Thursday, December 31, 2015
When I was a boy with my newspaper route, I used to put a dollar a week into my Christmas Club special savings account, in the savings bank downtown. Come Christmas, I would have some money to buy presents. I think this idea speaks well to Spiritual NewYear Resolutions. If you want to grow spiritually, you need to do something each day. This way, when there is a crisis or a need to act in a loving manner from within, you will have the bank of resources from your daily practice. I seem to act better in difficult situations when I have been working a spiritual program on a daily basis. Try it. Happy New Year.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
How do you know that you are on a spiritual path that is making you a better person? Some people think it is if you are going to church or synagogue. Some think it is if you are avoiding being bad or "sinning." Some think it is if you follow rules. Some think it is if you have peaceful meditative experiences or enjoying nature. I have found that I am on a spiritual path when I become useful. My life is changing for the better when I am useful to others. I am not concerned about the outcome. I have no control over that. Usefulness is not about control. It is about getting out of my self-referential attitude, or my sense of entitlement. I have found it so. Maybe this is a good idea for a new year resolution?
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
When Christian leaders decided that Crusades were a good idea, it put us into a bind, that redounds to the present day. Islam ruled the Holy Land. We sent a big European, Christian army over there to get the Holy Land back for Christian rule. There was lots of slaughter. Christians were seen as the invaders, since they came from somewhere else. They were not Christian Arabs. Now what if, after the slaughter by all sides, some Christian was to announce to Islam that Christianity is a religion of peace. Would it be believed by Islam? Our Western armies are mostly made up today of baptized or bar mitzvah people. Being a religion of peace is a tough sell in some places. Now Islam has the same problem with ISIS type believers getting in the way of a message that says Islam is a religion of peace. I am not so sure you can have it both ways. I try to tell people that religion is of peace, but I can see in many cases that I am not very convincing.
Monday, December 28, 2015
Whenever I get too full of myself, I must remember that I am like the moon. The moon has no light of its own. It reflects the light of the sun. If the moon is to shed light upon some part of the earth, the moon has to rise up. So it is with me. I am not God or the light. God is the light and I can reflect it onto others who feel in some darkness. But I have to get up, rise up, each morning and sit in meditation to allow the light of God to shine upon me and then be reflected from me to others. God uses me to point to God. When my work points to me, I am in trouble. When people say that I am wonderful, and one or two actually say that, I must remember that it is the power of God who the source of Light. I am but a reflection. My moon image keeps my ego right-sized.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
It seems that people like being "chosen." I think of the TV show, "The Voice." If you are chosen the winner, then comes money, fame, and attention. You are no longer a nobody. You are recognized. Our escapist fantasy is to be "chosen." But being chosen in a spiritual sense means that you have a responsibility. It can be a burden to be chosen. I think of those addicts for whom the desire to use/drink loses it power as they get into recovery. They are supposed to pass on their experience, to mentor newcomers. Only 10% seem to stay recovered, and one of the reasons is they take no responsibility to pass on their experience of recovery. They stay self-focused and selfish. The gift of finding a spiritual center, a power, a God within, is not meant to be hidden away in a cave. The Way, the experience the wisdom is to be shared. Those who "get it" in business are to mentor others. The chosen have a job. Success is not self-referential. It is meant to develop a communal world. It starts with one person. That person may be you
Saturday, December 26, 2015
I try to begin my day of prayer with a phrase such as, "Lord, lead me." Prayer is a dance with God. God leads. I follow. I have found that, in dancing, if both people try to lead, there is chaos and stumbling and not much dancing goes on. There are all kinds of dance steps and rhythms. I went to Ballroom Dancing classes. It takes a lot of practice, as does prayer. Don't expect proficiency right away. Dancing is like prayer. There is all kinds of prayer. It takes practice. It takes knowing your role in the dance. You get used to your partner and sense what to do and not to do at any one time. God is my partner and leader. I have prayer class every day. My sister Maureen took dance class too, as a young girl. I was better. Just sayin'
Friday, December 25, 2015
When family members die or are away from me on Christmas, I have come to realize that one cannot recreate Christmas past. It saddens me and that is not what Christmas is about. We have to find ways, new ways, to enter into the joy. I have found that the Family Christmas and friends is replaced with more quiet time for memories and reflections. Christmas has become more prayerful in an interior sense. I have stopped trying to make something happen. Parents have that pressure on them for their children. There is a lot of traveling to close the geographic gap separating people in this big country. If this is your Christmas this year enjoy it. I recall those days but they are in my past. The initial sadness and feeling of loss will not be filled up by activity. It was a unique time. Christmas past is like that. I ask myself what is Christmas for me today? What is God's plan? I try to be useful, in service, and prayerful in a meditative way. I count my blessings both past and present. Some of the past never goes away, nor is it meant to. A gift of presence is a gift forever. Merry Christmas. No humbug.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
One of the reasons I don't much care for abortion is that the fetus to be born might have gifts for which the world is waiting or needing. On this Eve of Christmas, I think of Joseph and his decision, once he found out that his betrothed was with child. He could have had her stoned to death, rocks crushing her head, and then the fetus would have died with her and Joseph would have been over his problem, yet within the law. Then we would have had no Jesus. Even the most non-believing must admit that without Jesus our economy would be tanking every winter and December 25 would be just another cold dark winter day to endure. For us believers it is so much more. Thank you Joseph for seeing more than a problem with Mary and her pregnancy.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
When we die we leave this world and have no need of it. We go on to the next world. But wait. Maybe we don't quite leave? It seems that there is are two Vatican bank accounts still in existence with funds in it for Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I, (who died in 1978). I assumed that they both went to heaven. Now I want to go to heaven too where I thought I would have no more need for the things of this world. Maybe I should go back into my will and hold onto some money in a bank account for after I die. I could put someone in charge, to dispense money to people who say nice things about me. How to get money into the account after death? Easy: "In lieu of flowers, deposit money in Fr. Ryan's after death account." OK. I am being really bad now. But the accounts still exist for those two popes.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I just finished reading a book about Gandhi and his years in South Africa before he went to India as the Mahatma. Gandhi was a middle class lawyer in India before he went to South Africa, and then stuff happened. He gradually changed. It came from his breath of reading and from all the different people he met and befriended. He was a Hindu, but found friendship among people of other ethnicities and religions. I think this is how we grow. Read beyond books that simply support your present views. Meet people from backgrounds not your own. This can expand you. The Pope says we Catholics are supposed to be doing this. It counters prejudice and narrow-minded thinking. I recently heard a priest say the problem is not ISIS. It is Muslims. It is Islam. He has no Muslim friends nor reads much at all outside of his comfort zone of pious Catholic books. Education and indoctrination are two different entities. I am not sure I have much of either, but I do have interesting friends who challenge my notions. How about you?
Monday, December 21, 2015
I was back in Chicago recently. I had lived there as a bachelor in 1967-69 with my first job right out of MBA school. I showed my two sisters where I had lived. The apartment building is still there, 33 East Cedar Street, but it is now condos and not apartments, with an improved decor lobby. My sister were surprised that I lived in such a nice, upscale neighborhood. I guess they see me as a poor priest. Then I took them three blocks to a bar I used to visit frequently, Butch McGuire's. It is still there. Though it was early morning, the bar was open and they let us in. I told them I was an alumnus! Some of the same decor is still there, but it has expanded to become a place where families can eat breakfast, and still have a pint. My sisters took a picture of me inside, sober. Both the bar and I have changed. Alleluia! If I had all the money I spent there, I could have purchased one of those condos. But don't you like me better as a poor priest?
Sunday, December 20, 2015
When we are challenged to share such things as common space with others (two blogs ago) we sometimes think this a great loss of our space to do as we want, when we want. Why is having less seen as some loss or sacrifice? Cannot having a little be a blessing, and even beautiful? There was a book once, "Small Is Beautiful," that had this vision. Why is a big house better than a smaller one, or a big smart phone better than a simpler little phone? I am hearing about young people just out of college or whatever schooling, who are opting for small rather than larger, less rather than more, and do not see it as something forced upon them by big debt. They have less expensive cell phones, smaller apartments and less stuff. Many do not bother to buy a car. We church people decry them for not going to church, but praise the suburban church going family with big cars, big homes, big consumption of energy, and lots of stuff stored in various places of ownership. In suburbia, small is to be pitied. The economy likes the spender. Did you get or give a lot of presents this Christmas? As a child I always liked a bigger pile of gifts. When I finally grow up, smaller will be fine.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
I was at an MBA graduation this past weekend at a leading business school. The Dean got up and blew my socks off. She suggested that Corporate America make less profit while they focus a bit more on developing product or practices that help to better our society. She said that to maximize profits and the give to charity does not solve a lot of issues or even address them. This is the present model of "good" corporations and good rich people for that matter. When I got my MBA back in the Dark Ages of the 1960s I recall that the focus was on maximizing income per share of stock. I think that I would have stayed in business if this Dean's vision was being followed. Then you would never have heard of my sister Maureen.
Friday, December 18, 2015
We have begun to lose the sense of sharing a common space. I first saw this with the transistor radio in the 1950s. Some people would walk around in common space with the radio blaring out whatever, as if they were in their own room or home. Ear plugs helped to end that somewhat. Now I find the same problem with other gadgets. People use common space that we all share, as if it is their private office or room. They carry on business or personal conversations in libraries, terminals, airplane and public transportation. Wherever they are is their office, when in fact it is not. It is common space and their is too little of it. It needs to be shared with others who might be reading, thinking, meditating or even carrying on a one on one conversation with a real person in front of them. This is the season for sharing. Many people go out and get gifts for others. The gift I would like and therefore try to give, is quiet in public places, if not talking to a real person in front of me. My cell phone has an auto message that says, "I cannot talk to you now." End of call. I put my phone on buzz all the time. It is a way of sharing something that is more and more rare. Quiet.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
In my church this is supposed to be a year of Mercy. A symbol of this is to seal a church door and then on December 8, the beginning of the year of Mercy, you unseal the door. I see it as a symbol that you are going to be merciful by inviting through that door, people that you had previously judged, castigated, or labeled as somewhat unfit for entry and/or communion. You will be merciful. So who will these new people be who come in? Who are these new people? I suspect we will have to drop some labels and relax some rules as part of this mercy we are supposed to show. The Pope seems to want the door more open for those who don't have annulments and for gays and lesbians, and those who advocate corporate spending to cut pollution, from what I read. The question is, will this trickle down to each diocese. I am waiting to see. So far, one focus of mercy seems to be you going to confession to enjoy God's mercy. It may be to get more people to go to confession, since if you already go you have been coming in the door and are not a new person. I think the Pope has in mind that the local churches be less judgmental and more merciful to those who see themselves as outsiders due to rules or categorization. We will see.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
One of the criticisms I have heard about my church is that some of our leaders are still fighting the Reformation of which Vatican I in 1870 was an extension. The Reformation fight is in part about we are right and everyone else is wrong. You can put whatever "we" you want into the equation, one Christian denomination or another. In my case it would be the Catholic Church. Well, if we are right and you are wrong, then we cannot change our answers. Can we be right if we change our answer? Regardless of new information be it historical, scientific, cultural, or psychological, some people just will not budge. A rule is a rule. Forget mercy. This group or person is this, and that is that. Whenever I do not want to change in relation to someone or something else, in spite of overwhelming evidence pointing to a change, it is usually because I am still fighting some old battle, memory or hurt. Have you ever found yourself refusing to change your attitude or opinion of someone in spite of concrete, evident change in their life? I have heard a person say that they do not like someone because "all those people" are this or that, usually having to do with color of skin, language, or ethnic origin. Jesus was very probably a dark skinned short fellow, losing hair, a Jew, with a big hook nose. Still like being a Christian?
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
You can usually tell when people are "in love." They seems to want to be alone with one another, even in a place where there are other people. As Madeleine Delbrel says, "When you are in love, it is tedious to have a lot of people around you. You like to talk to each other without the irritating background of other people's voices." This is why I go to a monastery each summer. Though I don't always feel like a God-Lover, I know that I have a love for God that wants to be away from background noises, other voices and media sounds. I drop my cell phone in a bag in my closet when I arrive at the monastery. The quality of silence in a monastery is conducive to God-Lovers. My words are few, but I listen better, and enjoy the sheer being with of God. When I leave at the end of a summer, it is shocking to get back into the daily life outside the monastery. It takes some getting used to. It is definitely faster and noisier to me. Even though there is talking in the monastery and in town and in social occasions, it is of a different feel when I have the monastery to go right back to. I have respites from silence rather than silence being respites from busy activity. Even the busyness of the monastery has a more tranquil taste to it. I am blessed to have my monastery each summer. Come visit. Leave your cell phone in your bag. There is no tower or signal anyway.
Monday, December 14, 2015
I met a fellow recently who thought he had lost any reason to live. He said he had nothing to live for. He had lost all interest in "the pursuit of happiness." I suggested that when he goes to work that day, and when in a store, or his neighborhood, he try to be kind, and available to help others. Try to be a listener when people talk to you. I have found that when I am down, instead of wallowing in it, I look for ways to be useful and helpful to others. Opportunities seem to abound when I am open. I inevitably feel better after taking action to be helpful or useful to others whether they know it or not. The best happiness is not when I try to grab it directly, but rather when I am useful and connected to others through service.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
I suspect all religions of dogma, writings, rules and rituals began as a spiritual way of being, seeing and living in this world. Jesus did not do more than write in the ground once. I don't know of any writings of Buddha. But how do these spiritual paths get transmitted by mere followers over a period of time? They become a religion. This means that all religion has within it the core of its spirituality. Some teachers, who have experienced this center, try to transmit it through the religion. I often hear in our post-modern world, "I am spiritual but not religious." The dilemma for religion is to make the connection, the spiritual with the religion. An alternative is to fill our worship spaces with people who are "religious but not spiritual." I think that there is plenty of holiness in people who worship and pray in communal settings. The laity keep religion going. But that spiritual center is so elusive. I know my catechism. I seek to know God, the Unknowable. Silence, stillness, solitude. These are verbs.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
I was looking forward to a supper date. But my supper date informed me that we do not have a date because she was going elsewhere and I was supposed to be at a church service with some other priests. Now I have three problems. One is that I don't have a nice supper date. The second is that I have no church service written in my calendar and I was the one who told her I did, some few weeks ago. So wherever I am suppose to be will be upset. My third problem is that I am losing my mind. It is times like this that tell me so. Gluten must be the problem. Too much gluten in my life all these years has rotted my brain. How we love to blame someone or something for the inevitable diminishment from what we were or thought we were. I did remember to write a blog though.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Staying with yesterday's blog theme, I realize that people want the easy way to fitness, even if the data lies. So maybe they want the easy way to transformation, a sort of "Soft Spirituality" if you will. I will write a book with a title such as, "Quik Prayer." It will give you easy ways to get holy, transformed or just become a more even balanced person. Now it will be a lie, since this kind of change is hard work, takes patience, and fortitude. These are all in short supply in today's world. I am sure that a lot more people will invite me to give these soft talks since my spiel will be in line with the general interest in things spiritual. Of course, you won't actually become transformed, but then you won't become fit with all the inaccuracies of the fitness apps. If more truthful apps won't sell than a more truthful me won't sell either. Truth is: change is hard work. Maybe that is why Jesus did not do so well in his time on earth?
Thursday, December 10, 2015
I purchased my first "Fitbit" watch over Thanksgiving weekend. My sister Jane has one and seems to be happy with it. No wonder. In my calculations, my new Fitbit tells me I have gone a greater distance, and used up more calories, than I think is so. I tried it out this morning on a run/walk. It seemed way over whatever I did. Now if I believed the results given by my Fitbit, then I would think I had used up enough calories and gone enough distance to now spend the rest of the day sitting and eating treats to "replenish" myself. No wonder people like these devices with their measuring apps. I prefer the app on my cell phone that gives me next to nothing for a workout. Somehow, I think it is fairly accurate. Anyway, I seem to be more motivated to avoid treats, sugar, bread after doing a workout with this tough app. But I have to carry my big cell phone around with me. There must be a solution. I'll pray over it.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
There is a difference between complacency and humility when we are in one of our spiritual winters, as Caryll Houslander would say. Complacency says that when we are messing up, we might as well continue to mess up because we cannot change. This is acceptance that fosters continual bad behavior. On the other hand, humility agrees that we cannot change. In each case we have self-knowledge. We cannot change. But humility says that we can be changed by some outside or inside help, of the spiritual variety. I call it the "Sacred Enoughness." There is enough of that power and not enough of my power. I will never be the enoughness I need. But I do have my days of grand illusion. Such days are never good for me nor others around me. I try to keep them few and far between.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
In my church, today is a big feast of a person named Mary. I won't go into the theology of this feast. What interests me is that at one point in her story Mary was a middle school girl. She was already engaged. Talk about being in over your head! Then God comes along and tells her she is supposed to get pregnant by some Spiritual force. She says OK. Was she frightened? You think. We are talking middle school here. So it gets found out, morning sickness and such. All she has is this fantastical tale as far as anyone knows. The neighborhood is probably glad she leaves with her witless, accepting husband, and goes off to Bethlehem for a census. She does not have to go but I bet everyone begs to be rid of her. She is a survivor. This Mary is not a normal girl. She gives birth and tells her son that she went through a lot to do so. He says thank you, hangs around for a few years, gives her no grandchildren, and goes off to save the world. Whenever I feel that I have it bad or the going is rough, or I don't understand what is going on, I like to think that this lady, Mary, is in my corner. We all need some help.
Monday, December 7, 2015
When I was living a life of much misery I finally gave up and asked God to help me to change, to be rid of misery. Well, God did. Now my goal back then was all about me. I was quite selfish at the time, so my motives for change had to be self-serving. God seems to have accepted that, but then I found out God had another plan as well. I came to realize that my change for the better was not so that I could be happy, but so that I could be helpful to others who were miserable as I had been. For that matter, I look back on my motive for becoming a priest. I wanted to save my soul, and I seem to be an all or nothing guy! God wanted me to be of some use to others. Do that and my soul would be fine. If in the beginning of all this God had said change to be helpful I would never have changed. God takes us where we are, be it gutters or penthouses.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
A sadhu is someone who travels about sharing spiritual wisdom attained by the life that the sadhu is living. The sadhu has no permanent home. I sometimes feel like a sadhu minus great wisdom or deep spiritual life. I have OK wisdom and spasms of spiritual fitness. But I do not have a permanent home. To be in one permanent place, one home, less air travel, strange living situations and foods, seems to be enticing. But then I would be sharing with a narrower audience. To stay in one place might deprive another place. I try to stay open to invitations to move on to a new vista, a week here, a few days there and then come back to one of my places of rest. I have been doing it for over ten years now and will try to carry on for the near future. In some ways we are all wayfarers on this earth. I am just getting a head start.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
This season before Christmas is often referred to as Advent, as in coming. Something or someone is coming and we are supposed to get ready for it. But it is not just a Christian idea. All people who are on some spiritual path or trying to get on one, are Advent people. They wait for some spiritual force to come to them either from within or from without. If you believe the power is already within you, then its coming is from the depths of yourself into a consciousness that can direct your day. No matter where the power or force comes from, it cannot do much good if it cannot get through the door. We all have a door. Over the years of not so good behavior the door gets heavy and rusty with faults, bad habits, cynicism and selfishness, not to say general fear of losing power, control and esteem. Lots of rust. So, getting started on the spiritual journey can be slow going at first. Meditation, inspirational reading, some silence and solitude, are the oil can. I guess prayer is kind of a squirt each day on that door. Gradually, it will open wider and more easily. A squirt in the morning and a squirt later in the day can let that spiritual force come into play. I have found it so. Stay oiled.
Friday, December 4, 2015
The scene is Jesus on trial before Governor Pilate. Pilate asks two questions: "Who are you?" and "What do you do?" Jesus gives no answer that satisfies. Why not? Well, Pilate is asking catechism questions or informational questions. Pilate is not asking so that Pilate will change. Pilate has no interest in changing his way of life. Pilate is into power, control, self-esteem, all to deal with his fears. So Jesus gives him no answer. If you really want to change or be changed, you cannot google some information or simply memorize a catechism answer. Lots of us were given catechism answers whether we asked or not. That alone won't lead you to truth or a way or a life that is deeply peaceful and Christian. When people want to join my church, often the pedagogical method is more informational than transformational. They are not taught how to meditate or read into the scriptures beyond the intellectual. I think that religions can make sense without meditation. But it won't transform you. You have to get in touch with your interior mess for that to begin to happen. Only then will you be open enough for change. A Ph.D in religion won't get you there on its own.
Thursday, December 3, 2015
I have heard it said that when you mess up during your day, instead of wallowing in guilt, shame, or disgust, just start your day over. I have always liked this. I have those days where I have good intentions, start out with prayer, and then stumble and mess up. The day is not wasted. I can start it over. Move past the past. The present is all I have anyway. I find that when I start over during the day, I tend to have a better time of it. Even in life, if you feel you have wasted your life, living out your personal whims, don't give up. Now is a good time to start that change. Better to begin again or start anew than to live a life of "never." Time is limited. "I can never change," is something you can change by a new start.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
We Christians sometimes soft pedal our Jewish roots. Take Christmas for instance. I have heard that we chose December 25 because the pagans had a feast for the winter solstice that came around that time. Darkness was beginning to turn into light. Well, there is more to our Christmas roots than that. When the Israelites, the Maccabees, defeated the Greek nonbelievers, some hundred plus years before Jesus, the Maccabees reconsecrated the temple and burnt candles for eight day in joyful celebration of victory. They did it from the twenty fifth day of the ninth month, Chislev. Since the year began with March back then, Chislev would turn out to be our December. Their feast became Hanakkah and ours became Christmas, which we celebrate with an eight day octave. Thank you my Jewish friends for the roots of a really good idea. Now if we could only get some spirituality back into our religion at Christmas.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
I resonate with this Tolstoy quote: "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." I hear people from every economic status, race, religion, talk about what needs to be changed in the world for life to be the way it should be. Their solution requires that other people change, be it their neighbor, or their leaders, or people outside their group. Most of my resentments and critiques about the world ignore my need to change. I want to change everyone else, but not me. I have no power to change others. Unfortunately, I seem to have no power to change me! This is why I pray. I need a strength other than my own.
Monday, November 30, 2015
I don't know how Catholics will react or not, to the bishops use of the term "Intrinsic Evil" to describe same sex unions, called marriage by the couple and many others. I will wait and see what kind of questions I get or responses I hear from people. Will the response be like the one on artificial contraception back in the late 60s? Some left, some stayed and some ignored the teaching. Catholics tend not so much to "leave" as to stop attending worship services and participating in Church community. I notice that Mormons seem to formally leave the church over their leaderships outlook on same sex couples. We will see.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
St. John Paul II was a philosopher. He wrote beautifully from a philosopher's prospective about being a Catholic or simply being a human being in the world. I was reading him recently and realized why so many people admired and loved him. He did not interfere much in lifestyle or pocket book. There are many people who are comfortable being Catholic so long as it does not challenge their lifestyle or their money. Pope Francis I does both and has critics who would not criticize John Paul II. John Paul II was against atheistic communism which did challenge the lifestyle and pocket books of a lot of people. Francis connects a belief in God with one's lifestyle and money. He is rather direct and not very much for philosophical language. Whenever you get right to the point you will offend people. Come to think of it, Jesus was pretty offensive.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
You can now get a new uterus. Well, that can be a game changer, or a life changer for that matter. Every year it seems a new body part is added to what science and surgery can replace in the human body. What about the spirit part if you believe in such? I do. Can I get a new soul? I think one can. Each person is like a surgeon who works in tandem with a spiritual force, like God in my case. You are the surgeon. Meditative prayer and loving kindness are the surgical tools you need. One is inner work and the other is outer work. Together they give you a new soul. Mine could use replacement. It is sotted with selfishness, fear, resentment and sundry bad habits. It likes sugar and gluten bread. I am working on it.
Friday, November 27, 2015
We seem to get very upset about radical fundamentalist groups destroying buildings of other religions and spiritual paths. "How can they do such a thing?" "What barbarians these people are!" And so on. But we should also look at our own side of the street. In my church we have people that are declared saints who tour down, destroyed what we call pagan temples. We think of pagans as people who believe nothing or at least don't believe in God. Then why did they build temples? They believed in something. Their problem was that they did not believe "correctly." They did not have the army or firepower to hold off the destroyers. My church destroyed no buildings until it got the backing of being a state approved religion. The radical fundamentalists of today just put up with "nonbelievers," or infidels as they call them because the fundamentalists did not have the guns, army or power to do anything else. Now they do. As did other religions in the past. This is all a bad thing, yes, but let us remember that we who condemn are not so innocent either.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Happy Thanksgiving. I rarely have a bad day when I begin with gratitude and focus on things for which I am or ought to be thankful. When I don't assume or take people and situations for granted I am a better person. Today especially, I have my list of things and people for whom I am thankful and grateful. I tend to be a forgetter, which leads to whining and self-centeredness. I need lots of days of Thanksgiving. Today is a reminder. I am thankful for the few people who are taking time out from special events and food, to read this blog. Hey! Be thankful for me. Put me on your list.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
I read where the term "mission" properly refers to conversion from idols to the one true God. Since Jews and Mainline Protestants already believe in the one true God, there should be no need to expend missionary zeal on converting them from their faith to the missionary's belief. A lot of missionary zeal has been spent on doing exactly that, trying to convert believers. Anti-Semitism and The Reformation fuel a lot of this zeal. Maybe the zeal should be directed to idol worshippers such as Wall Street and top floor corporate types who worship money? People tend to worship their addictions. "More" is a modern god. Alcoholics focus on booze, and do not come off it on a daily basis until they are converted to belief in a higher power. Find the addicts in your world and mission to them. Of course, you are not one of them. Be still my heart.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
It seems that there is a movement to allow people a choice about when they die. The choice that is envisioned is someone who has medical options and insurance. They can undergo treatment or not. They may have undergone treatment and it did not work. Surgery did not work. Chemo did not work and so on. Do they go on suffering after all else has failed? This is how choice is envisioned by most people. But some people have no choice about treatment. They are poor and no one wants to do anything for them. The system cannot afford to care for them or is disinterested. Here Assisted Suicide says take a pill. Get out of your misery and cut the expenses of whatever system of dole is keeping you alive. Die and decrease the surplus population. We have enough poor as it is. Assisted suicide is a lot cheaper than health care.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Is there a Hell? Many people seem to think not. But I think that there has to be a place that honors our free choices. God is a Gentle God and has given us free will, though mine often seems to be bound by so many bad habits. I know people who are given a path of happiness, but seem to choose some other way that brings them misery. Eventually, they seem to deliver some of their misery to others. Now science seems to be saying that they had a chemical imbalance so they could not choose the truly good path for themselves. If so, is there not a spiritual imbalance in which we cannot choose the correct path? Try avoiding all spiritual practice, to include loving actions on behalf of others. Be selfish and self-imploded. Misery will be yours, chemical imbalance or not. If I die with a spiritual imbalance, or the lack of any spiritual maturity, will I not be given a choice by God for the next stage of my existence, should there be such an entity. I tend to believe there is an afterlife, and I will choose misery yet again, since this is how I managed or mismanaged my life up until then. God will honor my choice yet again as God did in this life. So there has to be a place or state of being for bad choices. I call it hell. I am trying to avoid it each day. I did a lot of bad choices, but thought them good ideas. Such people like me need a spiritual program, direction, and guides. Left to my own devices I will have a spiritual imbalance. Maureen said I was hopeless. I hope not.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
I like to fancy myself as a liberal Catholic, even a bit of a maverick. That is, until I lose something. Then I realize that I am a hard core Catholic. Recently, I was out for a jog on the ocean cliffs North of San Francisco, California. I took off my prescription sun glasses as I was running into a cave of trees. It was dark in there and I did not want to trip over a tree root. When I came out the other side into the sun, I put my glasses on but the vision seemed to be blurry. I ran for a while anyway, my blood cells all being in my legs and none in my brain. Finally, I took off my sun glasses, prescription of course, and found that a lens was in fact missing. It had fallen out somewhere. After shouting out a bad word or two, I started to retrace my steps. As I walked along, I prayed to Mary, my Guardian Angel and St. Jude and St. Anthony. Jude is for lost causes, which seems to be me, and Anthony for lost things. Oh, and I included God in my prayer. As I walked, I said "Hail Mary's." I found my lens. I said "Thank you," to my list of heavenly helpers. November is the Feast of All Saints Month and All Souls. I had included my deceased parents and even my deceased sister Maureen in my prayers for help. Maybe she nudged St. Anthony to help me. If so, Maureen would be in heaven now. Miracles never cease!
Saturday, November 21, 2015
This fellow fascinates me. He destroys stereotypes. In the 16th century he became a regular lawyer and then a canon lawyer in the church. You expect a paper pusher in a church office, disconnected from any social justice activity. On top of this, his uncle, the pope makes him a cardinal when Charles is only 23 and gives him an important job in the Vatican. Charles runs the third session of The Council of Trent, the session that got the most done in the Counter Reformation. He writes a catechism. Now you figure this fellow lives in his head and is a career seeking guy in the Vatican. Next he is made bishop of Milan, a neglected diocese. You figure he will neglect it to and just hang around the Vatican or feather his own nest. None of this happens. The secular press is confounded! Charles taught Sunday school, and attended personally to people in his diocese who were victims of the plague. He died at 46, which can happen when you immerse yourself in caring for victims of the plague. You just never know how grace is going to work in anyone's life. Don't judge. There are no stereotypes. Grace is everywhere. Maybe it is even in you!
Friday, November 20, 2015
I just read a wisdom saying in a gospel. "Everyone who does not renounce all their possessions cannot be my disciple." OK. I am not a follower of Jesus, who said this in Luke 14:33. But the only ones who I know who even remotely follow this are people in monasteries and cloisters. And some of them can be hoarders too. Does this mean that there are a lot of baptized people who are not really Christians? Perhaps. But wait, maybe there is hope for people like me. I have stuff. I have lots of stuff in some areas. Maybe my goal is to become detached from my stuff. Let go of the fear that there will not be enough. Let go of the "More" focus. I don't need more and I can let go of some of what I have, like a house cleaning. I put a note next to my bed and on my dresser that says, "I have plenty." I would get depressed if I wrote wisdom saying from the gospel because then I would awaken to my feebleness to follow the gospel. Work on attitude and things will fall into place. I hope so.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
If you don't care much for the term "God" because you don't believe in a god or have bad vibes about your god, why not try using the term "My Strength." I use this term myself sometimes. I know that left to my own unaided strength, I will not do very well. I need some strength that I do not innately have. I need help. When I meditate, I often sense, for part of the meditation, that I am connecting with some "Strength." I then feel better able to withstand temptations that go in the wrong direction, and to do what I know to be better for me. When I fail to attend to my inner life I mess up that very day. You don't have to have "faith" that there is something out there. Rather have faith that if you give yourself to some silence and solitude, you might experience a better day or at least be able to put up with "stuff" that comes along. I have found it so.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
You hear about people who are at the top third or half of their class. You never hear about the other two thirds or bottom half. There cannot be a top third without a bottom two thirds. I always fulfilled the need for a bottom two thirds and sometimes a bottom half. I was average in school. Someone has to be this, otherwise how do you get "top" students. So don't put yourself down if you are like me. We had a purpose in school with our average grades. Maybe school, or the subjects we had to study, were not the place for us to shine. Growing up, becoming a good person, even transformed, is a lot about grace and a hard work that never seems to get graded. Look around. If goodness and kindness, compassion and love could be graded, you might be a top grade student of these virtues. There are a lot of school smart people who are not very nice to say the least. I grab all the grace I can get because I know I need it. Nothing came easy to me. This might have been a gift only lately appreciated.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
In the days of chivalry, women were placed on pedestals by knights in shining armor. It helped that women died young, before menopause, or men died young before they had to live with women going through menopause. Now everyone lives longer and the pedestal is not so crowded, except with youth. In all my reading about or tests concerning marriage preparation, I never heard anything about menopause. Guys marry with ignorance. Maybe everyone does to some extent. Priest training is also bereft of any sessions about menopause. Women don't talk about it when going to their "confessor," and so priests simply give lame advice, "try harder." Good grief! Pastors who are in charge of a parish with women employees might be clueless too. Do you think that if women were priests we might all hear and learn more about menopause?
Monday, November 16, 2015
Marcellus was a soldier. Then he became a Christian. Next, he announced that as a Christian, he could no longer serve in the armies of the world. He served Christ. The emperor had Marcellus killed. Upon reflection, I realize that the one thing big religions have in common is that they are ready to fight wars to beat people who don't agree with them or hassle them. Christianity became willing to fight wars, over theology, land, power, and security. It became quite big. Quakers are not so big. Jews got wiped out by Hitler. They did not have an army. Islam is pretty big. Quakers have no country that we call "Quaker Nation." Some places that have armies say that they are Buddhist, but not really. They have no practice of meditation in their armies. Hinduism is big. They have the Bhagavad-Gita. It is about a battle. My religion developed the just war theory. Jesus did not have that. Just war helped us to get over the teachings of Jesus not agreeing with having armies to fight "our enemies." Would we Christians still exist without our armies? Maybe. What do you think?
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Stunned and horrified is how I felt when I saw the news on the TV. There will be many responses to the killing. I had lunch with a friend yesterday and she was all for killing every Muslim Fundamentalist. She was tired and cranky at that moment. I suggested that we need to pray. It might not be a bad idea to pray to Allah God, since under this name damage is being done. I pray to God for Mercy. The year of Mercy starts soon and we sure could use a lot of it. God have mercy on all of us who are suffering under this torment of radical hate, indifference to human life, and narrow-mindedness. Let none of these traits be part of the solution. But governments and nations generally do not see their power in the Spiritual, but rather the Military. So I will be praying while others prepare to amount attacks. I am not saying we should do nothing, but rather I will do what I can. I have no army and no military budget. My prayer will be part of the mix.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
It is a gift in my life to have smart friends who do silly things. I have a friend who is an accountant, has her own business. She is really smart. Sometimes she does silly things, like wipe all the data off her computer. I am sad for her, but this gives me some hope about myself. When I do silly things, and the list is long, I put myself down as being stupid. I do silly things because I am stupid and less than. A general mess of a person. But if my smart friends do silly things, then maybe I am smart too? I have no perfect friends. That would be too depressing. A lot of people want perfect friends. So they avoid me. I like my friends who do silly things. Don't hide your silliness. You do not know who it will benefit that day. So many people want perfect priests and have little use for me. My friends sustain me. Maybe I should stop writing about my silliness in my blog so that more Catholics will like me?
Friday, November 13, 2015
My friend Mary will not be leaving the church because of the movie, "Spotlight." Like many people, Mary knows all about the pedophile scandal in our church. She reads. She studies. Like my sister, Jane, Mary goes to church for the community of people and the sacraments, the Eucharist especially. She is rightly horrified by the scandal, yet she does not see the church as prelate focused. She sees it as a community of persons who gather to worship and receive communion, to be with Jesus in host and one another. People who say they left because of the scandal, may never have had the church experience that Mary has. Community and sacraments were never a very integral part of "faith" for them. They were half out the door already. The scandal is that we, the church, did not provide the community or the sacrament in a way that made for vitality of faith. We are bending over backwards to deal with the pedophile scandal, but I think we have a lot more work to do on welcoming and integrating the visitor, the new person, into our local worshipping community.
Today is like no other day you will have in your lifetime. It is a date with three consecutive odd numbers in a row: November 13, 2015 or 11-13-15. This will never happen again. Why not think of every day as a singular day, a gift, that you will never have again. Each day is only for that day. Make the most of it. You will never have this day or each day again. One of them will be your last. Do you want it to be one where you stared at a computer, TV or had a drag out argument with someone and felt resentment as your overriding feeling for that singular day? Gift! It is all gift. Well, you started it out right by reading my Blog!
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Two movies are coming out nationally soon. I saw them both when I was in LA this week. "Spotlight" will show my church at its worst. It is about priests preying on children that go reported by the Boston Globe back in 2002. I don't know what the fallout will be for my church over this. Wait and see. There is another movie coming out at the same time, "Brooklyn." It is a love story that begins in Ireland and ends in Brooklyn. Among other things it shows my church at its best, helping its people. When people had no phones and could not pay for a call anyway, who provided the phone and payed the bill? When Irish wanted to come to America after WWII who found them a place to live and a job? Who paid for their education so they could advance in our country? Who fed the poor old-timers, the forgotten men who built our bridges and roads but were now destitute? Who listened when there was no family around to listen? It was my church at its best. After "Spotlight" I have to remind myself that my church has done some wonderful things as well. I take the good with the bad.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
A few years ago there was a free trade agreement between us and Mexico. NAFTA. It was supposed to be a good deal for all. No messy tariffs that keep trade out. Everyone wins right? Wrong. Seems we subsidize farmer here. They grow surplus corn. We sell it at low prices to Mexico. Sounds good? Problem is there were subsistence, i.e. poor farmers in Mexico who could not compete with the imported, now lower priced corn. Consumers at the grocery store liked the price. The poor farmer went out of business. Then he came here with his family and we got upset that all these poor Mexicans are coming into our country. I have done deals that look really good because I focus on who benefits. If my vision shows "all" benefit, it might be that my "all" does not really include all. It often includes only those with a voice. I am trying to be a bit more careful about blaming people for being poor, as if they could be otherwise.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Picking up on yesterday's blog and my airport trip, I continued to disfunction after I got to the airport. I took my cell phone and holster off my belt and rested it on the handle of my suitcase. I forgot I did this, when I started rolling my suitcase toward the plane with the handle extended. Many steps through the airport to the farthest gate, I trudged. I went down the gateway and just before I got onto the plane, I lowered my handle. That is when I saw my cell phone still wedged precariously next to my name label on the suitcase. You tell me there is no God? There must be because I am not capable of taking care of myself. What a hell it would have been to be on the plane, and find out I had no cell phone. Maybe I am going to burn later? My sister Maureen said it would be so.
Monday, November 9, 2015
I went to the local bus terminal to catch a bus to the airport. It leaves once every hour. There is an announcement over the loudspeaker when the bus is ready for boarding. I looked out and saw no driver, nor were the luggage bins open. So I went to the bathroom. When I came out the bus was gone. No announcement. Nothing. I panicked with fear. I went to a nearby hotel hoping there was a shuttle. No shuttle. I will miss my plane. My life is ruined. There was a simple answer but fear blocked it out. Someone had a car. We could have chased down the bus which has several stops before it hits the highway. This never occurred to me until I was sitting at the airport and my heart settled down. Fear always seems to trump brain functioning. A friend, now a saint in my book, drove me to the airport. Even in my fear, God was with me. I give God credit when good things happen, like a friend coming to take me in my panic to the airport. All Saints Day my friend is on my list of saints.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
The bishop's synod used the term, "consensual dialog" when speaking about couples and their decision to have children. What this may mean in terms of Artificial Contraception I do not know. Maybe nothing. The 1968 teaching still stands as far as I can tell, but this term hangs out there and we will see if it goes anywhere down the road. Don't hold your breath.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
REI, the outdoor clothing and paraphernalia store chain, will be closed on Black Friday. They say they want all their employees to enjoy the outdoors which is the focus of REI. Be outdoors! Well, isn't finding a parking place at the outer edges of a huge shopping mall, being in the great outdoors, with a long trek to the front door of the mall? Isn't walking about an outdoor mall being in the great outdoors? That is where I will be with my sister Jane, out shopping in LA with its beautiful November weather and lots of sales if you get lucky. I enjoy the excitement of it all. I used to take my mother out shopping on Black Friday in Vero Beach, Florida. LA has lots more stores. All that holds us back is a full parking lot. Century City, my favorite mall of all, can get full pretty early. Does anyone know the saint you pray to for 50% or better sales? Oh, and the saint for parking too. I forget that one.
Friday, November 6, 2015
I went to the home of a dying woman to say mass for her and her family. She is paralyzed from the neck down and is bedridden. We set the altar up high enough so she could see it at the end of her hospital bed. When it came time for communion, she wanted to drink of the Precious Blood of Christ from the cup. She could not drink directly from the cup, so we used a straw to dip a drop onto her tongue. I don't think that was lawful, but it did seem merciful and practical. I may have to burn for this. What do you think?
Thursday, November 5, 2015
I had just finished giving one of my talks on prayer. As I was gathering up my things I saw a woman looking at some books I had placed on a table. I started up a conversation. Up until then I had been wondering if I am making any difference, if all I say is of any use, or helpful. Or is it time to go into the silence of a hermit. I think that way sometimes, so feedback helps. Anyway, this woman became a moment of grace. She said, "You have a very simple way of saying things that is helpful to me." Well, that made my day! On to another teaching, and put off finding a cave for yet another time.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
I love this term, "Invaded By Calm." The word invasion connotes something foreign or not normal to a place, an outsider. For many of us, being anxious, restless and irritable seems to be such a norm, that calm is an invasion. How sad that it has come to this. I suffer the same invasion frequently when I sit and meditate. Up until then I am often not even aware of how unsettled I am feeling. But it is better to be invaded by calm, then to have no calm at all.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
I noticed that the final letter/document of the bishop's synod did not use any negative or pejorative terms for gay and lesbian persons. Nothing about being abnormal. Sometimes, there is quite a bit said when something is not said. One archbishop was heard to say that we need to stop using negative language when speaking about gays and lesbians. Mercy!
Monday, November 2, 2015
Well, the shoe is on the other foot now that this bishop synod is done. In the past when I opened my big mouth and said something outrageous to conservatives, such as being open to gays and lesbians, I would hear that I should leave the church for not following the bishops. Now that the synod is more open to ministering to gays and lesbians, these same people say that the don't care what the bishops say. These conservatives won't change their negative opinions. Why is it that I have to follow the bishops but they don't? Maybe prejudice hides behind whatever agrees with it.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Today, my youngest sister, Jane, turns 65. Now we siblings are all senior citizens. She was born on a Holy Day in our church, All Saints Day. The day she was born, I was disappointed. I already had two sisters, including the formidable Maureen. I was the only boy, and wanted a brother to even things up. Now there would be three girls and me. Yuck! Except to torment Jane now and again, along with my sister Maureen, I had very little to do with Janie, as we called her. We also called her the gas baby. I was cruel, but an altar boy as well. Janie turned out to be a gift in my life, totally unearned and when young, unappreciated. She is my only sibling who likes sports. We are very compatible when vacationing. We need no big agendas. We can enjoy each other's company and talk about Maureen. Janie is the only sibling who cooks like my Mom. We like the same foods, coffee with half and half, and treats. Some of the best gifts are the ones we never ask for.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
The body with all its feelings is a messenger to my mind from the soul, or spiritual part of me. I have to learn to translate the language of the body into what the deeper message is. The body speaks in the language of sex, food, exercise, and certain feelings such as being restless or anxious. Beyond what is healthy in these areas of food, sex and exercise, these are often signals that I need to get some spiritual food/practice because this part of me wants attention and sustenance. In short, I need to pray in the myriad ways that are prayer. It could be meditation, a walk, a book that addresses our deeper needs, and even a phone call to a certain person who knows of the spiritual path. If I take every message of the body at face value, I will eat and sex inappropriately, overexercise, and get even more anxious by avoiding a spiritual time out. I believe that the college student who drinks/drugs too much on a Friday night and then hooks up, is really wanting a spiritual solution but just did not know how to translate the body's message.
Friday, October 30, 2015
What does, "There but for the grace of God, go I," mean? Well, if you pay no attention to your inner spiritual self I would say you are having a reprieve from disaster. If you have no spiritual practice, and are relieved that you are not in someone else's predicament, in time you will fall into your own disaster and someone else will say about you, "There but for the grace of God, go I." When I am healthy enough to run, I tell people that I am between injuries. This is because I do not take the time and discipline to care enough for my body between runs, or do too much when I should be doing little. Running is not all about running and life is not all about action. To avoid disaster, or enjoy a more permanent reprieve, you need time to nourish the soul, the spiritual innards.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
I had a microscope as a boy. I loved to look into it and see all that there is to see in one little speck of something. There was always so much more in little things if you used a microscope. Unfortunately, this is how I too often look at the faults of others. I put their small fault, not mine of course, under a microscope of judgment. The person I am examining through my judgmental lens is absolutely wretched and terrible. They deserve to be gossiped about behind their backs. I am not whining! I am speaking the truth of their great faults. I tend to examine my faults as with the naked eye looking at the stars. My faults are very small things far away from my real self. They dot my personality like tiny stars in the sky. I do not see all my faults anymore than I see all the stars. My faults are never as big as they truly are. God has really good vision and sees things as they truly are. I could be in some difficulty unless I find a new way of seeing you and me.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
In my more delusional state of weirdness, I want to become super spiritual, like in guru, or peace-filled content with all that goes on around me. I meditate. I read books on prayer and inspiration. I read uplifting biographies. I try to be calm and peaceful. I am a lit candle in the darkness. All this is snuffed out by simple daily life. My room is too cold. I run out of soap, toothpaste or toilet paper. Someone ate the treat I was going to have "after." The "wrong" sheets are on my bed. We run out of half and half cream for my coffee. I get upset and whine to myself in anger. At this stage I am unfit for the outside world of work and relationships. I am in a "mood." I think that maybe super spiritual starts with acceptance. I occasionally stumble onto acceptance. It must be a passing grace, because it is elusive. I have found it to be so.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I thought that I had made a breakthrough when I began to accept reality. I did not so much need fantasies to soften the hard edges of the real world. Life happens. Much stuff is outside of my control. Then the next wave of reality hit me. The decisions of others were not focused on me. They are not thinking about me! I suddenly had a new reason to be angry and resentful, not to speak of frightened and anxious. It is easier for me be a bit detached from issues that do not affect my daily life and routines. It is much more difficult to accept what affects my daily comings and goings. It is all about ego which wants comfort, power, esteem and chocolate.
Monday, October 26, 2015
Since June 9 I have had some hip issue and my running has been compromised. I stopped running altogether about six weeks ago. I am now a walker and have gotten to sub 16:00 on a good day. What I find as a plus is that I get to observe the scene around me as I walk. Flowers, architecture, and some surprises along the way. I am beginning to not miss running. I am getting fat. Fortunately, I wear black clothes a lot, so it is not so noticeable that I am fat. I could eat fewer treats, but let's not go there yet. I feel very good. No aches and pains. I can do about any exercise or stretch. I simply cannot run pain free. An x-ray says nothing structural is the matter. Physical therapy will start down the road some time. I expect to run again sometime and not be fat. The weather has been great for outdoor exercise. I recently bought a helmet for bike riding. We will see. When one thing is taken away, something new might be discovered.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
I am hearing a lot about mercy from the Pope. I especially like mercy, forgiveness, and patience from some one if it also means that I don't have to change. I forget that mercy is for more than my getting off the hook. Mercy if offered freely, yes. But it is offered for the purpose of me then changing my life or wanting to get some help to change my life. How many people say, "Get me out of this, I will never do it again." You get spared. You do it again and again. Love is really the window to change. To love someone before they change will make the one loving a better person. To love someone only because that person does as we want or expect, is a bit self-serving and won't change the lover for the better. To love someone on the margins of good behavior or way outside of good behavior, is a gift. It offers them a chance to change for the better. I meet a few people who say, "God love me." Then they practice bad behavior, such as judgmental, prideful, slothful, anger-filled and resentful. Love would appreciate a response.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
I recommend you take a look at a book by Judith Valente, entitled "Atchison Blue." She is a lay woman with a career, spouse and yet spends time retreating and visiting with women religious at a convent in Atchison, Kansas. At least I think it is Kansas. I found the book quite practical, and helpful. She is open about her struggles to become a better person, about her interest in Silence and the attitude of the nuns in response to daily life.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Think of all the trouble a high priced model takes to keep herself or himself looking beautiful, and attractive. Their beauty will fade, but they work at it as long as it lasts. On the other hand how much time and effort do we take with our spiritual lives or soul, which many believe does not fade? Even high priced prostitutes, who we judge as beneath us, could teach us a thing or two about taking the time to work on what is important though fading. Maybe we just do not think the spiritual life is worth all that much time and effort on a daily basis?
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Just because you are on a Spiritual path does not mean "stuff" ceases to happen. I meet people who were on a spiritual path of recovery. Things began well, and then life showed up. They were sober but dealing with loss of one sort or another, health, job, loved one. They go out and drink. I meet people who "used" to go to church but suffering came their way and Their God did not prevent or fix it. They dumped God. Life stayed messy. Spirituality is not making deals with anyone. If you are in it to be happy, this is, get what you want, you will not get what you want. It must be a relationship of love or else it won't last. Isn't that what married people tell me?
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
When we ask the question of ourselves, "Is this OK," the question only makes sense if it is something that we have control over. "Is it OK," to be 5'6" tall makes no sense as a question. You are as tall as you are. You can wear lift shoes or heals if you think you are "too" short, but it does not change your basic height. We are often trying to change something that is natural to us, because we cannot accept ourselves naturally. If you have hazel eyes, as I do, accept it. No one ever said I had beautiful eyes, but I am fine with my eyes. I don't spend time looking at me. If you have red hair, that is you. Why not accept it. If you have curly hair, maybe it all fits into the whole of creation! But people often want to be blond, or at least not grey haired. Advertising is most often based upon not accepting ourselves. It is OK that you are who you are. If others put you down, that is their opinion. God made you who you are. I like God's opinion.
A fellow named Bob Senser, recently deceased, a good Catholic, was standing reciting the Nicene Creed at mass one day and suddenly wondered why we profess a faith that deals with heresies of 17 centuries ago. Why not gospel terms that matter in our own time. Why not, for instance, include a creed about the God-given dignity of the human person as a transcendent value. That seemed to him a fundamental principle of faith. Something to think about. It is easier for Christians to agree on a creed that has lots of statements about God that we accept, that do not interfere with our business as usual. The Trinity, the divinity of Jesus do not affect modern economic, political and sociological issues, and business practices that might skirt respect for the worker/employee, much less the consumer. Something to think about.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Jesus told someone that he had no place to rest his head. He slept on the streets? No. His emphasis, or point, is that he was not a a religion of place. He was about "The Way." He was about a manner of living that takes a lifetime plus, to make us all we are supposed to be, our potential realized. There was no Jerusalem, Mecca, Vatican Rome for Jesus. You can visit a holy sight or religious center and then check it off your bucket list. You never check off "The Way" on a bucket list. It is never finished. It is a bit like a twelve step program of recovery. One is never recovered from an addiction. One is always recovering. One is alway on the way to wholeness. For all of us, bad behavior always lurks. It seems to be in our spiritual DNA. It is easier to fall off the way then to stay on it. I have found it so. I seem to have original sin molecules coursing through my heart. But they love me in Horse Shoe Bay, Texas!
Monday, October 19, 2015
The next time you hear someone say that you are not normal, don't feel so bad, at least not right away. I am sure that many people thought Jesus was not normal. People who push, point to, or lead what seems like a new spiritual path are not the norm. Therefore, they are not normal. In Jesus' time, some wanted revolution. Some wanted to just get along with the customs and ways they knew or were taught by established leaders. Some simply looked to which way Rome was going and followed for survival or career promotion. These were all variations of normal, for their group anyway. Women had their normal place and station too. Jesus did not fit in. He called for a change of life, manner, attitude. I hear many people say that they believe in Jesus' message. Few actually follow the message they say they believe in. To follow would be too abnormal. Turn the other cheek? Be the servant of all? Pretty weird stuff. If being outside the norm makes you a better person, more who God made you to be, maybe kinder, more merciful, generous, forgiving and accepting, then it is something to consider. Can tattoos do all this?
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Pope Matin I was the last pope to be a martyr. It happened it 655. At that time, the newly elected pope was supposed to get the approval of the emperor. Martin did not, but rather condemned as heresy something that the emperor, Constans II accepted and believed in. Constans got upset, as potentates tend to do when authority is not respected. So Martin was dragged from Rome to Constans. Martin was starved, tortured, imprisoned and then exiled. He died soon thereafter. History said that emperors trumped popes. History changes. About a century or so later, 800 AD, Charlemagne was chosen as emperor, or defeated the opposition. He decided that it would behoove him to get approval from the pope. Off the emperor goes to Rome to get crowned by the pope. Things change. Big issues may not be so unchangeable. Often there was a time when they did not even exist as they are now. Do not despair. I think of it as, "God working."
Saturday, October 17, 2015
When we love someone or at least do not want to sound too offensive, we tend to hide our judgement of their behavior by asking a question instead of making a statement of their unacceptable behavior as we judge it. In the famous bible story of Martha and Mary with Jesus coming to dinner, Martha is doing all the dinner prep while Mary is sitting around listening to Jesus. Martha is steamed. She asks a question of Jesus, "Don't you care that my sister has left me by myself?" It is an attempted way to soften Martha's judgment that Jesus in fact, to her, does not care! It would be bad for to accuse Jesus, him being the Son of God, and her house guest. She is full of a lot of negative energy. Never upset the cook! But Jesus does not let any of her negative energy imprison his response. He does not take on any of her anger or frustration or anxiety. He responds but not with the same emotion as Martha. Just because someone else in the room is angry does not mean that you have to be angry. Think about that the next time someone accuses you with a question. Questions can be judgments disguised. Having said all this, I would never upset the cook. It can make for an unenjoyable meal experience. Go Martha!
Friday, October 16, 2015
Remember the bible story about Jonah being swallowed by a whale? The backdrop to this story is that God told Jonah to go to a town where Jonah's enemies lived. Nineveh was a town where dreadful and violent people lived. Jonah wanted God to punish Nineveh for being so rotten. Jonah was sent by God to tell the people to repent and then God would not send misery upon them. Jonah wanted people he did not like to suffer misery. This is justice. People we consider bad should pay the price for hurting me and other innocent people. So Jonah does not go and ends up in the belly of the whale. Finally Jonah goes. He expects that Nineveh will not repent. Bad people deserving of punishment do not repent. Surprise! They repent and God forgives them. Jonah gets upset with God. Are we any different? Do we net tend to judge who should suffer from their hurtful lives and who are the innocent victims, or the good people or the righteous people? Even when people repent and say that they are sorry, we are slow with forgiveness. We want God to satisfy our vengeance. Are you stewing in some whale's belly now?
Thursday, October 15, 2015
There is a recent devotional piety called, "Divine Mercy," in my church. It was started by a nun, Faustina Kowalska. She is now declared a saint. Many people sing her praises. It was not always so with Faustina. When she was alive, her superiors in her convent doubted her visions and thought her delusional. A nut case if you will. She died with this assessment of her when she was 33, from TB. Her reputation gets worse. Her diary is submitted to Rome. It is viewed with suspicion and placed upon the Index of Forbidden Books. Then something changed. She got discovered by someone else with a different point of view. He happened to be Polish, like her. He also happened to become the Pope, Saint John Paul II. Her reputation rocketed her to sainthood and the modern fame that goes with it. So, when someone says or thinks you a nut case, deranged and delusional, and even heretical in your views, be patient. You might just be in need of discovery by someone of a second opinion. When a first opinion condemns you or judges you badly, remember that God is a much more benign second opinion. God is Love. The opinion of some that I am of a deranged state, may be true. But I am ever hopeful that I simply have not yet been discovered by a second opinion.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Outsiders have the false notion that what brings addictive people together to work on their issues is the addiction. Alcoholism brings alcoholics together. Not so. When acting out their addiction, alcoholics were lots of times with others who were just like them. But they were "alone with others." What brings addictive people together to work on their addiction, to keep it at bay, is suffering. They share a common suffering. Keep this in mind whenever you are in a group that is trying to get better, to improve, become transformed even. It could be a church, a gym, yoga group, quilt makers, not to mention grief support and twelve step programs. There is the presenting reason, and the deeper pain. I try to work on the deeper pain. It keeps me connected to others. Don't write off desperation either. It can be the road to action.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
If I forgave others the way that I forgive myself, few people would be forgiven anything. I would be constantly upset with them. I find it so much more difficult to forgive me than to forgive others. It is a sin of false pride. I should be better than I am relative to others. They can mess up, but I cannot. They can be human, with faults and failings, bad habits that I accept or forgive, but I cannot be so human, or have faults or bad habits. Some days my life can be such a drag. Trying to be perfect is not easy. When God made Adam, God said, "It is good." God never said Adam was perfect. I seem to expect myself to be better than God's creation, to improve upon God. Pride. One of the seven deadly sins is often unnoticed.
Monday, October 12, 2015
The Pope says that we should love people on the margins. What is a margin? People who feel that they don't fit in, who feel outside of acceptable society, feel they are different in not so good a way, feel lonely, who rarely feel included or rarely want to be included. These are just some examples. Such people are in twelve step rooms, shelters for the homeless, soup kitchens, workplaces and churches. Some of them I find it easy to identify, but some not. Having a pleasant appearance, a job, good grades, rewards and recognition can be a cover. Living on the "margin" takes many forms. I try to be careful that I do not ignore people or brush them off. But sometimes I am on the margin in my own life. The wall goes up. It is a thin wall, usually with a sign up that says, "NO." It really means, "Ask again." My friends have figured that out. For this, I am blessed.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
I grew up in the Bronx which is part of New York City. Outside of my little neighborhood, school, church, Mom and Pop stores, local movie theatre, I rarely went anywhere else. It never occurred to me. Occasionally, Mom would take me shopping with her. It was still the Bronx and I would stay close to her. When I got older, I found out that other children actually went to Manhattan, to museums, theaters, live entertainment, parks and famous New York City sights. It was when I began to realize that I was a bit of a fear-based kid. What I do now to overcome it, is research a city when I live there or near to a city. I find out what is going on in museums, theaters/shows, and sights. I find out how public transportation works to get me around. And I don't wait to find someone to accompany me. It is nice at times if someone does go with me, but I don't wait around for their schedule to open up. With today's computer apps it is rather easy to figure out a lot of things about a city and how to maneuver around in it. I ask questions too. Sometimes I find that I know a lot more about a city than people who have lived there a long time. Fear hides itself behind a lot of excuses.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
One of the first things a child loses as it grows up is the ability to forgive easily. Before adolescence, they might be disappointed in a relative"s or teachers's behavior, but will readily forgive. The child is ever hopeful at this stage. The adult is precious to them. Adult bad behavior does not change this optimism. As we grow, such hope and ready forgiveness gives way to resentment, cynicism, escape and pessimism. Maybe that is why Jesus and the spiritually wise people suggested that we be like a child. "You must become like little children," is pretty clear wisdom. People will disappoint, but a lot of our misery is our response as time goes on.
Friday, October 9, 2015
If you are with someone who has lost the use of their mind, as with Alzheimer, you might think that they don't even know you are there, much less that you care about them. Try touching them, as in holding their hand. Their mind might be gone, but the skin might be very much in touch with your presence. No words, just touch is the way to show you care. Now there are times when you, who think you have full use of your mind, know that someone is talking to you, but you do not listen. You could tune in, but you don't for any number of reasons. I suspect that if they stopped talking and just held your hand, it might awaken your attention. Words are not all they are cracked up to be. The mind drifts, races about and gets over loaded. The skin is more often in the present moment. Maybe that is why people often show love by feeding us. We eat of their presence in taste, and the aroma of food.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
While many of you will be getting caught up in SuperBowl buzz next February, there will be a group of nuns there trying to heighten awareness and prevent sex trafficking. Apparently, this is a big thing at all the hotel venues in the SuperBowl area. This year the SuperBowl will be right outside of San Francisco. I am clueless about all this, but no more, thanks to women religious who once again are on the front lines to help those enslaved to this business. Lots of young children are involved in this. So, while you are praying for your team to win, you might add a much more important prayer for all the victims of this very profitable business.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
I don't think there really is anything like "free" market economies. There are so many things that control your freedom to do things. If you make a product, you can only make as much of that product as you can find the materials, commodities, and workers to make the product. Then you can only sell it at a price that someone is willing to pay. Supplies, labor, and price limit what you can do and still stay in business with a reasonable profit. You are not free to live in San Francisco. Too many people tried that and now the cost of housing has priced out most people. Only the crazed and the self-centered think in terms of unlimited freedom. When they act "freely" they end up in self-destruction and usually take others down with them. In my life, I seem to be more free than before I became a priest. I thought I was giving up a lot, but find that now I live in four wonderful places, get invited to interesting new places, seem to have no income and yet have what I need or even want. It may be that when we try to get "more" freedom we end up constricted and when we give up things, life seems to expand our horizons. I think there is some spiritual maxim here. The one who loses their life will find it?
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Chiara Lubich gave me this one. It is a jolt. If you were about to take a test, would you not think it fortuitous to have the answers in advance? I don't mean cheating. That would be bad. I mean, if the answers were readily and knowingly given to you with the permission of the teacher. Easy test right? Pass with 100%. Go on to Harvard or the next grade level anyway. Well, life is a test. To get to eternal life we have to pass the exam. But we have the answers. They are given to us in the scriptures of whatever spiritual path we follow or say we believe in. In Christianity it is Matthew, chapter 25. I am sure it is in the Hebrew Scriptures, Koran, Upanishads, Sutras, Twelve Steps, and so on. We have the answers. But we don't follow them or answer correctly. You would think yourself pretty stupid if you did this on a school test would you not? Right now, I think I might get a rather low grade. How about you?
Monday, October 5, 2015
Elizabeth Hirschboeck, known as Sister Mercy Hirschboeck, is one of these anonymous Holy people who should be less anonymous. She fascinates me. She was a Maryknoll doctor missionary from Marquette University. She got a little press for her work in the Korea during the Korean War. She started out at a clinic in Korea in 1931 when Japan occupied that country. They she moves on in 1943 to the heat and snakes of a Bolivian Jungle. Back to Korea in 1951 to Pusan clinic. In two years, 200,000 patents were treated. It was a big and busy clinic. 1954 she goes home to Kansas City to administer at a fully integrated hospital called Queen of the World. An integrated hospital in 1954 is something considering that the Supreme Court finally decided that separate but equal schools were not so equal. Then she runs the whole order for twelve years. At seventy you would think she could kick back, but no. She moves into a crime infested neighborhood in Manhattan with a a group of "contemplative" nuns and witnessed by her presence amidst crime, drugs and poverty. Doctoring never stops for her. She died in 1986, just as I was moving to San Francisco to take on some "soft" Paulist ministry. Someone said her demeanor gave you the sense of her being holy. Wow. My demeanor gives you the sense of what? Never mind. Work on your own demeanor.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
The Hebrew scriptures have a book or two that remind me of the Hasids in Brooklyn. The Book of Ezra speaks about the Israelites returning from their Persian exile to the land they had left years ago. Ezra says the reason they were sent into exile is because they did not keep the law as purely as they should. Ezra was against intermarriage with non-Jews. He was for studying and keeping all the various laws. He was for the separation of Jews of the Law from foreigners, pagans, goyim. The Hasids of Brooklyn said they were destroyed by Hitler because they did not keep the law correctly. We see in religions this desire to be apart from others as a way to preserve something. We may not all agree with it. Many Jews do not agree with Hasids or Ezra. But at least we know why people set themselves apart at times. As the "West" impinges on Islam in the Levant or Middle East, as we call it, maybe there is some of this same desire for pure separation. Just as some Jews think other Jews are no better than pagans, so some Moslems feel the same way about other Moslems. Come to think of it, some Catholics feel that way about me. Gotta' go.
Saturday, October 3, 2015
I tend to "blame" someone or something for the reason I am late for an event or meeting. I rarely blame "me." It is never my fault. It is never about being self-absorbed. I may tend to do that one more "so important" thing. Or I choose to do, eat, get something that ate up time. Then I blame the traffic, even though there is always traffic. When I start out this way, it tends to bleed over into interactions with people. Things are their fault when things do not work out according to my plan. My plans are fine. People are uncooperative. Can not they read my mind? Each day, there is always that one more thing to be done, that if I leave it undone at the moment, I will be on time, the world will go on with my undone thing, and only people like me with their plans, will be upset. It is the domino effect. So I try to begin each day by being on time for the first thing I have to do. And if that happens to be prayer and meditation, so much the better.
Friday, October 2, 2015
I prefer the AA model of organization as opposed to the operative one in the Catholic Church. Why? In AA everyone is in charge of making the organization, the local group function. There are really no permanent givers and takers. At first one is a taker because they are such a mess. But if they stay, they begin to do some of the work. If you just show up when it suits you, soon enough you will drop out and probably go back to your misery. On the other hand, the Catholic model is to pray for vocations of priest and nuns so they can do the work while everyone else comes and goes as it suits them. The hierarchical model suits this modus operandi. The elderly who used to volunteer and take up positions of leadership are being replaced by people for whom volunteering is something, well, old people did. Parishes hire lay people but the model stays the same. The salaried and the ordained, or professed do the work. AA is full of people who know they need AA and will do lots to make AA function. There is no hierarchy around. I am not so sure that Catholics have this same sense of urgency.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
My church is beginning to show a growth in numbers of men who want to become priests, many of whom were born in this country. Seems like a good thing, no? Well maybe and maybe not. There are two things that young people grow up with in their world. One, there is little that seems permanent. Technology changes. Families move for jobs. Divorce. Different attitudes about God, church, belief and so on. The second thing they grow up with is that they are not so important. There may very well be no job for them in the secular world. They don't count. If there is a job it could be short term. Profits trump personnel. All this can bring a certain amount of anxiety and even fear. Some seminaries give a solution. Dress up in a lot of pomp and circumstance. Always wear your clerical clothes, very upscale clerical clothes. You are better than the laity. This answers the fear of being unimportant. The right clothes show importance, and that you are indeed different. They are taught that clothes will witness to their priesthood. Then the seminaries teach a return to a church in which these men never grew up. It is for the sake of tradition which means lots of focus on rules, how things are done, what is taught that mirrors a church before the 1960s, that decade of change and chaos. These young men have a sense of self-importance and wisdom based upon neither experience or the gospel. They like to live in the past and call it the present. They encourage the pious to become more pious and the thinkers, innovators, to leave. They endure Francis I.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
The Bible says we should become like children. What? Well, God is like a child, so why not you? An example: A little child will forgive a parent who messes up, say with alcohol. The child knows that something is the matter by say, the smell or the look of the parent. The child still loves, and hopes the parent will be better. There is no hate or rejection yet in the child. When the parent finally sobers up or straightens out, the parent suspects that the child must hate or reject them. The parent feels guilty and ashamed. But the child just loves and now enjoys the recovered parent. Is this not the way it is with God? We mess up. We feel ashamed when we awaken. We feel that God will or ought to punish us. There is no such God except in our imaginations or pulpit sermons. God is love. God is always hopeful and forgiving. God waits. Why not enjoy this God today? Then become like a little child with others who are practicing bad behavior.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
One of the best gifts we can give to someone who is debilitated is physical presence in a patient and loving manner. Accept that the person is ill or losing their mind or have lost memory. Don't judge what is going on inside of them. Your presence may keep them from the discomfort of feeling agitated and confused. They may even refer to you as someone else who is long dead. It does not matter. Your sane presence is a gift. It is a practice in selflessness because you do not feel you are getting much out of it or wonder if you are doing any good. No immediate payoff. Then, when you least expect it, there is a little miracle. The best grace is always to surprising grace.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Remember when the Pope made that remark to the reporters on the airplane. It went viral. What many do not know is that it was a response to a specific question about a specific person. Seems the Pope wanted someone he trusted to go and do some fact finding or investigation. Some Vatican people did not want such investigation. So they put out the word that this prelate took a guy along with him on vacation. They figured that the Pope would can the fact finder and that would be that. Not so. The prelate said that he was sorry for his indiscretion. He repented. He felt he should be fired. But the Pope did not fire him but kept him on the job. If you repent, you are forgiven and we all move on. Some Vatican people think you can hold sex issues over someone's head to keep them in line or use against them. It is easier to prove than embezzlement. It is not so hidden. This Pope is talking "Mercy." What a concept.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
When I go into a Catholic church building for the first time, I look for the "vigil light" that burns next to the tabernacle. This is the way that I know where the tabernacle is. Now we Catholics believe that is where Jesus Christ resides in the host inside the tabernacle. We did not invent the vigil light idea. Like many things, we learned it from our ancestors, the Jews. Go into a synagogue. You will see permanent light there. It is a reminder that God dwells in that space, a reminder of the divine presence. There is more. The vigil light does not say the presence is only in the synagogue. The synagogue space and light is a reminder that the Holy dwells in the cosmos. Some Catholics think that outside of the wafer, the body of Christ, there is only secular, sinful world. Not so. God is everywhere. We took a lot of ideas from our Jewish ancestors. We ought to be talking to them more often. I suspect they could teach us a thing or two. Jesus was a Jew. I keep Jewish friends near me. When you start thinking God is Catholic, you have just started a new church. We have more than enough churches.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Well here is a reason to think more than once about an abortion. Not all of the fetus leaves your body. Science has found Y chromosomes in women's bodies that may very well never leave. The Y chromosome is easier to find in a woman. These chromosomes seem to spread to all organs in the body. Science does not know if these cells contribute to prevent disease or even contribute to such things as cancer. Who knows? What if those little Y things could record a woman's desire or decision to end its fetal life? Can chromosomes be merciful and forgiving? On the other hand this may give one more indication why a mother feels a special bond with her children. Some parts of the children stay with Mom throughout her life. So maybe when my Mom died a little bit of me died with her. No wonder I cried at her bedside over her dead body.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Boys will only clean up and keep the domestic space orderly if it is important to them. It was important to my Mom that I keep my personal space clean and clean up after me around the house. It was not important to me though. So when I moved out and lived on my own in an apartment, as a single adult, I did not clean up my mess. My Mom never saw my apartments. I lived in other cities than where she lived. So I would have made a lousy husband if the girl wanted things neat an tidy. There are also boys who never cleaned up growing up. Either someone else did it or the family lived in chaos. These boys also make lousy husbands for neat girl types. Divorce in the future could be based upon mess and dirt! Girls need to ask themselves when prospecting a marriage partner, "Is cleanliness important for this guy?" Yes, for a while he will clean up some out of love, but this will pass. Mess trumps love eventually for slobs. Girls, there are a whole lot of guys who keep a clean and orderly environment, can cook, are good listeners, and can dance. Most of them are gay. "What a waste!" as some girls would say. In fact a lot of heterosexual girls have much in common with gay men in terms of what they like. So let us all celebrate our commonalities and not focus so much on our differences. We are not all so much different one from another.