Saturday, May 31, 2014

Near Death

Recovery is the nearest you get to death without doing yourself in.  Much earlier in life you try some drug or behavior in order to change your feelings, escape a feeling, feel better, or at least feel differently.  Eventually, you use your drug to escape all feelings.  You seek oblivion.  All feelings, all life, is beyond your threshold of pain.  This is the bottom beyond which is death or recovery.  You kill yourself or you seek help.  Usually fear is what energizes people to make the call.  I don't tell people that recovery is a "spiritual" program.  They freak out with such a word as spiritual because religion has done such a bad job of it.  I tell them that recovery is an alternative to death.  I appeal to the fear factor.  Translate all this to the area of prayer.  We try to escape whatever we think is "prayer."  We are all spiritual people when normal.  So we have to find an abnormal way of living to escape the natural pull of prayer.  To avoid all prayer (foxhole prayers excepted) is to court a slow death from within.  We will all die on the outside eventually, but dying on the inside is optional.  People in recovery have chosen the better option.  Are you in need of recovery?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Asian Jesus

Yet one more theologian from India is trying to portray Jesus for India.  Some Vatican noses are out of joint.  A big problem is that the Jesus of Western Europe has co-oped the Jesus of the Bible.  Jesus was anything but Western European.  However, when we try to bring Jesus to other non-Western cultures, we seem to always drag western European values and images with him.  The Vatican is still a West European world of Greek philosophy, Reformation World arguments and Age of Enlightenment.  Jesus did not have any of that in his Good News.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pro Life

It seems that my church is thinking about making the  #1 item of Pro Life be not abortion but rather the environment.  Everything goes under the umbrella of environment, global warming or nuclear winter or whatever you want to call it.  Whatever the reasons for it, the mess is here.  Many will complain about this environment umbrella. Why?  You can be against abortion, but you don't have to spend a lot of money or change your lifestyle.  Anti-abortionists don't do abortion.  Environment is different.  To change the way things are going with the environment,  lots of money will have to be spent, and we will all have to inconvenience ourselves, that is change, in order to become more earth friendly.  In a nutshell, anti-abortion is all about someone else changing.  When I have to change and moreover, it will cost me $$$, then I tend whine, complain and ignore. Do I want babies to have the right to life?  Yes, but that is more than bringing them to birth.  For that I am responsible.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Drugs And Change

There are medications that can calm us down, and deal with our agitation, or bad mood.  Changed moods don't change us.  If you are selfish and self-centered, slothful, prideful, and judgmental, for instance, drugs won't change that.  God does not zap us into being better people either.  Drugs can help us escape from a mood, but not from ourself.  Real change is hard work.  Ask anyone who is in a recovery program or working with a no nonsense counselor.  In my religion there is the cross.  It is to remind me that religion is not about feeling good.  It is about being good.  It is about love when you are not loved back.  There has always been plenty of religion, but not very many transformed people.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Way

Before Christians called themselves "The Church" Chistianity was called, "The Way."  The way was Jesus.  He did invent canon law or all the rules of the Church.  He felt there were enough rules to go around.  He accepted Law, but did not focus on it.  He said he was the Way.  Others said the law was the way.  Christianity rejected Jewish Law, but then went on to make a lot of new laws and canon law.  Today, many preach the law and not Christ.  Are we going in circles here?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Parish Schools

From time to time I hear someone say somewhere, "If our school closes the parish will die."  Or, "Without the school, we have no parish."  I find this fascinating.  The Paulist Fathers have plenty of parishes with no school, lousy parking, and inconvenient access roads.  I find that these parishes do fine when they have Paulists that can preach and are user friendly with the laity.  So I wonder if these diocesan parishes that are so worried about their schools, are really places where the clergy staff would otherwise attract no one or hardly anyone due to pastoral ineptitude?  It makes me wonder about what is the criterion of a bishop to send his best and brightest pastoral people to one place and not another?  I am a believer that if  a priest is a good, relevant preacher, and can connect with the laity, people will find him and come again and again.  If he is inept, they will find him still, but only once.  They will not return.  If the school makes the parish, you got big problems.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Your Dash

I saw this in a publication and find it thought provoking.  How will you live out your dash?  Say what? We each have a date of birth.  After we die a dash will be placed after our date of birth followed by our date of death.  So how will you live out your dash?  What will you do with your dash?  For us older people, long range planning is not so much an option.  We have to get to stepping.  The dash is the great equality maker.  No matter how long or short our life, the dash is about the same length.  It is not the length of the dash that counts but what went into it.  My sister, Maureen, did not have a long life, but she had a great dash.  And you thought we weren't friends.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What Is Your Spinach?

Popeye, the cartoon, was a normal person with human weaknesses.  Then there would be a crisis.  The crisis or threat seemed to be winning.  Then Popeye downed a can of spinach.  He suddenly had super powers that allowed him to overcome the crisis.  Usually, it was love for another, Olive Oil, in this case, that got Popeye to access his spinach.  So what is your spinach?  What energizes you to be the best that you can be, all that God called you to be in a time of crisis?  For some people, their spinach is the misuse of drugs and alcohol.  It does change them, but not for the better.  For me, meditation, some silence and stillness helps, is my spinach, and if I wait for the crisis before going to my spinach, disaster results.  Popeye could skip his spinach day after day.  He only needed it when mess happened.  I cannot wait for the mess.  It lurks.  So I take a daily dose of my meditation, and I am more prepared.  When I can do it out of love rather than desperation or fear or routine, than I am truly ready for the Bluto situations of life. My sister, Maureen, did not like spinach.  Neither did Bluto.  Come to think of it, she reminds me a bit of Bluto!  Who is Bluto?  Were you deprived of the "Funny papers" when you were growing up?  

Friday, May 23, 2014


When I was growing up in the Bronx, I liked some stuff about prayer.  For one, it could get people to leave me alone.  When my sister Maureen would ask me, "What are you doing?" as prelude to wanting me to be helpful, I would say I was "praying."  She was a good Catholic girl, so what could she do.  Tell me to stop praying and clean up my mess?  I even held a rosary wrapped around my hand.  It made me more believable.  I wasn't really praying at these moments.  I was practicing early stages of selfishness and self-will run riot.  I hated housework.  I asked my heaven Mother, Mary, to help me get out of housework.  I never saw a holy card, "Our Lady of Housework," so I thought maybe Mary might help me.  She was supposed to love and forgive kids especially.  So I was told.  As I grew up I realized that we all use prayer for one thing or another.  We all have an agenda.  It was not until I got desperate, where my will was making things worse, that I began to say, "Your will not mine."  It takes a lot to give up willfulness.  But it seems to be the way of change.  I even do housework now, but it is not my will.  I offer it up…to get Maureen into heaven.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Host

I presided at a First Communion ceremony recently.  A child asked, "I wonder what the bread and wine will taste like."  They believe it was God, but the taste was a focus.  Times have changed, as they are want to do.  When I was a boy receiving communion, this was never my question.  The host was the host.  It was God, and we did not drink from the cup.  I was in awe of receiving God.  I did not eat the host.  There was no emphasis on it as "food."  I learned to swallow the host whole.  One does not chew God.  This is bad form.  And you will burn.  My sister Maureen would remind me, "Don't chew."  I needed no reminder.  I just swallowed God.  I wanted to kneel in my pew and be very quiet with God.  I am an introvert anyway, so I did not need to talk a lot to God after communion.  When people spoke of "Meditation" years later, it was an easy transition for me.  Even Maureen would be quiet after communion and not be bossy.  So I knew God must be very powerful to get her to be quiet and leave me be.  I learned lots of stuff about God from being around my Big Sister.  Do you think she made it to heaven yet?  Besides being awesome, I hear that God is pretty merciful too.  So who knows.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ignoring The Pope

For three popes in a row I pretty much did not follow their line of thinking.  Sometimes I thought that maybe I was not a very good Catholic, being contrary and deaf-eared.  Many people around me had no problem with the Popes and what they said.  Then along came Francis I.  Suddenly, all those people who listened and followed the popes I ignored, were now ignoring Pope Francis.  They thought he did not know what he was talking about.  So now I realize that we Catholics agree or disagree with a Pope depending on what he is saying.  We don't change our views.  We just wait for the next Pope.  Anyhow, with this Pope I have suddenly become a good Catholic.  He is pretty old though, so I am not sure how long I will be this good Catholic.  I am riding a wave.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Conservative Egress

What if all the political and economic conservatives left the church?  Liberals have been leaving for years but not over economic reasons.  The Pope is pushing for a redistribution of wealth.  And he wants the state to be front and center on this.  Conservatives no like this.  What if the Pope is pealing off a layer of Christianity, filled with rules and regs, to reveal underneath that Christianity is really more akin to socialism than trickle down capitalism?  What bemuses me is that I doubt the conservatives will listen to the Pope on economics, anymore than the liberals will listen about sex and marriage.  No wonder no one listened to Jesus.  His Way challenged us to stop being selfish, self-centered, fearful and lots more we don't want to look at.  I hope the Pope knows that if the rich leave the Church, he will have to sell the Vatican Palace and the museum.  Oh well, he just lives in a hotel anyway.

Monday, May 19, 2014


I accepted a mass in a mountain community about 8000 altitude.  But it was May when there would be Springtime temperatures, right?  Wrong.  Lots of snow was expected.  My car is not good for the snow.  I could have waited until the last minute and if it did in fact snow, just call the Deacon and tell him to do a communion service.  That happens at times.  But I had an inkling to try and find a way to assure I get there.  A Hummer!  A friend of mine agreed to drive me up in his Hummer which goes through any weather.  Plus I get a heated seat.  Heaven is when you get a heated seat in a car.  Sunday came and it did snow in the mountains.  The Hummer got us there on time.  Surprise!  It was First Communion for five children, all dressed for such an important event in their lives. No one told me.  I found out when I looked at the program in the back of the church.  My prepared sermon was prime time for this event.  I scrambled and babbled out something for the children.  Forgettable words I am sure.  But what if I had not come to the church at all?  What a disaster to have no mass for First Communion in our tradition. In spite of my sins and mediocrity, God can get things done through me.  Never give up on God using you for good.  God's power can win out over my powerlessness.  Oh, and it was Mother's Day too.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cell Phone Mind

Most of us have had our quiet interrupted by someone nearby who makes a cell phone call of no importance.  An example: Hello.  What are you up to?  Another example: Hello.  We are about to take off.  See you in a few weeks.  Does anyone care?  It is hard to tell.  But I have come to realize that I have a cell phone mind when it comes to prayer.  I get interrupted or side-tracked in my spiritual life by silly thoughts that have little import.  I wander off into inanity.  It is as if my cell phone mind calls itself to bring up some topic or question that has little importance, if any.  Where is the off switch?  There are days, or hours when I seem to be "on" and receiving mental calls all the time.  When those days come to an end, I realize that my wannabe spiritual life of the early morning never materialized.  I hope I don't burn for this.  My sister Maureen was less optimistic about my chances to escape the flames.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Christ Omitted

A priest convention speaker remarked that we do quite a good job of preaching the church, but not so good at preaching Christ.  The speaker had done quite a few interviews in her goings around the country to Catholic venues.  I think she is onto something that is so.  I hear priests talk about "Holy Mother Church says," and then they go on to speak about some rule or issue that Christ never or rarely addressed.  If we are losing membership maybe it is because people hunger for Jesus and the Good News?  My friends who left are not saying.  He did say he came to save sinners.  I always thought that was good news.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Remains

After you stop breathing, they call what is left of you, "The Remains."  The remains must be gotten rid of, buried, burned, thrown somewhere, like so much garbage.  Garbage is what remains when it has no more use to anyone.  The best of the Catholic Church is seen in our funeral liturgies.  We treat what is left over after death, with some sense of sacredness, plus reality. We incense the remains, going back to the custom that combines the reality of stench with the belief in the sacredness of the body, breath or no.  We refer to the body or ashes as part of a person who somehow still lives, though no longer in need of the "remains."  With God, nothing is garbage.  All is sacred.  When you stop believing in Creator, or God, things just become, "remains."  The purely secular, without the sacred, is just so much "stuff."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More On Ignored

Many a pastor will note that so and so has stopped coming to church.  When you stop coming you may not be anonymous to a pastor who knows who is who.  You are someone to the pastor. Yet, the reason for the leaving is generally seen as a problem with the faithful, the one leaving.  It is not seen as a problem with the messenger, or the message.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Who'd A Thought!

Today, I am a priest 37 years.  My friends in San Francisco gave me three weeks to three months after I left the Brokerage business, before I would be out of the seminary and back in San Francisco partying and playing.  They had cause for doubts.  I had rough patches, long patches in which I was a jerk, with self-will run riot.  It is all Grace.  I have survived myself, my silliness, and obtuseness.  I don't think God is finished with me.  Surprises are still to come.

Steady Growth

A research report says that my church has steady growth.  Really?  On what planet?  If you count only the ones coming in and not the ones going out, you will have steady growth.  The ones coming in are noted, named, and counted.  They count.  The ones going out are ignored.  They had been ignored for quite a while, so it was nothing new to them when no one noticed they were not showing up anymore.  Would you not feel ignored if no one listened to you anymore?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


An openly gay, Episcopal bishop is going to divorce his spouse.  See, they are just as equal as straight people.  They get divorced too.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Young Blood

A local university is doing a study on what happens if old animals get the blood of younger animals.  Seems that the old animal acts younger.  Duh!  It has more energy and exercises better, among other improvements.  In sports we have called this "doping" for quite some time.  It is seen as a bad thing.  So, are these mice studies going to lead someday to a nation of dopers, trying to avoid death?  I thought death was the way to something good?  Oh, I forgot. That is my spirituality speaking.  Maybe doping is the response to a drop in interests of a spiritual nature, as in God.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Cross

The cross is a difficult sell.  For people who want and can have comfort, most needs met, and lot's of wants satisfied, you won't get far with "pick up your cross."  That is why the Gospel, and maybe religion is general works better with oppressed and poor, who see no way out.  Here, they already bear a cross of suffering.  Religion makes sense of their cross by saying, "It is transforming."  You are transformed by the cross, yes.  Lots of poverty in Mexico and Central Africa.  Lots of Catholics there too. Not sure about transformation though.  It takes courage, the path to martyrdom, to preach social justice in those places.  The rich aren't interested in crosses in those places.  Come to think of it, Silicon Valleys all over the world probably are a bit lite on the message of the cross.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ignoring The Pope

A lot of people ignore the pope about birth control and they get called out by many of the hierarchy.  But a lot of people ignore the pope about wealth, vanity and power.  The hierarchy seems to be a bit more subdued on this disobedience.  Why?  Jesus never said anything about birth control.  He had more to say about vanity and wealth and power.  Help me out here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sex Before Marriage

Many people say that sex is OK outside of marriage so long as you don't get pregnant.  Birth control makes this rather predictable.  My church counters with, "No sex until married." It is a solution that might have worked when people got married in their early teens.  But now people are waiting until their late 20s or even 30+.  Is the argument still relevant for waiting until marriage for these older more mature adults?  People wait because of economics, careers, debts, advanced degrees.  My church has never really had much of a handle or outreach to people after confirmation up to marriage preparation.  This is becoming a fifteen year gap.  Maybe if the church listens, this gap of people will tell the church what the people need.  It might make for some ambiguity.  Authority is allergic to ambiguity.   Answers to which no one listens is preferred to change.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Marie Antoinette

A Vatican Cardinal said that his 6000 square foot palazzi is normal, since these kinds of residences tend to be spacious.  I guess the Pope has a different normal or is suggesting one.  No remorse, guilt or shame from the Vatican Cardinal.  Marie Antoinette, as a prelude to the horrible French revolution, said, "Let them eat cake."  There was a great inequality of lifestyle in France at that time.  I think she missed the point.  So does the Cardinal.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crazy Like Me

I sit in a room at 7:00 AM, meditating with a bunch of guys who have struggles with the everyday life of people, events, and places.  I feel very comfortable with these guys.  When I meditate with a bunch of priests, nuns, parish regulars, heavyweight searchers for spiritual depth, I find myself saying, "I am out of my league here."  If these people only knew what goes through my mind!  But with these guys, early in the morning, I feel at home.  They are all crazy like me.  I think it is a great blessing to find such people.  There is acceptance and hope.  We are all trying.  If you can find a group on a spiritual path, who accept you just as you are, this is a blessing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kearney Street

Here is San Francisco in my neighborhood there is a rather ugly street named "Kearney." For about three or four blocks if you look at the buildings from eye level, all is rather in need of some renewal if not facelifting.  BUT, if you walk along and look up, you see all the beautiful designs on the sides at the tops of these same buildings.  So ugly at one level and so beautiful at another.  Of course, it is much harder to walk along with your head tilted backhand eyes raised while not tripping or walking into something/someone.  I find looking up to be a metaphor for prayer.  Life has many easy to see distractions and run of the mill things.  Focus only on the easy to see and experience, and you will miss something more beautiful.  Prayer is the more beautiful, but it takes effort and a conscious decision to look in a particular direction.  Maybe all the builders of the Kearney Street stores, found God somewhere above the fourth floor, and that made all the difference.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Guide

I recently ate food purchased at a Japanese supermarket.  My first time to buy food at such a place and eat it.  It is not the same experience as a Japanese restaurant, to which I have already gone in the past.  In the supermarket I get to see all the foods, not just a menu of them.  So many choices, so much variety.  I had a guide, a priest friend who was familiar with things in the store.  Yet I picked out something different than he did.  My choice was delicious, and inexpensive too.  A guide, a mentor, is most helpful when going to some place new and different.  For one, they can save you from mistakes that are commonly made.  This helps to have a good first experience.  Some people would rather just go it alone.  I will go back to this supermarket and Japanese food.  A bad first experience can make all the difference to many of us.  So why try to find God all by yourself?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sean Fagan

Seems Fr. Sean Fagan, Irish, was silenced for his writings back in 2010.  Well, now, with a new pope, seems Fr. Fagan is being reinstated.  He had been threatened with being tossed out of the priesthood if he continued to publish.  He got silent after 2010 but never changed his writings.  So what changed?  Seems whomever is in power in Vatican circles calls the shots.  I foolishly thought it was all about dogma and doctrine.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


The Pope said that the root of all evil is inequality.  Capitalists circled the wagons.  A counterpoint to the Pope is that the old Soviet Union eliminated inequality, but things were a mess.  So much for socialism.  The Cold War regime of communism was hardly socialism.  The word socialism was the veneer for corrupt, greedy people, i.e. the party bosses, to get rich while not really producing much of anything.  The problem with inequality, be it capitalism or communism, is greed.  Greed makes for an unjust inequality.  There will always be inequality, but communism has no answer or antidote for it.  It has no religion.  It allows for no dissent.  The freedoms that come with capitalism, allow for some solution to greed.  There is greed that comes with not paying just wages, or firing people simply to get a better bottom line profit statement.  There is also the reward that comes to the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, and plain good luck.  I think spirituality is the only solution to greed.  In my country people are trying to kill religion while at the same time complaining about inequality.  Go figure.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Love Is Fleeting

For me, loving San Francisco is a fleeting emotion.  One day it is warm, sunny, no cold ocean breeze.  I never want to leave.  I will stay here forever.  Suddenly, everything changes.  Partly cloudy, cold, brisk wind off the water, dampness everywhere, bone chilling.  I can't wait to get out of here.  The house is cold and so on.  This town challenges me to love day in and day out, with some acceptance and some hope.  One grows spiritually living in the challenges of San Francisco weather.  To keep an even keel, one needs acceptance, hope, patience, and imagination to find indoor things to do.  And of course you get lots of days off from purgatory for all the suffering in bad weather.  This can be fun town for suffering…until the big one, of course.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Who Will Love Me

If you want to know what is was like to grow up Irish in NewYork City, read, Someone, by Alice McDermott.  It is a wonderful read.  Anyhow, Marie, the woman narrator in the book is dumped by her boyfriend.  She asks an important question.  "Who will love me?"  Marriage is where many people expect this question to be answered.  Is there someone out there with whom I can share my life and diminish my loneliness?  I think this is what many of us look for in a relationship.  When I wake up in the morning I try to say thank you to God for my being loved, not only by God, but by others.  To be loved by people who actually know me in all my faults is nothing less than a miracle.  It is a profound gift, totally unearned.  People come to church with this question: "Who will love me?"  To chastise them, criticize them, tell them they are a mess, is rather cruel.  But then some say that I am a rather church lite priest.  I am an Irishman who does not believe in kicking people when they are already down.  I rather pick on religious potentates.