Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Disgusted in Chicago

Wednesday greetings on a bright and sunny day here in Chicago.

Chicago is not an easy place to live these days. Yesterday, as I am sure most of you heard, a dash-cam video was released, showing the murder of a young black man by a white Chicago police officer. The tragedy occurred over a year ago. The "machine" that is Chicago politics should be ashamed that this video was not released sooner and that justice has been this long delayed. Our illustrious mayor sat on all of this for months and months. Some say that had the video been released before his re-election, he surely would not have been re-elected. Frankly, this is disgusting.

Last night, I took my parents, who are celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary today and are visiting from Boston for Thanksgiving, to the annual tree-lighting in downtown Chicago.

And there this mayor stood, just hours after the video was released, gushing about how wonderful our city is for families. The hypocrisy slammed me in the face.

So, on this day before Thanksgiving, I am reminded that there are way too many people in my city and in our country for whom there is little to be thankful when fear and hypocrisy run rampant.

Sorry for this downer today.

On a lighter note, I am looking forward to spatchcocking my turkey tonight.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brimming Gratitude

Tuesday greetings to all.

This year's celebration of Thanksgiving will be a special one for me. In a few hours, I will go to O'Hare to pick up my mom an dad, who will be spending the week here in Chicago. Tomorrow is their 61st wedding anniversary; so glad to have them here.

One of the traditions developed at the Thanksgiving table at my home over the years involves this contraption:

Obviously, it is a vase filled with very long stemmed champagne glasses. Before the meal begins, the glasses are filled with champagne and each person, in turn, tells everyone gathered what it is for which he or she is thankful. I am a sentimental guy when it comes to moments like this, so I always find myself getting a bit misty-eyed.

As I sit here thinking about what I will say on Thursday when I raise my glass, I am listening to the "chatter" outside my office. I am hearing our customer care folks helping people over the phone. An occasional laugh arises from one of our departments. And I am struck at how grateful I am to serve and lead my colleagues here at WLP. This is an amazingly talented group of dedicated people. Gratitude for them is brimming.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Intentional Hospitality Right Behind Me

Monday greetings from the Midwest, where Old Man Winter reared his ugly head over the weekend. A little too early in the season to be greeted by this scene this morning as I headed toward our front door here in Franklin Park,

At Mass yesterday at Old Saint Patrick's, something happened after the closing song that I wanted to share here.

First of all, you need to know that as Mass begins every week, we are all invited to stand and introduce ourselves to those around us. I don't usually attend the 11:15 A.M. Mass; I usually go to an earlier Mass. So, when I stood up, I introduced myself to Lois on my right and to Mary Ellen behind me, among others. I remembered these two names, so when the time came to exchange the sign of peace, I used their names. After the closing song, Mary Ellen, seated in the row behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was a parishioner at Old Saint Pat's. I told her I had joined the parish several months ago. She said, "Well I haven't seen you here before and I just wanted to welcome you." I told her I usually go to the 9:30 A.M. Mass and then she said how happy she was that I was a parishioner. I told her to have a great week and she did the same.

Folks, that is intentional hospitality. My heart was warmed as I headed out the doors into the frigid air.

I hope your celebration of Christ the King warmed your heart.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

No Choice

It's a bright and sunny, cool day here in Chicago.

There is so much "talk" on social media right now about the closing of our country to Syrian refugees that it is deafening. What did we do in the days before these social media outlets existed, when we were given more than a few seconds to ponder what was going on around us and express our thoughts, feelings, and pronouncements instantly?

So, after these days of turmoil, I thought I had decided to let it all simply rest in me. Just needed some time to let it all settle. Then I realized how Western and selfish that decision would be, because I have a choice to stop thinking about it all. So, I ask myself, what do refugees do when they have had enough of it all? They have no choice. They flee. They flee to safer places for their families. They want to protect their children. They don't want a bomb to destroy what is left of their lives. They don't have a choice. They've gotta keep moving. So, I guess I need to keep pondering, in solidarity with them.

This is difficult, isn't it?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Jerry, what am I supposed to do?"

Last night I gave a presentation, "Getting Ready for Advent" to a great group of Catholics at Saint Cecilia Parish in Mount Prospect, Illinois.

There was a man sitting in the group with his wife and teenage daughter. He was gruff-looking and was wearing a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt. He was following my every word quite closely.

When I came to the part of my presentation when I began to speak about the upcoming jubilee year of mercy, I found myself talking about the recent terror attacks in Paris. I talked about the fact that Pope Francis said that he simply didn't understand how a human person could commit such terrible acts. I shared about how much all of this has troubled me so deeply. I said that to talk of mercy in the face of all of this is such a challenge.

The man in the sweatshirt then simply blurted out, "It is really difficult and hard to be a Christian right now." He went on with such passion and gentleness. "I know that I am supposed to love, but for the past few days it has been so difficult to do so. I don't know what I am supposed to do. Jerry, what am I supposed to do? How should I feel?"

I looked him in the eyes and said, "I think what you are supposed to do is what you are doing right now; struggling like the rest of us with what our Christian calling is in these very difficult times. And I think that's probably enough for right now. Just remember that our pope is struggling with it all as well."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Turn My Hardened Heart Around

Tuesday greetings from the soggy Midwest.

Last evening, after having had dinner with an out-of-town relative here on business, I drove him out to the Adler Planetarium here in Chicago, where one can find a fantastic view of Chicago across Lake Michigan. As I stood there, looking at buildings that have recently added white, red, and blue lighting to show solidarity with the "City of Lights," I couldn't help but ache for those who lost their loved ones in this senseless act of violence and hatred. Here is a photo I took last night.

Pope Francis yesterday called the fact that some of the terrorists shouted that what they were doing was in the name of God "blasphemous." Here are his words:

"Such barbaric acts leave us shocked, and we wonder how the human heart can conceive and carry out such horrific events, which have shaken not only France but the whole world. Faced with these intolerable acts, one can not but condemn such an unspeakable affront to human dignity. I wish to reaffirm strongly that the path of violence and hatred does not solve the problems of humanity, and to abuse God's name to justify such a way is blasphemy!"

In my search to try to understand all of this, all I can really do is fix my eyes on the Lord Jesus, a sure sign of hope in this moment in time. As Advent approaches and we take our deep, longing breaths to prepare to sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, my hope is that somehow the Lord will be made present as that enduring sign of hope in our troubled times. I don't want to sound like I am walking through life with rose colored glasses on, but I feel like I have nowhere else to turn.

As Advent approaches and the Jubilee Year of Mercy dawns, I will be trying to figure out how God's mercy figures in all of this. This Christian life is often hard, because I look for answers where there don't seem to be any easy answers. As someone whose heart has been hardened over the past few days, I am hoping for an outpouring of God's boundless mercy to help turn my heart around.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris: Struggling With It All

Monday morning greetings on this day when we are all still reeling from Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. This is an unusually long post. But bear with me. On Saturday, I gave a mini-mission to a fine group of Catholics at Saint Maria Goretti parish in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here is a picture of the church's interior.

Frankly, I found myself struggling as I made my various presentations, because they were all colored by the recent experience of the terrorist attacks in Paris. When I got to the point of talking about the eucharist through the lens of "the table of reconciliation," I found myself deeply questioning what reconciliation and mercy really mean in a world marked by senseless acts of terrorism aimed at murdering innocent people, all in the name of religion.

At Mass at Old Saint Pat's yesterday, the children's choir led us all in singing Let There Be Peace on Earth after communion. The last time I recall singing that song at Mass was on the Sunday following September 11, 2001. "And let it begin with me."

I have always strongly held on to Blessed Pope Paul VI's remarks to the United Nations on October 4, 1965:

"Here our message reaches its culmination and we will speak first of all negatively. These are the words you are looking for us to say and the words we cannot utter without feeling aware of their seriousness and solemnity: never again one against the other, never, never again!
Was this not the very end for which the United Nations came into existence: to be against war and for peace? Listen to the clear words of a great man who is no longer with us, John Kennedy, who proclaimed four years ago: 'Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.' There is no need for a long talk to proclaim the main purpose of your Institution. It is enough to recall the blood of millions, countless unheard-of sufferings, useless massacres and frightening ruins have sanctioned the agreement that unites you with an oath that ought to change the future history of the world: never again war, never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind."

"Never again war!" I find myself caught between this admonition and the justified anger I feel against those who perpetrate the kind of violence and hatred that was wrought against innocent people in Paris and in so many more places, all in the name of God. When we talk about mercy and reconciliation, are we to reach a point where we believe that God's mercy reaches into the hearts of those who would pick up automatic weapons and mow down innocent people; reaches those who would strap explosives to themselves and in an inconceivable act of suicide, murder all those around them who are simply living their day-to-day lives?

I saw this on Facebook on Saturday morning:

How are we to react when the Lord's clear command was to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us? Where do we turn?

Well. this morning, I sought out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 2303 has this to say:
"Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. 'But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45).

Paragraphs 2307-2309 go on:
"However, 'as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.' [Cf. Vatican II Gaudium et spes 79, 4]
The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave , and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily on evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the 'just war' doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."

It is so difficult to try to apply the "just war" doctrine to the contemporary context. This is not like bygone days when countries waged war on other countries. This "war" is all about religious ideology and extremism. Who is the nation here that is the "aggressor?" We hear various terms to describe these aggressors, yet their whereabouts and motives are so hard for me to comprehend. Surely, the damage they are inflicting is "lasting, grave, and certain." Whether or not "all other means of putting an end to it must be shown to be impractical or ineffective" remains open to question because this is not a traditional kind of war being waged. How do we even sit down and try to settle this as a political issue when the kind of religious extremism that motivates the aggressor is something that most human persons cannot even comprehend as a legitimate starting point? Do those who are bombing places targeting these aggressors have "serious prospects of success?" This is probably the most frightening aspect of all. If something like this could happen in Paris, or in Ankara, or in New York, or in Washington, or in Shanksville, one wonders where and when the next eruption will take place. What kind of prospects of success exist, if they do at all?

Pope Francis, speaking about the killings in Paris, had this to say:
"I am moved, and I am saddened. I do not understand--these things are hard to understand.
He went on to say: "War is madness. Even today, after a second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction."
Pope Francis called the attacks "inhumane" saying "There is no religious or human justification" for the violence.

Friends, I harbor hatred in my heart for those who killed my sisters and brothers in Paris. And for this I am not yet repentant. I am praying hard to believe that God's love and mercy is bigger than anything my limited brain can comprehend. The words of Pope Frances are my own on this Monday. "War is madness. I am moved, I am saddened. I do not understand." But I am trying. And struggling mightily.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 13, 2015

So Beautiful: J.S. Paluch Calendars

Friday morning greetings to all. Glorious cold Autumn day here in Chicago.

In the "did you know?" category of things, I wanted to share something with all of you.

WLP's parent company, J.S. Paluch, has another division, its calendar division. I must say that the calendars that are designed here are simply beautiful. Businesses (like funeral homes and car dealerships) often sponsor the calendars so that they are made available free of charge to parishes. You can check out the entire line here.

I was given a copy of the 2016 Vocation Calendar yesterday, and it is stunning. Vocation:Courage and Compassion features illuminated manuscripts from the Vatican Library and photos and quotations of Pope Francis.

The monthly grid contains all the Catholic feasts, memorials, optional memorials, and solemnities. I really like these calendars and am so proud of the team who works so hard to make them so beautiful.

If your parish needs a calendar for your parishioners for 2016, check ours out. Proceeds from the sale of J.S. Paluch calendars support vocation ministry across the United States. And our Vocations Division helps foster vocations in so many ways.

Thanks for listening to this infomercial, and may your weekend be a good one.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Feeling the Force: The Laity

News was released today that Pope Francis has written a letter to the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

In it, he states that lay people "participate, in their own way, in the priestly, prophetic, and royal function of Christ himself."

He goes on.

The Council, therefore does not look at lay people as if they were 'second class' members, at the service of the hierarchy and only executors of orders from on high, but as disciples of Christ who, by force of their baptism and their nature inserted 'in the world,' are called to animate in every space, every activity, every human relation according to the spirit of the Gospel."

And then . . .

Lay people bring "the light, hope, love received from Christ in those places that, otherwise, might remain unknown to the action of God and abandoned to the misery of the human condition. No one can carry out better than them this essential work 'to see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city.'"

As I was inspired by these words today, I was struck particularly by his use (or the translator's) of the words "by force of their baptism." This "force," according to the pope, calls me to "animate every space, every activity, every human relation" in my own life and in my day-to-day activities "according  to the spirit of the Gospel."

You know, while these words are inspiring, they are deeply, deeply challenging, especially in our secularized world. I try my best to radiate the love of Christ in all the places I find myself, but often find myself not being honest with people who do not share my faith about the reasons why I am the way I am. For instance, I am a generally effusively happy guy (although my team members here at WLP might see otherwise at times!). When non-believing friends ask me why I am this way, I usually just respond, "Oh that's just the way I am." This, of course, is not the truth. The truth is that I feel the Lord Jesus walking beside me all the time, kind of hanging around and being an inspiring friend. That's why I am the way I am. Perhaps some day I can be more honest. What is it that causes hesitation in me? Fear of rejection? Ridicule?

Today, I am grateful for what happened right here:

Are you feeling the force of your own?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thanksgiving Table Prayer

Wednesday greetings to all.

I have been meaning to post this for awhile, and I hope you find this little commercial helpful.

Did you know that WLP publishes a lovely Thanksgiving Table Prayer Card, perfect for your parish, whether for parishioners' homes, the school, the rectory, the parish office?

Just took this photo:

The artwork is by Brother Mickey McGrath. Simple and elegant.

And the pricing is quite affordable. If you order over a hundred, the cost is only 25 cents per card. Maybe a little gift for your parishioners to be given away as they depart from your parish Thanksgiving Mass?

Thanks for listening to today's commercial!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pope Francis: Semper Reformanda

Tuesday greetings on a clear Autumn day here in Chicago.

I just finished reading a report about Pope Francis' address yesterday to a national assembly representing the Catholic Church in Italy. Pope Francis spoke at the cathedral in Florence to about 2200 people gathered there from all over Italy. Before the address, he spent fifteen minutes in the baptistery of the cathedral. I stood in that baptistery just a little over a year ago and took a photo that graces the cover of my book You Have Put on Christ: Cultivating a Baptismal Spirituality. 

Here is a photo of the exterior of the cathedral, where Pope Francis spoke.

He was laying out a vision for how the Catholic Church must adapt and change. I found his remarks stunning and inspiring. Some excerpts.

"Before the problems of the Church it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally."

"Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives--but is alive, knows being unsettled, enlivened. It has a face that is not rigid, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: it is called Jesus Christ."

"The reform of the church then, and the church is semper reformanda . . . does not end in the umpteenth plan to change structures. It means instead grafting yourself to and rooting yourself in Christ, leaving yourself to be guided by the Spirit--so that all will be possible with genius and creativity."

Semper reformanda--always reforming. I remember learning this term when I was in the seminary back in the 1980's. Being immersed in the liturgical reform for most of my adult life, I have watched this reform unfold and fill the Christian people with a sense of hope each time we celebrate the paschal mystery at Mass. Frankly, however, there have been times when I felt that the reform had become frozen or, worse, reversed, moving toward what Pope Francis calls "obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally." I realize Pope Francis was not speaking directly about the liturgical reform, but I can't help but wonder if this is at least part of what he was referring to in his address.

As I travel and see the face of the American and Canadian Church, I see a renewed movement to place Christ at the center of all our activity. Catholics in general, I find, have difficulty articulating who Christ really is for them; they have difficulty expressing what their own personal relationship with Christ is. I find the words of Pope Francis moving us in the right direction. His description of Christian doctrine inspires me because he roots it all squarely in Christ: Christian doctrine "has a face that is not rigid, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: it is called Jesus Christ."

I am reminded of paragraph 65 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything, there will be no other word than this one."

Pope Francis' words are drawing me closer to this Word.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Northern California Faith Formation Conference

Friday greetings from Santa Clara, California. I am here to speak at the Northern California Faith Formation Conference. The dioceses of San Jose, Monterey, and Stockton sponsor this conference. This year's conference theme is "Cultivating Disciples/Cultivando DiscĂ­pulos." My presentations will focus on cultivating a baptismal spirituality and cultivating disciples with intentional hospitality. After yesterday's arrival here I set up the WLP booth in the exhibit hall. Here are a few photos.

I am looking forward to spending time with colleagues and friends here in northern California. WLP is also sponsoring Fr. Jim Marchionda, OP, as a speaker. Fr. Jim, a seasoned composer, is a dynamic preacher and presents parish missions all over the United States. It should be an exciting and informative conference for those gathered here in beautiful Santa Clara.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Saint Charles: Vivid Memory of Cardinal Cushing

Today is the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo.

I grew up and went to Catholic school at Saint Charles Borromeo Parish in Woburn, Massachusetts.

I was reminiscing about my early Catholic years recently. I asked myself the question: What is my most vivid memory of growing up at Saint Charles?

My answer would have to be the Mass celebrated in the early 1960's by Richard Cardinal Cushing, who was the archbishop of Boston. Our pastor had had the church completely renovated very, very shortly after the Second Vatican Council. A new altar was installed and the entire interior was painted and brightened up considerably. I remember as a little kid going to Mass there before the renovation and being sort of frightened by the darkness of the place.

Well, on the day that the new church was blessed and re-dedicated, my Mom brought me to the Mass at which Cardinal Cushing was the celebrant.

I couldn't have been more than five or six years old. We were sitting in about the second row in front of the elevated ambo. When the Cardinal mounted the ambo platform, I remember quite clearly how huge he seemed to me. His presence was simply enormous. He had a very strong and gruff voice and I remember snuggling next to my mother for some kind of protection, especially when he slammed his fist on the ambo to make his point. Here, clearly, was an impassioned man of the Church.

Funny how these early memories stay with you. I am grateful for our pastor's vision to renovate this church so seemingly instantly after the Council. He believed in service to the people. However, I think that commitment went a little overboard. Here was the Mass schedule throughout the 60's, through the 70's, and into the early 80's:
Saturday: 4:00, 5:00, 7:00
Sunday: 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 12:00 in English, 12:00 in Spanish, 5:00, 6:15, and 7:30

For us Galipeau kids, we just simply thought that Sunday Mass was no longer than 35 minutes anywhere. At Saint Charles, the parking lot needed to be cleared out pretty quickly for the next Mass. There was rarely any silence at Mass; it was like a stream of consciousness liturgy. When I entered the seminary in 1976, I was astounded that daily Mass could take nearly an hour, with extended silence scattered throughout. At first, I was a fidgety guy in the pews, but then realized that this was the way Mass was supposed to be celebrated.

Do you have a vivid memory to share of growing up in your childhood parish?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Light and Warmth: All Souls

While perusing Facebook last night, I marveled at how many posts from my friends in the fields of liturgy and music appeared. And all were focused on sharing the experience of their parish's All Souls Liturgy.

I remember well back in the mid-1980's when parishes really began to prepare these particular liturgies and celebrate them so well. At the parishes where I have ministered, we had a large basket of candles in the center aisle. As we recited the names of those who had died in the parish that year, their relatives and friends (we issued invitations to the surviving loved ones to the Mass) would pick up a candle, light it from the paschal candle, then place it in bowls of sand. Then people were invited to name those who had died, but had not been included in the list that we read. These people came forward after calling out the name of their loved one, lit the candle, and placed it in the bowl.

I will never forget the sense in the church once all candles had been placed in the bowls. The year that my sister died, I remember vividly the All Souls Mass at Saint Domitilla here in suburban Chicago. I was the substitute organist for the Mass and I had to wait until the end of the litany of the names, because I was playing softly as the names were read and spoken. So, the music stopped, I stood, and in the silence, my voice cracking with emotion, I quietly said "Joanne Gazzara." I lit my candle and found a place in one of the bowls, where so many candles had been placed. I will never forget the warmth I felt from those candles and the glow they produced.

I remembered Joanne and so many others yesterday, on our Catholic day of memorial. I hope that you know the light and warmth that memories of your deceased loved ones bring into your life.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Conversation, Instead of Condemnation

Monday greetings on an amazingly beautiful Autumn day here in Chicago.

A few days ago, I read a "conversation" on Facebook that began with someone posting that they had seen a Muslim woman in line at a grocery store wearing the burqa, which is the garment, usually black, that covers a woman's entire body, with only her eyes showing. Many Muslim women wear the hijab, which is the garment that covers the head and chest. One of the persons in the "conversation" had some harsh words for a woman who would wear the burqa, something like "If you want to be one of us here in the US of America, act like us!"

Now remarks like this are all over social media all the time. I am always taken aback by them, mainly because we are a country made up of immigrants from all over the world, with different religious backgrounds, cultural expressions, and customs. Tolerance and acceptance are highlights of this country's roots, but sometimes intolerance and hatred take their place.

While I was visiting my family last weekend in Boston, many of them told me that they were worried the entire time I was in Turkey a few months ago, fearing that I would be caught up in some kind of terrorist act. Since September 11, 2001, there is a feeling inside many people that anything or anyone having to do with the Muslim world, is somehow to be feared. This is certainly understandable on some level. I told my family members that, while in Turkey, I never felt a hint of danger anywhere. And when the flight from Istanbul landed at Logan Airport in Boston, my eyes were drawn to the CNN news feed on the screens in the airport, reporting on that day's shooting on the community college campus in Oregon, where so many were senselessly killed. Safe? Where?

Before going to Turkey, I had never been in a predominantly Muslim country and had never stepped foot in a Mosque. While there, I saw women in the hijab everywhere and women in the burqa as well. The burqa is a little unsettling at first. There is that part of me that thinks this is demeaning of women and sexist on the part of the husband, but I have done lots of reading on the various reasons and viewpoints about the covering, which has been helpful for me. While in Turkey, I kept cautioning myself to remember that my Western views need to be in conversation with other views, not condemnatory of those views and beliefs. Travel has a way of teaching like nothing else can.

While in Ankara, I was at the tomb of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. In the museum, I was walking around and enjoying the paintings as a young couple was doing the same. They were admiring the artwork and the various collections, as was I. I took some photos.

It just all seemed so regular to me as I made my way through the museum and mausoleum. I have to admit that when I used to see women dressed in the burqa on the television news, there was some fear that crept up inside me, but that was all melted away during my trip to Turkey.

I guess I am writing this today in the hopes that somehow we can, little by little, open our eyes to the differences that make this world such a wonderful place.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.