco_20150925_usa-ground-zero.html

Pope Francis said:

I feel many different emotions standing here at Ground Zero, where thousands of lives were taken in a senseless act of destruction. Here grief is palpable. The water we see flowing towards that empty pit reminds us of all those lives which fell prey to those who think that destruction, tearing down, is the only way to settle conflicts. It is the silent cry of those who were victims of a mindset which knows only

Jimmy Carter: A Full Life

Jimmy-Carter-headshotLike so many I have had a mixture of feelings and responses to President Jimmy Carter over the years. It seems to me that most critics, left and right, have freely attributed to him the label of “poor president” or “political failure.” I wonder what history, long after his death, will actually say. Many thought that Harry Truman was a failure until after his death. Maybe Carter’s legacy will meet a similar fate but I have my doubts. If a president is known for his legislative accomplishments then Carter will always be seen as mediocre at best. Among conservatives he is loathed and even seen as the definition of failure and disappointment. (This was true at least until we elected President Barack Obama, who is now classed as lower than Jimmy Carter ever was by the same critics.)

It is ironic, perhaps, that Jimmy Carter is the only U.S. president I actually met in person. (It was brief and not memorable.) I have been to most of the presidential libraries and museums and read a great

Reading Maya Angelou

IMG_5286I owe a debt of profound gratitude to my friend Vill Harmon (second from left in this photo with my good friends and two ACT3 board members). Vill is the secretary in the office of Ecumenical and Interreligious for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In July (2015) Vill and I shared a conversation about our background, especially in terms of race and the South. Vill is African-American, and a great friend. I have come to cherish her advice and joyful spirit. When Vill encourages me to think about my past, and the present issue of race in America, I try to listen. In July she told me I should read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), written by the famous Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014). (Maya’s first name came from her brother Bailey when she was a child.)

9780812980028Maya Angelou was an author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of

Fr. René Constanza on Christian Unity, Part 2

One of the Most Joyful Weeks in My Remembrance

1024x1024As I sit this evening at my computer I am  amazed. For five days every newscast and commentator has responded the visit of Pope Francis to America with such joy and positive energy. From every perspective, including the most non-religious journalists and broadcasters, people have talked about the pope but in doing so they have talked a great deal about Jesus, the Bible and the joy of the gospel. I have never heard so much public talk about matters of profound truth and faith in my lifetime, except perhaps at the funerals of President Kennedy (1963) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968). We have seen pictures of Pope Francis with prisoners, in a seminary speaking to bishops and students about the two greatest works of a shepherd (prayer and the preaching the gospel), praying at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York with representatives of world religions, speaking before the United Nations, speaking before Congress, meeting with the Speaker of the House, meeting with the President and then this evening leaving our shores after being with

Cardinal O’Malley’s Magnificent Address on Unity at Gordon College

One of the most remarkable addresses I have watched this year was on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of historic Gordon College (Massachusetts). Gordon College is the flagship evangelical college in New England. Like all such evangelical colleges it is openly growing into deeper relationship with Catholics with each passing year. This lecture marks one of the most wonderful calls to deep, public unity that I have seen within the leadership of our churches in the United States.

Please pray for the visit of Pope Francis in September. On his heart, besides all the public meetings that you will see, is his deep concern for unity with evangelicals. Cardinal O’Malley is one with all of us who are seeking first the kingdom of God. Let us pray and rejoice at such an address and the historic symbolism of where it was given.

I know that I say this often but this is address is worth every minute you can invest in watching it. I know the trend says that very few people will watch such a long speech on their computer. But if you love Christian unity this presentation is

International Justice Mission

My very good friend Mark Moore (Plano, Texas) just became a regional director for a mission called International Justice Mission. I am really thrilled for him and thus I am very excited to share this incredibly fruitful mission with you, my online friends. Some of you already know about IJM. Others can learn from seeing this wonderful TED Talk by the founder behind this great movement.

Watch Gary’s talk at the IJM website and learn more here.