Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Endure, Not Change

An absolute monarchy is geared to endure, but is not really open to change. It lacks creativity. The church is the last absolute monarchy. It is geared to endure. It is by nature defensive and not open to criticism. It no longer speculates in theology, or tries to find new ways of explaining the faith to new, or modern cultures. But it sure knows how to endure.

The question is, can something change and still endure as an institution? Will it become so completely different that is becomes irrelevant to its purpose? The Church endures to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News. If it does not change, or adapt, it might have a message, but one no one can hear or comprehend not because we have all become non-believers, but because we have all, well, moved on.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Ryans

I just said good bye to my two sisters. One will return to LA and the other to South Florida. I will go to San Francisco. We had a reunion in Florida. It seems that the Ryan kids never had a strong desire to stay where we grew up, around New York City and White Plains, NY. Many of our friends still live around where they went to grammar and high school. They never left. It was important for them to stay close to home. We were never like that. It was never our first priority.

I think this is why I could adjust to being in a missionary religious order. I could move to a new place. I could uproot myself. As I grow older I do not care much to move to a new place. I prefer to be around friends I have. I like my routines. I do not seem to be the missionary I once was. I don't much care to travel, except to see friends. I can be very active in this world that I know.

I am much more drawn to a chance to meditate, to the open time that routines allow for. When everything is new and different, there is too much busyness and chaos. The interior life suffers. It has taken me a long time to get to this space or place in my life. I still want to grow, but not see so many "new" things. I am not bored by my life. There is plenty of stimulation within me, with the connection to a deep place in my heart. Jesus never went to far from home, so why should I? Neither of us are running from anything. He never did, and I no longer care to.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Opinion?

When someone tells me how they think that a conversation or a scenario is going to play out with someone, and I think that might be off base, I can be useless to them by saying:
"That is stupid, the way you think."
"You don't know what you are talking about."
"Man, it is not going to be that way. You are way off base."
"Are you crazy?"

Now all of these responses on my part will simply close the person off from anything I might be trying to say. I am sounding judgmental, opinionated, and superior. What I might do is say, "Would you like my opinion?" If they say no, then that is the end of it from my side. Say no more. More often though, people will respond positively to my asking ever so gently, "Would you like my opinion?" Try it sometime.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Whose Language?

The Church decided to retranslate the mass from a vernacular that is common in the USA, to one that comes from the Latin, more common to people who used to or even now use Latin. Will it take? Young people seem enthrall edgy it because it is "different" special, unique. It is like being in a special club. How long this will enthrall them I don't know. Is it open to evangelizing? It seems to me that if you want to evangelize, you adapt or inculturation somehow to the culture of the indigenous people. Dowe really want a special language. We are not an occult group with special handshakes.

The events of our faith took place in the middle east or what we might call the orient from western Europe. The dogma, the theology that explained the events come out of Greek and Latin thinking. Why? Because we were talking to Europeans. Use thei language and way of thinking. So why not do the same for the USA?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The News

This morning I noticed a report in the news that said a football team won a game because the Quarterback led them on a final drive for a score in overtime. The quarterback is portrayed as a hero. Well, I saw that game. The Quarterback was thoroughly beaten by the other teams defense. He could not do much of anything. The reason for the win was that the other team made two very bad mistakes and lost the football, called a turnover.

Why was this not reported? Why was the story tilted toward the heroics of the Quarterback on the winning team? How many other events, that I do not witness, are tilted in some direction that does not reflect what actually happened. I think of world events, including news of what the Catholic Church is doing here and there. The Internet does not improve things at all. It just gives more places to look, and look sooner, for inaccurate reporting.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Plant and the Pot

When a plant or seedling is first put into a pot of soil, the seedling is nurtured and protected. This is necessary. Yet the pot will define how large the plant can grow. At some point the pot becomes too small, too narrow, too shallow for a plant that wants to keep growing. If the plant is not moved to a larger venue, it will become stifled, will not become all that it is meant to become.

The catechism, and a set theology, dogma, that is precisely defined is like a pot. A child or someone new to the faith is planted in it. This is good. The person needs to be nurtured, to have some sense of the whatness of the faith. An inquiring, expanding mind however will continue to grow. The catechism and the precisely defined body of doctrine may not be able to contain such a person who is growing in their faith. Tradition prefers to act like a pot with a ability to nourish within a set boundary. But it is always a boundary. The relationship between God and creature cannot be confined.

Things become even more complicated when we try and take our western pot and place all of Asia into it. Even the Asian bishops are saying we have to come up with something new. It is not the soil that is the problem. It is the pot.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Hair

I was trying to grow my hair longer than usual in order to keep my head warm in the cold. Plus, it covers bald spots. But there is a problem. I wear ski caps or knit caps when I run or just go outside and walk about. When I take the cap off, my hair is going all over the place, maybe from static electricity. I look like a did a bad job of spiking my hair.

So I cut my hair back shorter. I feel a bit chilly now and again indoors. But I can wear my caps and don't look so funny or weird when I take off my hat. I guess you cannot have it all, huh? I think about this when I try and wedge in all my plans in the 24 hour day. Usually, something has to be cut out.

The Memorial

Toward the end of the last calendar year, I read about a memorial for all the animals that had passed away that year. The thought came to me that here was a memorial to beings that are not human. It was a memorial without controversy. Now, many people think that fetuses are not human. Though I disagree, for the sake of argument, if you think a fetus a not a human being, like a dog is not a human being, why not have a memorial for all the fetuses that passed away this past year?

I don't think that memorial would go over without a lot of comment. Why is it that some people have no problem memorializing dead animals, but would be uptight about doing the same thing for dead fetuses? Maybe a dead fetus would bother them more than they would like to admit. Or was the fetus an inconvenience, whereas the animal was a comfort, a friend, a companion? I don't know the answer to this.

I do know that when there is a big rally, or march for the protection of the fetus, which to the marchers is a true human being, it does not get very much coverage in the media. Well, the animal memorial got very good coverage in the media. The poor fetus, even if you don't think it is human, gets ignored. I am thankful for those people who memorialize a dead fetus each year. Someone has to stick up for the little guy.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Many of us take ourselves to a gym or exercise club several times a week, or we walk or bike as our routine of exercise. We sometimes plan our day around this activity to stay fit. When we die, we won't be taking this body with us. What carries on? Our out of shape soul goes on. So why not exercise the soul, our spiritual innards, each day?

Prayer is the act of taking our soul to the gym or exercise club. There are no dues or fees, no membership to keep up. It is simply a commitment to ourselves to care for that part of us that is, well, the real us! This morning I could have gone off to the club to exercise my flesh. I would feel good all over, for a while. But I decided to put it off and exercise my soul, in prayer, right here in my room. I feel good all over, and I think it will have a more lasting effect.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Be Prepared

The Boy Scouts always teach "Be Prepared." The newspaper says snow tonight and into the morning. Everything outside says summer in January. But what if? So I changed my mass assignment from a mountain parish to which my car cannot go in the snow, to mass here at lower altitude where I don't have to drive. I may look like a fool in the morning, but better that than no mass in the mountain church.

Things look pretty calm in Mother Nature in general. I make plans for a future I fully expect to arrive. What if it does not? Second coming? Earthquake? Hundred year flood? Am I prepared for my end? I am a fool every day if I am not ready for plans other than my own.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In Perspective

Well, I survived the night of the big winds that are still blowing here in Boulder. Our fence was not so lucky. It fell. I am not too upset. I am still here and not blown away, yet. Disaster is a matter of perspective. If the fence fell apart in some freak accident, I could see myself all whining and feeling, "Why me?". After a night of continuous chinook winds, the loss of only a fence seems a small matter. In fact it is always a SMALL matter. It is all in my perspective. My skinny little Newpaper was on the porch. A bonus for sure. Come to think of it, I never really liked that fence anyway.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Counter Culture

When people look at the monastic life, they often think it very strange. Monks do not talk a whole lot, nor watch TV, listen to radio or have a whole lot of sound in their solitude. But we who look at their culture as strange, might be even more strange, especially to a monk.

During the time set for work in the monastery, a specific task that helps keep the monastery clean, or derives income for the monastery, or an administrative task, suddenly a bell chimes. It is time to stop the work. No work is so important as to trump the bell. Stop what you are doing and go on to whatever is next, usually prayer or meals. Why? So that we do not let anything become too important in the day as to forget that God comes first. The monk does not fool himself the way we do ourselves. He does not say, "I must finish this task and then I will pray." "Later" never comes to the fool.

We see all of our tasks as too important not to complete. Our spiritual life is always in the shadow of our task oriented life. When you go to your grave, do you think anyone will care so much about whether you finished or accomplished something? Someone will come along to take your place in the task world. So then, who is living a "strange" life?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Don Bosco

Our dog, Don Bosco, seems not to want to be left alone to roam through the house. When alone, he chews on things, such as furniture and bedding. He barks at the window that looks out across our alley onto a ledge where the neighbor cat often sits. Even if the cat is not there, Don Bosco barks, on and on.

We made a discovery. Put on talk radio, NPR, and Don Bosco seems to quiet down. He likes the sound of voices. He is pretty good with Gregorian Chant too. It is the quiet that makes him uneasy. In his cage he is fine, but I don't want to lock him in there during the day. Maybe our dog is part of this trend among young people. Many of them do not like silence, or being alone with silence. Wow! Looks like there is no future for monastic life in this culture.

Then again, silence, and solitude could become a counter-sign to the modern Western world's need for noise and activity. As you read this, what is going on in your background? If we cannot be in silence with just ourselves, if we find this boring, then why should we expect anyone else to want to be with "just me?"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Golden Globes

I might need new life. I am watching the movie and TV award show with all the glamour. I know little to nothing of most of the movies. I know nothing about the TV shows or the people winning all these awards. I used to know all this stuff. What happened to me? Am I irrelevant?

Well, I spend summers in a monastery. I read. I go to bed earlier than I used to. If one goes to bed early they cannot be looking at much TV. Oh, and I don't have a TV. If you know all these Tv shows and movies, have you read any books lately? Getting enough sleep? I think maybe I will keep my life.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


The local parish pulled up all the carpet around the sanctuary and revealed a beautiful floor. Then they cleaned off all the glue and residue from the carpet. It all was looking very good and bright. Then they put a big carpet back down on a considerable portion of the floor. I was told that the carpet is beautiful. It is not.

But I am not in charge. I can go crazy or become resentful. I can say many more mean things. Or I can be into acceptance. When craziness goes on around me I do not have to respond in kind.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hate and Love

I was watching a "Count of Monte Cristo" movie one night. Alexander Dumas was the author. It is a story of Love conquering Hate. The Count, Edmund, was thrown into prison for life. He was framed or set up. His best friend then married the Count's girlfriend who was pregnant with Edmund's child and to protect the child, entered into the marriage. Edmund escapes from prison, finds a treasure, and plots revenge on his ex-friend and his old sweetheart, who he thinks did not wait very long to marry.

Edmund is driven by hate. At a certain point his old sweetheart, Mercedes, tells him she has always loved him. He tells her not to ruin his hate with her love. But she does. A kiss from Mercedes melts Edmund's hate. Eventually, Edmund decides to use his wealth for good rather than for evil, or revenge. I thought of Jesus on the cross. He was surrounded by hate and indifference. It was a rathe heartless scene of people who did not care much or at least did not care much for him. He accepted all this hate rather than to plot some revenge. Jesus forgave and loved his enemies and those who were just doing a day's work of crucifying convicted people. The centurion stabbed Jesus in the heart and then proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. Hate and indifference can be overcome by love. Jesus believed this and Dumas tended to agree.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


it is snowing. It is supposed to stop at 1 PM. That is about 2 minutes from now. It is snowing in a way that says it will not stop. I wanted to send all the children home two hours ago. Could not do it. Why? Lawsuits! If we let them out early and they get into an accident then we are libel. If they go home at the usual time and get into an accident on the way, we are not libel. Go figure. So I have to accept that at 3 PM today there will be chaos in the snow filled parking and pickup area of the school with students and cars sliding all over the place. But we will not be libel. And I was thinking of the students. Acceptance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Some people do alcohol or drugs to become the person they want to be. I use prayer. If I want to deactivate my worst faults, and be loving, kind, and serene, I find that quiet, meditative prayer seems to work for me. A couple of time outs each day seems to interrupt or keep the craziness away. Sometimes the craziness is so crazy that I ignore prayer. It is best for me that I introduce quiet time into my life earlier rather than wait for later each day.

At times when I am at the beginning of my quiet time, I am anything but quiet. Rather than be still, I seem to feel an intense desire to jump out of my skin. This reveals to me how tense I am, how preoccupied I am with energized thoughts. Stress can hide until I try and be still. I wait with a short prayer, even a word thought quietly two or three times. I don't jump out of my skin. I begin to relax. Maybe there is a spasm or two of tension as it leaves my body. Then I am at rest, or as the bible says, "Be still, and know that I am God."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

God's Body

God does not want to have a body. The old time gods wanted bodies but could not have them. They were gods. That is why they like blood sacrifices, so some tribes thought. The gods did not have blood so we gave them some of ours.

But the Abba God of Jesus is satisfied to remain Spirit and invisible, but would like to experience human life through a human body. My body is a gift from God so that I can give it back to God in the way I live. My life can give enjoyment to God if I live it in a loving and giving way. If I am not too sure of how to do this, I have Jesus as an example.

When I have the gift of friendship is is because my friend wants to enjoy life through my uniques gifts and talents and personality. If I am selfish, self-centered, unkind and generally whining, I am a gift for no one. I seem to behave better when I think this way, and worse when I focus only on me.

Friday, January 6, 2012


When rich people want to make a statement about themselves, they build 18,000 square foot homes with water falls, and gardens. They buy expensive cars. What do poor people do, or young people who don't have a lot of resources? What do they do? Well, they have their bodies. They tattoo them and pierce them. They try and enhance their status, or make some statement about where they belong in some social circle.

Sadly, for some, they think it makes them more, whereas their body from God makes them less. God's creation simply isn't cool. Change something about the skin and become more comfortable in that skin. Anything less is too ordinary. But we are never really ordinary. God is delighted with us as we are without all the additions. We are enough for God. Why are we not enough for ourselves? Maybe we need a second opinion. But don't ask your tattooed friend.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


There is yet another "Sherlock Holmes" movie current. Sherlock specializes in disguises. He is trying to solve some mystery, and the disguise might help him to get to the solution whereas the normal Sherlock would just get in the way.

I believe that God shows up in disguises. God is trying to help us to know the mystery of ourselves. God knows, but we do not. If God were to show up as just God, we would be overwhelmed by the Presence, and not be able to see much of ourselves, beyond the fear or awe.

We try to get rid of most of God's disguises. God shows up as our moods, or as unexpected events, or as people who are strangers to us. Moods we might try to change. People we might try to ignore. The unexpected simply irritates us. It just might be the Presence saying, " Why not take a look at yourself without judgment or action in each of these situations." Some of our own mystery might then be revealed to us.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cat Eyes

A black cat sits on a ledge across the driveway from my room. I watch cat. Suddenly cat turns around on the ledge and looks intently into the neighbor's yard. It sees something. I look too. I see nothing. Nothing is moving. How can cat see and I cannot? Cat has better eyes. And cat is looking for something.

My soul has cat eyes. Soul is searching and can see what my body eyes cannot see. I fail to "see" my soul's hunger for God. I only feel a certain dis-ease, unsettledness. My soul sees the presence of God and tries to focus on that presence, while my body goes about doing this and that activity which fails to satisfy the hunger of the soul.

Soul cannot directly speak to me and say, "Look". The language of soul is silence. I am blind until the emptiness of food that does not fill bothers me too much to ignore it any longer. But by then I am a wreck. What a silly way to live. Busy and empty at the same time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I am here in Boulder again for the Christmas season. I am the only priest among three Boulder parishes. The others all left town. Last year it was the same scenario. I like to spend Christmas in Boulder, but why not think about a change of venue for this time of year? What stands in the way?

Routine. This is what has happened. I have several reasons for wanting to be here, but the one that seems to hold a lot of pull is routine. I think that routine is the enemy of change. To do something different is to do something new, without knowing how the "new" will work out. Routine seems to have the pull of a "guarantee" to it. I know how things will work out. That is why I call it a routine.

So just to make sure that routine does not rule my life too much, I think that I will be someplace else come next Christmas. But one never knows.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year

This is the time for resolutions. Well, a resolution is just a decision, a matter of the mind. No action is taken. The will is not engaged. a resolution will take on some flesh when we begin to drop one thing to replace it with our resolution. Or we shift our priorities, but I suspect something is going to be put off of our daily activities if this new resolution is going to be acted upon. No one has free time to just add something. So what are you dropping? you could try and fool yourself and say you are simply adding something and still going to do it all.