Sunday, April 27, 2014


To my dear brothers and sisters, branches of the Great Dion/Bachand tree that God planted in Zenon Park and is now flowering in many corners of the world.
It is a moment of reality for all of us of our generation, the grandchildren of Eugene "Big Red" and Ora.
This is an open letter to you all, and I write it in full conciousness of my God given gift as the first born of our generation.  I hope that I don't offend you in the following paragraphs.  It is not my intention to offend anyone but to support, encourage, enlighten, comfort, accompany and stand quietly by in my own state of awe, respect and meditation at the plan of God as it unfolds before us along the path to eternal glory.

There are but few of us who have had the challenge to accompany a loved one through long periods of suffering through the deterioration of health.  The great majority of us have experienced the slap of sudden death snapping our hearts into a dark hole of emptiness.  Some of us even pray for that same manner of departure for ourselves.  I for one pray for that every day.  I, more than most of you, have accompanied many people to their grave.  I, more than most of you, have accompanied families and friends through the throes of watching loved ones spend what seemed to be endless time on the threshold between here and there.  I have talked, preached and written much about death and dying.  Very, very little of it to you.
Well, enjoy it, this is it. :-)

For those of you who don't know, I will tell you that I have lasted for 77.25 years so far.  That sounds like George Carlin, doesn't it.  Since this is the first time that I have been this old, I can't tell you if I feel my age or not.  I can tell you that I know very well how I felt at 35.  I also can tell you how I felt at 74.  At 35 I was still kicking ass no matter how tall the adversary was.  At 74 I spent 3 months in a wheel chair.  Which is good because then no one could kick my ass.  As it stands now, I can get kicked again but the only kicking I can do is with a sharp pencil.  So now you know.

At the present, I have been visiting people whom I know who are really sick.  I also got the news about David Dion, son of Alcide and Betty and the oldest brother of Deanna, who happens to be the first born of Al and Betty. David is one sweet guy and there he is, not really old according to 21st century standards, but really sick.  Veronica his wife has been sick and seems to be a little better now.  Then, down goes ol' David.  So that got me to thinking about us Dions and the way we get to the Pearly Gates.  I didn't look it up, but here's what I found off the top of my head:
Long sufferers:
Grace Dion married to DeGray
Jeanine Dion, my sister
Ora Dion, old age
Edward Dion, Alzheimer's, younger brother to Grace
Don Dion, the "Baby of the family"
"Hadjr" DeGray, still here, but suffering

Quick exits:
Cecile Dion, complications after childbirth
Ray Dion, here today and gone today
Norma Dion, ditto
Al Dion, ditto
Elna DeGray, Murphy, Grace's daughter, here today and gone today
Melina Dion, my mother, ditto
Harley DeGray, ditto, Elna's father

Normand Dion

Either way, someone suffers and so I just had to see what I had written about suffering in comparison with what I had written about death.
What I came up with was this, mainly:

I looked for that after I had written this to my sister Emélie (I always put the accent when I'm serious).  Now, I write it to you.

"Thank you for the update.  I appreciate the news.  We continue to accompany him (David) and the family in our prayers.  I pray that as a family we can hear the voice of God with hearts of loving unity during moments that can carry a lot of contradiction.

"Suffering is not just physical.  At times like this it becomes clear to us that suffering is also an emotional community reality.  It is at times like this when we either appreciate the truth that the suffering of Jesus, the Innocent one, is shared in the suffering of His human family, saints or sinners.  When His suffering visits us that is the moment when we know that He meant it when He told us to pick up our cross and follow Him.  (Matthew, 16;24) It is in moments of great suffering that we know that suffering is not a punishment for our weaknesses.  It is an honor given to those whom God judges to have the courage to share in the Sacrifice of Jesus.  It is a glorification of our faith that God uses to pair us with His only Son so that His suffering, lived by us, is our part in the Divine Sacrifice that He offered for the salvation of all.  After all, the suffering is not ours to own.  Like everything else, it is His.  It is  given to us to share for the eternal good of His people, in whom we are all included.  I pray that we all have the Grace to walk to Calvary, heads and hearts held high filled with the courage to be able to say to those who weep, "Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children." (Luke 23;28)

My personal prayer is that each and every one of us, God's children all, can accept our responsibility in the act of eternal salvation, not only our own but that of all God's family, from the closest to Him to the farthest from Him.  At no time during our lives are we so involved in the work of God as when He calls upon us to suffer as His Son did, not for ourselves, but for the Communion of Saints.

I offer one final thought.  Some of the sharpest, crushing, stretching, grinding and wringing suffering that we may be called upon to share with God will come at a time when we know, or think, that we are still far from death's door.  When I thought I was going to die, suffering was assuaged by the thought that the end wasn't that far away.  It was then that I thought of my sister Jeanine and my God-mother Grace who suffered for years.  I thought of my father's chronic pain and the fact that he knew that it was not a life-threatening condition.  I thought of many widows I have known who had to face life with young children and had no gainful source of income.  
I presently think of people I know who have psychoses and/or neuroses to live with.  In their calm and lucid moments, these souls have plenty of suffering, wondering if they will ever get to be "normal."  I think of the mothers who kept offspring that came to them as a result of a violent act against them; I think of the families who have semi-formed children as a result of taking Thalidomide and I often think about a couple of very special families who are well known to and admired by me and the lives that lead.  

Yes, you all, suffering is not easy, but it is also not intolerable to those who know where it comes from and where it leads.  We all have our sheltering olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We can hug that special tree and talk to God from there and thank Him for trusting us with the hardest of His missions - that of the Suffering Servant.

Yes, I pray that we all have the grace to live this calling with noble, faith driven courage.  

From my High Horse ...
Used to be a pulpit ... 
I had to run the course
When the pain really hit.
I learned a lot then
From the Book of Life.
I thought that I knew 
Enough to get by.
I was shaken and taught
that my "enough" was aught
and that all I had to get by
was call to God to come nigh
since on my own
I was wracked to the bone
from inside and out
from the left to the right
I had nothing but gout
and no strength to fight.
It was then that I grew
Into the insight of WHY.
In me then was the Passion of Christ.
He and I had a long talk.
I learned then how light is my cross
Since the road that I walk
With Him as we talk,
Doesn't point to a loss.

And please, at my funeral there is no crying allowed!

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Welcome aboard. This is a very well developed pilgrimage to the Holy Land scheduled for a very holy time of the year. It is designed to provide the greatest impact possible in a short time. We have positioned it at a time when US residents are living the season of Thanksgiving while preparing for the coming of the Messiah. Two major spiritual events situated within six weeks of one another.
We have also taken advantage of the price breaks available to passengers traveling with Turkish Airlines in the low season. We will therefore land in Istanbul before proceeding to Tel Aviv, the starting point of our Israel, Palestine, Jordan spiritual adventure.
From Tel Aviv we will proceed north along the ancient Via Maris with Tiberias our final destination for the day. Our day will be marked with stops at Caesaria Maritima, two stops in the Mount Carmel range, and a visit Mt. Tabor before settling in on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. After two glorious days immersed in Galilee, we move to Judea through the Jezreel Valley and reach Jerusalem by way of Megiddo and Samaria.
Once we get to Jerusalem, we will spend four days of prayer and visitation in the heart of the great monotheistic religions. Jerusalem leaves an indelible mark on the hearts and souls of all who come to know her. Never does anyone leave Jerusalem behind. The memory of Jerusalem and the satellite towns and regions around her remain vividly present in their entire spiritual splendor.
On the fifth day after our arrival in Jerusalem we move to the quiet region of Jericho where we get to appreciate the jeweled gate of entry of the Israelites into the promised land. This is also an important site where we get to say goodbye to the great prophet Elijah. We met him at Mt. Carmel on the first day. Now we leave him just two days before our departure. It is also the gate on entry that Jesus took into His public life though His Baptism in the nearby Jordan River. We will celebrate that event in our own lives by renewing our baptismal vows.
We spend our last two days in the quiet of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the shores of the Dead Sea and a visit to Petra before leaving from Amman to return to Los Angeles.
You are cordially invited to join us.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
Jesus pleure sur Jerusalem
Jesus llora sobre Jerusalen
 From time to time over the years the Holy Spirit comes and whispers something into our hearts that changes our point of view about how we understand our relationship with Him.
Today, Palm Sunday, while listening to the story of the Passion in the Garden of Gethsemane, it seems as though I only heard one single sentence, the heading of this reflection.  It struck me that Jesus wasn't scolding the apostles with His words.  I now think that He was commiserating with them.  He was telling us that He knew what they were suffering at the time and that He too at that moment, was getting another lesson about the weakness of the flesh.  He had felt weakness before.  He had shed the tears of human frailty before this night.  He recovered from the two first recorded episodes, and He knew that He would have to see this one through to the end.  He knew, and His apostles knew that this was the end.  They all knew that this was their last pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Remember their remonstrations to Him as He made the decision to come to the tomb of His friend Lazarus?
This is the Hour that they knew would come.
This is the hour when the strength of the spirit would have to prevail over the weakness of the flesh.  Even then, the God-Man Himself needed help...
The help promised in Psalm 91?
L'aide promis, psaume 91?
El ayudo prometido, salmo 91?

Jesus knew that no matter how valiant the human spirit is, there are some realities that it cannot overcome.  It is captive of the flesh and in some instances there is no escape from the nature in which it is locked.  Jesus knew that it is only in the Spirit that humanity can endure the troubles that assail it during the most difficult of times.  He was well aware that He had just shed tears over His friend Lazarus just a few days before.  I stood there listening and assessing my own fleshly weaknesses.  I stood there and wondered how many "Resurrections" I had celebrated over the years...not mine alone, but His in me.  Today, I knew that what He was telling His apostles was not coming from anything but the deep understanding that comes from past experience.

Our Mother in tears
Notre Mère en larmes
Nuestra Madre llorando
Finally, something else filled my soul as I was standing there in the presence of the proclamation of the Scripture.  It was the picture of strength and authority captured in the story that the Weeping Mother of God brought us at La Salette.  If this is not a reminder of the valor of human weakness sustained by the Spirit of God, what is?  The mixture of a resolute Spirit speaking though a weeping human can make miracles.  Mary did not accomplish the same work as Her Son did, but look at the results nevertheless.  Surely Her Son would not disparage His Mother for weeping in public over the sins of His and her people.  No, after my personal experience today, I am sure that the Suffering Jesus, the Risen Messiah knows that the weakness if the flesh in which the Holy Spirit is lodged is not to be disparaged.  This is the very weakness that is used by God Himself to demonstrate His glory and His indomitable Spirit's dominion over the process of our salvation.

Think about this as you spend a moment praying an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" before going on to the other things that you have scheduled for today.
When you're done with that, promise yourself that you will not cry at my funeral

Sunday, April 6, 2014


John, 11:

36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
…  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”41 So they took away the stone.  And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”  [Here the liturgical reading of the Gospel story ended.]
... The story continues...
45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.  46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.  47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. 48 If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.”

...My thoughts...
The world never changes.  Just about every time Jesus does something out of the ordinary, someone has something bad to say about it.  Every time a human being does something good in our world, someone will find something negative about it.  As is very evident here, the raising of His great friend Lazarus did not produce an exception to the divisiveness among the eye witnesses.  Two ideas came to me this morning during the proclamation of the Gospel story. 
  1.   Why did the Church decide to cut the reading off before verse      45?
  2.   This is one moment in the Gospel when Jesus asks the witnesses 
  to help the one being brought back to normal living.  Every other time it is the beneficiary alone who puts himself (herself) together and moves on.
I noticed this morning that to a critical listener the picture of this miracle can cause some mental static.  It says that Lazarus comes out of the grave bound hand and foot.  Now, in the context, after having come out, people are asked to remove his bonds.  I asked myself, “So how did he come out in the first place?”  After a few short moments, I stopped being sarcastic and my heart moved on to reflecting about the desire of Jesus to involve the witnesses in the freeing of the newly revivified man. 
My reflection revolved around the mystery of God wanting us, His creatures, to help Him spread the news of His love for us around the community.  He wants us to be aware that He is not here just for me, personally, but for me and all those around me.  He wants us to live in the awareness that not only do we depend on Him to save us, personally, but we all have something to offer to each other in the process of salvation.  God, through His incarnate Word is telling us that He expects us to collaborate with Him in helping fellow members of His family, as well as ourselves, on the road to salvation.  We are all witnesses to the exit of Lazarus from the tomb.  We are all expected to help one another shed the bonds of eternal death.  We do that by keeping ourselves righteous in our relationship with Jesus so that we can efficiently help our neighbor stay righteous and join us on the way.

Our Mother, Mary, when she was talking to the two children before her at La Salette in France, said very clearly, “If you do not submit I will be forced to let the arm of my Son fall.  I have been holding His arm back for so long.  It keeps getting heavier and heavier and if this continues I will have to let it go.”  
In both cases, at the tomb of Lazarus and at La Salette, the call for help doesn't require outrageous heroics.  All that is required is simple action.  In both cases all that we are being asked is common sense and polite living.  At the tomb, “unbind him.”  At La Salette, “Pray well.  Say one Our Father and one Hail Mary every day.  When you have time, say more.”  She could have said, “Do more” but she didn't.  I say, “We should.”

Now, if you have been reading along carefully, you’re saying to yourself, “Hey, this dude didn't listen to the homily.”  Yeah, you’re right.  I missed most of it.  I guess I slanted off into my own thoughts when the priest was explaining that Jesus cried while He was being scolded for not having come sooner after getting the news that Lazarus was not well.  Could be, I guess.  I like my reflection better.
Now you know for sure that no one will have either the need or the inclination to cry at my funeral.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

My daily life is filled with many thoughts.  There are so many that I cannot hope to act on every one of them.  However there are some that capture me so much force that I cannot let them escape without comment.
I have many biblical heroes.  I visit them and revisit them often in the course of a week.  It is my way of praying.  When I am sitting there sipping tea and talking to Abraham, Noah or Moses, I can’t help but be moved toward God.  Samuel, Nathan and Elijah are very special to me as well. 
When I analyze it while standing in front of the mirror after a shower, I always come up with the same conclusion:  I love these people because they were not afraid to talk to God frankly.  He talked to them frankly and they talked back to him the same way.  That is captivating in itself.  However, what I find much more captivating is that after the conversation, all my heroes did what God asked of them.  It didn’t matter how well or how badly life was going for them.   When God wanted something, He knew whom He could trust.  It is so penetratingly powerful to see the will power that these heroic individuals called up in order to obey their loving Heavenly Father.  
It is from that holy communion of heavenly dwellers that our Blessed Mother Mary came to visit us one day 169 years ago in the French Alps.  She too was on a mission.  She came to remind us that obedience is the first and most important response to Faith.  Faith is a God given grace that requires our “Yes.”  Actually it requires two “yeses.”  Yes, God, I believe; Yes, God, I’ll do it.  She puts it very squarely on our shoulders, “Unless you submit, I will be forced to let fall the arm of my Son.”  That’s the key.  Obey.  If you really believe, obey.  From the moment of creation, we are called to obey.  Listen,
Adam, name all this stuff;
Adam, don’t eat from that tree;
Noah, build me an ark;
Abram, come and follow me, I want to show you where I want you;
Abram, circumcise all the males around you;
Abraham, go to Sodom and Gomorrah and take the righteous people out;
Moses, go talk to pharaoh;
Moses, tell my people to get ready to leave;
Moses, get my people out of there.

I could go on, but you get the point.  The entire relationship between God and us is one of give and take, take and give.  Get used to it, it was ever thus and it will be ever thus.  Live by it and live happily ever after, here below and there above.  That’s what our Mother says.  She should know, look what she did.  She was so good at it that even her Son gave her the honor of obeying her here below.  Let’s obey Him so that He will be so pleased with us that He won’t mind bending down to help us through the challenge of being human.


Ma vie quotidienne est remplie de beaucoup de pensées. Il y en a tellement que je ne peux pas espérer prendre compte de chacune d'elles. Cependant, il y en a certaines qui me capturent avec tant de force que je ne peux pas les laisser passer sans commentaire.

J'ai beaucoup de héros bibliques. Je leur rends visite et je les revisite souvent au cours d'une semaine. C'est ma façon de prier. Quand je suis assis là, sirotant un thé et parlant à Abraham, Noé ou Moïse, je ne peux pas m'empêcher d'être trahi vers Dieu. Samuel, Nathan et Elie sont aussi très spécial pour moi.
Quand j'analyse le tout quand je me trouve devant le miroir, je reviens toujours a la même conclusion: J'aime ces gens parce qu'ils n'avaient pas peur de parler a Dieu franchement. Il leur parlait franchement et ils lui répondaient de la même façon. Ce qui est captivant en soi. Cependant, ce que je trouve beaucoup plus captivant est que, après la conversation, tous mes héros ont fait ce que Dieu s’attendait d'eux. Il n'y avait pas d'importance comment bien ou comment mal vie allait pour eux en ces moments la. Quand Dieu voulait quelque chose, il savait en qui il pouvait avoir confiance. Il est si admirable de voir la volonté que ces personnes héroïques exercèrent afin d'obéir à leur Père céleste .
C'est à partir de cette sainte communion des habitants du paradis que notre Sainte Mère Marie est venue nous rendre visite un jour il ya 169 ans dans les Alpes françaises. Elle aussi était en mission. Elle est venue nous rappeler que l'obéissance est la première et la plus importante réponse à la foi. "Oui."  La foi est une grâce donnée par Dieu qui exige de nous une réaction, un dynamisme. Elle requière deux « Ouis, » Dieu, je crois ;  « Oui, » Dieu, je vais le faire.  Notre Sainte Mère pose le défi de la foi très carrément sur nos épaules, «Si vous ne vous soumettez pas, je serai obligée de laisser tomber le bras de mon Fils. »  C'est la clé.  Obéir. Si vous croyez vraiment, obéissez.
A partir du moment de la création, nous sommes appelés à obéir .
Adam, nomme toutes ces choses;
Adam, ne pas mange de cet arbre;
Noé , me construire une arche;
Abram, viens et suis-moi, je veux te montrer où je te veux;
Abram, circoncis tous les mâles autour de toi;
Abraham, va à Sodome et Gomorrhe et prends les justes en fuite avec toi ;
Moïse, va parler à Pharaon ;
Moïse, dis à mon peuple de se préparer à partir ;
Moïse, prends mon peuple et sortez de là.

Je pourrais continuer, mais vous voyez clairement ce que je veux dire.  L’ensemble des relations entre Dieu et nous est l'un des données et des reprises, des reprises et des données.  Is faut s’y habituer, il a toujours été ainsi et ce sera toujours ainsi. Il faut apprendre comment vivre dans ce rythme.  Qui vit selon la cadence divine vit heureux pour toujours, ici-bas et là-haut. C'est ce que dit notre Mère. Elle devrait savoir, regardez ce qu'elle a fait. Elle était si bonne et si bien ajustée que même son fils lui a fait l'honneur de lui obéir ici-bas. Obéissons-lui afin qu'il soit si heureux de voir notre façon de vivre qu'il ne s'en voudra pas de s’enfiler un tablier pour nous aider à relever le défi de bien vivre notre vie humaine.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


18"For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' 19"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'  Matthew 11; 18-19

11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  
Luke 18; 11 - 13

40Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we?" 41Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.  John 9; 40 – 41

I introduce this reflection with those three passages because my life has been covered with the thoughts expressed there.  These have been brought to the forefront of my heart and mind ever since I have begun to prepare for a series of presentations on the Gospel of St. Matthew, starting Wednesday, April 2 at St. Christopher church in Moreno Valley.  It seems that since then, every time I go to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacred Scripture has something that makes me think of every day life and how we live it.

It seems that in about every moment of our lives we have an opportunity to act righteously or to defy the advice of Jesus.  It seems that we are surrounded not only by our own desires and passions but by those of others too.  We go through life learning how to “see” life through the actions of those around us as compared to the behavior that makes us comfortable.  All three of the characterizations above are so factually correct that we cannot escape identifying with them.  Jesus did not have to look far to put examples of human nature before our very eyes.  

Who of us has not ridiculed, at least in the secret of our own mind, the street preacher?  Who of us has not wondered how come our parish priest could be so loose at a wedding or a baptismal party?  How many of us have made up our minds about the state of the soul of our elected officials?  How often do we wonder about how Jesus could have chosen a tax collector to be an apostle?  We just know that we are righteous and correct and what we see around us in others is so corrupt. 

The words of Jesus warn us that we have to bring our conscience up to a higher level in order to be truly virtuous.  The words of Jesus warn us that the true measure of our righteousness has to be Him, not other humans, not even our selves, but Him.  Our faith tells us that the urging of Jesus to make ourselves ever closer to perfection in order to get to Eternal Life is a non-negotiable imperative.  Our faith tells us that the only measure of perfection is God Himself, present to us in His Incarnate Son, Jesus.  Our faith tells us that the only target that can serve as a guide for our quest to perfection is Jesus.  Every time we compare ourselves to others, we err.  Every time we compare ourselves to the person in the mirror, we err.  Every time we create an image of what reality we choose to be our norm, we err. 

The only way to not be wrong is to keep our eye on Jesus, the true light of perfection.  We must keep our eye on Jesus for He is the only Norm against which we are called to be measured.  That Norm includes the command to “pick up our cross daily and follow Him.”  [Luke 9; 23]  We can do that, can’t we?  We can.  Keep our eyes open and on Him and carry our cross at the same time?  If we can’t, we’d better learn because if we don’t, the alternative is not very pretty.

When you come to my funeral, keep your eye on Him and you won't be tempted to cry.  Don't judge, just stay happily at peace with Him in your heart and ask Him to kindly drag me over the Threshold.