Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sharp Knife

I reach into the kitchen drawer for a sharp knife. I go to the section where the sharp knives are and pick out one of them. It looks sharp. It cuts nothing. Worthless. I get upset. Why? This certainly is not the first time a so called "sharp knife" is useless.  The question is rather why do I continue to expect all such knives to behave thus and so? Idiot priests are forever putting such knives into the dishwasher. Bogus knives are forever"on sale."  I would have a better day by lowering my expectations are enjoying surprises when a knife truly cuts sharply.

Priests are like dull knives that appear sharp. We get upset that they look like priests but don't deliver. Remember that these are the same guys that put sharp knives into the dishwasher and dull them. Lower your expectations. Enjoy surprise when you run into a really sharp priest, or minister, or rabbi for that matter.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Latino Carholics

Why should I learn Spanish and minister to this Latino brand of Catholic? Well, the assumption is that I was here first, this is English speaking America, and if you want to live here, get with the program.  Problem. I was not here first. Colorado was at one time Mexico. The Catholic Church was here and it spoke Spanish, and made a big deal of fiesta and the Virgin of Guadalupe. We took this land, call it ours, took away prep retry of Mexicans, and fave it to the white pioneers. Our history said little about the existence of this Mexican church and landowning Mexicans. Read "Latino Catholicism" by Timothy Matovina.  Only 328 pages.

Silver Lining

With patience, we can sometimes see a silver lining. My flight from Florida to Tennessee was cancelled.  I did not find out until I got to the airport. All my plans to meet people are floating around in the stormy air over the Eastern USA.  Wait! If I can ever escape this airport, I get another day in beautiful Vero Beach and one less day in dreary Knoxville weather. Now, sitting by the pool, missing my friends.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Temple of Silence

This is one way to describe a Trappist Monastery. It is not that people never talk, but rather that the flow of life is such that talking is minimalized. This includes computer time and cell phones. Monks can live in close proximity to one another, but without any need to talk. The jobs are routine. Community is not about talking together, but rather, praying together in silence, song, or Eucharist. All this will take you somewhere. Many of us would rather forego the journey. Young people would say, "There is nothing to do." Others would say it is a waste of time. For me, monastery time goes too quickly. Time wasted is not due to the monastery life, but to my own indolence.

Monday, January 28, 2013


When Aristotle was rediscovered by Western Europe from its contact with Islam in the Crusades, this ancient "pagan" philosophy was condemned by the Church. It didn't fit with current teachings. Thomas Aquinas came along in the 13th century and found a way to use this Greek philosophy to explain Christian faith. He was condemned at first. Then the light went on and the Church has used his teachings ever since.

Today there are new ways of looking at things. There is the Big Bang theology,  for instance. There are people trying to be the Thomas Aquinas of today. It will be a bit edgy for awhile. After all, that is why they call it the cutting edge.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


In the beginning of Luke's Gospel, Chapter 4, Jesus was invited to read from the scroll and comment. It was the custom to invite various members of the synagogue to proclaim and preach. Imagine that! And his preaching was short. One sentence. What ever happened to that custom?

Saturday, January 26, 2013


You have two choices: a bad homily or no homily at all. Say you have no other option short of skipping church. Why punish myself and skip the Eucharist because the preaching is mediocre. Do we not put up with mediocrity in other situations where we actually pu out money for better service or treatment? Think airlines.  So, I would choose the bad homily. Why? Well, I would bring something to read for spiritual meditation. We all know how to not listen. Anyway, mediocrity won't control me.

Friday, January 25, 2013

God talk

Why does the church fail to persuade people to God? We can say it is because people are selfish, unlearned, relativistic. Maybe so in some cases, many cases. If we stay with this answer then the church does not have to face the reality that it fails to engage the person in their particular situation. The modern person starts with experience, their own personal experience. The church stars with an answer, a closed argument. The argument is dispassionate about the feelings, the personal suffering in one's life.  Can male celibates really engage sexually active women about"sex?" Can a clergy that seeks power and privilege, and runs from personal suffering, really engage the poor, the non-European Third World?  I believe that there are Catholics who can be quite articulate on those subjects, but they are the wrong sex and don't have much power in hierarchical circles.


Some people say, "Why pray for others or for world situations?  God knows what is needed."  Fair enough as far as God is concerned.  But I have found that intercessory prayer, or praying on behalf of others, gets me out of thinking about me.  When I am the focus of my day, all day long, well, that is not a good place to be.  Sometimes circumstances prevent us from being helpful to the world around us.  We get sick.  We get tired.  We get cave focused.  I have found that praying for others gets me out of this and makes me feel useful when I can do nothing else.  Want topics for prayer?  Read the newspaper.  Lots of mess reported that could use some prayer.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Space Stations

Not much to do here in Vero Beach, Florida. The local paper announces when space stations will appear in the early morning/evening night sky. No one stays up late, and we all get up before dawn. Lots of people go to church, daily. It is a bit like a monastic lifestyle. But it is dreadfully cold out. 43 degrees. While we wait for the sun to warm us up to 60+ we go shopping to the indoor mall. Cashmere V-neck sweaters on sale for $22.  There is always a silver lining in Florida nuclear winter.

When Is Enough

Did you ever notice that when you had just a little of something you were quite grateful. You are very thirsty and you get one glass of water.  Yummy and fulfilling.  You sense that you are broke and then you find a dollar in the couch.  Wow!  Surprise.  Then what happens when you have a lot.  It is never enough.  "More" seems to be the mantra of our middle class.  How many of anything do we really need?  We are so happy to get that one good warm coat.  Then we get two and so on it goes.  If I had no running shoes, I would be so happy to have the first pair.  But the second pair won't make me as happy as when I got that first pair.  So I buy a third pair to try and get as happy as I once was.  It does not work.  I become a shoe-a-holic.  Less is more.  I think Jesus knew that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Repentance does not bring us back to square one.  There is scar tissue from bad behavior.  In the 12 step programs of recovery it is not enough for people to become sorry for all that they did wrong.  They then have to go tell people they are sorry, and in some circumstances try to make a repair of all the hurt they have caused.  Yes, tell God you are sorry.  Get forgiven.  But there is wreckage.  God is not a repair shop.  You don't get to bring your messed up life to God and go home while God fixes things.  God is with us when we go about the fixing.  But fix, amend, admit our wrongs, is all part of becoming whole within.  In this process, honesty will give birth to humility.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Saints seem to focus on their sins and shortcomings.  I used to think that they were kind of maudlin, too preoccupied with itty bitty stuff.  Now I am not so sure.  Maybe it is the focus on their faults that made them saints in the first place.  They all seem to write about it.  They do not flatter themselves with how good they are or how wonderful their prayer life is or how much they love God.  They realize that they are sinners and in need of God's Mercy.  What about us.  Do we tend to flatter one another, to boost each other up?  Do we lie to make people feel better about themselves?  We are supposed to help each other to become saints, no?  Why avoid reality of our own mess and then try to make people look away from theirs?  I don't think that saints were too popular when they "told it like it is."  Famous and admired from afar, maybe.  But don't get too close.  They see too much.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I gave a workshop recently to people who have their lives a lot more together than I do.  I made a connection between contemplative prayer or deep meditation, and the fourth column of the fourth step in a twelve step program of recovery.  People told me how helpful that was and how they had not heard it before.  The truth is, I never heard it before either. None of it was in my notes before me.  It came to me while I was talking.  This is what I call Grace.  God works this way.  Left to my own power I am an idiot.  It would take an enormous amount of energy to keep this a secret.  I don't have that energy, but God does.  On top of this, God inspires me to say things I have never thought about before saying them.  Some people say, "Father, you are wonderful."  If only they knew.  But better they don't and God's work be done through me.  I mean, somebody has to do it!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I am off to Florida.  By the time you read this, I will be there, in shorts and tee shirt, jogging in my new Saucony shoes of outrageous color!  I will read the NewYork Times every day.  I will watch my 49er football team with priests who actually like to watch sports, something I do not find anywhere else I live.  I will sit at the ocean, on the boardwalk, under a roof, drinking my Latte and bakery muffin.  I will splash in the shallow, salt water and watch the sharks.  I will have meetings with old friends who are wiser than I am.  I will baptize a baby, so that I can say I went there for work.  I will have a family reunion, but not the whole time I am there.  Please!  I need my quiet time.  I will pray.  Why did I leave the prayer part till last?  It is a struggle to be good, even in Paradise!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Multiple Images

In the Scriptures it says, "God is Love."  I like that.  I can mess up and God loves me.  Get up and try again.  So what if my spiritual life is a mediocrity.  God loves me.  I could run an evangelical mega church.  But then I found out that it also says that "God is a consuming fire."  Oops!  That must be an old image and the love one is the new image, right?  But what if I am wrong?  What if mediocrity has its consequences?  I hear people say "mediocrity" in their spiritual or recovery programs led got it, a consuming fire experience.  Personally, I am hedging my bets.  The mega feel good church, well, feels good.  But feelings can fool you as to what is real.  I will ask for grace, and then daily effort, to raise my bar up from mediocrity.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Some guys bring a paralytic to see Jesus. Jesus says, "Your sins are forgiven." Why did he not first heal the paralytic's body? Well, if you know yourself to be a sinner, and an ongoing one at that, to hear you are forgiven, is a great relief.  Saints know they are sinners. Read their writings. If you are not aware of your sins and the need of God's mercy, you miss a key point of this story.


I hear people say, "I feel fine," as in they don't need to do anything to maintain their emotional sobriety.  I have found that feelings about how we are doing emotionally are near sighted.  In the moment, I am OK.  If I don't work on emotional equilibrium each day, that "OK" feeling will end suddenly, to be followed by something not very good.  I don't wait until I feel a need to pray, or a need for some helpful instruction book, or gathering with friends.  By the time I feel the need, I will already have made a mess of the day, my life, other relationships.  Discipline trumps feelings every time for me.  Don't believe me?  Then do nothing the next time you feel "fine" upon waking up.  Learn the hard way.  I already did that.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thirty Years

Why did it take Jesus thirty years to go public.  Well, he is God.  When God took on our human condition God realized how hard it is for a human to be good, do good, be all God meant for us to be.  "Hey God!  Now you know how tough it is to be human."  I suspect that Jesus took thirty years to practice how he meant for us to live.  If it took God thirty years to get it right, how about me?  Following Jesus is really hard to do.  Some of us make it easy on ourselves.  Fantasy.  We live in mediocrity, but tell ourselves, if we reflect on it at all, that we are doing fine.  In fact our behavior might be no better than that of an atheist who can be kind, and good without believing in any God.  Belief apparently does not affect behavior.  So what will make us Christian in a transformed way?  I suspect that if you read the instruction book, e.g. the New Testament Gospels, you might find the answer.  I have.  This is how I found out I was merely living in mediocrity.  Well, reality is a start.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Baptism makes me a member of Christianity.  This comes with the water pouring.  The 7 gifts and 12 fruits of the Spirit that I get with Baptism are the tools to actually act as a Christian.  Christian is a verb and not a noun.  Baptism is rather free.  Most of us were baby baptized.  We asked for nothing.  We got the tools.  We were saved.  Now what?  Now we have to live it out.  "Saved" is step one.  It is free.  Some people tell me that they are saved.  But they still act like jerks.  We don't change without effort.  The instruction book is the bible.  Mistakes are inevitable.  We just discipline ourselves to keep struggling along. Community support can help.  God loves us, but we won't enjoy it much unless we change.  The instruction book tells us how to let go of, or be relieved of our character defects or fleshly disorders.  It is not easy to change.  Admitting we need help to get beyond membership level is a first step.

In AA someone can easily become a member.  Just show up and say you want to get sober.  Stay at this level and you will get drunk again, and again.  Sobriety is a verb.  You have to do stuff.  Daily.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Verb

In the spiritual world most of that to which we give a noun as its ID is really a verb.  God is not an "it."  God is Love, and love is a verb.  The mystic never looks for God in some place out there or even in the heart.  A mystic loves, and is in union by the action.  Deep prayer is love.  Less deep is asking for stuff from the noun "God" out there somewhere.

In Addiction terms, the Higher Power or HP is not something, an "it," that I must find.  The HP is Love.  If one follows the steps, gets support for the recovery journey, they will become loving.  They will be found rather than find their HP.  When someone says they don't have a God, that might be good, since they are looking for an "it."  Practice the 11th and 12the step and you will enjoy your Higher Power.  Whenever I cannot find God in my life, I am usually practicing rather bad behavior or lack emotional sobriety.

Monday, January 14, 2013

God At Work

There is a group of friends who meet weekly nearby where I live.  I had not gone to see them in many a month.  My mistake.  They are people of great wisdom, and I am a person of warped mind.  Anyhow, I went tonight, and it was wonderful food for thought.  Why have I missed going for so long?  God was at work even in my avoidance of this gathering.  One of the fellows there had completely changed since I last heard him speak.  He used to be down in the dumps and disconnected.  Now he was full of gratitude for life, and had done some wonderful, helpful things that had reconnected him with the world.  After the meeting, I told him that he had changed.  He liked hearing that.  See, God used even my absence to good use.  God works in secret at times.  Now and then God lets me in on the plan.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Catholic Dorms

Texan A&M is going to open a dorm for Catholics.  Are there so many young Catholics who want to band together in their little ghettos over against the secular world that they merit a dorm at a secular school?  What happened to "University" which is not so much about studying many different subjects as about having a living experience with people outside your normal world.  Or is this a way to have a Catholic experience without going to a private, more expensive school?  Come to think of it,  one thing you will get at A&M that you won't get at a Catholic school like Notre Dame is good football.  A&M has Johnny "Football" Manzeil, while Notre Dame has whatever showed up at the college Championship game and got blown away.  So you get great college football, secular tuition prices and the chance to live with Catholics.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Les Mis II

It is much more prominent in the book than the movie, "Les Miserables," that for Jean Val Jean to save Marius, he will lose Cosette and be alone.  "Who am I?" becomes the question.  He does a harsh and dreadful thing.  He puts his own life on the line and goes to save Cosette's love, Marius.  He carries Marius through the sewers of Paris, and saves his life, without Marius or Cosette knowing that he was the savior.  Healed, Marius and Cosette are going to marry.  Jean Val Jean realizes that her reputation is ruined if anyone knows that Jean Val Jean is not gentry, but a ex-con thief who broke parole so many lifetimes ago.  Jean Val Jean leaves and does not say where he will be going.

This is self-sacrifice and self-denial.  This is taking up one's cross, to do what will cause great loss, for love of another.  Jean Val Jean knows that God loves him, and he loves God and Cosette.  He loves Cosette, his ward, such that to love another human being this way is to see the face of God.  His love, his sacrifice, becomes a mirror to his soul in which he then sees the divine indwelling of which the books tell us exist.  Again, see the movie.  Sunday night is Golden Globe awards.  See if it beats out "Lincoln" for best movie and Hugh beats out Daniel for best actor.  Or, maybe not.

Friday, January 11, 2013


After John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus saw this as a signal to begin his public ministry.  He sensed that the kingdom was in our midst, a new world, a big change.  So he changed from a small town carpenter, to a preacher and healer whose authority to do so came from no one else but himself and "Abba" who called Jesus the beloved Son.  Jesus did not go back to his home town of Nazareth to begin this new life.  He went to Capernaum, a nearby town.  Why not start in his home town?  Well, people don't like change in themselves or those with whom they are familiar.  If you change, it affects me.  We rely on one another to act, do, think a certain way.  New ways upset us.  Did not his friends and relatives from Nazareth come after Jesus, saying, "He is crazy!"  If he is not crazy, then those close to him might have to expand their horizons, and open themselves to something new.  Don't we prefer the familiar?  We take holidays, and trips to break up the routine, but always we return to the familiar, the "normal."  We like home.  Jesus left home in more ways than one.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Face of God

The final line in the movie and maybe the book, "Les Miserables" is, "To love another human being, is to see the face of God."  It will makes sense if you read the book or go see the movie.  We are not talking romantic love, puppy love, make-me-happy love.  To love another human being when it costs you something important to yourself, is to see the face of God.  Jesus on the cross, both sees "Father" and gives up his life for love of others, most of whom do not care.  I guess, if you want to see the face of God, shelve the theology book and take up your cross.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Les Mis

Go see the movie.  It is a story of conversion.  Jean Val Jean gets out of prison after 19 years.  He had stolen a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister.  His adversary, Javert, representing the law, says that 24601 can never change.  This is the prison identity of Val Jean.  Now outside prison, Val Jean can get no one to help him with food or shelter because he was a thief.  No one changes.  Then a priest takes him in and calls him "guest." He feeds Val Jean.  Val Jean then steals from the priest's rectory and runs away. He is a thief, right?  He hates the world.  The police catch him and bring him to the priest.  Prison awaits.  The priest call Val Jean, "friend" and says he left so early the priest did not have a chance to give him two expensive candle sticks.  Val Jean is off the hook!  The priest says, "Use all this to become a better man."  Jean Val Jean eventually changes, all because the priest loved him and gave him a chance.  Val Jean had been a thief, but not an addictive thief.  Love could change him.  Seems that Jesus had that way about him too.  He loved people in the midst of their mess.  They changed.  As for Javert?  He came to a most unhappy end.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fat Is Good

A recent study suggests that fat people have a tendency to live longer than skinny people, or the correct weight people.  I am more on the skinny side.  Time to eat more chocolate.    Cancel my gym membership.  Anyone making these kind of New Year resolutions?  I mean, if I am going to sweat and eat kelp, what is the payoff?  It is the same with prayer.  You can pray more and live a shorter life.  Lots of martyrs did it and a few anorexic saints to boot.  If you knew your life would be shorter if you pray more, would you give up prayer?  Recall, Jesus lived a pretty short life.  He prayed a lot.  The prayer payoff is not a longer life.  It is eternal life.

Monday, January 7, 2013


A deer has big ears.  Their eyes can see all around them, not just what is in front of them.  Why?  They are bred to beware of danger.  A sound, a movement alerts them.  With good health and food, they can live a long deer life.  They are smart, but we tend to call animals, "dumb," relative to us humans.  

Well, who is dumber?  We drive our cars while using our cell phones.  We cross the street wherever and whenever it suits us.  We ride our bikes without reflectors or helmets.  We eat junk food. We drink and drive.  When tired we take energy drinks, rather than rest.  Lots of danger, no?  I think that I can learn a lot from a deer, and not too much from watching human behavior.  People ask me why I meditate?  Well, it gets me out of focusing on my human brain.  To rely on my own thinking is to live a very dangerous life.   

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Front page in the local paper is a story about an elk that was found shot in the neighborhood.  I sense a sadness in the article about this death.  "It was such a beautiful animal," was a quote.  That the elk was menacing or bothersome was also noted, but the story was more about "who did this?" since no one seems to know.

Not on the front page, was another story about a women found dead in a park in a nearby town.  It seems that it was from exposure to the cold.  Read "street person."  Nothing about "such a beautiful woman."  No particular pathos about her death.  Just another street person found dead in a park.  

I sense more concern for an animal than a human being when comparing these two incidents as they were reported.  If the Indians were more concerned with the elk than with the tribe, they would have starved, or become vegetarians.  In this country, rarely, it seems,  is a wild animal shot without permission or hunting season.  Lots more humans are getting killed without permission.  It seems we are pretty good with animal rights, but not so good with human rights when it comes to living.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Will Power

A recent study suggests that we have as much will power as we think we have.  When we make our resolutions to change something in ourselves, we are as successful as we think we have the power to be.  If we think we have no will power, then we will fail to carry out our resolution to change.  So the study suggests.  Addiction and recovery paths seem to agree with the study.

If someone discovers that they cannot stop doing something, an addiction, they realize that they have no will power.  What to do?  Well, get someone else's power.  Borrow some. The addict borrows from a Higher Power.  The addict borrows on a daily basis.  It is like getting daily food from a food bank.  You go each day because you need to eat each day.

In my religion, only the delusional think that they can be consistently good on their own. Most of us realize that if we are going to grow in holiness and be transformed away from our bad habits, then we will need help.  We will need it on a daily basis.  An addict knows that to go to the well but once a week is a dangerous practice.  Daily works.  So why do so many of us think that once a week to ask for power is enough?

Friday, January 4, 2013


I read where the USA is ranked first in the world in Sports and twenty-fifth in Math.  I am not surprised.  You get what you pay for.  You pay for priorities.  We are obsessed with sports and winning.  Universities, and lower level schools spend lots on facilities and programs.  They say it makes money and gets alumni enthused.  What is the money then spent for?  Apparently, not to get us better at math.  Other countries that are not so terrific in sports are better than us in math.  Very few of the people who spend time at amateur sports, if they are amateur, ever go on to make a living at playing a game.

I suppose the person from MIT who walks into a bar and says the school has a great math department and all the students are getting good jobs/careers in math-based areas, would not create much interest.  For that matter, the MIT person would not bother going to a bar.  We think that the government is supposed to create jobs, or business create jobs.  For whom?  The problem starts way early in one's life.  We have plenty of people who could do well in Math.  Who pays?  Who encourages?  Math has become counter cultural to TV, videos, mindless texting, and, yes, sports.

Is it not the same in religion?  If you don't start early with that little soul, you won't get much help from the institutional church when the child is grown up.  If soccer becomes your Sunday focus, you have chosen the wider, easier road in today's culture.  I was lucky.  As a child, we had no organized sports, much less sports complexes, and no TV to speak of.  We did homework.  We said our prayers, as a family.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Child of God

We Christians are called, "Children of God."  Galatians 4:7 says we are no longer slaves (to the law) but children.  As a slave, we have to do what we are told. There is no choice.  There is no practice of self-denial here.  As a child, or heir, if we are to do the will of God, it is by choice.  God won't force us.  When we have a choice, we have to deal with our own self-will.  We have to practice self-denial at times, that is, we do something in accord with God's will, even though we do not want to do it, or we find it inconvenient and irksome. 

I can do good when it makes me feel good, or when to do the bad would make me lose esteem in the face of others.  To do good when I have to deny myself something I want, or when I find it inconvenient or I don't get something out of it, this is when I am entering into transformation.  It is called, "taking up my cross."  Think about it when you make your New Year resolutions.  Most of us give up within days or weeks because we do not see or admit how weak, selfish, and self-willed we are.  I have found it to be so for me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Three Wise Men

Throughout the centuries, pictures of the three Wise Men always show one of them to be Black.  When the slave trade was going on in the USA and other places, black people were thought to not be human, or not so human that they could not be treated as badly as they were treated.  A black man was able to worship Jesus and believe in a Messiah, in the Epiphany scene.  A black man was able to be called a King.  However, for the sake of profit all this was ignored.  The obvious is denied because of greed and selfishness.

Is not the world warming?  Some people would deny it, because it would interfere with making money.  One thing does not change: greed and selfishness.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gun Control

Someone said that the answer to shootings in schools is to reintroduce prayer into the public schools.  The absence of prayer is part of the problem, they say.  Well, I think that the Islamic fundamentalist would heartily agree, but the prayer they want is theirs and no one else's.  They pray, and then they go and blow up innocent children in market places.  They pray and murder.  I am not  against inclusive prayer in schools, but why would you make the public school the focus of prayer if there is none at home?  Does this not become one more thing that we want the government to do for us because we won't do it for ourselves?  I did not need some watered down prayer in my public school.  I had prayer at home and in my church.  What if, instead of buying assault rifles, one prays and teaches prayer at home, and then continues this with public worship where we have a sense of a world larger than ourselves.