The texts of Carlos G. Vallés
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Year 2015
I tell you

Pandit Nehru, the famous prime minister of India, went once to visit the no less famous saint of India, Vinoba Bhave, to ask him for some advice in the government of the nation. The saint smiled and just told him: “Play the flute for a while every day.” All the media carried the news to the world. Nehru didn’t know how to play the flute, or course, but that was not the sense of the advice either. The prime minister’s responsibilities, meetings, interviews, decisions, decrees, the daily mail and the long journeys everywhere made up every day a tight programme of mad activities without end. Now in the middle of all that, from time to time, at odd times, without giving it much importance, as a distraction, as a relief, as a joke in the middle of so many serious tasks, he had to take up the flute and play a few notes. As simple as that.

We all need a flute.

You tell me

Request: I’m teaching English to Spanish students. Can you recommend me, from your own experience, the best English authors I can use for that?

My experience: I arrived in India knowing no English and having to take a degree in mathematics. The English teacher, an Englishman himself, recommended me Chesterton, particularly his Father Brown stories. There could not have been a better advice. I enjoyed myself, I laughed, I learned vocabulary and grammar without realizing it. Besides, the English teacher used to make fun of Spaniards for our bad pronunciation of English, and his insults helped me all the more. There was another Spaniard who pronounced English very badly and his name was Jesus, which is not used a common name in England, so that they protested in anger: “And besides he calls himself Jesus!”


Psalm 30 – My life in your hands


I feel happy while I say those words: “You are my God: my fortunes are in your hand.” A sense of relief sweeps over me, a feeling of satisfaction and safety in the midst of a troubled world. “My fortunes are in your hand.” Whatever happens to me, whatever life brings to me, whatever winds blow and waters flow on the fields of my life.., all that is in your loving hands. I need no more.

“My fortunes.” Good fortune, bad fortune: things I like and things I dislike: occasions I look forward to and occasions I fear: pleasure and pain: joy and sorrow. All that is in my life, and all that is in your hand. You know the time, you know the measure, you know my strength and my lack of it, you now my longings and my limitations, my dreams and my realities. All that is in your hand, and you love me and want the best for me. My best fortune is to know that my fortunes are in your hands.

Let that faith grow in me, Lord, and put an end to worry in my life. I surely will continue to work for my “fortunes”, I am too much of an achiever and a compulsive worker to let go of things and lower my efforts: I will continue to work, but with a happy face and a light heart. Because those “fortunes” are in your hand I can look up and smile and sing, because now the burden is light and the yoke is smooth. My effort will still be there, but the result is in your hand, and so out of my own hands and out of my mind. Peace has come to my heart because “You are my God, and my fortunes are in your hand.”


“I know what you´re going to tell me.” He said that before I could open my mouth. And I didn’t like it. I actually felt like turning round and leaving his room there and then. If he already knows all that is in my mind, what is the point of my saying anything? He is teacher, examiner and judge. Sentence is given. Nothing to be done.

In fact I myself don´t know what I’m going to say. I of course have many things I mind and they’ll come out on their own as we get on talking, but nothing in particular to begin with. It all will depend on the mood and the circumstances and the direction our chat will take as we go on. Let the dialogue take its way. Each encounter is our first encounter, each moment is now. We are new every day and every hour if only we know it and act up to it. Every time we meet is the first time. Never take anybody for granted, leave everyone free to be what he or she wants to be at the moment. Every face is news and every smile is new. Life in the present. Be where you are. Act as you feel. This is the secret of life and of joy. Follow it and be blessed.

I tell you

A young man who wanted to learn a job went to a jeweler to learn his trade. The jeweler put a diamond in his hand, told him to close his hand over it and keep the diamond there for a full year without opening his hand. It was not easy for the young man to keep his hand closed for a whole year, and it looked totally useless, still such was his eagerness to become a jeweler that he complied with the order, kept the diamond in his hand for a year, and then came again and asked the jeweler to begin training him. The jeweler then was going to place another diamond in his hand when the young man protested: “I’ve already wasted a whole year, and now you’re asking me to waste another!” Still the jeweler forced the diamond into his hand, and then the young man exclaimed: “Besides this is not a diamond!” The jeweler told him: “That’s enough. Your training is over.”

You tell me

Question: I pray for a while every day, about half an hour, and sometimes I feel great devotion, but others I don’t feel absolutely anything, and so I am inclined to drop it all; but I don’t quite feel easy with that decision either. I don’t know what to do.

Answer: You can get a copy of the “Spiritual Exercises” of St Ignatius, and read in it the chapter on “Rules for the discernment of spirits”. That is a classic easy to understand and to put into practice. Its fifth rule says: “In times of desolation we are not to make any change; we must remain firm and persevering in all the resolutions and determinations of our previous consolation; because just as it is the good spirit that leads and advices us in time of consolation, so in desolation it is the bad spirit who does it, and his advice will rather draw us away from our goal.” I always keep that little book at hand, and it has helped me through life.


Psalm 31 – Shadows in my soul

I have done wrong, and I have tried to forget it. To play it down, to hush it up, to put it out of my mind. I secretly justified myself before my own conscience: This is nothing big after all; they all do it all the time; I was helpless, and what else could I have done? Let us forget it, and the memory of it will pass away, the sooner the better.

But the memory did not pass away. I felt sad and disturbed. The more time passed, the sharper the pang in my conscience became. My attempt at hiding from myself my own wrongdoing succeeded only in making me feel unhappy and miserable.

While I refused to speak, my body wasted away…; the sap in me dried up as in a summer drought.

I felt dissatisfied with myself and angry at my own weakness. There was something hanging still in my past, an unhealed wound, an unfinished chapter, an unalloyed guilt. I had swallowed poison and it was still in my system spreading its baleful influence to my whole organism in despondency and frustration. I could bear it no longer.

Then I declared my sin, I did not conceal my guilt. I said: “With sorrow I will confess my disobedience to the Lord.”

I made a clean breast of it before myself and before you, Lord. I accepted my responsibility, I owned up, I confessed. And at once I felt on me the favour of your countenance, the touch of your healing, the relief of your pardon. And I exclaimed in my new joy: “Happy the man whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put away! Happy is a man when the Lord lays no guilt to his account, and in his spirit there is no deceit.”

I want for me from you, Lord, the grace of transparency. To be transparent to myself and to you, and so to all men and women with whom I deal. To have nothing to hide, nothing to disguise, nothing to gloss over in my behaviour and in my thoughts. I want to put an end to the shadows in my soul, or rather to accept them as shadows, to own them, to take myself as I am, dark spots and all, and as such to appear before my own gaze and that of all men and women and that of your own majesty, my Judge and my Lord. Let me know myself, and let others know me as I am. Let me be honest, sincere and candid. Let me by transparent in my lights and in my shadows. And the blessing of reality will offset in me the stain of fallibility.

Happy is the man in whose spirit there is no deceit!



The old man’s face is the history of his life. Printed autobiography. His wrinkles can be read like the lines of a book. Encyclopedia of sorrow and joy. What is our history telling us?

There are complaints written in our brow, in our tension, in our paleness; but then there is also joy and happiness in the softness of our lips, in our smile, in a kiss. There is peace and reconciliation with a long life lived in all its intensity and its depth. Human life is the greatest treasure on earth. There are memories of love and tenderness, of family and friends, of good days and bad days, and all that is now accepted as experience, as reality, as history. Reflection of a whole life and a long existence. Permanent exhibition of past years and months and hours. Standing life museum. If we know how to look at an old man, how to read his life on the lines of his face, we’ll learn the fundamental lessons for our own life, and every generation will train the next one in the practice of life.

Think now how you want your face to be when you reach old age. Shape it from now on so that it may reflect peace and satisfaction and love. That is your best treasure, and that will be your best heritage. Keep good care of it.

I tell you

I’ve been to India in a short visit to collect a price they have given me for my literary work in the Gujarati language. I never thought such thing would happen in my life, but I did inherit from my father the principle of doing well, to the best of my ability, whatever I was doing. Never do things by half. In Gujarati there is a word “chalse”, meaning “that will do” in a pejorative sense, and the first article I wrote in a literary magazine was precisely about and against that word. Then one day, in my own mathematics class, while working out a theorem on the blackboard I realized I had no time to finish it and I just wrote a few steps on the board and said “That will do.” The whole class then said with one voice: “That will not do!” I smiled and told them: “If you have learned that from me, I have nothing more to teach you.” There is no question of doing things in the best possible way, but only in the best way I can in my capacity and given the circumstances.

There was a question my students often asked me in class and I never answered. The course in mathematics covered an extensive programme, and there was a tacit understanding that some theorems were not usually asked in the exam because of their length or complication. So the all-important question was: “Does this theorem come for the exams?” I always answered: “It is my duty to teach it, and your duty to learn it.” And sometimes I added: “And remember there is an exam at the end of it all were all questions will have to be answered.” Once, while correcting written exams I took one in hand where the student had written: “As I could not study the whole course I omitted this part. But I know the rest well.” I did feel a touch of sympathy for the student and almost felt like passing him, but I had to do my duty. Exams are hard not only for the examinee but for the examiner also. Curiously, that student later became my colleague in my own staff.

Meeting old friends was wonderful, but there were also some painful moments. One of my best friends, and colleague of mine in the mathematics department for many years, is now blind. The joy of meeting was tempered by the sorrow of his plight.

In India I used to live as a wandering guest, one week in each house where friends and readers of my writings invited me to stay day and night as one more member of the family. Hospitality in India is proverbial, but I do feel I went a little too far. Once a girl came to the house where I was staying at the moment, and simply informed me with decisive authority that next I had to go to her house for my next week. She would not and did not take no for an answer. I met her now and recalled that anecdote with her and her family. They all smiled. I added: “And I can tell you what dress you were wearing on that occasion: a polka-dot dress.” I saw her eyes go wet, and so did mine. God bless you, Rupa.

You tell me

Question: I was always thinking of become a nun as I was educated in a convent school, but as the time approaches I’m thinking that was only because of the influence of the nuns on me, and now I feel attracted to boys. What do I do?

Answer: You are already doing well in raising the question. A vocation is a calling, which does not mean that you have to expect any kind of external call, but simply an inclination, an attraction, a direction in your life which appeals to you as fulfilling your own ideals. Nothing miraculous or extraordinary. Just a serious decision in life. A vocation to religious life is also consistent with your attraction to boys which is normal and healthy in any case. The question for you is to decide between both options. Think and pray about it. St Ignatius Loyola has a series of “Rules for Discernment” in his book of the “Spiritual Exercises”, and they may help you. And do speak with your friends and elders about it.


Psalm 32 – Shadows in my soulThe Lord’s own plans

The Lord brings the plans of the nations to nothing: he frustrates the counsel of the peoples. But the Lord’s own plans shall stand for ever, and his counsel endure for all generations.These are words of reassurance to me, Lord, and to all those who wish humankind well and are concerned about its future. I read the papers and listen to the radio and watch television and I see the news that darken humankind’s existence from day to day. “The plans of the nations.” All is violence and ambition and war. Nations plan how to conquer other nations, and men plan how to murder other men. Every new weapon produced in the armament race is present witness and potential instrument of the black thoughts that men entertain today all over the world, of “the plans of the nations” to destroy each other. Mistrust, mutual threats, spying, blackmailing. The universal nightmare of the international power struggle that threatens the very existence and continuation of humankind.

Before that brutal evidence of world-wide violence good men feel the frustration of their helplessness, the uselessness of their efforts, the defeat of good sense and the flight of sanity from the international scene. “The plans of the nations” spell misery and destruction for those very nations, and nothing and nobody seem to be able to stop that insane race to self-annihilation. More even than worry for the future, what harasses the mind of thinking people today is the sorrow and surprise at the foolishness of man and the inability to make him see reason for his own good. When will that madness stop?

“The Lord brings the plans of the nations to nothing.” That is the assurance and that is the hope. You will not allow, Lord, humankind to destroy itself. When I think of it, those words, those “plans of nations” referred to a situation of many centuries ago when the nations around Israel plotted against it and against one another for mutual destruction. And those plans were brought to nothing. Humankind is still alive. History continues. In that history the plans of destruction still continue, but then the watch of the Lord also continues and holds back the hand of destruction from the face of the earth. The future of humankind is safe in his hands.

Against “the plans of the nations” stand now “the Lord’s own plans”, and that is the greatest consolation of believing man in his thoughts and care for his own race. We don’t know those plans, and we don’t ask to be told about them, since we trust the Planner, and it is enough for us to know that the plans exist. Being the Lord’s plans they will be beneficent for man and they will be unfailing in their execution. Those plans will safeguard each nation and defend each individual in ways he does not know now but he will learn one day in the joy and the glory of the Lord’s salvation. The Lord’s victory will in the end be man’s victory and the victory of every nation that puts its trust in him. His plans are the beginning on earth of a blissful eternity.

The Lord’s own plans shall stand for ever, and his counsel endure for all generations. Humankind’s history in the hands of the Lord.


Second-hand people

The phrase hit me like a bullet. The book was still in my hands, but I had ceased to see the page, and only that sentence stood out bold and clear like a flash of lightning that reduces to mere background the whole black horizon. Sometimes a thought was in the mind seeking expression, and comes to life as it finds flesh and body in the sudden incarnation of exact language. Sometimes, on the contrary, the mind was utterly unprepared, oblivious or even defensive, and the unexpected revelation of the printed challenge uncovers a new world of creative adventure. Such was the case now. Smug complacency had led me to believe that I was a free and independent individual, fruit of my own thoughts and master of my own actions, and now suddenly I knew I was not. I felt unmasked by the unerring blow. The book had done its job. The sentence had struck home.

The book was written by J. Krishnamurti, and the sentence was: “We are second-hand people.” I stopped reading. I slowly put the book down. I wouldn’t read further. I was a second-hand person. I had been found out. What was worse, I had found out finally myself, and that was the crisis. I am second-hand.

I have always looked down on second-hand goods. The very fact that someone else has used them before makes them tainted, unreliable, polluted. “As good as new” claims the advertisement, only to emphasize the fact that it is not new. The second owner is deprived of the virgin pleasure of the first touch, the fresh look, the early perfume. He only uses what someone else has used before. Practical and cheap, but devoid of surprise and thrill. If I put on a second-hand sweater I cannot help thinking I am in someone else’s frame. I have lost part of my personality by assuming a garment someone has used before me. I prefer a new sweater, even of inferior quality, to a borrowed or inherited one, even if it has brighter colours and richer design. Don’t people pay special prices for the premiere of a film, for the first-day cover of a new postage stamp? My dress is, in an external but true and definite way, part of me, and I want every part of me to be me.

And now I find out that it is not so. It is not only my sweater that is borrowed, but my thoughts, my principles, my tastes and my convictions. It is not only my clothing, but my skin and bones as well. What I thought was exclusively and inalienably mine turns out to be commonplace inherited routine. I knew it deep down in the darkness of my unexpressed thoughts, but I never wanted to admit it to myself. Only now when the bold indictment came from outside, the delayed revelation exploded into consciousness with all the contained fury of a mighty earthquake. I am not I. There is little of me in me. I am second-hand. What I call my ideas had all belonged to someone else. I have not thought them out by myself. My tastes are inherited, and if I had been born in a distant place under a different culture I would dislike things I relish now, and would like things I now dislike. I am a bundle of prefabricated concepts. Even my reactions have been programmed by a careful training. What I call spontaneous in me is a well-rehearsed habit, what I consider genuine is only repeated artificiality. By dint of wearing these clothes I have come to believe that they were mine, but they all are second-hand, and the sudden discovery makes me feel unease in them.

I know well that nobody can grow all by himself. Rousseau’s Émile is a utopia. A human child cannot be brought up without any influence, and indeed such an attempt would in itself be the worst and most crippling of all possible influences. A child has to be taught a language and a way of life, has to be trained in table manners and moral behavior. Nobody can build up his own life from scratch, nor, as an example, should I be expected to invent the decimal system by myself if I want to learn mathematics. I will do well to avail myself of the wisdom of humankind and of the textbooks that explain the development of mathematics up to the present day. The danger is that I may get stuck in the textbooks and contribute nothing original, nothing creative nothing new to the knowledge and the experience that have gone before me. My life may become one more textbook, and textbooks are mostly copies from other textbooks, as men’s lives are copies of other men’s lives. We need personal research if humankind is to grow.

The danger again is that since training is necessary it may become inviolable and sacrosanct. The hidden fallacy is in the subtle change from the fact that “some” training was necessary to the assumption that “this” training was the necessary and irreplaceable one, and so what was mere accident of history becomes hallowed tradition. “This” is the right way, and “that” is not done. By you, of course. If the child had been born in another place he might have been taught Chinese instead of English, and in place of his five-o-clock tea he might be enjoying a cup of curdled cattle-blood in an African plain. He had to acquire some language and some eating habits, but the concrete habits as such are immaterial. In fact they condition him to a particular way of the life which, however rewarding, is only one and limited. I It is always enriching to learn a new language.

One important point to be made clear. When I wake up to the fact that I am a slave to my past, I am not quarrelling with my past. Far from it. My past is fine, only that it is fine as past, not as ruler of my present. The foundations are fine as foundations, solid and steady in their underground firmness. But if I want to perpetuate the style and manner of the foundations in the rest of the building, I am going to come up with a rather bizarre structure. Now that I am aboveground, I want to design my own building and put doors and windows and towers and domes in it. I accept and welcome and am grateful for all the influences that have shaped my life: all that I want, now that I have come of age, is to take that life in my hands and shape it from now on as I want it to be shaped. So far my past has owned me – now I want to own my past.

Another point. They also tell me that, though all the elements of my personality may be second-hand, the mixture which is me is unique and that mixture is new and personal and individual. This also is very true, and, again, all that I now want is that I be the one who determines the mixture, who decides from now on which elements in me, as I know myself now, are to remain in me as part of me, and which ones are to be shed so that I can control the mixture in proportions of my own liking. My morning starts from the moment I wake up (this is an Indian proverb). The canvas of my life has so far been painted over by foreign brushes. From now on I want to use my own brush.

For several years in my youth I studied under a man whose rigidity, asceticism and unfailing sense of discipline made of him a ruthlessly efficient teaching machine. Many years later, with a change of job, place and atmosphere, he became quite a different character, open, joyful and charming in a newly discovered personality. When people who had known him before (and had suffered under him before) told him, “How much have you changed!”, he would answer: “I have not changed. This is the way I always was down deep within myself, only that my true personality was suppressed and buried under layers of artificial self-control. Now I am at last the person I knew myself to be and was always meant to be.” The sooner we make a similar discovery in our lives, the richer our lives will be.

This is Krishnamurti’s quotation in full: “For centuries we have been spoon-fed by our teachers, by our authorities, by our books, our saints. We say, “Tell me all about it – what goes on beside the hills and the mountains and the earth?” And we are satisfied with their descriptions, which means that we live on words, and our life is shallow and empty. We are second-hand people. We have lived on what we have been told, either guided by our inclinations, or compelled to accept results by circumstances and environment. We are the result of all kinds of influences and there is nothing new in us nothing that we have discovered for ourselves, nothing original, pristine, clear. To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigour and passion.” Freedom, in Borges’ phrase, “from all the yesterdays of history.” In Christian terms, translating into my own life and experience those words of wisdom, I think of death and resurrection in the mystery of our redemption. My own person, as I know myself now, is a fairly standard specimen of middle-class humanity. I could go on like this for the rest of my life, as most humans do, and add one more digit to the statistics of creation. But now that the angel of annunciation has winged his way through heavenly paths of divine providence and has stood, gracious and challenging, on the threshold of my soul, I have the chance of breaking through a new incarnation of power and light, to die in my own image of mortal flesh in order to rise up in the splendour of the fullness of life that Jesus offers me. This is painful because the old image, however drab and mediocre, was dear to me and I felt safe and comfortable in the familiarity of the borrowed clothes and the daily routine, but the nails and the cross are the only way to open the old tomb of custom and prejudice, and liberate the new person hidden in me and born anew in the early dawn of my own Easter Sunday. Paschal adventure in a new Promised Land.

I tell you

A few wisdom stories for entertainment… and for enlightening.

The pilgrim comes back from his pilgrimage to the Buddha’s sanctuary and is now telling all his experiences to people around. The wise man listens to him and tells him: “Your back must be very strong.” – “Why?” – Because I see you still are carrying the Buddha on your shoulders.”

The disciple asks the master: “What is the illumination?” The master answers: “You will know that when you reach inner liberation.” He then goes and asks another master: “What is inner liberation?” And he answers: “You will know that when you reach illumination.” The two masters had already fixed the answers, of course.

Question to the first master: “Where am I to search for illumination?” Answer: “In the North… or in the South.” Question to the second master: “Where am I to search for illumination?” Answer: “In the East… or in the West.” These too had fixed the answers beforehand.

Question: What is the first lesson in illumination? – Answer: XYZ. – And the last? – ABC

The sacred tortoise appears only once every 500 years. The master, who always tell the truth, says he has seen it four times.

After a long search the pilgrim reaches the presence of the Goddess of Truth. She is an ugly old woman without teeth. The pilgrim salutes her, asks her all the questions he was planning to ask, and the Goddess gives always true and exact answers. At the end he asks: “What message do you want me to convey to all men from your own lips?” The Goddess of truth answers with a smile from her toothless mouth: “Tell them I am young and beautiful.”

The gods gave to men an image of the Goddess of Truth in porcelain. But it fell to the floor and now each man possesses only a small bit of it. But each one believes he possesses the whole.

You tell me

My son does not want to come to mass on Sundays. Formerly he used to come with me and my husband, but now he says he is a grownup and does not come. I feel it very much, but I don’t know what to do.

Just leave him alone. You’ve done well to take him with you when he was small, but now you should leave him in peace. What you can well do is to analyse a little with your husband why and how you yourselves go to mass, whether it is out of true faith and conviction or just out of mere obligation and custom. Children do note these things. Jesus himself, when he told his disciples on Maundy Thursday after his last supper “Do this in memory of me”, was only referring to the celebration of the Passover, since he had told them to inquire about the place for him to celebrate the Passover, and that was done only once a year. The Church later did well in celebrating mass every Sunday, and indeed every day, but definitely did wrongly in imposing assistance to mass under mortal sin, so that she has given occasion to more mortal sins than all the ten commandments together. The Church should keep the recommendation, but suppress the obligation under mortal sin which she unfortunately maintains. This is my opinion. Although no one is going to do anything about it.


Psalm 33 – Taste and see

I let the words sound in my ears: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Taste and see. That is the most loving and the most serious invitation I have received in my whole life: to taste and see the Lord’s goodness. It goes beyond study and knowledge, beyond reasoning and discourse, beyond learned books and holy scriptures. It is personal and direct, concrete and intimate. It speaks of contact, presence, experience. Not just “read and reflect” or “listen and understand” or “meditate and contemplate”, but “taste and see”. Open your eyes and stretch out your hand, awaken your senses and sharpen your feelings, bring out the most intimate power of your soul in spontaneous reaction and personal depth, the power to sense, to fee, to “taste” what is good and beautiful and true. And let it play joyfully and lovingly on the ultimate goodness and beauty and truth, the goodness, beauty and truth of the Lord himself.

To “taste” is a mystical word. And now it is mine by right. I am a mystic by vocation. I am called to taste and see. No shyness will keep me back, no false humility will make me withdraw. I am grateful and courageous, and want to respond to the divine invitation with all my being and with all my joy. I will open myself to the intimate delights of the presence of God in my soul. I will treasure the secret exchange of trust and love beyond words and beyond description. I will enjoy without measure the final communion of my soul with its Creator. He knows how to make his presence felt and how to take in his close embrace the souls he has created. It is for me to accept and to surrender in grateful wonder and silent bliss, to welcome the touch of God upon my soul.

I know that in order to awaken my spiritual senses, I have to still my intellect. Too much reasoning blinds intuition, and human cleverness hinders divine wisdom. Let me learn to be quiet, to be humble, to be simple. Let me transcend for a while all that I have studied and all that I have learned, let me stand before God in the nakedness of my being and the humility of my ignorance. Only then will he fill my emptiness with his fullness, and redeem my nothingness with the totality of his beings. To taste the sweetness of the divinity I must purify my senses from the encumbrance of past experience and inborn prejudice. The virgin slate before the new light. The soul before the Lord.

The object of the sense of taste is the fruits of the earth… and the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness and self-control.”(Gal 5:22). Divine harvest in human hearts. And that harvest we are called to reap and taste and enjoy and assimilate. So that joy may burst into our lives as the crops of the season ripen over the fields of men. So that the praise of the Lord may resound till the ends of the earth.

I will bless the Lord continually: his praise shall be always on my lips. O glorify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.


“I know what you’re going to tell me.” These were his first words before I could open my mouth. I felt bad about it. I even felt like turning round and going away. If he already knew what I was going to tell him, what was the use of my telling him?

In fact I myself did not quite know what I was going to tell him. I was just coming for a chat with nothing special on my mind, just to meet a friend and talk about whatever would come to our minds without any formality whatever. But he knew. He knew my mind. He knew me better that I know myself. That is unfair. I do have my principles, my opinions, my decisions, and my friends know my character and respect my choices. But I’m not so rigid either, I’m spontaneous and alive, I listen, I reflect, I react, I can change my opinion if I find a better one, and follow someone’s lead of opportune. I don’t actually like to repeat myself.

That’s why I don’t like to be bound, to be set in a frame. I leave myself free, and tomorrow I may say something different from today if I see it differently. If he says he knows what I’m going to say, I retort that if he says that he doesn’t know me. I’m a free person. The fun is that I don’t quite know myself in full, and now this man comes around saying that he knows me. Leave me free to be me, to discover myself, to enjoy being who I am.

I tell you

Civilized people

An English cinema actor was in Kenya for the shooting of a picture. One day he had to go for a formal dinner which ended very late at night. He went to his car where he found his driver asleep. He was a native of the land. He addressed him, shouted his name, shook him, but the driver would not wake up. The man got a shock when he realized the driver was dead. Some snake or some deadly mosquito had bitten him and its poison had ended with his life. He had to call for a doctor to certify his death, and one was woken up and came reluctantly to examine the dead man. He did so, then stood up and remonstrated with anger: “Why do you call me at midnight to examine a sleeping man?” The Englishman retorted: “But he has no breath, no pulse, no movement…”. The doctor explained: “He is only asleep… just as we native people sleep calmly and deeply. You are ‘civilized’ and need sleeping pills in order to get some sleep. And then another thing. If you are in a hurry to go, get another driver. This man will wake up only when his body tells him.”

Who is the civilized one?

Just one coin

A young man went to a chemist who showed him his wares as he explained to him the many medicines and poisons to heal and to kill people. Some were worth even a million gold coins. The young man smiled and said he didn’t have that kind of money, and in any case he was only interested in a pill that would make a girl fall in love with him. The chemist understood: “Of course, if you had a million gold coins you wouldn’t need such a pill. But in any case I can give you the pill, and it is absolutely guaranteed to be efficient with just one dose to make her fall once and for all in everlasting love of you.” – “And how much will that pill cost me?” – “Only one coin.” – “That’s fine, but then, please tell me if you don’t mind, how can you make business that way?” – “Very simple. And let this be a warning to you, young man, though I know you will not heed it. The person who comes for the first pill, sooner or later comes always for the second.” Upon which, of course, the young man goes and buys the pill.

You tell me

Question: I have by rule one hour of meditation every morning in the chapel before Holy Mass, together with all the other nuns in our community. But I’m full of distractions and I feel bad about it. I see that during meditation others take up a book and just read from it, but I don’t think that is right. I understand that personal meditation is better done in one’s room, followed then by Holy Mass all together in the chapel.

Answer: I was trained in the same way, which seems the normal and natural one. But then circumstances may also demand change, which is healthy and even necessary. A community needs its rules and customs and simply “community life”, but then it also allows for all kind of personal situations as each person is important, and it is precisely their differences and their individuality that make up the community. Let each one follow his or her own way.


Psalm 34 – “Let me hear you declare: I am your salvation.”

I know that you are my salvation, Lord, but now I want to hear it from your own lips. I want the sound of your voice, the firmness of your gesture, the consciousness of your presence. Let me hear you directly and personally addressing me in my own heart. Let me receive trough you the message of hope and redemption for my life.

“I am your salvation.”And once I have received from you the message of salvation, I trust I will see it carried out in the trying vicissitudes of my daily life. You are always with me, and you are my salvation, so that now I can expect this salvation to work its wonders for me day to day as I need your help, your guidance and your strength. If you are truly my salvation, make me feel it so effectively in the daily difficulties that beset me. In particular, Lord, save me from the people who wish me ill. There are such people round me, and the burden of their jealousy bears down heavily upon my powers of endurance. There are people who rejoice when I encounter misfortune, and laugh when I fall. When I stumbled they crowded round rejoicing, they crowded about me; nameless ruffians jeered at me, and nothing would stop them. When I slipped, brutes who would mock even a hunchback ground their teeth at me. O Lord, how long will you look on at those who hate me for no reason. Let no treacherous enemy gloat over me nor leer at me in triumph.

I do not mean to complain about anybody, Lord: they know their intentions and they handle their consciences; but I do feel at time the friction, the tension, the enmity that harden faces and strain relationships. I want to look on everybody as a friend, and on every co-worker as a partner. But I find that difficult in a world of competition and backbiting and jealousy. What I want is for me to accept personally everybody, so that by my accepting others, they may come in turn to soften their stand and to accept me. Remove all bitterness from my heart and make me kind and gentle, to invite kindness and gentleness from others, and to clear the air wherever I live and wherever I work. Be my salvation by redeeming me and all those I live with and deal with from the blight of jealousy. Let us all rejoice at the good that each one does, let each one take as done by himself whatever his brother has achieved.

“Then I shall rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.”


The young graduate from the Agricultural College went back to his village where he owned a field that had been left fallow for years and which he now wanted to put to the best use.

With that aim in mind he sought the oldest man in the village who knew all about the fields and the crops that grew in the, and asked him:

    • Tell me, please, uncle. You are the wisest farmer in the village and you know what grows where and which crop is best in each field. Do you think that wheat would be a good crop for this field of mine here?
    • Listen, my boy, I’ve been around here for so many years, and I’ve never seen wheat grow in this field.
    • I understand, uncle. Would you think then that cotton would be a suitable crop?
    • Cotton? Never have I seen a strand of cotton on this land.
    • All right. How about grapes? Do you think grapes would grow well on my field?
    • Pardon me, my boy, but in all my long life I’ve never seen grapes grow here.
    • Well, uncle, I’ll have to do something anyway. I’m going to sow wheat in my field, and we’ll see what happens.
    • Wait a minute, my boy, wait a minute. If you sow seed on the field… that’s another matter!
I tell you

An Oriental thought: The deer’s wisdom. An example for us to tread our way through life. The deer is agile, light, innocent. It wanders about in the jungle, and so long as the lion’s roar is not heard it runs and it jumps and it eats and it rests without a care on its mind. When the roar is heard and danger threatens, it takes notice and rushes forward far from any harm. If any pain hurts him, it knows plants and roots and leaves that work as medicines and lighten all pain. No worry what to eat or drink. The day looks after itself. Nature is generous. The market is open and the food is free. Daily supplies for daily needs. Why to hoard when each day takes care of its own needs?

It is not so easy for us. We are higher and we need more. But then we are also sophisticated and we elaborate our simple needs into complicated processes. These are necessary, but even there we have degrees and we have excesses and we have the true measure to see and to follow. It is for us to choose. And it is for us to believe in life, in ourselves, and in divine providence, to enjoy what we have and to give life a chance. This is the deer’s wisdom.

You tell me

The earthquake in Nepal has literally shaken all of us, if not bodily at least mentally. Couldn’t God have made a kinder world for us to live in?

Well, not exactly. A world that would be “entirely good” is simply not possible, as what is good for one person need not necessarily be good for all the others, and in fact it never is. One’s gain is somebody else’s loss, and if there is a first number at the beginning of a merit list, there has necessarily to be a last number at the end.

Not only that, but freedom of man, which can willfully be the cause of much evil and harm and suffering in the lives of other men, is on the other hand essential to man in his very being, and without it he would be just a puppet. If a constantly good behaviour would be compulsory always and for everybody, it would cease to have any merit, and it would deserve no recompense either. Freedom gives the possibility of choosing evil, a true possibility will at times become reality if it is to be true, and actual evil will bring with itself all kind of undesirable consequences. Pain is the price of freedom.

The true message of the Nepal earthquake for all of us is the call for a keen awareness of the extended mental and physical suffering in the world at large, and the consequent readiness to help and befriend and console those who suffer, as also to open ourselves to the consolation and compassion of others when we suffer.


Psalm 35 – The fountain of life

You are the fountain of life: in your light we see the light.I want to be alive, to feel alive, to sense the energies of creation surge through all the cells of my body and all the tissues of my soul. Life is the essence of all blessings from God to man, the touch of God’s right hand that makes a lump of clay into a living being, and converts a dormant shape into the king of creation. Life is the glory of God made movement and growth, the divine Word translated into laughter and speech, the eternal love throbbing in the heart of men. Life is all that is good and vibrant and joyful. Death is the end of all.

I want that life for me. For my thoughts and for my feelings, for my encounters and my conversation, for my friendship and for my love. I want the spark of life to kindle all that I do and think and am. I want my step to be quickened, my thought to be sharpened, my smile to be lit by the breaking through of the life from within me. I want to be alive.

I do not mean to complain about anybody, Lord: they know their intentions and they handle their consciences; but I do feel at time the friction, the tension, the enmity that harden faces and strain relationships. I want to look on everybody as a friend, and on every co-worker as a partner. But I find that difficult in a world of competition and backbiting and jealousy. What I want is for me to accept personally everybody, so that by my accepting others, they may come in turn to soften their stand and to accept me. Remove all bitterness from my heart and make me kind and gentle, to invite kindness and gentleness from others, and to clear the air wherever I live and wherever I work. Be my salvation by redeeming me and all those I live with and deal with from the blight of jealousy. Let us all rejoice at the good that each one does, let each one take as done by himself whatever his brother has achieved.

And you are the fountain of life.


The small star

The assembly of the stars was in session. One by one the stars were giving their reports on what they had done for humankind, as that is the chief duty of all creatures on earth. The pole star was saying how it showed them the North to direct their ways on land and over the seas, and that was a great service and inspiration for all peoples and races. The sun dwelt on the heat, light and direction he permanently provided, and more importantly how he provided the measure of light and shadow each day of the year with its climates and its stations. Each star had its own beauty, its splendour, its peculiarity, and with that its right to a special place in the firmament and in the consideration of men, and they were honoured to be known by the names men have given them in their treatises and in their tradition. They brandished their names and showed them off in their pride.

A small star was sitting in the assembly, but it had not opened its mouth at all. It felt ashamed because it had not yet been discovered by men, and so it had no name and no place in their maps of the firmament. It was as though it did not exist at all, since nobody knew of its existence. The other stars laughed at it and made fun of it, and the poor star suffered under their contempt and their insults.

Finally one day our little star took courage and got up and asked permission to address the assembly. And this is what it said: “I’m only a little star and cannot compare myself with any of you in your magnitude and your beauty and your light. But in my own way I’m also rendering an important service to humankind, since they know through their studies and measures and calculations that the courses of their known stars deflect at times slightly from the predicted paths, which means that there other stars, which they don’t yet know, which influence with their attraction the paths of know stars, and those stars are not known to them. So we, and I in them, are rendering to humans the service of letting them know that after all their wonderful studies and discoveries, there are still new stars for them to discover. Astronomy has not come to an end. They must keep on searching.

I tell you

A young man went to a master jeweler to learn the trade. The jeweler, as a condition and test to qualify, placed a diamond in his hand, made him close his fist over it and told him to keep it that way for one year without opening his hand even for a moment, and then come back. That was not an easy thing to do, but the young man was so keen in his endeavour that he persevered the whole year and then came back to return the diamond and to begin his training. The master then placed another diamond in his hand and closed it over it, at which the young man strongly protested: “You’ve already made me lose a whole year, and I’m not ready to lose another year now. Besides, this is not a diamond!” The master said: “Your training is over.”

You tell me

Question: What do you think about the actual pope?

Answer: It’s not for me to judge any pope, but about the present one I do have something to say. To me he is the best pope in all the history and the future of the Church… because when I visited him as the archbishop of Buenos Aires he told me he had read my books, and that is the best possible qualification for a pope without any doubt. It’s wonderful to write a book and then to have no idea where it will go and who will read it. I do feel happy to think that if anybody anywhere has smiled for a moment at a page of one of my books, that makes it absolutely worthwhile. And then, of course, the writer enjoys himself writing a book much more than any of his readers reading it. The Chinese have a proverb to the effect that for the life of a man to be justified on earth he has to do one of three things: To have a child, to plant a tree, or to write a book. The book is the easiest, of course.


Psalm 35 – The fountain of life

You are the fountain of life: in your light we see the light.I want to be alive, to feel alive, to sense the energies of creation surge through all the cells of my body and all the tissues of my soul. Life is the essence of all blessings from God to man, the touch of God’s right hand that makes a lump of clay into a living being, and converts a dormant shape into the king of creation. Life is the glory of God made movement and growth, the divine Word translated into laughter and speech, the eternal love throbbing in the heart of men. Life is all that is good and vibrant and joyful. Death is the end of all.

I want that life for me. For my thoughts and for my feelings, for my encounters and my conversation, for my friendship and for my love. I want the spark of life to kindle all that I do and think and am. I want my step to be quickened, my thought to be sharpened, my smile to be lit by the breaking through of the life from within me. I want to be alive.

I do not mean to complain about anybody, Lord: they know their intentions and they handle their consciences; but I do feel at time the friction, the tension, the enmity that harden faces and strain relationships. I want to look on everybody as a friend, and on every co-worker as a partner. But I find that difficult in a world of competition and backbiting and jealousy. What I want is for me to accept personally everybody, so that by my accepting others, they may come in turn to soften their stand and to accept me. Remove all bitterness from my heart and make me kind and gentle, to invite kindness and gentleness from others, and to clear the air wherever I live and wherever I work. Be my salvation by redeeming me and all those I live with and deal with from the blight of jealousy. Let us all rejoice at the good that each one does, let each one take as done by himself whatever his brother has achieved.

And you are the fountain of life.


An experience of Rabindranath Tagore told by himself: “Once I was rowing in my boat in the middle of the river when the mast of my boat hit against a bridge on the river. If the mast would have bent slightly, or if the bridge would have arched like the back of a cat, or if the level of the water would have come down a little for the moment, I would have sailed happily through. But none of those things happened. And it is good that they didn’t happen. Thanks to that I learned how to sail… and I can safely walk over the bridge also when I have to.”

Tagore’s experience and reflection help us all. The law is the law, whether it pleases or displeases us. That is why we can safely and confidently live our lives.

I tell you

A wisdom story to enrich our wisdom.

The devout worshipper went daily to the temple and made always the same prayer with the same petition. Days passed and months passed and years passed, but his petition was never granted. Finally one day an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him: “I’m coming from God’s side to let you know that your petition will never be granted.”

The good man on hearing that, came out of the temple, went to the main square and started calling the people and asking them to rejoice with him. They were surprised when, on asking them his cause to rejoice, he answered that God had told him he would never grant his petition. “¿How can you rejoice when God has refused your petition?” they asked him. And he answered: “It is true that he has not granted my petition, but he has given me an acknowledgment of receipt. Isn’t that enough?”

You tell me

Question: I say my prayers daily since I was young, but I don’t feel any devotion at all, and I’m thinking whether this is just only a mere habit without any merit at all on my part, or whether I should be saying them all the same as part of my being a Christian whether I feel anything while saying them or not.

Answer: A feeling of devotion is wonderful when it comes, and should be priced and fostered, but it is not necessary, and in fact it is not common in practice. The merit of our prayer is not in feeling but in faith. St Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises has some “Rules for the discernment of spirits” in which he distinguishes the two states of “consolation” and “desolation” with rules as to how to behave in each case. I quote one of them: “He who is in desolation should strive to be patient waiting for the next consolation.” Patience. The two states of the soul alternate, whatever we do, and it is good to know it and to accept it. When we are in desolation we must think that soon it will pass away and give place to consolation; but then by the same measure when we are in consolation we must remember that it is not for ever, and be ready to welcome the opposite state when it comes. Moods are important, but they should not dictate our behaviour.


Psalm 36 – Wait for the Lord

Trust in the Lord and do good; settle in the land and find safe pasture. Depend upon the Lord, and he will grant you your heart’s desire. Commit your life to the Lord: trust in him and he will act. Wait quietly for the Lord, be patient till he comes: do not strive to outdo the successful nor envy him who gains his ends. For evildoers will be destroyed, but they who hope in the Lord shall possess the land.I need those words: “Wait patiently for the Lord.” I am all impatience and hurry and hustle and bustle, and I don’t any more know whether that is holy zeal or just ill temper with me. It is all for your Kingdom, of course, for the good of my soul and the service of my neighbour, but there is through it all a sense of inner pressure as though the welfare of mankind depended entirely on me and on my efforts. I want to do, to achieve, to bless, to heal, to set right all the evils of the world, beginning, of course, with all the shortcomings of my humble person, and so I have to act, to pray, to plan, to organize, to conquer, to achieve. Too much activity in my little world, too many ideas in my head, too many projects in my hands. And in the middle of my mad rush I hear that single word from on high. Wait.


Wait patiently for the Lord.

All my duties, all my obligations, all my plans, all my work in that simple word. Wait. Keep quiet. Don’t run about. Don’t fuss, don’t fret, don’t drive yourself hard and everybody else harder still. Don’t behave as though the whole delicate balance of the cosmos depended every moment on you. Wait and be still. Nature knows how to wait, and its fruits come in due season. The earth waits for the yearly rain, the fields wait for the seeds and the crops, the tree waits for the spring, the tides wait for their appointed time in the heavens, and the burning stars wait ages and ages for the eye of man to discover them and think of the hand that placed them in their orbits. All creation knows how to wait for the fullness of time that gives it meaning and gathers the harvest of hope into handfuls of joy. Only man is impatient and burns his time. I have still to learn the heavenly patience that brings peace to the mind and lets God free to act at his own time and in his own way. The secret of Christian action is not to do but to let God do. “Trust in him and he will act.”

If I only would let you do in my life and in my world what you want to do! If I only would learn not to interfere, not to be anxious, not to fear that all will be lost if I don’t keep things tightly in hand! If I only would learn not to interfere, not to be anxious, not to fear that all will be lost if I don’t keep things tightly in hand! If I only had faith and trusted you and let things to you and let you come when you want and do what you please! If only I would learn how to wait! Waiting is believing, and waiting is loving. Waiting for the coming of Christ is anticipating his coming in the private eschatology of one’s heart. Blessed are those who wait, because the joy of meeting will crown the faithfulness of waiting.


In a big well lived happily a large colony of frogs. There they lived, they croaked, they ate, they sang, they jumped and they made the well come alive with their own life. The only danger was that every day, once in the morning and once in the evening, a bucket attached to a string fell into it and was immediately lifted full of water. The frogs did not mind that a little water was taken, but the bucket fell with force and could hit any frog and do harm, and so they had to be careful. As soon as the noise of the pulley was heard, all the frogs swam deep into the water and remained there till the bucket was lifted full of water, and the young girl who had come with it went back to her village with her load.

There was a young frog who one day thought that if the bucket was dangerous there was also an opportunity in it to come up, go out, have a look and come to know what was there all around in the wide world. From the well they saw only a blue space that became dark at night with points of light on it, and they only saw also for a few brief instants the smiling face of the young girl with the long plait, and all that was very inviting and had to be seen and explored.

The young frog said all that openly, but they all opposed and threatened it. Such a thing had never been done, and therefore should never be attempted. That would be the end of our race. Our life is in the well, and that is our duty and our welfare. Outside the well there is only a wild forest and a burning desert. We are made to stay here, and it would be a sin for us to go out of here. This is the tradition of our elders. Is that stupid frog going to know more that all of us?

The young frog listened to all that, and it said nothing, but thought much about it. Next day morning it placed itself inside a hole in the wall of the well, waited for the young girl to come and throw the bucket, and when she lifted it to take it outside it jumped into it in the midst of the surprise and the insults of all the other frogs, and went up and out into the surrounding fields. The authorities of the frog kingdom condemned it, exiled it, and forbad any mention of it in the future. Nobody spoke about the runaway frog though they all remembered it. They were a disciplined people.

One day a familiar voice was heard from the top of the well, and all the frogs looked up with full curiosity. They saw their frog friend with a handsome companion and five small tadpoles all smiling. They did not know what to say, and so the frog explained from the top: “Up here there is a splendid world all around us. There is running water in many places, not stagnant in one place as there below; there are green leaves on plants and trees and many insects so that we get daily new things to eat, and there are also other frogs and toads who are more cultured and educated than we are, and I have got married and have five children and we are all very happy.”

The authorities below threatened the frog that they would capture it and execute it as being a bad example to all, but it smiled and went away with its small ones. There was much discussion and unease deep in the well, and the authorities forbad all to speak about it, so that they could say nothing now.

The next day when the girl with the long plait threw the bucket into the well and took it up… it was full to the brim with frogs and tadpoles.

I tell you

I walk daily for an hour and a half, and that is the first thing I do in the morning. I do it first because else I don’t do it. If I begin with the email and messages and answers and readings and “spam” I get entangled in all that and I don’t get out of it in the whole morning. I knew the famous doctor Marañón in Madrid, to whom is dedicated a street near my home, and so I see his name every day and I remember the advice he once gave to me: “Our legs are like a pump for our heart.” Thank you, doctor. I owe my life to you.”

When we walk we exercise our legs, and that’s the first we notice, but at the same time our heart, which is also a muscle in our body and the most important of all at that, also gets its exercise, and that is the point. Our legs do move while we walk, and that is our first and obvious sensation when walking, but our heart does also move, however invisibly, as it too is a muscle and the most important one in our body too. Walking gives our heart a regular, rhythmical, prolonged exercise which lightens its existence and lengthens its life. I’m helped in my walk by two “Nordic walkers” or sticks I brought from Helsinki, similar to those used on the snow, but with a little shoe at their end instead of the usual wheel. In Finland everybody uses them, but in Madrid I’m the only one. Small children that are going to school in the morning with their parents always keep looking at them. Some elders too look. I’ve even been stopped at times by people who ask me where did I got them. I tell them they are worth a trip to Finland. The name of the shop is Stockman if you want to know.

You tell me

Two Jesuit friends in India, companions of many years, have recently written to me saying the same thing, only that the way they say it differs slightly. One says: “Your memory will last long in India”, while the other says: “You memory will not be lost in India.” They say the same thing, but one is thinking how it will last, while the other thinks how it will be eventually lost. The word betrays the thought.


Psalm 37 – Prayer of a sick man

Sickness has struck, Lord, and I have lost my courage. So long as my body was feeling well, I took health for granted. I am a strong, healthy man, can eat anything and sleep anywhere, can put on any amount of hours of work, can rough it out, can brave the sun in summer, the snow in winter, and the sickly wetness of the long monsoon months. I may have a passing headache or a sneezing cold, but I spurn medicines and ignore doctors, and I know that my trustworthy body can pull me through any crisis and defy any microbes or bacteria in the interest of my work which cannot wait as it is work for people and for God. I am proud of my strength and count on it to keep on working without rest and living without care.

But now sickness has come and I am down. Down in my body between the burning sheets of an infirmary bed, and down in my soul under the humiliation and the perplexity of my broken strength. My head is reeling, my temples are throbbing, my whole body is aching, my chest has to force itself to breath. I have no appetite, no sleep, no desire to see anybody, and above all no desire to be seen by anybody in my hour of misery which looks as though it were to last for ever. If my body fails me, how can I go on living any more?

My iniquities have poured over my head: they are a load heavier than I can bear. My wounds fester and sink because of my folly. I am bowed down and utterly prostrate. All day long I go about as if in mourning, for my loins burn with fever, and there is no wholesome flesh in me.

But now, in the long hours of my enforced idleness, my thoughts turn of necessity to my body, and I begin to see it in a new light and to recover a relationship with it I should have never lost. My body’s sickness is its language, its way of telling me that I was misusing it, ignoring it, despising it, while it is very much part of me. As a child cries when no attention is paid to it, so my body cries because I have neglected it. Those cries are its fever and its weakness and its pain. And now I listen to them and grasp their meaning and accept their wisdom.

My body is so close to me that I had taken it for granted. And now it tells me gently, painfully, reluctantly that it cannot put up with such neglect. Sickness is only a cleft between soul and body, between ideal and reality, between the impossible dream and the daily facts. Sickness brings me down to earth, and reminds me of my human condition. I welcome now the reminder and hasten to reestablish a dialogue with my body which should have never been broken.

We’ll go together through life, my dear body, hand in hand and heart to heart, with the rhythms of your flesh giving expression to the tides of thought and feeling that swell and ebb inside my mind. Smile when I rejoice, and tremble when I fear; relax when I rest, and tense every nerve when I concentrate on the problems of living. Warn me of coming dangers, signal your fatigue before it is too late, and radiate your approval when you feel fine and like my doings and enjoy life with me.

Thank you, Lord, for my body, my faithful companion and trusty guide in the paths of life. And thanks even for this sickness that brings me closer to it and reaches me to take care of it with love and providence. Thank you for reminding me of my whole self, of reuniting me again, of making me whole. And as a sign of your blessing, as a recognition that this sickness came from you to awaken me to the totality of my being, heal now my body which you have created and restore to me the joy of health and strength to go on living with zest and confidence, to go on working for you, mindful now that it is not only my mind and my soul that work, but my body with them in loving unity and faithful cooperation. When I pray it is now the whole of me that prays to you.

Lord, do not forsake me; keep not far from me, my God. Hasten to my help, O Lord my salvation.


The key

He was a right man, but some wicked enemies had thrown him into jail, and he prayed to the Lord to liberate him. God made the key of his jail to appear before him so that he could take it, open the door and come out free. The good man bowed before the key in reverence, hanged it on the wall, kneeled down before it and prayed to it. Daily he prayed to God before the key to free him from jail…, and remained in jail.

The key to life is religion, the will of God, the ten commandments. They are not to worship them on one’s knees, to recite them, to study them, to memorize them. They are meant to be put into practice.

I tell you

A middle-aged woman goes to a travel agent in New York and asks for a ticket to New Delhi in India. The agent tells her there are no tickets available at the time, but she insists and pleads repeating again and again, “I have to see my guru! I have to see my guru!” till she finally gets the ticket. On arrival in India she is advised to see the Taj Mahal or Delhi or Goa or any of the well-known tourist places, but she insists: “I want to see my guru!” When she reaches the monastery ruled by the guru in question she is told that she will only be able to approach him, ask him a short question, listen to his answer and withdraw at once. She agrees, waits, approaches the guru who is in deep meditation with his eyes closed, and says in his ear: “Johnny, my son, leave all this nonsense and come home with me.” Mother knows.

You tell me

Someone has asked me whether I have seen the pope. The answer is yes and no. That is, I did meet him and had a good conversation with him… when he was not yet pope. I met the person but not the office. In my travels to South America I once visited Buenos Aires where he was cardinal at the time, I went to ask for his blessing for my public talks (which is a more delicate way of asking for permission as all expect the foreign priest to do) and he told me he had read my books. If that is so, there is a pope in history who has read my books. I hope it makes a difference.


Psalm 39 – Lord, open my ears!

Open my ears, Lord, that I may hear your word, obey your will and follow your law. Make me attentive to your voice, attuned to your accent, that I may at once recognize the messages of your love in the middle of the jungle of noise that surrounds my life.

Open my ears to your word, your scriptures, your revelation in human sound to humankind and to me. Make me love the reading of your scriptures, rejoice in their sound and enjoy their repetition. Let them be music to my ears, rest to my mind and comfort to my heart. Let them awaken in me an instant echo of recognition, of familiarity, of friendship. Let me discover a new meaning in them every time I read them, because your voice is fresh and your message comes straight from you today. Let your word be revelation to me, be strength and joy in my journey through life. Give me ears to listen, to grasp, to understand. Make me sensitive to your word in your scriptures, Lord.

Open my ears also to your word in my heart. The secret message, the intimate touch, the presence without words. Divine telex of personal news. Let it sound, let it print, let it bring to me moment by moment the living remembrance of your permanent love. Let me hear your silence in my soul, let me guess when you smile and when you frown, let me sense your moods and respond to them with the ready sensitivity of deep faith and steady trust. Let us keep up the dialog, Lord, without any break, without any blackouts, without any doubts, mistrust or misunderstanding. Your loving word in my willing heart.

And open my ears particularly, Lord, to your word in my brothers to me. You speak to me through them, through their presence, through their needs, through their sufferings and through their joys. Let me hear the human concert of my race around me, the notes I like and the notes I dislike, the contrasting melodies, the valiant chords, the measured counterpoint. Let me hear every accent and pay attention to every voice. It is your voice, too, Lord. I want to be attuned to the global harmony of history and society, to join in it and let my life sound as part of it in meaningful accord.

Open my ears, Lord. Grace of graces in a word of sound.


Three boys went to the fields to get mangoes together. Now they had to divide them among the three, and to do a fair job they went to the Mulla Naseruddin for help. He asked them: “Do you want me to do it as a human judge would do it or as God would do it?” The three answered: “As God himself would do it.” Upon which the Mulla gave three fourths to a boy, one forth to another, and none to the third one. When the boys furiously protested, the Mulla explained: “If you had told me to do as a human judge, I would have made three equal parts and given one to each. But you told me to do as God does, and God in his gifts and his graces gives much to one, little to another, and nothing to the third one. Now you get going.”

The holy will of God.

I tell you

I’ll be 90 on November 4th, and I remember what the Bible has to say about the age of man: “Seventy are the years of man over the earth, and if he be strong, eighty. All the rest above that is misery and sadness in spirit.” (Psalm 90:10) So that I am now entering that last stage, and I do it joyfully and cheerfully – pace the Bible. I want to recall the different stages in my life, to admire God´s providence in all, and to thank him for everything.

I don’t remember my birth, of course, but I do remember what my mother told me about it many times: “Childbirth can be painful, you know, but I can tell you that you didn’t give me any trouble.” I’ve always in my life tried to avoid giving any trouble to anybody… right from the beginning.

My father, an engineer with a knowledge of languages, told my brother and me in our childhood something I never forgot: “Languages are very important in life. German first, for culture and for science, then French for our neighbours, and later on, as it is not so important, English which you can always learn by yourselves.” He little knew what was coming on us with the English invasion all over the world.

Eduardo Galeano, Mexican poet, wrote: “Shall we be overcome by the brutal barbarians? / So many million people talking English alone? / Where are the noble knights who will come to our rescue? / Shall we keep now all silent and repent ever more?”

The German school gave me two things besides the language: punctually and excellence. Excellence does not mean doing everything in an excellent way, but doing everything in the best way I can do it at the moment. Never by halves, never in a shabby way, never incomplete. In India I soon learned an unfortunate word, “chalega”, which means something like “that will do”, “that’s enough”, “don’t worry about more”, and is freely used to leave something incomplete and unfinished. I wanted to denounce and discourage such a mentality. At that time there was no television, so that the only entertainment on Sunday morning was the large supplement of the daily paper to which I contributed regularly. Once I wrote in it an article on that word “That will do” with the title “It will not do!” Later on, one day at the end of my mathematics class, as there was not enough time to finish the theorem I was demonstrating on the blackboard, I just wrote quickly a few hints, turned to the class and said, “That will do.” The whole class protested, and all of them said together with one voice: “It will never do!” I told them that if they had learned that much from me, I had nothing else to teach them.

You tell me

“I pray and pray, but I feel nothing when I pray, and I feel I’m doing it just out of routine. I cannot leave it, as I feel guilty if I do, and I don’t enjoy it either, so I feel I’m caught in a hopeless situation. What can I do?”

Thank you for sharing this deep and painful experience of yours. I’m not going to tell you what to do, as I don’t know it either (and perhaps this sharing of ignorance may already help you), but I’ve been helped in my life (Jesuit that I am) by the “Rules for the discernment of spirits” of St Ignatius Loyola in his little book of “Spiritual Exercises”. The words “consolation” and “desolation” come from him, with their explanation, understanding and applications. You may easily get a copy of that little book and go through it. It does help in life, as we all of us go through those acute moods at times.


Psalm 40 – Concern for the poor

Happy the man who has a concern for the helpless! The Lord will save him in time of trouble. The Lord protects him and gives him life, making him secure in the land.Thank you, Lord, for your gift to your Church in our days: the gift of concern for the poor, of awareness of injustice and oppression, of awakening to liberation in the souls of men and in the structures of society. Thank you for having shaken us out of our complacency with routine orders, and of acquiescence in inequality and temporizing with exploitation. Thank you for the new light and the new courage that have surged through your Church today to denounce poverty and to fight oppression. Thank you for the Church of the poor.

You always listened to the plea of the orphan and he widow, and took any injustice done to them as done to you. Now, Lord, it is whole peoples that are orphaned, and entire sections of society that feel destitute as widows without support and without help. Their cry has reached you, and you in return have raised a new conscience to us to make us feel solidarity with all those who suffer, and get to work to redress the wrongs that are inflicted on them. We feel privileged that our age has been chosen to be the age of liberation, and our Church to be the Church of the poor. We accept with joy the responsibility of working for a new order in your name, of bringing justice among your children upon earth, so that as all are equal in the love you bestow on them, so they may be equal in the use of the gifts you have freely disposed for all your children.

We make this pursuit the goal of our efforts and the aim of our life. We are glad to sense a universal revival all around us, and want to contribute to it with our enthusiasm and our work. We feel strongly in our hearts a concern for the poor, and we count ourselves fortunate to have been given that grace by you. Thanks for the contemporary blessing on our generation. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen. Amen.


Three boys went to the fields to pluck mangoes. They filled up a large bag with them, and then they went to the holy sage Mulla Naseruddin to ask him to fairly divide them between the three of them. The Mulla asked them:

– “Do you want me to divide them as a man would do it or as God himself would do it?”

They answered:

– “As God himself would do it.”

The Mulla then gave one third of the mangoes to one, two thirds to the second, and none to the third. When they protested, the Mulla explained:

– “If you would have asked me to do it as a man would do it, I would have given one third to each; but you asked me to do as God does, and God gives much to some, less to others, and nothing at all to others still.”

I tell you and You tell me

“I TELL YOU”and “YOU TELL ME” come this time together as both are about greetings I’ve received for my birthday and thanks I return for them.My thanks to all of you who have wished me for my birthday and feast day on November 4th by post or by phone. Having lived in several continents and many countries during my life, my mail has come these days from different countries with variegated stamps on the envelopes, bringing to heart the memories of friends and acquaintances that span a lifetime. A treat to the heart.

Friendship has always been uppermost in my heart. From kindergarten I remember Paco Palá and Antonio Torres with whom I played my first games and shared my first class notes (a scholarly and altruistic activity I carried out through my student life). In India I went straight to Madras (now Chennai), where I studied mathematics and made new friends. When leaving Madras at the end of my studies there I was one day talking with one of them, and I said at the end with feeling: “Wherever I am in the future I would always like to remain being in touch with you.” He exclaimed: “So would I!” And we did correspond till his death.

I daily walk for an hour, and that is the first thing I do on getting up in the morning, as I know that if I leave it for later I’ll never do it. Walking is a good exercise for the body… and for the mind. It is while walking that thoughts come and I think of new work, of fresh approaches, of renewed contacts which will then become my regular work at my desk the whole morning after breakfast. The daily mail is a joy as it brings me memories of all the places I’ve lived in and of the many persons I’ve met. In India, as my friends know, I spent many years living with families from house to house and changing homes every week. I called it my “Viharyatra” (a word which my Indian friends will appreciate), and it was about the happiest time in my life (though my friends tell me that for me the last is always the best – and will always be). Then I work at my web. It comes out once in a month, but I keep thinking of it all the time. The web makes me think and keeps me in contact with friends, which is a blessing. After lunch I take siesta, and I like to remind my English friends that “siesta” is one of the very few words which English has taken from Spanish, as against the many that Spanish has taken from English. In India we call siesta “reclining on the left”, as it is supposed to be taken lying down on one’s left side. Afternoon is for reading, and then getting into contact with friends and meeting together, which is the best time in the day. Then to bed in time, with a last greeting to my Little Angel who never leaves me.


Psalm 41

As a hind longs for the running streams, so do I long for you, O God. With my whole being I thirst for God, the loving God. When shall I come to God ad appear in his presence?I long, I thirst, I yearn. Deep in my heart that is the vital thrust of my life, the motive force of my earthly existence. I live because I long for you, Lord, and in a way I die too because I long for you. Sweetest torture of loving at a distance, of seeing through a veil, of possessing in faith and waiting in impatience. I desire your presence as I desire nothing else on this world. I imagine your face, I hear your voice, I worship your divinity. I rest in the thought that if waiting for you is so sweet, what will it be meeting you!

I want to meet you in prayer, in your unmistakable touch during the moments in which my soul forgets everything around and is only in silence with you. You have a way of making yourself indubitably present to the soul that thinks of you in solitude. I prize those instants and treasure those visitations that anticipate heaven upon earth.
I want to meet you in your sacraments, in the reality of your pardon and in the hidden glory of your table with men. I come to you I faith, and you reward that faith with the fleeting whisper of the wings of your love. I will come again and again with the memory of those blessed encounters, the patience of waiting in darkness and the eagerness to feel your closeness anew.

I want to meet you in the faces of men, in the sudden revelation that all men are my brothers, in the need of the poor and in the love of my friends, in the smile of a child and in the noise of a crowd. You are in all men, Lord, and I want to recognize you in them.

And I want to meet you one day in the poverty of my being and the nakedness of my soul, in the face of death and the gateway of eternity. I want to meet you face to face in the moment that will be bliss for ever, in the embrace of recognition after the night of life in this world.

I long to meet you, Lord, and the vehemence of that longing upholds my life and steadies my step. In that hope, life has a meaning and my earthly pilgrimage has a direction. I am coming to you, Lord.


There were two tigers in the zoo, and one day one of them told the other:

– “I’m fed up with our life here. So I’m going to escape and I’ll never come again. Goodbye!”

He went away, but a few days later he came back and told his story to his friend.

– “I run away, as you know, and at the beginning everything was fine. Good roads and many buildings and wide rooms with many tasty people in them. – I first went to one with the title on it: MINISTER.
–  Then to another with the title: SECRETARY.
– I eat up the people in them, and nothing happened. But then I was still hungry and I saw a man carrying a tray with cups and drinks whom they all were asking to bring them tea, whatever that was. Well, I eat up that man too and there was quite an uproar all round and they caught me and threw me out, and I ran for my life and I’ve come now to tell you the whole story.
– That must be a very important man, don’t you think so?”

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