In my religion we hear about "the last day," as in being raised on the last day. Many people think this means the end times or the end of the world or the last judgment, when bad people get what is coming to them and the good ones who endured this life with get their reward. The last day is not about the future. It is about the now. It is the day you stop doing what destroys you and those around you, and begin to love ever so slowly in a healing, whole and holy direction. Think of the alcoholic who says, "That was the last day I drink." The last day refers to the most recent end time of bad and destructive behavior. To keep it as the same last day, one needs a daily dose of spiritual commitment and practice. Otherwise, the last day will continue to be your most recent day. Bad behavior is not a singular act. It is a bad habit. Self-will is inadequate to get over a bad habit. In my religion you need God. Not just an intellectual belief in the existence of God or a prayer of desperation quickly uttered with no follow-up. It means the daily grind which is sometimes difficult, boring, and showing no rapid improvement. But if that last day recedes more and more into the past, then you are indeed growing towards "eternal life," in the here and now. It does not always have whistles and bells.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Only in places like Boulder do you see this signage. You want to learn how to be happy, fulfilled, deepened or whatever you read about yoga, but you don't want any suffering, this is for you. You will be pampered in your transformation. This has an appeal for many, but it is neither yoga or transformation. All paths have the cross whether it refers to cross or not. The Buddha says all life is suffering as part of the four noble truths. You do not escape suffering in a spiritual path. Nirvana is not about being free of suffering. The spiritual path is recognizing what brings the suffering, finding a way not to let its energy control you, and then become a deeply loving person. Example: You are unfulfilled, unhappy. It is the world's fault. Escape, buy more stuff, exercise more, drink/drugs, move or whatever. These solutions bring no diminishment of misery. You get on a spiritual path. You discover you are selfish and self-centered, full of fear. Then you begin, in the spiritual process to learn to let go of this energy so it does not control your response to the world. You now become more loving. This is a suffering, but transformed. Suffering in selfless love, not co-dependence, is quite transforming. This is the cross. A yogi knows this. Just because you "do" yoga, does not make you a yogi, any more than becoming baptized makes you a transformed Christian, or Bar-Mitzvah makes you a transformed Jew. It is hard daily work. But it is not a luxury. It is a necessity if you want happiness, or as we say in my religion, "eternal life."
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Jesus formed a people, a community. "The Twelve" is an example of that. We are supposed to be about one another but too often the religious person is about their own individual salvation and ignore the plight of others right in front of them. The move away from communal to individual was gradual. When monasteries were formed in the Benedictine tradition of the 6th century, a monk confessed his sins publicly as in a chapter of faults, in front of other monks. Then we moved into individual, private confession. The Holy Liturgy or Mass was done in community, but then we developed churches with private altars and priests saying individual masses with no congregation in order to get some stipend ($$$) for the priest or the church. The came the plague when we all avoided one another. Eventually, everyone spreads out when they come to church. Avoid the stranger. So not Jesus or Moses for that matter.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Fr. Cardijn wanted to bring Christianity to young workers where they lived and worked. He was about forming small Christian communities of young workers, a ministry of the young, for the young in the workaday world. Note how this is different from trying to get people to go to church or about individual salvation. Christianity was never founded upon individual salvation. It was always about community. We are a people of God. We are "Church," a people. It comes from our Jewish roots where they saw themselves as God's chosen people. Fr. Cardijn did not believe in "talking at people." It was a gradual formation in like-to-like settings. He felt that his influence and wisdom would come out in dialogue. More on individual salvation tomorrow.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
There can be three ways to deal with a particular situation. You can avoid it, which is short term safe. You can speak in the abstract or you can observe what is going on. Often, big institutions speak in the abstract. One size fits all. There are no individual situations. There is only one solution and the situation at hand must fit into it. "The goal is corporate net profit," or "This is what the church says..." The observe model is one that takes in hand the individual circumstances. You enter into a dialogue with others. Then you come to some judgment about what should be done in this situation. Then you act. This was Catholic Action in the early 20th century. Fr. Joseph Leo Cardijn was a proponent of it. More tomorrow.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
I read in a recent church newspaper how students at one of the college campus churches want a church where they can feel safe being Catholic. Oh really? I don't recall Jesus saying, "Go and be safe." Safe seems the complete opposite of giving one's life for God. I find that some campus church programs are about getting students to go to church, to enjoy being with people who think like them, and to pray a lot. None of this prepares students for life in the world beyond college. Sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament at a 3 AM slot time just does not do this. The laity are supposed to change the world by the way they live their everyday life in work and relationships. To do this one must engage with people who are not thinking like you. We need to learn to pray not just privately, but in the midst of daily life. We do not avoid unpleasantness but try to change what is wrong, to make it right. This means we must know what is the right in each circumstance. The cross has no "safe" in it.
Friday, April 24, 2015
In June I go back to New York City for my Golen Jubilee College Reunion. We will all have changed in one way or another. As college students some of us partied here and there with lots of drinking. Some outsider might have looked at us and said we were all a bunch of drunkards and alcoholics. But college ended, guys went on to marriage, careers and family. They stopped drinking the way they drank in college. They were not drunkards and alcoholics. They could stop for a reason such as growing up and new responsibilities. A very few could not stop when they tried. These few went on to become full blown alcoholics. They died too young or got into recovery programs. Or maybe they just went crazy and have been otherwise lost to us. They won't be at the reunion. Now when we all get together, it will be interesting to watch the new behavior. Many of us have not been around one another since the party days. Hopefully, no seventy two year old classmate will try to duplicate fifty year ago behavior. That would be a forgetable and maybe forgotten Jubilee.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
We all need partners or at least trusted friends to share our lives. Why? Tags and labels that protrude from shirts, dresses, blouses and sweaters. What happens when a woman gets all dressed up, but her tag or label sticks out from behind her neck? Who is to tell her that her tag is sticking out? Who is to stuff it back inside her clothing? This is a spousal job if there is one. I think it should be on all the tests given to engaged couples. Forget finances and sex. Exposed labels are serious matters. As a priest it bothers me that these labels stick out, but I cannot just go and put them inside the clothing of a woman. Could cause big problems. So, I mention to the woman that the label is sticking out and ask if I can put it back inside the clothing. I am just one of those people who notice these things. On this score, I would have made a good husband. God must of had other plans.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
I have no idea what chiffonade means. I was looking at a recipe for Kale salad. You stem the kale, which I suspect means you cut away the stems. So I read more about chiffonade to see if I could get a clearer idea. "You roll up the leaves tightly." You then cut them into little bitty pieces. You do the same with napa cabbage. I guess this is chiffonade. I see that recipe chefs are just like theologians and philosophers. They think you understand the lingo and don't have to go research a word. Oh, in this recipe you cut an apple into matchsticks. How does one do that? My fingers would be cut up too. So you need a skill in cutting, which takes practice. So it is in my field of theology and philosophy. I studdied it so the lingo makes sense. I can translate it as I read along into understandable thoughts. If a theologain and a chef got to talking with one another, would they be able to communicate? I think religion has a problem when it assumes words are simple and obvious when in fact they are not. Maybe this is the key to my blogs. I make it simple. It has to be or else I don't know it myself!
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
I think we waste a lot of time and lose focus when we think of "eternal life" as something that goes on after we die. We speculate on what that might be like, how it might fit into time as we know time and so on. For me, eternal life is about the present moment. It is a kind of first things first. If I am living in God, however I define God, then I am living in eternal life in the here and now. I know I am living in God by taking time to meditate, and by thinking something of God, as I understand God, during my daily activities, routines and extraordinary events of each day. Over time, God seems to come up in my consciousness each day. Spiritual way of life is not extraordinary but rather in the ordinary. I have found it to be so. After I die? That will take care of itself.
Monday, April 20, 2015
Christ's love is unconditional and has no bounds. The Catholic church sees itself as representing Christ, being the Body of Christ. But the Church is an institution. On the one hand it allows the church to exist for a few thousand years. On the other hand, an institution by its very nature has laws. Laws limit what can be done. The church has laws about who can be marry and who can go to communion and so on. Therein lies the rub: the limitless love of Christ and the limiting laws of the church. Many people like the Catholic Church because of its laws and rules. They are concrete and certain. In the seminary I took courses in Canon Law and found it quiet boring if not overwhelming. Around me were priests or seminarians who soaked it all up. It was their home and comfort zone. I guess we need both kinds, no? I seem to be the other kind.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
I am damaged goods. I used to look for perfection and avoided damaged goods. I wanted the perfect girl friend, A Miss America. I wanted the perfect job with lots of money and praise. I wanted to live in the perfect town. That I got when I lived in San Francisco. But whatever I had it was not enough. I gave up on perfection. I was not so perfect. I enjoyed not so perfect people. I have a rather wonderful job. It is one I got even though I was damaged goods. I am a priest who does not have to go to meetings, deal in finance or personnel, and gets to talk about things I enjoy. If God does not mind damaged goods, why should I? I sit here in a diaper and smile. I think maybe I am more lovable as I am than when I try to be perfect. I think maybe everyone is, but this is just my opinion. As we age, I think we have to laugh more. Perfection is beyond me. How about you?
Saturday, April 18, 2015
So I am sitting at the dining room table of the rectory with a catheter bag showing hanging from the bottom of my bath robe. Knock at the door. Distraught parent walks in with family problem. He wants the pastor. No pastor at home. Parent needs to talk. So I simply invite him into the house chapel, bringing my catheter bag along, rather full at that moment and we talk. Neither I nor he ever referred to my bizarre situation. I gave him some things he could do. He felt better and went home to do as I suggested. I called him with another idea and follow up. AsI got into bed I realized that though I am damaged goods, God put me in the right place at the right time to be of some use. My advice even worked toward the solution! God does not need perfect people. God needs willing people who stop focusing on their own misery and help another person. I usually focus on me and look for sympathy if not pity, and coffee cake. But that night I did not. So even if my body is broken I think the real miracle is that my souls is being healed. Now and then I surprise myself by being a nice guy. Try it. It feels good.
Friday, April 17, 2015
I am trying not to be a hoarder. I hear that old folks tend to hoard, to hold onto things. I did not save my catheter. I do not need a reminder of the days and night we spent together. My catheter was good to me and did a good job saving me from worse misery in the healing process. As a reward, I tossed it away. I believe that the catheter can take it. I am not so sure that people like to be tossed away once their good purpose has been finished. My catheter is a reminder to me to look back and see who I might have tossed away. Never be rid of a daily examination of conscience. It can lead to saying, "I am sorry," and "I was wrong." These words might be just as healing as my catheter was to me.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
After the confinement of surgery I have gratitude for what seemed like simple things I took for granted. I can now walk freely. I used to complain that walking was so unathletic and common. I can bend over and pick things up off the floor. I can dress myself. We do not know what we have until we lose it. Daily life is a treasure. I never did get my NY crumb cake but someone in Boulder baked me a delicious bunt cake that was even better. She is my new best friend though she rarely bakes. My ardor could fade. Oh! This is the new me. Take nothing for granted.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
On Easter Sunday I made a connection in the mass readings that I thought I had come up with all by myself. I thought, "I am an original." The congregations were impressed. God had graced me with insight. Two days later a parishioner came in with a page copy from a book by a famous scripture scholar. He had come up with the same idea I had. I thought to myself, "This scholar studied his brains out and went around becoming famous and earning lots of $$$ giving talks." I have the same idea, but make no $$$, am unknown, and have no Ph.D. This scholar is dead. Was I channeling him? Did God want this idea resurrected for today in Boulder? God works in ways that amaze me. My ego would have like the fame and my religious order would have liked the $$$. This is not part of God's plan for me. Sometimes when we become more we really become less. Envy or jealousy can do that.
I have no energy. I did nothing in surgery except lie there. I was limited in movement the first few days. Now I am free to move about, but I fade by mid-morning. I did the early mass yesterday and then a funeral. That was the extent of my public persona. I am struggling with limitations big time. We all have them to some extent. We have to live within the range of what we have for that day, or else we make things worse and have even less energy and availability the next day. My running coach used to say, "Get tough or die." Today it feels like, "Get tough and die." Surgery has spared me. I live for another day. That will be enough for today.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
I came across a good way of describing meditation. If you are watching a play, you observe the event taking place as an outsider. You are a viewer. Meditation is when you watch a scene from the inside. You put yourself into the scene. You are within the event. With all my senses I become part of what is happening. I am not just an observer. I reflect on my response to the scene as it takes place. This is in fact how I meditate upon scripture, for instance. At first, I just read to get the information on what is going on in the bible scene. Meditation is when I enter the scene and see how I react. Observing the play does not change to play. Meditating does change me.
The catheter came out yesterday. I am now a fan of "Green Light" laser surgery. Friends doubted me. I hoped that I was right. The promo literature proved a lot more right than the lawyer language of foreboding did. I am giving up the pain meds for a bit of burning. Better here than in purgatory. I made a lot of promises to God over the last few days. I was a bit rash given my penchant for sin. But I will try. I am feeling a lot of gratitude. Days go better for me when I feel gratitude for some of the everyday things I take for granted. How about you?
Monday, April 13, 2015
Why can't men properly fold fitted sheets? Since I am fitted-sheet challenged I have some ideas of the obvious shortcomings. We never bothered to learn. Our mothers did it. Another reason, in case we did not have mothers to do it, is that men feel it is beneath them to fold sheets. Also, men lack patience when they try to do things they don't want to do or resent doing. So fitted sheet folding bring up a lot of shortcomings for us to work on which is a good thing. Fitted sheets are graced filled if we can reflect on our attitude. We lack patience. We suffer false pride: Folding these sheets is beneath my manhood. We see it as women's work. We suffer resentment when we crumble the sheets up and stuff them somewhere because stuffed takes more space than folded. Patience, false pride, resentment, judgment about women is a whole lot to work on. I find housework a great opportunity for growth. It is where I have to face the real me.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Today is the date of my sister Maureen's passing eleven years ago. People who don't know of her death often ask me where she is now. I talk a lot about Maureen in my parish mission stories. I am not very theological or deep, but they are stories that seem to grab people where the live daily life. I tell people that she is now in purgatory because that is where you have to go when you are mean to your angelic little brother. People seem to doubt that Father knows what he is talking about. So maybe Maureen is in heaven because God forgives big sisters or simply has a very low bar of acceptance into eternal life. I think perhaps she is in heaven now and praying that her little brother suffer some in his healing but eventually get well and go break more church rules while making people happy in God's love. What do you think?
A lovely parishioner made me a to die for chocolate mousse pie. It was very rich so one had to eat it in small pieces. I had a piece and so did the pastor and a couple of office staff. There was about half of the pie left and I lifted it up on its plate to take it to my birthday party, to share. The cake fell on our kitchen floor and into the dining room. Now, do I tell the woman who made the pie that I spilled half of it onto the floor? That would be the truth. But what if she got upset and never made me another pie? That would be bad for me. Tell the truth and pay the consequences. Or, do I lie and say I enjoyed the whole pie. Then I lie, but avoid consequences and maybe get another pie. What would you do? Peter lied, denied Jesus, and avoided consequences. I am supposed to be a follower of Jesus. There are the Ten Commandments too. So, I guess I might have seen my last chocolate mousse pie to die for. Is that what dying to self means?
Saturday, April 11, 2015
My catheter and I are getting to know one another and I am figuring out how to be hands free while moving around. When there is burning, I pray for death, but God has decided there are no options at that time. So I am still around. I sleep OK with my happy pills and whatever seems to be happening in the healing process bothers no medical person, so I feel I am on track for better times. Today is First Holy Communion for our parish children and I will have to miss it. Attention should be focused on them. I am not quite ready for altar activities. My sister and I are eating quite well at home, though no one has come up with the New York Crumb Cake. I guess that is simply my desire and not part of the healing plan. Thank you all for your prayers. They must be helping because terrible complications are not yet happening. I was going to try to go for a run today, but with this bag attached to me...that would be wrong. Who says I am addicted to running?
Due to travel and work, I did not get to watch much of the college men's basketball, called "March Madness." But when I did watch the Kentucky team, the camera would often focus on a rabid Kentucky fan, who happens to be the actress, Ashley Judd. I have seen her in movies and she is quite good. She did not try and look glamorous. She had on a Kentucky tee shirt and cap. She was jumping up and down with joy or burying her head when things went badly for her team. She did not seem to worry about "what might people think." She was not into image, which seems so important to Hollywood stardom. I have seen other Hollywood types sit at games and just seem to look "cool." Don't show too much. Be careful how you are perceived. Image is everything. Jesus on the cross did not worry about image or how he was preceived. The woman who washed his feet or anointed his head with expensive oil did not worry about how she was perceived. I think a follower of Jesus has to stop worrying about what other people might think of them. I think I will go and see Ms. Judd's next movie, and I don't even like the Kentucky basketball team.
Friday, April 10, 2015
I survived the first night in my own bed. Pain pills seems to make me drossy which is OK. I went for a walk in downtown Boulder in shorts with colonoscopy bag in a shopping bag and tube dangling. No one seemed to take notice. This is Boulder and many strange looking people walk around here so I seem to fit in just fine on the Pearl Street Mall. My sister Jane and my nurse friend Patti, are a great help. I could not have navigated by myself. I was asleep for surgery but no one seemed alarmed at the amount of blood I see around and it is all mine. I don't know what recovery is supposed to look like but as soon as I run out of blood I think "things" will be clearer. I am going for a short nap now, lunch and then another walk. I fear getting fat.
About a week ago, all the priests were away at a meeting, all but me. A call came in to go and anoint a dying lady. I went. When I told her my name she remembered me from when I was young, good looking and a fast runner. Until I said my name, she did not recognize me, now old, haggard and a washed up jogger. She knew me from my days at our Paulist parish in Boulder in the 80s. So we had a nice visit of recalling old mutual friends. I anointed her and gave her communion. Standard procedure. Then she said that her marriage had never been blessed in the church. A priest, surely not a Paulist, had told her once she could not go to communion as she was married outside the church. Well, she had just received communion from me. She asked me if I could bless her marriage. Her husband was there in the room. I had them to hold hands and say yes to the vows I recited. Then her husband went and found her ring. He put it on her figure and held her hand as I blessed the ring. I said marraige prayers from the ritual. I told them they were now married. The caregiver was somewhere in the apartment, so I figured she was the witness. The couple were so happy. But of course I must have broken a bunch of rules, and am supposed to burn. Had I waited, the women might have died or gone into a comma or whatever. Now was the moment. Since I was trying to do a good deed, and did make this couple happy, I hope that the fires are small and short-lived. What do you think?
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Today I go into the hospital for surgery. I am supposed to be out the same day, but I will be under general anesthesia. When I read the lawyer language of the consent form I felt like there was a slim chance of survival, but should I live, I will suffer the rest of my life. My doctor is much more reassuring. A laser will enter my body. The healing process will take a while. I can and should walk, but not run or do weights. No heavy lifting for a while. I ask that you pray for my doctor who is also the laser man. Hope he is having a good day and did not drink too much coffee this morning. Aim is important in this surgery. I do nothing. When I go home later today my sister Jane, from California, will arrive to be with me for a few days, as I am going to be pretty limited in movement among other things. There will be pain…maybe lots. Pray I don't whine too much. If you are in the neighborhood please bring Entenment New York Crumb cake if you find it. Fresh stuff comes out on Friday and my sister does not know where the supermarkets are. We always seem to run out of bananas. Funny, I could be dying, but I am thinking of crumb cake, oh, and salad. I fear starving more than death by laser. We all have our fears and priorities. Since I won't be doing much I have time to pray for you.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
A couple of Saturdays ago I gave one of my teachings here at the local Boulder parish. It was based upon the work of Aelred of Rivaulx. Who is he? Well, that was my job, to say who and why he is important. I had some ideas of what I wanted to say, but not sure how it would come out. I ended up talking about contemplation an sex. It was more than that, but the point is it all came out so well. I don't know how I came up with the things I said. It just flowed. I was on fire. Where did it come from I ask myself later? It seemed like magic, but I know it is grace. I do not have a big ego over the talk. It was what God wanted, I think. It is Grace at work through me. I happened on my birthday which made it all the more special for me. You don't have to be brilliant or have a degree. Do your best prep in whatever your field. Trust God is at work and then share what you have. When Grace is at work, we are so much more than we think. We are moving toward all God made us to be...rivers of his grace, watering thirsty hearts and a few minds.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
A cardinal said the Church cannot change its teaching on divorce. OK. It may be a bit of a high bar, but it is the bar the church has raised. About half the marriages don't get over it. Why not change the penalty? Let the divorced and remarried who don't get annulments for whatever reason, still go to communion. One is not the same as the other. One is a teaching. The other is a penalty. Change the penalty. I think it would be a subtitle of "Mercy." Pope Francis is focused on mercy. Mercy does not require laws or teachings to change. It requires the heart of a hierarch to change.
Monday, April 6, 2015
I notice that I never go to the dentist without first brushing and cleaning my teeth. I never go to the doctor without shower and clean clothes, under and over. But often, when I go to church I don't bother to do much of anything. I sometimes look like I just got out of bed or finished a sweaty workout. Why? I say, "God loves me and does not care." No doubt God loves me. My question is do I love God? Enough to take some time to be more presentable, to look at least as good as when I go to the doctor who does not love me, nor I the doctor? When I die, I will be buried in my Sunday best. Will that be the only time? Wonder if God will recognize me all dressed up? Come to think of it, I notice a few people coming to church looking much like I described myself. But not you, right?
Sunday, April 5, 2015
While I was working in Florida this winter, people at church would ask me, "Where are you from?" They did not mean where I lived now, but rather where I began my life and grew up in formative years. "I am from the Bronx," I told them. When I was born I got a name, Terrence. This is part of my Irish Bronx lineage. But I also have a spiritual lineage. It began with my Baptism. I got the name Patrick for Baptism. Both the Bronx and being Catholic in the Bronx have informed me for my whole life. I have good memories of those years. I never made a conscious decision to live in the Bronx or be Catholic. I was given both circumstances. When I grew up I made a lot of stupid decisions, as do many people. But I learned from them and my roots helped me to find my way. Today, I celebrate Easter. There is something uplifting and hopeful about Easter joy triumphing over Good Friday misery. It is really the story of my life. My Good Friday misery was not to be my end. I first learned it at St. Frances of Rome church in the Bronx. If you are from Brooklyn, is it always Good Friday for you? Oops! My Bronx bias.
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Psalm 103 says, "God does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults." God is not like a policeman who gives tickets for wrong turns. You make a wrong turn and you suffer the consequences. My friend Michelle did just that and got a ticket. Her wrong turn had consequences added to the ticket. The money she had to pay for the ticket was going to take me for a very nice lunch. So you see, mistakes affect others who are innocent. I got no birthday lunch. So I am relieved to know that God does not punish us as we might deserve. I will be like God and not get upset at Michelle for making that wrong turn. The lunch would have been a gift anyway. I did not earn it. Nor do I earn God's unconditional forgiveness. That is a great gift!
Friday, April 3, 2015
Some people have a hard time with the Virginity of Mary and her being the mother of Jesus. Well let me help you to see it as more than merely biology. Adam was not born from conjugal acts of man and woman. Adam is the first man, or first person, if you will. Eve comes from Adam. No conjugal acts so far. Jesus is supposed to be the new Adam, the first born of the new Kingdom. This Kingdom is a new creation. So, Jesus, the new Adam is born without conjugal acts. Moreover, Adam was tossed out of the Garden for not doing God's will. Jesus is buried in a Garden, killed for doing God's will. Jesus rises from a Garden. New world. New kingdom. This is Good Friday and tomorrow begins Holy Saturday and the first day of Jewish Passover. Reach out to your Jewish friends or Jews reach out to your Christian friends.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
It seems that a Cardinal wants his state government to keep a tax credit in the budget that would benefit Catholic Schools. It is a bit of a tough sell so far. If you are going to tell people how to vote and who can go to communion based upon political views, the church may see it coming back to haunt it.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
I am leaving Boulder, Colorado forever. April Fools! My silver rosary did turn gold for a while after I returned from a seven week trip. I never had this happen before. It is a very old rosary and has always been silver. It sat on a shelf in my room for the weeks I was away and turned gold. I told people that God uses things to remind us that God is at work, is around. What could this mean, my rosary? I thought maybe God wants me to spend more time in Boulder. You think?