There is a parable in which the master is going off on a journey. He gives one servant $100, and one servant $50 and one servant $10. In our modern world there are three things you can do. You can invest it in some enterprise and try to expand the pie, as economists would say. You could put it into the bank for interest. You could hide it somewhere. What you don't do is try to get the other servants' money in order to increase your own holdings. You could steal it, or you could lobby Congress to get laws/rules that allow you to get more at the expense of someone else. The pie is not expanded. This seems to be when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It may be legal, but is it just? If legal is your criterion for what is right and fair, you had better hope God agrees.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
If Jesus is God, it seems that he came into a very ordinary existence. Small village. Blue collar work. Lots of routine. Maybe the ordinary is where we are supposed to encounter Love? Maybe God likes the ordinary. So then the ordinary is also the extraordinary. I think the Buddha said that. I don't have to try so hard to make myself special or fantasize specialness in order to encounter love. I need not show off. If the everyday is fine with God, than why is it not so fine with us? We take vacations from our ordinary life. Maybe we should take vacation from fantasy, and trying to be someone we are not.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
After I have been away awhile, there is a couple in my Boulder parish, who when they see me again, reintroduce themselves by name. I find this refreshing and a great help to me. Now I remember their names. I know who they are from seeing and talking with them, but forgot the names. Most people seem to assume I remember their name, even though we may not have talked for months. Sometimes they even want to make an appointment, and assume I will write their name down in my appointment book. The fact is, I and many others, forget names, and sometimes faces. When I see some acquaintance, who I have not seen in some time, I always reintroduce myself. I never assume people remember my name unless they are good friends. It keeps me humble, and is very practical to boot.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Now and again something happens and I feel in touch with my mortality, the fact that I am aging. James Garner died recently. He was "Maverick" the cool gambling guy on TV when I was growing up. He was forever young. He had the same look each weekly show. Things changed around me, but not Maverick. How did he ever get to be 86? The shows of my youth kept everything the same. The more soffisticated type of TV came later, after the 60s. Maverick was eternity on TV. Do you ever get reality and entertainment mixed up? I guess I do, or did. Anyway, I miss Maverick.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
When my Dad died ten years ago, I came to this monastery for a four month stay. I have been coming now for eleven summers. From the first summer to this one, I tried very hard to prove to the monks that I could do a good job, as in special. I wanted to be helpful, important, needed, competent, for this is what I was for my Dad. What this did was trash my body, but not bring my Dad back. There are no surrogates. My Dad needed me. The monastery does not, no matter how hard I try. There are no special monks. So now I am here for the right reasons. I do some work, but not more than they ask or I am capable of at my age. I use my time here for a deepening experience of God, more reflection on how my spiritual life is doing, some discernment, and writing up teachings. I have always done this too each summer. I don't need all summer for this. I may not be the holiest of priests, but I am a better priest, and more needed as a priest than a hay rancher. Thel monastery ranch can be fun, and I can be helpful, but two months will be plenty. The days of a long summer in the monastery are over for me. I have other places to see and people to meet. Life is short. I do hope that when I am gone someone will miss me as much as I miss my Dad.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
When we moved to the suburbs and our house with a lawn, my Dad was going to become a lawn grower. The fellow across the street had a beautiful lawn, no weeds, all grass, no brown, all green. Post card stuff. My Dad worked on our lawn year after year, but it grew weeds and brown spots before mid-summer. The backyard was a beautiful green lawn, but no one saw that but us kids and our friends. My Dad wanted the lawn in front to look good. When I moved away twelve years later, he had not yet given up, but he had not yet gotten a green grass lawn. Years later, after my parents had retired, I made one of my summer visits. Dad had a green grass lawn. Patience my friend, patience.
Friday, July 25, 2014
I grew up in the Bronx until the 7th grade. We moved to the suburbs with a house, trees and a lawn. We had five beartiful birch trees in our front yard in White Plains, NY. We did not know that birch does not have deep enough roots to keep them up when they grow big. Within the first five years there we lost all our birch trees. Our front yard looked so barren. But behind many a disaster or disappointment, there can be a new opportunity. My Mom and Dad became flower gardeners. They had to learn the basics. They were City people, as in cement everywhere. They learned. The place of the birch trees became the most beautiful garden in our neighborhood. It was always a pleasure to come home on visits and see the multi-colors of the flowers in the summer. Stuff happens. But it allows for something new. Unless of course, you want to whine forever about loss and change.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
I was 23 years old with a semester to go for my Ivy League MBA. I had a girlfriend, the love of my life. I was a good boyfriend. Come the following Valentine's Day, I sent her flowers and a card. She lived in another state and I had not seen her since Christmas. No Valentine response came my way. What is up? I called. She had another boyfriend. I was out. My heart was broken. Tears. My life was over. What did I do? An enemy hath done this. I got a job offer to move to Chicago. I took it. I had never been to Chicago, but I wanted to move away from New York and bad vibes. In Chicago, I met the Paulist Fathers for the first time. They were just around the corner from my office. I used to go to weekday mass at times. After two Chicago winters, I moved to San Francisco and another job. Who is at the downtown parish near my office? The Paulist Fathers. Six years after the breakup, I joined the Paulists. It took six years, so God did not get me on the rebound. The rest is history. I was meant to be a Paulist priest. So when bad stuff happens, wait. God is at work. People dumped Jesus when he was crucified. Should'a waited, no? Some of the best stuff comes after the most painful of messes. Of course, some people wish my girlfriend had married me, so that they would not have to listen to my drivel sermons or see these blogs.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
In the Twelve Steps of recovery, there is a specific sequence. Thus they are called steps. You take one before the other. Step eleven says you pray. Step twelve says you help others. Notice that prayer precedes action. This is the teaching of countless spiritual teachers for centuries. Without a spiritual connection to God, in my case, I will not be really helpful to others. Prayer puts me in touch with my faults. Prayer diminishes the power of my faults to do harm to others, while I think I am helping them. This is a prayer more of meditation and self-reflection, rather than talking with a lot of words. It helps to know our faults. Earlier steps in the Twelve Step process does that for the addicted person. A daily examination of conscience is what I use. I have my scriptures too. It all helps. Do less for others if you are doing little for your interior life.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I met an alcoholic once who said that he might drink again someday, but it won't be today. This has stuck with me. The alcoholic was in a recovery program that gives him things to do today so as to stay sober today. These efforts have little shelf life. Tomorrow, the alcoholic will have to do some or all of the same things to stay sober tomorrow. But this fellow was not thinking about tomorrow. Today was the focus. I think it is a good way for me to live. I cannot drive safely today, with seat belt on, car maintained, so as to not have an accident tomorrow. I drive safely today for today. I may give up running someday, but not today. Now some people take dope, just for today, to feel good or better than without dope. That is doing something unhealthy on a daily basis, just like my friend who used to drink on a daily basis to gain some effect. I guess the effect wore off, or turned on him before he died. Apparently the buzz has little shelf life too and tomorrow you have to start all over again to maintain your insanity. And people say I am crazy for running at my age. Good grief!
Monday, July 21, 2014
If I want to go out for a run, an essential part of the run is to lace up my shoes. Now if the laces are completely off the shoe, it will take some time, patience and effort to get the laces on. If the laces are on but loose from a recent previous run, then I lace up much more easily. It is much the same way with prayer and the spiritual life. If I am completely separate from a life of prayer, due to neglect, upbringing, lack of interest, I am unlaced spiritually. I need to find a prayer that fits me at this particular stage of my journey, just like a runner has to find the shoe that fits. Then I need to set aside some time. I will need patience and effort as I begin this life of prayer. A daily dose plus a log or prayer journal might help too, just like a runner records their workouts…a serious runner of course. You are serious about your initiation into prayer, are you not? You might then want to find a coach or mentor, someone who has been there and can give you some feedback. Of course, when my running shoe laces break, I just get angry with God. It is better to have a second pair of running shoes, than to get angry with God.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
The monastery experience is a love affair with God. Quiet, still prayer in solitude with God is making love, the experience of intimacy. It can stay with me all day long. God is always ready for me. When I stop thinking about me and my miseries long enough, I can enjoy this love relationship. I have to make room for the relationship. It does not happen without effort and priority choosing. I get up very early. I give up some other things, that I count as less important. I give time and space to God. God is a lover, but sometimes a bit shy. God waits. Why do I put off this opportunity with God for some other trite choice. Insanity?
Saturday, July 19, 2014
One of God's jobs is to take the blame when something bad happens and a loved one dies. It is very difficult to be angry the rest of your life with a dead person you love. It is easier to blame God. A child dies in a car accident. Two other people were in the car who wore their seat belts. They had minor bruises. Your child did not. Your child died. You simply cannot go through the rest of your life being angry with your child for not wearing the seat belt. Being angry with God is the short term solution. The long term issue is that when we die, we will see God, who we have dropped due to some painful event in our lives. We will also see all our loved ones…in God's embrace. God loves. God does not make car accidents, or job losses, or cancer. Maybe I am a polyanna about the afterlife, but this is how I see it for me. We can drop God, but that does not make God go away.
Friday, July 18, 2014
All the rage now is to wear a fitness bracelet that tells you how many steps you took, calories you burned through the course of the day. People are finding that just moving around doing this and that can use up a lot of calories, and that getting up and moving around on purpose can do even more. Now what if there were such a thing as a spiritual life bracelet that tells you how much you exercised your soul or spiritual life? It would record how much prayer, meditation, scripture reflection you did. Could be quite embarrassing, you think?
Thursday, July 17, 2014
In the monastery no one is thinking about me. This is a good thing. We are supposed to be focused upon the presence of God in all our activities. It is called "recollection." If I get so focused upon some chore I am doing, then the chore has usurped the openness to God's presence and Will. It is rather freeing to know that no one here is thinking about me. I can eliminate the thought, "What are they thinking about me?" It does not take long to get into the rhythm of monastic life. We start early before a lot of daily stuff can get the spotlight. God starts as the center of our life. I try to do other things in moderation so as not to get so overextended in some project. God is always thinking about me. It is God's job. So I can stop trying to do God's job and focus less on me.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
A puppet that is built to look like a human person is really being controlled by someone else, albeit the human look of the puppet. Many times we act like puppets. We are wooden, or stuffed with fear, revenge, resentment and hurt feelings. We let the actions of others control our responses. The actions of others we allow to form how we look and act. If someone is mean to you or ignores you or criticizes you, how much control do you have over your response? The spiritually mature person, may feel like acting/responding one way, but then choose to act another. Most Christians, even though they say they believe, are really puppets in day to day life. Most of us need some program of recovery from the strings attached to us by other people, places, and things.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Often consistency is really a rut by some other name. "Consistency" has a much more positive tone to it. "Rut" sounds so bad. How do you know you are in a rut that you are trying to call, "being consistent?" I find that a meditative/scripture based spiritual life of prayer can be a good guide. Here, you feel God calling you into another direction, or pace, or place. Don't jump on it. See if it passes. If it is from God, it will not go away. Then bounce it off of some friends. True friends, discerning friends will not let their agenda, their consistencies, get in the way of being open to you. YOu might then try some shifts or changes of patterns that are not radical, but are shifts none the less. Some people might object, saying, "But I rely on you." This is often another name for being lazy.
Monday, July 14, 2014
You have some bad habits, stuff that you just do over and over that you don't like to do or wish you could stop? Why pray for strength to stop? Such an ego trip. Accept that you cannot stop. Self-will rules. Pray for humility. Let God do the rest. In my religion, Jesus came for the sick, those who needed a physician. This is me. I like my religion. I got no power to change. Tried. I am in the school of humility. Class meets every day, the earlier the better for me.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
You might fear change. Lots of us do. But ask yourself how much pain you are in from your present pattern of life. Is the pain greater than the fear of change? When the pain is greater than the fear, you might go for change. But why wait? The fear is static. The pain only gets worse over time. I have found it so.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
When you tell someone, "I love you," that person might not believe you. That is their problem, not yours. Plus, you need not wait until you feel like you love them. Love is more often a decision, rather than a feeling. You know what an orphan is? It is someone who feels that there is no one who loves them or will care for them. There are lots of people who are feeling orphan-like on a daily basis.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Just because your children, spouse, friend does not appreciate your telling them that you love them, why do you withhold saying it? Are you waiting until they earn it or appreciate it? When Jesus died on the cross, who said, "Thank you?" Did anyone earn it? Why let the bad or obtuse behavior of others control your actions and words? An unexpected kiss can make a day. It might even make your day.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Often, our call for justice is just another name for selfishness. You are asked to do something and you say, "Why me?" You think you are doing more than others and they are not carrying their load. You may be right, but you just turned down a chance to practice selflessness, kindness and maybe thankfulness to the person asking for your help. Jesus says justice is about us doing something for another person or group. On the spiritual journey to maturity, justice is not about you getting something more or doing less. Little children whine about having to do more than their siblings. They are kids and have not learned "to take up your cross." In an older person it is embarrassing.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I just went through Hurricane Arthur while on a family reunion on a barrier island in North Carolina. As the wind picked up I started to text my friend, "I love you all." Then I said, "This wind isn't so bad." I deleted the text and did not sent it. Later, when the water came up onto the beach, I texted again, the same message, but then said, "This water isn't so high." I deleted the message and did not send it. In the morning when I looked out to see if the beach was there, and it was, I said to myself, "Why do I wait until I think the end is now, before telling people that I love them?" Don't wait.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The Vatican says that we should baptize the children of same sex couples. If they are baptized why would we then not let them into a Catholic School? Don't we say that it is the responsibility of the parents to educate the children in our faith? So if the parents are trying to do this by approaching a Catholic school for entrance, why then say no?
Monday, July 7, 2014
Seems my church is becoming more pastoral and accepting of gay and lesbian people without giving "scandal" by saying it approves. Why this worry of scandal on sex issues? The pope has already given scandal to all the economic, trickle down conservatives about their money issues. The Pope is taking the side of the poor who are under represented in the economy. We worry so much about scandal in sex but not other issues such as economics. A cardinal living large does not worry about scandal. Only in sex do we seem to walk some fine line worrying about scandal. A lot more damage is done by selfish, greedy moneymakers than by two people living together who are of the same sexual inclination.
Sunday, July 6, 2014
I got this one from Mary DeTurris Poust, www.notstrictlyspiritual.com. Sandcastles look very lovely on the outside, but they have no support underneath. I cannot get away from this wonderful image as I prepare to spend a week at a North Carolina Beach for a family reunion. Too often I am the sandcastle. Mary suggests that silence and stillness in prayer is the basis of deep support which the waves of life will not wash away. Come to think of it, hunters with their guns wait in silence and stillness in the blind for the flock of birds to come by. The hunter may even pray for the birds to come. The contemplative and the hunter are both waiting and praying. Only one is waiting for God. I hope that is me.
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Dogma is the way that institutions safeguard their Way. Religions have dogma. Recovery programs have the 12 steps. Coaches of various endeavors have their way or approach to whatever they are coaching. But dogma does not travel. You cannot start with dogma, and bring it to someone right off, and expect someone to just say yes, or "get it." You start with the person and their experience. You start with where the person is. If you have a path for them, in time they will see the light or the attraction. The teacher will be part of the attraction. The teacher needs to have whatever they are teaching. Don't talk about prayer or recovery unless you have done it and are being transformed by it. You cannot pass on what you do not have, though many try. People who want a "Way" are already looking. Be humble, patient, and compassionate. God is at work. Don't get in the way of the "Way."
Friday, July 4, 2014
The pope says that the first name of Catholics is, "I am a Christian," and the last name is, "I belong to the Church." Interesting that he did not say, "Catholic" when he said the first name. It is much more inclusive. He did say "Catholic" Church. He said, "Church." This also is inclusive. He is moving to a truer meaning of "catholic." It is "universal," for the church is for everyone, not just the rule keepers who think sin is a matter of breaking some law. I like the direction of this Pope of mine.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Sometimes I just have to do the right thing as best as I can even though I don't want to do it. I cannot always seem to be in the best of moods, or the most positive or optimistic. If I always acted out how I feel, then life around me would be unpleasant. Maybe I am a wolf in sheep's clothing, but some days it is the best I can do. I don't see it as faking. I am just a sinner trudging along.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
I reach into the vitamin pill cabinet of the monastery kitchen to get some pills. I like the ones that say "High Potency." Nothing but the best for my body, heh! Pill companies know we would never take a pill that said, "Mediocre Vitamin…". We don't want mediocre for the body. Why then do we accept mediocre for the soul? Why feed the soul with mediocre prayer, if any at all, on a daily basis? I asked myself that question when I took out the vitamin pills. Had I given my soul a powerful dose of prayer yet that morning? Or had I still ignored it, saying, "later." Why do I deplete the soul/spirit, while focusing on the body. Is it not all one? To feed only part of me is to be malnourished on a daily basis. I need "high potency" prayer on a daily basis.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
The Pope excommunicated those who are part of the Mafia. He knows how to put the hurt to them. Since they don't go to church much you might think it is no big deal to them. It is a big deal. When they die, what kind of Catholic funeral will they have? That may be very embarrassing for all the family members. Plus there is some sense that a good Catholic sendoff gets you a running start to heaven, or at least out of hell. Excommunicated people are still baptized, so salvation is possible for them like any of us. A death bed confession might help, but some Mafia die quite quickly and violently. We will see.