Thursday, September 14, 2017

Alert and Chatty

When I opened the door to the Memory Care unit and spotted my mother, I noticed she was smiling at a woman and chatting in a very friendly tone. She sat on the edge of her chair, leaned in, and kept engaged with the other woman. Then, she saw me and yelled out, "Jack." She then introduced me to all of the people around her and said, "This is my son. This is my son." We embraced and greeted one another and started to catch up.

I then felt a tap on my shoulders. A man whose wife is in the Memory Care unit wanted to speak with me. He is a building contractor in the Blackstone Valley and we knew of each other when I lived in Douglas. We have been corresponding about faith, which has helped him be patient with his wife's illness. We thanked each other and had a nice time talking about his life and his current situation. I'm very edified by the continual patient care he gives his wife. I'm filled with admiration.

After we parted, I returned to my mother and I showed her some pizzelles, an Italian cookie made with anise flavoring. These are her favorite cookies and we grew up eating them. Grandma always used to make them. She told me that sometimes she would stop by her mother's house and grandma would make a stack of pizzelles for the family, but my mother said, "I would eat them on the way home. I knew I should have saved some for the family, but I couldn't bring just a few back for so many children."

Afterwards, I brought out the Hershey Drops. "If you leave them in front of me, I won't be able to stop eating them. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I scream out, 'Does anyone have any chocolate?'"

(The attached photo shows both pizzelles and Hershey Drops - wearing my hat.)

We prayed and shared communion. As we concluded the prayers, I asked, "And what would you like to pray for?"

I pray for the health and happiness of the family, that we can all be happy together.
I pray that we can be even happier.
I pray that I could have done a better job by doing things for all of you.
I pray that my legs don't hurt anymore.
I pray that everyone here has better health.

As we concluded our prayers, I asked about her legs and she said, "I need them massaged. They hurt so much." So I held them but it was too painful for her to raise them even four inches off the ground. Massaging them gently, she would say, "That feels good. Now it hurts. Now it feels good.  Oooh. Aaah." She said, "I think my sister Betty also had pain in her legs. I think she broke her leg a while ago."

We talked about her Ma and Pa. She said, "Pa died years ago. Did you know him?" "I did not know him. I think he died in 1961 or so." "Yes, that is right." "He would look at me with sad eyes because I was not as happy at Betty or Nancy, but I was OK and he knew it. He knew I looked after Doris and Johnny and made them feel better when they were teased. We were all kind of the same. We didn't fit in, but we took care of one another. I just had to do it my own way."

We spoke about Rich, whose birthday was yesterday, and Dawn Mari, whose birthday is coming up. If she were alive, she would be 61 this year. "I miss her so much and we had a hard life, but it made me happy. I wouldn't have had it any other way. We share much love together and she taught us a lot."

We talked death. She said she's not ready, but I think about it sometime. I replied, "That's OK. It is natural and it is positive to think about it. It helps prepare us for when we decide to go. You think about it as much as you need.

Then she said, "You must have to go to work." I said, "I do." "You be on your way then. I know you'll come back soon." Then in mid-sentence, she immediately began to nap. I gently woke her to let her know I would go to work; she gave me a hug and a kiss goodbye, and then rested her eyes in a comfortable nap.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Are you Grumpy today?

I brought garden-fresh tomatoes, some new clothing, and a large crucifix to the nursing home where my mother lives. The staff are so appreciative when you remember them. When I arrived, all the residents were sitting quietly in a circle. No one made a sound until my mother gasped, "Jack."

We started our conversation after she customarily accepted her Hershey drops. I offered some to the nursing staff and they liked the concept of the drops. All in all, my mother had 12 to 14 drops, which gave her plenty of sugar energy.

She made faces at people and said some grumpy things. I asked, "Are you grumpy today?" "Yes, I'm just so sad. I'm sad all the time. I wish things were different. I wish they were like the old days." "What makes you sad?" "All I have is time and I do the same things each day. I'm just so sad."

After talking for awhile, I asked, "Would you like communion?" "Badly," she answered. "Badly?" "Yes, badly. I need to receive communion. I need it." OK. Let' pray then. We spent some time in prayer and she settled down.

After the prayer ended, I said, "I have some homework for you. Will you do it?" "I'll try." "Whenever you feel sad, I want to you say "Thank you" for something good in your life. Gratitude removes your sadness. OK. Can you do that?" "Yes." "You have to choose to be happy. You choose your happiness each day. You can't let the small things bother you; you have to let the small things make you feel good, and we do that when we say thanks." Can we try it now? "I give thanks for that man because he seems like he is praying." "Yes, that is the way to do it. How do you feel now?" "Better." "Every time you feel sad, say "I'm grateful."

"OK. I really like your hat. Can I see it?" "Fifty-nine? Is your head really that big? It can't be." "That is the European scale." "O, (as she puts it on her own head), it fits me well." "Can I take a photo?" "Yes." "Are you going to smile?" "I'm doing it." "I can't see it. Can you say, "I'm thankful for the hat?" "Yes." "OK. There's the smile I want to see."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Rainy Sunday

How to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon of a long weekend - to finally get around to paint or to visit the brethren at Campion Center.

I began the day by saying the Spanish Mass in Dorchester and I was very glad to be back with the people, but it took a great deal of energy out of me. By the end of the homily, my mouth was so tired because I haven't spoken the language for three months. However, I got through it fine. I napped for 1.5 hours.

So, I took out my paintbrush and I remembered my homily. I decided to visit the older and infirm Jesuits at Campion Center, our healthcare facility. I saw some men who used to live in my same community and I was glad to see them.

I visited with one Jesuit who is in his last days. We visited for 40 minutes or so, and he needed to nap. It was so edifying to be with him. He said, "You know. Dying gives us opportunities. The best opportunity is that we can be with the Lord. After all, that is what our lives are about. We never get there in this life, but there's always more."

I saw several other Jesuits who were doing well. We talked about old times and we talked about their current state of their spirits. It was a lovely time and a time well spent.

And this evening, I still have time to paint.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mother Update: She is still sleeping

I visited my mother this morning after she sleepily completed her physical rehabilitation. She was sounds asleep in bed and I gently woke her up and she cried, "I haven't seen you for so long." I said, "I've visited you and you are doing a good job sleeping. You must be tired." "It is good to see you again. I said, "I brought several friends to visit with you and the said hello." She smiled and said, "That is nice."

We talked about her day and she said she was so sad and bored. We chatted about it a bit. I asked, "Would you like a Hershey Drop?" "You know how to make me happy. You know all the things I like. You've always known I like sweets."

I asked about her Ma, and she said, "I really like her. We had good times together, but I gave her a hard time." I asked about Dawn Mari, and she asked, "Where is she? I miss her so much." "She is just in the other room. She is watching over you as you sleep." My mother increased the amount of time she slept.

"Would you like communion?" "Of course." So, we prayed and she cried. She cried some more and then she cried even more. The words of Scripture consoled her. I asked, "You are sleeping a lot. Do you think about death?" "I don't want to die. I'm scared. Not now at least." "Well, O.K. You go whenever you need to go. We will miss you, and we will always keep you alive to us. You'll never be far from us."

"I don't want to go until I make up for the ways I didn't love you all enough." "O, you've loved us plenty, and I thank you for that, but this is the time that we want you to accept our love and thanks. Can you let us love you?" "I have to give more. I did not do enough." "You've done plenty. We want you to rest peacefully and to be content with what you have done for us. Thank you. You've done your very best, and we are all O.K."

"I'm not very happy. I'm bored." "Do you do activities each night with the community?" "No." "What about playing BINGO?" "I hate that game. I've never liked it. It is not fun." "I agree. I don't like it either."

"What about watching movies or having someone read a book to you?" "I do like movies, and I like reading." Would you like us to watch movies with you and to read with you?" "Yes, please."

How are you legs feeling? "They hurt. They tingle." ""Would you like to me massage them." "You tickle me, and it makes me laugh, and I never laugh anymore. I'm too serious." "Well, this is your time to laugh. The time for crying is way in the past. Now is just the time to enjoy life and to laugh. There are so many good people around you and they want to see you smile. Would you like to smile more?" "Yes, we let's do that then. How about a Hershey's drop?" "They make me smile." "And I'll tickle your feet." giggle. giggle. giggle.  Time passes.

"Can you choose to be happy each day? It makes a big difference." "I'm so sad and unhappy, but I'll try." "I'll try with you. You deserve to be happy - especially after all you have given to us. This is your time of happiness."

She said, "I should get on with the day. I have to go to the bathroom.What time is it? "Five past noon.""Would you like me to get a nurse?" "Yes, but don't leave." Just then the nurse arrived and asked if she was ready to get up for the day. She said, "No." I said, "You just told me you were ready to get dressed for the day and to go to the toilet." She said, "I am. I always say No at first." OK. Well, let's get going.

I slowly rose from my crouched position and realized it has been two weeks since my surgery. She doesn't even know that I had it. In prior days, I would have told her that I was having surgery, but it is of no consequence now, but I realized part of my interpersonal loss is that I do not have a parent to update about my health situation and personal life. I do have my Jesuit community, which has always been enormously supportive, but there is loss when you do not have a parent with whom you can share your big information.

However, my job is to make them as comfortable as possible. I want to show them my care as I can and help them prepare to their next stage of life.

Now, I hope I can soon give plasma and platelets for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Her Afternoon Nap

This afternoon a good friend drove me to the nursing home to visit my mother. I felt reluctant to accept the ride because I did not know how long I would be able to visit my mother. Sometimes my mother is wide awake and spirited; other times she would nap soundly in her chair. However, as I am temporarily disabled and dependent upon the goodwill of others, I accepted the offer.

My mother was so tired she was actually put to bed. The nurses said she was awake early and had a lot of energy, but that sometimes sleep overtakes her. The recent times I visited, she had been sleeping soundly. I caressed her hands and her legs and ran my fingers through her hair because she likes it. She was neatly covered with a blanket and I asked, "Are you warm?" She replied, "Yes." So I placed a few more blankets on her and asked, "Does this make you feel better?" "Yeeeeeeeesssssssssss!"

I talked for a few minutes and gave her some updates on news, and she just nodded. I read a little to her and asked if she liked it, and she said, "Yes." So, I asked a few more questions: Are your spirits good? Yes. Do you feel well? Yes. Did you enjoy lunch? Yes. Would you like me to stop asking you questions? Yes. Would you like me to leave so you can sleep? Yes. Would you like me to go now? Yes.

I talked with the nurses, a few patients and their caregivers, the kitchen staff, and my niece, and then began the trek home. I still considered it a good visit.

Earlier in the day, I once again relied upon the kindness of others to collect me from BC High to bring me to Topsfield to say mass. I feel inhibited with my driving restrictions, but it is nice to rely upon the goodwill of others, especially when you know it is an inconvenience. Likewise, I had goodwill from other parishioners to bring me home at the end of mass.

I felt energized to say mass. It takes a while for me to get prepared for the day, so I knew my energy would be directed towards getting prepared for the day. I reviewed in my mind all the events of  public mass that I would have to do just to make certain my body would cooperate. I neglected to remember one part: the genuflection.

I said to the congregation: I may not be able to do this, and they shouted out: Don't, but I genuflected and found that it felt really good. So, I did it two more times during the course of the mass. It felt good to be engaged in public worship.

I suspect I will see my mother later in the week once I get clearance. My bandage comes off tomorrow, and I'm ready to free the wound from its protective cloth. I'm on my way to better health.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Brief Visit

A friend from Jordan came to Boston to visit her son on his birthday, and she accompanied me on a visit to my mother. When I arrived at the nursing home, my mother was sleeping soundly in her wheelchair. She was zonked and it was 2:00 in the afternoon. The nurses said she slept soundly in her bed the night before, but after lunch many of the residents nap before the afternoon activities begin. She was out.

I held her hand and they were frozen. I asked my mother if she wanted a blanket and she said she was very cold. I brought two over to her - one to cover her chest and hands, the other to cover her legs. She was grateful, but she did not lift her head because she was exhausted. She was warming up.

I sang parts of songs to her and she completed them. I mentioned some of her favorite foods and she finished my sentences. I mentioned names of family members and she said something about each one of them. We talked about movies and she said, "O, yes, I like that one." I mentioned songs and she said, "I like so many." She never lifted her head.

My friend talked to her and she spoke back, but she was too tired to raise her head. I did not intend to see her before my surgical procedure on Friday, but I wanted to visit with her before my procedure. She usually rises about 2 p.m. In my haste, I forgot to bring communion to her, but it was providential because my mother was too exhausted for a visit. However, she was warm because of the blankets, she was coherent, and she was tired. Poor thing.

I was off to visit St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer where I would say a prayer for her in the Abbey Church. It was a lovely visit.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Four Weeks Later

I visited my mother last night after not seeing her for four and a half weeks. She seemed fine. Her memory did not seem to slip, which was encouraging. Losing the sense of time is a bit confusing for her though.

My mother talked about being imprisoned because she was saying things like, "I tried to reach you, but they would not let you see me. They didn't even tell you I was looking for you." I figured that was how she was processing my absences, but she also said she hadn't seen the rest of her family for the longest time. I kept telling her, "You've been released. You are free now. I'm sorry that happened, but let's enjoy that you are now free." She seemed comforted.

We shared a cup of ice cream and then the staff was preparing for dinner. It came time for communion and she asked if she was permitted to receive because she hadn't fasted all day. I said, "You are fine."

So, she received quietly. Then she burst into laughter. She said, "I remember the first time I received Jesus. I embarrassed my friends because I did not know how the host would taste and I started choking because it stuck to my tongue." She kept laughing and I thought it would be a good way to leave for the day.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Mass Stole to Celebrate Laudato si.

A mass stole to celebrate Laudato si’

The Jesuit mission in Cambodia has designed a new mass stole to mark the second anniversary of the proclamation of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’ on June 18.  Intended for use by priests during Ordinary Time, the green stole is meant to integrate the spirit and teachings of Laudato si’ into the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
“We hope that this new stole will be helpful in guiding us in praying and caring for creation, our common home,” said Fr Gabriel Lamug-Nañawa SJ, Country Coordinator of Jesuit Service Cambodia, who was part of the team that designed the stole. The other members were Techie Mendoza, a guidance counselor from the University of the Philippines; Tess Rapadas, a former teacher of Miriam College and environmental advocate; and Fr Joey Rapadas, Vicar General of the Diocese of Ipil, Philippines.
The mass stole has been an important part of the liturgical vestment worn by priests for many centuries.  It is a specific mark of their office as God’s ordained servants.  It also helps the congregation focus on the theme of the celebration by displaying the appropriate liturgical color and religious symbols to help guide attention and prayer.
The Laudato si’ stole, which was put together by Talleres de Nazareth in the Philippines, has three features. The first and most visible is the coming together of several colours forming the whole length of the stole.  Eight pieces of cloths, mostly in different shades of green with varying textures, are cut into small pieces and sewn together, giving the stole an earthy feel and a refreshing sense of nature.
“These different shades and textures symbolise the different elements of nature, highlighting the richness and diversity of plant and animal species, habitats, peoples and cultures that are all intimately integrated and united in a single unbroken chain,” said Fr Lamug-Nañawa.
Each stole is unique and different as the pieces of cloth are cut by hand and differ in size, shape and sequence.
The second feature is the crucifix from Cambodia, with the Christ on the cross having an amputated leg.  For many in Cambodia, this crucifix symbolises Christ’s compassion for and identification with victims of war and those who have lost their limbs and their sense of dignity and hope.
“The crucifix provides consolation with the assurance that Jesus accompanies and labours with the people,” said Fr Lamug-Nañawa, adding that creation itself is now marginalised and counted among the poor.
“Through the same crucifix, Christ labours and groans with creation that is violated, with creatures that are poached and driven to extinction, with indigenous peoples who have their lost lands and livelihoods, becoming environmental refugees. Christ's body bears the pain and the injustice that we ourselves are wreaking upon creation.”
Finally, the words “Laudato Si’ Mi Signore” (Praise God our Lord, our creator and redeemer) are stitched on the stole.  The text is shaped like a fish or a leaf, depending on the viewer.
Fr Lamug-Nañawa said, “Besides reminding us of the spirit of Pope Francis’ encyclical, it tells us that our approach to creation does not begin with trying to solve its many problems.  Rather, we are first thankful for all creation, turning to God with praise and gratitude for everything that exists, for existence itself, for God's labouring that makes all creatures beautiful and fruitful. We hope that this stole will inspire greater awareness, empathy, love and responsible action towards God’s creation.”
Fr In-don Oh SJ, Delegate of the Korea Provincial to the Cambodia Mission, will gift the new stole to the Jesuits in the mission when Fr General Arturo Sosa visits from July 14 to 17.

Main and bottom image: Jesuit Service Banteay Prieb Coordinator Fr Kwon Oh-chang SJ, Country Coordinator of Jesuit Service Cambodia Fr Gabriel Lamug-Nañawa SJ and Cambodia Mission Treasurer Fr Rudy Chandra Wijaya SJ wearing the Laudato si’ stole

From the Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference Newsletter, July 31, 2017.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Burundi Choir

Yesterday I was pleased to spend the day with many scholastics and novices from across the country. Some scholastics are in Omaha to do some practice teaching before they go to Regency, and the novice from the Northeast province and English-speaking Canada were returning from their month-long history course in Denver. We had tasty pizza and chicken wings.

A couple Scholastics and novices knew me. One man spent a year in Amman as a Fulbright scholar and joined Dozan wa Awtar, the singing group I came to know and love. Anyways, it was great fun to get to know them.

I love the range of conversations that occur in a larger Jesuit community.

Downtown Omaha is quite fun. A woman was carrying her pet squirrel on her shoulder and all the visitors to the City were wide-eyed when they saw this spectacle.

This morning I returned to Benedict the Moor parish and I was told the Burundi choir would be singing in KiSwahili. They are certainly animated. I love the movements, the ululation, the mix of voices and the age ranges of people who performed in the choir. We had great fun worshipping this morning. I offered mass for a friend in Cornwall, England who suffered a heart attack.

The people politely applauded my homily again and they told me they might not let me return to Boston. We'll see what next week brings.

After some correcting of papers, I plan on visiting a friend for dinner in greater Omaha.

I'm told my mother is doing fine.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Return to Creighton

My arrival at Creighton was quite pleasant. After a smooth and on-time United flight, a Jesuit friend collected me at the airport and got me settled into Ignatius House, which is a separate house behind the main Jesuit residence. It fronts the Jesuit Gardens where people relax during the day and come to watch the fireflies at night.

I decided to preside at a nearby church that is visited by mostly African Americans. They have a social justice outreach to the Nigerian and Burundi immigrants. I enjoyed meeting the people who make the parish work. The music has a bit of Gospel added into the more traditional base of Catholic songs. They really let go for the communion piece. It is great fun. I was told my homily was a hit and people accepted me right away because of the words I spoke.

The two orientations and the faculty meetings went well and I had a reprieve the first day of class because students needed their orientation. So, my first week of classes was only four days. I found myself behind even before I began.

I presided at the opening school liturgy and people were pleased with my remarks during the homily. We were off to a good start.

I've enjoyed meeting the students who are very engaged with their studies. They ask so many questions and want to share what they know. I love their spirit.

I met a friend for coffee and I'll join her and her husband for dinner on Sunday night. I've been walking quite a bit as well, but I've been eating too much. The salad bars are great, but there's also good steak.

Last night I saw a performance of Billy McGuigan at the Omaha Community Playhouse. He performed many songs from the 50's, 60's, and 70's from artists like Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Billy Joel, and some Motown hits. The "Twist" in his music was the Big Band sound that they added to the arrangements. It was a fun night of classic rock music.

This morning I walked to the Josyln Art Museum, which is near campus. The museum is presenting a special collection of French jewelry. I did not expect to spend much time there, but the curator did a terrific job of explaining how the wearing and production of jewelry was tied to the social and political events that were occurring in France at the time. I was surprised to realize how changeable jewelry fashions can be.

With that entertainment done, I set out to work on an article and get some other written work accomplished.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

All She Needs is a Smile

My mother was suffering from a cold when I visited her yesterday. She said she had been weak for days and was having difficulty breathing. Despite her illness, she was calm and relaxed. We sat and talked about her mother and some of the people in the home with her.

A man strolled his wife's wheelchair to a nearby table so he could feed her strawberry cream pie. He knows me from earlier interactions. I would bring a chair over for him to sit next to his wife, or I'd offer him desserts when I get up to get one for my mother. He is a former construction manager and he has been active all his life.

His wife's illness has thrown his world upside down. They been married for 60+ years and he said he remained faithful to his vows of "in sickness or in health." She has been in the nursing home for eight years, three years in the memory care unit. He visits often, probably daily.

He told me about the small events he started to notice about her dementia even before she was diagnosed. He was very patient with her, but he realized something was wrong when she could no longer order a meal from a menu. Overnight, he did a 360 in his work schedule so he could tend to her. It gave him time to reflect on how well he was a father to their children. He provided for them, cared for them, but his regret is that he did not spend more time with them.

My regret is that I did not ask him about his name. I also did not tell him I would be gone for the next month. He was so effusive in telling me his story, but when his wife finished the pie, he got up to take her for a stroll. He is carrying quite a burden and his burden is weighing heavy on his shoulders.

A heavy burden falls on his daughters. They realize their mother has dementia, so did her mother, and likewise her mother, and her mother before her. The daughters have great sadness that this is in their future and they are approaching their 60's. Their mother showed evidence in her early 70's. Poor, dear souls.

My mother enjoyed some Ensure for her dessert because she wanted something to share with me.

Then we prayed and I read some Scripture to her. I felt like I was doing missionary work. I read a passage about Bartimaeus and she had a number of questions, but then I read the Beatitudes and she said, "I really like that. That makes me feel good."

So we read a few passages and she listened intently. I wondered why we do not read books to our parents the way they did to us when we were children. I'll have to try that when I return. Reading Scripture to her was like reading it to someone for the first time. There was intrigue, curiosity, the centrality of the person of Jesus, and lots of questions and facial expressions.

The other gift to her was just to spend some time in silence. We sometimes think we have to fill up the time, but my mother was not asking for conversation.

My mother was restful though, and after some silence, she was waving to a non-verbal woman who gets shunned by everyone else. The woman has a beautiful smile, but she annoys some people because she wheels her wheelchair back and forth. They say unkind things to her, so my mother makes a point of reaching out to her and bringing a smile to her face.

She asked, "Why are people mean? She is a kind woman and does no harm to anyone. Why do they treat her like that? All she needs is a smile."

Then a staff member came over to take my mother to the toilet, and my mother asked her, "She is a nice person, and people treat her badly. Can you make sure she is treated nicely?" She replied, "That is why we put her near you. You accept her and you make her smile. You are a nice lady."

(I leave for Creighton University on Saturday and I will not see my mother for a month's time. I'll check in periodically, but I will miss her and the fine people at the center with her.)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Weight Loss and Management Efforts

Weight Loss and Management Efforts

Weight loss and weight management are among the most difficult efforts to undertake in our middle-age years. Last year, I embarked on a lifestyle change to move closer to my personal weight loss and health goals.  

Not to overly spiritualize my activities, but I started my prayerful discernment on Holy Thursday and my program lasted until the Feast of the Guardian Angels – a six-month process. As I was previously unsuccessful in losing weight, I turned to the Lord for prayerful assistance. To my surprise, when I asked the Lord if He wanted to help me, I heard a resounding “yes.”

I did or could not accept that I was destined to be as overweight as I was, and I wanted to return to a healthier weight range -. The greatest motivator was my desire to reduce nagging pain from hip arthritis. The relief was measurable and I have postponed possible surgery for years. In those six months of my weight loss program, I lost 72 pounds. Over the next nine months, I put six of those pounds back on and I discovered that weight maintenance is much more difficult than a weight loss regime.

What have I learned?

·      We can lose weight. We do not have to accept ourselves as we are. We are not big-boned, we are overweight.

·      Weight discrimination exists. A slender person naturally gets taken more seriously than one who is overweight.

·      Most men think it is fine to be 60-100 pounds overweight. They think they are carrying only an extra 30 pounds, so what is missing is our self-awareness. We need greater awareness of our nutritional needs.

·      We make food a god and we become subservient to it. It is something we seek daily – the pleasure. However, we already have a God to worship.

·      We think going hungry is bad, while it is a natural to build an appetite and to wait for a meal. The continuous supply of surplus food tempts us to make poor decisions about what we eat.

·      We terrifically underestimate the number of calories we consume at each meal and an average portion size is triple the amount we need. We are unaware of the calories that exist in a particular food item.

·      Hiring a nutritionist is an investment in mission. It creates a healthy lifestyle that our doctors will endorse. My nutritional education has been an adventure in learning and discovery.

·      Know that it is not easy all the time; it is a lifetime change, and we resist change.

·      We are what we eat. I don’t want to be a person of gluttony or surplus; I want to use the gift of food rightly. We often have different values in place of good health.

·      We are controlled by so many messages and stimuli about food that pull us off track. We have to recognize the signals that are being communicated to us so we can choose prudently.

How is weight management being responsible to others?

·      We become more available for ministry when we are less drowsy, possess more energy (especially after the afternoon meal), and sleep better. We can work more clear-headed and longer if we are at our ideal weight. Our work is very important to us and we can assist others more greatly if we maintain appropriate levels of energy. Eating too much has a negative effect on our energy.

·      When we overeat on a regular basis, we sleep poorly. Being overweight affects sleep patterns and we wake up in the middle of the night because we are not sleeping well. Then, after a heavy meal, we need a nap.

·      Jesuits are trained to discern spiritual matters, but how are we able to discern spiritual matters if we cannot first discern earthly matters? We must become more aware of the factors that influence our choices.

·      Ignatius inserts his “Rules for Eating” into the Spiritual Exercises for a reason.

·      We have greater accountability to the Society of Jesus, or to family.

o   We are fiscally responsible when we take appropriate care of our health.
o   Health care costs are lowered.
o   There are unintended health benefits, like reduced pain for arthritis or joint ailments; skin ailments disappear, mood is brightened.
o   Pain is greatly reduced in places like one’s back, hips, and knees.
o   The list of prescribed medication drops.
o   Sleep is greatly enhanced and one sleeps more deeply and instantly.
o   If one requires a daily nap, nap time is reduced because we breathe better.

·      Eating simply and modestly is a way of identifying with our poverty. We do not need food in excess or with richness at every meal. Our poverty is not the same as being poor who are targets of harmful advertising campaigns and are tempted to buy food that fills them up cheaply. Fruits, vegetables, and meat are expensive.

A Disciplined Lifestyle

The process I used was to count calories, but that was only a vehicle for my better understanding of nutrition. I thought I knew the fundamentals of healthy eating, but I was just beginning to become enlightened.

I used a free phone application called “Lose-It,” which meant that I had to record after each meal or snack the calories of the food I ate. The number of calories in some food really frightened me, so I cut out most white foods like breads, rice, and potatoes. The pleasure they brought is not worth the calories I want to take into my body.

A major breakthrough for me was in relating to numbers rather than to food. I began to see food as a collection of energy numbers rather than pleasurable food sources and I wanted to keep my numbers manageable. I still have much joy in eating.

Since my trick is to see food as calories, I will not eat certain foods because their pleasure is not worth the calories. For instance, I will not eat mashed potatoes, but if I choose to eat then, I simply have a spoonful of potatoes. Typically, we eat sizes of six or seven portions and then cover it with butter or gravy. They are tasty, but they cannot be part of a healthy lifestyle.

The application takes into account one’s age, height, current weight, and the pacing of one’s goals. For a man in his mid-fifties, a normal calorie intake is around 1,800 units.

Balance your calorie counting with exercise. Finding walking routines can be helpful.


As I observe a customary meal at a Jesuit community, the following patterns are established: 

The day begins with a full hearty breakfast. (600 calories)
An office mid-morning snack (400 calories)
An American sized lunch with dessert (800 calories)
A mid-afternoon snack, two cookies (600 calories)
Cheese and crackers before dinner with a glass of wine (600 calories)
Dinner with dessert and a glass of wine (800 calories)
Evening snack (300 calories)
2 sodas for the day (250 calories)
Total: 4,350

Dealing with Restaurants the society’s temptations.

Society gives us subtle and overt messages, like:
·      You deserve to treat yourself (each day)
·      Enjoy the pleasures of life by eating sumptuously
·      Get a great value, discount, or a coupon to your favorite restaurant
·      All-you-can-eat at a great price
·      Super-size me. Get the larger portion. It is a deal

Know that restaurants give you portion size that are triple what you require. Portions are difficult to control in restaurants, and we want to be polite with our dining partner. Meals are cooked to be flavorful, so they have lots of added ingredients, which adds calories and excessive amounts of sodium and sugars.

A low-end restaurant meal is 1600 calories; the average range is 2,200, which exceeds one’s daily limit; then we add a drink, appetizer, salad, entrée, wine or two, dessert, coffee or cordial. We double our daily intake at a single sitting and we have not cut back on the other meals during the day. Restaurants are skilled in tempting us with value, size, tastiness, mood setting, and excellent marketing.

An average meal ought to contain: 3 ounces of protein; 3 ounces of starch, and 6 ounces of vegetables.

Demand that restaurants prepare vegetables as skillfully as they prepare meats and other dishes. They can do it. In fact, they want to please you. For example, I ask for my vegetables to be prepared al dente without any butter or salt, just a slight drizzle of olive oil and some coarse pepper. Vegetables can be tasty when they are not overcooked. Welcome the vegetables to your plate.

How can we approach a healthy lifestyle?

·      Eat what makes you feel good, not what is pleasurable or pleasing. It means that you have to adjust your attitude.

·      Know that it is OK to feel hungry. We are not built to be continually satiated.

·      Ask specifically for what you want. Do not take just what the restaurant offers. You are the consumer and you might as well get what you want. Instruct them to cook your vegetables to your liking. Ask for a second vegetable instead of a starch, and if possible, ask them to steam your vegetables and to withhold the butter.  

·      Take care of the social traps of eating. Find other ways of spending time with people: walk, have/drink coffee;  sharing a meal does not have to center around food, though we are a Eucharistic people.

·      Eat anything you want, but keep it balanced. Look at your meal for the week: If you stumble today, put it in the context of a whole week. Make sure you get back on track, but do not beat yourself up over it.

·      Make sure you eat snacks. Do not deprive yourself, but the trick is to plate it. Take as much as you want, but do not go back for more. Put the snack items away in the cupboard or the refrigerator and enjoy what is on your plate. Be deliberate and take no more.

·      We can be derailed if we let ourselves change our standards in mid-course. We are strong enough to say to ourselves, “Yes, I can have deviate from my plan, and I’ll get back on track,” but then it is difficult to do so because we find that we are addicted to sugar, which has us sneaking back for me. We sin because we are strong, not because we are weak.

·      Don’t eat because of a routine; eat a later breakfast; eat when you are hungry. Find your rhythms and adapt to them. Babies eat every three hours; so do we. We get hungry on our own schedules.

·      Use custody of the eyes – Tell yourself, “No,” but don’t feel guilty for making choices. You do not have to have the dessert because it is on the tray. You will be offered another slice of Boston Cream Pie at some point in your future. The world is not going to run out of your favorite sweets. Tell yourself, “I will have this again. It might be six months from now, but I will treat myself with my favorite dessert.”

·      Food is pleasurable, but constant over-indulging takes away the joy. Treats are not meant to be had every day. Splurge when you want but keep desserts for maybe once a week, a Sunday meal. It is supposed to be a treat, not an everyday staple.

·      Give yourself time to eat food: enjoy it; chew. Give your body time to digest the food and to get full.

·      Get excited about eating well and eating vegetables. Your changed attitude will keep you moving forward.

Food Choices

·      Limit juices and soda, and drink sparkling or tap water.

·      Desserts – two bites is enough; three feeds a sugar addiction. Be aware that sugar is addictive and we lose the battle if we indulge too much.

·      Carbohydrates: Oust them from your diet in a weight reduction mode: cheeses, rice, breads, pasta, white foods, potatoes, fried foods, skins. They have to go.

·      Watch for Sodium levels, fiber, sugars. Avoid condiments. Learn how to read labels.

·      Find low calorie snacks: pretzels, popsicles, hummus, rice cakes, sugar-free candies; vegetables – you cannot eat too many vegetables.

·      Avoid salad dressings and sauces: Be abstemious with them; dip your fork into the sauce. It will give you enough flavor for your salad or entrée.

·      There are plenty of good options at meals; actively choose and do so wisely.

Social Implications

The social implications were the hardest part of the whole program because I had to reprogram everyone to my needs. It was a challenge to stand up for myself.

I am an accommodator, which goes like this: I please you. I eat whatever you serve with the double portions even though you will not eat it when you made it personally for me because you are on a diet. I please you; If I reject what you offer, I reject you. It goes against my values of hospitality, especially my Italian heritage.

Accept that people will not like to see you at an average weight. They think you are too thin, even when you are still overweight. Tell them it is OK to ask you if you are well or sick.

Change your attitudes towards eating and hold fast to it. Also, know that many people will be hostile to the change you are making. They will not want you to lose weight and they will actually ask you to eat more so they can relate to you as the person you used to be or the person he/she is.

Communicate your needs to your friends before you go to a restaurant or home, especially if they insist on paying for the meal. They want to give you the best and they want you to indulge. Let them know what you eat and do not eat. Explain to them that you eat modestly and that you prepare a different portion size than they serve. Ask if you can prepare your own plate. Otherwise, they are going to feed you too much and make you overeat. It is about communicating and respecting boundaries and asking others to respect yours.

Be aware of food bullies, those people who push food with the message: Try it. I made it. Accept me.        

Community eating is difficult because the cook will prepare foods that the men want to eat. They want the men to like their cooking. Cooking healthy gets put on the back burner. Ask for the community to have healthy meals, and you can have an unhealthy option, rather than having it the other way around. Let the community help you.

Keep asking for help and do not overly pre-occupied with food. Consult a nutritionist, nurse, primary care physician; food support group. There is a lot of help for you when you decide to accept it, but it is a matter of your will.


Though I have shed weight to reach my desired goal, I know it is much easier to go through this with a community of support. Weight maintenance is harder than weight loss. I am happy to assist you with support in your weight loss and weight maintenance goals. I want to continue to be successful and I need encouragement along the way, and it is good to talk through our processes. I have learned a great deal and my primary care doctor said I have probably added another four years to my life by caring for my body. I’m more than happy to support your efforts. Do you want to give it a try? I’d like you to do so. Let’s do this together.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The kids stole the show

I rehearsed the Gospel reading and the homily before the Spanish mass today. I knew the deacon would be away and I would have to be prepared for a number of unexpected requests. Usually, I can forward the people to the deacon and he takes care of everything. However, I thought, "This is summer and many people will be away. Nothing out of the ordinary will occur."

As I approached the church, I saw a dozen Anglos looking lost. They approached me and said they were here for the Baptism of their child but they misunderstood the time. They arrived at 10:00 a.m. instead of 1:30 p.m. I sent them off to see the parochial vicar because, as a visiting priest, I have no authority over those decisions. I simply carry out what the pastor has arranged.

The parochial vicar returned and said, "The people said you were willing to do the baptism right after mass," to which I replied, "I said no such thing. I merely told them to see you." He said, "I thought so. Don't pay any more mind to it."

The family came back and said they were willing to come to mass for the baptism. So, I checked with parishioners and they were fine with the idea. The musicians, servers, lectors, and people agreed, so I agreed.

After all, the homily was about being hospitable. If we welcome others, we welcome God.

So I did the baptism in Spanish, with a little English, and the little baby slept through it all. She groaned at the exorcism, snoozed deeply at the triple immersion, yawned at the anointing with Chrism, and was very content during the placing of robes.

So, I said, "Isabella, would you like to meet your new community in Christ?" She awoke. I paraded her around the church so everyone could see. Everyone was clapping and smiling and send their blessings upon the child. It was a joyous moment, especially for the parents.

Then we continued with mass. I raised my arms during the Preface, "Lift up your hearts," and an eight month old Dominican toddler raised his arms with me. He then took steps up into the sanctuary and then retreated. He charged again and I was there to meet him. We continued with the prayers, and as I extended my arms, so did he. I placed him with the altar servers at the institution rite and then collected him again. When it came time for the Doxology, I gave him to the older girl altar servers so they could say the "Our Father" with him. He did great. Then we stood and gave the kiss of paz to everyone, and I returned him to his Big Mami. She was full of joy. All was good.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sweden's first Cardinal

As many of you know, I visited Sweden in April to give an artistic retreat to Catholics and Lutherans.  The week after I returned home, the Swedish bishop was elevated to the level of a Cardinal, which made me very glad for the Catholics in the nation. A friend sent me this article that outlines his address as Cardinal to the National Catholic Register (USA)

Sweden’s First Cardinal Speaks With the Register
Newly minted Cardinal Anders Arborelius is not only the country’s first cardinal, but also the first ethnic Swede to be made bishop since the Reformation.
Article main image
Newly minted Cardinal Anders Arborelius is not only the country’s first cardinal, but also the first ethnic Swede to be made bishop since the Reformation.

In this June 28 interview with the Register’s Rome correspondent, Edward Pentin, at the convent of Santa Brigida in Rome, Cardinal Arborelius, a Discalced Carmelite, discusses his path to receiving the red hat, why he thinks Pope Francis chose him, and why he believes it comes at a providential time for the Scandinavian country, where the faith is growing in the face of rampant secularism.

He also discusses the limits of ecumenical dialogue, recalls the Pope’s visit to Lund last year to mark 500 years since the Reformation, and shares his views on Amoris Laetitia, particularly the diverse interpretations of contentious passages in Francis’ apostolic exhortation.

Your Eminence, you’re the first Swedish bishop to have been made a cardinal. You also have a very interesting background, being the first ethnic Swede to be made bishop since the Reformation. Could you briefly tell us your story, perhaps beginning with your conversion?
t has a lot to do with the house where we are [the convent of Santa Brigida] because my first Catholic contact was with the Sisters of St. Bridget in Switzerland.

I was born in Switzerland, to Swedish parents, to a Protestant, nonpracticing family, but already during my childhood and youth, I had contact with Catholics, especially those sisters.

Then, gradually during my youth, I entered more and more into my Catholic faith. So when I finished high school, I started a course for converts, and at the age of 20 I was received into the Catholic Church. Then after another year, I wanted to be a priest. The bishop told me I had to wait, as it was too short a time.

During that time, I discovered the Carmelite Order, thanks to reading St. Thérèse of Lisieux. So in 1971, I entered the Carmelite Order, in a little community in southern Sweden, and then I did my studies in Belgium and Rome. Then in 1979, I was ordained a priest and thought I would remain in that monastery, but in 1988 the Pope [St. John Paul II] asked me to become bishop in Stockholm, so that was really kind of a spiritual revolution — everything changed. I had to get more used to public life.

Then, of course, a few weeks ago, the Pope decided to make me a cardinal, but he didn’t tell me before and [it] came as a complete surprise.

I’ve tried to adapt to that new task and new responsibility; and, of course, it’s an historic thing in Sweden. We’ve never had cardinals, and I don’t know so much what it will entail or mean in a concrete way, but in Sweden it has aroused a lot of interest and sympathy from people all over society.

Could you tell us what drew you to the Catholic Church in your youth?

Well, the first thing was personal witness.

I met persons who lived the Gospel, who could show Christ’s love, who really showed us what it means to be a Christian. Then, gradually, I had to study the doctrine, and everything somehow spoke to my heart. It was nothing special, but I felt this is all what God means for us. It is the truth: It is nothing to discuss, just to accept and be happy that God has given us his Son and his Church.

So it was a very simple growth into the Church — no big experience of conversion, just step-by-step to discover the truth of Christ, transmitted by the Church.

A lot has been said about why the Holy Father chose you to become a cardinal. What do you think are the reasons?

Well, it’s not a question many people have put to me. I cannot read his thoughts and heart, but if we look at Pope Francis, we see he goes to the poor, to those far away, to those forgotten in the margins.

Sweden is really a peripheral reality in the Catholic Church, and yet at the same time, it’s also a growing Church in secular Europe today, and that’s really something astonishing. So I think there are various reasons, but as to his real thoughts, only he and God know. But we feel he has really looked to forgotten parts of the world, such as Mali, Laos and Sweden, because in various ways we’re very marginalized in the Catholic world.

A long-standing challenge the Church has faced in Sweden is secularism and secularist ideology, which is prevalent in the country. The country has the highest abortion rate in Europe, and recently it was reported that midwives who don’t want to perform abortions can’t get jobs. Sex education is compulsory and graphic. What, to you, are the most disturbing developments you’ve seen lately, and what is the Church doing to address them?

The Church can offer an alternative, and that’s become more and more evident — that people feel emptiness; that something is missing. That’s what we see, that even if people do not accept everything we say, they look upon it [the Church] as a kind of alternative. And more and more people, also in the media, have become Catholic.
So it’s very interesting to see that even if we are a small, humble minority, and we don’t have the possibility to proclaim the faith all over society, at the same time, there is a growing interest in Catholic doctrine and Catholic spirituality, as well as a Catholic ethical outlook.

Of course, a big mass of people are not interested, but, more and more, people who are conscious see that we have something to offer as an alternative to a very secular, individualist and hedonistic lifestyle that cannot fill the heart of people.

Do you think that’s part of the reason for this rapid growth in Sweden of the faithful? Is it perhaps because we’ve reached a nadir of secularism that we’re now coming out of?

It could be one of the reasons, of course, but the Catholic growth is mostly through immigrants. There are conversions, but the growth is really more due to immigration. But for those who chose the Catholic Church, they have discovered there is an alternative: that the Catholic Church can help them to live the Gospel in a pluralistic society. They are also very impressed that we come from all over the world. Catholics in an ordinary parish come from 50, 60, 70 nationalities, and still we can live together. So for many people, it’s a sign that it’s a universal message to all the world.

Immigration is a major issue in Sweden, and recently there’s been growing criticism of the large numbers of migrants. Some are concerned about the friction this causes. How much is this a concern of the Church in Sweden, and what are you saying about this tension?

Well, of course, Sweden has been a very monolithic society, and many people in Sweden haven’t realized and accepted that it’s a country of immigrants.

Of course, there’s a growing Swedish nationalism, and that means the policy has also changed, but still most Swedes are open to some kind of generous policy. That doesn’t mean anyone can come, but I think the majority is open to a multicultural society. And, of course, it’s thanks to that that the Catholic Church has been able to establish itself. In the beginning, Catholics were regarded as something strange, foreign, and it remains today our main challenge to help the young generation to grow up, become Swedish and remain Catholic, because many regard it as opposition: You’re either Swedish or either Catholic.

I often get the question: “Are you a real Swede?” — because for many people it’s impossible for a Catholic to be a real Swede. Of course young people want to be integrated, and when they are aware of their Catholic heritage, it can be a kind of conflict.

Many young people live in two worlds: In church and with family, they are Catholic, but among their friends they try to adapt. So that’s our main concern: to show we are a part of the society, not a foreign body, but have something different to offer to Swedes today.

And, of course, that tension is perhaps hard to comment on because immigration is so important to the Church in Sweden.

It is, yes. And it’s true that there are some Catholics who think we’re not Swedish enough.

Most priests are from Poland and other countries so, of course, there are some tensions within the Catholic community, and many Catholics prefer to have Mass in their own language — Polish, Arabic and so forth. So we have to promote this inner Catholic unity, and I think that’s a very important thing to show to Sweden of today: that it is possible to live together today with various backgrounds if you have something in common — a value, a gift, a faith to bring you together. But it’s become a bit harder.

I’ve also been attacked by some Catholics who think I’ve been too open to immigration because they wanted to be more solidly Swedish.

Moving on to Lund, that was a major event the Holy Father came to, but also a much-discussed one. Some criticized it for being a celebration of Luther; the Church’s preparatory document, “From Conflict to Communion,” was criticized for painting Luther as a religious hero who led way to a more true form of Catholicism. In spite of this, have there been any positive fruits?

I’ve seen it’s been easier for Catholics and Lutherans to meet, for instance young people. In Lund they regularly have vespers, or in the Lutheran cathedral and Catholic parish, there are also working groups. So I would say it has had an impact, also on society, because in the media we Christians are always described as quarreling, discussing conflicts internally, and we have tried to show that we have the main thing in common: the Gospel. We try work from that standpoint. Of course, we don’t try to hide that we’re all different. We have to be conscious there are difficult doctrinal, ethical questions that are not solved. But if we have as a foundation human, personal relationships, friendship and acceptance, it’s easier to cope with the differences.
So I’d say this meeting has shown that the Holy Father is willing to take a step toward the Lutheran Church, as he did toward the Russian Orthodox in Havana, toward the Coptic Church in Cairo — that he’s really serious about ecumenism, not hiding some very crucial differences that are not solved.

But what’s the limit — how far should the Church go with Lutherans before one says: That’s close enough, our differences are still too great?

Well, it’s very difficult to say. I would say it the other way around: When we come close, it becomes more painful that there are divisions; for instance, on the question of the Eucharist. Many Lutherans say: “Why can’t we have intercommunion now?” And we have to say, “No, there are still very different things we have to discuss about the Eucharist, about the ministry and so forth.” So it’s very important to work on a positive beginning, that we have something in common, that we share many values, and that, gradually, we have to see where the main difficulties are.

For instance, I said the Lutherans always wanted to invite the Pope. That was a sign of a certain acceptance of the Petrine ministry. You want to celebrate Luther, but you’re also willing to invite the Pope who, at the time of the Reformation, was also the source of conflict. So it’s a sign that you, in some way, accept the Holy Father as a symbol or as a prophetic figure on the way to unity.

Some said: “Well, we do, in a way, but we cannot hide difficulties,” and it’s very important not to do that, to say “we have reached complete unity.” And then, of course, it will be a very difficult period when we study these issue more closely in the ecumenical dialogue.

In Lund, after the ecumenical gathering with the Pope, I asked some of those present if the event made them want to become a Catholic, and they all said, “No.” Are you concerned there doesn’t seem to be that forward momentum toward conversions? What’s the end game in this? Does it lead to conversion to the Catholic Church, in your view?

Of course, the answer would be very different [depending on who you ask]. There are people in the Lutheran Church who say: “We are the Catholic Church, the real heirs of the medieval Church; we have kept the heritage alive; we have apostolic succession.” Of course, we cannot accept that totally, but there are those who really mean that, that they have kept so much of the heritage that they can call themselves Catholic. That can be a very great difficulty, because when immigrants come to Sweden they hear: “We are the Catholic Church here in Sweden; you are the Roman Catholics.”

So there are these points of discussion that are very tricky. That is true.

Also making it difficult is when, for example, Antje Jackelen, the archbishop of the Swedish Lutheran church, thinks the Virgin Birth is a mythological term and supports same-sex “marriage” in church. This is very difficult, isn’t it, for providing a common witness?

It’s true — there are questions that are very tricky, and we cannot hide that. That’s our daily problem, but we need to say there are some old divisions not solved, and we have these new divisions because within the Lutheran Church there are also many who do not accept same-sex “marriage.”

Some 800 pastors have said they’re not willing to do these “marriages.” So I’d say within the Lutheran Church there are different points of view.

There have also been certain frictions that became apparent in the lead-up to Lund, scars of the past. Do you think, though, that the Catholic Church will have a greater say in the country in the future?

I think so, because Sweden is opening up to the larger world; it’s not so isolated anymore. And the Pope has become very popular in the media. Of course, they take some prophetic gestures, they don’t analyze his total doctrine, but there is more openness to the Catholic Church. And, of course, I experienced that very much when I became a cardinal — from the media, not from the higher part of society, because we didn’t have any congratulations from the prime minister or the king. Of course not, we’re not at that point. But from ordinary people, from various backgrounds, there is a kind of respect. They know what the Catholic Church teaches; they don’t accept it, but they somehow have an admiration that we stick to what we believe, and that gives us a certain respect, even if they don’t accept it.

That is our strength in our society in Sweden where everything is changing: that there is the Church which tries to be faithful to what has already been taught, the doctrine that Christ has always transmitted. So I would say there is a reluctant admiration of the Catholic Church, also a critical voice. Still one can also hear people compare from outside: Whatever we say about the Catholics we know they believe what they say.

Especially, I suppose, in contrast to the Lutheran Church, which is so fractured.

Sometimes it’s a bit of an unjust criticism of the Lutheran Church, because it was the established church. It was part of the leading echelons of society. But somehow, I think, the Catholic Church, especially among some intellectual parts of society, it’s regarded as a partner of dialogue, because we don’t say everything they say. Some of them like that because then they have to give reasons for what they proclaim.

On the subject of unity around doctrine, there’s been debate and controversy over Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family and differing interpretations of that document. Is that a concern of yours? Because some say we have, for the first time, different sets of morality, depending on where you live, when it comes to this question of Communion for the divorced and remarried. What is your view on this?

I’m surprised that in Sweden we have had very little of this debate, and the Scandinavian bishops’ conference hasn’t given any commentary on this side of the question. I’m a bit surprised we’ve not had a lot of discussion about that, but I always add that the Scandinavian bishops’ conference, in their dialogue on ad limina visits, points to the fact that most people who marry in Sweden, either in a Protestant church or in a civil marriage, don’t have the same vision of marriage as we have. We would somehow prefer to look on them as valid and invalid. Many people want to become Catholic, but it’s hardly possible because they’ve been married several times, and it can be very hard in the process of annulment to show that they had not the intention that the Church has. So we have to point to that reality: that most people who marry in our countries have a totally different vision of marriage; and on same-sex “marriage,” it’s even more evident, of course. So I think we have to be more conscious of that when we help people to become Catholic. Maybe in the future it’ll be different because now there is more cohabitation than marriage, one marriage after the other.

But is it a concern of yours, this situation that is developing around the world?

Well, of course, it’s always difficult when there are different points of view on these issues, and I would say that the main concern is that marriage has become so weak, also in Catholic countries. I know some bishops say that unfortunately many young Catholics who marry don’t understand what they are doing. I think that’s the main concern of Amoris Laetitia: to have a better preparation, because we live in a world where the media is totally different, the Catholic vision of marriage is totally different, so young people have no idea what they’re doing when they marry.

And many years of poor catechesis.

Yes, and we see that when people come to Sweden as Catholics. They have to make a constant, or conscious, choice, either to be more profoundly convinced of their faith; otherwise, they will just go away. It has to do with the vision of marriage, secularity and all these issues, because society offers a totally different vision.

Would you nevertheless like clarification on this issue, as the four dubia cardinals have asked for?

Well, I think it’s an issue for the entire Church to deepen, and, of course, that will take time because the situation is very different in the Western world. We know that the Catholic vision of marriage is rarely accepted, even by many Catholics, if we are honest, and that means we have to start, really, a new kind of evangelization on that issue, because otherwise it will be very hard to cope with that situation.

The argument is that the best way to counteract that is to simply preach the truth with clarity.

Of course, it is because we have a wonderful doctrine on marriage and sexuality, but very few know about it. They have a very superficial view of marriage and what it really means, and so that’s really a question for a New Evangelization.

Lastly, what are you plans and hopes for the future as cardinal? Do you have any programs to work on?

Well, I always say I don’t know what it will imply. I don’t know if I will have to have some kind of task in some kind of congregation in Rome or something. I will have to see what the Holy Father asks of me. But what I see, for instance, in Sweden, is that it will be more of an official situation for me, because, as a cardinal, people are interested to hear about our faith and Church. So I will see. I’m sure I will have much more to do in Sweden, so I’m a bit afraid, if they want me more in Rome, I won’t have time for them. I think this is a providential moment for the Church in Sweden. Last year, we had a canonization, we had the visit of the Pope, and now a cardinal, so it’s a unique moment in our Catholic history in Sweden.

Which reflects the growth of the Church in Sweden, as you say?

Yes, it is truly a very important moment for us, and we have to make the most of it. You never know about the future, but for the moment, people are interested in us. They seem to have more sympathy for, and more openness to, the faith; and then we have to be better to evangelize Sweden. We are not a little group in a “ghetto” outside society, but we have a voice in the public life of Sweden.