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Do you remember when your mother taught you the rules for crossing the street?

  • Find a safe crosswalk.
  • Never cross between parked cars.
  • Look both ways
  • Wait until all is clear

(Of course, I was never warned about the modern dangers of mobile phones or earbuds.)

The short version was STOP – LOOK – LISTEN

As I celebrate 57 years of priesthood, I think about how many roads I have crossed, am crossing, and still have to cross.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk, I would like to review my life using the metaphor of the “rules of the road”.

Stop! Look! Listen!


I must admit that at this point in my life it is easier for me to stop. (Many times I have no choice!)

But looking back, I can now see how dangerous it was for me not to stop. I often ran into the middle of heavy traffic. And then I wondered why I felt like I got hit by a truck! I never saw the truck coming.

Of course, looking back I can see all kinds of road signs, traffic lights, and crosswalks.

I should have stopped more often. Even today more times than I care to admit I still don’t stop.

Actually, I just thought, or think, I don’t have the time to stop.


If I had stopped and looked more my life may have been much different. Not only would my life have been different. I have no way of knowing how my recklessness affected other people’s lives.

The reason I missed many of the signs is not very complicated.

Sometimes I missed signs because I wasn’t expecting how or where they appeared.

I was not much different than Mary. She did not recognize Jesus at the tomb. She only saw a gardener. She wasn’t expecting him in those clothes. Expectations got in the way.

Often I couldn’t see who and what God was using as signposts. Or I didn’t like the direction the signs were pointing it. I guess I was like the disciples on the way to Emmaus or Saul going to Damascus.


More times than I care to remember I developed a form of God-deafness. (I have written elsewhere of the reality of mother-deafness in our teen years.) I heard the words… but didn’t listen.

Hearing is a simple physiological process. Listening on the other hand means engaging with the sound and extracting meaning from it. It was easy to say to others “You are hearing me but you are not listening or understanding.”

The disciples heard, and indeed, hung onto Jesus’ words. “Hearing but never understanding’” (Mark 4:12)

 “We don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5)

“Stop – Look – Listen?  – Jesus  and the Early Christians

Jesus often went off by himself, most notably the night before he gave himself over to be crucified. He saw clearly what he was facing. But he listened to what the Father said to him in prayer.

As I think about it, this is the process of the early Christian community and the writers of the New Testament.

Each of the Gospels and the epistles demonstrate stopping, looking around for meaning, and translating it into action.

In each liturgy don’t we stop, look, and listen?

Isn’t that what Pope Francis is asking each of us and the entire Christian community to do? During this three-year synodol “listening process” we are called to Stop, Look and Listen!.

Crossing the roads of your life do you “Stop – Look – Listen”?

Click below for an early audio version of this Vincentian Mindwak

Stop Look Listen
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