Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Many people will be eating a feast of food on this day, Thanksgiving.  I hope you are with loved ones at table.  But it is also a day to feed the hungry, the poor, the homeless.  My parish in San Francisco does just that on Thanksgiving.  Our auditorium is full of anyone who wants to come and eat turkey and all the fixings.  It is cooked and served by volunteers.  Not only the poor come, but people who would otherwise be alone that day.  People of every culture, ethnicity, income, color and language sit side by side enjoying the dinner.  It is all free to the participants.  Some of the priests from the Paulist residence attend.  Many people will go to recovery meetings and give thanks for the miracle of their sobriety.  Some, like my friend Margo, will celebrate Thanksgiving during the day and then go to the opening of a movie that evening.  How are you giving thanks today?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What You Give, Not What You Got

A call, a choice of vocation or relationship, or career is not so much based upon what you have, but in what you give.  I am an example of this.  When I joined the Paulist Fathers, I was not anything special, except in my own delusional mind.  Big ego filled me up.  I was ordained as one of nine.  I have never been a “Star” in the Paulist Fathers, never asked to do the big jobs, or assignments.  The Administrations knew me better than I knew myself.  But God had a plan for my ordinariness.  God would do the heavy lifting while I simply persevered in my stumbling and wandering way.  Anything I did that was successful, in a parish was due to the lay people who did the ministry.  I was a sort of “chaplain.”  I might have an idea, but the parishioners were the ones who actually adapted and made it work, from my days as Catechism coordinator for Children in Houston, to Baptism and Marriage Preparation ministry in Boulder, and the Bookstore in San Francisco, to Camus Ministry in Knoxville.  Thanks to my sister, Maureen, I had lots of stories to tell for successful parish missions.  Now I simply teach about prayer, and can only do that successfully where parishioners or local lay groups do all the work but teach.  I have come to realize that God can take a bit of mediocrity and do a lot of wonderful things for others.  I just keep doing.  I am not retiring.  I give what I got, like a long distance runner who can but put one foot in front of the other for a long time.  Many people thing I am wonderful, but it is God’s doing.  I am the vessel, empty without Grace.  So don’t worry if you think you are not pretty enough, or strong enough, or smart enough.  Give what you got.  God is at work for the giver.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


In the movie, “Wonder” which I recommend to junior high students and teachers in elementary school, there is a line that says, “Augie cannot change the way he looks, so maybe we can change the way we see.”  Brilliant.  Augie has a face that is scarred by many surgeries since he was born.  He is homeschooled until middle school.  Then he begins going to school where he encounters students who “see” him in a certain way.  The way they see Augie directs the way they act toward him.  Children can be cruel and boorish.  Augie will always look “different.”  The students begin to change the way they act towards him and with him, when they change the way they see him.  AA has a book entitled, “A New Set of Glasses.”  We tend to see the world as distorted when in fact it is often the way we look at things that is distorted.  So whenever I catch myself seeing people in a way that seems to want me to separate, ignore, judge or distance myself, I will ask myself if I need to see differently.  At time it is me who needs to change.  How about you?

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Bezel Person

Are you a Bezel person?  A what?  Well, a Bezel is the border around your iPhone, if you have an iPhone.  You never think about it, but it is there.  Is it necessary? Apparently not so necessary says the iPhone X ( that is 10, not ex).  There is no border, which allows for a smaller phone with all the stuff of a bigger phone.  So, something we take for granted and even think is necessary, can be eliminated. Are you a bezel person, someone who you think is necessary, and even taken for granted, being so necessary, who can be eliminated from a job, a marriage, a friendship, a relationship?  People might say, “Oh, we cannot live without you,” or “What will we do without you?”  Then when I am not around, people seem to do just fine.  If I thought I was so necessary, then I would be a “Bezel person.”  I can be eliminated from people’s lives and they do just fine, or so it appears.  Bezel people are basically delusional.  They think they are so important, until they find out they are not.  My blog is a bezel blog.  It can be eliminated.  Oh! Say it isn’t so.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Airport Seating

Why do people take up two seats at an airport, one for themselves and one for their luggage?  One reason might be that it is convenient to do this.  Nothing on the dirty floor, plus stuff reached without having to bend over.  But there might be another reason.  We don’t like strangers to sit next to us.  Some people who are standing feel the same way.  Even though there is seat available, they will stand until there are two seats, one for themselves and one for their stuff.  But we are not really alien strangers to one another.  We travelers are all “refugees” type persons.  We are not at home and are either trying to get to someplace that is not home, or trying to get back home.  If we think of ourselves as fellow travelers, it might not engender enough compassion to give up your luggage seat for someone else.  But as fellow sufferers, compassion might be engendered.  So I tend to just take one seat.  And I will sit next to someone in the waiting area, though they might be thinking of me as somewhere between a nuisance and a terrorist.  I will even talk to strangers sitting next to or near me.  We are fellow refugees.  We are at that moment without homes.  Like flood or forest fire victims in Houston and Santa Rosa.  Human contact is not all bad.  Isolation does not have to be the norm when traveling through airports.  Our behavior often depends on how we see the other person.  If you think you are married to a jerk, or work with a jerk, or are associated with a jerk you will treat that person in a certain way.  Terrorists, likewise get terrorist treatment.  My deportment at airports gives people a second chance to have an opinion or judgment about the “stranger” who sits next to them.  Fear is often what gives our luggage a seat.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Compass

As a Boy Scout I had a compass.  It gravitated naturally to the north.  It gave me a sense of direction so that I would not get lost.  Well, my soul has a moral compass and it is broken.  It is supposed to gravitate to doing good, but it is not very consistent.  Left to my own unaided power, I will somedays stumble into the right direction, but more often than not, I will go in the wrong direction behaviorly or just wander about clueless.  So for me, I do not buy into the cultural ideal of “being free to do as I please.”  Prayer for me is not optional.  It is the exercise of my soul.  If you commit to exercise or diet, do you not have somedays when it is more difficult to discipline yourself?  Prayer is like that.  So in some way, I need to be a ‘Slave” to a spiritual practice and just do it out of obedience to my commitment, or in my case, God.  Most of us don’t like discipline, but Olympic Atheletes and Saints seem to find it crucial.  I will be neither, but at least I need to get pointed in the right direction.  Is your spiritual compass broken too?  “Going South” is a phrase that points to failure of one sort or another.  Addicts who do not practice daily recovery know what “going south” means.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Living Room

When my parents moved to Florida, there home had “the living room.”  Lots of homes in their neighborhood had this room.  It is nicely furnished, neat and clean, and no one uses it.  It is for special guests, and “special” means people we hardly ever see, and with whom we lack a certain amount of comfort in their presence.  A priest would qualify for this.  So, the few times that people invite me into their homes, they offer the living room and we eat and drink off of special plates, cups and glasses that are rarely used.  It is a bit too formal and dreadful for me, but I comply.  If someone asks where I would like to sit and talk, I would say, “the kitchen.”  This is where my family gathered most comfortably in the Bronx.  Some people’s kitchen have no place to sit or the chairs are dreadfully uncomfortable, so the den would work well too.  Well, my soul has rooms too.  When I am feeling guilty or ashamed of bad behavior, I tend to the “living room” motif for God.  I am not too comfortable in God’s presence due to my failure to measure up to God’s love.  When I am more balanced, with my spiritual practices active, I welcome God to the kitchen of my soul. Prayer and action give me a sense of comfort with God.  So where do you welcome God?