Baptism is replete with symbols: candle, water, oil of catechumens, chrism, new name. But the one that speaks most to me is the white garment. Although white may symbolize purity of soul, the adjective “white” is less significant that the noun “garment.” For we are clothed with Christ. We put on, coat-like, a new person, a new member of Christ’s Body and Church. Teilhard de Chardin uses similar imagery. At the Omega Point Christ will wrap himself with the garment of humanity. Jesus, the Christos, will not only be clothed in his humanity but in all humanity. May we enwrap Christ in glory.



For months our country has known only division seemingly for no other reason than red vs. blue. Gregory Boyle is in his book Barking to the Choir writes:  “How do we tame this status quo that lulls us into blindly accepting the things that divide us and keep us from our own holy longing for the mutuality of kinship—a sure and certain sense that we belong to each other?” Whatever happened to “United we stand, divided we fall”? Coming together in unity is the only positive, creative response to the needs of our times. Energy is wasted and finances lost in shouting matches, polls, negative ads. If the same energy and finances were directed toward ending hunger, conquering disease, cleaning our environment, the effort would not only make a better world but also increase our sense of belonging to one another. Let’s change direction. Let’s direct our efforts to a future full of life. And oneness is at the heart of all life.



I have just finished reading Walter Brueggemann’s book Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out. In the first three chapters of this small volume Brueggemann guides the reader through the Hebrew Scriptures demonstrating how YHWH hears the groans of the people and commands prophets and psalmists to speak. The remainder of the book focuses on figures in the New Testament who refuse to keep silent. In chapter 4 titled “Jesus Rudely Interrupted” we read about the Syro-Phoenician woman who wouldn’t allow her ethnicity, gender, or religion prevent her from speaking up on behalf of her daughter. The author shows how the importuning of this mother actually changes Jesus’ mind. Jesus tells the woman that he had come only for his Jewish race. But the woman persists, breaking the consensus that God’s food was only for Jews. Jesus did not defend privilege, he did not defend Jewish chosenness, and he did not insist that he was right the first time. “Because she broke the silence in a daring, insistent way that reeducated him, her daughter is set free, just as she had asked” (p. 52). Was it the mother’s courage and passion that pushed Jesus’ ministry beyond Galilee? Yes, Jesus moved into the “region of Decapolis” and began healing in Greek territory among Gentiles.  Similarly, the crowd tries to silence blind Bartimaeus, but he cries out “more loudly” not for alms but for complete restoration. Again Jesus hears.

What I appreciate most about this book is the emphasis on how silence protects privilege and why the privileged are often silencers. Written in 2018, this book is apropos to our political, social, economic and religious systems. The reader reflects: How are governments, churches, and laws silencing persons on the margins? How would Jesus respond today? We need to ask

“What would Jesus do?”

Sr. Mary Dean Pfahler SND
Parish Ministry Director / Spiritual Director
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
Long Beach CA

The low-tire-pressure icon appeared on the dashboard – again.  The first time that happened to me in Long Beach, I was informed that – by California law – air is free at gas stations.  However, it turns out I paid a self-service pump $1.50 with a major credit card for enough air to get the icon to go away.

So this time I was going to get professional help.  The Goodyear tire store on the way home from St. Bartholomew’s looked promising; service persons were working on cars in 6 bays.  The gentleman at the desk pointed out an empty bay where I should pull in.  Then he asked, “You’re a nun, right?”  That question  intrigues me, so I had to ask, “How did you know?”  He said he could always tell but didn’t explain how.

The fact that I was wearing a white blouse, black pants and the congregational cross probably helped.  But I was wearing “normal” clothes on Monday night when I accompanied a friend to A Place for Kids in Orange County.  She had been volunteering with this bereavement group for years, and I was sitting in for the first time.  While children meet with their age cohort, the parent or guardian meets with other adults for mutual support.  The grandmother who sat on the far side of the table told my friend afterwards that she knew I was a sister even though I introduced myself as “Mary.”

After 50 years, apparently, the long black habit and veil I used to wear becomes extraneous.


Traipsing through Oak Openings Metropark

On this first day of autumn, a day suddenly 20 degrees cooler than yesterday’s last day of summer, I took the red trail in the metropark. Every step put a few more grains of sand into my tennis shoes, as I ascended to a sand dune. I thought of the glacier that receded eons ago leaving us this dune. I felt grateful for the glacier and God’s creative plan that has evolved into everything we enjoy today—plants, animals, trees, rocks, birds. Although after two miles, I was aware of my physical body, I was more aware of my spirit. The feeling reminded me of Teilhard de Chardin’s writing: “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” My soul grew stronger, as my feet grew heavier. Having enriched my spirit, I felt a little more human. My spirit jogged along.