How does Meditation influence the development of the Mind, Body, & Spirit: Five Reasons to Join a New Research Group

Meditation and Human Development Research Team Openings

meditationMeditation has long been a divisive conversation in interfaith discussions. There are some who believe meditation opens the mind and spirit to be present with the Divine, and others that believe it opens a person to opposing forces. As researchers, we are exploring the questions surrounding meditation and other centering practices; questions about the influence meditation and prayer have on development.

If you have interest in this topic, an experience to share, or more research questions, I wanted to let you know that we are starting a new research group here in the pastoral counseling department. The Meditation and Human Development Research Team we will be opening up the discussion to investigate meaningful questions about meditation.

Meditation and Human Development

This research group is devoted to understanding how meditation (and similar practices such as contemplative prayer) influences the development of mind, body and spirit. The goals of the group are to secure grant funding to support the research and subsequent peer reviewed publication and presentation of data investigating how meditation influences our lives and how it can be used to better the lives of clients who seek help in counseling. Students who are interested in becoming a part of the research team should submit a resume or curriculum vitae to Jesse Fox, Ph.D., at jfox1@loyola.edu.

Top Five Reasons to join this group:

  1. CONTRIBUTE to the research and development that is changing the social sciences understanding of spirituality and centering prayer.
  2. INSPIRE These ground floor discussions on the emergent research topic of mediation may just inspire your research as we cultivate ours.
  3. EXPERIENCE Be a part of a lively discussion, academic debates, and developing research
  4. ACQUISITION new skills, as the team is exploring grant funding, writing, and proposals.
  5. LEARN about applying for grant funding, writing a research proposal, and study outcomes

“Go Take a Walk!” – Constructing an Empowering Theological Response to Suffering with Dr. Jill Snodgrass

Dr. Jill at FDR Memorial - One of her Favorite Places

JoAnn:  How do you incorporate spirituality into your teaching?

Dr. Jill: In the Suffering class (PC732 Spiritual and Theological Dimensions of Suffering), we start with a song as a musical response to suffering. I am intentional with incorporating a devotional practice such as a time of silence and framing each class in a theological way. We have two lenses: our social science lens and our religion/spirituality/theology lens. We are in a constant dialectic between them. I think the two different languages are not striving toward the same thing – except health and wholeness. They need to be held in relationship with one another; through this creative tension we find even greater insight. This is integration of spirituality into pastoral care.

JoAnn: Do you identify with the Jesuit Way of Being?

Dr. Jill: Yes, absolutely!  Cura personalis and making men and women for others is what we are trying to do – to create servants. Many service opportunities exist on campus such as CCSJ. This summer I received a Kolvenbach Grant to implement a spiritual/vocational discernment to the job readiness curriculum at Marian House – a program for women with histories of addiction and/or incarceration. Loyola is the most spiritually nurturing place where I have studied with invitations to attend to my relationship with God. That is huge!

JoAnn:  Was there anything that surprised you about Loyola?

Dr. Jill:  I appreciate our students’ maturity and the sacrifices they have made to be here. I have taught at other institutions where the humility of being a graduate student isn’t present. Humility and responsibility are important in graduate work. I had a professor once who said that only less than 1 percent of the population gets to have higher learning, so if you do not feel blessed every day, stop. I think they have an attitude of gratitude and a commitment that I have not seen in any other institution.

JoAnn:  You teach the Suffering Course, Spiritual and Pastoral Care, Introduction to Pastoral Counseling, and what else?

Dr. Jill: I taught Crisis Intervention and this Fall I teach Group Spiritual Guidance.  I will teach Pastoral Care Professional Seminar next semester. That is the kind of work that really excites me; the dialogue between theory and practice, looking at a current ministry situation, turning to what we know about best practices and saying: what are we going to do?

JoAnn: What course do you enjoy teaching most?

Dr. Jill:  I love the Suffering class because it is constructive and fun. We are never going to find out why bad things happen to good people. It’s really fun to wrestle with that question; to dialogue with personal experience and what theologians have been saying for millennia. It’s an interfaith class, so we look at suffering from different faith perspectives. There’s a tragic-comedy element in it because we have to laugh in order to suffer; you need both sides of that coin. Also, we are partnering with Grass Roots here in Columbia. The students in the course work with women-parents and children there. It’s like that book we read this year — What shall we say? Evil, suffering, and the crisis of faith by Thomas G. Long –  that was saying solvitur ambulando: the answer to suffering is by walking. To take on that perspective is empowering in a paradoxical way and deeply spiritual because you give it all over to God. I am not going to fix the world’s suffering in a lifetime, but I take steps toward it.

Read more about Dr. Snodgrass.

Deb Rollison: When Spirit talked, she listened

Deb Rollison in her classroom

Barbara:          Deb, you are a graduate of the MS/PhD program – why did you choose Loyola and pastoral counseling?

Deb:    Since 2004, I had been engaged in the work of career counseling. As a career coach, I helped dozens of people find work that honored their skills, passions, and hopes. I worked with people once they were past the disruptive, unhappy parts of losing a job. As needed, I would refer distressed people to a counselor and sometimes see them after that counseling to help them find a new job. I wanted to apply a more holistic, broad spectrum approach to helping people, but I found myself mostly working on resume and interviewing skills.

I grew restless with the repetition.  Relying on my Catholic faith, I prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of vocations, and I asked: “Where is my own calling at this time in my life?” A friend, who is a career counselor, asked me: “Have you thought about pastoral counseling?” I didn’t think much about it at the time, but then I went to a national career development conference and listened to Richard Bolles (author of the well-know career guide, What Color Is Your Parachute?) talk about his own learning and journey following an illness. He said something to the effect, “If you hear something once, you might pay attention, but if you hear something twice, that may be Spirit talking.”

Amazing! That very morning I had had breakfast with another friend, who also suggested I consider pastoral counseling. This time, I listened. As soon as I got home, I got on the Internet, found Loyola, and knew that I had a clear calling. God led me to Loyola. I always wanted a PhD in clinical psychology, but I had to spend many years in between learning that I did not want to be a PhD, I wanted to have a PhD, so I could do important and caring things for people.

Barbara:          One of the important and caring things you do is teach here at Loyola. What is your teaching philosophy?

Deb:    My philosophy is to teach people to reach out to others in a larger way. I am your co-learner, I am alongside you, this is something we get to share. You teach me as much or more as I teach you. I feel very privileged and honored to be affiliate faculty. Teaching charges me up. I get “in the flow” and feel graced whenever I am in the classroom. What an adventure! What more important work is there than helping people create the work they were meant to do?

Barbara:          How do you incorporate spirituality into your curriculum?

Deb:    I ask students to start each class with a prayer or moment of silence. In each assignment, I invite students to reflect upon the pastoral dimensions of a theory, website, an interview, or reading. Because most of these are secular, students have to stretch their ideas and imaginations. For example, in career development, we work to relate each career theory in a pastoral way and how to adapt it in a pastoral context. I encourage students to add a spiritual assessment to every profession.

Barbara:          Speaking of professions, how can students use a pastoral counseling degree?

Deb:    I was fortunate to have Dr. Joe Ciarrocchi as my instructor in several classes. He said you can do so much with a pastoral counseling degree, and I so agree. Students learn skills that transfer in all job arenas. They get training in analytical thinking, the ability to write well, and interpersonal skills. The Loyola program enhances a student’s ability to reach out in all professions, blending technical skill with personal caring.

Time to Pull up My Big Girl Panties: Reflecting on Grief and Strength

“Time to Pull Up My Big Girl Panties”

 Yep—that’s what she said.  That’s exactly what she said. 

Who said it?

Dr. Kari O’Grady—a well respected pastoral counselor and scholar in the discipline of trauma and religious coping. 

What is she referring to?

She was quoting a former student and colleague in the Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care (PCSC) Department at Loyola University Maryland.

This is where Dr. O’Grady’s turn of phrase becomes meaningful—almost beyond words. 

Dr. O’Grady was quoting the Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, an affiliate PCSC professor and graduate of Loyola during a eulogy. Only days before, Mary-Marguerite was in the church office with the administrative assistant of her parish when a participant in their ministry to the homeless fatally shot both women.  He fled the scene and killed himself.

Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn

In the moment that Dr. O’Grady repeated the proclamation that it was “time to pull up her big girl panties” she was making a double entendre.  In the context of Rev. Kohn’s funeral, Dr. O’Grady was honoring the life spirit of a former student and colleague who chose hope over despair and who chose courage and compassion in the midst of fear and loss.

She was quoting Mary-Marguerite’s conviction to begin a new path upon receiving her doctorate only three years before.  It was one of those miraculous moments the heart stumbles on at a funeral…when a sense of being embraced by the spirit of life and love of the newly departed envelops the bereaved in the midst of their shock and sense of loss.

It could easily be a reminder of all that the PCSC Department at Loyola has experienced recently.  Almost unbearably, Mary-Marguerite is the third PCSC faculty member at Loyola to die three years—and the third to die an untimely and tragic death.

First, Dr. Kelly Murray and her 7 year old daughter were killed by a falling tree while idling at an intersection in their family vehicle during a storm in 2009; and then, a little over a year later, the department chair, Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi died from multiple myeloma. 

All three of these folks lived lives filled with meaning and compassion which touched the hearts and lives of many, many people.  (Their obituaries are linked below.)  And all three were colleagues and friends of Dr. O’Grady and the members of the PCSC department.  Until Rev. Kohn’s death, I did not know the upheaval that the department had already experienced.

In that moment I learned the words in the Loyola online catalog describing the Pastoral Counseling program as holistic and integrated are not just there to describe positive sounding academic endeavors in the abstract.  They are accurate descriptors of the program.  They describe not only the courses but also the clinical education, the professors’ interweaving clinical work with quality teaching, the structure of individual courses, and the meaningful faculty and staff relationships with students.

We PCSC students are being challenged to learn, grow and transform our lives in the same way that we hope to accompany others on a path of meaning making and healing. 

This is precisely what Dr. O’Grady was doing for those of us in the congregation at Mary-Marguerite Kohn’s funeral…encouraging us to “pull up our big girl panties” and receive our own sadness, loss, fears, and wounds.  Because…as she well knows… the only way through hurt to healing, is through the hurt with compassion for self and others.  And the encouragement she gave to us to gird our hearts and move forward, just as she was doing for herself, was the most profound teaching moment and modeling of lifelong learning healing I have experienced as I continue to seek to understand the call to be a “pastoral counselor.”

Grace and Peace be with you—and everyone whose lives you touched…

Dr. Kelly Murray:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2009-06-29/news/0906280083_1_loyola-college-murray-psychology-professor

Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi:
Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-10-31/news/bs-md-ob-joseph-ciarrocchi-20101031_1_catholic-priest-psychology-educator

Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-05-08/news/bs-md-ho-kohn-funeral-20120508_1_memorial-service-mix-tapes-doctorate

Why does CACREP matter? An interview with Dr. Oakes on accreditation, retirement, and excellence

Dr. OakesHave you heard that Dr. Oakes was retiring?  Not just yet!  We still need her expertise.  Loyola University is in line with the trend according to Business News Daily of employers who are hiring workers over 50 valuing their experience, credentials, and mentoring abilities.
Read on to find out why Dr. Oakes changed her retirement plans, and to uncover exactly what CACREP is and why it matters.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing my new boss in the Pastoral Counseling Department, Dr. K. Elizabeth Oakes (Kayliz).  I work with Dr. Oakes chiefly on our pursuit of CACREP re-accreditation through the self-study process. Below is an account of the interview highlights.
 
 
JoAnn: How long have you been with Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Department?
Dr. Oakes: I joined the Loyola Pastoral Counseling faculty, July 1, 2002.  So, I am coming up on my 10th year.  I am coming from a background of clinical training as well as practice.  I am a graduate of this program. I graduated with my doctoral degree in 1999, and a CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) in 1994.
(Dr. Oakes alluded to closing out her work here and retiring, so I asked her about it.)
JoAnn: That leads into my next question, I heard that you were retiring, but now I hear that you have taken on the role of Chair of the Pastoral Counseling Department?  Can you tell me how all that came about?
Dr. Oakes:  The Interim Chair.  I found out, as it were, (that I will serve) for a year in that role as a transitional object.   Are you familiar with that term?  I am using it inappropriately though, in clinical counseling it is not used that way.  (I am serving as Interim Chair) in order for the department to move between the loss of the previous chair due to illness, and to do a faculty search to get a chair brought into the department.

JoAnn: And does that have anything to do with CACREP – you staying on and changing your plans of retiring and taking on the role of Chair?
Dr. Oakes: Yes, it has everything to do with CACREP.  They would like the leadership of the department to have a background in Counseling Education.  And the previous interim chair had a background in English Literature, so we needed to change that.

JoAnn: So, not only are you functioning to help with CACREP accreditation, but your very credential helps with CACREP because you have what they are looking for in the leadership of the department?
Dr. Oakes: Yes, that is correct.  My degree is in Counseling Education.

JoAnn:  Ok, let’s back up a bit.  For those who may not know, what is CACREP exactly?
Dr. Oakes: Let’s start with the name itself.   It stands for Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.  This is the accrediting body for the American Counseling Association.  …  CACREP looks to provide standardization and consistency in the quality, content, and relevance of the curriculum of students who are in counselor education programs. 

It does this in several different ways, but the two main ones are CACREP:

  1. Looks at the content of the courses
  2. Examines/monitors how we prepare our students to become professionals in the field; seeing that the formation of the students’ professional identity is consistent with that of the field and then making sure that the teachers who teach are qualified and of a caliber that helps to meet the expectations of CACREP standards. 

 (When I asked Dr. Oakes why CACREP accreditation is important, she offered)

Dr Oakes: … it is more like CACREP is a watch dog, like AMA for physicians.  It gives you credibility to the public that is seeking your services.  If they see that you have been trained by a CACREP accredited program, they will be assured that you have had a quality of training in line with what the profession expects for its counselors to have. 

JoAnn: How did you become the CACREP expert for the department?
Dr Oakes: This past school year, 2011-2012, I was the MS Program Director, and the CACREP process makes sense to fall under the purview of whoever is in that position.  Also, I had training from CACREP to conduct the self-study. 

JoAnn:  So what does the PC Department do to keep its CACREP accreditation?
Dr. Oakes:  (She says as we share a laugh.) You would have good insight into that!  We conduct a CACREP accreditation self–study.  We investigate, review, analyze, and assess how well we have been doing as compared to the standards that CACREP has laid out for us.

Our self-study then is reviewed by CACREP officials.  Next, we have a visit from a CACREP team that samples what we have told them in the self-study for verification.  They write a review and analysis and make recommendations to the CACREP board of directors, and at that point the decision is made whether or not to grant the accreditation status. 

Once the board makes a decision to grant us re-accreditation, we could get an interim re-accreditation (2-3 year) or a full accreditation (8 years).

JoAnn: Is there anything else about CACREP that you think we need to know?
Dr. Oakes: Well, it is very important to have CACREP accreditation!  It really makes the department pay attention to the quality and character of the faculty that we hire, it makes us look closely at the admission strategies and the assessment of potential students and their ability to be successful in the program, and it contributes to the evolving professionalization of the field.

The Pastoral Counseling Department also holds university-wide Middle States accreditation, and at least 3 certifications: the National Board of Certified Counselors, the National Association of Pastoral Counselors, and International Registry of Counsellor Education Programs (IRCEP).  

 

 
 
 

 

Reminiscing with Ralph: An interview with Dr. Ralph Piedmont

I have had the honor of working as Dr. Ralph Piedmont’s graduate assistant for the past several years.  The experience has been personally and professionally enriching because of his high expectations, intense energy, genuine concern for my development, and abundant generosity.  For example, I have met many luminaries in the field due to his leadership on the Mid Year Conference on Religion and Spirituality.  As his teaching assistant, I have honed my instructional skills and have increased my knowledge about psychological testing and statistics, and I have been impressed by his openness to learning from me (e.g., the incorporation of adjunctive materials such as podcasts).  He has invited me to be a co-author on several publications, including an upcoming chapter in an APA handbook and an upcoming article in Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion.

Teri Wilkins and Dr. Ralph Piedmont

Dr. Piedmont supporting my Emerging Scholars presentation (2011)

Someone with his depth and breadth of knowledge and prolific publications can appear intimidating, but I have always found him to be amazingly approachable.  I recently had the chance to sit with him and bombard him with questions, which he graciously addressed.  He spoke about how his professional journey brought him to Loyola, his consideration of spirituality as an aspect of personality, the development of his ASPIRES instrument, his appreciation for the core values of Jesuit education, his role in nurturing his graduate assistants, and many, many more topics.  See below for my questions and comments and for the audio links.

  1. How did you end up at Loyola?
  2. Can you tell me what the trajectory of your interest in spirituality has been?  When did you really start thinking about that?  Has that always been part of something that has drawn you?
  3. For those who aren’t familiar with your work (I don’t know that everybody realizes how prolific your writing has been) and also the scale development for your ASPIRES scale, can you talk a little bit about how that came to be?
  4. So you were looking for a universal human quality?
  5. That’s been some of the criticism of social science research, that whole WEIRD acronym (i.e., coming from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic nations).  It seems like a lot of your data has been in populations that don’t necessarily follow that kind of “WEIRD” criticism.
  6. One of the benefits of being in the Pastoral Counseling department at Loyola is the ability to attend the Mid Year Conference.  You’ve been fundamental in having that be a major part of research presentations.  Can you talk a little bit about that? 
  7. Not just professionals, but students have a lot of opportunities.
  8. PRS is not the only journal you’re involved with in terms of editing.  Can you talk about the other?
  9. Loyola seems to provide a lot of support.
  10. What do you see as your role when it comes to interacting with your graduate assistants?
  11. Can you talk about your recent experience in Poland and what’s ahead of you in Poland?
  12. Where do you see yourself going forward at this point? 

Many thanks to Dr. Piedmont for his patience, willingness, and candor during the interview!

Surprised by Authenticity, Diversity, and Hope | 10th Anniversary Mid-Year Conference

Where can students and faculty from so many diverse backgrounds come together, respect each other’s opposing views, and learn from each other?

At Loyola’s 10th Annual Mid-Year Research Conference on Religion and Spirituality (MYC).

session in progress
As I listened to A Dialectical Paradigm Shift in the Search for the Sacred, the presenter, M. Chet Mirman, PhD outlined what it means to be sacred, mentioned Buber, the supernatural, transcendence, and having a sense of awe and wonder at the mystery of the world. 

I was under the impression that the room was filled with theists on a quest for God (i.e. the sacred).  There were at least two Catholics in the room other than myself: a Jesuit pastoral counseling affiliate faculty member Fr. William Sneck S.J. PhD, and a Catholic nun in a full habit…

Then, someone in the audience raises his hand and asks this question, “What do you mean by keeping the baby of spirituality while throwing out the bathwater of bad metaphysical beliefs?”

Mirman replies, “Well, you know, God parting the Red Sea, bushes spontaneously bursting into flames, and other similar phenomenon.  The inquisitor looked puzzled.  Then the presenter offered, “Well, I guess I’d better come clean and tell you all that I am an atheist.” Mirman continues, “And I am trying to find my way back to belief.”  You could have heard a pin drop.  After a pregnant pause, the conversation continued with the theists and the atheist discussing metaphysical, philosophical, and theological theories and constructs.

I had taken four pages of notes and listened to his lecture for forty minutes before he disclosed that he was an atheist.  I think he was courageous to transparently admit to his views in a room full of theists.  And the fact that the discussion didn’t miss a beat with both theists and atheist learning from each other speaks to the brand of education found here at Loyola

Scioli signs his book for Teri Wilkins

Scioli Signs Book for Teri Wilkins

      A Whole Brain Intervention to Instill Hope was another example of the strength of diversity in action.  Anthony Scioli, an American, and Fr. Jen Charles Wismick, a Haitian, worked together in Haiti to instill hope in the survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  We need each other and work best in community; we do not do pastoral care in a vacuum.
Well attended session at Mid-Year Conference
Loyola students are diverse, hailing from all over the world, representing every race, creed, ethnicity, and gender.  Additionally, we are inclusive; we listen to, respect, and learn from each other. 

And that is why I am proud to be a student at Loyola.

Shake Pray Love | Spring Retreat

Have you ever seen your professor shakin his booty?  Well, I have.  That image will remain with me always from the spring retreat, The Sacredness of Self-Care for the Emerging Professional. All of us, even Fr. Brian McDermott S.J., were dancing and shaking to African drum music!  It is apparently a technique used to alleviate depression.   Any time I need a lift, I can recall that mental image of my Spiritual Direction professor shakin’ what his momma gave him, and it will make me smile.

I anticipated the retreat held at The Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City ever since Monique Daniels, Continuing Education Coordinator, (mcdaniels@loyola.edu) emailed the announcement for at least three reasons: (a) one of my favorite instructors, Fr. Brian McDermott S.J., was presenting, (b) it was being held at one of the most serene and picturesque spots in the area, and (c) practicing self-care for me and preaching it to others is one of my passions.   

It did not disappoint!

I actually got some quiet prayer time in around the excitement of the day.  What a blessing it was walking in silent contemplation around the Grotto to Our Lady!

Grotto to Our LadyAs I strolled through the Shrine’s bucolic grounds I made friends with the chickens.  Wouldn’t St. Francis be proud?

Friendly FowlThe library is my favorite indoor spot with its cozy fireplace.  I have been there on two other occasions for retreats.  The last time was on a chilly day in March.  While we kept the fire blazing by adding log after log, I curled up right next to it.  I never wanted to leave. When I realized that my group was meeting in there and I would get to revisit the spot, it added to my bliss.

Narrative artwork hung all over the monastery.  Its stories instructed and inspired me.  Especially intriguing were the series of paintings on the life of St. Anthony that graced the hallway’s walls.  Apparently he was quite a preacher.  So much so that legend has it that even the creatures wanted to hear him.  The painting shows even the fish jumping out of the water to lend an ear as St. Anthony speaks!

My sense of love for and belonging to the Loyola community strengthened that day.  My classmates and I bonded over sharing our wisdom and survival tips of self-care.  Honestly though, I am not sure if I am more consoled, or more freaked out over having to write my thesis next year, but at least I will have a plethora of self-care tools in my toolbox to see me through. 

I grew from the encounters I had with classmates from other departments thanks to a grant from The Foundation for Spirituality and Medicine students in Pastoral Counseling, Speech Pathology, and School Counseling all took the self-care journey with us free of charge.

I got to see a different side to Dr. Tom Rodgerson, Director of the M.A. Program, who will see me through Pastoral Care Integration and Pastoral Care Professional Seminar next year.   He told some interesting anecdotes about himself that were really endearing regarding his younger motorcycling days and his father who was a pastor.  If you want the details, you will have to ask him yourself.  I will never tell…

More than Lip Service | Obama, Gay Marriage, and Unconditional Love

Fall and Spring are so nourishing at Loyola.  I find myself excited by the things I learn, the challenges I’m given, the classmates and professors who help me grow.  Then summer comes.  I take one class, maybe two, and the thrill of it all is packed into a few short weeks before I have no choice but to take a break.  And yet!

Last week Barack Obama spoke up in favor of gay marriage.  In that moment of his standing up for those who are marginalized, the excitement that normally comes to me through my courses set my heart once again on fire.  Why?  Because I saw a man who has been given great power – and with it, great responsibility – use that power to give voice to the voiceless, to show respect to those who are outcast, to preach acceptance and love not in a sermon but in his simply choosing not to discriminate, not to hate.

This is what Loyola is teaching me.  It is what Jesus – and the Jesuits who founded Loyola University Maryland – have always taught:  love unconditionally.  No wonder my heart is aflame when class is in session!  Learning to love is essentially getting to know God, Who is love.  The disciples asked regarding Jesus, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked to us on the road… (Luke 24:32)?”  I often refer to my experience at Loyola as my journey…I am walking with Him on this road and my heart is indeed burning.

Yet this summer my heart is burning again as I watch a man with so much power over others attempt to give that power to those without.  I took Intro to Pastoral Counseling a few semesters ago with Dr. Stewart-Sicking.  He had us not only reading about empowering others through our counseling but also through fighting the systems that keep others on the margins.  We were compelled to do service learning – I did mine at Bon Secours Hospice in Richmond, VA – so we could better understand those who are most in need of compassion – and action.  It gives me hope to see the leader of the free world risk so much (it is, after all, an election year) in favor of compassion.  Perhaps the citizens of his country will be inspired to risk the same.

I am taking only one course this summer although I dare say I am immersed in a second.  It is the course of Life, prerequisite:  Love.