Friday, September 30, 2011

A Convenient Time

Today, I am to give a talk at an International Convention of Contemplative Outreach in the San Francisco Bay Area. The talk is to take place from 3:30PM to 5:00PM after everyone has spent a good deal of the day at other events. What a dreadful time to attract listeners! Plus, I am one of four talks taking place at the same time in various venues of the convention.

"Who will come?" I ask myself. People are tired. They have three other choices for talks. The topic is "Aging." The thought came that the ones who are interested will be there. So be it. Then I thought about God. For God, there is never a bad time to pay attention to me, to listen to me. No matter how many other people are wanting God's time and attention at that very moment, God is still waiting to listen to me. God is always interested in me. I am never too boring for God. Billions and billions of people in this world, and God will always show up for me. Comforting, huh!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


When the church says "Reform" who do they mean? For many centuries the church meant the lay people, you. It did not mean the ordained hierarchy. Church councils that took place after about 1200 began to focus on the reform of the structures and ordained hierarchs. So the next time someone says, "WE need to reform," ask that person who is the "we" of whom they speak.

When I have a lot of power in a situation, I tend to forget my own faults and shortcomings. I have the power to get something done, so my way must be the right way! I tend to ignore how fear, greed, self-interest, selfishness and envy can play a part in my power trips. When I forget that I am imperfect and subject to error or rash judgment, I may get what I want, but it will not be good for others, and ultimately not good for me. I cannot even rule myself. Why would I want to rule he world? Or the church?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Slow Response

Why was the church so slow to respond to the sex abuse issue? Why did the church move priests about who had messed up? Look at the Reformation for when this behavior became entrenched. The Protestant Reformers had some valid points of criticism when it all began in the 16th century. The church ignored and then denied these criticisms. The church felt that it had to protect the reputation of the church. It could not admit fault or error. It would not be the "Perfect Society" anymore. People would drift away. Power would be lost. Chaos would ensue and so on.

If a priest messed up, the reputation of the church would be upset if it were made public. The Reformation was 500 years ago. This is a long time to practice denial or cover up. The church is trying to come out of this and become a bit more transparent at least in the sex abuse issues. It takes awhile for a big institution as old as the church to change.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Our dog, Don Bosco, got all tangled up in his leash when he went to do his business. I was holding my end of the leash at the time. He got frantic and began to spin around trying to untangle himself and made it worse. He barked at me when I came to untangle him. He showed me some teeth. Not good. He was blaming me for his mess! Well, he is a dog.

I am not a dog, but I do get tangled up in life situations and sometimes I get a bit frantic and want to blame someone else for what is no one's fault. Stuff happens. The dog eventually gave up and let me untangle him. I need to give up trying to blame or spin around uselessly trying to untangle myself. I need to trust God will take care of this stuff if I just calm down. Barking at anyone today?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wedding Garment

Baptism gets me into the kingdom. The gospel uses the image of wedding feast. I really did not ask to be baptized. I was a baby. Then again, many who came to the wedding feast in the gospel were not asked. They were just brought there from the highways and byways.

It seems that there is a pretty wide funnel to get into the feast, or the kingdom. We are called "friends" by the one who is putting on the feast. That one represents God I think. If this is the kingdom, there seems to be a lot of mess in it. The church, the world, my own spiritual life is far from perfect. So there must be more. There is.

To get fully into the kingdom, such as eternal life and life with God hereafter, I had better have on my wedding garment. A fellow was found at the feast who had no wedding garment. He got tossed into the outer darkness. Not good.

I must clothe myself in Christ on a daily basis. I can go to mass. I can go to communion. No questions asked. Sacraments may be just getting in the door and finding a seat. To stay and truly enjoy, I need to doing more than just showing up. Woody Allen says showing up is 80% of life. Yeah, but it is the other 20% that I have to work on. I want the light. How about you?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cures and Solutions

There is a gospel in Matthew, where on son says yes to his father but then does no and the other son says no, but then changes his mind and does yes. There is really no cure for bad behavior. A cure means that we used to act badly and now we won't do that behavior anymore. When you say someone is "cured" of cancer, you mean it has gone away.

We always have the bad behavior gene in our human condition. One good "yes" to do the right thing, whether sooner or later, does not mean we will never say "no" again. Even the saints realize this. We are always in need of some conversion. The spiritual life is never complete. Perfection is not for this life.

There is no cure, but we do have a solution to bad behavior. To know we are not perfect and must work at prayer and humility each day, is part of the solution. I admit I need God's help each day. I am not cured, but God is the solution. God comes with grace to me when I am open to it and see my need for it. Are you in the solution today?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Past is Past

Don Bosco, our dog, shies away from other dogs. He wants nothing to do with most dogs. He probably had some bad experiences when younger, and he lives these out each time he sees another dog on a walk. He even shies away from cats! He is controlled by his past.

Have you had some past experiences that you continue to live out in the present? Are you controlled by past experiences? Do you think change is possible? Hoped for? I keep away from abusive and dangerous situations, but I also try and let the past remain in the past. I don't want to be closed to the present moment because of a past experience. I wish Don Bosco had my hope. He lives at a dog level. I don't have to live at that level.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I have "walking pneumonia" as we say in layperson speak. Chest xray shows it. So onto another medication for about two weeks! I travel in the next two weeks. So I am sick, but I don't have to be miserable about it, unless something makes me feel miserable. I rest and drink water. I do what I can do. We all have limitations. I will live with mine. I am not infectious to anyone else.

I think when I focus on being sick, I begin to worry and go into a "poor me" attitude. Then I feel worse! So I try and enjoy the day, and do what work I can do. At least now I know why my voice is "congestive" as we say. I am not an invalid. I think that a positive attitude toward a limitation helps in the healing and makes one a better person to be around for others. God had limitations when the Divine became human. God is teaching me something in this.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting Well

I am getting better but not well from my cough and chest congestion. My voice is stronger but still not back to normal. So I have to keep working at getting well whatever that takes. It is the same with the spiritual life. We can begin to develop spiritual health, but we have to keep at it or else we will revert to where we were before we began all our good prayer habits. Spiritual health never stays well all by itself. Each day we take our medicine of whatever our practice is.

To do nothing is to be unwell in the interior life. A little effort each day, done on a regular basis is what will move us along to healing. Daily effort in moderation seems to work best over the long haul. Taking your prayer pill yet today?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Insides and Outsides

MATTHEW 20: 1-16
SEPTEMBER 18, 2011

When people come to the altar to receive Holy Communion at Mass, all I see is the outside appearance of each person, such as what they wear and how they approach to receive. I know nothing about their interior spiritual life. I don't ask questions. All receive communion. But some of the people who receive work very hard on their spiritual life, the interior part of themselves that I cannot see when they come to communion. These people may read the bible, take time for prayer, help out in the community, help out in the parish, are kind and caring to family, work associates, and neighbors. Other people who come to communion may be nasty, unkind, gossipy, judgmental, self-centered, have no real prayer life and come to church only occasionally as it suits them. Everyone receives the same Holy Communion.

Jesus comes to us in communion, not because we have earned it but because he loves us. It is his choice. Cannot we practice this behavior with people who don't really earn or merit by their actions, our love, kindness and caring?

The overhead fan in my room looks very good on the underside of each fan blade that I can see. But the topside is ignored and becomes quite dirty. It is the side no one sees. Our life can be somewhat like the fan blade. We can work and worry about how we look on the outside. Is this not the cross of adolescence? How do I look? Do I appear so as to fit in? But how much time, effort or worry do we put into the interior life that cannot be seen?

All of us receive the same Holy Communion at mass. Those who work at the interior life, cleaning it, if you will, can benefit so much more from the gift of Christ's Body and Blood, than can someone whose interior life is all cluttered up with neglect.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Prayer Space

Personally, I find it easier to pray where the surroundings are quiet and still, no background noise. Our dog, Don Bosco, sits on my lap when I pray. I think he likes the chair I sit in, so I don't take it personal. He is quiet and seems to be dozing. He is very conducive to stillness and quiet. I think we feed off of one another. There is a depth of interior silence that I seem to reach in this environment, more than say on a bus or some busier, place with more background noise.

If you have no really quiet and still space, well then, just do the best that you can. God will adjust. Maybe down the road, when your life gets less noisy, the children grow up, or you go live in the country, you will have that more quiet time. God is everywhere, but some environments make it a bit easier to sink into the Presence.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Fan

I had a new ceiling fan put into my room this summer. I found myself coughing a lot in my room. Today I decided to look at the top side of each fan spoke. Sure enough, each top was caked with dirt from construction and what knows else. I took a wet rag and cleaned the whole fan. It was a mess. The bottom spokes were very nice and clean. But what you could not see, had been neglected. Maybe I will breathe better now!

The soul is something you cannot see. The body may look clean and presentable. We do seem to spend time on on bodies, do we not? But the unseen soul needs attention lest it becomes a mess and inhibits our ability to breathe in Eternal Life. Prayer can at times be like a wet rag applied to the soul. Time for some soul cleaning today?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Don Bosco

Our dog, Don Bosco, sits in my chair in the house chapel. He spends more time there than I do. It would be nice if he could pray in my place, sit in for me, if you will. Alas, one can pray for another but not in another's place.

People are praying for me I am sure. But their prayers will not transform me. It is good to have others praying for me. It gives me a sense of the Mystical Body of Christ at prayer. I feel support, loved and cared for. Yet, only my own prayers will change my heart and bring me closer to God. I must have my own intimate conversation and private time with God, to be changed. When I pray one on one with God, I recognize my own shortcomings that others may not see, or at least I hope they do not see! It is in seeing my faults, that I can experience God's mercy, forgiveness and love in spite of me. Jesus did not come to save me because I was a good guy who deserved it. He came in spite of my sins. Are you relying only on second-hand prayers today?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


My body wakes up each morning. But I have a soul too. When does this interior life wake up? Not with the body. The interior life needs prayer to awaken. I can go all through my day with a body awake and a spirit asleep. Usually, bad things happen with this combination. So I try to get some awakening of the spirit soon after my body wakes up.

There is resurrection of the body after I die, but in this life I need to work on the daily resurrection of the spirit. To have a resurrected body but a sleeping spirit, would be a bad combo after physical death. As you read this, are you totally awake yet?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tangled Up

I put my ear phone and cords into the wash by mistake. The cord came out all tangled up. This is the cord's response to being in the wrong place. Ear phone cords are not meant for the clothes washer.

I am not meant to live a life without prayer, stillness and silence during each day. If I go without these, I become all tangled up and dysfunctional. I am of no use. I may look clean, but cannot function in the way God meant me to function. I am like washed earplug cords. Clean looking but uselessly tangled up.

Are you a little twisted up today? Time for God, the soul's chiropractor, to unwind you in prayer.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Dog

I had a friend once who wanted a dog. My friend did not want to do all the work that was required "before" he got a dog. He just wanted a dog. So he brings home a dog from a pound. No dog bowls, no dog crate, no special dog bed or dog place. Plus, the dog had a life long dog companion that was noted in the dog profile, that my friend did not even bother to read.

So the dog paces all over the house. On and on it paces. What is going on? It was looking either for its companion or for its "dog space" or crate. My friend opens the door and out runs the dog down the street not to be seen again. What could my friend expect since he put so little time and effort into learning about or preparing the house for the dog.

Is not a prayer life relationship with God something like this? We want a relationship with God but are at times too lazy to work at it, to prepare, plan our day, make the house of our soul ready for God. Does it feel like God is running away from you?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Florida Homes

When my parents were thinking of buying a home in Florida they were told not to buy a home built flat to the ground. This was to avoid cock roaches and flooding. So they paid more money and got a home built off the ground with open space under it.

It costs more to build a home on a rock or raised surface than flat to the ground. Even Jesus knew this and he was no home builder. Well, he is God. More work costs more but it gives benefits, less bugs and less flooding.

Prayer is the same way. It takes more effort, costs more of our time and energy to develop a relationship with God. Work less, get less. So is your prayer life kind of buggy today? Mine is, so I am off to silence and stillness.

Friday, September 9, 2011


It is sad when I find myself or another older person spending a lot of time and energy being critical and judgmental of others. The one thing we can learn from our years is that we have a lot of faults. We have made a lot of mistakes. Instead of spending a lot of ourselves focused on the mess of others as we see it, we ought to be spending the time focused on our own faults and shortcomings. After all our time is running out!

Jesus speaks about this when he says that we should not look at the splinter in our neighbor's eye, but the beam in our own. So, who are you complaining about today?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Outsides and Insides

I walked by a store today that had a street display of "Tibetan" clothes. I wondered if there might be a store in Tibet that had a display of "Boulder" clothes and what that might look like. I don't see many Tibetans around here, so I guess there must be a local market for Boulderites to want to wear something Tibetan. Why?

It might be the colors or the style that appeals. Or maybe people want to have a Tibetan look. No matter the reason, the clothes won't make someone Tibetan. Outward appearances don't change the insides. I can wear my priest clothes, black shirt and collar. People may call me "Father" and think things about me that ought to go with the clothes. But wearing the clothes does not make me a person of God. That takes work. It is easy to buy an outfit and make believe, but it won't change me on the inside. I have to do the hard work of prayer, meditation, reading, healthy living, to be able to be a priest on the inside. When I run around in plain shirt and jeans people ignore me. But I may be very holy that day and no one notices. The inside work is for God and not for public recognition.

I can look at a parent with some children in tow and say that is a parent. Well yes, biologically. But do they do the hard work of parenting or do they yell, beat, feed sugar filled diet, or ignore the children? Then they look like a parent on the outside. They get the title "Mom" or "Dad" but it is only outside. Same with "Wife" and "Husband." Are you just outside stuff today, or doing the hard inner work?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blessed are the poor

I am reflecting on my crummy cold/flu. I feel lousy which is par for the course. When I get well, I will celebrate the renewed health, that I usually take for granted. If I never got sick, I would never really appreciate my health. I cannot make myself get well. I can just wait and not do anything to get worse. Tea, rest, chicken soup, etc. might seem to help, but really the body has to be given time.

Jesus says in Luke's gospel, "Blessed are the poor." What is so blessed about being poor? Now I see something. The poor cannot seem to make themselves rich. They do not control their day. They try and survive. When something good happens, they rejoice more than those who are richer and expect good things to happen. Trust in God becomes more important to the poor. To be blessed means to be able to celebrate the good things in life and not take them for granted, or expect they are owed to us as some right. You think?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Positive Thoughts

I was coming back to Boulder from LA. I had a nagging cough and cold. I realized negative thoughts were trying to take up all the space in my psyche. There were thought of the worst possible day I could have, but with no basis in reality. Flying weather was good. The plane was on time. It was not full. My cough settled down enough for the ride not to embarrass me.

I decided this thinking was silly. I would now think positive thoughts, happy thoughts such as the wonderful visit I had with my sister and her family. My mood brightened. The trip and the day became much more pleasant.

When I got to Boulder, I realized that in this rectory, I was going to be the only priest working this week. I could get upset, but I would still be the only priest working this week in the parish. Nothing would change but my mood. why be miserable? It effects nothing. So I just take it one day at a time. My cold is less bothersome when I think happier thoughts. So, are you miserable now? Will it change the outside world at all? Let us not punish ourselves for things that are not our fault.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Better or Worse

It started out as a little, occasional cough. I continued to exercise, to sleep with air conditioning, to get up early and not get enough sleep. Then I traveled to top it off. Now I have full blown cold, congestion and cannot talk. One never gets better by ignoring the signals of sickness. Now I am pretty useless.

The spiritual life can get sick too if we ignore it's daily maintenance and care. At first we ignore it in small ways. We skip some prayer or reading. Then we begin to fill our time that had been for prayer, with other stuff, some of which we think is so important. We more and more say yes to the endless requests of others for this and that. Before we know it we are praying about as much as an atheist!

So, what have you done so far today to care for the life of the spirit within? Reading this blog won't be enough. Writing it was not enough, I can assure you.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Journey

What is one thing that begins with unhappiness and ends in unhappiness all for the purpose of somee experience we would call beneficial? Airline travel! Airlines are not in the customer service business in general. They exist to make money. Flying you about is the way they do it. At airports, I rarely see smiling people, much less happy people enjoying themselves. We put up with it all for some other experience that comes between the flying and airports.

Now if I tell you that prayer might begin with some unpleasantness such as giving up your time, or boredom, or sense that you are all alone, you might say no thanks. I can tell you that prayer is going to eventually bring you to a wonderful experience of inner peace, love, fulfillment, why is it that you choose not to travel through the rough spots? Why do you put up with airports and airlines, but have no patience for God? Maybe the next time you are bored or delayed at an airport or stuffed into a seat you might put down your distracting gadget and try prayer. Is not God the final journey?

Saturday, September 3, 2011


There are several kinds of water. There is water that sits and gets stale or stagnant. There is water that flows out down a drain. There is flowing water that is fresh and good to drink. In the spiritual life, the time we give to prayer is like water. We can only bring time to our prayer. God is the one who makes the prayer flow and quench the thirst of our soul. Our job is to show up bring the water of time. God will make it flow and refresh us. If we think we alone can make the water of prayer quench our thirst, we will be frustrated. Trust God.

When we feel like we have no time or time is fleeting and we have to cut short or drop our prayer time, it is like the water that runs down a drain. Time seems to flow away. We are too busy and frantic, too multitasking. The soul is never fed by this water.

Then there is the water that is stagnant. We feel bored. We cannot stand this stagnant time. So we divert our boredom or anxiety onto our computers, checking this and that. We get into reading about sports, fashion, politics or whatever. We shop. We work on a project. We go to the gym. None of these things alone can quench the thirst of the soul for God's flowing water of life.

So, are you drinking from flowing water today?

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Narrow Door

At my church in Boulder there is a very heavy side door. It is hard to open from either side, so many people simply avoid it and go into the church and out through the front doors. Linda Meadows is one of the women who do gardening for the parish. She has helped to develop this beautiful garden of flowers and plants along the wall and path going to this heavy door. You can only see the garden and appreciate its beauty if you go through the heavy door.

Prayer can be like the heavy door and the garden. At some point, as we deepen our relationship to God, prayer seems to get more difficult, or "heavy". We get bored. We think God has gone away. We feel empty at times. This is normal. God wants to take us to some more beautiful place of intimacy and union, like a garden of flowers that is hidden. We have to go through a bit of a dark night, bear our cross, love without conditions or seeming rewards, for a time.

If we can go through this door, or rather allow God to take us through this door, then something beautiful will be revealed to us. So when God does not seem to act nice or give you good feelings do you just walk away? Give up? You will miss the garden.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ice Cream

I have put myself in charge of office morale. Ice cream is a great morale booster. I announced, "Let's go for ice cream." The two dedicated to work woman in the office both said, "Yes" right away. We walked down to the cute Boulder mall. They were so glad to get out of the office and see what was going on this beautiful end of summer day. They got some sun on their skin.

We never did get the ice cream, but had a nice lunch and talk at the ice cream parlor. Try it once in a while for yourself or with others if you work in a shared work office. "Ice cream anyone?"