Have you ever received the gift of a word that you were looking for without ever really knowing that you were looking for it?  That happened to me last week. 

My Jesuit-trained spiritual director keeps asking me what grace I would like to ask for the month ahead and I never quite know what to say.  There is a grace I want, but in English there doesn’t seem to be a word for it.  I stumble around trying to describe it, but it always comes out wrong.  And then last week, I was looking up something in Greek (you know, as one is apt to do on a Tuesday afternoon) and I stumbled upon it: Asphaleia.  Doesn’t that have a lovely ring to it?  It reminds me of my other favorite Greek word - the word for truth: Aletheia.  Wouldn’t those be beautiful names for twin sisters?  And it turns out that the two words are related.  Asphaleia is another word for truth in Greek with added nuances of reliability, something you can be confident in, an accounting of events that you don’t have to doubt. 

I think about this in light of all our current struggles as a people to figure out what information we can count on… how to know if another is telling us what is real. I think about it in relation to the massive confusion of social media wherein each user believes what their own preferred news sources are telling them is true, but is doubtful of every other source.  I think of it especially in view of our current conversations about Covid and the events of January 6th.  But I also think about it in light of friendship and the desire to be in the presence of those who are honest and reliable, in whose kindness I can rest secure. And I think of it in light of my own desire to be that kind of person.  Asphaleia sounds like such a lovely grace to ask for in the present moment.

The good news is that I stumbled upon this word while working on a preaching for next Sunday (January 23), which is when we really launch into Year C in the lectionary.  Luke uses it to introduce the purpose for the writing of his Gospel.  He wants to offer his friend Theophilus the gift of asphaleia in his accounting of the story of Jesus.  He seems dubious about some of the other stories of Jesus that are floating around out there and wants Theophilus to have a solid, organized account he can rely on.  Which makes me think that maybe Luke is a good Gospel for me to spend time with this year.  Perhaps reading, studying, and praying with it in 2022 will scratch my itch for asphaleia and take me to a place that feels less polemical and more peaceful.  Maybe it will be the Gospel you are looking for right now as well!

Other things I’m up to:

  • I’ll be going to Tequesta, FL later this week to work with the Diocese of Palm Beach in launching a Level 1 course.  If you know anyone in this area who is looking to find out more about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, please nudge them in the direction of St. Jude’s!
  • There is still space in the CGS Level 1 course Karen Maxwell and I are starting at St. Thomas More Parish in Decatur, GA in March.  It’s been pushed back a bit because of Covid.  If there is anyone you know in the greater Atlanta area who is looking to start CGS in their parish, please nudge them in the direction of St. Thomas.
  • My book Preaching with Children should be available in just a couple of weeks now. I’ll say more about this in a future newsletter once it is also available on Amazon, but if you are interested in pre-ordering, please do so here.
  • I’m working with the Ave Maria Press team to have a Lenten discussion guide available for parishes who want to do an examen on their social media use (based on the book #Rules_of_Engagement).  It’ll be ready very shortly… definitely in time for Lent!  Let me know if your parish is interested and I’ll make sure they get the link as soon as it is ready.