Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Prayer Language

Fr. Cesar came from Mexico to live with us for a month and work on his English. He tried to find situations where he could converse with people in English. It would seem silly for him to come here and spend all his time reading books or being alone. He needed to speak and listen to people in English. To speak and understand what people are saying is to learn a language.

Prayer is a language. Most of us are taught only to speak it, but not to listen. We don't really know how to pray until we can learn to listen to God. That means we have to stop speaking and listen. At first we understand nothing. It is silence, except for the thoughts invading our brain. God's language begins with silence. Eventually, as with any language, we will begin to "understand" the silence. God will communicate through the silence. Then we will know the language of prayer.

Jesus would be busy healing, teaching, and preaching. But then he would go off by himself to be away from the noise and talk of others. He would listen to Abba in the silence. They were good friends, Jesus and Abba. Want to become good friends with God? Stop talking prayers for a while.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Grace Train

The Grace Train is always ready to go. I just need to say a simple "Yes" to get onto it. Say what? I was having dinner with some friends. Out of the blue, so it seemed, one of them asked me to visit an old woman and hear her confession and give her communion. A silent excuse, a resistance, entered my thoughts and heart. "I am so busy with other things, plans, burdens" goes the thought. But I say, "Yes."
I am on the grace train now. Just go along with it. The next day, I call the woman. Her caretaker answers the phone. "Come right now," will be fine. The woman I visited was going to be 99 years old the next day. The sacraments of confession and communion were a nice birthday gift for her. She was so happy to see me. She was so glad to receive these sacraments. She made my day. That is the Grace Train. What a wonderful ride comes from a simple "Yes."

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Past

Institutional religion is one of the few entities, organizations that seem to have a magnet to return to the past for "better days" than whatever is happening in the present. In most all other areas of our lives, a return to the past seems a bit odd if not silly. Fashion does have some success here. What we wear can become trendy if it is "retro" but even the material will be modern. We won't be going back to cotton that wrinkles. We don't want cars from the 30s or ice boxes instead of refrigerators. We are not returning to Newtonian physics, or bleeding people who are sick.

Religion seems to have this fundamentalist tendency to think that living in the past will make all things better. Some in Islam want to return to the 7th century. In Catholicism there is this desire of many to go back to the mid-twentieth century or even earlier to fix up the mess of the present. The past is not a fix. That horse is out of the barn.

The spiritual path is evolutionary. We grow and change and need a spiritual life that keeps up with us. If we are 50 years old and still have the same piety of a second grader receiving their First Holy Communion, then we are stuck. We have not grown. I suspect the stuck part may be fear or anxiety based. We want to feel good. Spiritual growth has dark nights, difficult times in which we lose a sense of surety and fulfillment.

Many people drop out when this happens. No one told them it is normal. They think God or religion has abandoned them or is no longer relevant. The rules, and catechism do not seem to help. What to do? Read my blogs! Oh no, I have dropped into a moment of egocentricity! Well, no one is perfect. God's love adjusts to our imperfections. That is why we say Divine Love is unconditional.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Prayer of Anger

I love Jeremiah the prophet. He loves God enough to pray with anger toward God. "You duped me!" Jeremiah prays to God in Chapter 20 of the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had given his life to God, become a prophet. He had accepted becoming the voice of God, challenging people to shape up. He was doing God's will. He was living a Holy life. So why did things not work out for Jeremiah? People did not listen to him. People did not change. People laughed at him and even wanted to be rid of him.

This God relationship was not working out. But Jeremiah loved God enough to spend time and energy praying his anger. What about us? I used to think that when people are angry with me, they did not like me. In fact, I believe they cared enough to get angry. If they did not care, they would have ignored me and just walked away from me.

How do you respond when your faith relationship with God does not bring good things to you? Do you just "drop out" of the relationship? Look elsewhere for satisfaction and fulfillment, outside of a spiritual life with God? Or do you love God enough to get angry with God, to spend your time and energy in praying your anger to God? When things don't work out according to your plans, try the prayer of anger, and see if lightening strikes. I don't think lightening will strike. God can handle our anger. Jeremiah did not drive God away.

If I am wrong and lightening strikes, well, you won't be around to say, "See, I told you so!"

Saturday, August 27, 2011


We all have different gifts. So why compare and contrast ourselves with others? Be the best I can be with what I have, or at least enjoy my gifts, and not pine for what I am not or don't have.

Today, I will join some friends for a run. We will chat and visit in the parking lot before we begin the run. Then we will all start out together. We spread out into different smaller groups depending on our talent and fitness for running. I may end up running alone behind everyone else. So what? Enjoy the run with the talent I have, and don't fret about not being "as good as" or as fast as someone else. That would take away from enjoying the run at the pace of my talent.

Can you enjoy your gifts? Must you fret that you are not someone else? God loves me as I run alone in the back of the pack. Is that not enough?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Old and New

I just returned to Boulder and my room has been so completely revamped, modernized, updated, whatever you might call it, that it does not even seem to be my room. It is the same space in which I had been living, but what is in the space is changed. It is a new space in my old place.

My spiritual life during this summer is like the changes in my room. God does not change, but I get changed. I am the same person, but yet shifted within. How? I stayed with the prayer of the heart all summer. I was being moved around, changed by God, and I only lately begin to see some of it.

I am less stressed by change. MY room is not so easy to move "back" into, because it is not the same room with the same cubby holes for my junk, the same places to put things. Places and spaces are gone or shifted. It has given me a great opportunity to change how I live in this space. I see opportunity and say "Ah hah!" rather than see change and say bad words, along with bad behavior.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I am packing up today to leave the monastery and return to Boulder. I look around. "I have too much stuff!" But it seems that I used most all of this stuff this summer. That means I am a person who uses a lot of stuff. I need a new lifestyle, one that requires less stuff. I read all the books I brought with me, plus some from the library. My car will be filled to overflowing.

My prayer is that I can do with less stuff. Learn to live lean. Prepare for the life after this one in which I won't need so much stuff. Pray more and carry less. It it time to give stuff away to those who don't have stuff, or are still into collecting. We will see, won't we?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Suburban God

Do we live with God in our lives as if God were our suburban next door neighbor? In suburban White Plains, NY, I had very little to do with the neighbors on either side of our separate home. I knew who they were, and was friendly enough whenever I saw them. If I needed something from them, then I would approach them, and they would be helpful. But otherwise, I got on quite well in my daily life without paying them too much mind.

Sound like a familiar prayer life? God is nearby. I am friendly enough when I think about it and especially attentive when I need something, but otherwise get on with my daily life, God in the background, and certainly not a part of my daily plans for happiness. Maybe that was the Garden for Adam and Eve. God is around, and all is peaceful enough, but not much interaction. Certainly, Adam and Eve don't seem to have much need for God talk in paradise. Maybe getting out was not such a bad idea, huh?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Second Coming

I used to think that the second coming of Christ referred to the end times, or some apocalyptic event. But wait. The first coming is the gift of faith, the birth of belief in the heart. God exists and has come into my life. I not only believe in God, I believe in me, in a view of who I am and what I am about. The structure of the Church with its dogmas, rules, rituals, sacraments, organization and traditions support and feed this belief in me and God.
Then a crisis comes into my life. I find I am not the person I thought I was. The world is not quite what I thought it was. Those rules and dogmas begin to be seen with a different light of my own experience in the crisis. Peter had this. The first pope knew who Jesus was, the Christ, the Son of God. Peter would go anywhere and give his life for Jesus. Then came the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Peter proved to be a coward, a liar and a betrayer. The crisis is in finding out who you really are in a most difficult time. Peter fell apart, along with his plans for how Jesus was going to do things.

The second coming for Peter was the Resurrection. Jesus brought forgiveness and a new trust in Peter. Now Peter will be in a much deeper love with Christ, transforming union, and he will give his time, effort and life for Jesus in ways he never would have before the crisis.

Most of us never experience resurrection as anything more than a dogma. Dogma from a catechism does not change ones life in any deep transforming fashion. When crisis comes, loss of loved one, betrayal, unemployment, moving to a new place because we have to, not fitting in, loss of community, addiction, and the list goes on, we most often just give up the God relationship. God the good parent did not fix things for us.

But some of us will struggle and recover from the crisis. We will be scarred, maybe deeply, but wiser about ourselves and maybe even come to see God as Love. Now the dogma will take on a whole new meaning, as we discover the deepening meaning of who we are. We are a new creation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Two Sides

There are two sides in the journey to fullness of Grace. First, when we are new to the faith, initiates, adolescents, we learn dogma, rules, rituals and law. This gives us some boundaries in which to function and relate to God, the Great Mystery. It makes God a bit less mysterious, and rather accessible. But it does not go deep enough, nor will it transform us into all God meant us to be, divinization as the Orthodox would call it.

The second side is more of the interior journey. The first side should point to it and assist in some way, but not burden us. This interior journey does not have rules, nor a human authority to guide us. A spiritual director may help to get us out of our own way, but it is really a journey between the soul and God. It takes discipline. Interior prayer of sitting in silence and solitude, lectio with scriptures, and showing up to a practice every day is not easy.

The devil, who prowls around like a lion, will ever remind us that we are wasting our time and should be busy in a more active life. If we follow this temptation, we will just act from an egocentric, self-centered and immature energy. Spare the world of this. So, what side of the journey are you on?

The Warning

Jesus warned his followers not to become become like some religious leaders of his day. Be servants, live a simple lifestyle. Practice what you preach. The disciples did not have much so they really could not go around dressed up in fancy religious robes to show people how important they are. Don't always be looking to be center stage. Don't be putting heavy burdens upon people and not being compassionate enough to lift some of it.

Well what happened? We got the Vatican. Maybe Jesus saw it coming. Read the history of the popes. Wow! These were the hypocrites. Even now I think it is a pretty good warning for church leaders, including me. We can dress up in fancy religious garb, take places of honor, enjoy special titles, lay burdens upon others that we do not carry ourselves, and obfuscate the Gospel for searchers. How am I living as a public figure in the church?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Perfect Love

"Perfect Love drives out all fear," so says St. Paul. Well, I don't have perfect love, so I cannot drive out all fear. This is not what Paul was talking about. It is not my love that is at issue, it is God's perfect love.

To focus on striving to have perfect love is to focus on ethics, behavior, right and wrong. This is the way we begin to teach the Christian way. It is all about my doing the right thing. Of course, if this is all you get, you end up doing the wrong things lots of times, based upon fear.

The mystical way does not begin with ethics. It begins with deep prayer. We have to become touched by the perfect love of God that is indwelling in the Spirit. We don't get this love, or access this Presence, by our outward deeds, but by taking time in stillness and silence to allow God to reveal this Divine Love to us. Once we live with this realization of God's love for us, then fear will be driven away. The motives of our outward actions will become energized by Divine Love.

I generally do better in the world of interaction and deeds, if I take some time away from it all and just "be" with myself in stillness and silence. Surprise! I am never alone. Someone else is within. The Spirit waits. How about you? Too busy for stillness? Spare us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Death Bed Baptism

In Matthew 20: 1-16 a vineyard owner goes out into the market day labor pool and hires day laborers. All day long he keeps going and hiring new workers to go along with those already hired. At the end of the day, everyone gets the same wage. The workers who worked all day long think they should get more.

I wonder if the person who has a death bed conversion is baptized and dies, is going to get the same or better than I will get in heaven? I spend my whole life "earning" a spot. Is heaven earned? Is it a reward? Are there gradations based upon my effort? If so, I have forgotten that it is a gift, not something owed to me. As a gift, can I rejoice that someone else gets through the gates?

Each worker in the gospel needs the usual daily wage, to survive through to the next day for food and other necessities. If you don't work, then you have to resort to begging. No safety net in those days. But the all day workers could not rejoice at the good fortune of the one hour worker. The all day workers had raised expectations, that would limit what the vineyard owner could do. I am often taken aback at how people limit God's goodness, by their sense of what is "fair" and just, as if God had to follow some human rules. The all day workers are envious, while the one hour workers are grateful, and rejoice. What is your feeling about the pay scale here?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Self-Will Run Riot

Many people tell me that they would love to have a sense of the presence of God in their daily life. I have this sense of the Presence. My problem is not that I lose it from time to time, but that I drop it, ignore it, abandon God for the sake of my own momentary pleasure.

Someone begins to gossip with a judgment about another person thrown in the mix. A nudge tells me to walk away right now. I ignore that nudge, which really is Grace pointing me in the correct direction. I abandon Grace, God's Life, and jump into the gossip because it makes me feel a momentary pleasure. Sin gives me a self-seeking consolation.

This is crazy which is why it is called the Will run to riot. What is your weak point or pleasure place?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Polar Bears

MATTHEW 15: 21-28
AUGUST 14, 2011

I live with polar bears. They are the monks who open windows wide and let in all the cold air in the chapel, dining area, and corridor where I live. I thought them to be dreadful people for freezing me out. For a while I would go around and close the windows. They would follow and open them. I took them off my prayer list.

But grace is at work, always. I began to shift my thinking. The polar bear monks are not bad and evil. They are simply different from me. We have different opinions of house temperature. So I put them on my prayer list again. Of course the prayer was, "God my their time in purgatory not be too dreadfully long."

I was moving towards love for the polar bears, but was not there yet. It is a process of growth. I only grow from differences, from what seems like the opposite of me. I would not want a monastery of monks who are just like me. They would all be egocentric, self-centered, and whining. Who wants that? It is differences that challenge us. Jesus met a pagan woman who wanted him to heal her crazy daughter. Jesus ignored her, as Jews did pagans. Then he called her the slang word Jews used for pagans, "dog." She would not go away.

Then Jesus realized that she was a source of Grace for him. She was a challenge to expand the horizon of his ministry from "The Lost Sheep of the house of Israel," to the Kingdom for all people, Jews and Gentiles, pagans. So what is the person, place, or situation that is "different" in your life, that you are resisting?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Puppy Love

I think one of the early indications that I had a contemplative bent to my life was when I "fell in Love" as a youth and young man. I had this insatiable desire to be with my beloved girlfriend. I thought about her all the time. I wrote poetry and letters when we were apart. I wanted to be with her and missed her when we were apart.

Well, that's too much for any girl or woman. Fortunately for them and me they moved on to some one else. I made enough mistakes to help that along. But I still had this space within me to fill. It was an emptiness, or openness that no one human person could fulfill. I was not marriage material. Only the infinite and the most intimate One could fill me up.

I found this Presence in my silence and solitude. Before this, silence and solitude were boredom and loneliness. I was restless and discontented. There was "something" missing, and it must be out there in the world, not in here, within me. Now I am in love with God and I can be with this Presence all the time. Our "dates" are when I take the time to sit quietly in solitude and just be. It is something much deeper than the "puppy love" of First Holy Communion.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Today is my sister Jane's name day. It is the feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who was a mother of six, widowed, and the went on to care for the sick and bereaved, and founded the Visitation nuns. My mother liked the name Jane Frances. How many of us are named after saints?

I was named after a business friend whom my father admired for his work and manner. Most people spell my name differently than it was given to me. Terrence comes out as Terance, Terrance, Terence. One of my other sisters spells it "wrong" to this day. It used to bother me that I was not named after a specific saint. I did get "Patrick" for baptism. Now I think that I have a person admired by my dad, who lived an exemplary life in his daily work.

The Vatican II council says that we are not supposed to separate our faith from our daily work. Don't be one of those people who go to church, say they believe, and go about their daily life with a lot of bad, uncaring behavior. Maybe Terrence was a saint who just never got officially recognized in the church. Can I become that? Can you? Who are you named after? I suppose if you were named after a "thing" it would make it more imaginative to figure out the connection between your name and a lifestyle.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


When we feel a sense of being forgiven, why is it that we cannot then become forgivers of others who have done whatever, that we felt was wrong or hurtful to us? After being forgiven, there is a brief moment of feeling good about ourselves. But soon enough we seem to get on about our business of Self. We slip into grousing, complaining and murmuring, i.e. a lot of internal dialogue.

I think that God forgives us so that we can go on to forgive others. People are imperfect. They indeed do bad things. People can be hurtful. It is our response that will change us, even if it does not change them one iota.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Jesus says to become like little children. When I was a child I lacked power and control over the temperature in our home. My Dad grew up in a cold water flat. He was used to a cool in house temperature, and preferred it. When he came home from work he would turn down the thermostat to 68 degrees or so. Our house was radiator heated. Boy, did it get cold especially since it was before dinner so we were low on body fuel. I said, "When I get my own house, I will never be cold!" I would have control. I would not be a child anymore.

Now I live in a monastery during the summer. All the people around me want the windows open. It goes to 40 degrees at night. They want the windows wide open. As a mature adult, I could enter into discussion, negotiate and discuss and come to a consensus. I could also just close the windows when they all went to bed. But none of this would push the spiritual growth envelope.

To become a child in a way that would test my soul, I can accept as a conscious choice to let things be, to not get my way. The morning chill in the corridors is a daily reminder of why I am in this monastery in the first place. I am here to surrender to God and God's will for me. It is not about hot and cold. It is about

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Tides

My faults, addictive behaviors, bad habits, shortcomings, are like the tides of the sea. For awhile everything lies low, like the tide when it is way off shore. I feel at peace, connected with the Presence of God. I am optimistic that bad behavior, resentments, whining, self-pity are all behind me. I am becoming "holy."

Then the tide comes in, crashing against the shores of my soul, thoughts, feelings, and whole body. I am in tumultuous temptation, or suddenly in the midst of a jag of bad thinking or behavior. I am "damned," to misery, hopelessly caught in my mess, in sin.

Despair? The gospel says, "no." Jesus walks on the water of tumult. Jesus is in the storm. But he is calm, at peace, while I am battered by it all. He is with me, but not overcome by all my disquieting energy. Can I but focus on him for a few moments, the sea may very well calm. The urge to take his hand in all the tumult may pass quickly, but if I go against the tide and "be" with him for few moments, in spite of other urges, feelings, the storm seems to quiet. It is a grace. You might try it sometime.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Jesus asked his disciples "Who do you say that I am?" In Matthew 16: 13-23, Peter gives a good catechism answer. Since he did not have catechism, his answer was more inspired by God. Our Catholic education tends to drop the inspiration, since we cannot control that, and focus on the catechism answers. Answers make us feel secure. But does it change us, transform us? My experience is no. Peter was still a coward and a liar.

Now we have a lot of focus on changing our mass. Well, Nazi Catholic soldiers working in the concentration camps, would go to mass in a nearby church, listen to the mass in Latin, and receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling. Then they would go back to work and murder Jews. They were following orders. Maybe they were cowards then, just like Peter.

If religious education, sacraments and liturgy are not transforming people into all that Christ meant us to be, then what will? Crisis? Love? For me it is a prayer that takes me deeply into my heart or soul, beyond thoughts (knowledge) and feelings. In the darkness I encounter my Love, and my own shortcomings. I rest in all this, and let God do the work. Then the mass and religious education, reading, study, are a great source of spiritual growth. Look around. Who are the holy people in your life? Oh phooey, you mean I am not on your list!


Moses led the Hebrew tribes out of Egypt into the desert. He spent 40 days in a row up on a mountain with God. He saw God "face to face" it is said. Moses is way more spiritually evolved than I am. He must have no doubts about God.

Well, let's see. He brings the people to a really dry place with no water. The people complain. God tells Moses to command a rock to yield its waters. I would be a little shaky about this. I mean, a rock has water for all these people? But Moses is tight with God, so he should just order the rock to give it up.

Moses doubts. Read Numbers 20: 1-13. He has to hit the rock twice with his staff. Ordering the rock by voice alone, which God commanded him to do, would not be enough. This is going to cost Moses his entry into the Promised Land. For each of us there are probably some chinks in our relationship with God that we will take to the grave with us. Can you accept your self as you are, and then do the best that you can do?

Maybe the closer we come to God, the more that is expected of us? I don't know, but my ongoing faults, including doubts, are a doorway to humility and then surrender. There is always some light, some grace in our mess.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Faith and Doubt

I wake up with faith. I did nothing in my sleep to warrant being a believer. It is a gift. Would I not want to know more about this gift? How much time do I spend in the day examining my faith, its content, its influence on my life? I wake up with furniture in my room too. I don't think much about my furniture. I take it for granted, though I did not even purchase it. It is just "there." Is my faith treated like so much furniture?

Or am I like a child who is given a gift. For a while, I enjoy it, like First Holy Communion. It is precious and important to me. Then I begin to take it for granted, this gift freely given. Then I become bored with it. Same old, same old is how I act towards the gift. I put it aside. Maybe now and again I look at. My life goes along just fine without my old gift. Then there is a crisis! Do you need a crisis to become awakened to faith as a gift?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Night hunters

I hear the animals calling to one another outside my monastery window. It is pre-dawn. They are hunting for food. Maybe they might prefer to sleep in the night, but this is the best time for hunting for them. They will starve if they do not eat.

Am I hungry for God? Are you? When do you get up to be fed? I sometimes want to sleep into the morning. But I get up in the pre-dawn, late into the night, and search for my God. I have to know that without God I too starve within the cave of my heart. The day is too busy with other things. I need to feast upon God without interruption, with no other focus. Do you feast? When? Are you starving?

Monday, August 1, 2011

You Are Enough

When the 5000 were fed in a deserted place in Matthew chapter 14, it was the community of Jesus' followers who did the distribution of food, not Jesus. While the disciples were convinced that they did not have enough, Jesus was blessing the food. When the disciples saw an insurmountable problem Jesus said, "You feed them."

Where we see ourselves as overwhelmed, as not being or having enough in some situation, Jesus sees us a being enough, if we but try and share what gifts, talents and treasures we have. We are blessed by God. We have gifts. So why wallow in your doubts? Besides, sometimes there is no one else but you, to tackle a problem.