Sunday, May 31, 2015
I have met many a person who has written off my Church because they think it narrow-thinking, reluctant to embrace new ideas, and generally ill-suited for the modern world. I was reading a daily reflection book and was reminded that this same church invented universities and supported them, preserved works of Greek and Roman non-believers, built schools that served the poor gratis, commissioned great artists, and built Europe into a garden of grain and fruit. No doubt there are many a narrow-minded leader in my church, but overall we have a history of progress and preservation of wisdom. I have seen people who walk away from recovery programs, social clubs, neighborhood associations simply because of a bad experience with someone. Why let the people who are narrow-minded control your decisions? No group is perfect. No city has perfect weather. But if something has been around for a few millennium, it might be doing something right. Time tells.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
I have come to realize that in things religious, spiritual and cultural, when someone's stance, action or words do not agree with your own, we tend to use the term "radical" to describe them. It used to mean someone who differed from the status quo, or the usual way of those in power. But not anymore. Liberals use that word "radical" to describe conservatives, such as someone who says a latin mass alone with no congregation in my tradition. Conservatives used it of liberals on culture issues to do with sex. The present Pope is a radical on environment to those who disagree with him on who is responsible and who should make changes in how they do business. He is "right on" for environmentalists. Since "radical" as an identification seems to refer to no one stance, I think it is overused. Why not simply say that you disagree with someone without labeling them. It is the height of fear based ego to think that you are correct in all things.
Friday, May 29, 2015
I saw the movie, "Woman In Gold." It is well worth seeing even if it did not get good reviews. There is a scene where a young German Jew is going to escape to America. Her father is talking to her in German. Suddenly, he changes to English and says, "Now you will speak the language of your new home." That woman came to the USA and spoke English. It was the step that helped her to develop the life she did in this country. I think of people who come here and remain trapped in economic difficulty, due in no small part because they do not learn English. I do not think I would make much of a living in Brazil if I tried to speak only English. The German Jew came here and knew she was not going home. Some people come here and think they are just here for work and will return to their country in the future. They won't for one reason or another.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Bread was once grass. That is quite a transformation. Wheat, corn and rice were grass looking things at one time, all from the grass looking family. Time, additions of other things to the wheat, tender touch and patience all go into the transformation. It is a great metaphor for spiritual development. We grow physically, but if that is all, we do not become very nourishing for others who seek a good person in their life. We need a tender touch from the right people. We need their patience with our interior growth. Lots goes on with wheat becoming bread that is not visible. God is at work in the soul, but wants some help from us with one another. I had tender touch, patient people in my life, the ingredients of a spiritual program, and it all works out to make me more than what I once was. I had the potential as we all do. Someone once called bread his body. He was pretty transformed.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The older the animal the more flavorful its meat. But this is with water cooking not with fire. Water, braising, brings out the good flavor that is in an older animal. Fire was for the young. It is the same with my prayer life. I don't flavor my soul the same way I used to. I pray a bit differently now than when I was young. My fire prayer has moved to heated water prayer. An example is that I kneel much less now. I have old knees. It is not so comfortable to kneel. I pray more in a sitting or lying down position. I talk less to God and am more quietly present than when I was younger. This all brings out the flavor of my old soul. I know a monk who does not even bother with choir anymore with the other monks. His body cannot take it, but I think he has moved on as well in his prayer life. I think he simply walks with God. I am not yet there. I stumble still, in more ways than one. God is the cook. Not to worry.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Add onions and garlic to foods, especially meat dishes because onions and garlic have stuff in them, anti microbes that work against the bacteria in meat that could make our lives miserable or kill us. Daily prayer is my garlic a day because life is full of temptations that would be bad bacteria to my soul. To avoid getting spiritually ill or spiritual death, I need a daily dose of prayer. Some people say, "Prayer stinks." Well, just as you might do garlic each day, your body pores might give off a certain smell. So too, when I do prayer each day, my hope is that my body gives off a goodness and peace, which never stinks. Except my sister, Maureen, said that I was a stinker. Maybe she knew I was going to be a spiritual giant?
Monday, May 25, 2015
Add celery to your chicken broth. Celery will add flavor. Celery seems to have zero flavor. True, but with some heat, you will find hidden celery flavor brought out which will make the broth taste better. This is a principle of the spiritual life. Addiction recovery is an example. A person is a rotten, mean, nasty drunk. The person is "no good." Flavor the person with AA meetings, fellowship and steps, and something comes forth you did not know was there before in that very person. Spiritual practice is the heat that is added to our somewhat tasteless life, and voila, you have a flavored life! We all need the right spiritual ingredients to bring out the best in ourself. I do a little meditation, bible reading, exercise, walking, and special prayers I have learned, talking with others on the journey, and good stuff comes forth from me. I don't do all every day. But each day I try and flavor my life with spirit. Sometimes, people, just a few, say that my sermons feed them. Maybe my blogs too? Once in a while?
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Here is another one I picked up. If the child is going to receive a sacrament, the parent couples have to go on a retreat weekend. Say the sacrament is First Communion. The parents are probably rather young still, or not married but a few years. Now of course some parents will balk and leave for a softer easier way. So be it. AA lets such people go, why not churches. But some will stay and go on the retreat. What happens? Apparently, two good things happen. First, the couple realizes that they spend very little time together talking, separate from and about children issues. Secondly, the couple realizes they spend little or no time talking about faith and their spiritual lives. A Catholic might be married to a "none," or a non-Catholic. Quality of time and content fill the weekend. A third thing that happens is couples meet one another from the same parish. Their children know one another, but the parents do not know other parents. People can now come to worship and see other people they know and with whom they share some common bond of experience. Grandma's prayers are answered!
Saturday, May 23, 2015
The ordained decry the lack of attendance and participation in Sunday mass by Catholics. I think the Mainline Protestant churches do the same decrying. Their focus is the worship service. Behind this is the belief that one size fits all. My Paulist classmate, Fr. John Hurley, CSP contests this. One size does not fit all. Lets look at this from the family perspective. The parent(s) come to church with a eight year old, an eleven year old, and a fourteen year old child. Each child is in a different level of worship and learning. Each needs something geared to their level, which is not a single Word service that fits all. Why not have three groups of children sent forth during the Word service part of the mass, to go and learn on each of their levels? In my example you have elementary, middle and high school child. The parent then can enjoy the adult readings and homily (hopefully). The parent does not have to hear about how boring things are after mass. Too often we write parents off as not caring. Maybe they need a bit of help to address their issues and not the institution's agenda.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Mary has become for Catholics the Mediator between us and an angry God who is angry and needs to be appeased for our offenses. You sin. You have to pay. Apparently, Jesus failed to do this for us on the cross. He took away a lot of sins, just not yours or so the thinking goes for those who ask Mary to get them into heaven. Mary is supposed to be an example of how to grow in the spiritual life, e.g. the contemplative who ponders things, who opens to God's will despite inconveniences and fears, who is faithful and attentive in difficult times, who suffers her own cross, who exhibits fateful leadership, who is a disciple in her manner of life. All this can point us to Christ, not get in between us and Christ, like a lawyer gets between client and judge. We ask people to pray for us, including Mary. This is fine and part of being a mystical family. I think some people would be happy to die and go someplace where they see only Mary and skip God altogether.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Generally, when someone says they are a Christian, they mean that they believe Jesus is God. They might add that they try and follow Jesus' teachings. But his teachings can be found in other spiritual paths. With a lot of these "believers" I think something is missing. They do not believe that Jesus did what the scriptures say he did. Too many Christians are afraid of God, or see God as the judge who will send them to some fire for their imperfection. They don't believe Jesus really did take away the sins of the world, or that they are really saved in spite of their faults that do not seem to go away. They end up trying to make deals with God to get a good outcome after death. Lots of devotions and pieties fill the bill here. Or they look for mediators who might soften God up for us. Mary fills the bill here. More on Mary tomorrow. The scriptures and early teachers believed in a universal salvation. All are saved. God is Love. God is Forgiveness. Nothing is earned. It is all gift. We live good lives as a result of this and in Thanksgiving and praise. Any committed fault was made up for long ago on the cross and resurrection. Theresa of Avila said she believed in hell, but she did not think anyone was there. She is a doctor of the church. I am not making this stuff up.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Cooking separates humans from animals, sort of. Animals cannot cook. But all eating of flesh begins with violence and destruction. The animal simply eats its prey once caught. Humans ritualize the eating of flesh, in part to separate the violence from what we want to do, eat meat. We set a nice table. We may have elaborate recipes. We can make and control fire. All this helps to rationalize the killing, for our desired ends. Slavery in the South, was rationalized so that the plantation owners could have the economy and lifestyle they wanted. They were ridiculed by those who were against slavery. Vegetarians probably see through the lifestyle of we meat eaters. A war was fought to get rid of slavery as it existed in the south. What would it take for me to give up meat? Nothing yet. But it does help me to avoid thinking I am "together" or "perfect." I will support the beef industry tonight when I go out. I will rationalize that God liked Abel's sheep but was not much interested in Cain's veggies. I cannot enjoy my steak if I have guilt and shame. Transformation? Not today.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
When I am in San Francisco I get the opportunity to spend time with my Paulist community. We have a common background as seminarians and priests, with a common history. I spent one day in a suburb, Mill Valley and Tiburon with one other Paulist. We sat and talked over coffee with pleasant weather and then toured and had lunch. We had wonderful conversation. One morning several of us Paulists had a long breakfast at home chatting about things in the Paulist community as well as the Church in the USA and Rome. Some guys, not me, are well connected with what is going on. With age, we seem to relax better and share more deeply with one another. I think that it is all part of a spiritual growth that we don't notice until times such as I have mentioned above. I am bonded with the Paulists in ways that I am not with diocesan priests in other places. There is something about "community" in religious community that is hard to define, but felt in experience.
Monday, May 18, 2015
The younger generation of techies are showing compassion rather than judgment. AOL is being bought by Verizon. I am an AOL customer and an active one. Some young people were interviewed by a radio station about their AOL accounts, which they had forgotten they even had. I guess young techies have moved on. But I was gratified when they said that we who still had and used and payed for AOL were simply "older" people. This is a fact in my case, not a judgment. The techie did not say we are "stupid" or "uneducated." We are just old. Now if you are young and using AOL, you might have a real problem. Being old we can be frightened to change and this is OK. See, youth and old technology don't go well together or so the techie seems to imply. I try not to judge elderly people in their prayer style and habits. It is the way they connect to the Divine, just like I connect with AOL. Does God do email?
Sunday, May 17, 2015
AsI was leaving the gym, I saw a notice on the door asking, "Did you enjoy your workout?" I thought to myself, "Of course not." If I enjoyed the workout it would not be a workout worth going to the gym. Good workouts are about pain and suffering. My workout was tough. Then I got to thinking. What if as you were leaving the house and a sign asked, "Did you enjoy your family, spouse, friend today?" You might feel badly if you said they caused pain and suffering! Success in much of our life is about enjoying the gifts given to us. Is marriage pain and suffering on a daily basis? Is my priesthood? Is school? So if I want some joy in other parts of my life to make me feel that I am living them well, why not my time in the gym? My coach says to enjoy my running. Maybe he is right? I am gifted to be able to run at all. Enjoy the time I have. Enjoy the people in my life. I look forward to my next visit to the gym. Well, maybe a little suffering.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
My invoice from my cell phone provider seems to go up a few cents each month. So I decided to check out my bill online. I saw the following:
1G for $30
2G for $40
I have 1G for $40
Say what? The G stands for gigabit. I went to the local store of my provider here in San Francisco. The customer service person looked at my invoice on her pad and said yes, I have 1G for $40. So I showed her the invoice as I have it on my cellphone. Then she said, "Oh yes, we are having a promotion." I asked myself why this was not mentioned. I then asked her, " Can I get this 1G for $30 instead of paying $40?" She said yes and changed my contract. She said, "We just cannot get in touch with all our customers and tell them about this. It is a promo for new customers." But I could get on it none the less. It is an example to me of how the service business is shrinking away from serving the customer/client and serving instead the corporate bottom line. I am in the service business too. I have to keep in mind that the person in front of me is my primary concern. How can I truly help them with their problem or question. Jesus did not hold back. He would never had been much good as a CEO in my cellphone provider.
Friday, May 15, 2015
I got on the train that takes me from the Oakland airport to San Francisco. In the train car I was the only white person, and no English was being spoken. Other languages and cultures were represented on this rather full car. I realized how international and mixed is the culture of the Bay area. In Denver, when I get on the airport bus to Boulder, it is mostly anglo people. There may be one or two Asians going to the University. The Church is a lot like the Bay area, with people of all different types. It is a world wide church and every conceivable ethnic group is represented in the Bay area. It is a good reminder for me. Travel can do that. God loves all God's creation. God seems to like to make differences but underneath there is a sameness. This coastal city helps me to keep this in mind.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Today I am ordained 38 years. Who would have thought? When I left San Francisco to go East to join the Paulist Fathers, some of my friends gave me three weeks to three months. At times, I thought they may be right and I might be crazy. Though I am crazy, they were wrong. I guess God does not mind crazy. With Grace one can grow out of crazy, or at least keep it at bay. Here in San Francisco I will have dinner with three of my classmates. They are each more talented than I am, but it is amazing to me how much good can be done by ordinariness with a good attitude. I have given up on being talented but hold onto gratefulness.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
A 27 year old woman said that I do not look 72. I thought, "What does a young woman think 72 is supposed to look like?" Is there a norm? I suspect for a young woman of 27, her idea of 72 is pretty much near death. It is nice to have someone say I don't look my age. It makes me think all those years of beating myself up on the trails and in the gyms has kept me young. Now that I have to cut back exercise because I am healing from surgery, I will get fat and old all of a sudden. Dorian Grey will be how I will wake up suddenly one morning. My doctor and my blog readers told me not to do too much. I am listening…and waiting.
I took long train rides yesterday and did not have to dehydrate before boarding. The same with a recent flight to get here. I can now carry water with me and drink during a trip and not worry about having to find a bathroom. More water during the day makes me feel looser and less thirsty. I am learning to walk with a longer stride. I stop along the way to drink from my water bottle. I think that I will do the same with prayer. Don't parch my soul. Drink regularly during the day from a spiritual center. It is called, "Living Water."
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
I had an email problem. I called for support, India answered. Over the years I have made my peace with accents on the telephone. I used to get upset that I could not understand what the helper was saying. Part of this was that I was overwhelmed by the technology. Part of it is accents. The support person is courteous and doing the best that they can. They do have the answers. I need to let go of the fear energy, the feeling stupid energy, and be patient. If I am kind, patient, and calm, something good will work out. The problem gets solved, though it may take time, and usually happens when I am supposed to be somewhere else doing something else. I have come to think that email problems are God's way of showing me my faults and teaching me better behavior. I wonder what the tech support person says to coworkers after they get off the phone with me? Maybe I don't want to know.
Monday, May 11, 2015
One of the benefits of going to Art Museums, such as the one I visited in San Francisco, while I am supposed to be working, is that I get to see how styles change as the culture changes. What was "IN" centuries ago, is "OUT" now. We need to remember this when we knock ourselves out to have a certain modern or contemporary look. Styles and taste change. In the art I saw, women were heavy by today's standards. White hair was fashionable in that past era. Men wore skirts. We get so hung up on being today. Just be yourself. Maybe you will come back into style in your lifetime. I try and be practical and comfortable and not worry much about what people will think. It is nice to not have a boss. It comes with not having much of a job either. I have to work on that part!
Sunday, May 10, 2015
A spiritual path is a bit like downhill skiing. The Mountain has a downward path that awaits the skier's discovery. Once the skier finds the path for that mountain the next thing is to touch the skies to the snow with just the right pressure. Dig the edges in too much and you slow down or go off course. Get airborne, separate from the mountain with your skis, and you slow down and maybe go off course, crash and burn. The skier needs to "kiss the mountain" just right. The yoke of the mountain is the fault line. Their are many spiritual paths just as there are many mountains. When you find your particular path, you must yoke yourself to that path but not try so hard to control things, which would be like digging your edges. But you have to practice. If you detach from the practice, it is like going airborne. You go off course. I am still traversing my spiritual mountain. It can take me into the depths if I practice, but don't control.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Hey, we all might have a chance to become saints! I just read where church saint-makers said that Junipero Serra did not have to be perfect to become a saint. He only had to be holy. So we can all lower the bar. Lots of people I know are quite holy, but not perfect. I do not think I would care much for perfect people. So intimidating and deflating they would be! Holy is a fine example for me. I can connect with holy people. I read a lot about this perfect saint and that perfect saint. Mary is the perfect mother. I rather she just be holy. I relate better this way. Of course, for those of you who think that I am perfect, I will not burst your bubble. My ego loves you!
Friday, May 8, 2015
While I was exercising one day in the gym, I noticed a young man playing basketball by himself. From a talent point of view, he was dreadful. He made few baskets, that is he had trouble getting the ball to go into the basket. Sometimes, from the three point line, a certain distance from the basket, he could not reach the basket. He was not a small child. He was a teen, at least, with terrible shooting form as well. He just kept playing. I realized that he was at "play," not at "performance." If he were trying to perform well, that is successfully get the ball into the basket most of the time, he would have been miserable and probably given up, gone home feeling badly about himself, a failure, a loser. But he was simply at play which requires no goal of success. Basketball in itself was enough for him to do. I will try to keep that in mind the next time I am at something and am feeling miserable. What was my motive in the first place? I will try it with running.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
When someone lives a good and virtuous life, it becomes embodied in their outward appearance. A kind and loving person takes on a certain beauty in their face, their appearance. The insides seem to extned to the outsides. This is why there are so many diffeent images, different facial features in paintings of Mary. Each culture is trying to show what this loving woman might look like in that culture. It is not about duplicating a Jewish face in the time of Jesus. Mary will look one way in Asia and another in Mexico or France. Paintings are not photos or portraits when they are of Mary. They are expressive of spiritual ideas, of the results of the human journey well traveled. I have found that when I am at peace, in a good space within, the camera captures that. When I am stressed, a whole different image shows up in the photo. My driver's license picture is dreadful!
I am traveling for the first time since my surgery. I am so pleased and "relieved." I do not have the anxiety of thinking I might have to visit the restroom. I do not have to dehydrate myself before getting on a plane or a bus. I can leap tall buildings in a single bound! Oh, I got carried away. I have heard that this surgery is not a permanent solution. Well, I am not a permanent person. But while I have these body parts, I want them to work well. Living in the present moment is quite relaxing now.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
I remember hearing people complain when the nuns stopped wearing their habits. The complainers thought it all so modern, and modern was not a good thing. It meant change and movement away from tradition. But history tells us that the nuns were not starting something new. They were returning to their roots, something that preceded the religious habit clothing they wore. The Ursuline nuns began in 1535 living in their own homes. They were not limited in their apostolate. They could respond to the needs of the world around them. Vincent de Paul's Daughters of Charity were a secular congregation with no religious dress, cloister or veil. The Mercy Sisters wore contemporary clothes. Before we condemn what we think is change, we ought to read some solid history.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Cinco de Mayo is a big Mexican feast based upon their political history. Some say the feast began in California in 1862 to celebrate victory over the French in Pueblo. It is pretty big in the USA because there are so many Mexicans living here or People native to here who are of Mexican American decent. This Mexican celebration is not the same as if I went to live in France and wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July. Many Mexicans became Americans simply because the border moved north and there they were! They did not move here. This is a bit different from a bunch of people who moved to France for economic reasons. When the Fourth of July came up would they want to make a big deal of it with fireworks, get permits for parades and otherwise make a big deal of non-French heritage? I suspect no, or maybe France would have none of it. Nor do the French feel that they need to learn English because immigrants are living in France. But our history is different when it comes to Mexico and borders. We can take over vast territories by force of war or treaty, but we cannot force a culture on a people who never moved.
I went to the Doctor's office for a test to see how I was recovering from my surgery. I did OK but found out that I am not so completely healed as I thought. I feel good, so I must be all healed up. Time to run my brains out, lift, cycle and so on. NO! The healing will continue and I will continue to improve for several months. I have done well because I drank lots of water, walked, got my zzz and did not overdo anything. I was told yesterday that I could resume my running but do half of what I had planned. Do too much and I could bleed. Running puts pressure on the bladder, so be conservative. Maybe I could do two workouts a day to catch up, but only do a half of each workout. What do you think? Just looking for a second opinion from my readers.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Thee seems to be a tendency in my church over the centuries to focus the laity on private devotions, rather than the plight of suffering society. In some part, this is a focus on individual salvation versus communal responsibility. The rich, the kings and lords of the manor were responsible for the welfare of the lower caster of people, the masses, if you will. The church never saw the laity as the focus for change, even as society changed. What happened is that the upper caste did not take care of the people beyond some charity that did not address the underlying issues of why there was so much poverty and suffering. Some religious orders did try to get the better off to focus on charity, but still the underlying issues remained in place. Th laity revolted. It was illegal, messy, bloody and harsh. Eventually, it was the laity who changed the way society functioned and economies developed. Organized religion which supported the status quo was wary of change either within the church or within the society. If you read Ian Caldwell's novel, "The Fifth Gospel," you get a sense of the politics of my church in the highest ecclesial places.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Continuing from yesterday, if a person goes into a recovery meeting and that person hears about someone else's experience in overcoming an addictive behavior, the newcomer has information. They may continue to come to meetings for awhile, but unless they have their own experience of recovery through the program offered, they will not keep coming. It is the same way in church and religion. Who goes to church to get information? A homily that is informational does not do much for your faith. If all the homilies are about, "What Holy Mother Church teaches about..." you will lose a lot of people, not because they might disagree but because they are not being fed on an experiential level. If we are supposed to love God with all our mind, heart, body and soul, the mind is only one quarter of our whole self. Being Westerners we tend to make the mind, the world of ideas and information be about ninety eight percent of religion. People hunger in their whole selves to feel the love of God. God's love is unconditional, not based upon a rule or law that we keep or break. The Love is the Good News. It is too infrequently proclaimed, and thus one of my religion's best kept secrets.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
We sometimes put down a "Doubting Thomas" type person. I think that the doubting Thomas, such as in the Gospel of John, might have a good point. Thomas' faith cannot be based upon what someone tells him to be so. He has to have an experience of God, in this case, in the Risen Jesus. Is this not the way it is for all of us, if faith is to be sustained, much less grow, as we grow up? For instance, the child in the Catholic school or religious ed class is told something out of a catechism or a creed. The child says "Yes," but how much of that is because an adult or authority person, teacher, told them it is so? Their faith is in the person who told them, and not in an event. If the child does not at some time have sufficient personal experiences of what is told to them about God and Jesus, then the child will drift away as he/she grows up. Information is important, but it is never enough. The other Apostles gave Thomas information. Faith came with the experience of the Risen Jesus. I do not have to see with the same experience as did Thomas, but I do have to have sufficient events or God's presence to be a believer that will sustain me through life's ups and downs.
Friday, May 1, 2015
Someone recently told me that they had dropped a spiritual practice because it was not getting them anywhere. They had given up on any spiritual practice. Nothing worked. Well, a practice is not about the finish line. The end will take care of itself. The practice is about the daily effort, or journey, as some call it. People often drop a prayer practice because they have an end point in mind, and they do not seem to be "there." In my religion, Jesus said, "Follow me." In racing, we call it training to the coaches insights and daily program. No finish line focus. Eastern spiritual wisdom say, "Practice." No finish line focus there either. We never stay in the same place. You are either getting better with prayer, practice, daily routine, or you are getting worse by doing nothing. Life is movement.