We all enter into the Fellowship of Suffering from time to time. Some of us stay there for extended periods. Some seem never to emerge. But the Son of Man came to bring us permanently from the FOS into the light of his Father’s love. The rest of us are meant to assure that no one, even those who seem never to leave its clutches, feels they are unloved, that no one cares — about them.


The Fellowship of Suffering,

it occurs to me,

has a large membership.


Those shouldering the cross

of extraordinary burdens:

children with mortally threatening diseases

or facing addictions

and launch delays,

in their 20s

—   and even 30s and 40s.


Fatal diagnoses

and parents with Alzheimer’s,

aphasia, fatal tumors —

the list goes on.


Gloomy isn’t it?

But all of reality,

it’s not.


And part of the secret

to finding a smile

that’s not a grimace

is discovering,

just as we’ve been promised,

we don’t walk alone.


The sun shines on rainy days,

and storms also water the soul

as well as washing away the riverbanks,

sometimes, the very ground

on which we stand.


Jesus and Others

stand with us.

And sometimes

even plunge

into the flood

—   and save us.

Reductionist redux

My wife, my daughter, and I, as well as her hosts of friends, wait for the return of our friend, visiting a Society of the Divine Word seminary on the island of Flores in Indonesia. The following piece speaks of how all of our lives are bound together with threads of love that give us meaning, not those other measures of neuroscientists and those who use wealth as a yardstick.

Jeff Hensley


Those who seek our meaning

in brain’s electric pulse

have failed to understand


It’s not synapses’ flash;

gray matter thunderstorms

that tell us who we are,

but the more substantive

functions of our lifespans,


the places we’re mortar

for the lives of others

holding things together

while we’re here.


We are sewn together

not with gold or silver

but threads of life and love,


hearts, minds interwoven

in the most wondrous ways.

Mutual dependence

the pattern of our lives.



Author! Author!

Doesn’t get much shorter than this, but notice how it demonstrates the way poetry can use only a few words — in this case 63, title included — to tell the reader a great deal. It’s a little hymn of praise to the Creator who gave us emotions to be able to have life to the fullest extent, and his example to make it worthwhile.

It’s Lent, so the alleluias here are reported in commentary and not in actual voiced praise, passing, I would think, any armed liturgist’s, most stringent tests of such things.



Author! Author!

Author of laughter,

Creator of belly laugh

and wry good humor.


Salter of the Earth

with tears that purify us,

cleanse our emotions.


Giver of the gift

of ultimate commitment,

giving us your life.


You alone are God,

worthy of our highest praise,

the gift of our lives.


May Alleluias

flow from our lives evermore

— hearts and acts and all.



Drink deep and remember

Drink Deep and Remember

 by Jeff Hensley

Goblet full of time,

for that’s the stuff life’s made of

whether we quaff it,


sip it or spill it

— or watch evaporation

swift drop the level.


It passes by us

running through the hour glass,

goblet upside down.


Lift the cup, enjoy,

savoring every fleeting drop,

while the liquid lasts.


Know too there is more

beyond this finite wine glass

because of the One


who once held the cup,

asked if it might pass him up,

but drank, nonetheless.


When he faced the pain

he burst the finite limits

all had faced before


making possible

that which had escaped us all

water into wine


and more the miracle:

time into eternity,

wine that never ends.



true Spirit

February 21, 2001

true Spirit

by Jeff Hensley


The lie of modern thought,

the deepest, darkest of the lies

deceives us into thinking

we are all alone.


All our links this lie would break

until at last we lay awake

pondering our fate.


Are we doomed to be unknown

dying cold and so alone?

If this is true, then

Christ has died for naught,

the God Man coming down

to leave no greater legacy

than buildings tall, Franciscans brown,

the snarls and gurns of gargoyles found

to laugh the last and soundless sound.


But lies are lies

and truth resounds

when unity of life is found,

when atomized illusions drown

within love’s interwoven bounds

of family and mother’s love

of deathless ties, below, above

that worship gives a form.


True worship forms its unity

of faith and song

of words and deeds

of sweat and tears and laughter loud,

of mourning and rejoicing and the day-to-day

persisting in the proven way.

The way trod now for centuries,

not blighted by dissembling.

The trail that leads through dust and stars

that calls to hearts from age to age,

that heals the heart’s most grievous scars.


Quieter than a Mars Rover with dead photo cells

Quieter than a Mars Rover with dead photo cells


The atheist’s prayers

have to pierce through the layers of

his own disbelief.


But the ears of God

are especially tuned to

his hurting children.


With stealth they can catch

and magnify the whispers,

bouncing off barriers.


So even those prayers

inaudible to others

are decrypted by him.

No silence so deep

that the heart of God cannot

hear the cries within.


Previously published in St. Anthony’s Messenger.


Wakefulness and the New Evangelization

April 22, 2012



This is not about gaming the future,

but de-gaming it.


It’s about waking everyman and everywoman,

to reintroducing will and courage to walk alone,

or with others of like mind,

into a future, where the herd instinct

created by mind-less following

of the interwoven paths of  secular humanism

and technology are warped and woofed

into a seamless net that entraps them forever.


And forever will seem even longer than eternal for them.


This is about throwing off the bonds of false freedom,

loosing the bonds of the prisoners,

unbinding those in chains forged by the inactivity

of their own mental processes of observation, analysis,

and independent action on behalf of the good.


This is about re-introducing the proper use

of discrimination

— discrimination between good and evil

— exaggerated individualism and personal autonomy

— having no limits, vs. recognizing the freedom that comes

only with making moral choices.


This is about waking humanity,

both within the church and without

from its waking somnambulism

engendered by external direction

by public media

by secular thought patterns

by a generalized conspiracy of consensus

that God is either irrelevant or undefined or makes no demands of us.


This is about a new wind of the Spirit blowing on all lands

a new incarnation that demands our cooperation,

our prayer, our offering the fullness of ourselves

to the New Evangelization.


This is about Jesus Christ, Lord of the nations

the kingdom of compassion for the poor, the exaltation of the lowly,

the freedom that brings joy to all, removing the stain of guilt

introduced by the original rebellion and reintroduced

by those who sought to throw off the reign of God

in our lives and societies.


It’s about healing the sick, healing the nations, serving the needs

of the lowliest and least, while not neglecting either our own

or all of us represented by the forgotten concept of seeking

the common good


This is a mission worthy of our best; worthy of calling forth our better selves

to the service of God and all men and women and children

– even of our fellow creatures and of creation itself


And it has been entrusted to us in “interesting times”


No one else can do it, but we can all do it


Every effort counts

— in direct mission work

— in helping the immigrant and the stranger

— in taming technology to serve rather than enslave

— in making laws and governing in a way that respects human dignity and freedom of conscience

— in how we perform the highest and the lowest tasks to the glory of the One,

the only One who gives our lives meaning.


No work of art; no act of kindness; no glass of water offered in his name; no work of excellence, no matter how small, from emptying of bedpans to construction of cathedrals is wasted or done in vain.


The privilege of this service of the Name has been given us

and we must not shirk or turn aside or fail,

whether our part be large or small.


Jesus our Lord is light of the world and redeemer of the nations

or he is a vaporous fraud.


If he is the first and not the second,

he is deserving of nothing less

than our best.


The is the new awakening

this is the first morning of a new era

this is the dawning of the day

this is the flowering

of the Kingdom of God on earth


Come join the collaboration that will overcome

the Kingdom of this world,

not with bullets and bombs,

but with kindness, and truth, and love



This is your call, come on; throw in your lot with the good guys;

proclaim the Good News of the Resurrection


Jesus has overcome the kingdoms of this world

and the powers of darkness.

We must proclaim and live, what has already been accomplished

but not yet come to fruition.


Now is the time

Now is the moment

Now has love come

to rule the hearts and minds

of all who will follow him.

Pope Francis is driving me crazy…

Pope Francis is driving me crazy…


asking the question why is the surest fastest most transparently insane path to insanity but years ago i read that psychosis could be productive or so the analysis went based not so much on theory as on observation of patients theory tagging along behind   a period of separation from reality allowing the personality to reorganize itself

I’m hoping that my own self-allowed craziness will have a similar healthy effect

This season of my life began when Francis became our new pope. You see, having a role model so reasonable in his radical approach to the faith and yet offering a way of directly reaching out with the love of Jesus, confronts the rest of us with a conundrum.

How do I (we), with my current obligations and activities and habits and plans, adapt so that I too can respond with compassion and involve myself in graced interactions with God’s poor. How can I offer myself without giving away more of myself than there is to give. Or alternatively, how can I rearrange the priorities of my life so that there is room for such graced direct service and interaction – assuming I have the gifts of personality and developed skills to be able to do so.

And so my mind ends up in circles not unlike those of the sacred mazes, turning, turning, toward the center, while at the same time feeling impelled to break out of all my established orbits and comet through the sky, where, quite naturally, I fear I may flame out, unable to sustain – even with the graced energy provided by God – the self-immolating love that I feel the urge to offer.

Now notice I didn’t say called to offer. That’s another order of consideration, and perhaps the one that leads me out of the twinned but conflicting  and yet compulsive contemplative and active self-giving sets of urges.

And here may be where health emerges from insanity, psychosis beginning to yield to a new synthesis that slows my swirling mind enough to allow contemplation, the urge to serve, and the faithfulness to obligations to family, work, church, and friendships to be integrated, combined together, into this new synthesis but i am forced to admit that im not there yet   it’s going to take me a little more time wandering in the wilderness of this thank God covert divergence from reality in order to reach this new level of integration    in the meantime Francis is driving me crazy    but in all honesty i believe i have lots of company and i cant help but believe that a very large portion of the 1.3 billion of us who call ourselves catholic are wandering this dysfunctionally functional wilderness together    and further i can’t help believing we all make it out on the other side much healthier more loving and having found some ways we too can give ourselves away perhaps not in such dramatic fashion but in ways that are authentic charitable and ultimately both reveal and glorify the face of God.