Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Part

Sometimes I am a part of something, and sometimes I am simply apart.  When I get up in the morning I have some silence and solitude, apart from the outside world and my inside parade of thoughts.  This meditation time is for getting connected with my interior, spiritual self.  I want to be together, all my parts one.  Then I can go forth and participate, be part of the day, with people and situations, with compassion, and listening.  A member of a team, participates, as in soccer and baseball, and business groups.  When I do singular things, like run, I do not participate.  I am alone.  Even with a group, I am way behind.  No one is waiting for me to catch up.  Now if I don't get into that morning mediation, I enter into the day "apart" from everything.  I isolate.  I have low levels of compassion and fail to listen adequately.  I am all about me, not a team player.  I want to contribute to a world larger than me, be a part of that world.  Isolation is a slippery slope.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Freedom

Many people dismiss the idea of "contact with God."  They diminish God to thoughts of dogma, or joining a religion.  They judge dogma and religion as rather useless and problematic.  But God existed before dogma and religion.  God is about human freedom, not restrictions.  Specifically, God is about interior freedom, in which we open ourselves to expand our horizons, our potential to be fully human.  This is God's call to each one of us and we need to be awake to hear and respond.  To do this we need a prayer of listening and openness, not so much words and rituals.  The prayer of listening, meditation is all about surrendering self, the self that is busy with accomplishments, or avoiding hassles, allying fears.  Our potential as humans is boundless, but first we must take some time out each day to stop focusing on ourselves or others as it relates to our limited agenda.  Helicopter Moms, stop managing the world around you for a few minutes each day.  If you are living in a care or assisted living facility and think that time is limited, interior prayer can remind you that life is limitless.  In the external world we can be subject to more or fewer rules depending on how totalitarian the system.  But the interior life is one between you and God that no one can touch.  Access it and you may become a witness to others of our human potential, to finding who we truly are.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Drugs

I have no experience with drugs or pills.  They never really appealed to me.  An occasional this or that when I was younger just did not do much for me.  So when someone comes to me now and says that they are having a problem with drugs, I do not assume that they want to stop.  So I first ask them if they want to stop.  I have found out that often enough they do not really want to stop.  They want to stop suffering consequences.  They would prefer their drugs with no loss of health, job, spouse, reputation, or finances.  I am the killjoy priest.  I tell them my opinion.  Stop, and find other people who have stopped and stayed stopped.  If they counter with "there is nothing the matter with drugs," I ask them why their life is falling apart?  I am not here to judge and condemn.  I do point out that for this person, there are consequences.  It is they who said they were having a "problem."  I am a big believer in abstinence.  Talk about the narrow road!  If you are having a problem with something, and your attempt to manage the problem is not bearing good results, then maybe your problem cannot be managed, at least by you.  Most people I meet don't care for abstinence.  I seem to have the minority opinion.  I certainly cannot make a living at it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Alcohol

I used to like to drink alcohol.  I enjoyed wine with dinner, beer almost anytime, and sipping Glen Livet and Chivas Regal scotch.  I liked Black Russians occasionally.  One evening, I was at the home of some friends having dinner.  I recall I was suffering some of the effects of shingles.  I drank Chivas, wine with dinner, and something after dinner.  I good dinner with friends, and no shingles discomfort.  The next morning, I woke up and decided I did not want to drink anymore.  That was a pretty drastic idea.  I recall having no such plans the evening before.  But like any drastic decision, one ought not go it alone if possible.  So I thought to myself, is there anyone else who makes such decisions, I being a rookie at this?  Sure enough there were such people around.  I found them.  And there was no internet at that time.  I wasn't interested in meeting other non-drinking rookies.  I mean, what did they know?  I listened to the pros.  An added benefit was that some of these longtime nondrinkers came from walks of life, of which I had no experience.  Who cares!  They were content.  Plus, they seemed to want to be helpful, to share wisdom.  I wanted wisdom.  So, I advise you, if you want to change something in your life, don't try and do it alone.  Find people, a group, who have figured out how to change and stay changed.  I want to run for exercise.  But I run with a group when I can.  Alone, I come up with excuses to not run or exercise at all.  On my own I lack fortitude.  If you want to meditate, find meditators.  Find a group.  False pride goeth before the fall.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Wandering To Our Center

I think I am where God wants me to be, a Paulist priest, living my summers in a Trappist Monastery. How I got here was Grace.  Some would call it happenstance.  The point is that we can wander around in one career, work, relationship, or other for awhile, all the time moving to where God wants us, often through what seems like failure, mishap, or plain bad luck.  God is always at work.  In my case, I got hired by a Chicago corporation.  So I moved to Chicago.  The Paulists had a church around the corner from my office.  I knew nothing about the Paulist Fathers.  I was not looking for them.  They were just in the neighborhood.  I liked their short, to the point sermons.  Seemed like nice guys. Then I moved to another corporation in San Francisco.  The Paulists had a church near my office.  Thinking about being a priest, I eventually stopped in to talk to them.  I joined up.  As a priest, the Paulists asked me to go to work in our Boulder, Colorado parish.  There, I heard about a Catholic monk who would be talking with a Buddhist Roshi.  I decided to attend.  The monk was Thomas Keating, who was living at the Snowmass Trappist monastery.  I met Thomas, and that is how I eventually ended up here.  I was simply going to the next thing.  I only thought I was in control.  God was at work the whole time.  So don't worry if you think you are a bit lost.  God may very well have your back.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Cold War

I grew up in the Cold War, East versus West.  In grade school in the Bronx, we practiced drills, hiding under our desks, in case Russia send us a hydrogen bomb by air.  Whatever was going on in South America, was of no concern outside of geography class.  In my church this has all changed because today we have a Pope from Argentina.  He lives in the Vatican which is very concerned about protocol, business as usual, law, and the protection of the institution, The Roman Catholic Church.  This pope seems to have bought a Latin American focus to Rome. He is not uninterested in the above agenda, but he is interested in the Gospel, specifically what Jesus had to say about caring for the forgotten, the poor, the outsider, and those who do not seem to fit nicely into the legal structure of the church.  This goes beyond charity for him.  He calls for a change in structures of society.  It is a bit of a conflict, Pope and Vatican hierarchs, and maybe many North American bishops in general.  As in the Cold War, many people take sides, and their side is right while the other side is all wrong.  I pray for dialogue, compassion and openness.  These are all gifts of the Holy Spirit who is the one really running the church.  God is always coming into our lives in unexpected ways, not according to anyone's plans.  The Incarnation attests to that.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Oops! Forgot.

A friend asked me to send a mass card to someone.  He gave me all the information, address where to send the card, and what to write on the card, and what the relation of the deceased was to the person receiving the card.  As I began to fill out the mass card I realized my friend had left out one very important item.  I did not have the name of the deceased!  Don't we all have those situations where we forget one essential item?  I have gone to my gym with the intention to shower there after the workout and then go straight to work.  I bring all my "street" clothes.  After exercise I shower and as I dress, I realize I forgot my shoes, or forgot my pants.  It happens.  How could I be so stupid!  Yet, if I "forget" the essential part of my spiritual life, Prayer, I don't seem to mind or think myself stupid.  Better to be shoeless, than soulless.