Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Precious Time

In Genesis, 22: 1-19, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. In the surrounding pagan culture, this was a practice. The first born was sacrificed to the gods. Though Abraham's People had begun to replace children with animal sacrifice, still he was willing to give up his only son in obedience and trust in his God. We moderns might question all this. We would never sacrifice our children, we say.
But we tend also to hold onto other things much more trivial, such as our precious time. We don't have time for meditation in the morning, or whenever, because we have so much else to do and so little time. Abraham had only one little son, and had to take a long trip to a mountain for the sacrifice. I cannot even walk across my room to sit in a chair and sacrifice my time for God.
Time is what we have been given by God each day that we wake up. Some day, we won't have that time. It is God's gift to us, to be given back to God each day in prayer, and then in being helpful as the opportunity arises during the day. Trust and obedience are difficult virtues when it comes to a discipline of prayer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Spiritual Circus

I begin my early morning prayer time with the gospel for the day. Then I read it again in Spanish. Then I read a Spanish commentary on the Gospel. Then I read another spiritual booklet. Then I sit quietly in silence and wait for God to do whatever God does.
Lately, I question all this preliminary "stuff." It is as if I have gone to the concession stand to get my treats/food, found my seat at the circus and now it is time for the dancing bear to show up and, well, dance. What if I were to read the gospel, or a psalm, and then put the book down and rest in the silence. Who needs all my preliminary? If I believe God is within and simply wants to love on me, then my job is to show up and let God love me. Be, rather than do.
There is plenty of "doing" of things the rest of the day. My spiritual reading and thinking about what I read is not going to control God. Some people might say, "Oh, but I need this to transition from busy mind to rest in stillness." Yes, but. At some point, if you are called to mysticism, then you simply rest and wait. If anything, use a word to call you back from the busy mind to rest in stillness.
Maybe I only need a word. "In the beginning was the Word."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Into The Boat

Prayer of silence and stillness is a bit like getting into a boat with Jesus. I am attracted to spending some time with God, but when I get into the boat, all kinds of stormy thoughts and feelings come to mind. I think about the past and future. I get worried or anxious. It is like being in a boat when there is a storm, and I feel like I am being tossed about in my mess. I cannot seem to find the God that I thought was with me when I entered into prayer. Where is this Holy Peace and Calm?
As in the Gospel, God is with me, but asleep, so to speak. That is, God is comfortable with being with me in all my stormy thoughts and feelings. "Oh ye of little faith," applies to me. I realize how little faith I have, faith that is really operative in my life. Oh sure, I believe in the existence of God, but when the storms of life come, that faith does not seem to serve me well.
Sit in the silence and stormy stillness. Wait. God is with me, and will calm me in God's good time. Maybe I am left in this agitated state of prayer, to bring me to some humility, or to realize my need for God in my lack of faith. God has not abandoned me. It sometimes only feels that way. But at least I got into the boat. Did you this day?

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Post Eucharist Eucharist

After mass on Sundays I like to get together with people to talk about our faith, books we are reading, the content of today's Scripture readings, and our relationship to whatever is happening in the local or wider Church. It is a time to share food and thoughts. I call it the post Eucharist Eucharist, as it is connected to feeding on God in our lives.
This is not quite the same as Coffee and Donuts after mass, though that is uplifting in its own way. I love treats! There it is often a bit noisy and the conversation a bit lighter or more in the area of catching up on family issues which has an importance all its own.
Whatever the post Eucharist gathering, my flaw is to drop into gossip, a weakness in me, or to make judgments not so much based up reading and thoughtful reflection, but on my dislike for things not going the way I want.
In the monastery I seem to be able to discipline myself to do a lot of reading, so I bring to the table of conversation a lot of content. In this way I read not just for me, but for the community of persons with whom I gather after the mass. What are you reading and reflecting upon? Is it worth sharing? Do you have a post Eucharist Eucharist gathering in your life?
Oh, beware of people who just want to give you answers. They give me indigestion.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sudden Death

It is thrilling when it happens in sports, but not so thrilling when it is your unexpected last breath. Sudden Death. This is how my dog Jabba died, and my friend Pat. It is a tough couple of months for me. What might these tragedies be telling me? Jabba was doing what gives her life, being free and chasing something. She died being Jabba. Pat was being a loving person to her family, doing what gave Pat life.
She was writing a letter to me on the day before she died. Not an email, twitter or Facebook quickie, but a letter, taking the time to say that I was worth her time. What if this is my last day? Have I learned nothing from Jabba and Pat? How am I living this day? Am I being who God made me to be? Am I doing what gives me life? Have I told anyone that they are important in my life? I think that I will write a letter today, with a stamp, that goes into a mailbox. Love is so much work when I am preoccupied with myself, and so much joy when I am being all that God made me to be. What gives you life, should this be for you the day of Sudden Death?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Still Point

Pat Marcotte had worked for 19 years at a parish with which I am connected. She was the smile at the front desk. I am an office priest. That is, I do my work in a parish office, not at home. So I came to the office every day, going in and out past the front desk. Often, it was Pat who I would see when I first walked in the door. She was my still point smile of recognition. If I was in some whiny, preoccupied with self mood, it would be improved in seeing Pat. She knew me. We had ongoing conversations from a previous day, or earlier in the day entry into the office. That is, Pat knew something of my story. The office was not just a place of work. It was a bit of "coming home."
Maybe it was that way for a lot of people who came by there with some frequency. As for the newcomer, Pat was always open to the new. It was why she was such a searcher in her own Faith. She was open to growth, and yet would let live traditions and somewhat stale theology that really did not speak to her. She was an inquiring mind, but a hospitable one.
In her sudden death, she will be missed. I have been missing her for quite some time, ever since she stopped being my still point in the office.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pat Marcotte

Pat was my friend. Each summer she would write to me while I was in the monastery. Yesterday I received a letter from Pat. I did not know at that moment, as I read her letter, that she was dead. The evening before, she had been killed in a car accident. She was coming home from having done yet one more good deed.
I was shocked and saddened when I found out later that evening that she was dead. I stood up in my cell and walked over to the window. I saw a beautiful sunset. I thought, "This is a sunset that Pat will never see." Then I realized that Pat was seeing the maker of the sunset, the source of the beauty. We do not always know when it will be our last day of watching sunsets this side of life. I had been thinking about my future, a given to me. What if today is my last day? How am I living it? Am I ready?
I miss Pat. I hope I get to where she is now. We pray for one another, she from a better venue than me. I will keep her letter to remind me to live a bit more in the moment.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Interrupted Life

Prayer interrupts my efforts in pursuit of power, control, bodily comforts and money. My time in the monastery each summer is a time to give myself over to the one on one relationship with God, and to put much else aside. The building is cold, the food is not very interesting, and the labor is difficult. It is overall an interruption of my worldly happiness as I tend to define such happiness. I don't even jog in the monastery.
I am not always in the mood to pray. A conscious decision to stop fussing about this and that, to let go of fantasy, and to open myself to the Holy Presence interrupts a self-centered life and begins again or picks up on the path of self-surrender.
On this feast day of The Holy Trinity, I recall that the Incarnation was an interrupted life of God from all Eternity up to that moment. The cross was an interruption in the healing and teaching life of Jesus. The Resurrection interrupted the devil's reign of death. An interrupted life is difficult at times but it really is the life to which I am called. How interrupted is your life?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Losing My Mind

In Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, he says, "We have the mind of Christ." I suddenly realized what the phrase, "Losing My Mind," really means. Every time that I do not act or think like Jesus, I no longer have the mind of Christ. I have this other mind that is selfish, fearful, jealous/envious, judgmental and gossipy to name a few thoughts and actions I go through when I have lost the mind of Christ.
The Good News is that I really do have the mind of Christ, but seem to lose it or put it aside while I go off on some tangent, which would be sin. To lose the mind of Christ is to enter into the world of sin. Though I seem to be in that world a lot of the time, I can still come back to the mind of Christ.
I can say a prayer, "Oh God come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me." Or as God says, "Be still and know that I am God." So maybe the inner life of the soul, is one of Recovery. I try several times each day to recover my lost mind of Christ.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Fantasy is when you have chosen one path but imagine yourself on another. Fantasy can be an escape from a path that is revealed to be wrongly chosen, such as a marriage or relational commitment that is destructive. It is an escape from pain, sorrow, regret, boredom.
Fantasy can also be part of the path you are on, but just not the part of the path you currently live. A Neophyte in the church, one who has recently joined the Catholic Church, may be finding that they are struggling more than they thought would be the case, several months after their Easter commitment. So they begin to think of themselves as more spiritually evolved. They imagine themselves as a particular saint they read or heard about. They fantasize that they love God deeply and keep God in mind at all times. They imagine themselves to be without a particular nagging fault. This kind of fantasy can be a goal or an ideal. I doubt the saints ever reached this goal. A goal is good. It points the way, but we have also to live in our present mess. In the present mess, we can experience repentance, the need for God's mercy. We can experience unconditional love, only when we realize that we are loved in spite of our deep faults, or bad habits that did not go away with Baptism.
I don't think I will ever become perfect. Who wants to live without the joyful discovery of Grace?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jabba waits

When I would sit down to have something to eat at the dining room table, Jabba would come and sit next to my chair. She would look straight ahead, seeming to look at nothing. It was her way of being at doggie prayer and reminding me of prayer. She was clearing her mind, to be at peace, while she waited for a walk.
One form of prayer is the Jabba model. I sit down and wait on God, knowing that God is aware of my wants and needs. I trust things will work out. I don't busy my mind with worry or anxiety or looking into the future or dwelling on the past. I am present to God. I wait.
For Jabba, I am like God. I know she wants a walk, and if she is patient while I eat my lunch, then we will go out for our walk. I enjoy the walk too. I enjoy being with her. God enjoys being with me on the walk of life. The waiting is to teach me trust, patience, hope, and love. Jabba loved me in her own fashion. What more could a guy ask of a dog? What more could I ask of my God, than to walk in the Garden.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Persecutors

My mother taught me that when I get to near the end of some food item, I should put it onto the grocery list, so that we don't run out of that item. I do that to this day. But unfortunately I live in a world of people who do not recognize the existence of grocery lists. I live in a community of shared food. I share a box of cereal with other people. If I get near to where the box is almost empty, I put the item on the list. Other people just finish up the box and toss it away. How is the shopper to know we are out of this item? I go to get some cereal and there is none. "These people hate me!" I say. I feel persecuted. Yes, I am whining, but with cause, no? Why do I have to live with these people?
Then I recall the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says to pray for those who persecute us. These anti-list people are really gifts in my life. They call me to prayer...after I have whined first. Well, the whining allows me to realize that I have faults too, and I need God's help. This is another reason for prayer. So now I live with more calm in my heart, though chaos reigns around me with the shopping list.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fr. Miljenko

I lived with Fr. Miljenko for three years. At times I found him difficult. A difficult person is one who does not agree with me. I think that Miljenko may be called to be a prophetic voice. Such a voice is never popular. It challenges us, at least that is the way it is in the bible. A prophet will never be a popular parish priest. As a pastor a prophet would be a disaster as we wee to measure pastors. That is, the congregations would be small and the collection would match it.
But we need prophetic voices, even if I don't care to listen to them. That is the nature of the prophetic voice. I am more of a comforter voice. I am liked by lots of people. I remind them that God loves them and forgives our messy lives. Oh, I encourage people to do better, but we are still loved no matter what. Maybe we can do better knowing we are loved. No fear of God here. No worry about having a bad judgment from the Divine Lover.
But the prophet is all challenge. That voice is a kick in the butt to those who might slip into a world of indifference and mediocrity, or lukewarmness, if they are not already there. I never like a kick in the butt. I have a running coach who gives a short or sometimes not so short homily on running before each workout. I enjoy listening to him when he coddles us and tells us we are doing OK and jus keep at it. But I will never get much better in my running. At times he challenges us, chides us. This is never popular with the group. But it might make us try harder and improve our performance.
The prophetic ordained priest will always be on the periphery of success. If they ever get beloved by many, draw huge crowds, then either they have lost their prophetic voice or the world has truly changed. We can be quick to point out the personal shortcomings of the prophet. It makes us feel better about ignoring the message. But we all have faults. I hope the Church is big enough for comforters life me and prophetic voices like Fr. Miljenko. It is all the same Spirit, no?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Prayer is my engine

I jump into my car with the thought of many things to get done, places to go and such. then I look at the gas gage and realize that I cannot get anything done without first stopping to gas up. If I avoid this step, then things will not go well at some point in my travels.
Is it not the same with the soul? My soul is my tank. Prayer fills it up, so that I can then act. How often do I say, "I have no time for prayer. I have too much else to do!" A soul empty of prayer usually means that I will act in a bad mood, and/or my actions will be done poorly, inefficiently, and filled with negative emotions at some point.
Pray first.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Do you love me?

In John's gospel, chapter 21, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus. Jesus is asking if Peter really loves him. Peter replies that Jesus is important in his life, he likes hanging around with Jesus, they are good buddies, and such. But Peter never really says that he loves Jesus.
The good news is that you don't have to really love Jesus for Jesus to love you and even ask you to do something. This is helpful to me because sometimes I wonder if I really love God. Like Peter, God is important in my life and I want things from God and I like being around God, but do I really love God, deeply? I seem to ignore God when I either want to do my own thing, or else feel I don't need God for something I can do myself.
When I really love someone, I think of that person a lot. This love is the center of my life. I must admit I cannot say that about my relationship with God. It must be a growth process. I have the grace to love God, but a bunch of bad habits too. Life is conflict but God never gives up on me. If the first pope did not really love Jesus all that much, I guess I can live with my imperfections, and hope.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jabba Is Dead

I just found out that Jabba got loose outdoors on June 7 in Boulder and was killed by a car. It feels like a loss in the family. I miss her. That night I could not sleep. I felt restless. I did not yet know that she had died, but something deep inside me knew. I think that she is now at peace. I don't believe that a dog dies and that's it and nothing after for the dog. Something of her energy, her spirit continues. That is what reached out to me the night I could not sleep. A part of me was already mourning but not on a conscious level.
I think that she is at peace because my God loves dogs, and all animals. God is Love. Jabba loved as best she could. Her original owner had to give her up due to allergies in the owner's child, so I hear. Abandonment can mess with one's ability to love, but she was a loving dog nonetheless, at least I thought so.
Many a time I would leave my work at the office to go home, not to pray, but to see if Jabba might need a walk or some dinner. Jabba came before God. I guess I will burn for that, unless dogs can pray and Jabba can intercede for me. Maybe she has Doggie faith and we just don't know anything about that.
Jabba was very self-centered and in this she reminded me about myself. Her ways often made me reflect upon my own spiritual and psychological health. We lived together for five years. It was a good run.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Say My Name

Some many years ago, a friend who I knew loved me, said my name, "Terry" is a very tender way. I had never heard anyone say my name in that manner and tone. I felt a sense of Oneness with her and all the world. I was at peace.
When I was in trouble as a little boy, my Mom would say, "Terrence Patrick!" I knew I had done something wrong. As a priest I rarely here my name with any tenderness. It is usually Fr. Terry, or Fr. Ryan, or Mr. or Sir, or just "hey you." So be it.
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 17, Jesus refers to his Holy Father and the name given by the Father to Jesus. What name you ask? Wrong question for me. I am more attuned to how the name is said, in a very tender, loving and profound silence. The Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, are very intimate. They are one and so refer to each other in a very tender way. Jesus prays that the Father will keep the disciples in the same name, that is in the same relationship of intimate, tender love.
The next time someone says that they love you, listen to how they say your name. This will tell you a lot about the relationship at that precise moment. I hope that Jesus is saying my name very tenderly, and lovingly. When I am in prayer, I think that this is so.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Am I necessary?

One of the important reasons for a good family, community, faith sharing group, is that it gives me the sense that I am not alone. Loneliness comes from a sense of isolation. Isolation comes from not having a place where I can share something of myself that is below daily surface encounters. That is the way it seems to be for me.
When I miss someone it is because I find them be important in my knowing who I am. They listen and seem to understand or at least take me seriously. I suppose it the same when some one says that they miss me. It is the give and take. When I am self-absorbed, I am not in a listening mode. I may be funny, or entertaining, but that is just to shine a light on me.
No, a community is made up of listeners, of people who encourage one another to speak about themselves, their fears, hopes, sadnesses and joys. I hope that I can remember to say at least once a day in my ministry, "Well, tell me about yourself," or "How is your day really going?"

The Light

When I look out my window in midday I see all these yellow flowers (some call them weeds) speckling the lawn. It is quite beautiful in the sunshine. But when I look out in the early morning before the sun has come up to shine on the lawn, I see no yellow colors. The flowers are still there but need the light of the sun to reveal them.
The sun is like the light of Christ for my flowering soul. If I am to shine brightly with all that I am, I need the light of Christ. For this I take time in prayer. Without allowing the light of Christ to shine on my soul, I will be present but dull. I certainly will not reveal all that God made me to be.
So when I look out the window each morning this early summer, I am reminded, "Did I sit in the Light yet today?"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Injured Soul

Recently, I hurt my back. I got out of bed and pulled something. I do irrigation wok each day at the monastery while I am here in the summer. What do I do? Let my back heal and leave the fields unattended? Or attend to the fields and ignore my back? I decided to rest. Each day, I thought of how the fields were just not getting irrigated. I was impatient to get out there to do the job. But I had to wait until my injured back got whole.
It is the same way with our spiritual life, no? There is always a lot to do in the field of the kingdom. Lots of people and situations need daily attention. But if I don't pull back on a daily basis and rest my soul in prayer, it will become injured, due to neglect. Then I will go out to do my work/ministry attend to daily tasks, but I will do them with some irritability, resentment, or overall bad mood. Of course, the job will be done poorly, and people might wish me to go away and have my fit of discontent elsewhere.
So it is best to let the world go on without my attention for a while each day while I attend to the health of my soul.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Piece of Fruit

The Church is like a piece of fruit. Some of the fruit is really good and healthy for the body. Some we just cast aside, such as a pit or outer skin. But the fruit would not be a fruit without those parts we cast aside as uneatable. The Church is graced, but it is also human. Some Catholics treat this reality like a piece of fruit that they throw away completely because of skin or pits. Such people are not fed at all and the soul suffers. Christ is in the sacraments. The sacraments include priests and congregations that can be somewhat pit-if-full. This is the Church founded on Christ. If it good enough for God, then why should we reject the whole body because of some things that are less nourishing or even lethal if taken in? We put up with pits and outer skins of fruit to get the nourishing parts. The Church will never be perfect, and completely nourishing. But why starve our inner life because of imperfections? We don't want to become a pit that might turn off someone else do we?

Summer Schedule

If you're going to be in/around the Basalt area this summer:

For all these dates, I will say the 10:30 am mass in English, hear confessions at noon, and say the 12:30 pm mass in Spanish at St. Vincent's in Basalt, CO.

June 12
June 26
July 10
July 17
July 31
August 14
August 21
September 4

On June 26, I'll be preaching at the 8:15 mass at the Snowmass Monastery.

Gone Today, Here Tomorrow

In John's gospel, chapter 16, Jesus says that his disciples will be sad now, while the world will be happy, but that later the disciples will rejoice in their hearts and no one will take that joy from them. Say what?
The world does not much care for the Christ and will be happy to see him gone from there scene. Jesus is about to be crucified. His followers will be saddened at this event, but then there will be Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. With these events Jesus will live, be raised up, and seen by his disciples, but the ongoing joy that no one can take from them will be that after he Ascension and Pentecost, the Risen Christ will live on in the hearts of the disciples. Through prayer they will recognize this. For a time, the disciples will be looking up or around to see where Jesus went. Then with the Spirit they will recognize him within their hearts. No persecution can take that presence from them. Only lack of prayer can hide it from them. Is it not they with us who have been baptized and confirmed in this same fire of Spirit?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Gym

Prayer is exercise for the soul. I take time to go the the gym to exercise my body, to keep it in shape so that it will not fall apart, and will be able to function well. If I ignore physical exercise, in time bad things begin to happen.
My prayer space and time, is the gym for my soul. I go there to keep my soul in shape. If I ignore my soul-time prayer, then bad things will happen. The body, my outer attitude and action will mirror my out of shape soul. I will become irritable, displeased with how things are not going my way, whining, complaining and just all around unpleasant either in thought, or action.
When I give up my prayer gym for my physical exercise gym, saying, "I don't have time for both today" then I will end up with a very fit body that can do lots of unkind and uncaring things each day. My prayer gym has no dues or fees. It only costs a resetting of priorities. Those around me hope that I will go to the gym for my soul each day.

Thank You God

I don't think people so much leave the church when they stop going to mass. I think it is more that they stop being grateful to God, saying "Thank you." God gave us the Eucharist as the way that God seems to want to be thanked. A person my be grateful for something, say life itself or nature and simply says, "Thank you God." This is good, but god seems to have a preferred way to say thank you.
If a child comes to her mother and says, "Thank you," for something, the mother might say, "If you want to thank me, then clean up your room." If the child is too self-absorbed, this request will be a big inconvenience. So it is, we might want at times to say thank you to God, but on our own terms. Call it "leaving the church." Is it not really an act of self-absorbtion?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Suffering has its surprises

My back went out this week at the monastery. I do irrigation work in the fields during the past eight summers. Until my injury, which has kept me out of the fields, I was living under the delusion that I was very needed here to do the irrigating and that if I did not come it would really limit how much land could be irrigated for cows and horses to graze. We make money off of those animals, as we lease the land.
Being a 2 on the enneagram, I get energized when I can be helpful. Feeling needed in the "helpful" department goes along with it. Well, did I get an awakening! The monk who runs the ranch told me, "Terry, if you can't do the work, then we will just have someone else do it." Bubble burst!
But here is the good news about my hurting back. The monastery can go on just fine without me. I don't have to come here early in the summer or late spring to fulfill a "crucial" role. It opens up options to be elsewhere at times in this seasonal period. It means that I could do less physical work here and still be useful. Maybe I will learn to cook for the monks!
God is teaching me in my suffering. My ego is getting right sized again, and maybe there is another path God wants to show me. It is comforting and a big WOW! that God is the one who really needs me, and for whom I can be most a helpful 2 on the enneagram.