Sunday, September 30, 2012


I watched some of the local college team football game today.  The team lost by a lot and  seemed to me to be dreadful.  But afterwards, the commentators who know a lot about football said that the team would improve and we need to be patient.  They saw things I did not see.  I am an amateur fan and they are coaches who have been through a lot of football.  They see things I do not see.

Faith is like that in a way.  You look upon Jesus on the cross and see a dreadful loser.  Don't hope in this guy.  Find a winner.  But the experts, such as Paul, see so much more in the same scenario.  I have the same faith as Paul.  I have been in religion for a long time.  I have come to see strength in weakness.  I have come to see that failure is a great teacher.  Don't give up.  Trust that God is at work.  Faith begins to grow usually by believing in the believers.  They have been on the road longer than you.

So I am a believer in my local college football team, not because I see something good in the mess, but because I believe in the believers.  In time, I may become converted.  My team could use a resurrection win though.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Not So Small World

Well, a nun tells her little students not to associate with children who go to non-Catholic Schools or don't believe as we believe.  And in Germany, no pay, no way to sacraments. Talk about turning inward!  Jesus would be turning over in his grave if he were in his grave.  If the bishops in the USA said that only supporters of the parish would get sacraments, we would have a smaller first communion and confirmation class, fewer baptisms and weddings.  What about the dead?  Well, Jesus did say, "Let the dead bury the dead."  Will the German bishops take this literally?  And you wonder why Catholics here are ignoring the hierarchy and voting for Obama?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Too Much Unemployment

When unemployment in a society gets to a certain percentage, whatever that is, bad things will happen.  The unemployed, especially if they are young, have energy and time.  They are not working.  They become blamers and negative thinkers.  Someone or something caused this.  They suffer self-esteem issues.  So they burn things, destroy things, and people.  They see themselves as over and against.  If all those people in the Middle East, as we call that region, were at 8% unemployment, there would be a lot less mess.  People would be invested, and be going to work.  No time to hate another religion or to listen to some mullah.  No energy left over to destroy.  No lack of self-worth that leads to cantankerousness.  In my country, things are kind of quiet. The young still have hope that jobs will come.  There is something of a safety net.  A few unemployables sit in the parks.  Did anyone see the 60s coming?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lookin' Good

If people know you as a Catholic, try to be pleasant even if you feel crumby.  Don't give our religion a bad name by your attitude.  What if you decide to whine and complain about your woes.  Your friend listens, or appears to listen.  You finish.  You feel better and thank your friend for listening.  You part.  Then you don't see your friend for what seems an unusually long time.  And you wonder why?  Jesus did not say, "Go to mass every Sunday and receive communion, and stay free from mortal sin."  The hierarchy said that. Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me."  He did not include whining in the carrying of the cross.  There are 14 stations of the cross.  Do you recall any one that said,  "Jesus whined?"  Whining causes isolation.  At least I have found it so.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Inner and Outer Self

At times, people come up to me and say, "Father, you look good.  You look happy.  You look rested.  You seem to be at peace."  I am not aware of any of this.  I did not see any of this in the mirror earlier that morning.  What I do recall is that on those days, I had spent quiet time in solitude with God before I encountered the person who just spoke with me.  The inner self is reproduced in the outer self.  The inner gives birth to the outer.  Want to look good and spend zero money on cosmetics, and gym costs?  Meditate.  Oh, but I do work out!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Executive Followers

Jesus' disciples wanted to be executives in the Kingdom.  They would argue who would be the greatest in the Kingdom.  The one who sits closest to power would be the greatest.  It is true that CEO types can do a lot of good, but in fact, few do.  It is a lot of greed and the bottom line for many.  The trickle down economic idea was a way to be greedy and think some "invisible hand" was going to feed the lower classes.  

Jesus gave his followers the key to power.  He said to be of service.  Now a lot of people come to this country, poor, and get work because they do jobs no one else wants to do.  They come and make beds, wash dishes, clean floors, cook and so on.  If a person could do these tasks with love rather than prideful resentment, the world would be changed.  Once a year, the male hierarchy in my church washes a few feet.  The rest of the time, they want to be CEOs.  You wonder why religion is losing its grip on the culture?

Monday, September 24, 2012


We Catholics believe that Jesus is present in the bread and wine of mass.  It is a symbol of his presence.  To outsiders, this might seem kind of strange and quaint.  We, on the other hand, do not see our sufferings, failures, difficulties, as a way that God disguises the Holy Presence in these trying situations.  We try to petition God to take them away, or we think that God has abandoned us, so we abandon God.  Many of the events in our life are kind of "eucharistic" presences of God, hidden in the events.  Any cross in our life is seen as the absence of God, though we believe that Jesus, on the cross, is the presence of God.  That is, suffering is OK if God is doing the suffering.  I find that I whine less if I can hang onto the insight that God is hidden in much more of my daily life than I think.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Elizabeth Leseur

She is up for canonization.  What fascinates me about her is that she was so normal.  She was not a nun, did not found any great organization or do any great work.  Her gift was her diary, discovered after she died of cancer.  She wrote about her everyday feelings and  events.  She wrote about her faith as it could be applied to daily happenings.  She suffered physically.  Her husband was a sceptic about religion.  He gave her no spiritual support in her Catholic practices.  There is so much about her with which most of us can identify.  We cannot write her off as so different from us that we could not become a saint too.  So what holds you back from the path to holiness, much less sainthood?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Wife

Say what?  Jesus had a wife?  Well, no one really knows.  But even if he did, would it change anything about your faith or relationship with Jesus?  Let's deal just with the politics of it all, which is the fun part.  If an ancient document was discovered that said Jesus had red hair, would anyone make  much of it?  No.  So why make a big deal about a wife?  Politics and power might be a reason.  The history of celibacy, the attitude about sex and marriage does lean somewhat on Jesus not having a wife.  Sex, even in marriage was seen as less than holy.  Augustine thought it a venial sin, I believe.  The desert monks were celibate, as a way of getting closer to God.  No spouse to mess up their path to holiness.  A lot of guys got involved in church because because of their ambivalence about women if not a fear.  They preferred the men's club, the good ole boys of the ordained.  Then there is the whole monastic movement that says celibacy is a big part of the way to deeper relationship with God.  Monasteries without celibacy would not function as they are today.  This is all based upon Jesus being celibate.  If he was not celibate, a lot of stuff comes undone.

If we started to say that marriage is the way to follow Jesus, then what happens for all those ordained who don't really want to get married?  Celibacy does work for many people.  They feel a call to it. But for some, celibacy is simply a way to hide out.  Next, if clergy started to marry, then parishes would have to pay a living wage and the church does not want to do that.  It messes up the finances since Catholics don't tithe much.  Next, this wife issue messes with a lot of statements made about sex.  Our church teaching has always had problems with making consistently positive statements about one of God's great creations, sex.  Tell me you were brought up with a lot of positive stuff about sex?  Shhh!  Don't talk about it or ask questions.  Taboo.

My personal take on this 4th century document is that "wife" refers to a long-standing image of Christ as the groom and the church or each one of us as the bride of Christ.  In the "Song of Songs" in the Hebrew scriptures, God is the groom who seeks the bride in her chamber.  But watch the energy behind the right-wing reaction to this document.  If the Vatican is smart, it will go slow on this and let the scholars explain it.  Knee jerk reaction by anyone will only raise more doubts from the skeptics.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Slow Down

In the monastery the monks work and get a lot done.  We run a business and have to work, be efficient, get things done.  We have a monastery that needs to be kept clean, food cooked, etc.  But the monks do not move fast or talk much, yet they get a everything done that needs doing.  In The City, people work but go at a very fast pace, and seem to talk a lot, and at the end of the day, have still more things yet to be done.  Loud and frenetic pace does not seem all that efficient.  Slow down and shut up.  I find it makes space to recognize and stay in contact with Love, the Holy Presence all around and within me.  

That is why I run slowly.  God is very old and does not move so fast anymore.  Once, God made the universe in six days.  Wow!  I used to run a mile a lot faster too, when I was young, and less prayerful, more frenetic.  God and I are moving slowly, together.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I see a lot of young people jogging on cement sidewalks.  Because they have young bodies, this surface does not bother them.  Either they don't read or they do not pay attention to the warnings about running on cement or concrete.  Soon enough, as they get a bit older, their bodies break down under this pounding, and they stop running.  They say, "My body gave out on me."  Why blame your body?  The problem was your mind and your will.  You decided to run on concrete.  Your body, if cared for, for many people, can run for many years.  Run on soft surfaces or at least black top roads.  These surfaces may not be right outside your front door, but they are around.  

I find the reason for my problems are based upon my thinking and my self-will, and a bit of laziness.  But I blame something else, like the young runner who blames their body for failing them.  Reading spiritual books, listening to a guide, is like someone who consults the running literature to find out what to do and not to do.  When I simply listen, blindly, to my mind, or do whatever my will wants, bad things seem to catch up with me.  At least I have found it so.  See you on the soft trails, as I pray for the concrete minds out on the sidewalks.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

First Comes Obey

Any spiritual path has to end up or lead to love.  My path is a person, Jesus Christ.  The goal is union through love of and with Christ.  But all spiritual paths start out as obedience to a rule.  God gave my ancestors rules written on hard stone.  These rules were hard to follow.  Don't wait around until you love the God of the rules.  Obey first.  Even obey out of fear of the consequences.  Eventually, you come to love the rules because you come to love the God who gave them.  A good guide can show you the way.  

When someone is a guide to another, new to Recovery, the guide does not say, "We have these wonderful steps.  Love them and your HP."  No, the guide kicks a little butt and says, "Do this or else the consequences will be formidable."  Addicts don't love rules or obedience to another.  They only obey because there is no other way for them.  If they stay with obedience, in time love for the whole program can develop.

The mistake we make with children is that we try to begin with love and expect obedience to follow.  "Jesus loves you," we say, and then wonder why children don't follow the rules?  My Mom kicked a little butt, and we all hopped to.  Obey or suffer consequences.  Today, I love Jesus.  Thank you Mom.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our Dog

Our rectory dog is built for speed.  It can go from inertia, or a slow walk, to sprinting full out in an instant.  Yet it can also run forever it seems.  And it does not work out at all.  it eats, sits and sleeps, like some priests I know!  Ooops!  I've said too much.  Anyhow, back to the dog.  It is unfair that dog has all this talent and I do not.  I am built for slow running without much endurance.  But my mind seeks to have me run fast and forever.  I am Frankenstein, built with a bunch of parts that do not quite fit together.  What to do?  I train.  Everyone runs faster and more effortlessly than I.  I stop training, and feel like a slug.  For me, the answer is "acceptance."  As Popeye says, "I yem what I yem."  God has a plan.  Or maybe God just wanted to make a funny joke of a person.  Whatever, I think that I can still enjoy eternal life.  Why? Well, God likes variety.  That is why I am me.  See you on the road to happy destiny.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Moderation is not in the DNA of addicted people.  It is something that has to be worked on everyday.  It is a bit like me trying to hit the curveball.  It is not natural to me to do so.  If I wanted to stay in the big leagues, I would have to work on this everyday.  So it is with moderation.  The effort can go astray sometimes.  A newly recovering person hears about an "approved" book that is suggested.  So they buy the book and begin to read it.  It helps.  Then they hear about another book.  They buy that and now they are reading two books each day.  It goes on like that until they are overwhelmed with their daily readings.  What to do?  There is no "Over Reading Anonymous" groups.  Whenever I have too many books on my table on spiritual guidance I am reminded that   there is no step that says,"There is a book greater than myself that will restore me to sanity."  At some point the book got in the way of the relationship.  I have by then become a good reader, but not a good listener.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The Bishops say that our country runs at its best when religion has an influence not controlled by outside forces.  Freedom of conscience is important to the social mix.  What they are saying is that Obama should get off their backs and stop pushing his social agenda that conflicts with church teaching as defined by the bishops.  But what about my conscience?  Or your conscience?  Do the bishops hold up as a value any of this?  Say your conscience disagrees with them, or official church teaching.  Is that OK?  Ah, well, no.  You don't get freedom of conscience.  It seems limited to the hierarchy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Change Or Else

David Brooks, a favorite columnist of mine, wrote about yet one more book, this one by Hanna Rosin, The End of Men.  Men are falling behind women in earning power because women adapt and men won't.  One of the reasons for this is that men, who were at the top in the old order are bound to cling to the old ways.  Catholic Church Hierarchy is ruled by men.  They are slow to change.  They say "Tradition."  Think "Rigid."  I find many people who cling to old ways of the church and other old traditions, out of a discomfort with changes in the modern world.  The church becomes a refuge for someone overwhelmed by job changes, geographic changes, and cultural changes.  If you had to move to another part of the country, do a whole new and less paying job, and the culture was most puzzling, wouldn't that old Latin Mass be a point of stability for you?  Fear, anxiety and denial are driving far more of the church engine than is Grace.

Friday, September 14, 2012


I am embarrassed.  In looking over my past blogs, I seem to be a lot better at criticizing the church than I am at speaking about spirituality.  Whenever I poke at the foibles of the church, 30-40 people read the blog.  Prayer?  Maybe a dozen people.  Maybe it is time to drop the blog and become a hermit.  Something has got to change, no?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Heart Signals

If the heart is sending all these signals to the brain, I might listen more to what the brain thinks about a run each day.  If the brain seems to be saying, "Take it easy," it might be the heart saying that it wants a "time out."  I used to think that I was just being a wimp.  I often do enjoy my run even when I don't feel like "running."  What I notice on those days, is that I might start out more slowly than usual.  I might vary my run from the schedule.  What is the point of running in misery?  Since my heart knows things before they are going to happen, the signal that I need to preserve my energy that morning, may be because I will need it for later in the day for some person or event I do not foresee.  

There is no feast day for "The Sacred Brain of Jesus."  There is one for "The Sacred Heart of Jesus."  In the world of spirituality the heart is celebrated.  Prayer is the school of the heart.  All other schools seem to be more focused on the brain.  You wonder why there is so much unhappiness in schools?  So much boredom?  Bullying? Closed groups? Hoarding?  Mine and not yours?  No school of love in all this stuff.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Heart Knowledge

Some research suggests, or states, that the heart is the center of information and not the brain.  The heart sends far more info to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.  The heart senses something is going to happen before it happens, and therefore, before the brain knows it.  I suspect, from the heart, signals go out to people.  They avoid or are attracted to us by what is going on with the heart.  A contemplative person is probably going to be more attractive to many people who are looking for such things as  compassion, love, acceptance and joy.

Now just because you "do" contemplative prayer does not seem to make a person contemplative.  Something more is needed.  I call it grace.  Be open to grace.  Get out of yourself, your plans, anxieties, fears, judgments and resentments.  It is the work of our life to do this every day.  It is hard and you may not find but a few who are trying like you.  But each little act of love counts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Loving Church

Whose job is it to make sure that the church is loving?  I think that it is mine.  If I spend all my time complaining about the pompous, romanized hierarchy who have made a mess of things, I forget my job description as part of the Body of Christ.  Because my church is imperfect, does mean that I walk away.  Jesus saw his religion as imperfect, and let the leaders know it, but yet he stayed and even gave his life for it and me, to boot.  He did say, "Follow me."  He said wine, not whine.  I tend to forget this and thus hide the church's face of love.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Wine Parish

A new pastor comes into a parish, "his parish" as he often calls it from day one.  He wants to introduce "new wine," that is, new ways of doing things, his style and brand of church.  Luke 5: 35-39 comes into play.  Introduce new wine into the old wineskins, the present congregation, will cause a bursting at the seams, an up raw. All is a mess.  Father  New Wine stays, and the old wine skins leave, or enough of them are replaced by new people who like the new ways, the new wine.  The Dispersed old guard go off and say, "The old is good." Old and New are a difficult but not impossible mix, but it never does mix if one guy holds all the power.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Wine, Old Wineskins

Not much will happen to me in the monastery if I keep to my usual routines that I have established elsewhere.  I remember one year I had a subscription to "Sports Illustrated."  That was not a good idea.  The use of internet to connect with what is going on in the outside world is not very conducive to "new wineskins." Really helpful info from the outside somehow always seems to get known within the enclosure.  I don't need to go looking for it.  People will send me an email asking, "Did you get my email?" as if I look at computer every day.  If you want to change, you might think of letting go of old habits, past ways of doing things.  Why?  To practice "letting go" is a way to becoming a new wineskin.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Haying With Foxes

Yesterday, I was raking the rows of hay before we baled them.  From my tractor seat I saw two red, long-tailed foxes hunting for groceries in the field.  It is easier for the foxes to shop when the hay has been cut into rows.  I realized that while I was simply harvesting hay, I was being helpful to someone else.  We are more connected in this world than we realize.  Now and again, God gives us moments of grace to see this connection.

Friday, September 7, 2012


"None" as in a time of day for prayer, not as in nothing, is a favorite of mine in the monastery.  It comes after our communal lunch, and after we have done the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen together.  This time of prayer has become for me a big "stop" sign.  I have been at work all morning, with some talking to coordinate the ranch work, or have been working on some project in my room.  Then there is lunch and dishes.  I have been busy in outward and communal activities.  "None" is the singing of the office that happens about 1:20 PM.  It only lasts about 10 or 12 minutes.  But it is a time to get quiet  again, to fill time with songs of praise, and to begin to reenter into an inner solitude that affects whatever I do in the afternoon.

I think we all get busy as the day goes along and it can become like a freight train that is hard to slow down, much less stop.  How do we find a way to just stop and get into some  interior focus and away from ego, projects, and all the anxieties that have piled up during the day?  Trust, that if you make any effort to stop and walk away for even a few moments, God will do the rest.  Sadly, maybe you don't even think this is a need.  I have found that people like me better, work better with me, and I with them, if I take a break from my outer world of noise and activity.  Oh my gosh!  The world might even survive without you running it for a few moments.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Carlo Martini

He just died at 85.  I did a workshop on his spirituality some years ago.  If you find any books by him, they are worth reading.  He was a Cardinal in the church, but not so officious, pompous, power driven or rule focused as many are today.  He was a mystic and a prince of the church.  Would that we had more of this combination.  I, of course, am a mystic, but a mere mortal Paulist.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Marriage: Objective or Dynamic?

It seems that many want to define marriage objectively.  One man and one woman say, "I do," and then have sex and you have instant marriage.  But I thought that my church said marriage is a sacrament, that is, a union that helps the couple grow in holiness.  Now if you don't grow in holiness much less stay together, was it a marriage? Fifty percent of these unions end in divorce.  Many others become "arrangements" and some just stay together out of desperation.  What is it to grow in holiness?  It seems it means to become like God.  Deuteronomy 32:4 says of God, "Just and right is He."  Abraham Heschel says that justice is giving each person their due, but that righteousness implies benevolence, kindness, and generosity.  If the marriage is self-centered, uncaring for the poor, the suffering, the downtrodden, then I suspect it is not all that holy.

Now look at the gay and lesbian couple who many say are not married because objectively, it is not a man and a woman.  But what if this union grows in holiness because of the union.  What if this couple cares  about the suffering in the world around them?  If we define marriage as a dynamic, organic, growing union that leads to holiness through the love of one for the other, then we would not so much widen the definition of marriage, but in fact narrow it.  There are far more heterosexual objective marriages, than there are holy unions.  Many same sex unions are quite holy.  But how would you know that if you shun all of "those people."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


"Oh, he didn't have much to drink.  It could have happened to anybody," is what you hear when someone"nice" gets caught.  Well, examine this drinking thing.  Say you are having a nice meal with friends and you like a glass of wine that complements the food.  You drink your wine with the dinner.  The wine brings out flavors or adds something to the palate.  If you drink the glass slowly, this works.  Now someone offers you a second glass, but the meal is pretty much winding down.  So you don't get any added pleasure as relates to the food, by having this second glass.  So why do we take the second glass?  To change our mood, and when you do that the wine becomes a drug.  Drugs are to change moods, not to complement food.  That is why you get picked up on a DUI when you have had "only two drinks," as we say.  You are now driving with an altered state, or changed mood, that may be so subtle that you don't notice it, until you hit someone or something.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Yankees Giants World Series

It won't happen.  The Yankees have no pitching and the Giants lack hitting.  If the Giants could have the Yankee hitters to go with the Giant pitching the Giants would win all the time or enough to become World Champions.  I would not have to suffer the anxiety of the Sports pages.  Every day would begin with happiness, or almost every day during the baseball season which is very long.  If my day were complete when only into my morning coffee, would I ever turn to God?  Thus the Yankees and Giants must be imperfect in order for me to have a cross and maybe even to bear it.

Some of you don't care about sports.  Well, you have saved yourself from some suffering, anxiety, struggle with hope and faith that the world is fair or even good.  I have learned from sports that imperfection is our way of life on this earth.  No one has it all.  So I deal with envy, jealousy, self-pity, whining, resentment, fear, and despair, just to name a few items.  "If only I had.." I would say to myself.  The truth is that I do have enough of whatever I need.  I have God.  I have a God who loves me.  I am always a winner.  Some days I don't see this.  My loss.  I am not the Yankees or the Giants.  I am God's beloved child and everyday can be winning the World Series, game seven, walk off home run.  Attitude, attention, patience and practice.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Restful Activity

Prayer of quiet is restful activity.  Stuff is going on, but I am at rest, at peace, you might say.  God is at work.  Well, that makes the prayer active.  I am trying to not be at work.  No books.  No concentrated thinking of ideas.  No plan making.  I am at work trying not to be at work!  In time, and intermittently, I do come to a deep place of rest and experience a Presence.  But if I show up to the practice every day, it increases my odds, no?  Anyhow, be patient.  God is always at work, resting within me.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Some celibates see their practice of this evangelical counsel as a means to be more free to serve.  Translate this into "being busy," in church work.  Such people simply burn out or turn to distractive activity to recoup the emptiness that develops within.  The reason for celibacy, as I see it, is for silence and solitude, so that we can learn to listen to God, away from our books, ideas and activities.  Now everyone needs some silence and solitude, though many do not know it and some are even scared by it.  Keep those iTunes playing in your earphones.  Plug in to noise.  A monastery is a place that tries to develop a lifestyle conducive to silence and solitude.  In the life lived in the world of media, television, print and computer info, and radio/gadgets, each of us needs to find a place and way to have some silence and solitude.  Will it drive you crazy?  At first, it will seem so, but in fact it is only God showing you how crazy your world of noise and activity already is.  In time, you will resonate with the quiet.  God made us for this too.