The Sun Squares Pluto w/ Astrologer Christopher Renstrom
The Truth About Change
On Today’s Episode You’ll learn…
🌒 How the Sun’s square to Pluto in Capricorn on October 21st influences the collective energy, urging us to confront power dynamics and societal structures.
🌓 The role of Libra in seeking balance and justice, and its tension with Pluto’s transformative forces.
🌔 The concept of “reserved judgment” and its importance in understanding the complexities of human relationships and self-awareness.
📚Every day, spiritually-oriented people around the globe turn to Astrology to find Inner Peace & fulfillment, gain a deeper understanding of themselves & others, and navigate the tricky & complex world around them. Join us on the Inner Circle https://astrologyhub.com/ic2023/
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. Next on Horoscope Highlights.
Hello, my name is Christopher Renstrom, and I’m your weekly horoscope columnist here on Astrology Hub. And this week, I want to talk to you about the Sun Pluto square taking place on October 21st. But before I do, did you know that you can read about transits for your own sign by subscribing to my weekly newsletter?
Go to astrologyhub. com slash horoscope. Again, that is astrologyhub. com slash horoscope to subscribe to my newsletter.
A Quote from James Baldwin
Now, let’s go ahead and talk about that sun, Pluto square. Before we even do that, what about that quote that I just shared with you? Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
That quote is from one of the great writers of America. His name was James Baldwin, and he is just, well, I have to say, a personal hero of mine. He has been for a number of years, but like many great works of literature, you can scan his writings and you can always find something that hits you for the first time or strikes you in a different way.
Kind of like a light play on the window, you know, something that all of a sudden evokes something different. in you, but that idea, not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. I love that because there is a kind of ambivalence to it. In other words, what he’s saying is that.
Not everything can be changed in your life, okay? There, there are, there are going to be circumstances beyond your control. There are going to be things that have been set in motion that you have no power to redirect. Uh, there are going to be, um, events that just simply outweigh you. Uh, it might be environmental, it might be cultural, it might be economic, um, it might even be facing or battling with some sort of personal addiction.
So when he says not everything that is faced can be changed, in other words, just because we stand up to something doesn’t mean it’s going to change. All right. And, and many of us want that assurance. We, we want that guarantee that if we stand up against an injustice or we stand up against something that’s wrong, or if we fight for our rights, that it’s going to be changed.
And maybe we don’t get that guarantee. Maybe we don’t get that result right away. Does that mean that we give up? Does that mean we say, Oh, well, I guess it’s bigger than me. Does that mean that we just cede ground to something that is bullying or, or domineering? No, what Baldwin is saying in this, in this quote is that Nothing can be changed until it is faced.
There’s no guarantee that you staring down something that bullies you in your life is going to succeed in your triumph or your victory, okay? But at the same time, you don’t know if you could change it until you face it. And it’s something that I think we should all bear in mind, uh, when we see what unfolds in our lives this week with the upcoming Sun Pluto square that’s taking place.
Sun in Libra Sqaure Pluto in Capricorn
Now, for many of you, you’re probably under the impression, oh, this is the last time that the sun’s going to square Pluto. Yeah. You know, then it goes into Aquarius and we begin our whole new world on a whole different chapter. Well that’s not exactly how it’s going to play out. Um, the sun actually is going to square Pluto again, around this time next year because there’s going to be one more sun, in Libra squared to Pluto and Capricorn that takes place before Pluto leaves Capricorn altogether.
Uh, so I can hear the groans and the sighs of exasperation from the audience out there. But, um, if… Pluto teaches us anything, it’s anything, in its own time, and that time doesn’t move for anyone. The planets, uh, orbit the sun in their own time, with their own, uh, length of years, and these are things that we have to work with, and these are things that we cannot.
change. Um, so, so, but what is this sun Pluto square? Actually, I’ve been talking a lot about Libra lately. I mean, I, I think it’s been the last two weeks and, and, and this will be the concluding part. So it’s kind of like a trip tick if you think about it. Um, why have I been talking about Libra so much?
Because there’s been so much going on involving Libra, so much going on that has to do with justice, which is wrapped up in the Zodiac sign of Libra. So much that’s going on that has to do with war, and peace, and keeping pledges, and treaties, and promises. All of these things are very much wrapped up into the Zodiac sign of Libra.
And we began with, um, uh, a Mars Pluto square in Libra. It was followed by an eclipse, and now we have the third part, which is the Sun squaring Pluto in the Zodiac sign of Libra.
Libra and the “Other Side of the Story”
Libra is a very challenging sign. Okay. Um, personally, I had a lot of trouble trying to understand or wrap my mind around Libra.
It took me years. There’s always a sort of part in the Zodiac. Uh, maybe you guys have had this experience too, where even when you were listing the signs, you’d sort of like get two or three mixed up, or you couldn’t figure out their order. Like, which one came after cancer again? Okay, so, so, and, and for me, that part of the zodiac, when I was like memorizing the signs, and for a number of years, decades, that I was practicing as an astrologer, was always hard for me to figure out the Virgo Libra thing.
That seemed to just be this like, um, blind spot or empty spot for me in the zodiac. I would be like, Oh, it’s Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, and, um, uh, you know, and Virgo, Virgo and, uh, Libra, Libra, Scorpio. And then you’re back on, you know, I was back on solid ground after Scorpio, then I could do the rest.
Well, Virgo and Libra were two signs that often thwarted my best attempts at trying to really understand them. And one of the wonderful things about being an astrologer, for as long as I’ve been an astrologer, um, is that you learn along the way. And so over a period of time, my clients taught me about Virgo.
My clients taught me about Libra, as did my studies and my research and things that I felt resonated with the, with the signs in life or in something that I was reading or perusing or film or television show that I was watching. Libra is a challenging sign. Uh, first of all, as you know, because it’s the only zodiac sign that’s not a creature or an animal.
It’s an instrument. All right. Um, but Libra is a challenging sign because what it stands for is the other side of the story. Libra, as we know, is the scales. It’s the balance. It can, uh, show itself in the, uh, visage of a judge or mediator, um, or someone who is going to broker a truce or a negotiation. Uh, it might be someone that you go to in an hour of need or, or, or something bad has happened and, and you expect this person or this agency to stand up for you.
That’s going to be Libra. Libra’s job is to basically keep the peace. in the Zodiac. Um, and it doesn’t do this just by putting daisies in the rifles of, you know, policemen pointing at you like those pictures from the 1960s. It does that by setting up a law, making sure that everyone obeys it, and keeping the peace, enforcing that law if it has to.
But part of Libra’s genius, and some might even say part of Libra’s curse, Is their ability to see both sides of a situation. Okay, um, it is an automatic in a Libra. They hear a story to ask what the other person’s, uh, version of that story is. Are you in agreement? Are you in disagreement? Do you remember things happening a different way?
Uh, how, how, how, how did you experience this going on? So with Libra, there’s always another side of the story. , and this is something that we very much espouse in, for instance, our justice system. You know, that someone could be accused of something, you know, and, and, and, and, but it doesn’t mean that you’re immediately found guilty.
You know, you can be accused of something, but someone has to present evidence for you. Someone has to present evidence against you. The lawyers, uh, engage in a debate, in, in, in a battle, in a battle of justice. Sometimes They also negotiate or work out a deal or something along those lines, but in our idealized idea of the court system, there are two battling sides of a story and, and, and one of them must make the convincing argument in front of a jury, which is a jury of one’s peers.
Um, so it is the nature of the justice system, it’s the nature of Libra to ask, well, what’s your side of the story? There’s always another side of the story. And that can be inconvenient. That can be very inconvenient if you feel like some harm has been done to you. That can be inconvenient if there’s a history of evil or oppression that’s been done against you.
That can be inconvenient. If anyone should be able to see the horrible things that have been done, and, and, and, and things need to be righted, that needs to happen right now. Okay, so, we, we aren’t always really comfortable or excited, or, or, or, or thrilled about the other side of the story, okay? We have our own side of the story, and, and, and, and so, obviously, if you have your own side of the story, you want things to go your way.
But, How do you react to the idea that there is another side of the story? This is something that began to really sort of open up, um, my understanding of Libra. Um, does it mean that someone’s doubting what you’re saying? You know, if, if a judge or teacher or superior or, or someone in a place of judgment says, Okay, we’ve heard your side of the story, Christopher, now we’re going to hear Clarissa’s side of the story, you know, is it like, you know, oh, you know, uh, you don’t believe me or you doubt me or, or, or why should you believe Clarissa, you know, um, so, so do we have this feeling that someone is doubting what we have to say?
Do we, when someone says there’s another side of the story, let me check that out. Do we feel like someone is challenging us? Um, or do we maybe even feel like we’re being disqualified altogether? You know, um, there can be an element of, of, of, of, of, of, of confrontation in that Libra, uh, uh, in, in, in pleading your case in front of the judge.
There can be an element of. judgment and also confronting. You’re facing someone who has a different side of the story than you do. And as I said, that’s an inconvenient thing. No one likes having another side of the story nowadays. Nowadays, it’s my side of the story and I’m going to find people who are going to back up my side of the story.
And if my side of the story is questioned, I’m going to get louder or I’m going to like cite all these facts or footnotes and all these sorts of things. And I’m just like, not going to listen to the other person who has another side of the story. Okay. Yeah, I’m We all have seen where that has gotten all of us, not in a really great place.
So the art of debate is a really good thing. The art of argument is a really good thing. The idea of listening and taking into account both sides of the story to render a judgment, these are good things, ideally, but they’re not necessarily convenient things, and they’re not necessarily things we like.
And when we’re facing enormous ethical questions in which harm has been done. It’s very hard to pause and ask what the other side of the story is or where the other person is coming from. It’s a very hard thing to do. And it’s something that Libra symbolizes in the Zodiac. Um, so the sun in Libra. is very much, as I said, you know, it’s the only image that’s really an instrument.
It’s not a creature or an animal. So there’s a kind of, interestingly enough, a kind of infallibility that’s kind of assumed about this, this Libra scale. It’s supposed to be impartial and it’s supposed to render a verdict without, uh, prejudice or persuasion. Um, but that’s not always the case, but we want it to be the case, especially when it comes to an idea of justice.
Bringing in Pluto & the Square
Okay, then we’re dealing with a square. A square is a one upmanship between two planets, okay? Um, you can kind of think of it as like, I’m going to have the last word, and then the other planet is like, no, I’m going to have the last word, and the other planet is like, well, You know, we all know that you need to have the last word, which is why I’m going to say this.
And then the other planet is like, you were just slipping in the last word just so that you could have it. And so I’m going to say this. And so this is what a square does. It’s, it’s, you know, a one upmanship that goes on between the two planets in a zodiacal chart. They’re battling, they’re battling to get the upper hand.
Okay. So it’s not a quiet, uh, it’s not a quiet combination. It’s not a harmonious aspect. Um, it’s something that can be judged by degrees, you know, um, in its lighter flavor can be sort of like, you know, poking fun or poking in the ribs and, you know, and then it’s darkest flavor. It can, it can be very detrimental and it can be very harmful.
That’s not always what it means. It can go there. It doesn’t always have to go there. And so then we have this Pluto, this Pluto and Capricorn and Pluto. Pluto’s relationship to Capricorn is a very interesting one. Before the discovery of the modern planets in 1781, that’s why they’re called the modern planets, Uranus was discovered in 1781, Neptune in 1846, and Pluto in the year 1930.
Before the discovery of the modern planets, Saturn was the planet that stood at the end of our solar system. So Saturn was the planet that stood at the end of time and, and really sort of placed the boundary, the barrier between the time and the world we live in and eternity and everything that existed outside of time.
That was one of Saturn’s aspects. Another one of Saturn’s characteristics is, uh, That it ruled over everything that had been exiled into the underworld, everything that had been repressed or suppressed by Uranus in the underworld. And so Saturn has always been associated with the outcasts or the despised or peoples or cultures that are demonized.
They’re not like us. They don’t belong here. They need to go down there. down south down into the underworld away from where we are. Okay. And so this was Saturn’s realm. He wasn’t really in charge of the underworld, but this was one of the areas of life, uh, that was attributed to Saturn when it was being interpreted in a horoscope.
With the discovery of Pluto, Pluto sort of took over, um, that, that, that underground realm from Saturn. Um, and it was kind of an easy thing to do by word association. Pluto is, Greek, uh, name is Hades and Hades was associated to hell and death and underworld. So of course, Pluto’s like, you know, going to be the planet of the underworld.
Let’s decide that in 1930. Okay. And so that’s what was decided in 1930. Um, Pluto ended up really living up to that reputation much more than we ever, uh, expected, thought of, or imagined. But anyway, Pluto is very much the planet that’s associated to the underworld. And it’s associated to seeds that are, uh, planted in darkness so that, uh, in the following spring they can rise and live again.
It’s associated to ruins. It’s associated to bones. It’s associated to secrets that are buried. Uh, it’s associated to history. the great or weren’t, didn’t make the telling that have been forgotten, or, or outlawed or thrown out. So Pluto has kind of taken over those, those aspects of Saturn, although they do sort of like intersect in a few areas with all of that.
So um, A sun in Libra is going to be, as we know, idealistic. Okay, that’s, that’s something that all the air signs are by nature. And it’s going to believe in law and order, and it’s going to believe in a reasoned universe, and it’s going to believe in rules and laws, and that if you don’t have rules and laws, if you don’t, obey a rule or law, if you don’t do what you’re told, if you don’t observe treaties and contracts and truces and boundaries.
Um, if you don’t observe these sorts of things, then society is going to go to hell in a handbasket. Okay. So Libra, um, which we often, you know, many people will say, oh, well, Libra, is it really capable of that? It’s so vacillating, doesn’t know what’s on mind. You know, Libra is that statue of justice outside the courthouse.
Okay. So Libra will lay down the law and Libra will enforce it. It may not be in your face, but it will be done. All right. Well, Pluto, um, in Capricorn, Pluto’s always the devil’s advocate, shall we say. And so, um, Pluto, who basically got the short end of the stick when he was drawing lots with Zeus and Poseidon at the beginning of our world.
Zeus got the heavens, Poseidon got the beautiful oceans and waters, and Pluto got the underworld. Uh, Pluto kind of also ended up getting The last and final say so where the other gods, you know, can get stormy and make themselves known and all these sorts of things. Pluto doesn’t really say a lot. Um, Pluto doesn’t really show up a lot and mids, but everyone knows that Pluto is there and everyone doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of.
Pluto. So, uh, Pluto, ever the devil’s advocate, says, okay, to the sun in Libra, uh, rules must be obeyed and laws are drafted for this, but, who ends up paying the cost of that? All right? Because not everyone is judged equally. Not everyone is seen, um, equally in the dishes of, of, of the scale. There are people who have advantages.
There are people who have been born to advantage and privilege. There are people who get away with things. So what about that? Okay, and this is always the great challenge, and this is part of the square. What can happen? And we were first sort of Well, we are alerted, let’s put it this way, what can happen, and this is something that’s been passed down to us through all of our literature and all of our, scriptures and all of our Bibles and all of our ideologies and religions, um, one sort of ongoing theme that can happen, um, and you.
was very much taken up by, uh, Sigmund Freud, and particularly Carl Jung, um, is the demonization of the other, okay? In other words, if you have this idea, or you subscribe to this idea, that you need to do X, Y, and Z to make the world a good place, And anyone who is thwarting you, anyone who doesn’t agree, anyone who, um, is, is, is, is maybe even attacking you verbally or perhaps even physically, okay, they’re evil and they’re bad people, you know, anyone who doesn’t play along, anyone who doesn’t follow the rule, anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the creed or bend the knee, anyone They are demonized, they are bad, they are mean, they are malevolent, and we have to, and we just have to, like, take all of our darkness and project it onto them.
Okay, that’s, there’s Freud and Jung in a nutshell, right? And we’re all pretty much, um, uh, uh, familiar with the idea of projection. Now! Some of what’s happened in recent years with the idea of projection is that it’s become more personalized, you know, that that that and and and it was articulated as a psychological process and and so it becomes more personalized and it’s about sort of owning parts of ourselves.
Um, that, uh, we don’t like and we need to, um, understand and maybe it’s a repressed part of ourself and we should be celebrating it, or maybe it’s a part of ourself that really is like not nice and we should be like trying to understand it or justify it or, or maybe because we’re frustrated and annoyed with the whole thing, just forget it.
What we don’t necessarily do is understand how projection can take place on a social and a cultural. Level. Um, when we start saying that another people is bad or another culture is satanic or, um, there are ways of life that really need to be, uh, repressed or outlawed or whatever. Wiped out all together, you know, and the more that you repress, the more that you bind, the more that you punish or expel the enemy, the more like the enemy you become, which is Peace.
a basic adage, and it’s been around for a number of centuries. Okay. So in other words, the more that you see in someone, you know, all, all the things that are disagreeable and that you feel are a threat to who you are, maybe even a threat to the world, you know, the, you know, those are those, you know, fat butt capitalists who are just, you know, burning away fossil fuels.
You know, we have to like, you know, The more you do that, or if you’re the flip, you know, you’re, you know, some unfeeling, um, religious ideologue, uh, fascist person who just wants, you know, control things, and, and we have to fight you. The more extreme, the more pitched that becomes, okay, the more It comes out in a Plutonian way, okay.
The other person might be like that, but in your deal with the devil, okay, to beat the bad person, to wipe out anything that’s, um, uh, threatening or evil, what people don’t always follow, but history always tells, is that the people who do this the most Powerfully or strongly are the ones who eventually become like that, which they are trying to expel.
And of course, these are the same people who will point to that and say, well, I was justified. I was wounded, I was persecuted, I was victimized, I was burned at a stake, you know, I was thrown into prison, my, my people have suffered these horrible things, my culture has suffered these horrible things, um, we have a right to be angry and outraged, and to call evil out when we see it, and to expel it.
Well, Pluto should be so knowable. Saturn should be so, um, understandable. These are the planets that we really associate the most with shadow or the dark side, but at the same time, these are planets that give us great sources of wisdom. All right. And it’s not wisdom based on shame. It’s not wisdom on one day, you know, the scales fall from our eyes and we see it.
It’s wisdom based on the fact that there’s an uneasy conscience. You know, it’s wisdom based on the fact that it’s not, you know, the more we fight this, the more we feel like we’re losing the battle. Pluto and particularly Saturn, and I’m talking about Saturn here because Pluto is in the Saturn world sign of Capricorn.
Saturn has a wonderful, deep and abiding love of irony. And it’s not to have the last laugh. But it’s to show, okay, that the more that you’re trying to stamp out what you think is dark and evil and, and that there’s no listening to the other side, that they didn’t come from anywhere, that, that what is being done against you is so outrageous that you could only react not only in the same way, but even more so continues.
This cycle. Okay, the snake swallowing its own tail or boros. Okay, it continues the tedium of time.
And the thing about the tedium of time. And one of the lessons that Saturn teaches is that If we go through something enough that it becomes tedious, we’re either going to accept it as that’s the way of the world, okay, and so we expect, we accept the limit or we accept the boundary, the wall that we’ve hit in life, or we go through the tedium of it so many times that it becomes so like, I cannot do this again.
And that’s when we change. We change. Not always in those hallelujah moments, or in those moments of epiphany, or when we see, or, you know, when all is revealed. Uh, we don’t always change when we’re so angry and we fight back and get our way, or triumph, okay? A lot of times we change because of tedium. We’ve been through it so many times that we’re, we’re just like, oh my god, I cannot go through this again.
I have to change my approach, or what I do. Okay, and that’s when the change is. Take place. But anyway. Outrage is something that fuels the fire, okay? The more outraged that one becomes, the more gasoline gets thrown on the fire, which is something that Libra is trying to fight against. Um, but Libra, with its promises of law and order and justice and, you know, um, Pluto is like, well, you.
promised, and how long are people supposed to be kept waiting? Well, you’ve promised, but you’ve also done some egregious things in the name of law and order. You promised to make these changes, but then you’ve insisted you can’t make these changes because it’s not the right time. When are these changes going to be made?
When are these promises going to be fulfilled? So, if we understand that outrage, Escalates outrage. Think of a rash. You know, the more you scratch it, the more it burns and the more you have to scratch again against it. This this is outrage. This is what outrage does. Okay. Um, you know, do we manage outrage by being impartial or or unmoved?
You know, that’s impossible for any human being to do. People get outraged, okay, and they get angry. History has an outrage to it, okay? There’s, there’s, there are things that have been done wrong for centuries that demand a reckoning, that demand a comeuppance, that demand to be recognized, okay? So, so, so, so the way of understanding or managing outrage, it’s not, even think of that word, managing my outrage.
Really? Right. Good luck. Okay, so that’s not the key. The key, how do we change the story of escalating outrages, of pointing and pointing and, and binding and expelling and throwing out and getting angry and, and being full of fear and just, you know, needing to weaponize this, that, and the other thing. Okay?
How do we work with that? You know, at this time, at this pitch time of a Sun Pluto square?
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Story from Christopher’s Childhood
I wanted to share with you a little story, and this is a story from my own meager modest life. Okay, there’s nothing groundbreaking or, or, or, or, or a dramatic or life changing about this story, but it’s a story that I did want to share.
Um, My childhood was, was a pretty nice childhood. Okay, I’m, I’m, I’m going to sort of say that, you know, it was a, it was a nice childhood. Um, uh, we never had to worry about, um, poverty or war or, or, uh, our family wasn’t, um, weighed down, you know, by tremendous burdens, but like other childhoods in my, uh, um, suburban area where I grew up, uh, in the 1970s.
Um, there was a little thing called alcoholism and, and it was more than a little thing. It was something that very much took place a lot behind the closed doors of what were supposed to be these manicured lawns and white picket fences. And my father battled with alcoholism and, subsequently, uh, uh, two, two of my brothers have, and, a couple of nephews, okay, have all battled with alcoholism and they battled with it in different times because the times have changed in the, understanding of that and the dealing with, with that, with that illness.
When I was growing up, it was seen as a personal weakness or a failing. And my father really battled with it a lot. I remember in the morning when getting ready for school, you know, my mom was drinking coffee and we’re like, you know, uh, drinking orange juice or grabbing whatever before we have to go, you know, and catch the bus or whatever.
was a scotch and soda. Okay, and this was like at the beginning of the day. Um, so, so what this sort of enacted upon him was he had a very dark temper, a very dark side to him, and a very, very bad, very bad, and out, out of control, temper and he would, express it, emotionally and also physically. Uh, there was one incident.
I was raised with four brothers and, um, I, of course, was the one brother that was not like the others. Okay, so they were all like, you know, uh, the, the, the shelves of our, uh, den were lined with their athletic trophies. It would be a football trophy, a golf trophy, a baseball trophy, or something like that.
And, and I had my my, , photographs of appearing in a play or singing at the Christmas concert, three Kings of Orient are or something like this. It was clearly not on the level of, you know, these trophies. Um, and I didn’t mind it. I was good. But I remember one day it was in the fall. It was a cloudy day.
And, uh, I had been drafted into football or something. And I hated, you know, it’s like, okay, football or whatever. And my father was, you know, throwing a pass or whatever. My brother got it. It’s like, you know, and like, you know, Oh, you know, great. You caught it. So, so, um, so we’re doing this. And, uh, my father said, Hey, you guys clear out, uh, Christopher.
Go long. I was like, catch it. And he threw and he threw it with a real power. Now, my father was a college football athlete. Okay. So he threw it with the power. And, you know, my first reaction, of course, was, you know, jump out of the way, you know, and, uh, you know, my brothers laugh good naturedly. They’re like, let’s go back to the game.
And my dad was like, no, no, no, let’s do it again. Let’s do it again. And so, um, they were like, well, you know, my brother’s like, you know, I was like, okay. And, and he threw it, you know, just as powerfully. And I remember kind of catching it. Like it hit my chest and it bounced up into my face and out again. And, and it hurt, you know, and there was this moment where I looked at my dad and my brothers had taken the football back to him.
And there was a moment where he looked at me with true malice. It was just, I’ll never forget the look. It was just true malice. And he said, let’s do it again. And he took that football and he threw it and it came so fast and it hit so hard and it hit me in the side of the head really, really hard with the power of what a college athlete or an ex college athlete could muster.
You know, and I remember my brothers being shocked and him kind of like amused. And I don’t know whether it was the pain. Or the upset, there were tears burning in my eyes, perhaps even the fear, you know, that, that this, that there was a malevolent energy that was happening here. And I was about maybe 13, 14 at the time.
And, um, I ran. I ran. I ran. Um, I, I, I was upset. I was crying. I, you know, I was hurting and I ran. And, uh, we happened to in my neighborhood live, um, you know, like maybe two blocks away from the church. Okay, St. Dennis was, was the name of the church. And, um, and there was a, there was a priest there, um, who was, uh, the, the head priest.
He lived at the house that was connected to the, uh, church rectory or something like that, I think is the name. And, um, he was a wonderful man. Um, his name was Father Duggan. And, uh, And he just was a wonderful man. I mean, he would say Mass, and Mass was, I have to confess, pretty boring. But when Father Duggan started a sermon, when he started a teaching based on what we had just read, it was always riveting.
There was something that was just so warm and so welcoming about it. And, okay, maybe we had learned about Pharisees, and, and, and, Vine vineyards and, um, seeds following, falling on the ground and not growing right. Or, or maybe St. Paul had read one of his many endless letters to the Felician or the Philippians or whoever they were.
Um, the, the effusions, I think, or Ephe Ephesians were anyway. But Father Duggan would then begin a sermon after whatever he had read, and I just remember that it was very warm, and that it was very comforting, and somehow, somehow everything was going to be all right. And so it was Father Duggan that I sought in this dash, um, away from, from my father.
Now, This is the 1970s. I’m giving away my age. Okay, this is the 1970s, and this is during the height of Vatican II. And Vatican II introduced a lot of tolerance into the Catholic Church. It was not as stringent, and it was not as rigid as it had been before.
And, um, and this was a fascinating time to be growing up as a Catholic in, in America. I mean, you had movies like the Poseidon Adventure, you know, that would show priests, you know, doubting God or movies like the Exorcist that would show, you know, the evil of Satan and things like this. And, and, but, but there was always this thing that God wasn’t like that.
Okay, God wasn’t going to come on in and, you know, uh, hit someone to defend you. And God wasn’t going to go and punish people just to, you know, God wasn’t like that. God had taken on a more soft, approachable, um, and I’m going to say, and it’s a word, but I’m going to say God had even taken on a sort of metaphorical aspect in the 1970s in Catholicism in Vatican II.
It was not so much about God as it was the spirit of God and the spirit of God in your heart. So Father Duggan wasn’t robust like Gene Hackman, you know, who jumps on the, uh, uh, uh, wheel at the end of Poseidon Adventure, you know, when, when only, you know, when this, uh, burst pipe letting out demon gas stands between them and their escape through the three inch propeller shaft.
And, you know, he’s there like, you know, with his muscles going, you know, do you want another soul? Take mine, you know, and he’s like yelling at God and he falls and you know, they’re rescued. And so, so Father Duggan wasn’t like that. And Father Duggan wasn’t like the Greek priest who rustles Reagan to the ground and takes the demon into him and throws himself out the window and splatters his brains on the steps of some alleyway in Washington, D.
C. to dispel the devil, you know, at the end of the exorcist. Father Duggan wasn’t like that. And Father Duggan wasn’t a sort of melancholic noble man like Max von Sydow, who was also in the exorcist, you know, just, just sort of, um, you know, uh, facing yet another. That wasn’t Father Duggan either. Father Duggan was kind of like that.
Father Duggan was a, was a warm and welcoming presence. He was a friend of our family. I knew him quite well because I was one of the altar boys, you know, that, uh, that, that worked with him and, and, uh, in confessional, he always called me Christopher. I mean, even though we had the panel and he wasn’t supposed to know who I was, he knew exactly who I was, you know, and, and so there was a friendly, there was such a friendly voice on the other side of this panel.
Um, but I had shown up. And he had never seen me crying before. And it was clear, you know, because I had a big, uh, red spot or bruise or whatever on my, on my head, it was clear that something not good had happened. And of course, um, I told him my story, you know, I told him the story of, of, of me and my father, that, you know, this had been, Going on for a long, for a long time.
And he was just like very mean and very cruel to me. And this wasn’t the first time that this has happened. And, you know, all these sorts of things, I, I laid out my heart and I bared my soul and I wanted father Duggan to take my side, you know, I wasn’t here for comfort. I wanted Father Duggan to take my side, to, to, to go and talk to my dad.
Um, I, I wanted him to say to me, Yes, your father’s bad, and that’s mean, and let’s go have a talk to your dad, and, you know, tell him not to do that again, or whatever I imagined at the age of 14. You know, um, and Father Duggan, um, Took out a can of Fresca and poured it in a glass for me and gave it to me and, you know, drinking my Fresca, you know, and, and trying to absorb this, uh, trying to understand this.
And I remember him saying, you know, Christopher,
it’s hard to be an adult in this world. It’s hard to be a parent. And I was like, mm hmm. And he said, it’s hard being a parent. Because you don’t always have someone to look up to. Or to lean on someone who’s going to come and make things better. I mean, there’s Nancy, your mother, you know, and your father loves your mother, and your father loves your brothers, and your father has his family and his friends.
But, but no one can really make things better for you. other than you, you know? And I was like, okay, you know, kind of like, where are we going with all of this? And he said, you know, Christopher, you’re at a time in your life where you’re asking a lot of questions and you’re pressing against rules and boundaries and that’s what you should be doing.
You know, that’s, that’s your time of life. You should be doing that. But that isn’t a time of life that’s always enjoyed at the other times of life. You know, when you become an adult, when you become a parent, when you have people looking up to you, when you have people relying on you, when you have people depending on you, you can sometimes feel very alone with all of that.
You know, you can sometimes feel like you’re carrying that burden on your shoulders. Now, we all slip and stumble, he went on. We all slip and stumble, and we pray that our stumbling won’t hurt other people. And we pray that our stumbling won’t hurt ourselves. And eventually, with the Lord’s guidance, Christopher, we find our way.
And I was like, well,
isn’t that what church is about? Isn’t, you know, uh, I mean, good things versus bad things, or I’m sure I came up with some sort of 14 year old, like, philosophical argument on my part. But, but I just remember him saying, you know, I don’t remember what I said, but I remember him saying something that’s, that stayed with me.
And he said, God doesn’t work like that. And that’s the first time I had heard that. But, you know, the words. God doesn’t really work like that.
And I was like, you know, of course the unspoken question was, well, how does God work? You know, but, and he said, God doesn’t really work like that. Christopher, each of us is made in God’s image and each of us must answer to God in our own way. And I was like, well, how does that work? And he said, in our hearts, in our minds, in our souls, Each of us must answer to God in our own way, because each of us is made in the image of God.
And we sat there, and then he said, I’m going to ask you to do something for me. And I said, what? And he said, I’m going to ask you to do something that’s big, okay? And it’s something that’s not going to give you your answer tomorrow or next week or next year. I said, okay, what is it? He said, I’m going to ask you to reserve judgment,
I’m going to ask you to reserve judgment. But father what does that mean? I remember asking. He said, you’re 14. You’re upset. There are all these things that are ahead of you in your world. Your father is a man who is in pain. He’s dealing with a lot of difficulties. You know, maybe that will stay that way.
Maybe it won’t. But Christopher, you’re not going to stay like this. You’re 14. One day you’re going to be 20. One day you’re going to be 30. One day you’re going to be 40. You’re going to be an adult. Maybe you’ll be a father. Maybe you won’t, you know, but you won’t be who you are right now.
And as you grow older, you’re going to grow to understand your father in a way that you can’t possibly understand him right now. Now, your father doesn’t understand you. I mean, let’s, let’s, let’s be frank here. Your father doesn’t get you, Christopher. You know, and you’re a mystery to him.
Um, and I think he wants to get you. But he doesn’t get you. And maybe you understand your father, and maybe you don’t get your father either. But one day, as you grow older, you’ll understand your father at a time of your life that he is at a time of his life right now. And you’ll understand it from that vantage.
And you’ll understand it from that viewpoint. And even then, I will ask you to reserve judgment. Reserve judgment, leave that open until you feel like you have understood him. And so, I think maybe I had a second can of Fresca and, you know, I left Father Duggan moved and, and comforted, but bewildered and not really quite, you know, getting it.
But those words, reserve judgment, stayed with me. Um, things. got more difficult with my father. And in addition to that, my father died when I was 20. So, at the age of 20, you know, I was just, glad to be rid of him. I mean, honestly, that’s, that’s what I had felt, you know, and over the years, you know, he was the villain of the piece.
He was the oppressor. He was the bad person. He, you know, was, was at times irredeemable. You know, and from that, from that I took a courage, and I took a motivation, and I took a determination. But there came a time, especially around the time when I reached the age that he was, when he passed, and my father passed when he was 47.
There came a time when I began to look at him differently. You know, when I had faced financial stresses, difficulties, huge challenges in my life, moral dilemmas. that weren’t easily solved. Places where I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to, where there wasn’t someone to look up to. Times in my life in which I felt people were relying on me and I was alone with that.
Times that brought me closer to my understanding of my history with him. And I remembered those words. I still do. Reserve judgment. You know, because what began to happen is my heart changed, my soul changed, my feeling for him changed. It didn’t become a nostalgia. It didn’t become like, oh, I wish I’d gotten to know my father.
Maybe dad and I would have like, you know, belted back a couple of brewskis when we were out there. You know, it didn’t become that. My, my father was in many ways. to me and I, and I still feel a doomed man, you know, he wasn’t going to change and things just got rougher after he passed his career. The expectations of people in his career were higher.
The economy was more difficult. And honestly, I don’t think my dad would have made it. Um, but there was this empathy. There was this sympathy. There was this love, but it’s not a love of a, of a son for a father, but a love of, that comes from getting it. I think that’s the best I can say, of getting it, you know.
Not what I would have done, but I understand what was going on with him. And there’s a getting it. And when that happened, there was a release. The story changed. The script changed. He wasn’t the bad guy. He wasn’t the villain. You know, he wasn’t someone that I pitied or felt sorry for. He’s someone that I felt for and felt with.
You know, and, um, someone who I have made peace with that, and even honor, in a way. There were parts of him that were wonderful. He had an amazing mind, and a wonderful sense of humor. Um, and so, that kind of became balanced with the darker part of him. You know, the part of him that was really mean, and could be very brutal.
It didn’t excuse it. It didn’t explain it. It simply occupied the other plate in the scale, and it balanced it, and I still don’t know if I can really altogether articulate what I’ve learned from this, but I do know that what guided me through it were Father Duggan’s words of reserved judgment, and what I do also understand is that There’s a way that we understand darkness in ourselves,
and I wanted to end today’s episode with another James Baldwin quote.
It’s a beautiful quote, taken from his own life and, his own life, his own life experience and his own suffering. And he went through a lot.
I, I, I don’t know if it was an interview or whether it was a 1970s poetry with music thing, but, but he says that this kind of like, um, episode or this moment that’s caught on film, he says, Love has never been a popular movement, and no one’s ever really wanted to be free. The world is held together, really, it is held together by the love and passion of a very few people.
Otherwise, of course, you can despair. Walk down the street of any city, any afternoon, and look around you. What you’ve got to remember is what you’re looking at is also you. Everyone you’re looking at is also you. You could be that person, you could be that monster, you could be that… And you have to decide in yourself not to be.
It’s something that I want you to think about this week. As the sun forms a square to Pluto in Capricorn on October 21st.
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