When I graduated from Neuland Schule our class decided to forfeit a trip to Italy or to some other fancy vacation spot and instead chose to show our gratitude for passing our traumatizing matura exams by doing a pilgrimage to Mariazell, the almost 1,000 year old Marian shrine in Austria.

In 1157 Monk Magnus brought the small statue carved from lime-tree wood. She later came to this valley of the river Salza amid the northern Styrian Alps. He named her Maria in the cell which later became the name for settlement of Mariazell.

Joseph Haydn wrote a piece named the Mariazeller Mass. When the chapel that had grown into a gothic church was completely destroyed by the All Souls fire in 1827, the Magna Mater Austria herself, as she became known, escaped. She has survived all fires and wars so far.

In 1907 the rebuilt shrine was declared a Basilica Minor. In 1945 the red army vandalized the shrine and forced the defeated and demoralized, dirt poor inhabitants of the tiny town to house 5,000 men.

The memory of our Mariazell high school pilgrimage came back to me as I watched the red army on the March again terrorizing Ukrainians.

Since 1990, thanksgiving freedom pilgrimages from the former eastern block have annually made their way to Mariazell. As a child I was told that it was prayers to Magna Mater Mary that saved Austria from becoming absorbed into the former Soviet Union, and again that it was thanks to many fervent rosaries that Austria was eventually freed from foreign occupation altogether, and so transformed imperial nationalism into a neutral republic.

While political neutrality is only as effective as others respect for it, the attempt to renounce war is a worthy experiment that saved Switzerland from two world wars and might save Austria and Ukraine from the threat of a third one.

Neutrality is not indifference or disinterest, nor does it deny the importance of protecting political borders or personal boundaries. Neutrality is an exercise in empathy and detachment, a way of respecting self and others enough to help build bridges between warring factions.

It takes some degree of objectivity to make scientific discoveries. Perhaps rededicating themselves to political neutrality might help Ukrainians find a way out of the morass of violence and war Putin is inflicting on them?

My mother, Thea-Dora Prohaska-Braun was praying the rosary every day for us, her family, and throughout her final agony. As a little girl I learned to pray the beads on road trips with my foster mother Dr. Maria Scrivanich. May we all learn to invoke the ancient Magna Mater and entrust us and our world to her protection.


When will we ever learn?

We are doomed to relive lessons we refuse to learn.

  1. No war has ever brought peace.
  2. Violence aggravates and magnifies any problem.

When victors humiliate losers they create the circumstances that fuel hate, resentments, and revenge. At home we struggle with the inevitable results of an unresolved civil war. Abroad we are up against unresolved World War I and World War II defeats.

The collapse and humiliation of the Soviet Union created the insanity festering in Putin’s brain, just like the daily beatings by his stepfather created the murderous paranoia of Hitler, and incessant put downs by his father created Trumps incapacity to accept even minor personal defeats much less major political ones.

This is toxic masculinity sweeping across the globe. While we need to defend against and respond to such phenomena, we need to be “cunning like serpents and gentle like doves.”

This is not an either/or proposition. Peace cannot thrive as long as the warrior mentality rules. Authoritarian dictators may be evil, but more likely every one of them is very sick. They need to personally be forcefully restrained.

Mercilessly humiliating whole nations only multiplies the trauma. Traumatized people create traumatizing systems. On 9/11 we had an opportunity to respond from this healthier paradigm. Instead we went to war. Brexit folks are still responding to the loss of the British empire and Austrians still dream of the good old days of the Emperor.

But the difference between us and Putin or Trump is that some of us have learned to be humble without feeling humiliated. Some have learned that to love our enemies does not mean letting them violate us personally or politically. It simply means we recognize we are interdependent, or as Thich Nhat Hanh called it: interbeing.

Therefore it benefits us to act personally as human beings even when confronted by inhuman politics. Edith Stein wrote that “we must try to overcome evil in such a way as to benefit the evil doer.”

AA spirituality teaches us to ask: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”


Luke 1:26-38

Das offene Herz
Erlaubt Licht ins Innere
Die Knospe blüht auf


Haiku Spirit

The red tulip 🌷 opens
Her eye to welcome by ❤️
This happy love day


Lourdes Day

Thirty years ago John Paul II declared February 11th as World Day of the Sick in honor of the first apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to 14 year old Bernadette in 1858.

Years ago Eric, Alex, and I took a road-trip pilgrimage to Lourdes in honor of Oma, whose devotion to and trust in Mother Mary never wavered. Year after year she prayed a daily rosary to benefit our whole family, and throughout her final agony she continued night after night to call out to her mother with unending Hail Marys.

On her last visit to America she insisted that I transform the little stone water pump house at Himmelblau Haus, on Kelley’s Island, into a grotto to honor Our Lady of Lourdes.

The reading for today’s Lourdes Day is John 2:1-11 (the wedding feast at Cana).

Late in life John Paul II added five new luminous mysteries to the traditional joyful, sorrowful, and glorious ones. These luminous mysteries describe events in the life of Jesus’s adult ministry. The second luminous mystery, the first miracle of his ministry, is this poignant exchange between Jesus and his mother. Despite Jesus’s frustration with his mother he does what she asks him to do.

Perhaps our time has come to listen to her? At the heart of the story is Mary’s instruction: “do whatever he tells you to do!”
In these fearful pandemic times what does Jesus tell us to do? Can we choose to trust that he can still turn water into wine?
What about us? Are we willing to provide the equivalence of six large stone jars and are we ready to fetch 90 gallons of hard-to-pump fresh water to fill those jars?

In his book Now is the Hour of Her Return: Poems in Praise of the Divine Mother Kali, Clark Strand includes a poem entitled “Call Me Mother” that concludes:

…If you love Me, call Me Mother,
Daughter, Sister, Lover, Bride
Treat me like a Beloved
If you want to feel my embrace…

“Yes we can” overcome anything, including fear of darkness and disease, if only we are ready to become the beloved community we are searching for.


Sunday Family Time

When I think of family time I think of Sundays. During the rest of the week the kids were off with friends, their dad was hard at work, and my life was full of volunteer activities to make the world a better place.

But somehow, most Sundays we managed to come together for pancake breakfasts, church, fresh baked Italian bread from Mazzola’s, and lots of serious conversations. Later, during more than a decade in Columbus, Sunday mass at the Newman Center followed by a visit to the bookstore on Lane Avenue continued that tradition.

Since our divorce I have tried to continue Sunday meals but with little success. New traditions like the annual family reunion had come along and better survived the break up, until I sold the family homestead on Kelley’s Island.

But this afternoon it looked like family “linners” (Natalie’s term for lunch & dinner) might be another way to continue gathering around my 200+ year old Bauernstube table, share good food, and talk.

Theresa, our youngest granddaughter, had given me specific meal direction; and Eli, the one who shares his birthday with his grandfather, while an hour late, was full of interesting questions and insights. We mostly talked about his interest in whether to take a philosophy course at Case while Theresa shared interesting theological insights.

Listening to these two young ones, I found myself gratefully enjoying what Walter Brueggemann called “serious conversations leading to holy com-union.” In the introduction to his book From Judgement To Hope: A Study on the Prophets, Patricia K. Tull writes “most prophets aimed to reform their world through both criticism of societal practice and visions of hope.”

After everyone left I remembered that today is the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Like MLK, he was one of the great contemporary prophets, and both were deeply influenced by Thoreau and Tolstoi. Gandhi was a devout Advaita Hindu who grew to become a supporter of religious pluralism, a belief that cost him his life. What a great way to celebrate Gandhi’s feast day, around the family table in our little Gotteswinkel (God’s corner), exploring ideas on ethics and nonviolence with these beloved kids.


Never Forget

Today when many remember the liberation of prisoners at Auschwitz, I think of Edith Stein and her sister Rose who were murdered there.

Years ago, while serving as First Lady of Ohio I was honored to receive the gift of a sculpture for the governors residence. The piece was done by a jewish artist who lost his whole family in the holocaust. He alone survived and made it to Ohio, where he continued to honor those who died with his work.

When we installed the piece in the residence garden we dedicated it to the children who were murdered in the holocaust and surrounded the sculpture with a minion of apple trees. On one side of the sculpture we placed a plaque that proclaimed the promise God made to Abraham, that he would be the father of children as numerous as the stars in the sky. On the other side we inscribed a teaching by Edith Stein that read: “we have to overcome evil in such a way as to benefit the evildoer.”

At this time, with antisemitism re-emerging all over Europe and the United States, I am reflecting on how to best honor her advice. Extremists on both the right and left are again using Jews as scapegoats and while the Roman Catholic Church has officially abandoned blaming Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus, plenty of so-called “good Christians” and others are back at this oldest of old blame games. To start let us personally commit to resist antisemitism where or whenever we find it and to work politically to stop all discriminations based on religion, gender, race, sexual preference, place of origin and more.

Overcoming evil is a continuing challenge. Overcoming it in such a way as to benefit the evildoer will take the patience if Job and the wisdom of Sophia. And yet, with faith the size of just a mustard seed and hope in our hearts, we shall overcome and find new ways to continue growing the beloved community we are called to envision.


Just a saint

Saints are not perfect human beings they simply fulfill their purpose perfectly.

MLK was such a saint.

Mother Theresa was such a saint. In my autobiography, We Can Do Together, I describe an encounter with mother and those who worked with her that illuminates the above insight perfectly.

At the heart of a well lived life is the willingness to explore our true purpose on this earth. Purpose expands over time but cannot be extinguished. This is why one of the more useful new year resolutions is to take time and revisit our purpose.

Past, present and future.

While we can learn much from our past and may show imaginative vision for great things in our future, it is only in the present that we can deepen and firmly root our usefulness.

Only in the now can we reach for wholeness of purpose and gratefully accept the embrace of eternal holiness.


Inaugurals & Baptisms

It may not be coincidence that Inaugurals are celebrated at the beginning of New Years and fall around the feast of The Baptism of Jesus.

Yesterday, Justin Bib was inaugurated as our new Cleveland mayor and I was reminded that such celebrations are always occasions to promise more progress and also the best of times to reach out to everyone. Justin did just that and promised to do his best to make more friends than enemies.
Cleveland politics, so far, have proven to be extremely divisive. The very name Cleveland means “divided land” and right now divisions seem inevitable in all our politics. The very health of our form of democracy is at best on life support and fear prowls all around us.

Yet… watching this young man willingly shoulder burdens of leadership reminded me of another young man who years ago was elected governor and how full our hearts were then. Full of hope for better times in Ohio.

That Inaugural too fell on the day that celebrates the baptism of Jesus.

In my autobiography We Can Do Together, I describe that day in detail and today, decades later, I gratefully remember all the good we were able to do together with many and trust that what we failed to do will be yet done by those recently elected.

Since all Inaugurals are a form of baptism they are an opportunity to reject evil and opening our hearts to light and spirit.

The motto of Ohio is: “with god all things are possible.” May our best efforts benefit all and may our failures increase our humility and strengthen hope at the heart of it all.

As I sit here this morning overlooking the graceful skyline of this city, reflected in the troubled waters of the great Erie sea, barely visible in the snowy mist, I bless her new mayor, his family and friends and especially the defeated candidates. Together, may we chose to continue to work, non violently, to benefit all.


Epiphany 2022

This morning at St. Malachis, RoseMarie Dejohn’s family is remembering the first year anniversary of her transition into light. To me RoseMarie will always be the godmother of sister/lay-priest(esses) in the Cleveland diocese.

Yesterday was world peace day and at Don’s underground cafe we remember him and decided to continue to carry on in his name “serious conversations leading to holy Communion” (Walter Brueggemann).

This coming week, let us take time to continue to contemplate the ChristKind in the manger while exploring the meaning of “Unity” as we celebrate the visit  of the three Magi, the Wise Ones, imaginative enough  to follow a star and brave enough to defy Herod’s orders.

Finally remember to credit St. Francis with inventing the tradition of building mangers and so bring to life God’s peaceful presence in the here and now.

For many years Roberta and I choose to celebrate Christmas on Jauaryn 6th to remember “what is essential is invisible” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The three Wise Ones represent the unity of the One God in all creation and so help us birth the deep desire for peace that such unity brings.

“Contemplation is allowing ourselves to become the One we love.” Sister Claire Andre Gagliardi, OSC.