Friday, January 31, 2014
Baseball doesn't change much especially the National League which makes the pitcher come to bat. Part of the charm and draw of baseball is that today's game can bring a person back to an earlier day when they had their first Wow! experiences of the game. The lack of change is what keeps people connected with baseball year after year. This is why I understand the people who want the old Latin Mass back. They are trying to capture a religious experience that liturgy gave them years ago. The vernacular does not do this for them. If I went to a Latin Mass I know that it would recapture for me my early powerful experiences of being Catholic. The vernacular can capture new experiences for me, but cannot connect with the old, the original. So many other things in life change including the cathedrals of baseball, the ballparks. But the game is still the game.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Baseball has always been my sport. It connects me to my growing up years, to being a boy in the Bronx. Baseball is the one area in my life where I do not have to grow up. Girls cannot go back to their dolls, and doll houses and toys. But boys can go back to their baseball every Spring. Football came later in my life, and it is somewhat violent. You can make someone a football player. You cannot make someone a baseball player. That is God's doing. A ball player can only work on his God-given talent. Baseball is watching God at work on green fields, and warm days. I will be in Florida for Spring training this year. I like my job!
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Besides Women's Figure skating, I enjoy the downhill ski races, mostly because it takes me out of any anxiety I have about anything else at the moment the racer goes out of the gate. I worry about their possible injury. The racer pushes themself on the edge of disaster. They have to overcome fear. I admire anyone who can overcome fear, not by avoiding life, but by entering fully into it. The Olympics teach us many things.
Every four years as the football season morphs into baseball, there is a February interlude, The Winter Olympics. Women's figure skating is the spiritual moment for me in those two weeks. The combination of grace, beauty, ballet, and athleticism, moves my heart like a great opera, musical, or liturgy. Those five minutes when the women finalists skate for the gold are so uplifting. There is a God and this God is at work in these performances. Spiritual highs for me are less often in church and more often in the human person responding to their moment of truth that brings out all the best that is in them. But then you might want to watch basketball or a sitcom. Pity.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Monday, January 27, 2014
When I was caring for my dad in his last few months of life, we both rooted for the Yankees in the playoffs. It was the first time we had rooted for the Yankees together in over 50 years. It was a bonding experience, though I think he was more taken up with his dying than with the Yankees. But it was a bonding experience for me only because I had taken time out to care for my dad. Caregiving has lots of perks. It is a bonding experience in itself. At least I have found it so. The Yankees lost, but my dad and I gained precious time together, when neither of us had anything else to do but be with one another. The Yankees always had next year. Dad and I only had now.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
My Dad was a NewYork Yankees baseball fan. He passed it on to me. Our rotting for the Yankees bonded us, especially when the World Series came around each October. But then I chose independence. That has always been my fatal flaw. I choose independence over bonding. I picked the New York Giants as my baseball team. It was the team of my friend in the apartment below us. My choice bonded me with my friend, but he was a short-term friend. My dad was a lifelong dad. Dad and I never enjoyed baseball together again, especially when the my team and his played against one another in the World Series. After years of choosing independence, I think that I would now choose bonding. Some values take a long time to rise up for some of us. I am glad that my God is patient and that the door to a spiritual path is always open.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
I first saw her coming down the escalator to the display room at the Ford Exhibit of the World's Fair. Of the thousands of people who had come down that escalator that summer, she is the only one I really "saw." The experience began with that first look. The awareness of a presence that moved me. Would she come over to my display station next to the new Mustang car Ford had unveiled that year? She would. I was aware of her presence in the large display room even before she came over. She did not rush over. It heightened the excitement. We talked. What we said is of no matter. It was the look, one to another. Our lives were changed from then on, like any spiritual experience. It happened but defies words of explanation. It is where science and the spiritual meet. Some things just "are" but cannot be put into words. It is called love.
Friday, January 24, 2014
It is snowing in Houston, Texas. Is the world coming to an end? Armageddon? Well, we hope not yet. Here in California we are watching surfers taking on the Maverick waves at the ocean. We have lots of water out here, but unfortunately it is salty. So we do what we can with the circumstances. Go surfers!
I heard something that makes sense to me. When you do an act of kindness, be helpful to someone else, you are giving yourself a gift. Say what? Say you are selfish by habit. Selfish people are never at peace. Then you reach out to help someone. Don't you feel better doing it? If you get resentful when helpful, you are still mired in selfishness. The only way I have ever gotten out of selfishness is by being helpful. I cannot judge for sure how helpful I was, but I feel better about me, and that is a gift to myself. Anytime I have a chance to be helpful, I try to do so, while that habitually selfish voice/energy in me, called sin/bad habit, tells me to ignore the request for help.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
If someone had said, "You should listen to Pachel Bel Kanon," I probably would have skipped it. To me it was some classical piece written by a guy named Paco. Mexican music. Heard one, you heard em all. Fortunately, for this dunce, my first experience of the Kanon was in the wonderful, moving movie, Ordinary People. I was very moved by the movie, though it was a painful story. Forever after, I connect the movie I loved, with the Kanon I now love. Experience is so important, if you are to love anything or anyone. My love for Jesus came out of stories people told me, that I felt moved the story teller. I only read at the books later. That is why I preach from experience, including my whimsical stories of growing up with my big sister Maureen. Spiritually, I guess I am a bit of a lightweight for adults. Children still like my "experiences." Well, they have souls too.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
I love to hear The William Tell Overture. Why? My first experience of hearing it was when I listened to the radio program, The Lone Ranger and then watched it when it became a TV Show. Each episode started out with The Lone Ranger riding his white horse, Silver, up a hill and when Silver stood on two hind feet and reached into the air, the Overture reached its peak. I enjoy the Overture because I connect it to an experience that is precious to me. I think it is the same with Jesus. If I ask many a person if they are Catholic, they will say, yes, they were baptized, or they went to Catholic grade school. But I pick up no deep experience from those events/times, that reveal any significant relationship with Jesus. Events happened but they remained relatively unaffected from a spiritual point. I don't think any one stays involved in sacraments without an experience of Jesus that holds a deep place within them. The experience is really the precious thing we have to share when we "share faith." All else is book knowledge, catechism, philosophy, that may give some understanding to our experience, but cannot replace the experience. It is not enough to believe in "real presence." It has to be an experience, a Wow, at least enough times to keep us coming back. At least I have found it so.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Underneath or San Francisco church, a group of men meet every Friday morning for an hour. Upstairs, in the church, people are supposed to be worshipping God, and living the gospel the rest of the day. I think downstairs, under the church, is where the miracle of change is happening. These are men who now meditate in silence, with a belief in a God, and then share from the heart. These same men used to be drunkards, drug addicts, selfish, badly behaved guys. They were more likely to go to bed early in the morning, not get up to meditate. Upstairs, in the Catholic worship, the bread and wine is becoming Jesus. Downstairs, these men are becoming Jesus. In the Orthodox Church it is called, Divinization.
Monday, January 20, 2014
In my church Baptism saves us from our sins. OK. That is a saving from. Now what are we saved for? I think that the baptized are then supposed to do something that they did not do or could not do when they were un-baptized. Compare it to some one who is saved from an addiction. They are no longer controlled by their addiction. Now they are saved for something new that they could not do before. If you are selfish and self-centered when you were into your addiction, you must do things that make you less selfish, or else you just go back to the way you were. I think it is the same with Baptism. It is not magic. I think that the point of Baptism is that afterwards you are supposed to live the gospel of love, which means self-sacrifice to say the least.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
I prefer that people tell me what they believe rather than tell me what I am supposed to believe. Tell me of your experience of God, or Jesus, who whoever, whatever. If people tell us simply what we are supposed to think, believe, do, we might comply when we are young. As we grow up, we drop a lot of this. If people come to me with a problem, I may have a solution that I think will help them, but if I simply say do this or that, it has only a short term effect. If I tell them what I actually did, what my experience with the problem/solution is for me, that goes a lot further. A catechism answer that is not lived out, is shallow. Young people are dropping out of religion that is all about ideas, and very little about shared experience.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Stephan Berg was named the next bishop of Pueblo, Colorado. Look at his resume. It is filled with pastoral parish work. Even when he was a mucky muck in his Texas diocese, he was a pastor. This is the future. Bureaucrats need not apply for bishop. Same for seminary professors. Berg even started out in rural parishes. Many a diocesan priest thinks he is being punished if he is assigned to rural areas. The world it is a changing.
Friday, January 17, 2014
A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is being brought around to San Francisco churches this month. It comes to our church this week. The statue is on a kind of pilgrimage, if you will. I have never been very good about visiting statues. I don't really relate. I am supposed to be reverential, devotional and pious. I just feel like I am in the presence of a stranger who is passing through. Sort of like a relative I will see only for this brief moment. Other people, of course, get all worked up and pray for miracles. I am more comfortable with images that are here all the time, such as a permanent statue or picture or stained glass window. I get used to it being around. I warm up to it. It takes time for statues and me to relate. I guess I am not very good with strangers. Intimacy is not immediate for me. There has always been something phony about jumping onto the latest religious thing.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
If you say, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are a good person," the dogma focused persons get all upset. They have a point, I agree. The Belief is important. It forms us. My problem is with some of these same persons who think it does not matter what you do, as long as you believe the right doctrine. I call this "hypocrisy." John Henry Newman used to rail against his upper class Anglican congregation about their correct beliefs, and regular attendance, while at the same time failing to live the gospel.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
I like this image. God is aways with us. Why do I not not keep this in mind? It is like turning on the mute button by mistake. The music is still playing somewhere, but I do not hear it. God is still with me, but I am unaware, until I consciously turn the mute button of my soul back on. I aways wake up with God "on." Then stuff happens.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Jesus wasn't very impressive as a baby or as a criminal upon a cross. But being impressive is not important, unless you make a living at it, I suppose. The world was a whole lot better because he passed through it. Let us say the same for each of us, though I lives look ordinary and unimpressive to the world. I am a very unimpressive priest, ordinary, OK. But I know that the world is a better place for some people because I have passed through or touched their life. Resumes and obituaries don't impress God.
Monday, January 13, 2014
I just read where Sprite is a great way to get over hangovers. I have found another way. Don't drink. My way you avoid the hangover altogether. Sometimes, not doing something is the best solution. If it is going to hurt, but produce nothing but pain, what is the point?
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Someone taught me that what I think and what I actually do, ought to be different. I have found this to be very good advice when I am feeling cranky, judgmental, or prideful. Thoughts are just thoughts. I don't have to let them control my life. For that I need to be on a spiritual path of meditation on a daily basis.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Fr. Henri Didon was a French Dominican priest who went around giving sermons, much like I do, only his were stirring. He was considered somewhat modern, like me, and this got him exiled for a few years. As a young man he had been an outstanding athlete, unlike me who is merely mediocre. As a school principal, he introduced sports as a key component of education. He had a friend, Pierre de Coubertin, who happened to found the modern Olympics. Fr. Didon spoke of "faster, higher, stronger" in sports. De Coubertin liked that and it became the official motto for the Olympics. We Catholics are influential everywhere, when we do what we love, in spite of being exiled for a while.
Friday, January 10, 2014
In the early church, conversion came through an experience that changed people from the inside. The original apostles saw the risen Jesus. The martyrs of the first three centuries had such a conversion that they would lay down their lives for Christ. The desert monks had interior conversions through their silence and solitude. They literally changed the way they lived, their whole value system. Then things changed. Rulers would accept the faith in such places as Ethiopia, Georgia, Armenia. Then the people would follow. The shift was one of rules, dogma and worship, none of which requires any deep interior change. Again, without the experience sufficient to change ourselves from inside, mediocrity will reign. I suspect it is the same with all the religions.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Often, decisions or controversies are about money, power, and jobs. I tend to focus on these and not the headline issues. The German bishops want to give communion to Catholics who are remarried without an annulment. A Vatican prelate (Cardinal) is against this. He gives religious language about sacramental economy. Ask yourself, if people could receive communion without an annulment, then would not the number of people seeking annulments drop? How many ordained in the Vatican get income and jobs from annulment work? Connect the dots.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
The Pope said that we should welcome sinners but not the corrupt. I like this. Sinners know that they are sinners, in need of reform, assistance to grow. The corrupt don't know this at all. The example of a corrupt person is one who thinks they are being helpful but in fact are part if not the source of the problem. You can see why the pope has problems with an economy that has a few very rich and a whole lot of very poor.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
I run several days a week. I should be seeing improvement right? I see no improvement. It seems I just run and get no better. Maybe I am wasting my time? Perhaps. But what if I stopped all together? I would soon notice a change as I quickly got out of shape. Stairs would be harder to climb. Walking about would become more laborious. Sleep would be more irregular. Bad moods more regular. So, maybe it is not so much a matter of "not getting better." It might be a matter of not getting worse. That sounds like improvement to me. I use the same approach with prayer. I pray on a daily basis. I am not getting holier. Why bother? Well, I could stop…and get a whole lot worse.
Monday, January 6, 2014
Why is it that religious orders of men and women seem to connect so much better with the laity than does the diocesan priest? Religious orders grow from the laity. Monks are not ordained. They are brothers. Women religious are not ordained. They are nuns or sisters. In Canon Law they are treated at times as laity. They don't spend time in seminaries learning all about how to protect the Church from the secular world of sin. They live or work in the secular world among the laity. They never get far from their roots. They spend no time getting "formed" into defenders of orthodoxy. Religious orders are more likely grass root oriented to real life problems of people. Religious orders have a "charism." They exist for a particular purpose or mission. Often they are founded to do some work that the hierarchy has neglected, such as educating poor women.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
The American Catholic Church is stuck in its Papal coverage. When all the bishops agreed with the last two popes about "being tough" on doctrine and rules, every breath of the Pope was publicized. We got used to hearing "what the pope says," about any issue. When I was a boy, we rarely heard about the pope. Now with the new Pope Francis, the Catholic media machine is still revved up about whatever the Pope says or does. The problem for the American hierarchy is that they and the Pope are not on the same page. These prelates do not have pastoral DNA. To make the shift, and it will be cumbersome, we will hear such things as, "Throwing an olive branch to divorced." What is that about? An olive branch is a symbol of making peace. It shows the attitude of one side, not the divorced, being at war with people who don't follow rules. If we had simply lived out the fulness of the gospel, we would never have gotten into this mess in the first place.
Saturday, January 4, 2014
Parishes would do well to model AA. In AA someone comes in because they are desparate. They want help to not die or lose everything they have. The members of AA pour themselves out in service to this person, no questions asked. They set the person on a spiritual path of recovery on several levels. They walk with the person along the path. The person comes to many meetings. Then one day, the person thinks things are fine and just stops coming, no goodbye, or thank you. Time move on. The person's life becomes a mess again. They return, sheepishly, expecting some rejection or judgment. The members who have been meeting regularly all this time, simply reach out in welcome, and again pour themselves out in service. They act this way because it keeps themselves sober and on the spiritual path of a better life. Think of a parish or church that acted this way. People come to get something such as a church service, funeral, wedding, advice, daily sustenance or whatever. If the parish helps and then the person leaves without even a goodbye or thank you, so what. If it makes the helper a better person, holier in selfless service is this not a good thing? If it makes you resentful, you might try the twelve steps of AA. Just sayin
Friday, January 3, 2014
At one time or another, for some more frequently than others, we treat God as we would a hammer. When we need a hammer, we really need a hammer. But when we are finished with it, then we put it aside until we might need it again. Sometimes we forget where we last stored it. God is like a hammer. When we want God, we really want God. When we then get what we want or don't get what we want, then we put God aside until some future time. If we don't get what we want, we more often get rid of God in our lives altogether. What attracts me about God, is that God does not seem to mind such treatment. God never rejects us or leaves us even though we often simply use God for our own agenda. God is love. A God-filled person acts in this same selfless manner. Think of the parent who puts up with all kinds of stuff from selfish children. The parishes get a bit upset that they are "used" at Christmas and ignored the rest of the year. God just goes on being God, loving, not judging.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Why do so many people want to get Jesus out of the Holiday season, which we call Christmas. Well, Jesus seems to be about selfless love, giving rather than getting, letting go of stuff, such as power, control and even his life, being poor and caring for the poor. That all bothers a lot of people. That way of living, that view of humanity, is stupid to a lot of people. Jesus would bother them. Best to ignore him.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
The pope wants the Philippine Nuncio to spend this Christmas season with the victims of the typhoon. This will be a stretch. Realize that prelates are steeped in European Catholic culture. That is how they got discovered in the first place, not working in some poor parish in the outback. The European model is one of royalty. Its history is one of majesty and splendor in keeping up with the nation building States of the rich and powerful. Prelates generally don't do well amongst the poor. Cameos for photo opts, yes, but not much more than that.