Against the backdrop of an Orthodox Christian church built some 600 years ago, I smelled the aroma and tasted the thick, bold and dark Ethiopian coffee, mesmerized by the ceremonial regalia, drifting in the swirl of frankincense smoke and soaking in a tradition dated back many centuries. I am in the land where coffee was birthed as attested by Kaffa, a southern province, so called for its namesake.

Having traveled north and south of the country, tomorrow I will begin my service at a Mother Teresa's home for the poor in Addis Ababa with Brothers of Missionaries of Charity.

Please pray that I see the face of God reflected on the faces of the poor. 

"Most are called to salvation primarily through witnessing to God in man by loving service to others. The contemplative... finds salvation primarily through witnessing to man in God by a life of fidelity to contemplative prayer." (Father Daniel Walsh, Thomas Merton's mentor)

Pray also that in my solitary union with God during contemplation, I hold the poor's suffering as mine, seeing their faces in God. 

"Let the weight of compassion in you weigh you down until you feel in your heart the same compassion that God has for the world." (Isaac of Nineveh)

As the aroma of your prayer ascends to God, I breathe the fragrance of frankincense your way. The next cup of Ethiopian brew is on me. Sorry, Starbucks.

With gratitude for your solidarity,


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

December 15, 2016


To:  Francis,

Millie, my wife, has a local calling to serve the community by teaching English to the Chinese immigrants as well as teaming up with a driver to take the elderly folks to appointments with doctors and dentists. Mine is more global having been awakened to the poverty of the Third World in my traveling.

My serving with Missionaries of Charities Sisters or Brothers has so far been solo journeys, offering both a solitary, contemplative presence with God and an immersion in the life of a close community, a graced connection between a lay person and those who have taken vows. Regardless, Millie and I, in different expressions, do our parts to make the world a better place, and, by God's grace, our souls are also enlarged and more formed.

Worldly concerns are real and practical, even very necessary, perhaps more so in certain seasons of life than others. But at some point, the so-called second half of life, I want to heed the Spirit's whisper and respond accordingly as my soul wakes up from a slumber, seeing a deeper reality, or more aptly, the Ultimately Reality, that has been there all along, persistently beckoning, nudging and inviting. In short, I have encountered that Grace and life in the Light and Love have forever transformed, savoring the peace and freedom in Christ. A good book for reflection is "Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Father (perhaps a kindred spirit to your name :).

If Spirit moves us mutually, I am open to dialogue regularly with you, Francis, which would be delightful.

I have been back from Ethiopia for more than a week, bringing home a bad, lingering cold, probably affectionately given by a Down Syndrome youth in the orphanage with a stream of nose mucous running over me. Failing miserably to resist his kisses and cuddles, I succumbed to his infectious warmth.

Thank you for your prayers that energized, sustained and enveloped around me through the week of serving. I am seizing this opportunity to behold your face before God and hold you in prayer in reciprocation - a petition for soul stillness and spaciousness in 2017.

Spiritual formation for the sake of the world,