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The Only Reasonable Position

"In front of this fact, I am forced to say that all the contrived plans, plots, and ideas will amount to nothing."

Gulf Stream, Winslow Homer, 1899

It is hard to find a better description of the situation in which we find ourselves when we truly face all that happens in life: a dizzying experience of being suspended “in every moment upon these signs, apparently so fickle, so haphazard, [which are our] circumstances.” Yet this is the only reasonable position, because it is through our circumstances that the presence of the Mystery, of that “unknown ‘Lord,’” challenges us and goads us on to His design, to our life’s


--Julian Carron, "Letter to the Movement," 3/12/20

I am really tired.

I’ve had countless “leads” for work in Italy which up to this point have led to nothing. Today I am sitting in on an interview for the woman who is replacing me at work, and her resume is longer than a Dostoevsky novel. It is abundantly clear that my job here in the States is now as good as gone. I can’t get in contact with the Italian consulate to obtain a visa to move to Italy. When I try to discuss these difficulties with my girlfriend there is a huge language barrier and omnipresent cultural differences. In the midst of all of this personal terror, a pandemic is sweeping the entire world. It’s pretty safe to say I can associate strongly with the man in Winslow Homer’s painting.

He is trapped on a sailboat with neither sail nor rudders. An imminent hurricane provoking huge waves is threatening to throw him into shark-infested waters. Even if he survives this horror, the only food which can sustain him are a few stalks of sugarcane. Someone peeking in on this situation at a museum might feel like a fat, drunk, and happy passenger on a cruise ship looking down on this man. Without knowing the circumstances leading up to this moment, they might protest. “He should’ve embarked in a bigger boat.” “He should’ve packed more food.”

I’m afraid I’ve even thought at times, “He should’ve stayed in the harbor.”

Although these onlookers might be correct in many cases, their advice offers no help. The man in the painting can get no different boat, can pack no more food, cannot erase the fact that he left the harbor. Nor can I. Jumping out of the boat in hopes for a different situation will offer no help. In times like this my only hope is to adhere to the circumstances I am in. Although reason can often grow impatient and begin to imagine some “ideal situation” my only hope is to bank on the boat given to me, the sugar cane picked for me, the heart inside of me. What does this mean for me today?

The starting point and form of my response to this situation is the encounter I had all those years ago with Justin the youth minister at my parish, with Father Proulx in confession, with Joep in Miami, with Audrey at Cristo Rey, with my students every day, and with Elisa over the past year. Like a whirlpool, all of my legitimate questions are brought to the foreground and assume the form of these friendships. In front of this fact, I am forced to say that all the contrived plans, plots, and ideas will amount to nothing. They are like advice shouted from drunken passengers on the cruise ship. The only path forward is the recognition that Someone has given me these friends and these circumstances. All that is asked of me is to say “yes.”

Patrick, Tampa, Florida


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