Friday, July 30, 2010

Busy signals in prayer: When I am noisy with chatter, pre-occupied in thought about something, fantasizing with my imagination in overdrive, then I am not open to God's invitation or call. I give off a busy signal or a message that says, "I am not available at this time." God does not leave messages.
When I can touch the pause button, between a thought and the spoken words to express the thought, I find that often the thought has no need to be spoken. It fractures the silence within me and in the atmosphere around me, but adds nothing of substance to dialogue.
On the other hand, I can keep my tongue silent, but have a noisy mind which also is a busy signal to God. Thoughts make no noise if I just give them no time and space in my imagination. I find that most thoughts do not deserve any time and space. Boredom or dis-ease with my present situation seem to awaken the imagination to open some time and space for a thought which becomes a scenario, a play let, a full blown drama at times in my mind filled with emotions. Often the scenes are unreal except in my head.
If I try and be a bit more silent within, less distracted by the world around me or my gadgets, I find that frequently I can recollect myself, that is, recall that I am in the presence of the Presence, and just rest here for a moment. These recalls can be strung together like a set of beads through the day. They become prayer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

All my life I have wanted to belong. To whom do I belong? It was a seeking, a wanting, of which I was not aware. When I was growing up in the Bronx, for the first 12 years of my life, I bounced from one group of friends to another, always trying to sense a belonging though I did not know "belonging" was the issue at the time. When I moved to the suburbs before the 7th grade, I was lost. Other people had their place in relationships, and I did not, nor did I know how to fit in. High school and college were good times when I felt I belonged. After college, this quest for belonging came up again and has not left me since.
I did not belong in corporate America, so I left it to join the Paulist Fathers and become a priest. But I always felt like an outsider in my own religious order. It was not the fault of the Paulists. I simply had not found to whom I belong. I would belong in a parish community to some extent, but every Sunday after everyone went home to family, I was left with me. Sunday afternoons were lonely times. Every few years I would transfer to another parish, another city.
For years I felt that I belonged especially to my parents. I would visit them often. They were my friends as well as parents. I was so very happy when I visited with them. I have come to realize it was about belonging. When they died and I became an orphan, I felt again that empty space of not belonging. I have tried lately to make a community of people my place of belonging in a particular town where I work.
This all came to a head one day at a community luncheon. Everyone was talking to someone, except no one was talking to me. I sat there and said to myself, "I don't belong here." Whether I do or don't, it brought the whole belonging issue into the forefront. I sat there and recalled being at some big meetings of the Paulist Fathers about 6 years ago. One day, I was the first one into the large ballroom filled with tables where we were to have our next session. I sat down at my table and watched as every Paulist came in and no one said anything to me. That was the last time I ever went to a large gathering of our community. It is not some one's fault. I have this belonging issue. When I feel ignored, that empty space pops up.
So back to the recent luncheon in which no one was talking to me. I went to my room and suddenly realized that I had been trying to get people to take the place of God. I belong to God. God is "My Belonging." It is my name for God now. From when I was a little boy, I have always felt this God attraction. It is what has attracted me to Church, prayer, priesthood, silence and solitude. I run from the Belonging as much as I seek it. That is the sin in my life. Sin for me is all the substitutes I have for "My Belonging."
Now I am home with God. God does not go away and even puts up with my ignoring of God. I worry less about my work or its success. God will give me what I need in this area. It seems that my priorities have shifted some. God is less of a project to whom I devote segments of the week, and more of an ongoing part of me. We are One.

Lately, I have come to realize that God is a "Project" in my life, more than a relationship. A relationship is ongoing and in contemplative practice, it becomes background amidst other daily tasks or projects. A project is something that I work on at various times and then put aside as I move onto something else.
I set aside times for "contemplation" and then move on to something else. I seem to try and turn on a switch during my contemplation times, and my other prayer times. In those segments I turn to God and expect that now we will have our little meeting. The silence that comes before and after those times is not so much allowed to be filled with the fruits of prayer, as it is filled up with thoughts about everything else but God. God is supposed to function in those slots I give for "Prayer."
As I write this blog, I am staying prayer connected, that is, in touch with God, as in a relationship. Yet my will wants to read a novel or order something I need on the Internet. At times, I turn to fidgeting about some work project or plans for the future all of which could wait until some other moment. It is sad to think of God as just a project. The good news is to know it, and to know that God knew it all along and still has not given up on me.
So now I don't try so much to turn on a switch during my centering time, as try and keep open to the Presence in the opportunities that are given me to be in silence during the day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

LUKE 11: 1-13 GENESIS 18: 20-32

One morning at the monastery during our Eucharist, I was standing around the altar as the monks do for daily Eucharist, and from my position I looked at the host as it was being elevated during the consecration. While I looked at the elevated host, I could see in a direct line past the host, to a monk who stood on the other side of the altar, and past him to a tree ouside the window of the chapel. Suddenly it hit me. All is One. The host, the monk, the tree, are all God Presence.

I had read about this mystical sense of Oneness, but never experienced it quite like I did at that moment. The Presence is everywhere in all things and places. It is illogical to say that God is more present in one place than another, as if the Holy could be divided up into smaller and bigger parts. This sense of Oneness has begun to affect my life in several ways. Start with the tree. Outside the window of my cell, there is a big tree that blocks my view of the mountains. Before this experience of Oneness, I whined that the Abbot should not have planted all these trees when he was a young monk because now they grow up and block a million dollar view. I wish the tree would die, or at least cut it down half way so I could have my view. It is an inconvenient tree. Now I see that the tree is filled with the Holy Presence, the same Presence that is in me, I hope. Now when I get up in the morning, I talk to the tree. "Hello tree, how are you?" Maybe I have had too much silence and solitude, but this is how it is. The tree is no longer something that bothers me. It reveals the Divine out my window.

Now turn to the monk. He is filled with the Presence. He is not just someone with whom I compete for scarce resources such as the last cookie in the jar. He is not someone with whom I compare myself in false pride. He is not a bother or inconvenience in my life. He is a revelation of the Divine. He is God present to me. He is one with me. When I see this connection between me and the other person, this Oneness, it becomes much harder to be unkind or uncaring toward another person, much less to kill someone in a war. It would become easier to forgive some one their debt to me because now I would feel a bond and compassion for the other person. Abraham had it right and the fellow in the gospel in his bed had it wrong. Abraham feels this bond between himself and all humanity. He wants to try and save the lives of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, even if they are not of his tribe, faith, or ethnic group. He wants to preserve life even if they are unrepentent people. He makes no judgment. The fellow in bed treated his neighbor as an inconvenience, a "bother" says the gospel. It was the way I had treated my tree outside the window of my cell.

The fellow in bed is probably a believer, of the same religion as the one asking for bread. He probably believes that he is in good standing with God, and goes to worship on the Sabbath. Yet, he sees his neighbor not as One with himself but as a bother, a nuisance. This brings me to the Eucharist, the elevated host in my revelation that morning. When I was young I was taught that God came into the host, but that I was a sinner who barely qualified to receive communion even if I went to confession the day before mass. Until God came to me in the communion, I did not have much God. As for trees, they were inanimate objects which could be cut down for the convenience of view or profit. I still see some people who love to go to Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, to reverence God in the host, but then these same people can be quite nasty, gossipy, and unkind to others outside of Church. For centuries Europe has been the battleground for fellow Christians killing one another.

Karl Rahner, S.J. a great 20th century theologian, helped me to understand the Eucharist. He used the term "Transignification." The significance or meaning of the bread changes, but more Godness is not added to the bread than to the tree or another person. God is everywhere. The bread signifies things that the tree does not. The tree does not remind me of the Incarnation, the Lamb of God, my Salvation, the Cross, or being fed by Godness in this special way. So I reverence the Eucharist as its unique expression of significance of the Divine acting in my life. I do not segment the Divine in a way that I can ignore or manipulate the world for my own selfish wants.

A parent will cut their child slack because the parent experiences a blood relationship. They would have a lot less tolerance of other people. So the parent would not give a snake to a their child who asked for a fish. Yet they might let the neighbor go hungry.

We ask God for many things. Jesus tells us to ask, seek and to knock, but he hints at what we might really need. To Jesus, God as Father, or parent, sees us all as children of the One. As such, Jesus suggests in the final verse of the gospel, that we might ask for the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit that is the principal of all creation. God looked on all creation in Genesis and said, "It is good." God did not say, some of creation is better than good. Some creation may have different significance or meaning, but all creation is filled with the Holy Spirit. All is good and all is One.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Workshop Scheduled in Snowmass, Colorado

Mystic's Workshop:
Dorothee Soelle

Dorothee Soelle, 1929-2003, was a German mystic influenced by the spirituality of Meister Eckhart. Drawn to the medieval mystical suggestion that our goal was union with God, Soelle believed that we begin with experience and not with doctrines handed down, if we are to access the transcendent and become transformed ourselves. God is within. Nothing is secular. God's love is powerless love. If faith means that there is an extra place in your head where God sits, then you will never be transformed.

presented by

Fr. Terry Ryan, CSP

Saturday, August 14, 2010

9:00 AM to Noon

St. Benedict's Monastery Retreat House

Snowmass, Colorado

Coffee and refreshments begin at 9 AM. There will be an opportunity for Centering Prayer. Free will offering. Sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of Colorado.