Sunday, August 31, 2014

Conscious Contact

My aim is to be able to have a conscious contact with God while in the midst of my daily activities.  Some days and moments are better than others.  When I am sitting quietly in prayer, I just want to be rid of head thoughts and enjoy being in the Presence.  Some moments are better than others.  I know that some people think prayer is always trying to have some conscious contact to include God thoughts.   My practice is to do both.  I start out trying to have some God thoughts, but eventually put down the book and just let go.  It might take years to get there.  So start with whatever works.  On my worst days, when I am being bad, I may have a conscious contact with God, and still be bad anyway.  Apparently all my prayer is not making me perfect, but the bad times are more the exception now.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


If you are content with where you are, what you are doing, e.g. being a stay at home Mom, and someone says, "Why are you doing that?  You could/should be doing this," they are projecting themselves into your space, and they don't fit there.  Your critic is not called to your vocation, or advocation.  That only makes it a bad fit for them.  It is a good fit for you.  You feel a contentment, a fulfillment.  You need not explain or defend your choice.  Why do I spend time in the monastery in the summer?  It is a good fit.  It may not be your fit, but it is mine.  Enough said.  

Friday, August 29, 2014


When I was a stockbroker, the producers, the guys who brought in the money, were treated well by the company.  The not so much producers or non-producers, well, we pretty much washed out and so it went.  Sometimes in religious groups the ones do what they are told, and/or help out a lot, get special treatment.  Those who don't get some wrath or are ignored.  But for me, God is not like this.  Got is like a water sprinkler.  Our so called lawn at the monastery has some nice green grass, some crab grass weeds and some bare spots that grow nothing.  The sprinkler waters all the lawn, as if it never gives up hope, or at least treats the entire lawn with the same care for all of it.  God loves.  God sprinkles us with love whether we produce or not.  God has hope.  Or maybe I am just a pollyanna!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Sheep

A prophet, named Ezekiel, rants against the religous leaders who are supposed to shepherd the sheep, but instead lord it over them, treating the sheep harshly.  So the sheep ran away and felt lost.  The shepherds did not go after them.  So God said that God would claim the sheep and save them.  Why is it that many who were Catholic have left the church and gone in search of spirituality in Eastern meditation practices?  Maybe God is working through non-Christian paths to save the lost and searching sheep?  I think that my Church has a great message.  It is the messenger that is problematic.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


My church should be a place where people who are thinking of commiting suicide, can relate, come to for understanding.  My church was founded on the issue of emptiness and despair, and feelings of hopelessness.  Jesus on the cross said, "MY God, My God, why have you forsaken me."  Peter, "The Rock" denied Jesus and ran away.  I am sure he contemplated suicide too.  He tried going back to his old life, fishing.  He caught nothing.  He could not escape his feelings.  His soul felt like his fishing net.  Empty.  Then he found that he was loved by the very one he denied.  He was loved with all his troubles, unconditionally.  He surrendered.  A Rock needs to know how vulnerable it is to wind, water, erosion.  My church is founded upon troubled souls.  "Come to me all you who are burdened," says Jesus.  We forgot that in some ways.  We became the "Perfect Society," who would not give a church funeral to someone who had committed suicide.  We do these funerals now, and we say we are a "Pilgrim People."  I don't know that some prelates got that memo.  Anyway, I think God is more embracing in love, and not judgement of those who kill themselves.  I think God wanted religion to speak for God's love, before someone killed themselves.  Anyway, I think Judas and Peter are together again, and Robin Williams is with them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


A friend of mine died recently in Boulder, Colorado.  His name was Jim Carrigan.  Among other things he was a judge, a teacher, a great help to the parish where I was working for six years, and did many good things for the community.  Yet, the thing that sticks with me most about Jim, was Monday Night Football.  It may seem like a small inconsequental thing in the vast amount of good works Jim did, but it meant a lot to me.  I was still a fairly new priest and not yet 40.  Several men, including our pastor, would get together on many a Fall Monday for football.  The "Judge," and an economics professor at the university and several other men who I came to admire, would get together.  They would spend only a little time watching football and a lot of time talking about stuff of which I knew little but was eager to learn.  The Carrigan home was the one that I most remember.  Jim had such an easy friendly and inviting manner.  You never know what people will remember about you.  Be kind.  Be inviting.  Jim was a teacher too, of more than he might have been aware.  May he rest in peace.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I seem to have the gift of teaching, or at least a lot of people think I do, or maybe people are desperate.  Anyway, last Saturday, up here at our monastery retreat house, I gave a  reflection on some mystic type person and contemplative prayer.  This is a pretty narrow field of interest, and I am only here a few months each year, and talk very little.  Over fifty people showed up.  Now many came for the good food and the atmosphere of the monastery valley, I know.  But surely a couple came to hear me.  Well, I think so.  What I wish I had was the gift of remembering what I read.  I remember that I read something. If it is non fiction I will recall the tenor or tone of the author's point.  But I cannot seem to relate much detail.  If I read a novel, I will remember I read it, but not much of the plot.  I will remember that I enjoyed these books.  So I guess that I read to enjoy, since my mind is not gifted with much more.  I write notes from my readings, if I am going to teach from the book or subject.  Without notes, I seem to be, duh!  The gift I have is for putting myself into the teaching, how it affects me, how I succeed or fail, where something helps or does not help me.  I seem to end up telling stories.  After the teaching last Saturday, someone said I could always do standup comedy.  Is that a good thing when talking about prayer?  Do you think we should just accept what gifts we have and let the rest go?  Will you forget this blog in five minutes?  If so, maybe I am good for the moment, funny at times, and then, "Father Whats His Name."  If it gets me to heaven, OK.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Benedict's Rule

His rule doesn't work.  Monks pretty much act the way other people do though not all monks. Some examples:
Put a jar of jelly or peanut butter that has only a bare smidge left in it, back into the refigerator because you don't want to have to wash it out for recycling.  Same thing with milk cartons.
Finish a carton of milk, but don't go to the storage refig and replace it
Finish something but don't write it on the shopping list to get a replacement
Put a jar back but with the top not screwed back on.
Use up the soap in a shower, or shampoo, but don't get a replacement out of storage for the next person.
I could go on, I suppose, but you get the point. On the other hand:
The Rule of Maureen does work.  She could take a bad boy like me and make me good.  All of the above she would not stand for.  So I know the right thing to do because of Maureen, and to this day, I still do as told.  If I don't, at least I have some sense I did wrong.  We are who we are today, for better or worse, because of someone else, I believe.  If you think I am a mess, Maureen did not.
When ordination time came around, she was in the congregation.  The question is asked, " Does anyone know why this person should not be ordained?"  I thought Maureen would raise her hand and I would be done.  She did not.  So, thank her when you get to purgatory.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Empty Spot

A fellow told me that he was married to a really good woman.  She gave him love, respect and attention.  He still felt empty.  He drank to fill the hole.  It did not work.  I have come to realize that if you are feeling empty, another person cannot fill you up.  Some people marry to get filled up by the other, to fill that hole in the soul, if you will.  They call it love, but my experience is that the one with the hole in the soul is a "taker."  Love has a giving side to it too.  Love is a lot of giving, but if you feel empty then you don't sense you have anything to give.  Surrender to God fills the hole in the soul, I have found.  That is a pretty tall order, especially if you don't believe much in God whoever.  When you are on the road to desperation, surrender becomes a lot more of an option.  It beats suicide.  I  am missing Robin Williams.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Cave

There are a couple of places in the bible where God is experienced as a tiny whisper.  There occurences have silence and solitude in common.  At a monastery it is easy to find silence and solitude, in the cell of my room.  Where will I find it when I am not in the monastery, but live in the more normal world.  It may not always be in my room.  It depends on how much noise comes through the walls.  I try to find a place, wherever I live, where I can find silence and solitude.  In Vero Beach, Florida, where I winter, it is by the swimming pool of our Paulist house.  No one seems to use the pool very much.  Though I may suffer some deprivations in the monastery, I try to make up for it when I am not here.  Where is the cell in your life?  Do you hunger for silence and solitude?

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I came back to the monastery from saying mass in town while the pastor is away.  I had my collar on.  I was in priestly uniform.  I introduced myself to a visiting monk and we talked face to face for awhile about my being a Paulist and where I live and how long he will be visiting.  Then I changed into some work clothes, put on an apron and began to make something in the kitchen for the monks to eat that evening.  Maybe twenty minutes had passed.  The same visiting monk passed through the kitchen and introduced himself to me as if he had never seen me before in his life.  I suddenly recalled that there is something about me that makes me forgettable.  When I am in church or somewhere in my uniform, priest clothes, people seem to see me.  When I am in secular wear, I seem to be a stranger they ignore.  I wonder if God has the same experience.  In church we might recognize God, but when we are in our everyday life outside church, God become invisible.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bad Start

Why is it that we get upset when we make a simple task hard and then it does not work out "as planned?"  For instance, you are carrying a coat and juggling two or three other things in your hands as you walk along.  You are in a hurry and try to put some keys into the coat pocket, but you cannot quite get the coat pocket located or opened for the keys.  You should stop and put some things down and do this one task, get the keys into the coat pocket.  But you are in a hurry with lots of stuff on your mind.  So you start to get upset and say bad words because the dumb keys cannot find the stupid pocket of the coat.  We get angry about things not working out when in fact we started out wrong or doing it wrong in the first place.  Sometimes we act like keys and pockets.  They don't change.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Church

Is the Church the people of God who are supposed to become the Good News in the world, or is it the Vatican?  We have a theology that says the Church is the people of God, but a lot of people don't buy into this.  One reason is that the Vatican as a governing body, refers to itself as "the Church" when making its rules for the people of God.  The kiss of peace in the mass is one of these issues where the word "church" is used to refer to the Vatican.  The statement says, "The Church is concerned about hugging at the kiss of peace and wants us to go to a simple handshake."  The Church here is obviously the Vatican, because the people of God have settled this issue or are not at all concerned about it, and/or like to hug.  I think if the Vatican simply said "The Vatican" instead of "The Church," things would be a bit more consistent theologically.  Don't people have germs all over their hands?

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Sign

I was in town for a funeral, and said the early morning mass as well.  The sacristan gave me a book he thought I needed, The Four Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic.  I don't know that I had heard of the book and thought I would get to it someday in my stack of reading.  Two days later, I get invited to give a mission in Orlando, Florida in the winter.  God is good.  It turns out that the  Orlando parish has been working with a program that focuses on this exact book.  They wanted to know if I had read or heard of it.  This is not coincidence.  This is what I call, "Grace."  God is at work.  I show up.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

In The Right Place

I left the monastery for a few days to do a funeral.  While in town, I took an early morning mass.  After the mass, I stood outside to greet the people.  Then a woman came out and she was crying a bit.  This is the day that her daughter, Elizabeth, died three years ago.  I listened to the woman and then said I would pray for her daughter.  She thanked me.  Then I turned around and saw a couple crying.  Their dog had died the night before and the body was in the car in a little basket.  They wanted me to do something.  So I prayed over the dog and gave her a blessing.  I said that nothing of God's creation ever ceases to exist.  "Willow" the dog is in God's  loving hands.  I believe this too.  Then I went into church and someone wanted me to hear their confession.  I did.  As I was going back to the sacristy to change out of my vestments, I realized that I could have missed all three of these precious encounters, either because I was not there, or was there but with a "do not bother" sign on my face.  Don't you just know that when you are in the right space and the right place, you can be of the most help to others?  I think God really wanted me to come out of the monastery for a few days to tell me some things.  I am listening.  Now, I wonder if Jesus had a dog?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Six Years Old

When I preach to a congregation of mainly children, I preach to the six year olds.  I have a knack for doing this.  I see that they stop with the wandering mind and start to look at me with concentration.  Get them early with the first sentence or two or not at all.  I have found that if the six year old can understand me,  sense that I am talking to them, so can everyone else, or most everyone else.  We never lose our sense of being a child. We build on it but never replace it.  I still have the six year old in me.  It is the source of many of my stories, that are of course true history.  Only my enemies deny this.  May God do thus and so to them.  I don't bother trying to preach to just the Junior High people about some moral issue.  I lose the six year olds.  Besides, the Junior High are just as interested if I focus on the youngest ones.  I know what it is like to be bored in church.   I have been the kid in the pew.  I guess I have compassion on the six year old.  If they start their church life bored or feel ignored, then it is hard to overcome that "expectation" later in their life.  I think it is important to be a grown up priest, but not too much.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Good Choice

A few years ago Howard came back into my life.  At this point he was on oxygen and preparing for his death.  He knew me from many years ago when I worked at another parish in Boulder.  He did not forget me.  He was now looking for a priest to preside and preach at his funeral.  He knew the type of persons that would attend his funeral and he thought I was the one who would be able to connect with them.  I didn't know this until the day of the funeral.  Over 400 people showed up.  They came for Howard.  Many of them had little use for organized religion, but they were all on a spiritual path.  Let us say that they had low expectations that the preacher would have anything useful to say for their benefit.  It was then that I knew Howard saw a grace in me that I may not have noticed in myself.  I knew why he chose me to be the priest at his funeral.  I spoke from a place in myself that I have come to know very well over the years.  I connected with the congregation.  They told me so afterwards.  Why?  It is called "Language of the Heart."  There is more in me than even I myself know.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sermon App

I love this one.  A church has dropped the bulletin and gone green.  So you come into church and take out your smart phone and get onto the app to read the homily notes among other things.  Would it not be quite interesting if people were given some silence after the sermon to tap onto the app their responses to the sermon?  Short responses, so that Father would not have to spend a lot of time reviewing results.
"Too long"
"Irrelevant to my life"
"What planet are you on?"
"You sound like a Republican" "Democrat" "Libertarian" "Communist"
"Stop wearing running shoes at the altar.  It is a disgrace."
"Go back to the monastery"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kiss Of Peace

Well, the Congregation for Divine Worship in the Vatican says that the kiss of peace should continue but with more sobriety.  I know a lot of people who are feeling a great deal of sobriety today and they are pretty happy, and joyous.  In some churches you get barely more than a wave and this is without ebola virus.  For me, I would skip it if it is no more than a wave of recognition that we are in the same building.  But then, I am one of those people for whom sobriety means happy and joyous.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, MM

It seems that this Maryknoll priest got himself suspended some years ago for getting all involved in politics on behalf of the have nots in Central America.  He joined the Sandinistas, got a government job after they tossed out the old dictator government, and would not give up politics when asked by the Vatican.  His suspension has gone on for 29 years.  Sounds like he was beyond even the liberal pale.
Well, he is back in now.  I bet the Central American oligarchs are not too happy with this latest Vatican move.  I suspect that the next collection to support the Vatican will be a bit thin down there.  Money no longer seems to talk in the Vatican.

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Neighborhood

The City of New York wants to build homeless shelters in neighborhoods.  Those who now live in homes in these neighborhoods do not want the shelters.  On the one hand, welcoming the homeless would be a way to be more like Jesus.  Yes, this is easy for me to say.  I don't own a home or have children running around the neighborhood, nor did Jesus for that matter.  We are still left with the Gospel demand to shelter the homeless.  Jesus did not give instructions as to where one builds a shelter.  To be in a neighborhood could be very healing for a homeless person who feels disconnected.  And it could be dangerous.  Property values are an issue.  Yet, you cannot build them in  so remote a place that there is no public transportation or access to other services that the homeless poor might need.  I hope that there is some negotiations between the city and the neighborhoods to see what can be worked out.  Your thoughts are welcome.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


My friend Howard Madigan died recently.  In his long life Howard had helped many people to climb out of misery to find peace.  Howard shared wht he had learned from others who helped him to find peace.  The big transition for people like my friend Howard is that they learned to be givers rather than takers.  Howard gave of himself in some very inconvenient circumstances.  He was a Jesus figure.  He did not judge or condemn.  Much of his life was to care for those who needed his kind of help.  Because he had walked in the shoes of fellow sufferers, Howard had lots of compassion.  He was not perfect.  That does not come for any of us in this lifetime.  I am what I am today because of the Howard Madigans who went before me.  Can I be that for those who come after me?  "Come, follow me," said Jesus.  Howard did.  It is a narrow path and few take it.  With Grace, I can be one of the few.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Field I Irrigate

The field I irrigate is not simply about irrigation, the moving of water via handmade dams.  Much more goes on out there.  The field is God's creation.  When I walk in the field I can recognize the Presence of the Maker of all that is around me and under my feet.  I take time to look around, pause, reflect for a moment here and and over there.  My work becomes prayer without words, and sometimes with sighs of awakening to Godness.  God walked in the Garden of Eden as much as God walks in the field I irrigate.  No one else is out there but a few cows, content with the range grass for food.  Am I to content?  Yes, when I can see with this inner eye.  The task at hand is such a small though necessary part of irrigation work.  There is solitude centered on God as I work.  Attitude makes the whole task lighter and easier.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Seems that both Martha and Peter made the same faith declaration about Jesus.  The Apostles followed Peter.  How come no one followed Martha?  Given the culture of the day, maybe it was the best that Jesus could hope for at that time.  I wonder what the church would be like if a Martha was running it today.  The men have had their chance and we got what we got.  The Holy Spirit is at work and much good has happened.  A lot of that good though, is because women were doing the good in the field.  In many cases, they were the "boots on the ground" in the war against evil, discrimination, prejudice, poverty and neglect of girls, to name a few things.  Men did good work too, but I just wonder what the church would become if today, in the 21st century, a woman like Martha was at the top?  Just thinkin'

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Being Married

I remember the several years in which I wanted to be married.  God had other plans, I guess, because I did not have sufficient social skills around girls/women to be seen as marriage material.  There was always another guy who better filled the bill for the woman.  So what's up God?  God decided, as best as I can figure it, to marry me.  Read the "Song of Songs" in the bible.  It is short.  God might have said, "Well Terry, you are not much, actually a mess, and I did not make you to be a mess." Seminary and early priesthood was a kind of courtship/marriage.  I was saying "Yes," but was not fully bonded or in sync. God was/is patient and worked on me over the years of my many "Yes-es" and somewhere in there we both got onto the same page.  That is when the marriage got a lot better.  I keep getting off God's page, but God has a way of getting me back on track.  I don't know anyone else who would have such patience, and forgiveness for me.  So I guess I married the right one.  Marriage theology says that you grow holy with and through your spouse.  I think that happens with God and me.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mere Information

I learned stuff in school that I neither remember nor needed again after I finished school. It was information that did not change me or even move me to change.  Advanced math would be one of the items, but also many a novel I read as an English major in college.  I would like to be a teacher who might help people to become transformed, to make changes within themselves for the better of them and those around them.  Jesus did this by telling parables about ordinary situations.  I try to take the everyday and tell stories.  "Life With Maureen," was along this line, though I think people remember enjoying the story but forgetting the point.  Maybe I did not have a point?  Maybe my efforts are fluff?  Might be time to see that monastery vocation monk and join up for silence.  I would miss teaching and preaching, but if no one is changing, I might be in the wrong field.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


I used to wear sneakers, tennis, running shoes when I said mass, and still do at times.  Bishops would be appalled, of course.  But good things can come from irreverence.  There was a young girl in church way back then, who liked me because I wore the running shoes, so she listened to me preach.  God used me to tell her stuff about loving everyone.  She grew up and now has a foundation that raises money, The Marshall Fund, I think, to educate girls in countries where girls do not have much chance for education.  Read "Half The Sky."  Lots of girls are getting a chance and my irreverent running shoes had a part in it.  I have some outrageous red ones for my next mass!  Oh, the girl who grew up to do these wonderful things, and even visit these countries, is Irish, last name Kelly.  Like the Celts, we may come from an Island, but we are for the world.

Monday, August 4, 2014


I work sometimes in the same office as my friend, Michelle, in a Boulder parish.  I am trying to figure out how to be like her.  Everyone loves her.  My problem is that at times I get a virus of low social skills and doing stupid stuff.  I have not been able to find a cure.  If I knew when I was going to slip into my viral behavior, I would stay at home, turn off the cell and computer, and read books.  No one would be hurt and maybe I would be missed by those who have short term memory loss.  I would of course keep up my blogs, as I have two or three people that look forward to them, and have a very low bar of acceptable content.  I am up in the mountains now at a monastery, where the silence prevents a lot of stupid talk by me.  You don't even have to give a homily in the weekday masses.  I am hoping by this strategy that people will forget the messy things I do, and think only good things about me.  I am better when I am missed.  I am not so good when I am present.  My sister Maureen says I will burn.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Grace

Grace is a gift.  It is free.  It has no cost.  The ability to do math, to hit a baseball thrown at 90 miles an hour, to be sober when you are an addict, to run fast or for a long time without getting tired are all gifts.  We don't earn them.  The cost comes when we try and do something with the gift, the grace.  It takes work to develop the gift, the talent, to become all that the talent offers you in ability.  In my religion we call discipleship the work we put into the free gift of God's love, invitation, and presence.  I don't earn God, but it takes a lot of effort to follow the invitation as outlined in the Bible.  What is your gift?  What effort are you making to develop it?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Vatican Canteen

The Pope was referred to as "humble" because he stood in line with his tray to get lunch at the Vatican canteen, just like ordinary people.  Why is this humble?  It should be routine.  Even if you are a great person, you should not get a lot of perks.  Ordinary is just fine.  Why do we have to strive for some title or $$$ so that we will be treated as "special?"  We are all equally special.  The Pope was just doing what the carpenter from small town Narareth did for most of his life.  I think the Kingdom is about how special the ordinary is, and how loved we are in our everyday world.  Know this and you will do marvelous things.  But don't let it go to your head.  The Buddha said we are dung heaps.

Friday, August 1, 2014


I got a lot of hits on a recent blog in which I referred to my preaching as pious drivel.  Only one person commented to say she disagreed.  Where were the other 90+?  This hurts my feelings.  Maybe it is time to go talk to the vocation director at the Trappist monastery where we practice a lot of silence.  Time to become a monk?  To eat veggies all the time?  No ESPN?  Is this what the public wants?