Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Stamps

A person enters the post office the day after Christmas.
"Do you have any Christmas stamps left?"
"No." says the clerk. "We only have Madonna and Child  stamps."
When did Madonna and child NOT be a Christmas stamp?  On the side of the clerk, she might have thought that the person asking was so secular as to be looking for stamps with Santa, reindeers or trees with lights.  How far away from Christ can Christmas get?

Sunday, December 30, 2012


I have a friend who writes. Writing is a way in which Alice is Alice.  To not write would be to lose something of her soul.  She writes far better than I, and even makes a little money at it to keep her in the simple lifestyle she can afford.  Alice lives in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  This the price she pays to be rich in silence and solitude, free of distractions and noise as do many a writer of spiritual vision.  People sometimes wonder why Jesus lived so long in a small town in the middle of nowhere, Nazareth, if he was the Son of God.  Well, I think my friend Alice might have the answer.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gave Her All

Rhonda is the music director and pretty much the liturgist for the parish where I presided at Christmas masses.  She has a beautiful voice.  I had three masses on Christmas Eve.  By the time I got to Mid-night mass, I wondered if I would fall asleep during one of the readings.  But I did not, nor did I give my all.  Rhonda gave her all, much like Mary did, to bring Christ into the world for us.  Rhonda had lost her beautiful voice by the time Mid-night mass came around.  She could not even talk.  That same voice, at the earlier masses that evening, had helped to bring a sense of Christ into my life and that of the congregation.  Without Mary and Rhonda, strong women, would there be a Jesus for us today?  The Church can ordain all the men it wants.  Without women, we are just a men's club with its frills and status.  That won't fill the manger.  No one comes to Christmas mass for an empty manger.  Thank you Rhonda, Mary, and the many women who give their all for Christ to be born into our lives day after day.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I was quickly checking my email on Christmas day, when I came upon an electronic card sent to me.  It was from someone I had not heard from in about 15 years.  It was a wow moment!  It came out of the blue.  She is someone I knew, and knew me, before I became "Father" to so many people.  It is precious to keep in my life the people who remind me of who I am without title or status or job.  Her card told me of how she saw me, rather than how I saw myself when I was younger, much younger.  She was thanking all those people who taught her how to love.  What a Christmas gift for me!  I too often dwell on my shortcomings.  I recalled myself as a bit self-imploded and selfish.  She remembers me as loving.  Do we not all need friends to help keep us in a balance about who we really are?  Maybe I am too close to myself to really know myself?  Anyway, the past can sometimes be a gift, depending on who brings it to me.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Breakfast Treat

What a treat I enjoyed on Christmas morning!  The pastor made me bacon and eggs breakfast.  In all my years here, I don't recall him ever making me breakfast, nor making himself bacon and eggs.  It was a very good breakfast too.  Christmas is a time when people seem to be at their best.  This is why it is especially tragic and shocking to hear about the evil and mayhem that some people do to one another on this day.  I wonder if people get very upset and deeply saddened at Christmas because they have such high expectations that are not met.  The joy of my breakfast treat is that it was so unexpected.  Was not the birth of Jesus similarly unexpected?  This is part of the joy, no? It is for me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Christmas Day I awoke at 10:00 AM.  This is late for me, but I had the Mid-night mass the evening before, as well as two other masses on Christmas Eve.  It took me to about noon to get myself together.  No prayer.  Just breakfast and getting dressed.  I wrote some thank you cards and walked to the post office to mail them.  No prayer yet.  I called relatives.  I went to visit friends and had a wonderful Christmas dinner, actually two dinners.  No prayer. I came home and went to bed.  "Oops," I said to God.  I had not prayed on this very holy day.  I thanked God for friends, for my priesthood, for his birth, and said tomorrow I will do better.  I hope on his birthday, God can cut me some slack.  At least I remembered that I forgot to pray.  I hope this counts for something.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Off Stage

You go to the theatre and see a wonderful acting performance.  The performers are so talented and so good at what they do.  You think that you could never do that.  Well, those actors spent a great deal more time off stage learning and practicing their craft.  At one time, they were inept. But they had two important qualities: to want to be an actor, and to be willing to practice and fail every day.  At first it was mostly failure as they began to learn their craft. Lots of mistakes were made and criticism was leveled by teachers.  But they did not give up.  What you see today on stage is the result.

The Gospel is only what you see on stage.  Most of the story takes place off stage where you do not hear about it.  On stage, Mary says, "Yes," to the angel Gabriel and then rushes off on a difficult journey to be helpful to her cousin Elizabeth who is old and pregnant for the first time.  At an earlier time in her life, Mary could not have done this.  But she had two things: the desire to do God's will, and the consistency to practice this in small things.  She failed some, at first, just like our actor friends.  But in time she got better at doing God's will and becoming kind and helpful.  What we see in the Gospel is the result.

It is the same with us.  Do we want to do God's will?  Yes?  Then practice doing little kindnesses at first.  You may mess up.  In time you will get better.  You need too things: the desire and the consistency of practice.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Options To Aloneness

When I ask someone why they are against gay unions, I am often told it is "because this is what the church teaches."  Well, the church teaches lots of stuff, such as being against Capital Punishment, but many Catholics believe in such a thing.  I wonder if the outsider, the heterosexual, has some other reason.  Regardless, isn't someone who cannot have a partner, a life long love, left with loneliness as the option?  I quote one gay person that might make you think.  He said, "I believed that aloneness was my nature as a gay person."  Then he met someone.  It brought him out of isolation.  He said, "By giving my heart to one, I could give my heart to others."  His relationship helped him become a more loving person to the larger world.  He is a Catholic by the way.  How many heterosexual couples trundle off to their gated communities, special neighborhoods, to protect themselves from the world out there?  Doesn't the word, "Catholic" have something to do with making whole, with bringing differences together?  It makes me think.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Visitation

Mary was a believer when the angel announced to her that she was to become the Mother of Jesus by the power of the Spirit.  That is a pretty big leap of faith.  Then she did something curious.  She took off from home to go be with her elderly, pregnant cousin, Elizabeth.  Why?  Well, I meet lots of people who have faith, of sorts, in dogma mostly, but who do only what suits them in good deeds department.  It allows for belief without real change of heart.  Why do you think there are so many people who call themselves believers, who would not go out of their way, or give up something for the sake of those who have much less, the truly poor.  Mary went out of her way, gave up her comforts, and familiar surroundings, to go and be of service to someone who was in need.  This really is the only way to bring Christ to birth in our secular, gated community world, is it not?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Manger

Why did God come as a baby, and not in power and majesty?  If God came in power would we not all be blown away and become believers?  Yes, but.  Would we change?  I suspect God knew more about out human nature than we did.  Have you never had a powerful experience, falling in love, a sunset/sunrise, an entertainment/cultural high moment, but in time you just returned to your old selfish self?  Change, to be ongoing, is hard and daily work.  We would like spiritual highs, but do not really want to let go of the things that give us pleasure or make us feel good/better.  We want to feel good, but not necessarily do good.  I know this for myself.  God came with a lack of power and control.  Maybe real change comes for me when I realize that, left to my own devices, left to myself, I have no real power to change for the better.  Bad habits are easy to do. That is why they are called habits.  A good habit starts with one great effort to reverse the bad, but the bad will predominate for a while.  We need lots of help to keep up that one good action on a daily basis.  I have found it to be so.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Abusive Language

The Vatican abuses the English language.  58% of priests in the USA who are English speaking as their first language, are of the opinion that the new translations of prayers for the mass are poorly written.  The Vatican simply does not understand the USA.  This is an example.  The translations are bad English.  You can argue about the words used.  My point is that the English is bad grammar.  You could have figured this out by the third or fourth grade.  I abuse any language that I do not understand.  All of us do.  But it would be silly to ask someone like me to come up with a translation into a language  that I do not fully understand.   Actually, the priests are the only ones having a problem with the prayers.  The laity have pretty much stopped listening at mass.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Motive?

It is assumed that Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary school, had a dispassionate disconnection with the children he killed.  He did not relate to them, nor have any compassion for them.  Interesting when I hear this.  What if he felt that the world was a miserable place from which he wanted to depart?  It held no hope for him.  His future would be one continual darkness.  Then he went to the school to spare the children having to grow up in this world.  We may never know what snapped in him.  But I would be slow to assume the motive, if there was one.  I have never walked in his shoes.  Regardless, it is all very tragic, and the children and adults are all still very dead.

But what if you lose hope?  Then ever so slowly you will become something or someone that you never thought you would become.  Hope gets us out of bed many a day.  Someone who is slowly destroying themselves is called "Hopeless" right?  A drinking alcoholic is called a "hopeless drunk."  There is a reason for that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Someone said that if you see the world as doomed to injustice and tragedy, then you might just go about doing your best to get all you can for yourself out of every situation. A lot of people were turned off by John the Baptist and Jesus because of the Hope that John and Jesus had for the world.  Hope says that if I stop being so self-centered, so into getting stuff for me, and become more giving, sharing, and connected to my fellow traveler in this life, things might go better.

Did your hope take a beating in the Sandy Hook massacre?  Rage and despair might rule for now.  Grief for a much longer time.  But we can only make the world a better place with hope.  That is why it is the virtue wedged between faith and love.  Ya gotta believe, then hope follows, and then love. As least it seems that way to me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Mess

God is with us in the mess.  This is the meaning of Incarnation.  God became human, a baby, with no more power than any other baby.  He came into a world full of evil.  He left the world and it was still full of evil.  I wanted God to change the world and make it free of evil.  Do I not wear a crucifix around my neck?  Make the sign of the cross?  God is present in my world, but there is still a lot of evil.  There is also a lot of mental disability too.  Maybe Herod suffered from such when he slaughtered all those babies in Bethlehem.  I rejoice that God is in the mess, but sad and frustrated that it is not all fixed up by God.  Maybe I am supposed to be part of the solution.  Well, I cannot fix mental illness, chemical imbalances in peoples' brains, but I can do what I can do, which is to love.  If I am not sure how to do that I can read Holy Scriptures in my faith or other religions to get some guide.  Then I will still face the cross.  But I will understand it better.  Without love, the cross makes one a sceptic.

Monday, December 17, 2012


The Third Sunday in Advent is supposed to have a theme of "rejoice" to it.  With the mass killing of children in a school this past Friday, it is a bit hard to rejoice.  Yet, it points out the kind of world into which Jesus was born.  He came with little protection.  he came into a world of much evil.  Did not Herod have slaughtered many children in Bethlehem in order to try and kill Jesus?  Children killed by mass crazed people are called "Holy Innocents."  The children killed last Friday are innocent and holy as children.  Jesus came to share the mess of our dangerous lives.  He did not come with power and authority.  He suffered because he would love in the midst of our mess and the evil we do to one another.

Legislators will talk about gun control for awhile, but what I can do more immediately, is make sure that I am loving at the same time that I am grieving.  John the Baptist encouraged people to be more just and kinder to one another as a first step to repentance.  I wonder when love stopped working in the life of the young man?  When did murder of innocent children become the solution?  We are not born this way.  Something happens along the way.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Baptist, A Warm Fuzzy

John the Baptist seems to me to be less demanding than Jesus, but we seem to think of Jesus as being more cuddly.  Jesus said, "Sell all you have and come follow me."  Not much wiggle room there.  But John did not say that to tax collectors and soldiers, who were thought to be in sinful professions by the people.  He told the tax collectors to limit what they collected.  They could still be tax collectors and did not have to follow him.  They would become good examples of repentant people waiting for the kingdom.  To the soldiers, John said be satisfied with their wages and not practice extortion.  They could still be soldiers.  People can still live in the world, but in John's view those who have more will have less, and those who have less will have more.  It kind of equals things out, a little bit like a reformed tax code might be in the USA today.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Shooter

I don't know what brings someone to go into a school and kill a lot of people.  There may be an immediate reason, that is, some issue at hand.  But why solve the issue with a gun?  We seem to make a lot of mindless movies and games for young people that have war, violence and killing on a massive scale.  I cannot prove that one has to do with the other.  I am just sayin'.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Travelin' Man

Well, I am back in town, and back in the USA.  I found Toronto to be quite an international city.  Everyone seemed to speak more than one language.  Cultures lived side by side.  People did not seem to have an edge about their ethnic culture being better than or the dominant culture.  The parish where I worked had masses in English and Italian.  Most parishes seemed to have masses in more than one language.  I ate food of which I had not known, or had known but never enjoyed the flavor and texture so much. But I did not run or go to a gym.  Well, I guess nothing is perfect, heh?  "Heh" is a common word in Canada.  Boulder, Colorado gets a lot more days of sun in the winter, than Toronto.  Every place has its positives, I hope.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I get confused here and lost. Temperature is measured in centigrade and speed limits in kilometers. I spend very little time in Canada. As I am here longer, I begin to figure it out. I become less confused or lost.  Is it not the same with prayer?  Why, if you spend so little time there, do you expect it to be clear and comfortable. Rather it becomes more like a foreign country than "home."  But stay there in prayer and wait, like a lost sheep.  God will find you. Prayer for the newcomer, the explorer, is a place to be found.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More Grace

At the retreat house where I gave a talk, I met the director.  He was in the seminary with me 36 years ago.  I am trying to expand the venues where I can get some exposure for my work.  He told me to send him some flyers of what I had done.  The retreat house is in the suburbs about 40 miles from San Francisco.  It isa wonderful place to teach for me because it would allow me to talk to a different audience than I get in San Francisco.  Sometimes, when you think things are going nowhere, doesn't something wonderful pop up into your life?  Grace.  I have found it so.

Monday, December 10, 2012


I gave a Advent Day of Prayer/Reflection to priests in the Archdiocese of San Francisco yesterday.  32 priests, waiting to see what this guy they never heard of had to say.  I was nervous.  But I gave it a go.  Grace worked, because I don't know where some of the stuff a said came from, or how it came out so logically and fit together.  The priests seemed to listen.  Fortunately, there was a lunch, so no one left.  Food always helps to get people and keep them.  God had me do what God wanted, I think.  The day went well, but I would find myself thinking, "Why am I doing this?  I struggle so much myself."  Anyway, the bishop said the check is in the mail.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Never Knew You

An old friend of mine came to mass this past weekend but did not come up to me and say hello.  We had not seen one another in years, but we spent time together when we were in seminary.  So I only found out later that he had been at the mass in which I presided and preached.  What I found out is that he did not come up to the priest because he did not know him.  From my past, we were friends.  From his past, I was a stranger.  Besides being a reminder of how forgettable I am, it made me think of my relationship with God.  From my side, God and I are friends.  I assume that God's side is the same as mine.  But if I spend blocks of time away from God, my prayer life, might I not hear, "I never knew you."  Why do we assume that with absence, and neglect, our God connect remains the same?  Friends can forget me, but God, don't forget me!  For this, I might be a wee bit responsible on a daily basis.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


My priesthood is not going according to my plans.  Of course, my plans are grandiose.  So my plans ought never to work out.  Parents have plans that their children will be happy.  What will that look like?  The child will have a spouse, healthy children, career and home.  But I know people who have all of that and are not happy at all.  Happiness is not about things, having things, for many of us.  At Christmas some of us try and make people happy with things.  I know people who get lots of things and they are not happy.  Someone told me happiness is an inside job.  I resist this.  Maybe that is why I am not getting my way or my plans to work out.  If I attend to my spiritual work, my soul, maybe I will have a new plan?  Might it be less grandiose, less about me, less about things?  One can only try this "inside job" and see.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chicken Soup

I am desperate for homemade chicken soup.  I have a friend in Boulder, Colorado who makes soup to cure my cold.  But I am 1000 miles away, and sick.  I have no energy and so on.  We all know this feeling.  I know the illness and I know the cure.  I never hunger for the soup until I get ill.  Why do I have to get spiritually ill before I hunger for prayer?   I think of prayer as optional, or part of my bucket list some days.  Then I feel a sickness in my soul.  It is a hunger for the Presence that I have been ignoring.  I have been starving my soul, and now it has gone on the fritz.  I got sick because I was trying to do too much.  When I try and do too much is when I am most likely to be skipping prayer.  Do less.  Pray more.  Everything in moderation is what I recall.  I have to get sick to recall the cure.  Where is my chicken soup!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


One thing that gives us a sense of equality, that brings people together, is disaster.  When there is an earthquake everyone in the area is affected one way or another.  People tend to reach out to help one another.  Before disaster, people lived in their own separate worlds.  Scripture says in Luke 21 that you cannot pray your way out of an earthquake.  If you live on the platelet fault then you will be in an earthquake when the platelets shift. Good and bad alike, rich and poor, old and young are all in the same mess.  Do some of us really have to have an ecological or geophysical disaster before we realize that we are all equal?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


In the nursing facility where I work, the residents all have stories of personal history.  These stories are precious, but remained a buried treasure until I ask a question, such as "Tell me about that picture on your wall."  Then a life unfolds like an onion being peeled.  People feel more loved and important when someone wants to hear their stories of life.  Ultimately, we all die alone, but we do not have to die lonely, with a cell phone in our hand and no one to call.  I thought I was a teacher, but few seem to come to listen to me anymore.  Maybe I am called now to be more of a listener, an audience of one for the resident in the care facility.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Too Much?

For three days, San Francisco was pounded with rain and wind.  We had a water shortage earlier this year.  That problem is now behind us.  We have too much water and the damage is widespread.  There were lots of prayers for water.  They must have gotten stuck in God's inbox and only recently received attention.  What we really want God to do is give us everything in moderation, and in a timely fashion, including nice weather wherever we go on vacation.  Or, let the blizzard come to the ski resort, but just before we get there for the fresh powder.  So, are not our prayers rather selfish at times?  And fantasy land?  I mean, Mother Nature does not work only in the moderation mode.  I live in this wold, not fantasy world.  I need acceptance.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brain Damage

A friend of mine is 13 weeks pregnant with a baby that seems to have brain damage such that it might not live very long after birth and might suffer a lot.  This is how the doctor presents the case, the doctor who says to abort, in so many words.  This is one solution but not one that might transform the Mother into all she is called to be.

Jesus showed that even for God, life is suffering.  Without the cross he would have simply been Jesus from Nazareth, healer, wisdom figure, visionary.  Is it not so, that this child in the womb is Christ present in an unexpected disguise?  If the Mother brings the child to term, and it lives for however long, might not the parents be led to become even more compassionate, patient, accepting than they had ever been?  Is this not being more Christlike?  Are we not called to be Christ in the world? We don't get to choose the circumstances of how we grow.  Technology today is trying to find ways to be rid of suffering, especially unnecessary suffering.  Imperfect babies in the womb are seen as "unnecessary suffering" by some.  Real life is suffering.  As least it seems so to me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Seems that Jesus called four fishermen all at the same time.  Peter and Andrew were brothers as were John and James.  The first four called.  They dropped everything to follow Jesus.  Later,  Jesus raises Jairus' daughter with Peter, James and John called in.  At the Transfiguration, the same three for that special event.  What happened to poor Andrew?  Did he get dumped?  Who knows.  Anyway, he could have complained, dropped out, gotten resentful, been disfunctional in the group.  Or he could surrender to whatever God's plan might be for him.  Seems Andrew stayed with the program even though he was no longer included with his brother and friends from the other fishing boat.  When you feel ignored, slighted, not included, relationships change, what do you do?  Don't we say, "Thy will be done" in the Lord's Prayer? I believe that God has a plan for me.  It just may not be my plan.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Thoughts

Recently, I overheard someone talking about a situation, that if it happens, I will lose some work that I love.  My first thought was, "It will happen, and why does God hate me?"  I have come to learn that my first thought can be crazy thinking when I might lose something I want.  I recognize it as crazy thinking and wait for the second or third thought.  Eventually, if I am spiritually fit, the thought comes that all is in God's hands. Turn my life over to God.  God has a plan.  Today, it worked. I am spiritually fit.  But I have to do stuff everyday to stay fit.  With me, it is not a natural way of life.  It is more of a miracle!