Thursday, December 29, 2011


My experience is that there are three stages in the life of a a priest and a community. It might be thus for all people. The three stages are, beloved, missed and forgotten. While the priest is living in the community he serves, he is beloved. This assumes a lot of competence of course on his part. I will assume it for the sake of my example. Then he goes away. For a while he is missed. If he is replaced by an incompetent, he will be missed as long as the incompetent is in place. But if he is replaced by a competent person the missing time is significantly shortened. Then he is pretty much forgotten.

I have gone back to communities where I used to work. The forgotten stage is when it is no longer a big deal that you are visiting. Competent people are doing the job. Your presence will no longer change the pattern of peoples' coming and going lives. This has helped me to realize what effect the "beloved" stage has, or how real it was in the first place. I no long take my "importance" so seriously. I can and will be replaced quite nicely by others over time. To make a great effort to keep people in the "missing" stage is really quite silly and a poor use of energy.

When someone dies, who misses them and for how long? Wonderful things are said about them at their funeral. It is a bit like a going away party. They are missed for a while by the general community and then pretty much forgotten. At an anniversary we say, "Oh, it has been that long since so and so died?" The only people who keep in the beloved stage and the missing stage are family relatives. No one will replace your mother on the family staff.

Let's stop taking so seriously how important we are, think we are, or people tell us we are outside of blood family. Relax. If you have some inkling of doing some new and different things, changing some patterns of how and where you spend your time, don't worry so much about your fans or co workers, community. Believe me. They can adjust. You might ask which stage you are in with relation to God. Forgotten? Who moved on?

Monday, December 26, 2011


When Jesus came he did not disrupt anyone, except for political and military power. Jesus did not even throw anyone out of the Inn so that he could have a room. He took up space in an empty manger. Caesar Augustus wanted to make change and he disrupted the whole world of his empire to make the conquered peoples travel for a census. Who really made the greater difference and greater change? Rome as an empire is gone. Christendom of the Middle Ages is gone. Genghis Khan is gone as is his empire. The little mange baby is still around, still making change for those who are open to a little disruption in their self-imploded lives. Jesus started out small. So can we in allowing our lives to be changed by the infant in the manger. If you can sit still for five minutes a day without any outside stimulus or noise, that little baby might have just enough space to start something.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Deliver Us

Jesus came to deliver us from lawlessness and other things. I saw pictures taken of delivery people tossing packages over fences and across driveways. It seemed like they wanted to get rid of a lot of packages. It was the week before Christmas and they were overwhelmed with deliveries.

Jesus does not want to get rid of me. He is never overwhelmed by the lot of us. His delivery is so gentle that we can resist being delivered. Some of us don't really want to go anywhere. We stay like wrapped packages, meant for someplace or someone, but never getting there. I like the idea of being like a wrapped package, a gift, that when delivered by Jesus will make someone happy. How would that work?

First, I am chosen by God to be gift. Then the inner tissue wrapping is that of forgiveness. Then boxed in acceptance. Then outer wrapped in love, with a ribbon of joy. As someone receives me, they feel joy, then love and then acceptance and then forgiveness. Some of us just don't want to be a gift. We would rather stay in old regrets, resentments, memories, prejudices, pride and judgments. What a lost opportunity Christmas becomes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Snow amount

Boulder was measured at 14.6 inches of snow yesterday. Where was that measured? I shoveled more than that and waded through more than that trying to walk the sidewalks. My measurement is 18 inches. It all depends on where you measure. Each of us measures from our experience of snow where we are. There is an "official" measurement, and then there is the reality I experience.

So it is with religion, an "official" experience of God, versus an individual's experience. Is there a correct answer for everyone? No. Religion through its theology and scriptures tries to convince you of an experience, though it may be at odds with your experience. God is not bound by theology. Mohamed had an experience. It was not mine. Jews did not have the Jesus experience of Christians. Theology might work with atheists. It did so for C.S.Lewis. Read "Mere Christianity." I think theology works very well with people who have not given the God idea much thought at all, including many a baptized Christian. Nothing but a life crisis will overcome laziness.

So, if someone says they have had an experience of the Divine, the Numenous, and it influences their life in a more deeply human way of living, why try an convince them that your experience is better? Maybe ask yourself how your belief has effected your life for the better.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tie and Untie

When I wake up in he morning, if I begin right away to fret, plan, worry about the day, it becomes as if I am tying myself up with a rope. I then go through the day struggling to get things done. I am in knots and not comfortable and at ease with events as they arise.

Prayer is when I allow God to free me, loosen my bonds. I become more relaxed and at ease as different situations present themselves. The earlier I pray after I awaken, the less tied up I am likely to become as the day unfolds. These holidays can wrap you in love or in knots. Choose life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Sunday was a glorious day of warmth and sunshine. I ran in bike shorts. The temperature was in the mid 50s. Monday dawned cloudy and cold. Snow began to fall. It snowed all day. I was upset. Why is this such a miserable day! Well, it is mid-December and it is Colorado at 5000 feet altitude. It is supposed to be cold and inclement in December. Why did I have this attitude of disappointment in what should be the norm?

I mistook the gift of a beautiful day, for the right to have every day be just as pleasant. I turned a gift into an expectation. Whenever I do this, I am setting myself up for disappointment. Today I get another chance. It is sunny and the snow is beginning to melt. It will be warmer today than yesterday. Enjoy today. It will snow again later in the week. Enjoy today and do not expect December to become April everyday. Soak in the gift for the moment. Life is passing all too quickly. Enjoy what I have now. I cannot control tomorrow anyway.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mother Mary

When Mary looks at Jesus, like many a mother, she sees something of herself in him. I am baptized. I am a brother of Jesus. Plus, the Church is the Body of Christ. At my best, I reflect this image, this life of Christ. Sacraments help to keep me at my best. I think Mary's maternal love for us all is based upon this Christ connection. Fortunately, her love, patience and acceptance of me do not disappear when I mess up. She still sees the image, the reflection, no matter how I try and dim it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Eyes

God made me to see God's world, creation and enjoy it through my eyes. God became fully human only once. Yet, in each of us God wants to enjoy through our human faculties. So I have a job every day. Keep the lens clean, open to wonder and hidden mystery. When I turn in upon myself, center the world on me, I cloud the lens. It is as if I were to put my hands in the way of God seeing and enjoying Creation .Maybe this is why sin makes God unhappy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Guitar

The soul is like a guitar that is meant to sing a song of praise to God. God is the one who strings and tunes the soul so the song will be one that is in tune. We must wait each morning for God to retune us. Sometimes, we jump right into our routines of prayer. This is a bit like taking the strings and arranging them as pleases us. If the strings of the guitar are not properly arranged, no effort on our part will ever play a song in tune. Try as we might with our routines, our efforts alone avail us little. Sit quietly and be tuned. It only takes a few minutes. If you are used to being in control of your spiritual doings, a few moments will seem like a tedious forever.

Prayer is not meant to complete one more task for the day. It is for the building of relationship. Who wants to listen all day to someone who is out of tune? You don't waste time listening to such music. Why should God?

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I hear the "wise" saying, "All things in moderation." It sounds like a reasonable statement, except if you were, say, drowning. To swim with moderation is to swim to your own peril. You swim all out to stay above water, and move to safety wherever you find it. That seems to be our instinct. When life is threatened, we go all out.

When my spiritual life is sinking into an abyss of staleness, due to neglect, I don't think that prayer in moderation works very well. I am dying within, not to union with God, but to mediocrity at best. I need to go all out to begin to breathe in the Spirit again. The monastery is a wonderful place for me to go to climb or be lifted out of mediocrity. It is not excess if it is a struggle for survival. It is hard to breathe under water, but many of us seem to accept living at this "depth."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


What does surrender mean? For me it means that I begin to see that the paths of my routines have an end. I do not try to push beyond this end. I wait, but a small, brief moment. Something new opens before me. It is the same me on this new path, yet there is a lightness about it that overcomes any anxiety. It is a bit like switching from coffee to brewed tea leaves. It is the same cup and the same lips that touch the cup, but it is no longer coffee that I am drinking.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Light

The nuns used to tell me that when I sinned badly, Jesus left my soul. God was gone from me. Later in life, I heard that God is always within me, within each of us from conception. What gives here? Tagore the poet helps make a distinction. I am meant to reflect the light of God that is within me. God's plan is for me, in love, to absorb, accept, and reflect the Light. When I do bad things, am selfish, unkind, act inappropriately, the Light does not leave me. I now no longer reflect the Light to the world around me.

The person we call holy, or an adept, is like us in having the Light, but they relflect it so much more brightly and clearly than us or at least me. Is the Light reflecting out from you today?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Deeds

Whenever I do a good deed that is not necessary or part of some job I do, it always seems to pick me up. I got a call to go 24 miles to anoint someone who was in the mountains and dying from cancer. The local parish had not yet called back. The caller cried with relief when I said I would come. I put down my really good cup of morning, dressed and drove up there. I felt uplifted that I had a chance to be of some service, to bring a sense of God's love to a dying woman..

When I saw the woman in bed I knew that she had very little time left on this earth. She was still able to talk to me some and answer a quiry or two. I chatted with her, took my time, held her warm hand in my cold hand, anointed her and gave her communion. As I was leaving her daughter said she wanted to make a donation to the church where I live. She wrote out a check for a $1000. As she was writing out the check, the local parish called her. Good that they called, but it turned out to a $1000 too slow. Sometimes my instant "Yes" stumbles into surprising things.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


December 21 begins the Jewish feast of Chanakah. It goes for eight days. This year it will continue through our Christmas. There is no effort in our secular culture to keep God out of Chanakah, to diminish it to days for eating special foods with friends. But there is a big effort to keep Christ out of Christmas. People get offended if we make much of a religious display of Christmas. No holy Christmas carols in the malls or on the radio. And how much do Catholics allow this to happen? Do we avoid a big nativity scene in our front yard because it might offend someone? Do you think the Jews hide their menorah?

I wonder if the "No Christ" energy comes from people who used to be identified as Christians/Catholics, and now have decided they no longer believe or don't want to be part of this Church? When a Jew stops believing or practicing, they are still Jewish. They cannot be not Jewish. So they don't get all upset about Jewish ceremonies or belief practices of fellow Jews. When someone goes from the Christian label to atheist or non-Christian, they seem to leave with an edge to them. They don't want anything to remind them of those Christmas years where Christ was present or coming. They want to shop though. Consumerism is the religion of the secular culture. Right after Christmas these people are exhausted. They are so over the excess of it all, the shopping, the wrapping, the dinners.

For us who keep Christ in Christmas, the joy is just beginning. How do you keep Christ in Christmas? I am going to start playing some Christ Chrismas Carols right now, and sing them too!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Second Chances

We are a country known as the place of second chances. If you mess up or fail in one endeavor you can try all over again. Mary as the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of our country. Under this title she is part of God's second chance. Only four people have ever come into this world free of sin. Adam, Eve, Mary, and Jesus. Adam and Eve were part of the first creation, sin free.. They messed up. So God begins a new creation, our second chance. We say that we baptized people are a new creation.

Mary is the new Eve if you will. She is a person without sin, the Immaculate Conception. She is our mother in this new creation. We mess up but she never gets angry, throws a fit, makes us take a time out. She does not sin. She is always giving us second chances when we seek her comfort. Jesus does this too. He gave us confession. Peter is the first pope. He needed a couple of second chances. We are a church of second chances.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eucharistic Miracles

What is all this interest in miracles and relics that I read about? They have always been here, but it seems as if they make headlines in the Catholic Press. My take on this is that we have given up on trying to dialogue with the postmodern world. Our old arguments don't seem to be moving a lot of people to take our faith seriously. The pope says that our faith should appeal to reason, but we don't seem to be able to do that very well as far as many outsiders see it. Our moral stance on some issues seems not to be very convincing when we give our reasons.

Rather than live in some state of feeling irrelevant in the secular world, we turn inward. Thus the focus on miracles. It is not to convince outsiders who see us as irrelevant, but it does give a boost to our own faith. I think that the internal changes we make, such as liturgical language, are part of this inward look. When it comes to social justice issues we cannot agree amongst ourselves much less convince others of any stance. Conservative Catholics politically think we need to be at war. Others seem to disagree with this stance. For some of us, helping the poor is a matter of the virtue of Charity. For others of us it is a matter of Social Justice. Miracles seem to be the one place or issue upon which we can be in some agreement.

There are many miracles that give us great joy and hope. I see them in people recovering from various addictions. Bu then these miracles have to get out and make the world a better place. They are not looking inward all the time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time Out

why is it that some people cannot take some time off for themselves? "I have so much to do," is one thing I hear. "I think of all the things that still have to be done and no one else will do them,? is another thing I hear. Is there some guilt in this? Some control issues? Whatever it is, try thinking about God in the following way.

Now God can do all things and is all powerful, we say we believe. God did thane a day off in Genesis, to rest. The world got on without God at work for a day. God does not seem to have a need to solve all problems. Look at all the good people that suffer from maladies, hunger, disease, cruelties of one sort and another. God does not seem to fix this. So if God is not going to fix everything and do everything that we think needs doing, then why should we? Maybe God is trying to tell us something. maybe some things just don't get done by God much less than by us who are far less powerful.

I am going home to read a book.

Monday, December 5, 2011

To Rest

How do we know when it is time to rest the soul? I suspect that when we wake up from sleep and still feel weary within, then it is time to step away. At this point, if we try to keep going and not to rest the weary soul, we will drag down those around us. We are not called by God to be slavish in our service, but to pace ourselves. Even Christ stepped aside and went off alone to a quiet place. The world managed!

There is a time to work, a time to play, and a time to be your own best friend. Sometimes I get to be of service to another weary soul. I say, "Take the day off and I will take care of things." What better gift can we give to someone in this busy season? So be good to yourself. You never know when your lightness of being will be a service to a dry and soul-burdened friend.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Wilderness

I think of the dying process as a wilderness. It is not a place in which we have been before. We generally do not get to do a dry run for the dying process. We might feel alone, berift, anxious and fearful among other things. Who will be that comforting voice to tell the dying person that God is with them, and will not abandon them. The voice of comfort says that you'll not die alone. God will lift you up from this wilderness. Someone who provides palliative care, deals with pain management. But that person may have no hope in a loving and present God, or any belief in anything after death. That person will not be the comforting voice for we people of faith.

The believing, loving, hopeful care giver, with their gentle and calm voice, will the "Voice in the Wilderness" about which we hear in the Advent readings. Some people who feel like life is a wilderness journey need the voice of John the Baptist, saying "Watch and Repent." But most of us need someone gentler and more comforting. To know that there is a God who walks with me and loves me will bring me eventually to repentance. It will be a repentance due to gratefulness and not to fear.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I looked out the window this morning. It was snowing. I was to give a workshop this morning. My mind began to race with "first thoughts." No one will come to help make coffee and set out the treats. Few people will come to the workshop. I will have no income. I will go to debtor's prison. My life is in ruins.

These are "first thoughts." We don't control the first thoughts. They just come. It is what we do next that tests our spiritual condition. I decided to lay there in bed for a bit and be with God. I did. Then I got up and poured some coffee, studied my notes, prayed, and said my Holy Office morning prayer. I went over to the hall where I was to teach. There was someone there to make the coffee and set up the food which I brought out. We smiled. I rejoiced that Barbara was there to help. "It will be what it will be," we said. I set up some chairs. I did not get crazed. I thought maybe five people might come. Whining and self-pity were ready to take center stage. But they did not. Grace was center stage this morning. "All will be well," said Julian of Norwich.

Over 40 people came. There was plenty to eat. The sound system did not work, but everyone came up close and I did not have to shout. The morning went well. The snow stopped in time for everyone to drive safely at the end of the morning. Are you testing me God? I am not that together! So now the workshop is past and I feel drained, not from the teaching so much as from all those messy feeling and behaviors that were trying to break through to have their way. I love Grace.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

C Note

When we sing the Amen at the end of a prayer, we generally end up on the C note. No matter where we reach for the "A" in Amen, the "Men" of Amen goes for the comfort of the C note. Why? Because a prayer of this type is to bring us to a place of rest for what comes next. So we reach for a higher or lower note just prior to the C, but the final note will be C.

I find chanting to be a mirror of the spiritual life. We stretch and then we rest. We cannot always be one or the other. In this season of Advent we stretch ourselves to get into a "Waiting" mode. Waiting for God is not natural to us. We can do westerners do not wait well. Waiting takes some effort and preparation. We have to smooth out the path for Christ. We have to work on ourselves. Then we have to rest. Hopefully, The Christmas season is a rest time. Daily we must rest. There is a C note place in all of us that calls us to rest.