Saturday, January 31, 2015
I saw a sign on a storefront that said, "Fresh Baked." A bakery I thought. I love treats. I must go and check it out and see what muffins, cookies and such they have. Not. In Boulder, Colorado the words, "Fresh Baked" do not always refer to bakeries as I know them. They now often refer to stores that sell dope. I am so behind the times in what is happening in the drug world. I used to be hep. I used to make fun of people who were not up on the times. Now I am one of them. I am a happy one of them. Without dope.
Friday, January 30, 2015
In my church we believe in "Transubstantiation." It means that the bread of the altar becomes the body and blood of Jesus. I think that we miss something important here. Louis Lallemant, S.J. a great influence of Francis I points out that Jesus becomes the bread, which is a whole different way of looking at what happens on the altar. :Why," you ask? There is not much challenge in your life if the bread becomes Jesus. It is a theological principle. But, if Jesus becomes the bread, then this great Creative Power of the universe, becomes something very simple and ordinary: bread. The challenge to us is to do as the Power does, become ordinary and see in it the extraordinary, as says Buddha, Jesus and many others. Become small. Don't try and always be a big deal full of self-importance. Let go of the pride that says you are better than the people you judge, and so on. Since I am pretty much ignored, I am well on my way.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
I don't get a haircut very often. It had been two months, and my hair had gotten rather long. I had a professional barber haircut. I thought that I looked rather spiffy. I walked around for two days at church and in the office, and no one said anything. From this I surmise two things: I am vain. I am invisible, the anonymous person. I cannot do much about being invisible. If I am not noticed, I need acceptance. Spiritual masters often say we should be "nothing" or we are "nothing." Buddha says we are dung heaps. I can work on the vanity part. So, being unnoticed is a grace for it reveals a fault upon which I can work. Do you try to find the positive in being invisible? We are never nobody.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I sometimes tell stories that I write for homilies at the children's mass. Fiction and fairy tales are risky business from the pulpit when trying to reach out to children. After the mass, as they all filed by to go back to school, the children said nothing one way of the other about the story I told them. I had written it myself. I had felt quite creative. I thought it had a good message. Maybe not. Children are easily bored. Could I be a boring priest? The "R" word came into my mind. Retire? Well, maybe from preaching my stories to children. God only knows.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
I was on the way to the office and one of the staff, pesky Michelle, said that First Confession children were gathered in church to learn about how to do this sacrament. She invited me and said it would be good if a priest would be there, as in ME. "I have office work," was my tepid reply. She smiled and walked away, probably taking me off her prayer list. So I went and did my "office work." Finally, I left the office, with the thought of priestless children in church. I decided to stop in and see if they were all gone. They were all still there, these tiny little souls, with their two catechists from school.
"They don't need me, " I thought. Michelle was there. "They need you, Father," she said. I need pest control for this caring Michelle! So I went up and greeted the children. They had a ton of questions for Father. All in all, it was a graced time and I was useful. I was of service for an agenda not of my own choosing. This is often the most rewarding service. I guess that Michelle is a source of grace and not so pesky. Or maybe sometimes grace appears disguised as a bother. Anyway, a few less days in purgatory for me, I hope.
Monday, January 26, 2015
I was watching our local college basketball team in a game last night and noticed that when they had the ball, they simply passed it around to one another, far away from the basket. The object is to get the ball to the basket for a short shot or toss/shoot it to the basket from long range. No one did much of anything but pass the ball around. No one took charge. It reminded me of times when I think that "someone should do something," but I fail to identify that someone as ME. It is always someone else. It is so much easier to pass the ball, or pass the time, or pass the responsibility, then it is to get involved and get something done. "I am too weak, too old, too poor, too nobody or too busy to act," so I say. Do you ever get too busy at not much? I am guilty of this more than I care to admit.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Well now, the Pope says that big families are a blessing. Well enough. But then he goes on to say that poverty is not caused by numbers of people but by stuff like greed, distribution of wealth or lack thereof. I still say there are too many people. To make matters even more difficult, there are too few young to support the too many old, like me, in first world countries. So we have a distribution of people problem as much as a distribution of resources problem. Even if we were to distribute all the available food justly, would there be enough to feed everyone? And in ten years from now would thee be enough? The earth is a limited size. Families seem to be bound by no limits.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
The pope says that one can be a good Catholic without being like rabbits, as in lots of children. I did not even have to wait to read this info on a website. It was in the coffee house this morning. See, people listen to the pope when he speaks their language and issues. Now I am waiting for the Vatican spin doctors to say that the Pope did not really mean this or that, or even what he said. If you spent your whole church career with one or two central issues, i.e. SEX, and the pope changes the agenda or the focus, you too would become a spin doctor. Better to stick with the Gospel than get into culture wars over sex.
Friday, January 23, 2015
I just completed two days in which I presided at 5 masses, in 4 churches, in 3 towns, in 2 languages. It is the day after and I am still recovering. This is one way to know my limits. I can see the limits getting more limited, but only find it out by pushing the boundaries, or trying things out. When I was just about ready to begin the 5th and final mass of the weekend, I was running on empty. Then it occurred to me that for the people attending this mass, it is their only one for the weekend. So I sucked it up, did not wine and was of service. Joe Dimaggio, a great baseball player, did his best every day because he thought it might be the only time someone got to see him play, and they deserved nothing but his best. Joe made the Baseball Hall of Fame. Is there one for priests?
Thursday, January 22, 2015
It seems that a once powerful hierarch in the church thinks that since the 60s, i.e. after Vatican II reforms, the church has a feminized influence that has marginalized men. I have a thought on this. Men who take more power than is right do so because they feel insecure with big egos but low self esteem. Women get the short end of the power stick. The twentieth century saw the rise of women in the power equation. Insecure men fought back. Women would not be cowered. So such men cowered and stopped even fulfilling their proper roles. Women did not marginalize men. Men did it to themselves. They were like bullies who can only be bullies as long as everyone allows it. But once someone fights back, the bully becomes much diminished. Many men do not know how to be right sized. Women have found their power. Men need to be mentored to find their right power in this new structure. Whenever women find problems with male power, e.g. glass ceilings, it is usually because of the insecurity of the men. The good ole boy's club is a safe haven for such men. Not a few young men seek priesthood as a way to have power that the modern world would never stomach. Just a thought.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Why did I get this iPhone 6? Michelle was having too much fun with her new iPhone while we were in the store together. Plus, she seemed to be able to manage it quite well. I had been thinking about it but her experience that evening gave me the impetus to go back two days later and buy my own phone! A week later she finds out that there is some problem with her account fees. They were higher than she thought they were going to be. Oops! I have not seen my first bill, or rather I did and it was dreadful, but the small print said that some fees were one time only. I await the second invoice. Is there a lesson here? Well, enthusiasm and envy might get me with a very nice iPhone to use in Debtor's Prison. Never shop in a grocery store when you are hungry and never buy technology when you are envious.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
I am thinking of starting a smart phone recovery group since I just got my first smart phone. Now I see why all those young people spend so much time on their devices. I am getting hooked myself and spending way too much time on this gadget seeing what this and that does. I would try and base my group on the twelve steps. I am powerless to put this thing down. My life is getting out of hand, unmanageable. Step two is where there is a problem. See, Steve Jobs was not supposed to get into heaven. He did not go to the right church and keep all the rules. He was always beyond the norm of rule. But when Jobs got to the pearlly gates wearing his asbestos suit for the heat of where he was supposed to go, he quickly innovated and gave Peter an iPhone 6 Plus. Peter, being the first Pope and resistent to change, just gave it to God who has big hands and could easily handle the 6 Plus. God so liked the phone that Jobs got a bump and is now up in heaven with the angels. However, the downside for my second step in recovery is that God is no longer available for helping me. God is busy on the iPhone. So, if you are not getting your prayers answered, you now know why!
Sunday, January 18, 2015
This Irish Miler won the Olympic 1500 meter run in 1956. He was not expected to win, except maybe by Mr. Delany. He ran 53.8 seconds for the final lap which is quite fast as he came from the back of the pack to pass everyone. What was noticeably different about him was that he had a very funny running form. He did not look very smooth relative to the form of the other runners. But it was the way he ran his most efficiently best. To try to run like someone else just would not have done it for Ron Delany. He had to run his way with his body. He might appear unorthodox but it worked for him. All of us have to be who we are, and not someone else. If we seem odd in the pack, it is all relative. We are at our best when we are ourselves and not trying to be someone else. I have a very smooth running form but I am very slow, sad to say. Well, someone has to be last. I would rather be me and last, then try to be someone else to get ahead.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
I find that when I am tired and go to bed, I don't fall asleep right away. I am not restless, since I am tired, but I don't doze right off. This vexed me for a while. Now I see it as an invitation. I meditate for awhile, practicing Centering prayer as I lie in bed. It is often the best meditation of the day, and sad to say, on some days, my only meditation. I do not look at the clock. I don't want to be "timing" God. After a while I say a serenity prayer and then am more likely to fall asleep. All in all, I get my rest, soul and body.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Recently, I went back to a parish I preached at many years ago. It is a neighboring parish next door to the parish where I often work now. I saw many people who I used to know from the old days. They told me how wonderful my preaching is. I felt like "Dynamite!" I am so gifted. Ego boosted. Then I had a graced moment in my thinking. These people think I am such a good preacher, but they never leave their parish to come and hear me preach a few miles away. I am not so much dynamite as I am a firecracker, good for a pop once a year. This is a graced insight because how can God use me if I am so self-important? God is the focus in my work and not me. I am of service to God and not my own ego. So I am thankful to all those people who ignore my existence. My ego says, "Take them off the prayer list." "Quiet, ego."
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Save those vinyl record albums and spindle players. They are coming back. "What?" ask we old-timers. That is so yesterday, right? Wrong. It is only yesterday for us who grew up with them. It is a brand new thing for younger people. "Old" is a relative term. A younger generation is not returning to the past. It never was their past. It is new to them. Maybe it might make us think about other things we rejected that have value still. God for instance. The Boomers grew up with God. God was a norm, like vinyl records. God got to be an old idea, not worth keeping around, not useful, replaced by something else. God is a memory of earlier times. Then someone younger comes along and says, "I have discovered God!" They seem happy, fulfilled with a new meaning and purpose in their life. They are better people for this discovery. And we who dropped the God stuff? Maybe some things are worth keeping around. I am glad God did not treat me like a vinyl record and dump me a long time ago.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
My first Spanish teacher was Bertha. We sat at her kitchen table along with her baby, who I think knew more Spanish than I did...and still does. Bertha was my best teacher. We met once or twice a week for about an hour. Time went quickly. I was 35 years old. I could learn and remember then. I tried again years later with a three month immersion experience in Mexico. I was 61. The school had two wonderful teachers, and though I learned much, including the nefarious subjunctive, I retained little. The three months in Mexico with the Romo family were unforgettable to this day. Unfortunately, the Spanish language was not so memorable. I became a dummy. Spanish keeps me humble. Well, so does physics and calculus for that matter, but I still fumble along in Spanish ministry to rather forgiving congregations. My best priestly contribution to Spanish ministry is that the people appreciate their Spanish priest more after suffering me. See, we are never really useless!
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
In the book, "Outliers" a study was done on why Korean pilots were having so many plane crashes some years ago. The study found out that is was culture. The captain is the boss and you never contradict the boss. He no like it either. The whole culture has a hierarchy of deference. So the co-pilot and engineer can make subtle suggestions as the plane is heading to disaster. But they don't get in the face of the captain the way a new Yorker would. So the plane crashes. Now I understand the problem we had with many Korean priest in our USA culture. They thought that their title gave them respect. "Father" meant that you treated them with deference. Women would be somewhat low on their hierarchy of importance. In our culture, you earn respect. It does not come with a title. Women are equals. Korean priests come to this country so years ago had a hard time of it, and so did the non-Korean people they pastored. We are doing a better job of inculturation now, based upon the past. Again, we tend to do round pegs in square holes. We are learning.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Quiet is not about praying. You can be quiet because you will get a reward or hit if you make noise, but in neither case are you praying. Solitude on the other hand is conducive to deep prayer. Solitude is not about being alone, but about being within oneself in stillness, without words or specific thought-filled agenda. You can have solitude on an airplane, though it is not quiet. Churches are generally more quiet than in solitude. Actually, many churches are quite noisy. Walk in. Do you hear the background sound of the air or heat unit? Often the answer is yes. Quiet can be hard to find, but solitude is not. It is a learned practice. Just ask anyone who does an 11th step in recovery. Or someone who has learned a practiced method of meditation. It is why we have methods. Without this, most people who try on their own, never get beyond feeling alone or bored.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
One mother said that she refused to send her son to a certain public high school because it would be a bad influence on her son and he would get into trouble. Another mother sent her son to the same high school and he turned out to be an All American football player and Pro Football player, became deeply Christian and still is. Why do we so often make environment the fall guy? Environment can be problematical, but I am forever seeing these stories of someone overcoming or getting through it. I have never figured out the formula and maybe there isn't one, but environment is not automatic. Many children go to Catholic schools and leave the church. The football player, by the way, never went to Catholic school.
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Take a close look at what happens when the Magi come upon the infant Jesus. No words. Mary says nothing and the Magi say nothing. They adore, that is, they focus on the relationship with the infant who is believed to be the Christ. My point is that when you come upon what is a truly holy and moving moment, a newly discovered relationship, the successful end of a search, why do you babble? Cannot we simply be in the presence? I believe the deeper the faith, the deeper the experience, the fewer the words. If something is missing, words won't replace them.
Friday, January 9, 2015
I find it bemusing that the church often castigates corporate America for this and that. Now the criticism may have merit, but the church rarely learns from this same corporate world. To survive, grow and prosper, a business needs to have good managers and know how to connect with the people for whom they make their product. They tend to listen to the marketplace, and do market research. Companies that are stuck in their ways, are insular and refuse to change, go out of business. Could not the church learn from this? Seems not. We tend to stuff square pastors into round parishes, who don't listen to the people and fail to connect. The parish suffers loss of income and people. That is, the market shrinks. Does the church remove the pastor? Go figure.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
In my vivid dream, there are two women. They are siblings. They both love me and I love them, but I have to choose in the dream. I tell the one I seem to love from the heart that I will choose the other sister because she has a background in something that will care for me as I fall apart, such as nursing. Later I realize my heart is not into this choice. I have made my choice based upon fear and self-interest. I go to the one I love from the heart to apologize, ask forgiveness and take me back. She is not hateful at all, and still loves me. I think she will take me back as the alarm goes off. God is the one I love but I often make choices based upon fear of future or some other self-interest. I let fear deny my heart. May 2015 be a year of good choices! God talks to us even when we are sleeping. God never gives up.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Who owns alleyways? We have had lots of snow lately. People shovel their walkways, but no one shovels the alleyway. No one plows it either. But everyone uses the alley as it suits them and this is what amuses me. Two neighbors share an alley between them. Neither shovels the walkway part of the alley that connects their two sidewalks, so when people walk along they slip on the alley path that is snow and ice packed. Both neighbors ignore the alley when it comes to work, i.e. shoveling snow. They don't ignore it when it comes to usage. They both use the alley for all sorts of stuff and probably have turf issues over usage. My point is people take ownership when it suits them, but not when it includes work. I see this all the time in organizations, churches, clubs and associations. People have a sense of belonging, and of who else should or should not belong, until it comes time to do some work, as in volunteer or clean up, or recruit, or help another. I find that people seem to like calling something "theirs" until you ask them to help keep "theirs" going. Anyway, I have an alleyway, and when I shovel, I shovel the alley too.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Hugging is a skill. A lot of people don't have it. They start to hug and then seem to freeze up or get all stiff. They seem to reach out for a hug but then comes amnesia. Or maybe they never had a good hug and are clueless. It has never been my problem. I don't recall any good role models. I was always just good at a hug. I don't mind at all if someone does not want to be hugged. It is their space. What I see is this seeming desire but incompetence when attempted. I would like to hit a baseball thrown at me, but I know I cannot, so I stopped trying. I tried and failed so I went on to become a runner. Not much hugging there though. I rarely hug priests. The are horrible at it. They should wear a sign, "Don't hug!" A hug tells you a lot about a person's past. This is why touch is a doorway into the soul. I lot of people don't want anyone to get in, but I think it is more they would like someone to get in, but just don't know how. I think God is a good hugger, given that God has no skin. In prayer I get hugged by God. My skin warms up. I feel at peace. I may even doze off. I kind of melt into God. Prayer for me is a good hug.
Monday, January 5, 2015
I think that God wanted to experience touch, so God became human. God wanted to be in skin, to touch and be touched by God's creation. I think this is why Jesus spent so long living in Nazareth rather than going out earlier to do all the things we read about in Gospels. At home, Jesus could be touched by his parents and play with his relatives. This tells me that Jesus had a good early start in the home. His was not a dysfunctional family. Lots of people do not like to be touched or touch others. They have personal history that made them that way. Babies touch everything. I am a touch person. I don't like to be grabbed or poked or pushed, but I like loving touch, gentle touch from someone who cares. I miss my parents because I cannot touch them or be touched by them. This is what we most often miss about loved ones who have died. Sure, they may be with God, or in some good place, but they are not with me and this is what I miss. Solitude is touch without skin. It is where I feel the touch of God. I need this touch everyday. I guess I have had good God experiences too.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
The sainted John Paul II was a popular pope with church insiders, those with power he gave them and those who piously went to church asking few questions, and reading even less widely. These people are not really evangelizers though they are called "new evangelizers." They generally hang around one another and gather like people who want also to be pious. They effect little change in the larger world and none with people who think outside their box. Francis I is a popular pope with those who are not so pious, don't go to church, read widely, are searchers, and live outside the orthodox box. This is most of the world including many Catholics. Some are the shakers and movers of society. Francis has them thinking or at least feeling a bit uncomfortable about their values and lifestyle. He is the real deal of living simply and listening. Seems no pope can be everyone's cup of tea.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
I was invited to a family's home for dinner. I showed up on the wrong night. But in some important way, it was the right night. They were all at home on the wrong night, but they were just being themselves, making Christmas cookies and looking their normal everyday selves. We made homemade pizza. I did not ask what I missed by coming on the wrong night. I enjoyed making my pizza. The daughters are introverts like me, but the night was effortless. When people come to church they can get all dressed up, put on their best selves. It can be the same when they invite Father over for dinner if they have never done it before. But on this night I got to just be with a family as they are and enjoyed them. Thank God they were not all in their jammies!
Friday, January 2, 2015
Christmas masses have a lot of people who generally do not go to church, or at least the church I am at. They are at mass with family and friends. They are respectful, but not particularly engaged in what is going on. Then we come to the part where we say the Lord's Prayer and they reach out and take the hand of someone in their family or friend. They smile and get animated. They are "into it" as we say. Even introverts like to touch their loved ones. People want some sense of connection in worship and life. They would like to get that in church. They want to do something that makes them feel a part of. Holding hands can do this, and you are praying at the same time. This is one of the best parts of mass for people on Christmas. It is better than my homily, which keeps my ego in check.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Parents seem to worry about whether or not their children are "fitting in" at school. Do they have friends, and do stuff with other children. My mother could not have cared less. I went to school to learn. There was nothing on the report card about how much I fit in. I hung out with some kids and not with others. My biggest trama was if I wanted to be with someone more than he seemed to want to be with me. This was never even on my mother's bucket list and I am thankful for that. I learned rejection at times, and had good times too. I had friends but I learned to play alone or be alone and enjoy my own company. I went to the library to read in the summer. I rode my bike about and explored, sometimes alone and sometimes with a friend who was available. I did things without waiting around for someone else. There was never any pressure on me to do more with more children. So I did not feel a failure. You see, I am an introvert. My mother accepted that and it made all the difference. Parents, read the book, "Quiet" before pushing your children to all these play dates and after school activities.