Thursday, October 31, 2013


Some time ago, I was going to a counseling center and a woman had an appointment about the same time as mine for awhile.  She sat in the waiting area with a motorcycle helmut on and the visor down over her face.  I thought, "What a strange person.  She needs some help!"  Mind you, I am in the same counseling center waiting to see a counselor.  In my judgment she is so much worse than me.  I slip into this mode from time to time when I run across a person sleeping on the street or shouting out at no one in particular, using a lot of curse words.  "Thank God I am not like so and so."  I think that I am not like the religious official about whom Jesus speaks in a parable.  That official stands in the front of the temple, apart from others, and thanks God that he is not like the sinner in the back of the temple.  In my delusions I think that I am like the tax collector guy in the back who is asking God for mercy.  He is truly sorry and repentant.  He knows that it is only God's mercy that can help him.  He has no real power in himself to change.  When I say I am sorry or ask for mercy, it is usually because I am feeling guilty, or ashamed of some bad behavior recently done.  It is more about me wanting to feel better rather than being sorry for offending God.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bishop Of Bling

Why kick this guy around?  He is a product of his culture.  Seminarians are made to feel as if they are special as opposed to the laity.  It goes from there.  Over the last 25 years bishops have been going in more and more for the trappings of "Prince of the Church."  The German bishop simply was more over the top than some others.  He did not even see himself as doing something wrong.  I could get upset with some leader who is immoral or unethical, but this fellow is obtuse.  He is probably defending himself in his temporary exile.  What bothers me more is that if this had happened in America, on this bling scale, there would not be the uproar that the German laity and some hierarchy had.  We laity here just won't criticize, as if it were some mortal sin to even think of asking our leaders to change.  Well, the next time a bishop in your area asks to raise a lot of money for some diocesan or archdiocesan whatever, check the line items of the project.  See how much is going for his living quarters.  Just sayin'

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I bought a stock during the recession.  I did not buy much and it cost $17/share.  It is a well known company.  I bought when everything was going badly in the economy.  A time to run and hide? Put money under the mattress?  I invested.  Today, 5 years later, that stock is worth $49/share.  Plus, I get dividends.  I did not see myself as gambling, or taking a flyer those 5 years ago.  I believed in the company and our economy.  Things looked bad, but there was potential.  In business, when things are going badly, they change or go out of business.  Today, my church is not doing so well.  Many people are divesting themselves of religion in general and my church in particular.  But I am investing myself.  In spite of the bishop of bling and other such leaders, I believe we can learn and will learn when we are down.  The church changes when it has to in order to survive and do what it was meant to do.  Much good comes from investing when something looks hopeless.  AA invested in drunks when no one else would.  Jesus invested in a dozen losers.  Ya gotta believe.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Third World Spirituality

A Third World Spirituality is one where you pray to Mary, Jesus, or your favorite saints to solve your problems.  Then you do nothing but wait for divine help.  Lots of prayer here, but not much individual action, for whatever reasons, and there may be many.  A First World Spirituality might pray to Jesus, Mary and saints, but then people try to make things happen through some initiative.  Less prayer, but more get up and go.  I heard it depends on whether or not your country started as a monarchy, or as republic/democracy.  Monarchy has the attitude that the King/Queen will provide.  That is their job.  Now there  seems to be a third spirituality.  You say your prayers asking the heavenly powers to now have the government solve your problems.  Then you go and vote, maybe.  What they all seem to share is consumerism.  Even the street people are loaded down with stuff.  Spirituality seems to have a tough time with "more," not more prayer, but more stuff.  I wonder if fear is behind it all?  A spirituality that does not address our fears is not very transforming.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Women Cardinals

You don't have to be ordained to be made a cardinal.  This is an appointed position.  For some time now cardinals were all priests first.  The Pope could appoint a woman a cardinal.  No canon law against this.  Here is an area where custom is disguised as law or rule.  Some things the church does are mere customs, and not rules.  Since we have never heard of a woman cardinal, we think it is a rule.  A pope has to be a male, but when elected, he only needs to be a single, Catholic male in good standing.  He is then ordained a priest, bishop and then made pope.  He has to be an ordained bishop because he is the bishop of the Rome diocese.  His bishop's church is John Lateran, not St. Peter's.  People are petitioning the pope to appoint women as cardinals and give them powerful positions in the curia.  Well, that sure would jump start things!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Prayers of the Powerless

Our BART train system went on strike in the San Francisco Bay area.  Suddenly, a lot of non-prayers, or light prayers, are praying a whole lot that God will fix things.  We are all powerless to make the union and the management come together to solve their differences.  Prayer is our only power.  For many people, it is the last resort.  It is the reality of the modern western world that we only turn to God when there seems to be no other way.  A prayer of just wanting to spend time with God?  Well, that is for someone else.

Friday, October 25, 2013


I went for an early Sunday morning run in town.  The streets were all clear.  Coming back to church at what I thought was the end of my run, I came upon the Nike Women's Marathon.  A river of 30,000 women in shorts and tank tops were surging down the street I had to cross.  I stood on the corner hoping the runners would thin out or slow down and I could weave my way across the street.  No chance, and I had the early morning mass.  So I decided to jump into the marathon and run with the women, while trying to weave my way across the wide street.  Now I am in the race, surrounded by young fit women.  I think, "Lord, help me to get across the street."  I looked around.  "Well Lord, maybe mass can be a little late this morning," I added.  San Francisco is a fun town.  But as my sister Maureen used to say, "You will burn."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Adult Ed

Most Adult Education in parishes, if there is any at all, is really propaganda for one particular view.  An answer is given, with or without any question being asked.  The answer is made to sound like a dogma that has only one answer, when in fact the so-called answer given is really an opinion or at best, one answer among several on the same issue.  A truly educated or searching adult knows this from studying our American Civil War.  Or was it the war between the states, or the war of Yankee Aggression.  In South Carolina, they say they decided to become separate nation, so you cannot call it a war between the states.  Lots of debates and differences of opinions on this tragic event in our history.  On a lighter note, you could argue who is the best quarterback in pro football.  There are lots of heated opinions here too.  Of course, there is only one answer, Peyton Manning.  Just sayin'

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Juice

We often think of ourselves like a piece of fruit, say an orange.  One orange is separate and different from another.  You know this when you shop oranges, right?  God is seen as not an orange, but something else, separate from me but with some defined edges.  God is someplace, but not all places, and certainly not in an infidel, heretic, or whoever I consider to be truly bad.  With this thinking, when you die, your outsides rot, just like the orange, where the outside orange skin rots, the juice dries up, but  with the person, something of their unique orangeness goes on to see God who decides if we get to be on the shelf in heaven, also a place to hold our spiritual orangeness.  We spend our lives trying to be a good ripe oranges so that we can get to heaven's shelf.   Within the last hundred years or so, we have rediscovered the Gospel of Jesus and the new science which Jesus seems to have known.  "I and the Father are One."  Good modern science.  Back to the orange.  All oranges are energy manifested as oranges.  All oranges are the same, though there is some skin issues/texture, and fruitiness.  But it is all the same energy packed with slight variations into what you see with your ego mentality, as separate oranges.  God is manifested in the orange.  How so?  Well, when you squeeze out the juice and it all mixes together, you get the idea of the Oneness of oranges.  Think of God as the juice.  Without juice you have no orange.  Without God you have no you.  Regardless of language, skin color, religion or not, we all have the juice of God.  When we die, we blend right back into the Oneness of God.  As Jesus said to his followers, "I am in you and you are in me."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Separate But Equal

My experience of the phrase, "separate but equal," is another way of saying, "we don't want you in the club."  There were separate schools for people of race.  They were supposed to be equal.  They were not.  The rule was made by the ruling white people, because they did not want to mix with the dark skin people.  When people of religion say that women are separate but equal to men, it is another way of saying the men don't want the women in the club.  It is bad form, outside of fundamentalist religion, to say that women are not the equal of men.  Such talk bozos into the differences in physical muscles, though I don't see guys having babies.  I think that men have the instinct to realize they have traded a better/saner lifestyle for the sake of power.  Tell me a third world country, medieval in its thinking, health care, sanitation, education, etc. that is not dominated by men?  The men know that if women get power, things will change in all these areas yes, but the men will be left out.  Men don't want to learn, if it means they will give us control.  You might think of this, the next time you hear the discussion about women being equal but separate, in the ordination issue.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Good Priest

At some point in my priesthood I realized that I had a lot of shortcomings that were not about to disappear.  So I decided that if I was not going to be holy or brilliant or talented in my work, I would do one thing well.  I would give people what they want, or asked for.  For this I am called a "good" priest. It was amazing to me to discover how few priests actually responded well to simple requests.  It seems that you were asking for something at the wrong or inconvenient time, or there was some nitty rule, or custom that went against your request.  With me, you want to be anointed? Sure.  Right now? Fine. Confession right now? Fine.  My preaching or teaching could be average to second rate, and I might even say some outrageous things. They were all passed over, because Fr. Ryan is "helpful."  I think that all of us could make the world a better place if we could say "yes" more often than "no" each day.  You might find that your whole mood is improved if you are of service in the moment of the request.  Daily meditation has helped me to say yes when my first thought is to say no.  It is not the first thought or emotion that matters.  It is the first action.  If I only did what I wanted to do, then my faults/vices would take over.  Selfish is my norm.  Grace is the cure, moment by moment.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Communion to Divorced

Talk about confusion!  The Vatican says that the Diocese of Freiburg, Germany would confuse people if they began to give communion to the divorced.  Well this is REALLY confusing.  There is no law in the church that refuses communion to the Divorced.  They can receive communion.  Divorce does not get you thrown out of the church in any way, shape or form.  I hope that the media gets this right or else the divorced who are going to communion might wonder if the rules got changed.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


It seems that my body is made up of energy tightly compacted.  We call this compacted energy "Matter."  It is really energy manifested in a particular way.  There is no matter to matter.  Confused?  Maybe I can show where this might go spiritually.  If I am energy, and the universe is energy manifested in various shapes and sizes, such as stars and cosmic dust, then when I die, my energy goes back into the universe energy pool.  It might have a memory of being me, Terry Ryan.  What is the difference between this way of seeing death, and what I was taught growing up?  Ego, that is the difference.  Unless we are mystics, we cannot conceive of the ego dying, as in no longer existing.  Ego focused people see death as the body dying, rotting, but "ME" goes on to see God.  I am now spirit or soul.  God is other than the me that goes to see God in heaven, a place for good souls.  Most of us in organized religion think in this ego fashion.  Mystics do not.  They see God as manifesting God's self in the cosmos, energy.  The universe is God made visible if you will.  We go back to God from who we came.  Actually, we never were separate from God.  The ego just thinks in terms of separation.  The mystic thinks in terms of Oneness.  Either view, the ego one, or the mystic one is orthodox.  No heresy to worry about.  But one view is medieval.  Guess which one it is.

Friday, October 18, 2013

First Class

I was traveling from Charleston, South Carolina recently.  I highly recommend you visit this historic city, but leave your diet at home.  Great food, but back to my point.  I noticed how there are all these levels of customer on the airlines.  Marketing is a lot about separating us, giving us a sense of difference in status and perks.  The airlines are not so crass to call anyone "Second Class," in the lineup to get onto the plane, but you kind of get the feeling that if you don't spend the money to upgrade your status, you will be among the few "unwashed" left to get on the plane just before they close the door.  I was the lowest level, given a number rather than a word title.  In ship travel, you are called first, second, and I think third class, but I cannot remember.  It is so unreal, but so western and secular.  We are all one.  We all go to the toilet and we all die.  We are all so much cosmic dust.  When I finally get onto the plane, with no luggage of course, I meditate, so as to get back to the real.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


When an addict finally wants to work the steps, it is good to say that the Higher Power is not the addict.  Most of us have been brought up with this dualistic thinking that I am not God.  True is one way.  Addicts have big egos and such people get delusional about power.  They cannot recover alone.  BUT after some time, maybe a lot of time, and they get into meditation, and some into deep meditation beyond thoughts and words, they may come to  the mystical discovery.  They are one with the Higher Power.  All mystics will tell you this.  Christian ones too will experience this.  You come to a discovery, experience of Oneness.  You are one not only with God but with all the universe, to include all the people around you.  Mystics don't judge.  They experience more a sense of union than separation.  Jesus said that "The Father and I are One."  It is called by different names in different spiritual paths, but it definitely is in my church, though few get to hear about it much less learn how to practice deep meditation.  Some never experience it.  Good News, God loves you anyway and is one with you even if you think God is some place else.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

No Broad Brush

Whenever I hear someone say that, "Everyone in that group is..." I get a bit uneasy.  There is no everyone.  People may affiliate with a group for various different reasons.  Recovery groups have all kinds of people in them for all kinds of reasons.  The more open you are to membership, the more likely you will have a wide array of differences in the membership.  My own church is very big and wide in its acceptance of people, moreso than you think.  There are narrow-minded members of a group that think they speak for everyone, and want people who are just like them.  I have found it very hard to be content or even grow in a group if everyone has to be like me.  I have too many faults to want to hang around me like-minded and like-acting people.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why A Priest?

Someone questioned why I am a priest if I am so critical about the church.  I came to the conclusion, some time ago, that I was not going to be much of a priest for the unquestioning pious.  But they had a lot of priests to take care of them.  I was going to be a priest to those who were barely hanging on, those who felt no one was listening to them, those who felt somewhat left out by the focus and emphasis of the teachers, pastors, leaders of their church.  These laity are the people who are often enough on the outer edges of the church.  There are all kinds of reasons why they are where they are.  No one size fits all.  Often they feel ignored, and even put down.  They believe that Jesus is for them and they for Jesus. It is his messengers that more often than not leave them feeling on the outside.  So they often stay on the outside of the sacraments.  They are my mission.  I have hope when I see the unquestioning pious walking with the bemused sceptic.  Only good things can happen when we mix it up.  It is a big church, and I ain't leavin'!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hurting the Church

Someone commented that my blog was hurting the church and everyone's faith who read it.  Two thoughts on this.  The church is not the hierarchy, but the people of God that includes the hierarchy.  I tend to write for that part of the church that feels left out of the mix by the hierarchy part.  We all agree on dogma or else we are not really in the church.  But there is a lot that is "taught" that is not dogma, but rather opinion of some clergy and people that think it is dogma because they hang around with those who agree with them.  This brings me to my second point.  People who are offended by "teachings" contrary to their own, tend to hang around with people like them, to read all the same books, and feel safe and secure.  Religion is not for security or else there would be no cross.  I try to spend some time with people who disagree with me.  It is how I learn and maybe even open myself to a wider world than my own in my religion.  If people would just read some good history of religion, The Catholic Church history, they would see how much we have changed over the years and how much debate/discussion there is between clergy and hierarchy on various issues that are no way etched in stone.  Sadly, you won't get that kind of adult ed in most parishes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Convert Work

The Pope does not seem to be so interested in convert work, which is not the same as evangelization.  The pope is focused on concern for the poor, the maginalized, the destitute and our indifference to it.  What I often see is someone becoming a Catholic, going to sacraments, maybe even doing some volunteer work in the parish, but otherwise not much changes in the world beyond themselves.  The pope seems more interested in a conversion of the heart in a relationship to Christ that actually reaches out to the larger world as did Christ in his ministry to the marginalized person.  After Jesus was tossed from the synogogues, he did his ministry on the streets and in the countryside until he came to Jerusalem.  He was safe among the poor in the countryside, out in the streets.  The powers that be did not spend much time there.  Once in the city, they got rid of him.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Born Wrong

Some say that one is born an alcoholic and discovers it as they grow up and drink too much.  In this thinking, it is not something you develop by a lot of bad choices.  It is not developmental.  It is in your DNA.  Recovery programs, the 12 Steps, are so that you can  become all that God made you to be, without drinking anymore.  You don't stop being an alcoholic.  You realize that this alcoholism has now given you a way to become all that God called you to be.  You become a better person through the working of the 12 steps and then help others to work the steps.  You would never have discovered the program, this way of growth, had you not been an alcoholic.  Alcoholism is a cross, and you take up your cross each day.  In this sense it is the Way, the Gate to a fuller life.  The 12 steps are Gift.  Sad that so few discover this.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Natural, The Norm

Is the norm biological or teleological?  Is it a given, or is it the end to which we are called to develop.  The hierarchy of my church says that the norm is biological, that is, a heterosexual is the norm.  Therefore, the homosexual is "ab-normal."  It is unnatural to be a homosexual, in this line of thinking.  But this is not the only way the ethicists think. Some say that the norm or natural growth is about the "ends" for which we are created. In this thinking, God made us to become all who we are, to develop our capacity for wholeness, or holiness, in a religious sense.  If you are a homosexual then you are to become all God meant you to be including your homosexuality.  You are not "wrongly" made.  Become all God called you to be and you contribute to the wholeness of society. The first way of looking at things is called natural law, but it is a coverup for predjudice.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Someone said that our faith is being eroded because we are becoming absorbed into the secular mainstream.  I don't think this is quite the reason.  Jesus has a wonderful message.  We just don't know how to "sell" it, as advertisers might say.  We could learn something from this secular world if we were up to listening.  They decide how to match their product with the desires, wants, needs of the public.  Well, we have a wonderful message already on the books that would satisfy the deepest needs of people.  The Book of the Bible as it reflects Jesus is about forgiveness, acceptance, love, mercy, joy, and then a challenge to let grace change our lives.  Who would reject this?  But what we "sell" or promote is judgment, rules, narrow view of history, control, and authority.  Only the very frightened want any of that.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Finding Dr. Who

I come to realize that it is easier to find God than to find a doctor who will make an appointment with me.  I can sit in prayer in make my appointment with God.  But a doctor has lots of barriers.  I call a number and then listen to a lengthly explanation of choices, and maybe none of them seem to apply.  So I guess, and someone finally answers the phone.  This is the person who has a myriad of ways to not make an appointment.  One sent me to the scheduling department who had a message saying they would call me back.  Still waiting.  Another person, another doctor's phone answerer, sent me to billing to see if I had insurance they liked.  And the reason I am looking at all is because my doctor went into the hospice business, and I hope not to have to deal with her for a long time!  It seems that God is more interested in the health of my soul than the medical world is interested in the health of my body.  Someone said that God is the Divine Physician.  I find comfort in that.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Training or Education

When I was in Catholic School I was trained in one lineage of moral theology.  I thought that what I heard was Gospel.  It never occurred to me that I was being taught only one line of thinking.  I was being trained to live my faith in a particular style.  No choice.  This is not education.  If I were being educated I would have been exposed to historical differences, reasons for one way of thinking or another, and then I would have to use my conscience to decide what is right for my circumstances.  Training/indoctrination, rather than education assumes that the Holy Spirit cannot work well through me, a bad little boy, in need of weekly confession.  Nor can I think for myself.  The hierarchy has to tell the nuns and then they tell me, and then I do what I am told or burn.  It is sheer grace that I am still in this church!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pass It On

I love this.  Someone gave me this quote from a church sign: "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you."  The person quoted is not defending their actions.  We are all in the same boat somehow, so lets help on another along with a bit up uplifting affirmation that God loves us in spite of ourselves.  Humility is a good thing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Weather

The predict for today was "Sunny and 70."  There is no sun and it is not 70.  I am bummed as I so looked forward to this day before the next rain/freeze.  My response was, "They lied."  "Lies!"  If I were a bit less dispassionate, less affected, I might say, "They guessed wrong."  If I were totally unaffected by the weather, I would say, "The results did not verify their analysis."  Weather people analyse data and then make a predict.  They do not really guess wrong, or lie.  But the more I am affected by something that someone says or does, the more likely I am to praise or condemn them.  Notice that, the next time you cast aspersions upon someone, while someone else simply shrugs it off.  It sometimes really is all about us.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


There is a difference between career and ministry.  When one thinks of career it is in terms of doing something and then getting promoted to get more of something, such as power, money, larger office, and so on.  You do good work, or what work you see as advancing your status.  Ministry, on the other hand, is usually more of a servant work.  You serve others, not to advance yourself, but rather simply to be of service in the kingdom of God.  Grace moves you to keep going.  The relationship with God and the People of God is its own reward.  You live amidst the people.  You share their lives.  If you look at the bishop tract over the last 35 years or so, you will see in their advancement up the ladder, very little work amidst the people.  They do little parish work.  They go to school for advanced church law or other degrees and then work in central offices or seminaries.  They don't learn to listen or interact with the "people below."  It is called, "not taking incoming phone calls."

Friday, October 4, 2013

Celibacy In The Vatican

Did the Borgia pope practice celibacy? No.  Was it on the books? Yes.  He had mistresses and children from them.  So what's up?  In any age and time, there are rules that are more or less ignored.  They become a focus due to historical circumstances and maybe God's grace.  In 1500, the Pope's Christianity was the only one around.  Dissenters were, well, eliminated more or less.  Then came Henry VIII and Martin Luther.  Competition.  The Church decided it had better shape up in the papal celibacy stuff.  The rule did not change.  What changed is our focus on it and the demands we made for its keeping.  So it is today.  Pope Francis wants to put on the back burner our focus on certain sex issues.  The rule does not change.  But the focus does.  He wants more emphasis on caring for the flock, especially the poor, or as he says, "smelling like your sheep."  In this case, the ones who who have to change are the hierarchy and the rich.  They do not like this.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Moral Truth 2

There is another school of moral teaching that can be call "Historical."  It looks at history and says that some things change.  It also says that a moral action must take into consideration the circumstances/situation of the person.  The person counts.  Their conscience is functional rather than profoundly flawed by sin.  This approach sees the church not as the hierarchy, but as the People of God.  The Holy Spirit works through the whole church and not just the ordained.  Sex issues would be lightening rods here.  Is birth control everywhere and always wrong?  The neo-manualists (see yesterdays blog) would say yes.  There is an absolute/always/everywhere truth when it comes to sex.  The historical moralist would say, "It depends." This latter demands that you grow up, develop a conscience that works with God's grace, which means you practice the virtuous life.  It also means that the couple work together, share and cooperate.  In the former model, the husband could demand sex (the wife renders the debt), so long as no birth control is used.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moral Truth

The manualist tradition says that there are absolute moral truths and each person fits themselves into the absolute truth come from on high.  Your conscience and situation are of no significance.  Truth is unchanging.  In times past there were differing manualists.  The papacy did not try and point to one or another.  In the 20th century neo-manualists tried to say that there was only one way, and the pope/bishops would tell you what that is.  This idea of church is a church of the hierarchy.  When people say, "What does the church teach,?" they are coming out of this mind-set.  It allows us not to grow up, or mature, or take reponsibility to decide.  It allows us to feel that we are absolutely certain.  If we fail to keep the absolute rule, well, we always have confession.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Balance

Any Church community needs people with differences, who think differently, and have differening focus.  For instance, a community I serve just moved into another church building because the one they were using has flood issues.  When we got into the church, one person was concerned that the altar be in a particular place.  Another checked out the organ.  Another looked at the interior design, its esthetics.  Me?  I am a nuts and bolts guy.  Do we have a sound system?  Do we have heat?  Where are the switches?  How do things "work."  All church communities grumble if they cannot hear or suffer from room temperature cold.  I asked about the sound system.  I saw that we had microphones on the podium.  So where is the system?  No one seemed concerned, so I went around and opened a cabinet in the back of the church.  Voila!  With instructions, though they were a bit out of date.  I got the sound on.  At the end of the church service, I told the leaders to find out how the heat works.  We will need it soon.  Churches need people like me.  I am not glamorous in my focus.  I am functional.