Emotional work for clergy: 7-12-11
Biblical meaning for today: 7-14-11

Why religion promotes kindess: 7-13-11


ABIQUIU, N.M. -- What a mixture of possibility, pain and redemption people are.

Last week here at Ghost Ranch (pictured here), where I taught a writing class, I spent time with some pretty amazing people who reminded me that each of us is carrying sometimes crushing burdens and histories that shape who we are -- even if each of us also brings into the present various moments of victory, of elation, of insight.

And what all the great religions ask us to do is to remember that and therefore to treat people with compassion and gentleness.

Two of the women I met eventually told stories of what I can only call physical and emotional abuse in their childhoods.

One man lives estranged from his grown children today and can't seem to find anyplace that feels like home to him.

One woman's sister is battling cancer, and she feels the pull of wanting not to live nearly 1,500 miles away from her now.

One young woman is unemployed and not at all sure what she'll do next or whether there might be some kind of spiritual home for her that fits.

One man rejoices in his two daughters but also prays that the brain cancer that once afflicted one of them won't return. Ever.

We're all carrying weights and worries. We're all preoccupied with our historical baggage, our uncertain futures, our deferred dreams that may shrivel away. And while all this is true, each of us also carries with us memories of joy, of laughter, of bliss.

So when religion offers some version of the Golden Rule -- that admonishment to treat others with the kindness we'd like for ourselves -- it's not just an Emily Post matter of etiquette. Rather, it's rooted in a deep sense of the human condition, which is almost always a mixture of wound, wonder and mystery.

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The Vatican's newspaper says the phone hacking newspaper scandal in England shows the need for more ethics in journalism. No question. In turn, the worldwide priest abuse scandal shows the need for more ethics in the church.

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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.


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