Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Cuomo was Governor of New York and died recently. He was a Catholic brought up in the old school and had this to say, "God did not intend this world only as a test of our purity, but rather as an expression of his love." I think many of us see religion as assisting us to avoid evil temptations, avoid sin, stay pure, if you will. I remember that church. We tried to change that focus in the second half of the twentieth century to reflect a more activist role that reveals God as Love. Do good for others who are in need, rather than merely try to avoid "Mortal Sin." I think this is one reason that confession dropped off for quite a while. I see confession coming back among the young. They are focused on avoiding sin, staying pure so they can go to communion. Not much interest in solving social problems. Pope Francis seems to be emphasizing the social justice aspect and paying less attention to individual weaknesses of the flesh.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Today is my birthday and a Saturday, a day I could goof off from work and just play. But I am working all Saturday morning and glad that I am doing so. God gave me the gift of another day and year for some reason. I think it is to be of service to others, to offer what I can. To be seventy two is a gift. Use the gift. I don't want to "retire," whatever that is for a priest. I am grateful that I have something to do and a place to work. Now if no one shows up for my talk this morning it might be God's way of saying, "Retire. You are out of gifts." I hope not. Even if I am low in content, Lord, I can still be pretty entertaining. I better pray for content!
Friday, March 27, 2015
Tomorrow is my birthday. It still is an important day to me because my Mom made it important. We had a chocolate cake for me. There were presents. I blew out candles after the family sang Happy Birthday. I thought it was this way for all families. No it is not. Many a priest had nothing much, so they do not know what they are missing. Birthdays are no big deal to them. I have endured many a normal rectory dinner on my birthday. I think birthdays should be celebrated, or at least mine should, but I cannot celebrate with people who don't agree. It is pointless. I tried avoiding disappointment by staying away from non-birthday people on my birthday. Avoid the office or rectory dinner. But that was no good. Now I am into acceptance that I live in a church world where many workers do not care all that much about birthdays. They had sad upbringing, but don't know what they don't know. Thank you Mom for raising the bar on birthdays. We had a good run. But I still keep hoping for that chocolate cake.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
In 1884 the American Bishops decided to build Catholic schools so that every Catholic child could get a Catholic education. With that decision two things happened. One, priests obtained power based upon their skills with money, since they had to build and maintain schools. Being able to teach adults was of no importance if you wanted to get promoted. Second, Catholic education in this country would be child focused. Catechisms were written with children in mind. Adult education fell by the wayside. The Paulist Fathers were and are into adult education. For most parishes, the only time adults might receive anything was in the yearly parish mission, but often these were dreadful as well. Speculative thinking, searching, questioning, historical study were not good things. The Catholic church had the truth and would explain it in a way a child could grasp it. Trouble was it did not speak to college educated adults who embraced secular learning, science, and modern ideas. It is not that the Catholic church did not have something for such people. But the treasures were either buried, or ignored, or poorly presented. Adults had to feed off a faith that a child might understand. I still see this today in my travels. Thinking is not much encouraged. Loyalty is the virtue. If a good book is written to explain the faith, but reveals a lot of history or theology newly presented, bishops were not about to promote it. If a ten year old might have problems with it then it must not be good. Look in a Catholic bulletin and see how much adult education, not indoctrination, is offered.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
My task here in our Paulist Vero Beach home is to sort out all the "stuff" of dead and transferred Paulists. These guys saved unopened third class mail! What a mess. Lots of stuff went to charity or other "used stuff" locations to be resold. I think these priests threw out next to nothing. So why do we keep our memorabilia? What good is it to you? If you don't give stuff away it will just get thrown out or given to someone who never knew you. Let grandkids or other relative have it. If they don't care, let them throw it out. It won't hurt your feelings since they won't tell you they dumped your memorabilia. One Paulist got transferred and left his boyhood pictures. I am not sending them to him, but to his relatives who might be somewhat more sentimental and interested. Or not! Anyway, our garage is looking good now and we soon can put a car in it instead of "stuff." If you want someone with tough love to toss out your stuff, I am your man. Rates vary.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
It is hard to stay good all day. In the Hebrew Scriptures one of the prophets (Hosea) says our piety is like the morning dew that early passes away. This is me! I often pray early in the morning and have resolve to be good that day. I am all fired up! Then the day unfolds and my resolve weakens, fails, and good intentions become not so good deeds and attitudes. Hosea has me pegged. Actually, he was quoting God. I think I must need a booster shot of piety during the day. I am weak. My sister Maureen says I am bad!
Monday, March 23, 2015
I wrote a blog on "Feelings" and posted it on a Saturday this month. It got 37 hits, which is blah for a blog. So I said to myself, "Guess no one cares about that topic." By mistake, I posted the same blog a few days later with the same title, "Feelings." Double the hits. It was a weekday. This brief survey says that my readers have better things to do on Saturdays than read my blog, and they forget easily. No one noticed that I had posted the same blog only a few days apart. Fess up. Who is losing their mind?
Sunday, March 22, 2015
I like the idea of prayer being, "An appointment with grace." We make lots of appointments to keep our lives from becoming a mess. We make an appointment to maintain the car, with the dentist and doctors, pay our taxes, meet with someone(s) to work out a problem. If we avoid these appointments or don't schedule them, life will spiral downward. So why not make an appointment with grace each day? I know what happens when I skip this appointment. May life gets more messy than it need be. We tend to schedule appointments when they fit us the best, if we have a choice. Why make an appointment with grace (prayer) when we know we will be dead tired or in conflict with something else that must be done at that time? I make my first appointment with grace when I get out of bed. I get up early enough so that I have no other appointments. I am not much of a night person and afternoons I get sleepy unless I stay active. Mornings work best for me. When is your daily appointment with grace?
Saturday, March 21, 2015
I bet alcohol, and lots of it, had to do with the racial chant of a frat group at Oklahoma University. The University is properly upset. They will punish the frat house, but I doubt the administration will do anything about drinking at frat houses or anywhere else. But the frat boys stepped on an even more sacred cow: SPORTS. What if top athletes in high school decide not to go to OU to play big time sports that generate huge sums of money for the school and chest thumping for the alumni? It should be about race, but the first reported demonstration against the frat slur was by OU athletes. You kind of expect white fraternities to be prejudiced. I don't like it, but it does not surprise me. Demon rum brought all this out into the open. The elephant in the middle of the room just got drunk and is making us all look at something that is always right in front of us. The god of sports will rise up against racism, though a lot of the energy to clean up this racism will be about $$$. We will see.
Friday, March 20, 2015
I just ran into a priest who is a diabetic. He eats sugar regularly, desserts and muffins and all. Here is his daily program: He gets up and eats. Then he exercises to bring down the sugar. Then he eats more sugar because the exercise brought sugar level down enough. Then he naps. Then he swims for more exercise so that he can eat more sugar. He has been saying the Holy Office his whole life. Amazing what prayer cannot change. I am glad that I am not alone in having issues with change and better life style.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
When I attend my Catholic mass, I believe the bread and wine change. Too often that is all that changes. I receive communion, but I don't change. Why? I intend to change, to improve, to give up bad behavior. I have intentions, which I mistake for will-power. Finally, I decided that left to my own devices, I will just be mediocre at best, and many days not even that. I have no devices to change for the better. God does. So I admit I am stuck. Humility! God help me or else I go around in circles at best. But God will help me if I surrender. I begin each day admitting I need help. I enjoy Mercy, Forgiveness and Grace simply by admitting need. I like this God I have found. Now and again I run into someone else who is on the same path. I am not alone in needing help.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
I know a fellow who, when he describes meeting another person or groups of people, he always seems to include some disparaging remark about them, or some imperfection, or simply some common human shortcoming. I call this, "Taking someone's name in vain." It is one of the commandments about what not to do with God's name. A person's name is sacred and unique to that person. So I am trying to be sure that when I speak about another person, I do not point out some imperfection. I am imperfect. We all are. If it makes me feel better to put someone down, then I will be the worse for it. I have enough to deal with my own faults. I try to look for the pluses in others. It makes for a better day.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Becoming old is about loss. There is a certain poverty involved. We begin to lose things we used to have such as body parts, stamina and physical strength. I find many people who talk about "helping the poor" but never seem to include the elderly. Such helping people might have tried, to do something for the financially poor, hungry, homeless person, but care little to nothing for the elderly woman in the store, parking lot, roadway. Even elderly relatives are ignored. Write a letter? Pick up the telephone? Make a visit? That is just too much. There are a lot of organizations that will provide some basic services to an elderly person, but there are far fewer persons who can or will remind the elderly of their basic worth. We will lose stuff as we age, but we never lose a basic worth as a person. It is a gift to remind someone of this. Do you have that gift?
Monday, March 16, 2015
Forgiveness can change us...but it depends. If I forgive someone because I am afraid I will lose something if I don't, I remain unchanged. I might forgive because I fear the loss of financial security or companionship or something else I WANT. If I forgive because I am supposed to based upon some religious or ethical teaching, I will remain unchanged. I will still be holding some grudge, or resentment or hurt feelings. But if I forgive based upon the motive of reminding someone of their value beneath all the mess they have made, then I can be changed. They might not change, but I might. It is the love that God gives us. We are all children of God even though we might continue to do the same old mess. Parents often forgive children even though the children don't change for the better. The parent's love is because of the basic relationship. This kind of love helps separate the one hurt from resentment and lots of other stuff that gets in the way of a love that transforms the lover.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
I go to learned people to get answers, such as legal people to get rules and regulations. But I would never go to these same people for advice about spiritual growth. I go to people who practice the interior life if I want to know something about prayer. Why do we complain when someone can talk the talk but not walk the walk? The talk gives information. We need information from time to time. But I do not expect someone to live a certain way simply because they know an answer. One clergy person has info and another has insight and lives walks that talk. Value each person for their gifts. Do you expect one store to have everything you want to buy? Do you expect gifted athletes to be role models of decorum and wisdom? In my church, just because some priest is a genius in canon law does not mean that he will be a good and loving person. I simply use him for canon law issues. I don't go to the grocery store to buy a car. Walmart is trying to be everything for everyone, but we are not walmarts. Don't ask me a canon law question. I am clueless and too dense to understand all that stuff. I don't know that I would see people as hypocrites. Rather, most people are more advanced in one area than in another.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
A woman who writes on issues religious and church stuff, says that you could have married clergy, women priests and contraception for everyone, but it would not win a single soul. Really? I think it would make outreach a lot easier because you would have some new "souls" in the pews who had walked out or never come in, based on these very issues. I am not saying change the policy or teaching, but I do suspect that a change would bring in or bring back a lot of people who are on the sidelines or attending mega non-denominal churches now. As for people leaving if there were a change, I don't know that anyone who loves the Eucharist would leave because they do not want to receive from someone.
Friday, March 13, 2015
I invited the Superior General of the Paulist Fathers, my religious community, to lunch here in Vero Beach, Florida. We went to a little oceanside cafe. Someone who had heard him preach that morning was at the restaurant and said it was a good homily. We went into the restaurant to sit down and eat. Along comes the owner who says a fellow recognized us as priests at the parish and had given the owner $100 to buy us lunch, tip the waiter and give the rest to us. I walked out from a nice lunch $40 richer than when I went in. Sometimes, good deeds, inviting a person to lunch, have unexpected results.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Christians often talk about the Second Coming of Jesus at the end times. What if the second coming of Jesus is not so much about the Risen Jesus who Ascended into Heaven, as Christians believe. What if the second coming is when each one of us begins to live out our lives as Jesus did his? What if he wants to come back a second time in each one of us? If so, then God wants to revealed in this world in each one of us living our lives like Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew, who we Christians believe to be God. Are not Christians supposed to be the presence of God in the world? I think many of us try to get away from "following Jesus" by simply saying we believe, in our heads, that Jesus is God, get baptized and are thus saved. No transformation necessary on our part. Jesus comes back, but hopefully not while we are in the midst of getting our plans successfully completed today. Each day is a fresh gift of life to bring about this second coming in the way I live.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
I pray for those who I find difficult, or who don't seem to like me, or are a bit nasty. Why? I don't want them to control my day. Why should I walk around all day feeling anger and resentment because of the actions of another person? So they become a source of spiritual growth for me, or moments of grace. I pray, not that they will shape up. That is my agenda and opinion. I ask God that they receive the things I want for myself. When I pray that people will have a better, fuller and deeper life free of addictive behavior, I find that I am less angry. It is hard for me to be hateful when I pray this way for people. They may not change, but usually I do, for the better, that day.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Whenever I am spiritually unfit, ignoring my inner spirit, I find certain feelings take center stage, and other feelings take a back seat at best. I find that I lack the ability to feel compassion for the pain of another person. I am self-focused. I feel more judgmental, irritable, cynical and frightened, though I often don't even know I am frightened. Fear disguises itself in discontent and anxiety. Simply put, when I pray, I can love others better and be generally more helpful. For Lent, I am trying to be more helpful each day. One helpful act each day is not too high a bar. Well, I have my moments when the bar seems like Everest. Growing up is hard!
Monday, March 9, 2015
My Catholic church does a lot about telling others how to live their lives, especially in sex issues, but when it comes to justice among their own, we may not be very good examples. We have a lot of priests who could retire in a few years, very few years. There is supposed to be a pension fund for them. Is the money there? A survey says, maybe not, or rather, these funds are seriously underfunded. I guess that we will see.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
A Hindu cleric suggested that the main reason for Mother Teresa doing her mission was to convert a person to Christianity. You don't say? While many a Hindu often did nothing for the dying person, a leper, even a baby lying in the street, Mother Teresa and her group took the baby and others in and gave them a dignified way to die with love and care. I don't think the baby was old enough to accept the Catholic faith and convert. The reason Mother Teresa did what she did is because India would not do enough. Too often, for me, reincarnation is just an excuse to ignore overwhelming suffering. Indifference can lead to apathy. A spiritual path of indifference is no spiritual path at all. Christians can do this too with private devotions and/or self-centered petitions to God to get stuff or avoid something. In the Eastern philosophies, meditation that does not lead to action on behalf of helping others in their suffering, is just navel gazing.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
When I am not spiritually fit, exercising my soul on a regular basis with prayer and works, I tend to limit the feelings I have. I limit myself to be able to feel fear, insecurity, anger, resentment, envy, and self-pity. These are my feelings in relation to my life and what goes on around me. I tend to judge. When I practice some spirituality, walk the walk, then I seem to judge less and feel more compassion, acceptance, love. I can be present to others in their pain. I can better listen without telling people what to do. I find compassion to be a lot better than fear, and a lot more useful to the world around me.
Friday, March 6, 2015
To change one's life, or "repentance" as it is called in religious circles, does not begin with, "I will try harder." It begins with humility. It begins with admitting that left to ourselves we won't change/move in a new and better direction. We must admit that we are weak. We got into the mess of a lifestyle because we are too weak to make the better choice. We have formed habits that keep us moving in the same wrong direction all the time. So, start out with admitting you messed, be sorry or at least embarrassed by your bad behavior and seek some outside help. God is one form of outside help. In the bible, Jonah, (the fellow who was swallowed by a whale) goes to a big city, Ninevah, and tells everyone to repent. What do they do? They don't say, "We will try harder." They admit they are wrong, and put on sackcloth and sit in ashes. This is a sign that they are sorry and want help. They don't waste initial energy on trying to get better. First they seek forgiveness and a second chance. When you mess up with someone you love, do you simply say, "I will try harder," as if you have the power to alone change your life? No. You admit you were wrong. Say you are sorry. And seek help. Try changing your life by yourself from bad to good. I suspect all you will get is going from bad to worse. I have found it so.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
I notice on the news that pictures of big snow storms are always shown of cities and highways. I never see farms shown with snow. Why? Snow, big snow, is not big deal for a farm. My monastery in Colorado has no problem with snow. The land is fallow and will have plenty of moisture when it all melts in spring. Why should Mother Nature change because we decided to become a modern world? No one is the center of the world. Snow comes and sometimes lots of it comes. We built the cities where there were once forests and fields. We did not ask Mother Nature for permission. We just wanted her to a adjust. WE may be causing or adding to what we call "bad" weather. WE think that we can control nature? I suspect she will wipe us out before we destroy her. Anyway, I am in Florida now. Today was another day in paradise!
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
My fantasy life seems to have two obvious repeats. One, I am always in control doing what I want in stupendous fashion. Two, I never deal with my real life in fantasy. A times, I might do a good deed in fantasy, but most often I self-aggrandize. How does this compare with your own fantasy life? Do you have some common things that thread through all your fantasies? I am not saying my fantasies are bad things. Some just get me through a workout or a mundane task when I could be thinking about God. I don't have fantasies about God. God is too real for me. I don't think about God when I run or am in the gym even though God is everywhere.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
I walked into a branch of my bank in Vero Beach, Florida. It is a branch where the rich people live. Fresh coffee awaited me. But I saw no deposit slips. "You don't need those anymore," said one of the tellers. Just swipe your debit/credit card and hand over the deposit. It seemed like too much change for me at this moment. I asked for deposit slips. I filled them out, added up the deposit and signed the back of each check. Then I thought, "I have to grow up into this ever changing world of finance." So I followed directions and did the deposit the new way. I found out two things. One, I can overcome fear and change. Two, this new way saved me no time whatsoever. I had to approve the total deposit. How could I do that if I did not first add up the checks to be deposited? I had to sign the checks on the back just like before. Actually, I learned a third thing. This new way saved the teller some work. You mean the bank does not have me as their first priority? Now that is scary and needs to change. Banks don't seem to want to change unless it suits them and their bottom line. They want their customers to change.
Monday, March 2, 2015
One of the aspects of Cerebral Palsy is that you have speech problems. I have speech problems. I say stupid or angry things before my brain can get the right signal. This of course is followed by regret and remorse. Well, at least I have remorse. That might give me the wherewithal to apologize. If I had no remorse, I would be worse off. So I guess that means I could get worse. I would rather be getting better. My emotions are still quicker than my brain.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Whenever I think of almsgiving, I think of writing a check to some organization. Recently, I expanded my almsgiving horizon. I was sitting in a Mall food court one day eating something. I noticed a woman who was cleaning all the messy tables and brushing things up off the floor to make the place ready for future customers. I had been reading my Spanish prayer book, and had come across a Spanish word, the English meaning of which escaped me at the time. I thought this cleaning person might be Latino. She is probably a Mom and a wife. This may be her second job. She was very faithful to cleaning up. A thought came to me. I approached her and said hello in Spanish. She responded and I asked if she spoke Spanish. Si. So I asked her what the Spanish word meant in English. She knew the translation. She is bilingual. It meant "to Pay." A coincidence? I gave her a $5 bill. She took it and smiled. Did it change her life? Who knows. It did change mine for that day. It was Ash Wednesday.