Friday, November 30, 2012


I am old and out of it in relation to modern culture, so I don't get the body paint on women.  I am sure that they are saying something on the outside about something on the inside, but I don't get it.  Well, they are not doing it for me anyway.  But God might be open to this because in the Book of Revelation, 144,000 people seem to have signage on their foreheads.  This I do get.  The outside sign is to reveal something about the inside life.  These ones have been faithful to the life changes to which God called them.  Remember the poor widow who put everything she had, two small coins, into the collection basket in the gospel of Luke?  Before that she was just another poor woman with no husband.  Her gesture revealed her relationship with God.  She was all in.  Now what do you do on the outside that reveals your relationship with God?  Lets examine my day.  I went running. I ate chocolate.  I shopped.  Not much signage here!  And Advent is coming.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hurry Not

I have found a way to be at peace and enjoy my time, when driving on the streets of San Francisco.  Never be in a hurry.  In a car or on a bus, this town is not meant to get from one place to another quickly.  I give myself plenty of time to get where I have to go.  This is key.  I plan.  I plan because life is such a mess if I do not.  I would get all stressed, upset, whining and resentful.  I don't want to go there.  It is a bad place for me. Because I am not in a rush, when I get somewhere, I am pleasant and peaceful.  I am ready to be of service or enjoy an event.  

With prayer, if I do not leave some block of time, the prayer is rushed rather than peaceful or open to listening to God.  The monastery always leaves time each day specifically for prayer.  You fill that time up with other projects at your own peril.  You won't last as a monk.  I rarely recover time later in the day.  Start out in a frenzy of activity and I have set the pace for the day.  The frenzy is about fear, ego, or self-image, all nonsense.  I would rather tell someone I did not do something than tell God at night that I ditched the prayer for whatever.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I was in the sacristy of a big Cathedral church and wanted to go to the parish office which was below the church.  So I went through a door and down a flight of stairs out another door, which left me in an open corridor one level up from the parking lot.  I turned to go back inside but the door did not open to let me back inside.  All the doors on that outdoor corridor were locked.  I was stuck.  I was locked out but yet not able to go anywhere.  Strange that the building security leaves one stranded, yet imprisoned.

I guess that when a church wants to keep you out, or get you out, it can make the process very unpleasant and one that leaves you feeling a bit helpless.  Someone did wander along who allowed me back into the world of being on the inside.  For some people, a simple key is not enough to get back in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sacred Dishes

In the Denver Archdiocese it seems that only ordained people can "purify" the cups and plates used in holy communion.  Purify means to clean them after communion.  Some of the ordained take a painstakingly long time to do this.  It gives the congregation, the ones that are not out the door yet, time for any number of things besides singing songs, giving thanks, or reading War and Peace.  Today, I said mass at the Cathedral in another Diocese.  The Cathedral is the Bishops church.  After communion, the lay communion minister purified the cup right there next to the altar.  What a refreshing idea!  If the lay person can drink from the cup, why not clean in out as well?

Monday, November 26, 2012


The ruler who condemned Jesus to be crucified was named Pilate.  The focus of his rule was convenience.  He wanted power and control and security for the sake of convenience.  He wanted his day to go according to his plans.  Jesus was not on the docket.  But here Jesus is, in front of Pilate.  What to do?  If Pilate were into justice, he might not have sent Jesus to be executed.  The cross was the easier, quicker way for Pilate, not so much for Jesus.

Jesus is a ruler too.  His rule is focused on love for others.  This is most inconvenient, as he will find out from the whipping and the cross.  Pilate takes.  Jesus gives.  One is self-imploded and the other is self-surrendering, self-giving.  The world of Pilate and Jesus is a mess.  Pilate just wants to get through each day with as little hassle as possible.  Jesus wants to love the mess.  Are you like Pilate? No, you say?  Do you not fib a little, cheat a bit, take more than is fair, ignore others, act unkindly, all to get through the day or the moment conveniently?  People, places and things are truly inconvenient at times, even a burden.  That is why love is called, "bearing your cross."  It is not Hollywood movie love.  It is not a cartoon.  Love or convenience is the choice.  What to do?  It depends on whether or not you want to be transformed, or at least have a sober day!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Check Points

One moment you are saying good bye to a loved one at the airport.  The next moment you are dealing with security check points inside the terminal.  All those good feelings of love and sadness of parting are put onto a back burner as you face the daunting task of getting to your plane.  Prayer can be like that.  You have a wonderful experience of love in prayer, a sense of intimacy, and then you go out to encounter daily life.  The intimacy can be erased from the heart, to be replaced with exasperation at people, places and things.  Would it not be so much worse without the prayer?  A spiritual connection can give us a buffer, an energy, to not go crazy with all that we cannot control.  After all, we are not in the world to control it but to love it.  Some days are harder than others.  We never know which day will be more difficult, so the cultivation of daily prayer is all the ore important.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hidden Neighborhoods

One Republican said they thought they had the votes in their district and then all of a sudden all these blacks showed up.  They did not even know they existed in that district. Why would they know?  It is common for many of us to hang out with people like ourselves more or less.  The poorer people live in neighborhoods we don't even know exist because we never have to pass through them.  In Boulder, Colorado I might get a call to go and anoint someone at an address I never heard of.  I drive out to it and find a whole neighborhood of poor people, immigrants, people of color, who I did not even know lived there.  Years ago, as a new priest, I lived in Houston.  I thought I knew who lived in the parish.  That is until we began a Spanish mass, and then all these undocumented Mexicans began to show up.  These people lived right under my nose and I did not even know it.  One of the blessings of my priesthood is that it gets me out of my too small world that most of us live in.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Broke Are We?

When the bishops make an appeal for money for the diocese they talk about how money is tight for them, with so many needs plus lawsuits.  Then I find out that the bishops are spending a couple of million $$$ because they are against gay marriage.  So how broke are we?  I doubt that you will ever see a line item in the budget or balance sheet that says how much they spent on fighting gay marriage.  I thought there was some talk about transparency.  A monarchical structure sees no reason to be transparent.

I heard about the "Do the Math," idea for dealing with bad air and global warming.  Big oil won't budge.  It is not in their interest.  What is everyone went into their portfolio and sold off their big oil stuck.  Soon the buyers are out of the market.  Stock plunges.  Those who have always pay attention when they feel their "having" is getting smaller.  Think about it.  Someone wants your money?  Find out what they are doing with it.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Today is Thanksgiving.  Don't isolate.  If your mind tells you it is a good idea to stay home alone on this day, remember that this might be the opinion of a crazy person.  If you have no place to go, then plan to be of service.  What a concept.  Go and be useful to someone else.  Remember that you are already depressed about there being no more Hostess Twinkies.  It is your fault too because you got health conscious and stopped buying them.  Now they are extinct.  It is the first extinct thing that really bothers me.  You say you never ate a Hostess anything?  What a boring childhood of healthy living!  Anyway, we need to be thankful that we are able to outlast Hostess products.  Happy Thanksgiving.  You are still here.  God must have a plan for you.  I don't think that isolation is part of it today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I am doing my laundry now.  Yes, a guru like me has to do his laundry.  An outrage, I know.  But it has to be done once a week.  There are some things I have to do every day just like any other human being.  These are daily, weekly cycles that keep life in balance.  Why is prayer not part of this cycle?  When did it become optional, like going to a play or planting some flowers?  We feed and clean our bodies on a regular basis.  Does not the soul need to be fed and cleansed on a daily basis?  The stomach complains louder and sooner than the soul, that it needs/wants feeding.  The darkness likes it when our spiritual lives become paying attention to the squeaky wheel.  By the time the ignored soul complains, the whole wagon has fallen apart.  I find that if I feed the soul before the body, my day seems to go better or at least I can deal better with the unexpected stuff that pops up.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Routines can help or hurt us.  How will we know which it is?  Love.  Are you a more loving person with your routines?  If you snap, "Leave me alone, I have to do my prayers/spiritual reading/meditation," then I suspect this is a routine that needs a change. A good routine makes us more loving, kind and compassionate.  Many people go to church frequently, but their demeanor does not seem to improve.  Jesus says that in the time of Noah, just before the flood, people were into their routines of eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.  At the time of Lot, just before the destruction of Sodom, people were buying, selling, planting, building, eating and drinking.  Everyone was into their routines except Noah and Lot.  They were open to listening to God and to dropping their routines.  Lot's wife tried, but then she looked back.  She missed her "stuff."  Moving is an example of letting go.  You get rid of stuff.  Old stuff keeps us in routines.  God may have plans outside our routines.  Try something new.  It might awaken you.  If it does not make you a better person, you can always return to your routines.

Monday, November 19, 2012

End Times

If you believe in the Mayan calendar, you can skip Christmas planning and gift shopping.  The Mayans believe the world ends on December 21, this year.  Jesus talks about the end, as do the prophets and Daniel in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Why all this interest in the end times?  I think it is to embarrass us.  What?  Well, you say to yourself, "If I know when the end is coming, I will shape up my life and be ready."  Think about it.  Fear won't transform anyone.  If you have had a bad habit, called a vice, for most of your life, it won't go away just because you think the world is coming to an end.  You might be good for a few days, a week, but habits are habits.  They are deep rooted.  

So what to do?  Be embarrassed that you cannot change, that you are stuck.  There is a light here.  You are now at the door of humility.  If you can say, "Lord, without your help, I cannot change," then you can open that door.  It is the way to holiness.  The saints tell us this.  They know that they have bad habits, and they are saints.  Humility opens us to grace, God's free gift of healing and transforming love.  In summary, the road to holiness is embarrassment to humility to grace.  Or maybe you would prefer the self-help books.  Anything but faith or powerlessness, huh?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Part Time Growth

In slavery or "servanthood" as the gospel calls them, there were field hands and house slaves.  The work did not mix.  Field hands did not do kitchen work and house slaves did not dig in the dirt.  So the field hand comes inside after doing his "dutiful work" in the fields and expects to get fed.  "I did my job. Now I am owed.  Someone feed me."  Well, he gets asked to feed the master.  He does not see this as his job, but he is a slave, and so does it.  I bet his attitude was in need of some recovery.

Is it not this way in spiritual growth?  We decide what is "enough" work in this area each day.  Then we want to do something else.  Give God some time but no surprise requests, please.  The surprises, out of our control, is when the real growth begins.  The other stuff was for maintenance.  I think of friends in recovery who go to meetings, pray, read recovery stuff and think they are growing holy by the minute.  Big ego runs into unexpected phone call asking for help.  This really is God calling in the voice of a suffering human being.  Oh, you are too tired from all your good work for the day?  Remember Jesus in the Garden scene?  "Stay awake and pray with me,"  he asks.  Jesus is distraught.  His buddies go to sleep.  You never know when your Gethsemene request for help will come along.  It never comes on my schedule.  God does me like that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ten Lepers

Ten lepers ask Jesus to fix them.  He cures them of leprosy.  Only one comes back to say thank you.  The other nine return to society with all their other character defects in toe.  They have clean skin, but that is about it.  All other faults, noted by ingratitude, stay with them.  You think you are different?  When you woke up this morning, did you start out with gratitude for something, such as being alive?  Or was it just a lot of "suffering" that would litter your day, in your imagination?  I guarantee, you wake up without a gratitude prayer, you will surely have a lousy day.  According to the bible research, about 90% of us do this.  We look good on the outside, but are a mess within.  Gratitude changes this.  I don't even get out of bed before I thank God for the bed, the room, a work I have, not being in trouble, a roof over my head, and the health that I do have.  I say thank you for faith, for God and other stuff that are miracles in my life.  After this, it is hard to get into whining, and I am a whiner.  With gratitude, I can make it all the way to midday before whining.  Another gratitude prayer can frequently change the whining jag.  At least I have found it to be so.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Memo To Newly Ordained

Young diocesan priests are encouraged in the seminary to hammer away on sex issues in homilies.  Talk about abortion and contraception regardless of the gospel connection.  Generally, the people who attend English speaking mass are elderly.  These are not their everyday issues.  Now the bishops have come out with a new document that says priest should connect the Sunday homily with the daily lives of the people.  Duh!  I hope the young guys get the memo.  We religious learned this in "Preaching 101."

On the other hand, how does one learn about the daily lives of the people in the pew?  Listen? Dialogue?  Well, if the priest is taught that the people are really stupid about all things churchy, his attitude for listening and dialogue is somewhat compromised, you would think?  One can only hope.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Picking Losers

Well, the Republicans are talking about having picked candidates that turned out to be mediocre losers.  Why these picks?  Who picked?  Seems that in many places there was a top down approach.  The Central Command of the Party picked candidates that would hue to the party line on issues.  It was a top down approach.  Any organization that is run  like a pyramid, from the top, wants underlinings that follow the party line.  No original thinkers need apply.  No smart mavericks need apply.  So who is left to pick?  Followers?  People who want to be told what to do and say?  People who want to get ahead in the chain up the pyramid?  Would this not also allow for corruption, the inability to change, to grow within the organization?  The competitiveness of business is some corrective on all of this.  How many monarchies are still around and doing well?  A few, very few.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Black Friday

It seems that the fix for the economy comes down to people going out to spend money they do not have on gifts that no one really needs.  Such mediocrity.  There is another Friday called "Good."  It is about someone who does not have much, giving what he has, for the sake of people who really need it.  Is it not sad that the people getting the store gifts will be happy, for a little while, while those getting the other Gift, don't really think they need it?  I'll take a pass on Black Friday and wait for the other Friday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Disappearance

On election night I was struck by the difference in the makeup of the Republican and Democratic crowds at their election headquarters. The Dems were all kinds of colors and ethnicities.  The Republicans were pretty much white people.  The Republicans are slowly running out of white people.  Obama has not had a very good four years but he won.  He figured out the demographics and how to reach non-white people and get them to the poles.  The white republicans basically talk to other white people.  They don't seem to be having very many white babies to replace themselves.  Now the Republicans won't go away.  They will figure it out down the road.

What it reminds me of is my church.  Many parishes are attended by white people, old white people, by and large.  There are a few places like Houston that are still packing them in.  But who will replace these old white people?  Probably, the Hispanic community will replace them.  To whom are the bishops talking?   Few speak Spanish.  When they do, they talk in rules and orthodox belief.  This is not much of a connect.  Obama probably got a lot of Catholic votes because he appealed to what many Catholics felt was important to them.  The bishops speak about what is important to the Vatican.  The Catholic church won't go away, but it will change.  It is run by the Holy Spirit.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Safety of Mediocrity

Clear Answers

Why do so many Catholics seem to gravitate toward and feel so comfortable with a Church that has clear and certain answers?  What is this love of unchanging sameness and certainty?  I think that old people like it because they fear death and young people like it because they fear life.  Death is about the unknown, the unexperienced, and it can seem scary.  Having clear answers and certainty about the other side of death, the God who awaits us, gives the elderly some solace.  To enter into the silence and solitude of the unknown in contemplation is not much solace for these people.

The young fear life, full of relationships, love that can be crushed, jobs that can be lost.  Life for these people is so full of uncertainty.  Answers give them certainty and set boundaries about who is right and wrong.  The young want a secure place in an insecure world.  Somehow, catechism truth will let them sleep better at night.  But truth is not a thing.  It is a relationship.  Did not Pilate ask Jesus, "What is Truth?"  The answer was Silence.  You want truth?  Enter into silence and solitude before you pick up that theology book.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


In a Rilke poem, "The Buddha in Glory," he says that there are a billion stars spinning in the night.  It is awesome on a clear night.  I am captivated by the night sky when I get outside the city lights.  Rilke reminds me in the same poem that there is a presence in me that will outlive all those stars.  Awesome!  So why do I pay so little attention to the awesome within, and focus so much on the temporary around me?  Humm.  Misguided priorities, you think?  How about your priorities?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Love The Imperfection

Why is it that I do not love my neighbor as myself?  Well, my neighbor and I are not perfect enough for me.  I get upset with myself for not doing better, being better, accomplishing more, getting holier.  I accuse myself for all my faults, and then just spend energy trying to get perfect.  My neighbor is full of faults too.  I recognize their faults, and don't care much for my neighbor.   I am not comfortable loving imperfection. Maybe this is why Jesus said to love my neighbor as myself.  He knows the human condition.  If we don't accept ourselves with our faults, love ourselves with our imperfections, short-comings and foibles, we won't love our neighbor.  Resentment never made anyone better.  How to escape this conundrum?  Maybe this is why God became human, to show me how to love imperfect people.  He did choose a motley group as his inner circle did he not?  Love the human, not the fantasy perfect.  No fantasy ever picked up a cross.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Standard Time

One night a year I need to remember to turn my clock back one hour.  I write notes to myself and put them around my room.  Why?  Because I have many gods upon which I focus my attention.  I have my computer god, my exercise god, my shopping god, my projects god, and probably some others.  So my focus is spread around.  There is really no focus in some sense.  Thus, the notes remind me to turn my clock back one hour each fall.  I do this because if I forget, the next day will be a mess.

Jesus says the most important focus of my life should be to love the One God with all that I have and to love my neighbor as myself.  Many days, I forget this.  And the next day starts out a mess.  See, I have more than one god.  I get too busy to pray, to love, be kind to others who have faults just like me.  Maybe I need to write notes around my room reminding me to keep the one commandment that Jesus said is above all others.  But even the notes would not eliminate all the gods in my life.  How many gods do you have?

Thursday, November 8, 2012


As in a Wisdom book, Sirach, the soul is like a flower.  Prayer is the opening of the petals, to praise God with sweet perfume, and then to receive nourishment from God so that the soul might blossom into all its beauty.  When we skip prayer, meditation, quiet time with God, we stay closed up.  We turn in upon ourselves, like a tight-fisted person.  We disconnect from the world around us.  I have found it true for me, that when I skip prayer, I am on the road to ego-centeredness, but I fool myself by calling it being busy doing stuff, even helping others.  I only know that I have my priorities wrong at the end of the day when I feel so dry, empty and dull.  Love energizes!  Open your petals first.  Then be of service.  The soul is always a flower.  Water it with prayer.  Why become a dried up "doer" of tasks?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Christ was always going ahead, calling people to follow.  Even when he Rose, he came and then went.  He invited his disciples to "Go" and bring people together who were living in differences.  "Baptize the whole world" was the phrase.  They were supposed to go into the world and bring about something new.  The disciples were energized by the energy of the Risen Jesus.  There was not trying to get back to a past.  He did not speak  about Adam or Paradise before the Fall.  His followers proclaimed him as Risen, and that was the energy, the vision for them to be loving across previous Jewish-Gentile boundaries.  

What I see today is a tired effort to get back to the past, one that separates and divides, one that think the world is evil.  More obedience to rules and orthodoxy will be the way to do it.  This will be about as successful as us old runners trying to get back to the way we ran when we were young.  Such runners are delusional. My life seems to be running with delusional runners and working with delusional church people.  But I am committed to both.  Loyalty is difficult at times.  I can get left behind. It can be lonely running in the back of the pack.  It can be lonely living with a vision for a new future not an old past.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I think of the Risen Christ as Energy reformed.  Say what?  Well, Jesus dies and get buried.  With death, a self-surrendering death, in love for all people, a new unifying force of energy comes forth from the dead Jesus.  He is raised, still a body that eats food and can be seen, but somehow free of some previous limitations.  Now he is a unifying force of Love that can energize those who come into contact with him, and love him in return.

How does this work?  Look at the Road to Emmaus story.  "Were not our hearts on fire," they said, when they recognized Jesus, now Risen.  Jesus could begin a chain of energy transference, that is, live within and among his disciples if they would stop clinging to his body as they knew it, so he Ascended to heaven.  Then he came as Spirit at Pentecost.  Suddenly, the cowards had courage and could speak many languages.  The Risen Christ is a unifying force that energizes us if we let it.

Don't you remember when you first fell in love?  You had lots of energy.  You could stay up all night talking with your beloved.  Christ is what unifies and energizes us through his love for us and then our love for others.  When we focus on creeds and orthodoxy, we divide and separate.  Christ is a force for all religions.

Monday, November 5, 2012


When someone I love kills themselves, I think that I could have done more or done other, to prevent it.  I blame myself for missing something.  This happens especially when that person did a lot of good things.  We have hopes and expectations even, that the future will be good.  Do you really feel you could have done more for the skid row fellow who drinks himself to death?  You cut your losses there a long time ago.  No, it is the person who gives us hope at times, that bothers us the most.  Love is energized by hope.  

But we all have our demons.  We all have ways of killing ourselves slowly over time.  We call it a miserable life and it is always someone's or something's fault.  "If only," we say.  Every day that I skip my prayer, or act unkindly, selfishly toward others, is  day in which I am killing myself.  My demons are having a good run that day.  Why do I live like that?  Is there anyone else to blame for not fixing me?  Is anyone else at fault?  We can blame outside forces for bad things that happen, like losing a job, or partner/friend, but who to blame when we decide to destroy ourselves?  No one.  People who blame themselves for others' decisions to end it all, are living the delusion of omnipotence.  We can all get help to face our demons, but it is only help.  Sometimes, the demons win.  But God loves us even then.  The demons win a around.  God wins the battle for our soul.  Guilt is no good.  Grief for a loved one no longer in skin, makes more sense and is the road to healing for the loving survivors.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012


The word "church" comes from a Greek word, "ecclesia" which means "those called out."    The church was the people called to go out into the world to be "Whole-Makers."  Live your life in such a way, as Jesus preached, so as to bring all people together into some unifying identity.  What happened?

Well, we got into arguments about orthodoxy, creed and heresy.  With Constantine we began to build buildings into which we went to worship.  Worship is good.  But we called the building "church," and when we came out we did bad things and said bad things to those who did not agree with us, and who did not go into the building as orthodoxy would warrant.  We wrote catechisms and taught them.  The Gospel was in there, but we emphasized creedal theology and not the Sermon on the Mount.    

Saturday, November 3, 2012


The word "Catholic" means, "throughout-the-whole.  Think of leaven.  Leaven is kneaded throughout the bread, slowly, patiently, so that the stuff of bread can become all that it is supposed to be.  Leaven works on the stuff of flour, water, salt, sugar, and makes it something that it was not, and yet has all the ingredients of what it was before leaven worked on it.  BUT THE BREAD DOES NOT BECOME LEAVEN.

So the Catholic is one who leavens the world to become all that God made the world to be, but the Catholic does not try to make the world Catholic.  Jesus taught a quality of life filled with love and deeper notion of Holy Presence who he called Abba.  Evangelization is not about making everyone Catholic or correct believers in creed.  It is about making a new person from the old.  It is called transformation.  Catholics are "Whole-Makers."  It sure beats Inquisition and Crusade!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Sea

We think that we can control nature.  Build stuff and create boundaries that separate our dry land from the water.  Even God did that in creation, separated the land from the sea.  Seems the ocean did not get the memo, nor reads the Book of Genesis.  Now and again the ocean remembers its beginnings, when there was no land to hold it back, and no human barriers either.  We humans, with our pride and sense of centrality in the spheres, build our monuments to progress, rip up the land for food and fuel, among other things.  We deal in permanence.  Grandiosity and invention replaces humility, a sense of our smallness, our powerlessness.  Now and again the sea says, "What are you doing in my way Manhattan?"  Before there was Manhattan, there was the sea.  Life is kind of fragile, no?  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

White Gloves

Think of a group of little old ladies who get together for afternoon high tea.  We have high tea in San Francisco.  There conversations gets focused on whether they should wear only white gloves or would grey ones be allowed as well.  Meanwhile, there is an earthquake going on outside.  The ladies are oblivious.  Strange?

Well, the hierarchy met in Rome and decided that we can only use the title, "Lamb of God,"  when we come to the fraction rite at mass.  Other titles that refer to Jesus, can no longer be used.  Think about it.