Saturday, March 31, 2012


While we decry communism in Cuba and its lack of freedoms, you might recall that under Baptista, until 1959 Havana was a bit of sin city for the rich foreigner who visited for their pleasures. Like many a Latin-American country then (and Mexico now) it was a few rich and many poor, uneducated peasants. Today, the literacy rate is rather good in comparison and medical care is improved as well. While communism does not work as an economic system, let us not think that oligarchy capitalism and government for the rich, that benefits the few is the answer. Let there be more freedom for all. Baptista was not willing to make a stand for "his" Cuba. He took his money and ran. When communism fails and goes its way, how do you keep a Baptista type from coming back? As the Godfather Michael Cordeleone might say, "He is good for business." The Cubans want more religious freedom. Baptista gave them plenty of that, as long as it was good for "his" business.

Friday, March 30, 2012

New Baby

In talking with new parents, I get the impression that a baby is a great way to get out of self-absorption. As a single person there is a tendency to think a lot about yourself. Then you get married and think a bit more about someone else, the spouse. Spouses tend to get into routines, and can become pretty predictable. They generally don't change your whole day in an instant or suddenly bring you out of yourself. A baby does not have a pattern that is always predictable. Babies are new. You might be thinking about yourself and your plans, even to include the baby. Did you check with baby? Get approval? So baby does whatever baby wants to do. Suddenly, you are thinking about baby and not you, or maybe a good deal of the day you are thinking, focusing on baby and not on you or the spouse. Selfishness and self-centeredness is not a good fit for a nurturing parent.

As for me, I never had a baby. It shows. I am forever dealing with self-absorption and ego. What if I were to look at God not as "Father" but as "Baby". Would it make a difference? Well, you can ignore your father or mother, for that matter. It is much harder to ignore "baby". There is a lot to think about here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Did you ever attend a meeting in which you asked a question and were ignored? Then a minute later someone else asks the same question and the leader responds to it? I had that happen twice and here is my take on it. People tend to make an assessment or judgment about another person from early encounters. So if you are passing through a period of acting like an idiot, immature, irresponsible, self-centered, then this is how you are perceived. Well enough. We reap what we sow.

What happens if you let grace work in your life? Years pass and a transformation takes place within you. You become a bit of a different person, all God meant for you to be. We see this in recovery programs which believe in transformation. Recovery from addiction is change. But in some organizations, we only preach transformation. We don't really believe in it. In these organizations, years pass and you meet up with a person who "knew you when." Their opinions have remained unchanged. You may act differently, but they do not, in their dealings with you. That is why you will be ignored in meetings that are run by those same people you have not seen much of in years. I have come to accept this, but I do ignore those meetings. It saves a lot on airfare too.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Your Choice

Which is the better deed: an extraordinary one that is done to feed our ego, or a small one that is done with love? I think that an action done with love makes it extraordinary. Some good deed, a really big deal one, done without love, may very well change and be good for the community around you. Such a deed may change the world for the better. Sadly, if done without love, it will not change you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

times Change

Centuries ago it was decided by the Church that the sacraments did not depend upon the sanctity of the priest. If the priest was a jerk, but said the right words, the Host would be the Body and Blood of Christ. He said the words in Latin with his back to the people. Over time, the people began to do private prayers and pay little attention to the priest on the altar. The bells would ring to remind people that the consecration was taking place, that the important words were being said, unheard by the people. There was no sermon or homily.

Then times and people's needs/wants changed. Mass was in English with the priest facing the people and giving a homily or sermon. Mass became more interactive, priest and people. If the priest had low social skills it became more apparent. Nowadays, people demand more social skills, ability to communicate a helpful message that feeds their souls. People are not doing private devotionals during mass. They are watching, if not actively participating in responses. Jesus will still be there in the host, but if the priest is a jerk, the people won't be there anymore to be fed. They have raised the bar on what is acceptable in the presider/preacher.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sometimes It Is The Product

I noticed that recently a bishop got advanced to archbishop. One of his notable points is that we have to get Catholics back to church. I remember a priest from a long time ago who said we have to invite Catholics to come back to church. If I were running a store and was short on customers, I think I would ask myself first, why are they not coming into the store? Maybe it is the product that needs attention. Does my product fit the potential customer need? Why did people stop coming in the first place?

If your parish service is boring, lousy sound system, bad choir singing and music, lack of parking, abusive preacher with a message that makes no sense, ill-educated clergy relative to the congregation you want, you might want to check the product before spending a lot of energy and money on getting people back. You might find the problem is not the people who hunger for a deeper life, but rather a parish that is too shallow or empty to feed them.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Usually, when I complain it is because I am not getting my way, my ego is being ill-treated, or my plans are not happening. Of course, I never see this. When I complain, it is because someone or something else is messy or wrong, or practicing behavior that gets in my way. I blame the outsides. I do not look at the insides, at me, my motives, my fears, my illusions.

The solution to all this "cognitive dissonance" is to look at me. True, there are outside things that need to be addressed. There is injustice, unkindness and suffering that may need my attention. But even then, when I attend to my insides, with honesty and prayer, then I respond to a hurting world with love and not with rage, anger, or complaint. I find that complaining has changed nothing in the world around me. it simply makes me, well, tedious.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Waiting Time

There is this pool of water called, Bethesda, in the time of Jesus, in Jerusalem. It seems that now and again an angel comes and stirs the waters. The first person to get to the pool after that, gets healed. Well the pool is surrounded by lots of people who seek healing. One fellow has been waiting for 38 years, I think. Jesus comes along and heals him. Timing is everything! He had to wait 38 years but he met Jesus.

Now if you went to the hospital and they said you would have to wait 38 years to see a doctor, would you wait? I suspect not. What if you were told you would have to wait 38 years to meet Jesus face to face. Would you wait? Many people I know go to church or recovery meetings, and if they are not "entertained" or "engaged" by the speaker, the music, the topic, the fellowship, are looking to bail after 15:00. I bet the fellow at the Bethesda pool was bored for a lot of the time. Maybe in the end, an encounter with the Divine Mystery requires one thing, patience. I am almost 69, and God has been waiting for me to shape up all that time. Don't underestimate patience.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Unknown Joseph

Why don't we hear more about Joseph, in stories of Jesus growing up years? Well, how many books are being published today about a good parent who disciplined his child to shaping up in the synagogue or church, and that child then writes about how that type of parenting made all the difference? Umm, hard to find that book, right? Publishers want books about disfunction, written by people who have messy lives and blame parents for being too strict, as in church attendance and manner. It seems that people full of pain want to write about it.

Jesus never wrote a book. Most people who are getting on in their lives of being loving, helpful, etc, don't bother to write books. Jesus knew where he belonged by the age of 12. Even his parents did not know what a good job they had done. When they could not find him they searched for three days, probably among relatives, fun places for children to hang out, morgues, but not in the temple. They probably went to the temple in desperate prayer. There was Jesus. They challenged him and he came home with them to be obedient. Being obedient to loving, but challenging parents in Nazareth, "How boring," would say the modern publishers. "It will never sell." They would go for miracles and a good crucifixion. Isn't the bible still a best seller?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

St. Joseph

Joseph, the husband of Mary, the parents of Jesus, impresses me. When he found out that Mary was pregnant, and it was not by him, he did not go berserk or viral. He did not get all angry. He decided to be kind rather than vengeful. He was going to divorce Mary quietly, so she would avoid being stoned to death or shamed by the townies. Joseph's rather calm manner opened him to hear more. God got word to Joseph that there is more to the story and things will be OK.

What happens when you find out that your plans have gotten all messed up? Do you jump to conclusions filled with rage, self-pity, wanting someone to be punished for your misery? When I get angry I am not open to hearing anything else. I am closed off. God cannot get to me. Anger isolates. Kindness opens us. Not all bad news is bad news. Wait a little. You might be in for a surprise.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Not Far, But Not In Either

I was always good in school with religion quizzes. I knew the answers. But even with the answers, I was still selfish, self-centered, anxious, unkind, judgmental, and envious. What gives? Well, there was a fellow in the Gospel who asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment. Jesus told him it is to love God with every level of your being and to love your neighbor as yourself. The fellow answered that Jesus was right. The fellow even repeated the answer. Jesus said, "You are not far from the kingdom."

The fellow with the right answer is not far from the kingdom, but he is not in it either. Why? Because to be in the kingdom, he has to actually do/live the answer in his daily life. Knowing the answer in your head is like getting partial credit. Full credit comes with living it out. Lots of people know the catechism and the rules, but they still have a ways to go to be followers of Jesus, the Way. Jesus did not say, "Learn the Answers." He said, "Follow me."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Stranger

Why do many young people stay so busy? Where does the energy come to keep that pace? Well, for some, I think the energy comes from fear. Some fear being alone. Why? Well, if you grew up with everyone telling you how wonderful you are for the good grades and rewards you received, though you did little work for them, you would know you are not all that good as advertised. You would not yet know the real you. You would know that you are over-stuffed with self-esteem from adults.

On the other hand, what if you were belittled and put down as a worthless failure all your life. You might believe these messages, but a little voice or nudge inside would say, "I am not all that bad!" Again you would not know your true self. In either case, if you were alone as a young adult, you would be with someone you do not yet know. You would be with a stranger. It can be uncomfortable to be with a stranger, especially if it it yourself. Being busy then becomes the escape. So why are you busy today?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gifts of Talent

Why did God not give me more talent? Why am I not smarter, taller, stronger, quicker? Why is Math so difficult for me? I have come to realize that God gave me more ego! I have a big ego. So if I had more talent or more of something I think desirable, I suspect that my big ego would become more judgmental of others who have less than me. I would come to think of myself as better than them, rather than as gifted by God. So, I have just enough talent so as not to get all full of myself, but not so little talent as to be unable to do God's will for me.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flying Mind

Sometimes I have a "Flying Mind" when I try to pray. No matter how I begin, my mind quickly runs off to other thoughts, plans, anxieties and what not. When I realize this, I try to come back to prayer, recognizing that I am with God, but my mind quickly runs off again, flying around so many other thoughts.

What I do then is apologize to God for my lack of courtesy. That may be the best prayer that I can make in these flying mind situations. It may not seem like much of a prayer, but it is my best at that time. So give God your best and don't worry about the quality of it. Is not your best, simply your best?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Starting In The Middle

My running coach puts together workouts for up to three months in advance. Each workout builds on the previous ones. So you don't show up for the first time a month and a half into the schedule and begin with everyone else who has been training all along. You cannot begin in the middle. Your body is not ready or trained for these later workouts. It cannot take the physical stress.

It is the same with training in a spiritual practice. You have to start at the beginning, do simple things. People who have no past spiritual practice or prayer life want to start out as meditators because they find it somehow attractive. They are in over their heads and will become discouraged quite quickly or find it not very helpful. Find a teacher or book that will start you off with something very elementary. Read Anthony Bloom's book, "Beginning To Pray." Learn a couple of simple prayers. Read a book on prayer by a lay person with whom you can identify. That is, their daily life is a lot like yours. Like running, you have to practice everyday. The body adjusts to low levels of effort. So does the soul. In time all will be well. Patience.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Confession Is Good

I have a running coach. He is very good at what he does. He gives me a plan based upon what he knows about me, my talent, age, and competitive temperament. When I am away from him, traveling in my work, I sometimes don't do what he counsels. I run several days in a row, or do speed work two days in a row. If I 'fess up, then he will know more about me and be better able to advise me. He knows that I will do more rather than less, that I am more competitive and foolish than he first thought. So he gives me a penance, if you will. This is to counter my foolish choices, so that I can improve but not get injured. If I lie, or hold back info from him then he cannot use his expertise on my specific personality and mentality.

Is it not the same with the spiritual life? Find a good advisor, someone with experience and good reputation. If you pick out some rookie cleric who has no experience and he/she gives you weird advice, well what did you expect? Once you find a good advisor, trainer in spiritual growth they can give you direction based upon your specific situation. When you stray, admit it to them. 'Fess up! The penance you get might go against the very instincts that led to your messing up in the first place. That is why it can be called a penance. If you are your own spiritual guide you might seek a second opinion. At least read a book about the paths.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

First and Only

I believe it was the baseball player, Joe DiMaggio, who said that he had to play his best everyday because it might be the first and only time that someone might be in that stadium to see him. Teams played 154 games each summer. Some players got bored at times and did not try their best, or felt out of sorts and held back. Joe thought about the fan who had come to see him play. He did not focus on being bored or feeling lousy that day. He got out of himself. It was part of his greatness as a player. One year he got a hit in 56 straight games, a record never matched.

I travel around giving spiritual talks, parish missions, and retreats. At times I get bored saying the same things over again, or I feel lousy that day and want to cut things short or conserve my energy. But I think of Joe, and realize that for the person in the congregation or audience, this is the first and only time that they will hear what I am saying. For them I must do my best. Life is such a burden when I think only of me. Bored with routines today? You never know if today you might be a one and only experience for someone else. They may need your best.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bad To Worse

As I travel about, I sleep in different beds. At times I find that the bed sheet or blanket are not evenly placed when the bed was prepared or made prior to my arrival. That is, more of the sheet/blanket hang over one side of the bed. If I don't remake the bed before getting into it, I find that through the night the imbalance only gets worse. I may be awakened in the night by a draft or cool room with most of the covering not covering me but hanging to one side of the bed. An initial imbalance is made worse.

It is the same way with my attitude or outlook on the day. If I begin the day out of sorts, or out of balance, and do not try and correct it right away, then the day only gets worse. A little irritation becomes drama. A minor resentment becomes my battle with a messed up world. I cannot help the mood or attitude with which I wake up. But I can try to get back into balance or allow someone else to do it. Prayer, quiet reflection, a short positive reading, seems to get me into balance again. So what will keep you sane today?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


March Madness is upon us. This is a one and done college men's basketball tournament in which one team wins all it's games and is the champion. The teams start out placed in brackets. I think there are 68 teams chosen by some committee. There are office betting pools in which many people simply take wild guesses about teams they know little or nothing about. It is a bit like guessing Oscar winners of obscure movies. Some people put more effort into deciding who will win all their games. Such people seek out experts on sports talk shows or do their own background research. Yet the tournament is called March Madness because there are always upsets. The little team can win sometimes. All the study and research cannot eliminate surprise.

It is the same in the spiritual life. Some people don't take it very seriously and put little work into researching prayer. They simply try what feels good at the moment. God can work with this approach. But some people take prayer more seriously. They read about it or listen to people who have some deeper experience in this inner journey. This of course takes more time and effort. And God can always surprise! I try not to treat prayer like I treat my blind guesses of who will beat whom in a basketball matchup. I try and take God more seriously than whether little Ohio will beat mighty Michigan. Ohio will win, no?

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Body

I hear people say, "My body is my own." Is it? There is a story in the bible about a fellow who owned land and built a vineyard and then leased it out to tenants while he went on a journey. When time came for him to get some of the harvest, he sent his agents. The renters murdered or beat up the agents. Then they murdered the son of the owner. The renters thought that now the vineyard would be all theirs to do with it as they wanted. The owner came back and killed them. Bad news for people who believe they own something when in fact they are just renting.

So is my body my own? Or does it belong to the one who fashioned it and I am just renting or having use of it for a "lifetime." If I am renting, then I suspect the owner, the creator, wants some return for me being in this body. Like what return? Well, it seems that in some of the books of the bible God is Love. It is in both the Hebrew and New Testament. If God is Love, then maybe Love wants my body to be loving as the fruit of my growing and existing. If I use my body to be selfish, nasty, abusive to my body and to others, I suspect that I am not paying attention the the creator, nor am I bringing forth good fruit. As with the vineyard renters, this would not bode well for me. So maybe I cannot do whatever I want with my body. I only have it on loan. Are you bearing any fruit today for the owner of your body?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jesus and Divinity

Is Jesus Divine? Is Jesus God? The answer to this is very important to some people, but for reasons that are somewhat shallow. For some people, it is important to belong to the correct religion. If Jesus is not divine, then what is the point of being Christian. If jesus is divine then what is the point of being Islam or non-Christian? People who need catechetical or theological rightness to this question will defend or attack, whatever side is theirs. Why do I call it a shallow reason to want certainty in belief? My question is: does your certainty change your life? Does it transform you? Are you so much a better person, or reaching the full potential to what God made you because Jesus is Divine or not Divine?

We seem to fight the theological battle but not spend very much energy on the interior battle to become all God made us to be. Some of us like being right or correct, rather than being good. You can have a belief that the Eucharist is truly God, but never be changed much by the eating of it. You can read scriptures, and give some intellectual ascent or reasoned understanding, but not be much changed by the mental comprehension. Knowledge can be good, but it does not seem to have the power to make us good.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Prep Work

I read this idea somewhere. If you are going on a trip/journey, you do certain preparations. You plan the trip, the packing, accommodations and such. You generally don't just get up and go. Is not prayer a journey within? Do you not need some time to prepare, to get into it, so to speak? No doubt there are quick prayers on the go, or emergency prayers. I am talking about the time we put aside for prayer that is meant to go deeper into meditation, stillness, silence. This prayer time needs some prep work to move away from busy, thought-filled, noisy and distracted. We need transition time for the interior journey. Well, anyway, I do.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Whose Religious Freedom

Religious leaders are speaking out on the need for religious groups to be free to live out their faint stance. The religious leaders do not want the government to dictate any mandates that counter what the religious leaders say they teach. I noticed that a professor at Boston College is being let go because he asked for an explanation on why women cannot be ordained priests. it seems like religious freedom for the professor to ask a question is being limited by the authorities who do not want limits place upon themselves. Of course, the professor is free to ask the question, but he will be fired for it. It is a bit like the king saying that his subjects are free to do as they like, but if the king does not like what they do he will be rid of them. In this case only the king is free.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ask For What?

Jesus says, "Ask and you will receive." What is it you ask for? Some people want answers. They want a religion that gives them answers to their questions. Catechism satisfies their minds and that intellectual certainty is enough for them. They mistake knowing something about God, with knowing God. God is much bigger than our answers. Mystics would go so far as to say that God is much smaller than our answers. God is. I want to know God beneath or beyond the mental answers, which are really only the thinking of particular groups or tribes. I want relationship such that I will love, be kind and compassionate with all people. I can be mean, unkind, uncharitable, gossipy and judgmental, but know my catechism and scripture quotes. Did this same Jesus not say, "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you?"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Roof

The wind blew the roof off the school across the street. The parish had a temporary roof put on right away. We all think of the temporary roof as something that will be replaced with a permanent roof shortly. How long is temporary? The consensus seems to be "a few months." No one thinks that temporary is forever when it comes to the roof.

Well, I am temporary too! But I don' spend much time thinking about my shelf life or when I will be replaced or taken away. I seem to function with the idea of permanence. The roof has no permanence. Maybe the roof blowing off is trying to tell me something? You think?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Time is a gift but we tend to think of it as a given. Today the wind is blowing down from the mountain onto our town at about 70 miles and hour. I hear the fire engines as I type this blog. Something is amiss. Fro example, a person buys a new car and parks it in their driveway under a beautiful tree that gives the house shade in summer. The person says," Ah, I have a new car that will last me for ten years, and a tree to enjoy summer shade." The person goes to bed.

The wind comes in the night. It blows down the tree which crashes onto the new car. The person wakes up and sees their idea of the future, their plans, destroyed. Instead of having their car for ten years, they have it for only one day. We are only guaranteed death, not tomorrow. Are you making your plans accordingly?

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Last Word

When I read some of the early Christian writers I notice how they say that the Jewish Law is done and now Jesus is the final word. The Jewish Law was OK for a time but that time has passed. The Law was incomplete or insufficient. Jesus is the new and final answer. Christians from time to time seem to find it OK to say these things about what the Jews call Sacred.

Along comes the Enlightenment, Scientific Materialism, Modernism and Post-Modernism. What do they say? Religions as taught have had their day. We have moved along. Religion no longer satisfies with all its law, worship and God in the sky. Christianity is not the final answer. Christians get very upset. Christians did not seem to mind when Jewish Law was put down. Maybe religion of any kind does not like to be told that it is not the "final answer?" Post-Modernism said it was the final answer. Now we seem to be moving beyond the final answer of Post-Modernism. Where will it all end? Maybe, instead of tossing out what we call the past, we can see each age building upon the wisdom of what has gone before it. There is more of a unity of all, rather than old parts being tossed into the dumpster and replaced by new parts that have nothing to do with the old. God is everywhere.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hidden Hunger

Craving seems to come with any addiction. While a person is doing too much of something, such as alcohol, drugs, work, exercise, eating, they have a daily craving for their addictive whatever. I think this covers over a deeper hunger for Wholeness, The Divine, God, Peace, Oneness. Why? Well, when the person gives up their addiction, and the craving begins to lessen, they find that they have an empty space that is filled up by something more spiritual and less physical. They stop ingesting substances and begin to ingest quiet time, mediative readings, walks in a park. They learn to bond with others as they become better listeners.

If this is so for addicts, is it not so for all of us? We are made with a hunger for completeness. Some call this God, who has many names depending on how a person views their hunger for fullness. Nothing of the earth will satisfy. We can only cover over this deeper spiritual hunger with a lid of worldly stuff. When we overwhelm our day with plans and projects, this is just another lid. Are you lifting the lid yet today?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Dentist

I found one more place where I could pray and think about God and Jesus of Nazareth. There is not much to do while someone is working on your teeth. It is free time for prayer. God has no teeth, but Jesus in the flesh had teeth. He must have kept them clean and healthy somehow. It helps to have a short life span before the teeth come undone.

Anyway, I think his teeth were in good shape because it is really hard to preach and be attentive to others if your teeth ache. Bad teeth or gums would make a person think about themselves all the time. The pain is always there, especially when you eat or drink cold water. Ouch! So if you want to be able to live a kind and caring life toward others, then take care of your teeth. My preaching/teaching days would be over if my mouth hurt all the time. Having a "big mouth" and putting people down, speaking inappropriately, is not good. Having an aching mouth of bad teeth would make us pretty miserable people too. Seen your dentist in the last six months?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Giving Up Stuff

So for Lent you decided to give something up? Did you give up coffee and now have headaches, low energy, and a bit of an attitude with everyone around you? Or maybe you gave up chocolate, movies, shopping, TV. You might see your struggles as a real penance for all your past bad behavior. Suffer for your sins maybe? Well, I suggest you look around and see how everyone else is is doing with your "suffering and penance." Are you making them miserable? You gave up sweets, so no sweets will be allowed around the house? Is your misery making others miserable too? Then I suggest that you make your penance one of being kind, loving, compassionate, and attentive to those around you. Make Lent a time when other people are happier being with you. What a concept!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Newspaper

I go out the front door to pick up the morning paper lying on the ground. I look forward to reading "today's" news. Yesterday's paper is lying on the kitchen counter. I toss it aside. I am not interested in yesterday's news. When I look at news on my electronic gadget, if I had skipped checking for a day, I don't read yesterday and today. I delete yesterday and just read today. I don't live in yesterday's news when it is in the paper or on my gadget. So why would I live in yesterday's events in my personal life? Why rehash what I cannot change? It is yesterday's news and events. It is not even news today. To relive it in my mind is to live in a time that does not exist, the past. What can I do today? God is in today. The people I love live today. So I put yesterday's events into the recycle bin of my life, just like yesterday's newspaper, lest yesterday's events recycle in my head. Things recycling in my head can become resentments, from "re sentire" to feel over and over again. Yucky way to live!