Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. AIDS – THIS IS MY PRIDE – SURVIVAL !!! A Wordpress Production

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Could’ve had the farm …

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Courtesy: Jerkmag.wordpress.com

A friend grew up on a farm, long ago. Living, farming and planting like a real farmer, but we are not made farmers, for some, we are born farmers. With a temperament to match.

So the story goes, a young man worked a plot of land, which had to be planted in a certain time frame, for harvesting reasons, it all had to go smoothly. And when does anything go real smoothly??? Anyways, after breakdowns and farm related issues, the field got planted. And the waiting started, and prayers for rain …

well, it rained,

And rained,

And rained,

AND RAINED !!!!

That hard fought planted farm was flooded and all the seed was lost.

Now, how do you think the son reacted?

He went into a rage at the loss of all that work.

The farmer on the other hand, replied … “Well, tomorrow is another day !”

Some of us are farmers and others are clearly not …

End of story.

The day was warm, and I was out uber early because one of my readers wanted to talk about the blog, so I got there earlier than I ever have gotten to the meeting. The church was open and people were streaming in and out, and I noted that parking tonight was gonna be tight.

I made all my connections quickly, no waiting on either trip.

The more I invest in this Friday meeting the more I love the people in it. It is just a super way to end the week. With good, honest and loving folks around a table who enlighten each other as the reading is shared.

It is one thing to read from the book ourselves. And then process what we just read. On the other hand, when a book is read “in company”

You not only get what’s in your head, but what everybody else thinks or feels about a specific reading for the night.

I’m seriously pondering taking my cake at the Friday Meeting in December. It is just the “right” space.

As usual we read from As Bill Sees It and “Worshipers All.”

“We found that we had indeed been worshipers. What a state of mental goose flesh that used to bring on! Had we not variously worshiped people, sentiment, things, money and ourselves…?

… It was impossible to say we had no capacity for faith, love, or worship. In one form or another, we had been living by faith and little else.”

Our folks are having hard times. And the drink has been closer for some in recent days as it was when they were actively drinking. But our men and women are sober tonight. But for the Grace of God.

Where does your mind go when you read or hear the word Worship?

Society round the world lives on the worship of celebrity, gossip and hardships. You can’t go a day without seeing something on the wire about a celebrity this, or celebrity that, these ones are divorcing, and that one has an addiction, and this celebrity is DEAD !

I share stories here about people, real people, and some are celebrities, and some are Royals, but I try to stay away from gossip and negativity. The two topics you should stay away from in conversation … Religion and Politics.

I can’t say I follow those words.

My Higher Power, whom I chose to call GOD, is still sending messages. it seems they are all pointed in the same direction beckoning me to a location that I have been avoiding for a while.

A few days ago it was the Tabernacle the got my attention.

Tonight, it was Worship.

From your first click here, we are in worship mode.

Pope Francis has made it much easier to see myself back in a Catholic Church.

And why don’t we start there.

I spent 1986-1987 in a Catholic Seminary. A year that changed my life in many ways. I learned to pray, I learned about worship, I learned about others.

And their secrets …

At the end of that year, I was not asked to return for a second, I felt God had dropped me. But that wasn’t the end of God. But it did bring on the demon of alcoholism in a very bad way.

I gained employment at a Travel Agency owned by a friends mother. It was a really good job. Making a lot of money, and I ended up as manager. There was a catch. We served alcohol to clients who came to visit. (In those days you had clients who traveled and came to consult, get advice and tickets).

None of this point and click internet travel.

While there my boss, the man who was the consummate man took me on a whirl wind trip to Europe. Something every kid would kill to do, on free passes from Pan Am Airlines.

I was not sober the whole voyage. I was mostly drunk. And it was not pretty. I made a true ass of myself in public and turned pleasant day trips into the realm of hell, because I could not hold my alcohol. (AT ALL!!!)

The one stop I was sober, But for the Grace of God was ROME.

When we speak of worship, you think / I think, churches.

Well, I hit the mother lode in Rome. That day we toured the Colosseum and the city, and finally we walked into St. Peter’s Square. It is immense. The Vatican is an immense building. I have a solitary picture in my breviary of the Pieta.   The statue carved my Michelangelo Buonarroti.

We toured the catacombs and the many Popes buried there. And we climbed the single staircase that brought us to the Coppola of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. I stood there looking down on the Papal Gardens.

I don’t know if you can do that portion of the tour in today’s day and age.

Back in the Vatican, I attended mass in the church. It was grandiose.

I had been to, and worshiped in, the seat of the Catholic Church.

It was the most sober I was on that two week journey.

Throughout my life, I have worshiped. I have toms of memories of holidays in church, and Sunday after Sunday masses. There is something to be said about gay men and the church. My mentor and best friend, now priest in the Anglican Church wrote several books on saints and devotions from a gay perspective.

You can see here, my devotions.

During my university time, studying world religions, I had the opportunity to visit all the major religious observances, from Shul in the McGill Ghetto, to Friday Prayers at the University Prayer space, to mass on Sundays at the Concordia Chapel on the West End.

Montreal is the home to many churches, religious orders, and religious people, and saints. On the mountain sits St. Joseph’s Oratory, in Old Montreal we have Notre Dame Cathedral, and downtown we have St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Take your pick, it would take you years to visit every church on the island of Montreal.

As a young man, a boy really, I worshiped the ground that my grandmother(s) walked on. Saintly women who gave me all they had, in the little time I had before they were taken from me by catastrophic strokes and by a father who was jealous that they were keeping alive a little boy he wanted to see dead.

Little by slowly, all that I knew was removed from my life by my father who alienated every family member from my life because of his alcoholism and jealousy.

All I have is their memories. I even Googled old homes in the places where they lived and found that even the houses are no longer standing. Sad, very sad.

You never know when God is going to pull your card and life is over.

It wasn’t until my mortality stood before me in stark relief that I began to pray.

But all those prayers said for me as a child did not go to waste.

There are a reason I lived. Maybe it was because I got sober, once! And maybe it was because Todd took me in and saved my life, and maybe it was just God.

A few years after I was diagnosed I was in mass at my old home parish in Miami. And that Sunday, a young priest came in the processional. But he wasn’t walking. He was on crutches. He said mass, and I swore that day that I would never complain about my life ever again.

I had to meet this man. And so I did. He became my Spiritual Adviser. And he gave me a couple of Books that I still read today.

No one to call me home by Rev. James J. Close (and)

I heard the Owl call my Name by Margaret Craven

When I need a kick of humility and sacredness I always turn to I heard the Owl Call my name. It is one of my favorite books in my collection.

Fr. Jeff, once told me that I needed worship. That God needed me in Church. And that the people of the community wanted to pray with me. So began a weekly schedule of morning masses, followed by spiritual direction and private prayer.

For the sick and dying, many would never darken the doors of a church because of their infirmity (read: AIDS). The local church had other thoughts about the dying than did Rome of that time.

Yet, to this day I venerate John Paul II – the man, the mystic and Pope. Who will be canonized next April. As well as Mother Teresa and Brother Andre and Mere D’Youville. Not to mention Pope Francis. That man who is on tap to change the face of the church. And much welcomed as well.

I don’t seem to have those issues that pop up in early sobriety for my friends. I was on a totally different page tonight. I knew what I wanted to say, but failed to get them all out, as I was the last to share tonight.

Drunk Worship – Addition late night…

Coming off my slip, I had put down the drugs and moved 1000 miles away from them, never to see them ever again. And I had sober stints during this period, from July 2000 through Sept 11 2001. But after 9-11, we drank and drank and drank. To drown ourselves, to remember, to raise money so forth and so on.

I was by now a binge drinker. I believed or was deluded by youth. I was growing up and getting older, and that was a challenge. I went to “Salvation” every Saturday night, where South Beach Gods went to drink, party, drug and dance.

We’d beach it all week, and what didn’t get tanned would be covered by a turn in a tanning bed in preparation for Saturday night. I was a little slimmer, and not so chunky as I am today.

I would find the smallest t shirt to wear with the tightest jeans. And we would visit the temple and dance. The music would start at midnight, and by 1 a.m. people were well toasted. I worshiped the music, the men and the bottle.

It was at 1 a.m. that they would blast liquid nitrogen to cool the crowd and all the shirts would come off … Oh God it was flesh heaven !

I was begging God to make me young and pretty, pretty enough to become part of a community that I was clearly outside of. And the more I drank, the further I got away from that goal of young and pretty.

The choice of growing up or dying in delusion were very real for me. And I had to make a choice, and sobriety helped a great deal. I could walk away from the bar, knowing there was the rest of my life ahead of me.

In the end I don’t know who took me from the room, who poured me into a taxi and how I got into my building without assistance. I had come to the end of my drinking. The worship of the bottle ended. pure and simple, and by that time I was ready for a return to the rooms, because I had been praying for it …

The rest is history.

Now a days, I’m having this private conversation with God among the people. But it takes all those people to speak in God’s name. You never know when you will hear it and if you aren’t paying attention, you might miss something important.

At the end of the meeting one of our Matriarchs took her Nine Year Chip…

WOO HOO !!! we are very proud of her.

It was a good night.

More to come, stay tuned …


The Hands of the Mother

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Grace …

For many years now Mother Teresa has been a staple in my prayers and meditation. When I turned ten years, my two year medallion was gold dipped and engraved with the words: “I Thirst.”

From her Memoirs – Come Be My Light where she talks about Thirsting for Jesus as he thirsted from the cross.

That same week I got my first tattoo. Those same words, “I Thirst” translated into Hebrew. And is now on my arm.

This weekend we heard a woman speak at the Dorval Round Up.

And this woman, walked, talked, worked and lived with Mother Teresa. And in the end she was asked to testify for the Beatification of Mother Teresa.

At the end of her share on Saturday night, I stood in line and I grasped her hands and thanked her graciously. We all did.

And tonight it is a Pivotal Moment in my sobriety. After all my prayers, adoration and love Mother came to me, and to us.

We touched the hands of the woman who touched the hands of Mother Teresa.

She has come full circle.

I will never be the same man from here on out.


Sunday Sundries … Traditions and Round up Wrap Up …

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Courtesy: Wrestlingisbest

It rained all day long …

Meanwhile, at the roundup, we hosted speakers up from New York, and the weather was just not cooperating !!! That was the only damper for the weekend.

Otherwise, it was a grand success. Did you know that this year, the 39th annual West Island Roundup attracted more than 400 people to the weekend sober fest.

Last year they had less than 50 people come. So it was a rousing success, the Dorval community really stepped it up and came through with stars across the board.

We were up bright and early for a 9:30 a.m. pick up time to make the morning circuit. We had three speakers lined up for today. The first speaker of the program today, I heard her share at St. Matthias a few months ago, she came up from New York to see her sponsee ( the first lady of sobriety – of the Tuesday meeting).

I worked the registration table across the afternoon hour, so I missed the Al-Anon speaker. Then they provided a whopping chicken dinner for more than 400 folks. It was quite amazing.

The afternoon program there were 2 speakers and the closing remarks. I got to hear the first of the two, who happened to be gay. And he tells the story about the fact he is in his 50’s now and got sober in the 80’s, and when he speaks to newcomers, and asks them if they have ever heard of Judy Garland, they respond “WHO???”

Kids today, if it ain’t on I-Tunes, they don’t listen to it …

Anyways, we laughed and commiserated with our man. Not to mention that there were a contingent of LGBT folks at the roundup. We were well represented.

I got a ride home after the first speaker because I had to be home to get to the church on time for set up, because if you build it, they will come. I cranked out set up with my tunes on. I was alone. And I sat for a while reading the first of two books I bought written by Lorna Kelly.

You Tube her … Lorna Kelly

If you You Tube her you will see videos of her in Calcutta and other great things she does.

Published books:

The Camel Knows The Way

In the Footsteps of the Camel

Like I said in last night’s post, she not only knew Mother Teresa, she went to Calcutta to work with the poor and to learn about her. I am encouraged to read her books because we now share a commonality.

It is the last Sunday of the month, and so it was Tradition Sunday. And it being the fifth month, we read the Fifth Tradition.

“Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers…”

And what was the take away from this weekends Round Up ???

You can’t keep it, you have to give it away. The most important person in the room is the newcomer, because our sobriety hinges on us sharing the message of recovery with them, as they are able, to come to know what we know, and recover a hopeless state of mind, body and spirit.

I heard these speakers talk about meetings in other places like New York, where you can find meetings with 600 people in attendance. And In Los Angeles where you can find meetings with upwards of 1600, yes that sixteen HUNDRED people show up for a meeting.

Imagine those numbers here.

I’ve seen a hundred here or there when I was newly sober. When Tuesday Beginners was in its infancy, back in the day, you could count on one to two hundred people in that basement hall that we use on a weekly basis.

Follies was popular and well populated. And that meeting folded a few years into my sobriety. People just stopped coming. But we don’t see near those numbers anywhere in Montreal. That would be incredibly amazing.

The round up was cool because there were more than 400 people for the weekend. That is well attended.

We heard many good things about Tradition Five, and how the many people interpret and utilize FIVE.

Speakers this weekend stressed that:

It might be ODD or it might be GOD !!!

Sooner or later you will find a power greater than yourself and then we learn to pray. It is a proven fact that those folks who go to meetings, work with newbies, work their steps (over and over) again, pray and meditate have a much higher quality of life. Because they get on their knees and pray …

It is the THREE, SEVEN AND ELEVEN SHUFFLE…

Three – God I offer myself to thee to build with me and to do with me as thou wilt. Relive me of the bondage of self, that I may better do they will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and They way of life. May I do thy will always.

Seven – My creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do Your bidding.

Eleven – God, I pray for forgiveness for the wrongs I have done today. I ask that I be shown with corrective measures should be taken.

They say: COPY – PASTE – and Place by your bedside so that every day you say the prayers that bring your life together. This is the ritual we are told changes lives and ever so slightly ratchets your will more to your creators will, and if you pray every day, your life WILL GET BETTER !!!

We had a number of newbies at the Sunday meeting. People reached out and it was a great meeting.

It has been a full weekend.

More to come, stay tuned…


A Whisper from Heaven

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It is raining…

It was a dreary day today. And tonight was the first night of the 39th annual West Island Roundup in Dorval. Imagine a room full of drunks come together to hear speakers from New York City, what an amazing event.

Our primary ride is sick, which meant we had to hoof it all the way to Dorval via the Metro, and two buses. It took us about an hour to make the transit, in the rain, on packed buses, on the highway. It was dicey…

We arrived in one piece my friend and I. And all of our friends were there. The minions of our fearless pied piper, our first lady of sobriety from the Tuesday Night meeting.

Tomorrow I get to work hospitality.

For tonight I must say that I have been in a very maudlin mood. It all began not long ago, and now that the funk has been driven away, I am trying to move forwards.

Last night there was a documentary on television, late night, called “We Were Here.” I don’t think I can watch another AIDS documentary again. I am from a different time, and I lived through all that horror. And now I am on the other side of death.

One line that got me was that those of us who have seen such death, and survived it, if not careful, can get lost and become the wandering ghosts.

Those of us who do not necessarily re-engage life.

I re-engaged life. With all that I had within me, I fought to get back on track.

But like some, I had a problem.

The most important piece of literature in A.A. it was said tonight, was the preamble. Ancient Chinese wisdom speaks that

“Wisdom comes, when you can call something by its proper name.”

The preamble solves this problem for me, for us.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership, we are self supporting through our own contributions.

A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses or opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help others achieve sobriety.

My name is Jeremy and I am an alcoholic.

That is who I am. And this is the problem I have. This is my proper name.

Our speaker tonight said all this to us. In a round about sort of way. She told her story and we laughed and we shed a few tears, and most importantly, we identified with her.

This is our task. To stay sober. We have a mental, physical and spiritual disease. And she warned us, those of us with time, those with a lot of time, and for those of us with a little time, not to get stuck in any one area. Because we need to take care of all of us, not just part of us.

And it is not only in what we do in open company, but what we do ourselves. There might come a time when the drink rises up and tries to make us forget that we have a problem, and therefore, it would be ok, just for a little taste.

NO !

We go to meetings. Some get it right away, and for some, it takes a bit longer to coalesce. We laugh, because we alcoholics, come to meetings, to listen to people who have screwed up their lives, have reached rock bottom, and we long to listen to people share … They say that we “might have a problem!”

You never know when God is going to whisper in your ear, and if you’re not paying attention for the still small voice, you will miss it.

And God spoke, Well, maybe it wasn’t God, but more to the point, Mother Teresa made an appearance in the speakers story. And many ears perked up, after the fact, we were all on the same page in that room.

It was a sign. A whisper. And it spoke to me …

Mother Teresa was very interested in alcoholism, and the one thing she could not master, in serving the poorest of the poor, she just could not reach the alcoholic. And it is told that she placed the serenity prayer, steps and traditions at the foot of the statue of the Virgin Mary in a chapel in Calcutta.

Mention of Mother Teresa was not lost on me and I told this to our speaker after her share. That my ten year medallion, is engraved with the meditation “I Thirst,” and on my body is the same tattoo in Hebrew.

It was a brief wave from heaven.

Through all the suffering that I have seen in my life, two sober attempts and being successful at this point, not to have taken a drink in more than eleven years, is an achievement.

It is important that we get the opportunity to hear speakers who are not from here – to be fed from a different farm, so to speak.

The one thing we all have in common, our true names, and the ability to sit with you and say, I understand you, Let me tell you how I dealt with this or that. I can identify with you.

That’s all we have, is our experience. You never know the burden someone carries when you walk into a room of alcoholics. Or any room for that matter.

AIDS makes us humble. It makes us compassionate. It tempers us for the world about us. And it changes our lives forever, in ways that mere mortal men and women will never and can never know unless you have walked in our shoes.

I need to keep walking. Doing the next right thing.

I need to honor and listen to my spirit.

And we need fellowship … because we don’t do this on our own.

It was a beautiful night.

More to come, for sure. Stay tuned …


“I Thirst” redux …

A point I almost forgot from the film this evening was the phrase “I Thirst.” It came oddly during the film, and several people who saw the film before me brought up this point, and equated the phrase as coming from Mother Teresa of Calcutta … which it did…

The notion of Thirst is a theme that runs throughout our lives, and more for the man or woman who is living a sober life. At the onset of alcoholism, we all experience the phenomena of thirst. And if we get caught up in “thirst” it takes us to our cups. And in time, and for most, the thirst grows ever more until we reach the point that we just cannot drink enough and our thirst becomes unquenchable.

But there is a solution. In the Book !!!

In order for that thirst to end, we must come to the realization that it is God who removes from us the compulsion to drink. A feat no man or woman could accomplish on their own, trying to “do it” themselves. Very few succeed at this juncture. When we hit bottom and realize that we are licked and that we cannot go on with this – there is the book.

And one day, sometime in early sobriety we reach the day that the desire to drink leaves us. And eventually we find “god as we understand him.” God is fraught with complications for many when they come in.

And I think, as I wrote earlier tonight, that the genius came when Bill W. employed the phrase “god as we understand him.” And in the beginning people come up with their own concept, be him God, or Good Orderly Direction, or simply “group of drunks” we gather together to share our stories and our experiences that become a very valuable bank of experience that we can all draw upon on a daily basis.

It is mentioned in the film this notion of “I Thirst…” And unless you are familiar with the story of just what “I Thirst” means and who spoke those words they fall on deaf ears. Where once we thirsted for drink, we come to find our concept of God and we begin to thirst for spiritual truth and peace.

We learn how to mediate thirst. We will thirst till the day we die, but to drink again would be a miserable choice in sobriety. Which is when we learn to employ prayer and meditation.

You may recognize “I Thirst” as one of the last words that Jesus says hanging on the cross. And it is this meditation that Mother Teresa has worked into a very fine meditation about thirsting for Jesus.

As I near my 11th anniversary, and having this phrase tattooed on my person, and hearing it again tonight in the film brings the meaning full circle, because I heard it spoken in reference to Bill and the Alcoholics Anonymous movement. It caught me off guard really, and I had to sit and ponder it seeing I left it off the first post. But the topic is one that can stand on its own here.

“I Thirst” is engraved on my 10 year chip and tattooed on my arm. And every day I bathe and during that I care for my ink with care and respect.

I may not thirst for the drink any more, but I do Thirst for God.

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Here is the meditation from Mother Teresa…

To the end of her life, Mother Teresa insisted that the single most important reason for the existence of the congregation she founded was to satiate the thirst of Jesus. “The General End of he Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls.”

“I thirst,” Jesus said on the cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute Poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst – not for water – but for love, for sacrifice.

Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man. Just like the adoring angels in Heaven ceaselessly sing the praises of God, so the sisters, using the four vows of Absolute Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Charity towards the poor ceaselessly quench the thirsting God by their love and of the love of the souls they bring to Him.

Mother Teresa writes:

Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much is the love He has for each one of you – beyond all what you can imagine … not only He loves you, even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy…

For me it is so clear – everything in the Missionaries of Charity exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from [the] past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? … Why does Jesus say “I Thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words – …”I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.


Tainted Saint: Mother Teresa Defended Pedophile Priest

This article is raising all kinds of fire on all sides of the argument. Anne Rice posted this on her FACEBOOK PAGE. And it has garnered over 300 comments in just a few hours of being up. Whether the allegations are true or not, one thing remains, can the letters written on Missionaries of Charity letterhead be those of Mother Teresa? The jury is out on that question.

I’ve read her case for sainthood and I can tell you that Mother Teresa can be blind to all things except service to Jesus. Whether she understood the severity of the charges and whether she turned a blind eye like John Paul II did during his papacy could be contested.

Did she know what pedophilia meant? I mean did she understand the concept or could she really fathom that a servant of God could do such a thing? Because above all John Paul II always defended his priests to the death of them. He believed in vocation to a fatal flaw. He’d rather overlook a flaw then point a finger at one of his priests, which only exacerbated this issue to get to where it is today.

John Paul II was a great statesman. He could pull off a smile for the public and when he got behind closed doors he was known to lambaste whoever was in his line of fire. And this happened on many occasions throughout his papacy.

Mother Teresa was a woman of faith in Catholic Hierarchy. There are several other allegations mentioned in the piece below that cast aspersions on the good name of Mother Teresa. Like hoarding money from world dictators and that she supported people who are not thought to be savory. And that the care she offered was below par and unacceptable. All these allegations are written to incite the reader to choose a position and not look at other factors of the lives involved.

Should you trust the writer of this piece?

I would contend that this is an attention piece aimed at Mother Teresa as the process for sainthood progresses. You could naturally remove her from this article and the allegations of pedophilia stand on their own. She just happens to be mentioned in the correspondences, and it is assumed that it is she that was directly involved in the protection of a pedophile.

What do you believe and who do you believe??? That is up to the reader. But unless you have studied this subject, religion, saints, and sainthood to the degree that I have, what you believe is entirely up to you.

I always state from the start that if you comment, you better know what you are talking about and can back it up in education or fact. Two degrees, one in Religion and a second in Theology give me a leg up here. That is fact…

I have my issues with Mother Teresa. She has angered me, blessed me and made me believe in Jesus more than I ever have and I even tattooed my body to honor her.

Then something like this pops up out of the firmament and asks us to judge her based on some article written with excessive slant and finger pointing and unlike some who would want to taint the life of a woman who is bound to be sainted in the near future, this is just a blip on the radar.

Nobody can prove either way what Mother Teresa knew, and how much she knew and if she knew, why did she turn a blind eye to it? Because like I have said, this woman was blinded by many things. Love of God, Love of Jesus, service to the poor, service to the least of these.

She was blinded by her own dark heart and her own admission of being blind of Jesus for a time in her ministry.That was the one flaw that always angered me about her, that even with eyes to see, much of her ministry was slanted to the poor and to Jesus and in that state you could say she was blinded. She may not have wanted to see, or just couldn’t see or maybe understand.

This was not something known to her in her vernacular and from her time period. Pedophilia was not common knowledge back in her years of education. And I think the Catholic hierarchy kept her in the dark to a degree as well. This is testified in her memoirs for sainthood.

She was kept on a very short leash by the priests she confessed to and those whom she called on to serve her community and her people. She was blinded by service to Jesus, forsaking all others. Could she really be guilty of what they are saying she did?

She is not here to defend herself. It is up to the people and their faith. And in the end only God can judge her. And for all intents and purposes, this will probably not affect her case for sainthood. But could damn the other men involved in this story.

I was going to leave a comment on the page but decided that I would post it here for posterity to see where this goes. I will be watching for more updates on this story.

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By Peter Jamison Wednesday, Jan 11 2012

San Francisco Weekly …

The death of journalist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens last month gave those familiar with his work a chance to revisit one of his more controversial subjects: the Albanian nun Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, better known to the world as Mother Teresa. In his 1997 book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, Hitchens argued that the “Saint of Calcutta,” who founded and headed the international Missionaries of Charity order, enjoyed undeserved esteem.

Despite her humanitarian reputation and 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa had set up a worldwide system of “homes for the dying” that routinely failed to provide adequate care to patients, Hitchens argued — an appraisal shared by The Lancet, a respected medical journal. Mother Teresa also associated with, and took large sums of money from, disreputable figures such as American savings-and-loan swindler Charles Keating and the dictatorial Duvalier family of Haiti.

Notwithstanding these black marks on an otherwise sterling reputation, Mother Teresa — who died in 1997 and is now on the fast track to a formal proclamation of sainthood by the Vatican — was never known to have been touched by the scandal that would rock the Roman Catholic Church in the decade after her death: the systematic protection of child-molesting priests by church officials.

Yet documents obtained by SF Weekly suggest that Mother Teresa knew one of her favorite priests was removed from ministry for sexually abusing a Bay Area boy in 1993, and that she nevertheless urged his bosses to return him to work as soon as possible. The priest resumed active ministry, as well as his predatory habits. Eight additional complaints were lodged against him in the coming years by various families, leading to his eventual arrest on sex-abuse charges in 2005.

The priest was Donald McGuire, a former Jesuit who has been convicted of molesting boys in federal and state courts and is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence. McGuire, now 81 years old, taught at the University of San Francisco in the late 1970s, and held frequent spiritual retreats for families in San Francisco and Walnut Creek throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He also ministered extensively to the Missionaries of Charity during that time.

In a 1994 letter to McGuire’s Jesuit superior in Chicago, it appears that Mother Teresa acknowledged she had learned of the “sad events which took [McGuire] from his priestly ministry these past seven months,” and that McGuire “admitted imprudence in his behavior,” but she wished to see him put back on the job. The letter was written after McGuire had been sent to a psychiatric hospital following an abuse complaint to the Jesuits by a family in Walnut Creek.

“I understand how grave is the scandal touching the priesthood in the U.S.A. and how careful we must be to guard the purity and reputation of that priesthood,” the letter states. “I must say, however, that I have confidence and trust in Fr. McGuire and wish to see his vital ministry resume as soon as possible.”

The one-page letter comes from thousands of pages of church records that have been shared with plaintiffs’ attorneys in ongoing litigation against the Jesuits involving McGuire. (The documents were also shared with prosecutors who worked on his criminal cases.) It is printed on Missionaries of Charity letterhead but is unsigned, and thus cannot be verified absolutely as having been written by Mother Teresa. Officials in the Missionaries of Charity and the Jesuits did not respond to requests for comment on its provenance.

Yet statements throughout the letter point to Mother Teresa as the author. The writer speaks of “my communities throughout the world” and refers by name to Mother Teresa’s four top deputies, calling them “my four assistants.” Rev. Joseph Fessio, a Jesuit and former University of San Francisco professor who knew Mother Teresa, said the reference to her assistants is an “authentic” aspect of the letter.

The letter could have an impact on the near-complete process of canonizing Mother Teresa. In 2003 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II, the penultimate step to full sainthood.

“What we see here is the same thing we see over and over in regard to the [priest pedophilia] scandal — the complete lack of empathy for, or interest in, possible victims of these accused priests,” said Anne Rice, the bestselling author of novels including Interview with the Vampire and a former Catholic who has been outspoken in her criticism of the church’s handling of the sex-abuse scandal. “In this letter the concern is for the reputation of the priesthood. This is as disappointing as it is shocking.”

Other documents that have emerged in the criminal and civil cases involving McGuire could affect the sainthood prospects of another deceased religious leader eyed by the Vatican for sainthood. Among the newly uncovered church records are letters by Rev. John Hardon, a Jesuit who also worked extensively with Mother Teresa and died in 2000. He collaborated with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a landmark summation of contemporary church doctrine. In 2005, the Vatican opened a formal inquiry into whether Hardon should be made a saint.

But statements by Hardon in his letters could complicate that process. The documents reveal McGuire admitted to Hardon that he was taking showers with the teenage boy from Walnut Creek whose complaint led to McGuire’s psychiatric treatment. He also acknowledged soliciting body massages from the boy and letting him read pornography in the room they shared on trips together.

Despite these admissions, Hardon concluded that his fellow Jesuit’s actions were “objectively defensible,” albeit “highly imprudent,” and told McGuire’s bosses that he “should be prudently allowed to engage in priestly ministry.”

The postulators, or Vatican-appointed researchers and advocates for sainthood, assigned to investigate Mother Teresa and Hardon did not respond to repeated requestsfor comment.

While it is unclear exactly what impact the new documents will have on the evaluation of both figures for sainthood, the evidence of involvement by two prominent and internationally respected Catholics in the McGuire sex-abuse scandal is likely to cause consternation among critics of the church’s handling of predator priests. The situation is aggravated since McGuire went on to abuse more children after suggestions to return him to ministry were heeded.

“We’re talking about extremely powerful people who could have gotten Father McGuire off the streets in 1994,” said Patrick Wall, a lawyer and former Benedictine monk who performs investigations on behalf of abuse victims suing the Catholic Church. “I’m thinking of all those post-’94 kids who could have been saved.”


It is unknown exactly when Hardon, McGuire, and Mother Teresa first crossed paths. But chances are good that the first time they all found themselves together in the same place was in San Francisco in 1981. It was the 800th anniversary of the birth of Saint Francis of Assisi, the city’s namesake. Hardon invited Mother Teresa, who attended celebratory services at which she was introduced to McGuire, according to Fessio, who was present.

Fessio, who today heads the Ignatius Press, a Catholic publishing house in the Sunset District, said Mother Teresa was impressed by McGuire’s reputation as an erudite, engaging preacher. She arranged to have him perform retreats — based on the Spiritual Exercises by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order — for her missionaries around the world. “She was always looking for priests to say mass for the different places in the world where she had missions,” Fessio recalled.

In McGuire, she found a priest whose strict adherence to traditional Catholic practices matched her own views. Mother Teresa was an extreme conservative on questions of religious doctrine. She declared during her speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that abortion was “the greatest destroyer of peace” in the modern world. McGuire was likewise stoutly orthodox in his public persona, requesting that women wear long skirts in his presence and often assailing other Jesuits for their relatively tolerant approaches to political and social issues.

Some insight into the reverence the Missionaries of Charity held for McGuire and his retreats and sermons can be gleaned from letters sent to Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge James Carlson, who oversaw the trial that resulted in McGuire’s first conviction in 2006.

Sister Nirmala, Mother Teresa’s successor as the superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, wrote, “He was one of the very few priests to whom … Teresa of Calcutta entrusted the spiritual care of the Missionaries of Charity through retreats, seminars and spiritual guidance wherever possible.”

Sister Mary Christa, another nun with the Missionaries of Charity, wrote, “Father’s immense love for Jesus Christ radiated brilliantly through his every word and gesture, and his whole concern was to inspire the Sisters with a more intense desire for holiness. His wisdom, immense knowledge of Holy Scripture, and saintly manner of life made a profound impression on all of us.”

But McGuire’s holy veneer concealed signs of a dark side that were already evident to select church officials long before he met Mother Teresa.

Documents that have emerged in the criminal prosecution of McGuire and civil litigation against the Jesuits over his actions show that suspicions about the priest were brought to his higher-ups beginning soon after his ordination in 1961. During his first teaching assignment, at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., he molested at least two boys, whose cases led to his first criminal conviction decades later.

The Jesuits, who have formally apologized to McGuire’s victims for failing to adequately control the priest, have nevertheless asserted in legal filings that they should not be held liable for the harm he did to children during his career. In a June 2011 motion in a lawsuit filed against the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, the order’s lawyers asserted that McGuire is “an evil and perverted man who used his substantial intellectual gifts and his dominating personality to disobey every tenet of his faith and his vows as a cleric.”

(SF Weekly reported on the Jesuits’ failure to protect children from McGuire in a previous cover story, “Let Him Prey” [5/25/11].)

One of the best-documented instances of abuse in McGuire’s record is one in which neither the victim nor his family chose to pursue litigation against the church. Jesuit records show that in April 1993, a devout Catholic man in Walnut Creek came forward with the complaint that his 16-year-old son, who traveled with McGuire as his personal assistant, had looked at pornographic magazines, showered, and masturbated with the priest.

Following this complaint, McGuire was removed from active ministry and sent to Saint John Vianney Center, a psychiatric-treatment facility for clerics in Pennsylvania. It was there that Hardon — whom the victim’s family had requested investigate their allegations — interviewed McGuire and chose to exonerate him. After six hours of face-to-face talks at the hospital, Hardon wrote to McGuire in a January 1994 letter, “I firmly expressed my belief in your innocence of any sexual misbehavior.”

McGuire returned to his order at the beginning of 1994, but his future, including the extent to which he would be allowed to interact with families and children as a priest, was still unclear. Hardon’s letter to McGuire reveals that the errant Jesuit still worried that the sex-abuse allegations lodged against him would mar his prospects for continued work with Mother Teresa, work that considerably enhanced McGuire’s prestige among other Catholics to whom he ministered.

“You expressed your deep fear that despite your proven innocence of all charges, somehow you would nevertheless not be allowed to continue your retreat ministry to Mother Teresa’s sisters,” Hardon wrote. At the conclusion of his letter, Hardon indicated that the matter would soon be resolved in direct consultation with the “Saint of Calcutta” herself.

“And so, Don, this is the state of the question on this eve of my departure for Calcutta, India, where, with your permission, I will be communicating with Mother Teresa about your situation and your future,” he wrote.


A letter written less than a month later, on Feb. 2, 1994, appears to contain an answer to the questions about his future with the Missionaries of Charity that dogged McGuire after his release from treatment at Saint John Vianney. It is addressed to Brad Schaeffer, Provincial, or head, of the Chicago section of the Jesuits. (While McGuire’s ministry took him across the U.S. and into foreign countries, he was officially under the supervision of the Jesuits’ Chicago Province.)

The letter is not signed, though it begins with a handwritten salutation in Mother Teresa’s characteristic looping script. It is unclear whether additional pages are missing from the document, or whether the writer simply failed to attach a signature. Clues throughout the letter, however, indicate that Mother Teresa is the author. The writer refers to “my communities throughout the world” and praises McGuire’s preaching to “my novices in our new novitiate in San Francisco” in 1982. (Novices are aspiring nuns who have not yet taken vows.)

More significantly, the writer refers to “my four assistants, Sisters Mary Frederick, Priscilla, Monica and Joseph Michael.” In 1994, the councilors general of the Missionaries of Charity — a group of four senior nuns who directly advised Mother Teresa, and were subordinate to no one else in the order — were Sisters Frederick, Priscilla, Monica, and Joseph Michael (Upon taking vows, nuns sometimes assume the names of male religious figures).

“That’s authentic, mentioning those people,” Fessio said. “Those were herfour councilors.”

(View the original letter, and other documents mentioned in this story in the “details” box.)

Nuns at the primary U.S. office of the Missionaries of Charity, in New York City, referred all questions related to McGuire to the Mother Teresa Center in San Ysidro, Calif. Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator for the sainthood cause of Mother Teresa and director of the center, did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Schaeffer, the letter’s recipient, is now the rector of a Jesuit community in Brighton, Mass., and serves on the board of trustees of Boston College. He did not respond to phone messages. The Chicago Province of the Jesuits also did not respond to requests for comment.

If Mother Teresa did write the letter to Schaeffer, it is unclear how much she learned about the circumstances under which McGuire was disciplined. The letter states, “During his recent visit to Calcutta in the past month, Fr. John Hardon, S.J., brought a letter to me from Fr. McGuire, describing the sad events which took him from his priestly ministry these past seven months. Fr. Hardon explained … how he had established Father’s innocence of the allegations against him. Father Hardon said that Fr. McGuire admitted imprudence in his behavior.”

SF Weekly could not obtain the letter written by McGuire that is mentioned, or find anyone who had seen it. Following the exhortation that McGuire be returned to active ministry, the Missionaries of Charity letter concludes, “We, in the Missionaries of Charity, will do all in our power, to protect him and the Priesthood of Jesus Christ which he bears, when he once more takes up his mission with us.”

Tariq Ali, the British intellectual who produced and co-wrote with Hitchens the sharply critical 1994 documentary film on Mother Teresa, Hell’s Angel, said the letter fit with what he described as the nun’s pattern of consorting with dubious personalities.

Among the problems chronicled in Hell’s Angel were substandard care for the poor who filled her hospitals, and her willingness to accept money from notorious figures such as Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier of Haiti, who presided over a brutally repressive regime under which most Haitians lived in abject poverty. Duvalier’s own lifestyle was luxurious, thanks to revenue from his participation in the drug trade and practice of selling dead Haitian citizens’ cadavers overseas. Mother Teresa once posed for a photograph holding hands with Duvalier’s wife, Michèle.

“When Christopher Hitchens and I made the film on her, the research was impeccable,” Ali said. “She was close to dictators. She took money wherever she could. The care in her hospitals was poor. It was just one nightmare after another. From that time on, I saw her as a total fake,” Ali said. The letter, he added, “would only be surprising if one saw her as a moral person, and I don’t.”

Anne Sebba, a biographer of Mother Teresa, said the founder of the Missionaries of Charity had never before been tainted by knowing involvement with a pedophile priest. However, she said the nun’s response to criticism of her coziness with figures such as the Duvaliers and savings-and-loan scamster Charles Keating — for whom she pleaded for leniency during his trial and eventual conviction on fraud charges — was that she was practicing forgiveness in line with Christian ideals.

“Her answer was always that any miserable sinner deserved to be given a chance to do good,” Sebba said. “She argued that Jesus always offered redemption, and no sinner was beyond redemption.”

In McGuire, Mother Teresa encountered a challenge to that belief. After his return to ministry in 1994, McGuire would see eight new abuse allegations lodged against him by boys’ families. In 2006, he was found guilty of molesting two boys decades earlier at the Loyola Academy. In 2008, he was convicted in federal court of taking a boy across state lines for the purpose of sexually abusing him. According to federal prosecutors, McGuire probed the boy’s anus with his fingers during “massages,” examined his penis with a magnifying glass, and looked at pornography with him.

McGuire has maintained his innocence of the charges against him, asserting that his victims fabricated stories to secure financial settlements from the Jesuits. His Chicago-based lawyer, Stephen Komie, said that McGuire’s appeals of his state and federal convictions were unsuccessful, however. “He’s going to die in prison, absent a pardon, and I don’t think that’s in the cards,” Komie said.

The father of the Walnut Creek boy whose abuse allegation prompted McGuire’s psychiatric treatment in 1993 said the information in the new documents is unfortunate, but not shocking. “That McGuire fooled Father Hardon and Mother Teresa like he did so many others is disappointing, but not a surprise,” he said. “It shows that a person doesn’t have to be a mind-reader in order to be a saint.”

A second Walnut Creek man who says McGuire abused him as a child, and who is participating in a lawsuit against the Jesuits, reacted to the letter that might be from Mother Teresa more strongly.

“I was totally blown away by it,” said the man, who is identified in court records only as John Doe 129 and whom SF Weekly is not identifying by name because he is an alleged victim of childhood sexual abuse. “I just don’t know how somebody supposedly so saintly, supposedly such a protector of the weak and the poor, could be so indifferent to it,” he said.


Hardon’s letter to McGuire, as well as the letter that appears to have been written by Mother Teresa, indicate it was Hardon who personally carried news of McGuire’s situation to Calcutta. It is thus important to understand how much Hardon knew when he visited Mother Teresa in January 1994. On this front, newly uncovered documents show the Jesuit in an unflattering light, and may have a serious impact on his prospects for sainthood.

In addition to his January 1994 letter to McGuire, Hardon wrote a detailed explication of his knowledge of and involvement in McGuire’s case to Schaeffer, the Jesuits’ Chicago provincial, in November 1993. The father of the alleged abuse victim from Walnut Creek had requested that Hardon personally intercede to assess exactly what McGuire had done to the teenage boy. At the time, Hardon was an internationally known and beloved priest who had staked his reputation on championing a conservative strain of Catholicism, not dissimilar to McGuire’s, that was often at odds with the beliefs of his more liberal-minded fellow Jesuits.

During a visit to Saint John Vianney, Hardon had a frank conversation with McGuire in which the latter admitted to taking showers with his alleged victim, asking the boy to massage his body, and allowing him to possess pornography in the room they shared while traveling. McGuire denied additional allegations that he had touched the boy’s genitals and watched him masturbate.

Hardon was apparently satisfied with what he heard. As he wrote to Schaeffer, “Regarding showering, Fr. Don said that it was true, but the picture is not one of a lingering sensual experience. It was rather the picture of two firemen, responding to an emergency, one of whom was seriously handicapped and in need of support and care from the other.”

On the body rubs: “Regarding the massages, Fr. Don said they were done with attention to modesty and were necessary to relieve spasm at the 4th-5th lumbar disc and the right leg, involving the sciatic nerve.” (The fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae are at the bottom of the spine, just above the buttocks.)

And the dirty magazines: “Regarding pornography Fr. Don said that there were Playboy and Penthouse magazines, which he neither got nor threw away.”

Hardon concluded in the letter, “I do not believe there was any conscious and deliberate sexual perversity.” He added, “I do believe Fr. McGuire was acting on principles which, though objectively defensible, were highly imprudent.” He also concluded that another serious charge against McGuire, that the priest had violated the seal of confession by disclosing private information about the boy during an argument with his father, was unfounded.

The 1993 victim’s family did not respond to requests for comment regarding the revelations in the letters. Other observers, noting the blasé manner in which Hardon speaks of a priest showering with a teenage boy and his unconcern with a supposedly orthodox cleric’s tolerance for porn, say the letter will cast a shadow on the late Jesuit’s reputation.

“I will never look at John Hardon the same way again,” said Wall, the former Benedictine monk.

Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, said the letter could be a stumbling block for the sainthood cause of Hardon, who is still in the early stages of being investigated by Vatican deputies. The most rigorous review of a candidate’s life typically comes prior to the first milestone in the process, called veneration. Following that are beatification and canonization.

Lawler described Hardon’s statements about McGuire as “shocking.”

“What will it do for his cause? It will slow it down,” Lawler said.

Rev. Robert McDermott, a priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and postulator for Hardon’s cause, initially agreed to review Hardon’s letter about McGuire and comment on it. After receiving it, he did not respond to subsequent calls and e-mails from SF Weekly.

Lawler said the letter apparently written by Mother Teresa, by contrast, is unlikely to stop her from clearing the final hurdle of canonization.

“I think her reputation is safe,” Lawler said. “It doesn’t fluster me that she would try to help a friend, and didn’t know what was going on. Her reputation is so safe that, even if this is a negative, it doesn’t much weighon it.”

The extent to which the new documents will influence the canonization of either Hardon or Mother Teresa should, ideally, only be assessed after a thorough investigation of what both figures knew about McGuire, and how much influence their advocacy on his behalf had in the disastrous decision to return him to ministry in 1994. But in light of the church’s past lack of diligence in dealing with priestly abuse, that might be a lot to hope for.

Mother Teresa is perhaps the most famous and popular Catholic religious leader of the second half of the 20th century, rivaled only by the late Pope John Paul II. Hardon’s cause is likewise dear to senior officials in the Vatican. The investigation into his potential sainthood was initiated by Raymond Burke, the cardinal and former archbishop of St. Louis who is now prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — a position that could be described as the chief justice of the Catholic Church’s supreme court.

Lawler pointed out that dozens of American bishops who protected known child molesters in the clergy remain on the job today. Will similar efforts to shield a predator by figures of possibly saintly stature haveany fallout?

“You asked me whether this matter could affect the progress of Father Hardon’s cause [for canonization], and I said that it definitely would. It might have been more accurate if I had said it definitely should,” Lawler said. “I hope that people would recognize this as a serious issue that demands attention. But this is an issue on which the record of the American Catholic hierarchy is still not good.”


I Thirst … The Year that was 2011 …

“I thirst,” Jesus said on the cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute Poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst – not for water – but for love, for sacrifice.

Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man. Just like the adoring angels in Heaven ceaselessly sing the praises of God, so the sisters, using the four vows of Absolute Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Charity towards the poor ceaselessly quench the thirsting God by their love and of the love of the souls they bring to Him.

Mother Teresa writes:

Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much is the love He has for each one of you – beyond all what you can imagine … not only He loves you, even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy…

*** *** *** ***
This will be my 2,582nd post…

We begin this tale of the last 365 days at nearly the end, because that is where I think we need to begin. I re-read my end of year 2010 report to try and get a sense of what I need to write about this year. So many things have happened this year and I haven’t written out an outline, I will then free write …

First, we need music. Barbra Streisand … A Piece of Sky …

The winter 2010-2011 school season was a success. I did very well in my courses and finished at the top of my game. Not much happened over the summer so I took off those months. There wasn’t much in classes that I really wanted to take. I went to an inordinate amount of meetings over the summer.

This past Fall, I pursued my education at CeGep this year with as much zeal as I could muster. After two semesters of French, I decided that I would no longer pander to the language police here in Quebec. I would rather eat glass then study French another day in my life. So I gave it up on the first day of the third semester. I sat in the chair and the prof started in and I sat until the break and then I left. Never to return. I had had enough of that …

That night I decided to study Western Civilization instead. So the Fall Semester I studied Sociology, following in my husbands footsteps. Added to that was Western Civilization. Both courses I did fantastically well. I had great teachers and a little help from my friends in the form of free textbooks and occasional coaching from the side. That’s what you get when you go to meetings. People truly want to see you succeed and if they can, play a part in that success. So thanks to Eric and Hubby for their help.

Last year I spoke of Hubby’s doing well in University. And today I can say with a proud heart that he has more than exceeded all of our expectations. He not only was a student in the Graduate Studies program for Sociology, he taught a section of tutorials this past semester. Something he worried about – but to me, looking at it from the outside, it was effortless. He just is the most fascinating man I know. He did it all like a Master…

On the medical front, I lived another year. All my numbers have been above the 1000 mark. My good run has been extended this past year. My doctor never varies from his talk to me whenever I see him. He says the same thing like a litany that never changes. Loose weight, stop eating junk food and exercise. The theme never varies. However I can report that I did lose some weight over the last year. I changed up my diet – hubby is a very health conscious cook.

My diabetes numbers have been nominal to the degree that the last time I saw my doc for that it was for five minutes. He has dispensed with the whole triage, dietician and extensive medical history and check up for a brief looking at the number on my meter – signing off on refills and sending me on my way.

The other night at a Christmas dinner at a friends, I met a man who is diabetic and we talked about our respective situations. I seem to be doing so well and he has all but given up he says “you only get one life, so might as well live it” and not in the good way either. You see this happen with certain people who can’t be bothered to take care of themselves correctly and follow medical advice, and at that I shake my head, I keep my council and I let it go. He takes pills to control his diabetes, but he doesn’t test daily, nor does he do what he is told. Which is a shame, because in the end it may kill him one day and that would be a loss.

The same goes for people with HIV. I get them newly diagnosed and I talk them into a life plan and we find them the next step to survival. Most of the men I have worked with in the last calendar year have dispensed with my advising. It is not something they wanted to continue, so I must let them go. If they live or die is entirely up to them.

Another of my fellows on the HIV train was dumped after a long term relationship by the man who fell out of love with him and over a steak dinner divulged that he did not love him anymore. This sent my friend into a tailspin that almost killed him. I warned him not to use or drink. But what did he do? He went out in a blaze of glory.

Where everyone was pissing and moaning about lost love, I was the only one to warn him of the consequences of a major slip in recovery after being sober for so many years. My counsel fell on deaf ears and he used heavy narcotics in a haze that almost killed him. And with that I took my leave of him. He ended our friendship over this.

One of my guys got sick, ended up in the hospital and had a near death experience. That experience sent him out the door into a drunken drug filled stupor for a few months only to end up in rehab, and in a haze of forgetfulness calls me one night begging my help once again. I can proudly say that today that man is sober and clean. He has a few months sobriety and is actively working his steps with me in a 12 step intensive. One of the only success stories I can talk about on the HIV front.

Another year in the books as year 44 came around this past summer. I am soon heading for fifty. Can you believe it??? Me at 50. Who knew. But we are not there yet. One day at a time … I read the book Aging with HIV, and in the book I am at the near beginning of the scale, not so old as the men in the book, but I am getting there slowly. In reading the book, I learned what concerned men going into their 50’s. Most of the issues I read about, I have already dealt with in my sobriety.

This past year has been one of disappointments in people. As I stated above the theme is recurring several times over. When people show you who they are the first time believe them…

A long time friend who I had been counseling, listening to and confiding in for the last ten years trying to be her friend just pissed me the fuck off. After 23 years of sobriety, she admitted after the fact that she was drinking and lying to me all the time, prior to her return to Montreal this past fall. I am beginning to learn just who is my friend and who paid me in lip service over the past year.

Suffice to say that I held my tongue quite well when she picked up a desire chip after 23 years at my home group. I sat on my feelings and stuffed them until they almost choked me. And one night words were spoken. Words I can never take back. It all came out one word after another …

I am not ashamed that I caved. I mean what are we unfeeling cyborgs? Can’t I feel an emotion and put it out there? Well, that was another ending. I said my piece and she felt victimized and reported me to her sponsor as a bad man. I ended that friendship in a blaze of glory. She went back to Florida. If she is sober is up to her and God.

I am beginning to find my voice as a man who knows himself. I have spent the better part of the year taking care of me and learning all those lessons that Oprah had to offer in terms of Life Class. And I put to practice all those things that she says will help us become who we are meant to become.

Being true to ones self. Knowing and being responsible for the energy we give out and what energy we bring to ourselves. When people show us who they are the first time, believe them. Things like this …

Every day of my life is book-ended with meetings. That formula for success is what I attribute my successes. I have this year crossed a huge mile marker which I will touch on a bit later. If I have a night free, you can usually find me at a meeting somewhere. Tuesday Beginners has been a part of my life for more than ten years now. And it served me well.

Over the summer, my sponsor and my friend Dave, who is a proud daddy today used to travel to different meeting on Friday night. From the South shore to the West End to NDG. We did this for weeks on end until I had enough of traveling from here to there. I wanted to invest in somewhere certain. You can’t invest in a meeting and their people if you are not a weekly attendee. So I decided to go to Friday West End by myself.

I set a goal for myself and that goal was to go and wait for God to tell me what to do. I went, week after week until the voice gave me direction. And I knew it one night when after the meeting I felt the urge that this is where the next chapter of my sobriety was to open. So I joined the group a few months ago. I needed three months of service to become a proper member, and so I did that gladly.

I would go and set up chairs and make coffee. I sat in the same chair week in and week out. People began to notice me, not because of what I was doing, but because of my presence in the same spot week after week. People started talking to me, I learned their names, and made some friends. An old timer and his wife from Dorval. I have spoken about them before.

The next chapter of my sobriety was opening up. I did my time and got into the rotation as a full member. And then everything changed. And it was the greatest gift I have ever been given in sobriety. Firstly there was the night we were in the church for the meeting – it was the first time I was responsible for setting up and doing all the grunt work because most of the group was out of town that night, and the hall was being used the next day for a church bazaar so we were in the church proper and that night we all had a spiritual experience. It was the most beautiful night on my life, listening to a young lady play the piano. It was angel speak. The night was a HUGE success. And it did not go unnoticed.

The fall came and went. I am still doing service every week. Now I am the designated coffee maker. That along with minor set up skills I am an upstanding member of Friday West End.

Weeks before my 10th sober anniversary, I had been in a really deep conscious contact with my God. My prayer life I stepped up. I was reading holy texts and I came across Mother Teresa once again. A book I had once dismissed, I picked up again, just by happenstance. And I was convicted … The story of how she began the Missionaries of Charity with “I Thirst …” I knew that was going to become the marker for my anniversary.

On certain big anniversaries, I was taught in early sobriety, you make an offering to God for your sobriety. I did it on my first anniversary with a piercing. And now at ten, I needed to do something big. I made a few calls and visited a few tattoo parlors in the core and settled on Adrenaline. I talked it over with hubby and he gave me the green light to get the tattoo I wanted. I prayed about it for a week. And on the Friday prior to my anniversary, I got that tattoo. It was all the rage at Friday West End. Since I Face booked it everyone wanted to see it, and so it went. I was really proud of myself.

And also as it came to pass that I was approaching my 1oth sober anniversary, is when God stepped in and gifted me. The Friday before my anniversary, the chair asked me to speak, ON my anniversary. On that same night our matriarch asked me if I would take my cake on that next Friday night. (Now I was prepared to wait until the 13th at TB’s to take my cake) But she had other plans for me.

She asked me if I had my 2 year silver oval medallion. Yes, it was in my wallet. I gave it to her and she took it and sent it off to the jewelers to be Gold Plated and engraved with whatever I wanted on it … “I Thirst…” is on that medallion now.

I talked to my sponsor about sharing. And he said as long as I keep my ego in check, all should be well. That Friday came to pass. I got up there and knocked it out of the park. I don’t remember all of what I said. But whatever I did say made a difference in my life and the lives of the members of the group and others as well who came to hear me speak. It was the most exciting night of my life in recent years. Then I got my cake and my GOLD medallion. It was the most exciting moment in my sobriety so far.

The people of Friday West End gave me a gift that I could never repay. They gave me a memory that I can take to my grave as being had. And I am forever grateful to them for that. We are a great happy bunch of drunks that do good things every Friday night for every person who walks in our doors.

We had our anniversary the following week and we had over a hundred and some odd people. We had food galore and fun, fun, fun. I even got to thank that speaker because the chair thinks I am so eloquent in thanking capabilities. I don’t know if it went over as good as I wanted because of the man I was thanking. Some stories are tougher than others to thank because of content and experience. And he was rough trade… But I did my best.

On the 13th of December I took a second chip and celebrated with Cake at my original home group. To show to newcomer that it can be done. Many old friends came to help me celebrate. We had lots of cake and conversation. So I have a ten year medallion to keep forever, and one to share with someone coming along to their tenth… December has been one very exciting month.

The holidays have come and are nearly gone. The weeks are just flying past, as if to say, let’s get this year over already !!! Christmas was a big BLUR on the radar screen. And it is Tuesday late night once again as I write this. I was so busy over the holidays that I forget that the day came. Our home Christmas was sandwiched in between cooking for home, setting up for an evening meeting and attending a second Christmas dinner all on the same night.

And with great effort the world is going to welcome in the New Year in the way they know how to do… With lots of liquor and celebrations. I talked to a friend on Tumblr earlier and I said that all those young people won’t know what hit them after imbibing copious amounts of liquor and smoking the best weed out there. What a waste … But what can you do???

We will take in the New Year as we always do. With our Crystal Goblets and a little non-alcoholic bubbly. We will watch the ball fall and kiss on the moment and then we will go to bed and listen to Coast to Coast AM and the yearly predictions show for 2012. This year proves to be exciting, with Armageddon knocking on our doors on December 21st 2012.

PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR. TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE SOMEWHERE SAFE BECAUSE IT IS ALL SUPPOSED TO END. WE CAN ALL KISS OUR RESPECTIVE ASSES GOODBYE BECAUSE THEY TELL US THE WORLD WILL COME TO AN END.

At Least the Mayan’s have given the preacher world something to go on about for the last year. And needless to say it will only get worse as the date draws nearer. So we will see who the forgiven/saved are and who is going to suffer damnation, hellfire and sorrow.

And that is how we will close out the year that was 2011.

What did you do this year that is noteworthy? Share those thoughts with us.

I really want to thank all the people who have subscribed to this blog, and to all my readers out there. From all over the world. Especially, Bear Toast, Rod, Vincent and the rest of you. Thank you for a great year. It has been a joy writing for you – and you have helped me polish my voice so to speak.

I am in touch, so you be in touch.

I love your faces.

WC:  3,173 Post 2,582


My Tattoo – and Someone Like You … Adele

It is a rainy miserable day in the neighborhood. 2c and raining. They say it might snow in the North, not sure if we will get a dusting or not. I was up bright and early for my date with Eli my tattoo artist.

I had to get something to eat on the way there, they say you shouldn’t get a tattoo on an empty stomach. As I walked into the shop, Adele was on the radio singing “Someone like you!” And I thought to myself, what a touching piece of music for the moment.

Eli took my design and made a stencil and then we were off to the races. It wasn’t bad at all. Just a little stingy was all. Not painful at all. It went by pretty quickly. So here is the finished product. It is bandaged up at the moment.

So I have marked my tenth sober anniversary in a very tangible way. A little meditation which speaks “I Thirst.” From the meditations of Mother Teresa.

That was the days excitement. More to come later on tonight after my meeting.

So stay tuned …


I Thirst …

Hebrew script – I Thirst…

Hebrew is read right to left. So this orientation is correct.

John 19:28

New International Version (NIV)

The Death of Jesus

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

*** *** *** ***

To the end of her life, Mother Teresa insisted that the single most important reason for the existence of the congregation she founded was to satiate the thirst of Jesus. “The General End of he Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls.”

“I thirst,” Jesus said on the cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute Poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst – not for water – but for love, for sacrifice.

Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man. Just like the adoring angels in Heaven ceaselessly sing the praises of God, so the sisters, using the four vows of Absolute Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Charity towards the poor ceaselessly quench the thirsting God by their love and of the love of the souls they bring to Him.

Mother Teresa writes:

Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much is the love He has for each one of you – beyond all what you can imagine … not only He loves you, even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy…

For me it is so clear – everything in the Missionaries of Charity exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from [the] past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? … Why does Jesus say “I Thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words – …”I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.

*** *** *** ***

The above Hebrew script of ” I Thirst…” is the first of two tattoos that I will be getting. I identify with this passage and it resonates within me. So last night I went into Google and I translated the English into Hebrew, I thought the Hebrew was much more striking than English text.

I went to the Adrenaline Tattoo Parlor on Sherbrooke earlier to see how much it would cost me and they run $100.00 – $125.00 per hour plus tip. This will be my 10th sober anniversary body modification.

The first year I was sober, my then sponsor was into body modification and on  my first anniversary I got a piercing. I wanted to mark 10 years with something special, and in reading Mother Teresa’s writing, this jumped off the page to me the other night.

It will be cool.


The Burning …

Courtesy: I’ll be the sun …

Last night I came home from the meeting after talking to my sponsor and I had a lot to think about, and I was encouraged not to make any decisions right away about what I wanted to do with “the letter.”

I watched Oprah’s Life Class last night, “Joy Rising…” I just needed something good for my soul and to forget the pain that was in my heart for an hour. After that I tuned in some Military Channel and 2 docs on WW I.

It will be on my final exam for my Western Civ class so I thought maybe I should watch them. But there are so many parties involved in the Great War and the assassination that started the whole deal. I am not sure how one would approach the essay on this topic.

I got to bed after 3:30 in the morning. Forgetting that CJAD goes off topic from Coast to Coast at 3 am in opt for those infomercial vitamin specials. I usually pipe in AM 640 Toronto from the computer, but last night it slipped my mind.

I got into bed and curled up with a good book. Come be my Light, the Mother Teresa evidence for canonization.

I had started reading the book when I first got it, and about three quarters way through it, I wanted to throw it against the wall because she made me so angry. So I put the book down. And put it back on the shelf. I only picked it back up the other night and finished the read through, so I thought I would start reading it again from the beginning since I am in a righter mind to accept the message.

And with all that’s going on in  my head, I hear Mother Teresa saying to me that I have to give it all to Jesus, my life, my love, my suffering and my happiness and joy. Just give it all over, because Jesus suffered so much for us, that we should be united with him on the cross…

Just what I needed to hear at this point in my sobriety.

Family …

I was born to a 60’s couple of mixed background in the Northeast U.S. in a bastion of ultra conservative Catholic parishes. After my brother was born my mother had a tubiligation and was ex-communicated from the church because it was birth control. Doctors said she couldn’t have any more kids, so let’s tie the tubes shall we… It’s a good thing there were only 2 of us.

I was baptized and given a name. A name that wasn’t mine to begin with. He was a soldier who fought with my father in Viet Nam. He was killed and my father was never the same. I am making this all up from my lifetime’s observations and studies of the gay man, and the self hating gay man.

My father came away from that war with secrets. I am sure of it today.

Everything I learned about being gay as a kid, came directly from my father’s bathroom reading material and the collection of magazines he had hid in the garage. Thanks to a little snooping on my part I had enough reading material to last me months and months.

If my father was totally straight, and totally Catholic by the book, hell, fire, and damnation, why was he exploring variations ???

When my father began to heavily abuse me after drinking himself into a stupor he would recite this mantra with every swing of the belt … “You were a mistake and should never have been born…” This went on for almost twenty years.

I was supposed to carry a name of a dead soldier that had something to do with my father emotionally, and he was beating me, in the name of the man he named me after, what was going on in his head?

1. Was he in the closet and hating the man who died?

2. Was he beating me to exorcise his own demons?

3. Was he just an angry man all around?

4. Or was he just beating me to beat me?

When I turned 30, I was sick as a dog, and frequented my death bed. That was only four years into my AIDS diagnosis. I was still suffering in big ways. I had not leveled out yet. And I knew my parents were not on board. None of my immediate family was on board.

I sat in my living room one night watching tv, and I was reading my bible listening to Pearl Jam and it all happened just like that.

Jeremy’s Spoken …

I knew that had I died my family would have swooped in and taken my body and my life and condemned my eternity to some slum burial in some backwater graveyard without proper identity and recognition. It would have been as if I had not existed at all. I was dead, who would know any better ?

So I went to court and legally changed my name. To keep them from ever having any part in my care or burial. I had legally divorced my family out of my life. But that decision took on a life of its own.

So to date I was (1.)  Gay (2.)  HIV + (3.)  Legally changing my name.

I had nailed three nails in my proverbial casket…

It took me all these years to work out what it all meant.

It wasn’t my fault.

When people show you who they are the first time, believe them. I needed this realization 20 years earlier.

When I changed my name, in essence, my father’s beating mantra of “You were a mistake and should never have been born” became a self fulfilling prophecy. I had killed that boy, he wanted dead when I was growing up. I had given him the very thing he wanted so much himself.

Even though I tried to be the good son, there was no way I was ever going to make a dent in the damnation that I was facing from the very beginning. They were set in their ways. And I wasn’t going to change them no matter how hard I tried. Once I sealed the deal, it was done for me.

And it took me till today to make this connection for myself.

I have been waiting for lightening to strike. A miracle to happen. And like I said last night, sometimes the miracle comes from a direction you didn’t expect.

My prayers to Blessed John Paul II and to Mother Teresa were answered.

Long ago. In a universe far far away, I once prayed for my father’s death. I prayed that prayer for years. Waiting for God to smite him. So that I could ride in on my white horse and save my mother and reclaim her for myself. This before any of these changes took place. I was sick and had no where to go, and I assumed that if the old man was dead, I could move to Sarasota and take on my mother’s care as my life’s work. Ever the savior !!!

He didn’t die. I went on with my life. And here we are today.

Coming to Canada was the final nail in my coffin. I had spit on the heritage of my bleeding deacon U.S.A. war veteran father. How dare I cross the border and take my mother’s heritage? Because when he imported her she had to forswear her origins and deny her roots. She didn’t complete that task until 1974. Both my brother and myself were born with birthright Canadian Citizenship, because mum was still technically, Canadian.

Tonight after some prayer and meditation, I took that letter I wrote to them and placed in my fire can on my balcony, and I burned the letter and flushed the ashes down the toilet.

As far as I am concerned this issue is finished. I cannot change them. It is not my fault. And in the end I learned a few lessons that took almost half my life.

And some say sobriety is a cake walk … NOT !!! 23 days …


Mother Teresa and the Kidney Stone

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By DAVID VAN BIEMA Sat Oct 6, 12:20 PM ET

This week the Catholic News Service reported that the cause for the canonization of Mother Teresa could “cross its last hurdle” if the Vatican validated a cure reported by a priest in Guwahati, India on Sept. 5, the 10th anniversary of the beloved nun’s death. The cure in question, originally reported by the Asian Catholic news agency UCA News, was described as “the disappearance of a half-inch kidney stone in his lower ureter.”

Here is the timetable of the miracle, as provided to UCA News by the Archbishop of Guwahati , Thomas Menamparampil: The priest, Fr. V.M. Thomas, suffered several months with the stone, and had taken medications to no avail. Most kidney stones can be removed surgically, however, in what is often an outpatient procedure. Indeed, Fr. Thomas had scheduled a surgery for September 6 and entered the hospital for prep on the 5th. However, he reportedly asked and received permission to leave the hospital and celebrate a Mass at a children’s home founded by Teresa. At the Mass he asked participants to pray to her on his behalf. When he returned to the hospital x-rays indicated the stone had disappeared. The surgery was cancelled. Notes provided to UCA News by the archbishop included a case summary signed by the surgeon stating, “It indeed seemed like a miracle and unique incident as the stone, which could not be dissolved with medicine, just vanished on the particular day.”

At first glance the elimination of a mineral deposit may seem too insignificant to merit sainthood. Indeed, the criterion of the early Church for sainthood was martyrdom. Even when popes established an alternative requirement of anywhere from two to four posthumous miracles, those have tended to be cures of dire, often life-threatening ailments. They were seldom conditions that the sufferer could have dealt with by other means, but simply didn’t.

It was unclear from the CNS report whether Mother Teresa‘s order, the Missionaries of Charity, had officially submitted the reported cure for investigation by the Vatican‘s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. A call and e-mail to a Missionaries official went unanswered.

A certain degree of urgency may have come to attend Teresa’s miracle count. Normally the process of recognizing a saint takes decades or even centuries. But after Mother Teresa’s death, Pope John Paul II waived a traditional five-year waiting period, initiating what some have called a “fast-track” canonization process. The first major step, the establishment of her “heroic virtue,” proceeded quickly. However, verifiable reports of posthumous miracles have apparently been scarce. Teresa was beatified after the first one in 2003. But on Sep. 5 Teresa’s successor, Sister Nirmala, told Agence France Presse that “We are waiting for a second miracle for sainthood to the Mother.” The cure of Fr. Thomas, who had reportedly known Mother Teresa for 18 years before her death, occured that day.

However minor this second miracle may seem, if validated it will probably prove less problematic than Teresa’s first. In that case, an Indian woman named Monica Besra reported that she had prayed for the Mother’s assistance and been cured of an abdominal tumor. However, members of Besra’s medical staff and her husband maintained that her cure could have been brought about by the conventional medical treatment she was receiving. Besra has subsequently complained to the press that after Teresa’s beatification the Missionaries abandoned her.

To be fair, not every historical miracle was earth-shaking or, for that matter, without controversy. Consider St. Antonio de Sant’Anna Galvao, whom Pope Benedict XVI canonized last December. Galvao, who died in 1822 (he was on the slow track) was a Franciscan monk in Sao Paolo who distributed “pills” that were actually folded bits of rice paper bearing the prayer: “After birth, the Virgin remained intact. Mother of God, intercede on our behalf.” Believers swallowed them for various ailments. After Galvao’s death nuns in his monastery took up the pill production. According to England’s Daily Telegraph, as his cause for sainthood began picking up steam, they were up to 10,000 pills a day. The Telegraph reported that the local hierarchy opposed the practice, and a senior archbishop commented that it “foster[s] suspicion.” However, the Vatican was apparently satisfied.

Galvao’s first posthumous cure was of kidney stones.


Something short and sweet …

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I was sick again this morning, and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and sleep which is what I did – so I missed my morning class. But I am up on the reading and I also have the lecture slide from P.P.T.

Saturday I rented some movies, Sophie Scholl and Click with Adam Sandler, we love Adam Sandler movies. When I went to pay they were playing Home Alone in the store because we are hitting chilly weather, it seems that people are getting ‘into the spirit’ a little early!

Yesterday while we were out shopping we stopped by the video store and I found a special edition of Home Alone with deleted scenes and behind the scenes episodes which are really great. And I also picked up a box set of Charlie Brown: a Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!! Woo Hoo!!

Last evening before Big Brother, we watched Home Alone, and like any good person would I was sobbing by the last scene with my tissues and all! I am such a softee…

There are 99 shopping days until Christmas…

I am off to class in a bit…


A Holocaust mystery finds some answers

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By ARTHUR MAX and MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press Writers 

BAD AROLSEN, Germany – Deep in Shari Klages’ memory is an image of herself as a girl in New Jersey, going into her parents’ bedroom, pulling a thick leather-bound album from the top shelf of a closet and sitting down on the bed to leaf through it.

What she saw was page after page of ink-and-watercolor drawings that convey, with simple lines yet telling detail, the brutality of Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp where her father spent the last weeks of World War II.

Arrival, enslavement, torture, death — the 30 pictures expose the worsening nightmare through the artist’s eye for the essential, and add graphic texture to the body of testimony by Holocaust survivors.

“I have a sense of being quite horrified, of feeling my stomach in my throat,” Klages says. Just by looking at the book, she felt she was doing something wrong and was afraid of being caught.

Now, she finally wants to make the album public. Scholars who have seen it call it historically unique and an artistic treasure.

But who drew the pictures? Only Klages’ father could know. It was he who brought the album back from Dachau when he immigrated to America on a ship with more than 60 Holocaust orphans — and he had committed suicide in 1972 in his garage in Parsippany, N.J.

The sole clue was a signature at the bottom of several drawings: Porulski.

Klages, 47, has begun a quest to discover who Porulski was, and how her family came to be the custodian of his remarkable artistic legacy. The Associated Press has helped to fill in some of the blanks.

What unfolds is a story of Holocaust survival compressed into two tragic lives, a tale with threads stretching from Warsaw to Auschwitz and Dachau, from Australia to suburban England, and finally to a bedroom in New Jersey where a fatherless girl makes a traumatic discovery.

It shows how today, as the survivors dwindle in number, their children and grandchildren struggle to comprehend the Nazi genocide that indelibly scarred their families, and in the process run into mysteries that may never be solved.

This is Shari Klages’ mystery: How did Arnold Unger, her Polish Jewish father, a 15-year-old newcomer to Dachau, end up in possession of the artwork of a Polish Catholic more than twice his age, who had been in the concentration camps through most of World War II?

None of the records Klages found confirm that the two men knew each other, though they lived in adjacent blocks in Dachau. All that is certain is that Unger overlapped with Porulski during the three weeks the boy spent among nearly 30,000 inmates of Dachau’s main camp.

“He never talked about his experiences in the war,” said Klages. “I don’t recall specifically ever being told about the album, or actually learning that I was the child of a Holocaust survivor. It was just something I always knew.”

As adults, she and her three siblings took turns keeping the album and Unger’s other wartime memorabilia.

The album begins with an image of four prisoners in winter coats carrying suitcases and marching toward Dachau’s watchtower under the rifles of SS guards. It is followed by a scene of two inmates being stripped for a humiliating examination by a kapo, a prisoner working for the Nazis.

One image portrays two prisoners pausing in their work to doff their caps to a soldier escorting a prostitute — intimated by the seam on her stocking. Another shows a leashed dog lunging at a terrified inmate.

The drawings grow more and more debasing. Three prisoners hang by their arms tied behind their backs; a captured escapee is paraded wearing a sign, “Hurray, I am back again”; an inmate is hanged from a scaffold; and, in the final image, a man lies on the ground, shot dead next to the barbed-wire fence under the looming watchtower.

The album also has 258 photographs. Some are copies of well-known, haunting images of piles of victims’ bodies taken by the U.S. army that liberated the camp. Others are photographs, apparently taken for Nazi propaganda, portraying Dachau as an idyllic summer camp. Still others are personal snapshots of Unger with Polish refugees or with American soldiers who befriended him.

Barbara Distel, the director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, said Porulski probably drew the pictures shortly after the camp’s liberation in April 1945. He used identical sheets of paper, ink and watercolors for all 30 pictures, she said, and he “would never have dared” to draw such horrors while he was still under Nazi gaze.

“It’s amazing after so many years that these kinds of documents still turn up,” Distel told the AP. “It’s a unique artifact,” and clearly drawn by someone with an intimate knowledge of the camp’s reality, she said.

Holocaust artwork has turned up before, but Distel and Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, who is with the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, say they are unaware of any sequential narrative of camp life comparable to Porulski’s.

“I’ve seen two or three or four, but never 30,” said Berenbaum.

In Coral Springs, Fla., where she now lives, Klages showed the book in 2005 to a neighbor, Avi Hoffman, executive director of the National Center for Jewish Cultural Arts. Hoffman immediately saw its quality and significance. The two became determined to uncover its background and find out if the artist had created an undiscovered body of work.

In August, Klages, Hoffman and Berenbaum went to Germany to begin their hunt. They hired a crew to document it, hoping a film would help finance a foundation to exhibit the book.

They began chipping away at the album’s secrets at the Dachau memorial, outside Munich, where they found an arrival record for Michal Porulski, which listed his profession as artist, in 1941.

They learned that Unger hid the fact that he was Jewish when he reached Dachau three weeks before the war ended. “That probably saved his life,” Hoffman said. They also discovered a strong likelihood that the album’s binding was fashioned from the recycled leather of an SS officer’s uniform.

Unger, an engaging youngster, became an office boy and translator for U.S. occupation authorities at Dachau, which was turned into a displaced persons camp, and obtained a U.S. visa in 1947.

Research by Klages’ group and the AP has begun to pull together the scattered threads of Porulski’s life from long forgotten records at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, a tiny museum in Warsaw, Auschwitz and Dachau, the International Tracing Service of the Red Cross, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial archives in Jerusalem, Australian immigration records and data from England.

Porulski enrolled in the Warsaw arts academy in 1934 after completing two years of army service. Attached to his neatly written application is a photograph of a good looking young man with light hair and dreamy eyes.

It says he was a farmer’s son, born June 20, 1910, in the central town of Rychwal, although in later records Porulski said he was born five years later.

Chronically poor, he left the academy after failing to secure a loan for his tuition but was later reinstated. After Germany invaded in 1939, he made some money painting watercolor postcards of Nazi-occupied Poland, two of which have survived and are now in the Warsaw Museum of Caricature.

In June 1940, he was arrested in a Nazi roundup “without any reason,” he wrote many years later in an appeal for help from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Two months later, he and 1,500 others were the first Poles to be shipped from Warsaw to Auschwitz. He spent eight months there, then was sent to the Neuengamme camp and finally to Dachau, near Munich, in May 1941.

In Dachau, according to a brief reference in a Polish book on wartime art, he painted portraits, flowers, folk dance scenes and decoration for a clandestine theater.

In 1949 he sailed to Australia and tried to work as a painter and decorator but mostly lived off friends. He returned to Europe in 1963 and lived in England and France. He visited Poland in the early 1970s for several months, and stayed with his sister, Janina Krol, in Gdynia on the Baltic coast, and another relative outside Warsaw, Wanda Wojcikowska.

He brought his sister paintings of Dachau, his niece, Danuta Ostrowska, now 75, recalls. But her mother threw them away, saying “I can’t look at them.” The family still owns 10 of his mostly prewar paintings.

He was robbed of his money and passport, and Poland‘s communist authorities wanted Porulski out of the country, Wojcikowska’s daughter, Malgorzata Stozek, recalls. “My mother even found a woman willing to marry him, to help him stay in Poland,” she said. But he already had borrowed money from his sister and left.

His letters from England said he found work maintaining bridges, Stozek said. “He wrote that the moment he finished painting a bridge over some river, he had to start again.” It could have been a metaphor for a life going nowhere.

“One day I came to see my mother and she was crying because he wrote to her that he had no money, he was hungry and was sleeping on park benches. He lived in terrible poverty,” Stozek told the AP.

He was so lonely, she said, he had considered suicide.

In 1978 he sent a request for war compensation to the International Tracing Service in the central German town of Bad Arolsen, which houses the world’s largest archive of concentration camp records and lists of Holocaust victims.

“I have no occupation of any sort. I was unable to resume my studies after all those years in the camps,” he wrote. “I am just by myself, and I live from day to day.”

The ITS replied that it had no authority to give grants, but was sending confirmation of his incarceration to the U.N. refugee agency to support his earlier reparations claim.

Unger also shows up in the Tracing Service, in a 1955 two-page letter he wrote recounting his ordeal that began when he was 9.

Unger’s father had a prosperous furniture business near Krakow. “Then the infamous horde of Nazis overran our town, disrupted our life, murdered my parents and little sister, and robbed us of all we had.” He was the only survivor of 50 members of the Unger family.

Christian friends hid him for a while, but he ended up imprisoned inside the Krakow ghetto, then was moved to a series of concentration camps.

His daughter says that after he immigrated to America, he told a cousin with whom he lived in New Jersey that his job at Dachau had been to tend the ovens. The Nazis commonly used inmates for such purposes — it was one of the few ways of surviving.

Newly arrived in America, Unger spoke to Newark newspapers of his years of torment, saying he escaped three times during marches between camps but was always recaptured.

At one point, he told the Newark Evening News, he was herded into a gas chamber at Natzweiler camp with 50 other prisoners, but they were spared at the last minute because some of them were electricians whom the Nazis needed for their war effort.

The two lives, briefly intertwined by the Holocaust and an album of photos and paintings, ended 17 years apart — Unger by hanging himself in 1972, Porulski in 1989 in St. Mary’s Hospital near Hereford, England, of pneumonia and tuberculosis.

The death certificate gives his age as 74 and his profession as “painter (retired).”

Shari Klages was 12 when her father died.

He had just been laid off from his 18-year job in the aeronautics industry, and his wife had been diagnosed with brain cancer. His suicide is given added poignancy by the image of the hanged inmate in the album, and Klages believes it was his Holocaust experience that weighed most heavily on him.

“I have no doubt it was the most significant contributor to his death,” she said.

___

Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report. Arthur Max reported from Bad Arolsen, Germany, and Monika Scislowska from Warsaw.

On the Net:

National Center for Jewish Cultural Arts

Dachau

International Tracing Service


Final Thought of the Night …

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“He has told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you – to do justice, to love steadfastly, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8



Canadian Same-Sex Marriages Growing At 5 Times Rate Of Opposite-Sex Unions

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And WE are TWO of those 45,300 people…

by The Canadian Press

(Ottawa) Same-sex unions are growing at five times the rate of opposite-sex ones according to census numbers that also reveal, for the first time, the number of gay marriages in Canada.

Some 45,300 couples, both common law and married, reported as same-sex in the 2006 census, up from 34,200. Those numbers represent a 33 per cent surge since 2001, while heterosexual couples grew by just six per cent in the same time period.

The historic Statistics Canada query on same-sex marriage, coming in the wake of Parliament legalizing such unions in 2005, revealed 7,465 gay and lesbian marriages.

That’s considerably lower than numbers reported by the now-defunct advocacy group Canadians For Equal Marriage. The group, based on its own research of municipal records, reported last November that 12,438 marriage licenses had been granted to same-sex couples since provincial courts began recognizing such unions in 2003.

The census relegated same-sex marriages to a write-in category under the questionnaire’s ‘other’ box _ a move that raised the ire of Egale Canada. The national advocacy group responded by urging its membership to list their relationships as husband and wife.

“One box for everybody,” is how executive director Helen Kennedy described the group’s position.

“People are people and people just want the same things out of life. Your sexual orientation should not matter.”

Anne Milan, a senior analyst at Statistics Canada, stands by the accuracy of the census data but concedes the limitations of relying on the answers people provide.

“It’s the first time that we’ve asked same sex marriage so it’s really a benchmark number,” said Milan, who added it’s “difficult to say” what effect Egale’s dissent had on the numbers.

“Future census releases will allow us to compare the count and see what’s happening.”

The fact that the question was being asked at all shows that “people are getting on with their lives, which was fundamentally what the whole debate was about,” said Michael Leshner, a lawyer and one of Canada’s first legally married gay men.

“It’s really a debate that hopefully has run its course… We’re just part of the boring middle class now,” Leshner said.

According to the census, same-sex couples accounted for 0.6 per cent of all couples in Canada. That falls in line with numbers reported in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. More than half, or 54 per cent, of same-sex married Canadian spouses were men.

Some nine per cent of same-sex couples had children, more commonly in female unions (16 per cent) than male ones (three per cent). Children were present more in same-sex married couples (16 per cent) than common-law ones (eight per cent).

Clarence Lochhead of the Vanier Institute for the Family says the gay community’s successful fight for marriage reflects the desire to be accepted in the larger community.

“To the extent that you can think of the homosexual community feeling that they’re marginalized populations, I don’t think it’s all that surprising that they would want access to those forms of unions that are recognized in a much wider social community sense,” he said.

Ontario became the first province to legally recognize same-sex marriage following a 2003 decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal. Similar decisions followed in British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, and New Brunswick.

On July 20, 2005, Canada became the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands and Belgium. Spain and South Africa have since legalized gay marriage as well.

“As my spouse Mike Starkel always says, we won. There’s nothing they can do, we won,” said Leshner.

©365Gay.com 2007