Monday, January 15, 2018

Who Are You Looking For?

Fr. Bob’s Thoughts – Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, John is unselfishly fulfilling his vocation. He points out Jesus to his disciples, steering people toward the Lord, and John’s disciples leave him and follow after Jesus.

It sounds a little as if they were uncertain of their reception, and felt shy to approach Jesus. After all, He did not know them. And they didn’t really know Him, except what they had heard.

Note how they became disciples: It was Jesus who took the initiative, He made the first move. It was He who turned and spoke to them, He met them halfway, He made things easier for them, He opened the door….

It was not you who chose Me…. No, I chose you….

Note also the question Jesus asks; “What are you looking for?” This is not, for Jesus, a trite, stereotypical question you ask if you hear footsteps behind you. What do you want? This is a religious question, what are you looking for?

What are you looking for? Only You actually know. Why are you following after Jesus? Why do you come here week after week? Why do you turn to Him?

Some of us turn to Him simply because we turned to Him as children, it’s all in the family. Some turn to Him because He is a problem solver, He gives answers. Some turn to Him because with Him around I do not have to look under the bed, He makes me feel safe.

Some of us turn because we need miracles. He is the God of the impossible: in sickness, or we need a job, or to pass the exam. For some people, God is just a big Bayer Aspirin!

Why should you turn to Jesus? Why should you follow after Him? Simply because you have been called because Jesus said to you – Follow Me.

Yes, you may find your security in Him, you know that He can work wonders, but that does not fully explain why you believe in Him, abide in Him, bring others to Him, or why you are ready to suffer with Him.

The only good reason is that Jesus has called you. He called you at Baptism, that is where we first turned to Him, perhaps with a protesting yell. You were baptized into Him, and the priest said, I claim you for Christ.

Conversion to Jesus Christ is never a one-shot affair. It is a ceaseless process, like growing, you have to be constantly turning to Christ, looking for something. For what? Above all, a person.

Christ has to be real to you, as real as your closest friend. Following Jesus is not easy. He preached a twin message everyone could understand: Love God above all else; Love your sisters and brothers as much as you love yourself. He made enemies of the powerful because He put compassion above tradition, love above law, people above things and institutions.

To live the Christian life, you have to be a little like John the Baptist. You point to Christ, not with a wave of the hand, or with pious talk, and not simply through a Sunday obligation. You point to Christ by what you do and who you are. Whatever you do, you try to do it in a Christ-like fashion. And wherever you are, you never cease searching for what our Lord would have you do… Today, tomorrow, for life!

To be a Christian you have to be a bit like those three wise men we read about last week. They also were asked the very same question that Jesus asked in our Gospel today. They were asked, what are you looking for? They were looking for a person, and when they found Him…. silence. Words were inadequate to convey what they felt, only gestures would suffice.

Scripture does not tell us what was said, only that on entering the stable, seeing their maker in a food trough, they fell down and adored Him, and opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts.

What are you looking for? The question stems not from me, but from Jesus.

From your answer, you should learn a good deal about yourself. How convinced and passionate a disciple are you?

For the question in another form is the question Jesus put to His disciple, Peter, after several years of discipleship…. Do you love Me?

Do you love Me enough to fall down and adore Me? And open your treasures, and offer Me your gifts? If you do, come and see.

Friday, January 12, 2018

I Have Too Much To Do!

Ever feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? As Christians, there is one thing we all need when we deal with stress.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Gifts

by Philip Chircop

The high school students were putting on a Christmas play which they themselves had written. In the afternoon before they play's performance, the students suddenly realized that they had forgotten all about the three kings in the story. The director of the play hit upon the following solution: he would phone three people at random and ask them if they would stand in for the three kings. All they had to do was this: bring along some gift which was especially meaningful to them and then explain in their own words why they had chosen that gift.

The first of the three kings was a fifty-year-old father of five. He worked for the town council. He brought along a pair of crutches and explained: "Some years ago I was in a head-on collision on the highway. I spent many months in the hospital with broken bones. No one was sure that I would ever walk again. But I tried and tried and used these crutches for weeks. During that time my whole attitude changed: I became happy and grateful for every little daily success. I learned to take nothing for granted. I bring these crutches as a symbol of my personal thanks to God."

The second of the three kings was really a queen, a mother of two children. She brought along a bundle of diapers and baby clothes. She explained, "I was very happy and successful as a graphic artist. Then I got married and the bottom fell out of my life. My husband did not want me to work anymore. All he wanted me to do was stay at home and take care of the house. Then along came the babies, and they needed me. But after they grew up, I was again lost.... until I began to put talents to work in creative art classes for children. I bring along this bundle of baby things to show that it was the little ones, the babies, who brought a new meaning into my life. I feel that by working and helping in their little world I am bettering the whole family of mankind."

The third king was a young teenager. All he brought along was a blank piece of paper. He laid it before the Infant Jesus in the crib and explained: "I was not even sure whether I should come here or not... My hands are empty; I have nothing to give. In my heart I long for success and a meaning for my life. I am filled with doubts and questions and unrest. My future looks foggy and unclear to me. I lay this empty sheet of paper before you, Child in the crib, and ask you to bring me an answer to some of my problems. I feel empty on the inside, but my heart is open and receptive."

Source:  As told by Willi Hoffsuemmer

Imagine yourself standing before the crib of Life. What are you ready and willing to offer if you were asked to stand in for one of the "three kings"?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Let Catholic social teaching shape your new year

By Jessie Bazan 

Copyright © 2018 Claretian Publications. Reprinted by permission from the January 2018 issue of U.S. Catholic magazine,

We all know the routine once Christmas enters the rearview mirror. Maybe we packed on a few holiday party pounds. Maybe we spent too much on gifts under the tree. No matter the ailment, there’s a new year just around the corner. “This is the year I keep my resolutions!” we proclaim—always in good faith to start. “No, really . . . this is it! I’m going to get healthy! I’m going to save money!” 

Then life hits. We go back to work or school. The resolve we had just a few weeks ago fades. U.S. News reports 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. Why are these commitments so hard to keep? One reason is New Year’s resolutions tend to have an individual focus. I’m doing something to improve my life, so the consequences of my actions or inactions only impact me.
What if instead we took a more global approach to New Year’s resolutions? What if resolutions were about serving others and allowing ourselves to be transformed along the way? The seven principles of Catholic social teaching offer a rich place to start brainstorming some selfless resolutions.

Our faith is too important of a call to let slip.

Catholic Social Teaching 101
Catholic social teaching is rooted in the biblical belief that all people are created in the image of God—and should be able to live as such. There are rights and responsibilities that need to be upheld in order for everyone’s dignity to be respected. The teachings call forth the Lord’s demand for justice for the poor and vulnerable from the Old Testament. It also puts Christ’s criteria for the final judgment front and center: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit the sick and imprisoned.

The term Catholic social teaching refers to the body of doctrine created by the church to help apply the teachings of Jesus Christ to the modern world. It serves as the moral compass for justice issues related to economic, social, and political life.

Catholic social teaching emerged in a formal way with the rise of modernity, when Christian values no longer dominated societal thought. Church leaders began to lay out church social teaching in published encyclicals and pastoral documents, beginning with Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. The most recent Catholic social teaching document is Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home).

The social teachings of the church grow and develop over time, as do the ways people live them out. Here are descriptions of and ideas for acting out the principles of Catholic social teaching in 2018. What will you resolve to do this new year?

Life and dignity of the human person
God created humanity in God’s own image and likeness (Gen. 1:27). As God’s beloved creation, we—all people—have dignity that’s inherent to our human person. Nothing and no one can take our dignity away. The principle of human dignity is the foundation for all Catholic social teaching. It affirms the sacredness of every person, recognizing that within our different abilities and backgrounds we share a common humanity and a common brokenness.

Human dignity must be respected always. Catholic social teaching is clear: “Every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent” (Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World).

Participate in Christian-Muslim dialogue Some local churches and mosques host interfaith dialogues, which are chances to come together and break barriers so often put up between people of different faiths. Actions like the executive travel ban have cast an unfair shadow over our Muslim brothers and sisters. Through dialogue, we come to know others for who they really are.

Go shopping with a refugee family Many refugees feel unsafe, fearing discrimination or getting picked up by an ICE agent. I knew a woman who went grocery shopping with her Somali neighbor every Saturday. Both got their errands done safely, and they became fast friends in the process.
Consume media with discerning eyes and ears Assumptions and generalizations are littered throughout online and print media today. Be alert to how news outlets portray people of different races or ethnicities. Are all sides of the story being told? How legitimate are the sources? It’s easy to get sucked into biased narratives that degrade human dignity.

Call to family, community, and participation

We all have abilities to make a difference. Catholic social teaching demands we use our gifts to better the common good—the good that comes when all in society can live fulfilled lives.

The authors of Gaudium et Spes note, “Citizens, for their part, should remember that they have the right and the duty . . . to contribute according to their ability to the true progress of their community.” Bernard Evans, author of Lazarus at the Table: Catholics and Social Justice (Liturgical Press), writes, “People have a right to be involved—directly or indirectly—in decision-making processes that affect their lives.” By participating in the community through work, parish involvement, political action, and family life, we take responsibility for our development as individuals and society. 

Schedule a monthly family fun day Families are the first teachers of faith, emphasizes Pope Francis. Between work, school, sports practices, and more commitments, family time can get stretched thin. Carve out family time on the calendar. Visit a museum. Take a bike ride. Just be together.

Assist a teacher whose class includes students with disabilities More helping hands will make it possible for students with disabilities to be better integrated into the life of the community. If your parish does not have disability accommodations, address that with the parish council.

Knock on doors to help with voter registration When it comes to politics, Catholics do have an agenda to push: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Catholics have a moral responsibility to participate in public life. Ensure that your neighbors are prepared to use their voices on Election Day by helping with voter registration. 

Rights and responsibilities

Society acknowledges human dignity by ensuring people have the rights to live dignified lives (Justitia in Mundo, Justice in the World). This includes rights to food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and economic security in times of hardship (Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth).

Catholics view such rights in the context of community. Individuals contribute to the common good when they can live out their callings to the fullest. It is hard to make the world a better place on an empty stomach or without a place to sleep. We are responsible for helping one another flourish.

Start a lunchtime conversation group at work to discuss social justice issues Do you believe black lives matter? Are you frustrated by pollution and other sins against the environment? Chances are others around you feel the same way. Start local and consider what your office can do to advocate for the common good.

Commit to regularly calling your local and state representatives Make your voice heard by the people with the power to enact better policies. Your senator knows which issues are most pressing to her constituents by the amount of communication made about the issue. The call can be brief. Create a simple script if you are nervous. 

Protest peacefully outside your state capital A congressional staffer once told me the most effective way to be heard in politics is to show up. Bring a sign and speak your truth on an issue that is meaningful to you with others who feel the same way.

Option for the poor and vulnerable

Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Following his message, Catholic social teaching asserts whenever we are given a choice, we should choose the option that best serves those people in greatest need.

In his apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens (The Eightieth Anniversary), Pope Paul VI looks beyond charity and urges society to address the larger systemic issues that perpetuate poverty so that people in poverty will not be in their situations forever. Further, the synod of bishops note in Justicia in Mundo that it is the church’s responsibility to promote justice and fight against injustices. They say the church must be a church of the poor. Pope Francis continues to preach this message today.

Give directly to the poor Walk down any busy street and your chances of being asked for help are high. Pope Francis says to give to people experiencing poverty without judgment. Keep cash and extra granola bars on hand for people who are hungry and in need. You could also carry wallet-sized handouts with information about local shelters.

Share a meal at your local Catholic Worker house People from all walks of life gather at Catholic Worker houses around the world every night to break bread together. They are nourished by the food—for some it may be their only meal of the day—and fellowship. Catholic Worker gladly accepts food donations, too.

Offer your skills to a homeless shelter Maybe you are good at fixing bikes, cooking for crowds, or offering legal advice. See how your particular talents could be put to use at a local shelter.

The dignity of work and the rights of workers

Concerns about working conditions prompted Pope Leo XIII to write Rerum Novarum in the late 19th century, the first formal social teaching document from the Catholic Church. A Catholic theology of work understands that people work to provide basic needs for themselves and their families.

Work is also a primary way to discover our God-given abilities. In his social encyclical celebrating the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II writes that work is the human response to God’s gift. As such, the church calls employers to honor laborers with just wages and opportunities to take on new responsibilities. Further, Catholic social teaching favors labor unions to work communally for justice in the workplace and deems unemployment an evil (Laborem Exercens, On Human Work).

Buy fair trade items The “fair trade” label on food and other products signals that the producers, often in developing countries, were paid a just wage and are working in healthy, safe environments. The extra dollar or two you spend on fair trade coffee can help improve the lives of workers globally.
Mentor a college student or person new to your field There will always be a learning curve to any new job. Offer to support someone just starting out by meeting for coffee or being available for a phone call. Listen to their questions. Help problem solve. Share your own wisdom.

Volunteer as a job coach at a correctional facility More than half of people recently released from prison are unemployed for at least one year after their release, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Read resumes or host mock interviews to help soon-to-be-released people get a head start on the job hunt.


Jesus preaches solidarity in his Sermon on the Mount when the Son of God tells the disciples he is the hungry, the thirsty, the naked. Solidarity begins with an encounter. People practicing solidarity understand that all of humanity is part of one family “whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences may be” (USCCB).

The practice of solidarity demands that we tend to the needs of all individuals, especially the poor and vulnerable. As the saying goes, when one hurts, we all hurt. Pope John XXIII put solidarity in a more global context, too, reminding people that countries depend on each other to prosper (Pacem in Terris).

Befriend someone of a different background Solidarity can be practiced only through encounters with other people. I am able to practice empathy better because I (a white American woman) have friends who are black, Korean, and male. Each of us brings different experiences and baggage to the table. We learn from each other. 

Practice moderation Many around the world live on very limited resources. See what it is like to live with less, too. Hold to a one-drink or no-dessert limit when you are out to eat. Fast from meat on Mondays. Then donate the money you would have spent to a shelter.

Worship with people of other faiths Again, we learn about others through sharing experiences. Ever wonder what a Jewish Shabbat service is like? Ask a rabbi if you could attend a service one Friday. Take note of any commonalities you sense with your tradition. Ask questions about the differences.

Care for God’s creation

The world and all its creatures are gifts from God the Creator. Mountains and hills, seas and rivers, beasts wild and tame, bless the Lord! rejoices the prophet Daniel (3:75–81). Catholic social teaching invites us to experience the world through a sacramental lens, finding God in the rustling winds, chirping birds, and the entire natural world. It also laments environmental degradation. The church calls us to be good stewards of the earth’s resources.

Pope Francis raised awareness of the environment in Laudato Si’, the most recent social encyclical. The pope lays out a vision of unity and promise when it comes to caring for our common home, praying, “May our struggles and concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”

Set up a compost station in your house The Natural Resources Defense Council reports Americans throw away some $165 billion worth of food every year. This is an injustice to the 42 million Americans who face food insecurity, and it creates colossal waste for landfills. Designate a bucket or corner of your yard for kitchen waste. Eventually you can use the compost for gardening.

Garden A pastor once preached that care for creation can be judged by the dirt under our fingernails. Stay close to creation by kneeling in its soil. Show your admiration for the gifts of the earth by tending a garden and watching its produce blossom.

Road trip to a state or national park Stand in awe of the grandeur of God’s creation. Reverence the trees and trails with your hiking boots. Sometimes caring for creation means being simply and deeply present to the earth around you.

Make 2018 your year to commit to Catholic social teaching. Start with one or two concrete ways you can honor human dignity and better the common good. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. Together we will bring forth the kingdom of God one step at a time.

This article also appears in the January 2018 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 83, No. 1, pages 12–19).

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Advent Journey with Sister Carol Perry

Sr. Carol Perry, Sister of St. Ursula, is a gifted teacher and resident Bible scholar at Marble Collegiate Church. Sister Carol uses her extensive scholarship and imaginative storytelling skills to offer a fresh and innovative approach to exploring the Scriptures, bringing people and stories of the Bible to life.

Source:  Marble Church

Rejoice! Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ.


By Fr. Bob Warren SA
Source:  Franciscan Friars of the Atonement

Violence and crime always seem to be coming into our living room on TV, but the stories on TV and in the newspaper only overshadow the tragedies that occur year after year, especially at Christmas. What should be the most joy-filled time of year is often the most lonely and despairing for many people. The suicide rate is at its highest at Christmas. For many, this may not be the worst of times, but it is not the best of times either. In our own lives there may be tragedy.

Forget that the first three people who celebrated Christmas did not have it very easy. St. Paul tells us today to rejoice always. But how can I rejoice when I am out of work, losing my house, sick, my marriage is not working out, the kids aren’t doing well in school, there was a death in our family? Or when I see a neighbor, or someone I love, in these situations? So what is there to be joyful about?

Paul’s call might sound a little distant, if not totally empty, to some of us. Paul is not calling us to some Pollyanna approach to life that ignores the hard and unpleasant realities. Just do a brief study of Paul’s life and, compared to him, most of us have it easy. So what made life bearable for him, what kept him going in spite of everything? There is a clue in the second sentence; he says, “Never cease praying.”

Paul was many things: apostle, missionary, preacher. But above all, he was a man of faith, and a man of prayer. He had a union and a communication with God, and when you have that, you have everything.

Faith can move mountains: Mountains of difficulties, troubles, despair. Prayer can work wonders. Without prayer, you cannot know God. You cannot know someone whom you do not talk to.

A master and a novice were sitting beside a river, watching the current. The novice turned to the master and said, “Master, teach me how to pray. I cannot seem to find the prayer within me, and I long to commune with God.” The master took his young friend’s head, and proceeded to hold it under the river water. He held the novice there for many long seconds, until he released the young man’s head, as he came up gasping and sputtering. Then the master said, “When you long to communicate with God with the same desire as that breath of air, then you will be praying. When it becomes second nature.”

One of the greatest obstacles to a union with God is that we are too complicated. We are waiting to get to this particular stage when we are going to pray, waiting until we aren’t so busy, until we are older, wiser. But if you are like that man, whose head was under water, when you come up for air you will pray. If you are looking for God you do not have to look far. Just pray, and He is there!

Paul could tell us to rejoice because he told the Romans, with God on our side, who can be against us? Nothing, therefore, can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried. Or if we are being persecuted, or lacking food or clothing, or being threatened or even attacked. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of He who loves us.

And he goes on, “For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, nor any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ, Jesus our Lord.”

With faith like that, Paul could always rejoice. And with faith like that, so will we!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Embrace the holy mess of Christmas

By Emily Sanna
Source:  US Catholic

My father hates Christmas. We have a picture of him lying on my parents’ couch, wrapped up in a blanket, wearing both a Santa hat and a look of utter mournfulness.

For most of my childhood and young adulthood, this was something to tease him about. How could you hate Christmas? What part of gift giving and receiving, good food, and family is not to like? How could anyone not like the music, the celebration, the candles, and the hushed holiness of the Midnight Mass?

Last year, though, I started to understand where my dad was coming from.
I’m not sure what the tipping point was. Perhaps it was how the dog that my husband and I had just adopted the week before took an instant dislike to my father and tried to nip at his toes whenever she got the chance. Or perhaps it was how Amazon cancelled—without notification—the order containing the vast majority of my parents’ Christmas gifts to us kids. Or maybe it was that a couple days later at our celebration with my mom’s extended family, we spent two days in a house with four dogs and more than 30 people (including 10 kids), which resulted in the assorted hurt feelings and spats that can only happen among a group of people who love each other and know exactly what buttons to push to hurt each other. Or maybe it was just the exhaustion of celebrating five different Christmases with five different family configurations within 10 days.

I’m reassured when I remember that this chaos is nothing unique to my own family. My husband and I may bemoan the thought of a 12-hour car ride with two animals, but then I think of Mary, nine months pregnant and forced to travel for hours for census registration, the equivalent of renewing your license at the DMV. Or later when she and Joseph fled to Egypt, a journey not much different in length from my yearly pilgrimage from Chicago to New York, but via foot and with a newborn baby.

When Joseph announced the news of Mary’s pregnancy to his parents, I suspect they weren’t exactly thrilled that he was going to marry her anyway. “But an angel told me it’s OK!” was perhaps not the most reassuring thing to hear your son say in that situation.

When Jesus stayed behind in the temple at Jerusalem and his parents didn’t realize he was missing for an entire day, I bet there were some raised voices and harsh words exchanged, no matter how impressed his parents were “at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47).

And when John, Jesus’ cousin, announced his intention to go out into the wilderness and eat locusts and wild honey while proclaiming the coming of the Lord, I think it probably took his parents a little time to wrap their head around his decision. After all, he was their pride and joy, the child they had after they thought there was no hope.

If Jesus’ family relationships could be full of tension at times, this must be true for the rest of us. From our family we get our attitudes and behaviors. We receive traditions that have been passed down to us. We learn how to relate to others. Philip Culbertson writes in Caring for God’s People: Counseling and Christian Wholeness (Fortress Press), “A family is a system that has an integrity all its own and that operates in a consistent and only slowly changing, sometimes inefficient manner. The manner in which the system operates is determined by a set of unspoken rules and roles that specify how individual parts of the stem contribute to the functioning of the whole.” Every member of a family is connected to every other member, and while this is a wonderful thing, a source of support and love and nourishment, it can also be difficult.

Take, for example, what happens when a family adds new people to this web of interconnected relationships. Each year my extended family grows and the group with which we celebrate Christmas changes. There are new babies, new significant others, new work and school schedules to plan around. And while this is an occasion for joy and celebration, it is also hard. There are growing pains as new people get added to family dynamics, and traditions are forced to change in order to welcome new members of a family.

Logistics get more complicated, it’s true, but I think it can also be threatening to change the way families have celebrated holidays for multiple generations. There start to be more pitfalls, beyond the “traditional” forbidden topics of politics and religion. In my family there are now several vegetarians, meaning that the traditional ham dinner has had to be rethought. Many of the younger generation bring wine or beer to share, while some of the older generation don’t drink and are uncomfortable with alcohol. As our families grow, so do our beliefs and cultural practices.

However, adapting traditions doesn’t always have to be painful. Every year on Christmas Eve my family celebrates the Italian Festa dei sette pesci—Feast of the seven fishes. When my grandma was alive, she would cook a seven-course feast: fried fish, marinated octopus, fish couscous, mussels and clams, and probably some eggplant parmesan just because. The meal would last for hours as we all crammed around the table in her tiny dining room in Queens, New York.
Today we still celebrate, but it’s different. My grandma passed away a few years ago, and we no longer go to New York City every year. Instead, we have a new tradition. Every year my immediate family has our own Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve morning. We normally have just enough time to clean up the piles of wrapping paper and get dressed before my uncle and his family descend, bearing with them bagels, whitefish salad, lox, and homemade wine. Most of us go for a walk in the woods with the dogs to work up an appetite, while my dad stays home and cooks. When we return, we feast. We no longer have the seven separate courses my grandmother used to make; these days my dad normally makes bouillabaisse, an equally delicious way of getting all seven (or sometimes eight or nine) fish into one course. And while we’ve lost some family members, we’ve also gained some—not only my husband, who joined the family a couple years ago, but close friends who now celebrate this meal with us every year.
Despite the exhaustion and the frustration and the fights, this is what makes Christmas worth it. In the end, it doesn’t matter how far we’ve come or what we’re eating and drinking. For one evening, we come together and remember that we are family, no matter our differences. When I look over at my dad, no longer is he the sad Santa huddled under the blanket all alone. Instead, he is laughing, his head thrown back as he tells a joke to his brother and my husband.