for we are in a deserted place here


I’m thinking today about my friends and companions and what draws us to one another.  Prompted to delve deeply into my own philosophy on faith by a priest friend who posited these questions on his blog yesterday, what are you hungry for when you go to church?  What happens there that satisfies you? I couldn’t easily answer in a quick reply.  This is a huge question for me because I am not a rote attendee–I have made a conscious decision to live a spiritual life and I don’t go just because it’s what I’ve always done.  There is something there that stirs grace within me and helps me go out into the world with a deep sense of gratitude and joy, a sense of peace and hope that then spills over into the lives of others I encounter along the way.  What is that something?  Well I could easily identify the tangible poetry of church: the music, the visual beauty in stained glass or marble or oil and canvas, the words strung together in a song that speaks to me.  But I think there is something intangible and much more visceral that draws us in.

In the gospel readings Catholics will hear at mass this weekend, Jesus and his disciples will multiply loaves and fishes and feed the multitudes gathered around their table, hungry for wisdom, healing and affirmation.   They are drawn into community around this single most ancient drive for fellowship.  What brings them there?  This is the beauty of our human story because while I think we all come from a place of misery at some level–whether that misery is true cosmic pain, physical discomfort or doubt and insecurity–we arrive in this place of glorious hope . . . once we are together, gathered around a table.  It often seems as if we are in a deserted place, with cruel destruction brought about by natural and man made disasters, and to overcome such devastation, we reach out for the hands of those around us and simply hold on.  That spirit moving within us, the spirit that leads us to one another, I believe, is love and hope and understanding.


I watched him, filled with tenderness and ache, wondering what it was that connected us. Was it the wounded places down inside people that sought each other out, that bred a kind of love between them?

–Sue Monk Kidd The Secret Life of Bees

from Brian Doyle’s 9/11 poem “Leap”

Several pedestrians were killed by people falling from the sky. A fireman was killed by a body falling from the sky.

But he reached for her hand and she reached for his hand and they leaped out the window holding hands.

I try to whisper prayers for the sudden dead and the harrowed families of the dead and the screaming souls of the murderers but I keep coming back to his hand and her hand nestled in each other with such extraordinary ordinary succinct ancient naked stunning perfect simple ferocious love.

Their hands reaching and joining are the most powerful prayer I can imagine, the most eloquent, the most graceful. It is everything that we are capable of against horror and loss and death. It is what makes me believe that we are not craven fools and charlatans to believe in God, to believe that human beings have greatness and holiness within them like seeds that open only under great fires, to believe that some unimaginable essence of who we are persists past the dissolution of what we were, to believe against such evil hourly evidence that love is why we are here.


: the title of this post is a line taken from Lk 9:11b-17

: look for these from Brian Doyle in 2013-14

Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies, a 10th-anniversary edition of Doyle’s 2003 essay collection

The Thorny Grace of It: And Other Essays for Imperfect Catholics

Reading in Bed, a collection of Doyle’s short essays


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  1. Beautiful, R. You have captured what it means to be in the sacred space where we commune with the One and each other . . . with and without the walls.

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