Monday, December 28, 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

LUKE 2: 41-52


DECEMBER 27, 2009

Twenty four year ago the parish church of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Boulder, was gutted by a fire. After the fire I knew we had to find a place for the community to worship that was available on Saturday evenings and Sundays. We needed a mass schedule that might be something close to our custom and we needed to continue to have collections to pay for the rebuilding of the church! I made phone calls and inquiries. A very helpful Jewish woman, Joan Russell, worked at Baseline Junior High School nearby. She offered their auditorium to us. So we began to have mass there.

I noticed right away that there were a number of people who no longer came to worship with the community. I suspect that the schedule change or the desire to be in a building that looked more like a Catholic Church, and the discomfort of the auditorium seats built for junior high size bodies, sent some people to other churches. Those who did come to the auditorium felt a bond with one another strong enough to overcome any discomfort or inconvenience. For these people, the community, not the architecture, made the space holy. This is what I call the making of a Holy Family or Community. It is a people who bond together such that they put up with difficulties, just like a blood-related family.

We tend to put up with a lot more from our family, brothers and sisters and children, than we might if they were not family. How many parents have stuck with their children who have become impossible due to drugs and alcohol, and general bad or stupid behavior? Siblings may fight with one another or bicker, but they also feel a bond that keeps them together.

Contrast a Holy Community with grocery shopping. You may pick one store or another for your food, based upon convenience or price. In this case you really don't care who else is in the store. You are there for food. Some people come to a particular church because the schedule suits them. They come for the food of the Eucharist. They do not much care who else is there. If they find some difficulty there with noise or other people or whatever, they simply go somewhere else. Such people are not bonded to the others in that church.

I think that we grow holy by putting up with one another, by difficulties and inconveniences that might try our patience, charity, and fortitude. Holy families grow in holiness not because everyone is perfect and nice, but in spite of perfection. Jesus put up with his disciples. He felt bonded enough with Mary and Joseph, and the Nazareth community to live with them for years before his public ministry. Jesus puts up with me! If I want my parish community to be my kind of perfect or hassle-free, then it might be I am too lazy or self-centered to grow in Holiness.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent

LUKE 1:39-45

DECEMBER 20, 2009

On Saturday evenings, I preside at a mass in the small town of Lyons, about 20 miles North of Boulder. Streets and sidewalks all around the church are being torn up and repaved. Right now the torn up part is all around us. It is very difficult to get to the front steps of the church. Tractors and barriers are everywhere. We walk in the street since there are no sidewalks at this point.

This weekend was the worst yet. When I arrived at the church, in the dark, I began to whine and blame, which is my initial response to a difficult situation. Are not my wants the center of attention for the town council? But then God intervened with a thought for me to ponder. In the gospel, Mary travels a very difficult and rocky route to reach her cousin Elizabeth. Mary and Joseph have to travel pretty much the same route to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem, outside Jerusalem. They have to go to an inconvenient stable, in the night, with no paved path. Jesus is born in the night, in a very inconvenient situation for Mary and Joseph. But it is not inconvenient for the shepherds, who are already living outdoors at night on cold ground. For them, the stable is nearby and freely accessible for them.

If it is inconvenient and difficult for me to make my way to the Lyons Church, maybe I am following in the footsteps of Mary and Joseph. The Lyons church becomes the stable I struggle to get into, so that I can enjoy the new birth of my Savior. Maybe the difficulty of getting "there" is the point. What will I put up with to receive God into my life? When I whine, it means I will not put up with much. For sure, I will not bear any cross in this mood!

But there is more. Jesus is born is a cold, dark stable. He does not come where there is light and merriment. He comes to an isolated and out of the way place, off from the mainstream of daily human activity. At this time of year, are not there some hearts that feel cold and dark and isolated from the light and merriment around them? This feeling may come from childhood upbringing where Christmas was not much celebrated. Maybe someone has lost a loved one recently, or has the memory of someone dying at this time in a Christmas past. Maybe someone simply has little faith.

These are the situations in which Jesus especially comes and dwells at this time of year. The animals who witnessed his birth had no faith and maybe even less interest. This is the wonder and miracle of God coming into the world. God comes where least expected or invited. Bethlehem was a small no place town. When you feel like a small nobody, God is coming especially to you. When you feel your heart to be cold, dark and lonely at this time of year, God is dwelling within you. God is especially a surprising and often uninvited presence in the world and in each one of us. Scrooge said, "Humbug" but this did not prevent Love from entering into his life.

You may not welcome, expect or even invite Christ into your life, but that does not control the Presence. We never earn God, but we sure can be surprised by the Incarnation in our hearts.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday in Advent

LUKE 3: 10-18

DECEMBER 13, 2009

The spiritual journey is to discover who God made you to be, and then to live that out in your everyday life. When you are able to do this you will become "Good News" for those attracted to you. People will be attracted to you because you will exhibit a certain comfort and peace within yourself no matter the difficulty of life. John the Baptist has come to live in the desert. It is where he is supposed to be. It is here in his desert lifestyle that he hears and proclaims the word of God. Though he is in a remote and difficult place, people come out to hear him. Why do they come? Why do they hear Good News?

John does not yell at them. He does not judge them. He does not tell them that they are terrible people who will burn because of their lifestyle. Because John is comfortable in his own skin, he can hear God's word clearly and not interpret it through John's own tortured, angry and judgmental life. He speaks in moderation when the people trust to ask, "What are we to do?" To the general populace, he says that if you have more then you need, share some with those who are in want. John does not rant about consumerism or the hoarding of things in an attempt to make one happy. He gives people a simple suggestion that can be accomplished without having to change their whole lifestyle.

Tax officials, judged evil by the general populace, feel comfortable around John. To their question, "What are we to do?" he tells them not to cheat people. He does not say that tax collectors are evil and need to stop their means of livelihood. He gives them a suggestion of what could be done that will really effect their lives for the better. To the soldiers, some of whom are pagans, infidels, John again does not tell them they have to stop being soldiers or even change their belief system. He gives them something that they can begin to do now without too much trouble. He tells them to accept their wages and don't try to threaten the people with a lance to extort more income from them.

People hear Good News. Through John, they hear God saying that they can begin to grow in the spiritual life with some simple adjustments. They hear something that is possible to do. They do not hear judgment. They are not told to completely change their lives. Nobody seems to go away sad. If John's audience can each put into practice his suggestions, then the world will be a better place and the kingdom will be made more visible in our midst.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Contemplative Outreach: Humility, Part II


We will explore the importance of humility in practicing the spiritual life and how to achieve it through letting go of thoughts of our former way of life, thoughts of God, and thoughts of self. The presentation will be based on the book Humility Matters by Mary Margaret Funk.

Presented by

Father Terry Ryan, CSP


St. Thomas Aquinas Church Hall

14th Street and Aurora Avenue (on the Hill), Boulder

Saturday, January 16, 2010

9:30 a.m. to Noon

(Coffee and treats begin at 9:00 a.m.)

The morning will include Centering Prayer,

but no experience necessary.

Everyone is welcome. Suggested donation is $10.


For more information and pre-registration, please call

Barbara Hayden (303) 494-2845 or Rosalie Gansecki (303) 494-1742

Sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of Boulder

and St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish

Second Sunday in Advent

LUKE 3: 1-6 BARUCH 5: 1-9

DECEMBER 6, 2009

There are three kinds of people who run. There are those who run for exercise to lose weight. When the weather is bad, or they get bored or the running is not "fun" or they don't seem to lose the weight, they give up running. The second kind of runner is one who runs to train. They want to get fit and stay fit. They run through bad weather, tiredness and difficult terrain. They love to run. The third kind of runner is like the second, only they want to compete in races as well. They want to test there body and will against the clock and other runners. I am this third type.

I love to run, though I am not always happy or pain free when running. Running is part of who I am. To a non-runner it is difficult to explain. Running is more than exercise. It is not always fun and rarely easy. There is rain cold, and wind. There are uneven trails and sometimes hard roads. Running is not an option in my week of exercise. Wherever I go on my travels and work, I run. Running attire is a good deal of the bulk of my travel clothes. If I visit a place regularly each year, I have running shoes and attire stored there. I run.

Some people think me a bit crazy or odd. Probably John the Baptist was seen as a bit crazy too. He felt that he was called to live in the desert. His father was a big deal in Jewish priesthood. Maybe John was slated to be a temple priest. He saw his truth calling him to live in the desert. A spiritual life is where we find out who we are and then live it. Running for me and living in the desert for John is part of who we are. It is part of our spiritual life.

God wanted John in the desert because God was going to speak the Word in the desert and needed someone to hear it who was comfortable enough in the desert to be open to the Voice. Desert dwelling was not easy, but since John knew that he was fit for it, he did not focus on the difficulties. He was open to hear the Word. When we live our true identity we are then following God's will and plan. In Baruch, the prophet tells the people to stop mourning their difficulties and put on festive clothes. They are God's special people. Celebrate. Baruch is telling the people to access their true identity and live it though there be difficulty in their lives. They are part of God's plan.

Many people ask, "Where can I make the most money?" or, "Where can I be the most secure?". They don't seek to know who they are, their unique self. So a person decides to be a banker, for the money, when in fact, they are meant to be a teacher. Or a person opts to work in health care, when they are called to be a political advisor or journalist.

In this season of Advent waiting, ask if you are waiting for God where you are supposed to be. God may come to you where you are meant to be, and if you are not there, you might miss the coming. If you say, "God is absent," it might be that you are waiting in the wrong place and wrong life. The good news is that when you are lost, or have lost yourself, God can find you. I wonder if the lost sheep was wandering around trying to be a goat?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

11th Step Centering Prayer Workshop





This is a workshop to learn centering prayer as an 11th step meditative practice open to anyone in any 12 step program. Anyone who is involved in a 12 step program and has ever started or wanted to start the practice of centering prayer will be amazed by the vision and intuitiveness of Father Ryan.

Father Terry Ryan, C.S.P., is a Paulist priest who travels throughout the United States teaching reflections of the Contemplative Experience. St Therese of Lisieux, the great mystics, and the spirituality of the 11th step of a 12-step recovery program all provide the frameworks for Father Terry’s discussions of the Contemplative Experience. The contemplative experience of resting in God within and beyond our limiting thoughts, images and feelings can transform your active life. You will become freer of self-centered, fear-based motives and of desires for too much control, security and esteem. Contemplating the inner light of God’s will, we will discover who we truly are in his divine image and likeness.


9:00 AM to NOON




For directions: or 303-491-3041

Registration will begin at 9:00 AM. There will be coffee and treats offered. A $10.00 donation is suggested and appreciated to cover costs.

For more information, or to reserve a seat, contact Pat Fanning at 303-530-1315 or by e-mail to Please RSVP by December 31, 2009.