Wednesday, September 30, 2015
The Bible says we should become like children. What? Well, God is like a child, so why not you? An example: A little child will forgive a parent who messes up, say with alcohol. The child knows that something is the matter by say, the smell or the look of the parent. The child still loves, and hopes the parent will be better. There is no hate or rejection yet in the child. When the parent finally sobers up or straightens out, the parent suspects that the child must hate or reject them. The parent feels guilty and ashamed. But the child just loves and now enjoys the recovered parent. Is this not the way it is with God? We mess up. We feel ashamed when we awaken. We feel that God will or ought to punish us. There is no such God except in our imaginations or pulpit sermons. God is love. God is always hopeful and forgiving. God waits. Why not enjoy this God today? Then become like a little child with others who are practicing bad behavior.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
One of the best gifts we can give to someone who is debilitated is physical presence in a patient and loving manner. Accept that the person is ill or losing their mind or have lost memory. Don't judge what is going on inside of them. Your presence may keep them from the discomfort of feeling agitated and confused. They may even refer to you as someone else who is long dead. It does not matter. Your sane presence is a gift. It is a practice in selflessness because you do not feel you are getting much out of it or wonder if you are doing any good. No immediate payoff. Then, when you least expect it, there is a little miracle. The best grace is always to surprising grace.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Remember when the Pope made that remark to the reporters on the airplane. It went viral. What many do not know is that it was a response to a specific question about a specific person. Seems the Pope wanted someone he trusted to go and do some fact finding or investigation. Some Vatican people did not want such investigation. So they put out the word that this prelate took a guy along with him on vacation. They figured that the Pope would can the fact finder and that would be that. Not so. The prelate said that he was sorry for his indiscretion. He repented. He felt he should be fired. But the Pope did not fire him but kept him on the job. If you repent, you are forgiven and we all move on. Some Vatican people think you can hold sex issues over someone's head to keep them in line or use against them. It is easier to prove than embezzlement. It is not so hidden. This Pope is talking "Mercy." What a concept.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
When I go into a Catholic church building for the first time, I look for the "vigil light" that burns next to the tabernacle. This is the way that I know where the tabernacle is. Now we Catholics believe that is where Jesus Christ resides in the host inside the tabernacle. We did not invent the vigil light idea. Like many things, we learned it from our ancestors, the Jews. Go into a synagogue. You will see permanent light there. It is a reminder that God dwells in that space, a reminder of the divine presence. There is more. The vigil light does not say the presence is only in the synagogue. The synagogue space and light is a reminder that the Holy dwells in the cosmos. Some Catholics think that outside of the wafer, the body of Christ, there is only secular, sinful world. Not so. God is everywhere. We took a lot of ideas from our Jewish ancestors. We ought to be talking to them more often. I suspect they could teach us a thing or two. Jesus was a Jew. I keep Jewish friends near me. When you start thinking God is Catholic, you have just started a new church. We have more than enough churches.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Well here is a reason to think more than once about an abortion. Not all of the fetus leaves your body. Science has found Y chromosomes in women's bodies that may very well never leave. The Y chromosome is easier to find in a woman. These chromosomes seem to spread to all organs in the body. Science does not know if these cells contribute to prevent disease or even contribute to such things as cancer. Who knows? What if those little Y things could record a woman's desire or decision to end its fetal life? Can chromosomes be merciful and forgiving? On the other hand this may give one more indication why a mother feels a special bond with her children. Some parts of the children stay with Mom throughout her life. So maybe when my Mom died a little bit of me died with her. No wonder I cried at her bedside over her dead body.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Boys will only clean up and keep the domestic space orderly if it is important to them. It was important to my Mom that I keep my personal space clean and clean up after me around the house. It was not important to me though. So when I moved out and lived on my own in an apartment, as a single adult, I did not clean up my mess. My Mom never saw my apartments. I lived in other cities than where she lived. So I would have made a lousy husband if the girl wanted things neat an tidy. There are also boys who never cleaned up growing up. Either someone else did it or the family lived in chaos. These boys also make lousy husbands for neat girl types. Divorce in the future could be based upon mess and dirt! Girls need to ask themselves when prospecting a marriage partner, "Is cleanliness important for this guy?" Yes, for a while he will clean up some out of love, but this will pass. Mess trumps love eventually for slobs. Girls, there are a whole lot of guys who keep a clean and orderly environment, can cook, are good listeners, and can dance. Most of them are gay. "What a waste!" as some girls would say. In fact a lot of heterosexual girls have much in common with gay men in terms of what they like. So let us all celebrate our commonalities and not focus so much on our differences. We are not all so much different one from another.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
I arrived in San Francisco. It was cloudy. Then it rained. "Where is the warm sun?" I asked myself. It had been hot the week before I came here. A friend of mine called. I moaned about the lousy weather. She reminded me that there was a big fire north of me in California that had consumed over 500 homes. This weather is good for firefighters. I had forgotten that, conveniently. It was all about me. One of the important things about staying in touch with friends is that they can see the world at any moment in a more communal and compassionate way than we do left to our own mind and petty wants. Plus, a friend will not be so harsh when we admit that we had been thinking only of ourselves. Resentments and self-defense only build up when our ego pride takes over. With a friend we can feel embarrassed, humble, and repentant. God wants to be my friend not my judge and jury.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
A friend of mine, Joan, gave me this one. A child was heard to say the alphabet over and over, very slowly. Finally, grandpa asked her what she was doing. "Praying," grandpa. "I pray all the letters to God and God puts them together to form the words of my prayer. God knows what I want better than I do." I am humbled to think that this child's faith is so much deeper than mine. How about your faith? Are you still trying to say the exact words, or the exact formula, so God will know what you want? Unless we become like little children, what chance have we got for holiness?
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
I just learned how to tie a double knot in my shoe and still be able to pull one end of the shoelace to undo it all. I am 72 and just learned something new. The way I had been taught to tie a double knot long ago was to tie one knot and then over that first knot, tie another. But to undo it all, one has to bend down and undo the second knot before you can pull the end of the shoe lace to undo the first knot. That takes time. This new way, I learned in a workshop I was giving recently on contemplative prayer. My single knot shoe lace came undone at the beginning of my talk and several people were concentrating on the loose lace and might I trip. I guess I was not saying anything relevant to dissuade their attention. So my audience may have profited nothing from my talk, but I learned how to make this new double knot. You make the first knot, but before you finish there is a way to loop back into the first knot. The shoe stays tied, and when I want to untie it I simply pull on the end of one of the laces as in a single knot. Eureka! I might have been the only one who learned anything new in my own teaching that day. So why should any of us think we know it all when it comes to religion, relationship, job, family? There is always something more to learn if we are open. If I cannot teach you how to pray more deeply, I at least can now teach you how to tie your shoes.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Following yesterday's blog, while Isabella is crying at the podium, her mother, Joan Munson, comes up to the podium and puts her arm around Isabella. Mon does not tell her daughter to toughen up, stiff upper lip, stop crying, or any other silly stuff like that. Joan simply stands there and supports her daughter in Isabella's suffering. Joan suffers with Isabella. Joan does not try and remove suffering, grief, loss or deny it. She is a Christ presence. This is what we believers are supposed to do, be Christ for others. Jesus did not come ot remove everyone's pain, but to suffer for and with us. This is why God became human. When we suffer, God suffers with us. This is what Jesus tries to show us. Peter calls Jesus the "Christ" and tells Jesus not to do any of that "suffering" talk. So many want God to fix things, make things nice. Joan did not make everything nice for Isabella. But she was next to Isabella, as Isabella suffered her own cross of losing grandfather. Be next to someone when they suffer their cross. Be with them. It is a great comfort. I have found it so. Did I just canonize Joan Munson? Oh well. The Pope is coming and maybe we can include her with Junipero Serra and get a twofer. You think?
Sunday, September 20, 2015
In the Bob Munson funeral that I referred to a couple of blogs ago, the petition prayers were to be said by the granddaughter, Isabelle, an eighth grader at our school. She was going to contribute to the funeral mass in this way. It was an important moment and I suspect she was wanting to do it. She got to the pulpit, and "lost" it, as some would say. She just could not stop crying. It was hard to understand anything she was saying amidst her sobs. I wonder if she thought she was a failure? I for one, think it was a great prayer, one of the best I have heard in some time. Why? Isabelle prayed from her heart, with all her honest emotion. She loves her grandfather and prayed with love, which at that moment was filled with grief, sorrow and loss. Do you think God cares how the words come out of our mouth? No. God cares about our honesty, loving with our whole heart and all that is in it. Isabelle did just that and I for one am quite proud of her. Jesus says that we have to lose our life to find it. Isabelle lost composure but found a way to express her true life of love and pain all in her prayers at funeral.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
I was just insulted. I was dressed in my black priest clerical suit and black shoes. Someone came up to me in the parking lot and asked, "Father may I take your picture?" My ego leaped for joy. A fan of mine, right! No. She continued, "I have never seen you dressed as a priest in a black suit." Ego crushed by reality. I tried to smile as she took the picture. I hope she sends it to some bishops. It has been hot lately and so I have been forgiving sins and helping people while I was in shorts and tee shirt. I have other excuses, but I must confess, I am not a poster boy for priesthood clerics. I think I do good work, but not in corporate garb. I suggest that in the morning, pray that you will do good for others and in your work, family and errands. If you think only of what you might wear or how you will look, and nothing else, you might have good outsides, but the insides will suffer, and I suspect so will those around you. In the recent recession, some of those Wall Street and Banker fellows dressed quite nicely. They were not so good on the inside. Not all crooks wear masks.
Friday, September 18, 2015
I went to the funeral today of a man named Bob Munson. I had read the obit. His family recently provided me with fresh corn that they grow on their nearby farm. It is to die for. As I was listening to the homily I realized that Bob did seemingly too very separate things, but they are connected. He was an inventor and a farmer. He invented something that helps people to communicate, that is connect with one another when they are not physically present to each other. Think of it as an antenna. Then he grows food that feeds people. Food brings people together. So both as an inventor and farmer Bob was a Christ figure or a God figure. God is always One-ing, bringing people to the realization that we are all connected. If you believe that Jesus is God, he came into the world for ALL. Bob shared his farm grown food with the poor, the homeless and the well to do. His inventions were for the benefit of all people. Bob was one-ing people from a sense of separation to a sense of oneness. If we do what gives us life, what you might have a passion for, it will always bring more life to the world around you. I tend to go to funerals of people who feed me. What can I say. I am still working on perfection. The church was full to overflowing. I wonder if they were all thinking of Bob and his corn?
Thursday, September 17, 2015
In hindsight I should have been nicer to teenage Catholic girls when I did parish ministry. Say what? Well, I would have been invited to a lot of nice places or back to places where I once worked, and would visit with a lot of old friends. You see, girls do care about who the priest is at their wedding. Boys are hopeless. If a teenage girl makes friends with a particular priest and he says he will come back and do her wedding some day, there is a good chance she will remember. And she is more likely to get married in a Catholic church which will make parents and especially grandparents happy. I was just back in Knoxville where I had been pastor and realized I blew it. All the girls grew up and got married. The priest who followed me as pastor gets all their weddings. And he gets to Dollywood as a side trip. Wisdom is coming to me way late.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
The Pope says that churches that don't open their doors are museums. Oh? Well, my church in San Francisco decided to close even an hour earlier than before. Why? Are we against people coming for quiet and prayer? No, but we suffer from the consequences of San Francisco being a big outdoor asylum for the mentally troubled. We have to pay someone to sit in the church every hour that it is open to prevent people from coming in to steal, and use the floors for toilets. There is more but you get the idea. We are a poor parish. Even I don't get paid there. I try to make money to support our meagre budget and considerable expenses in maintaining the old place. The few hours that we are open allow us to do something rather than just close up and leave. Leave San Francisco! I will work harder. I will even become more pious and orthodox. Well...maybe some things are not possible.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
I looked at the list of countries in Europe who were taking immigrants from the Middle East. More than one of these countries that are opening their doors to immigrants are doing so in part because such countries are losing population. Germans are not having sufficient German children to replace the dying Germans. This vast migration of people is bringing children and young people, parents, to places that are lacking them. Many of these immigrants are actually Arab Christians. Hungary did not want to take any immigrants because one Hungarian official said that Hungary wanted to hold onto its Christian roots. These European countries that take in immigrants will become exposed to the Islamic and Arab Christian world. For so long there has been a geographic ethnic and religious separation of peoples. We don't get to know and experience one another. What would it be like for an Islamic family to be exposed to Dollywood in East Tennessee? As a New Yorker, and an East Tennessee outsider, that is, Yankee, I thought Dollywood would be kind of silly and boring. Was I wrong! Dollywood is wonderful. The food, the rides, the shows, are all so much East Tennessee. When we hide out in our little worlds all we preserve is narrow-mindedness. Now if someone from East Tennessee were to visit the Bronx or Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes...well, that might be too much. I will have to ask my friend Moira, an East Tennessee girl.
Monday, September 14, 2015
If a woman tries to become ordained she can be excommunicated. Way harsh. Are not there much more grave things that someone could do for excommunication? Murder, rape, embezzlement, stealing, beating up your spouse time and again, but yet no excommunication. Even a priest who messes with boys is not excommunicated. There are penalties for all this but not excommunication. If a woman has an abortion she can be excommunicated. Abortion is not a good thing, but why excommunication? If it is murder, then why does the one who murdered the policeman not get excommunicated? Yet, if it were not for women, my church would crumble. Bishops? Please. On the day to day, the hierarchy are not up to making things happen.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Yes, Catholics, you do get a bill or statement saying how much the annulment procedure cost. Technically, one is not charged to get the annulment. It is not as if the annulment is held up until you send a check. But there are costs to run these annulment offices. The Pope wants there to be no talk of money or cost. He also wants the process to be speeded up. One might work against the other. The way for some cash strapped dioceses to cut costs is to cut staff and office supplies. This would not make annulments go faster. The judges who look at evidence and make judgments are canon lawyers. They are turtles when it comes to speed. There is a place for turtles, but not if you want speed. So I would wait and see what the American church does. We do most of the annulments. In other countries and cultures the priorities are different. Stay tuned.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
I met a friend of mine from my past in Knoxville. She brought her three year old daughter with her. The little girl was sleepy and in her mother's arms. This was before mass. After mass, she was quite articulate. All these big adults were standing around, but the child kept in the conversation. She did not back off, yet she was not offensive. Ask her a question and you get a rather articulate answer. She even used a three syllable word. She can read at three years of age. The tough part for someone with such a gift is to be able to develop her potential while still trying to fit in with peers. She could be in K grade with five year olds, but she is not emotionally five. I think all of us need a group, a community where we can fit in, while still developing our unique talents. We are all special in some way and yet all part of something larger than ourselves. My spiritual search is with community but I also need solitude and freedom to pursue my interests. Maybe this is why I am an itnerant speaker who lives in four places. Find community but don't ask too much of them. And don't ask too little of yourself.
Friday, September 11, 2015
When I was in Knoxville recently, at least 6 people came up to me and said that they read my blog on a regular basis. I am impressed. I have been away from pastoring there for twelve years now. Did I make more of an impression than I thought? I talk about prayer and my foibles in life, the light and the darkness. The honesty cleanses me, but seems to be of help to others. Until this visit, I did not know that I was reaching some of the people who came to my talks. It seems that if we do something that we love and believe in, we be be helping someone even if we don't know it. So don't spend your energy on immediate gratification or recognition or results. Just do what you love. Then when you discover that you are helping people it will be a wonderful surprise. So many young people do things to fit in. That just dummies down the common denominator. Jesus did not fit in. I doubt the Buddha did either. But they believed in themselves and their path. Be you.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
During one weekday mass I looked out at the congregation and saw a fellow with a long brown garment on that looked somewhere between a Franciscan and a Buddhist robe. He had his knapsack with him. I thought that he might be a person who slept outside last night or a bit of an eccentric. I hoped he would not be a bother during or after mass. A bit later I looked out again at the congregation and the sun was shining on his face, and his face alone, in the congregation. Oops! God had a message for narrowed-minded, judgmental, self-imploded me. We are all loved by God. We are all a bit of God's light. See each one as a brother and sister in this universe. The fellow's name is Justin. He thinks that I am a nice priest. Little does he know. But I do not fool God.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
It makes my day when I learn something new. I borrow books from libraries, usually novels. In Boulder, Colorado the main library is downtown, within walking distance of my house. It is usually very crowded, and it is big. I went on line to find a book. The main library did not have it but two others did. The list gives only initials for the library, so I called up to find out what the initials meant. One was for another library I had been to. The other was for a "Reynolds" library. I asked what town that was in. Right here in Boulder at the South end of town across from a supermarket where I go for pharmacy prescriptions. I never knew this library even existed. Off I went to find, explore and get my book. Turns out the library is hidden on a main road. It blends in with other buildings and the signage is apparent only if you are looking for it. Turns out this library is quite wonderful with NYT for today on the rack and plenty of room for noisy children to be out of the way of us adults when we read our newspapers and magazines. It made my day. I know people who want to know nothing new. New threatens them. This is especially so in the religion business. Whatever you learned in catechism class or yeshiva must be so and cannot be otherwise, regardless of new discoveries in science and technology. If the Bible says it, so be it. No place for metaphor or new interpretations. The old is good. But it might not be the final word. Earlier today, the old truth for me was that there are three libraries in Boulder. Now I find out there are four. The three still exist. But something new was discovered. It was always there, but until today, unknown to me.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Francis I is coming to the USA. Many people who live in the world of right and wrong, black and white, live by rules. They want clear rules. Jesus did not so much give clear rules, otherwise we would not have to spend so much time on Law. He was more about attitude that might make us better persons. People seem to translate "better," into "more correct." All goes back to rules. Francis wants people to follow Jesus. Don't spend so much time judging people. Let some things be. Gay marriage would be an issue here. I don't know that he ever said it was fine and dandy. But he does not want to spend a lot of time judging people. He is after bigger issues like environment, and religious intolerance and immigration. These are life and death issues for many. These, he does not let be. But there are many people who would get after the gay issue but let be environmental issues. Or just ignore them.
Monday, September 7, 2015
Remember when a parent said to you, "Did you hear me," or maybe now you say it to someone? Did you hear me does not really ask the question of whether or not your ears heard. The question translates into, "Are you going to do what I just asked?" It is not a question of hearing, but rather a question for the will. Is your will in tune with my will is what the parent or boss is asking. So why do they ask a question that has to do with hearing? I think it is because we may hear words, but we either don't connect (preoccupied or ignoring the questioner) or we hear but it does not effect our will to take action. The kid who wants to avoid a hassle simply says, "Yes," and then does not do what the parent wants. Parents are either too optimistic or too weary to press on, because they often seem to think that yes means yes, when in fact all it means is I heard you, but I will not obey. When religious adepts ask the question, "Did you hear?" or "Let the one who has ears hear," what they really mean is, "Are you open to changing your life?" I must have bad ears, because I keep hearing the same advice and keep drifting into doing the same old self-willed stuff. Transformation is hard even if you truly want it. But it certainly won't happen if you say "Yes," but mean "No."
Sunday, September 6, 2015
There are always bad consequences to getting drunk. The Bible tells us so. King Herod threw a birthday party for himself. He got drunk, but not black out drunk. He watched his Step-daughter do a dance that pleased him and his guests. So he boosted, as drunks tend to do, that he would give her anything she wanted, even half his kingdom. He was pretty drunk. She asked for the head of someone her mother despised, a fellow named John the Baptist. The woman was sober, but resentful. She probably needed Al-Anon, at least. Anyhow, Herod did not want to disappoint his guests, that is, he did not want to lose face. He may have had an ego issue. Why else throw your own party? John the Baptist lost his head. We are not sure where his grave is, maybe Samaria. But we seem to know where several of his heads are! Great fun to be a Catholic. Not so great fun to get drunk. I bet Herod had a doozy of a headache the next day. But at least he still had his head. He earned his suffering. John was a victim of consequences. Alcohol can do that.
Saturday, September 5, 2015
I recently saw the play, "Book Of Mormon." It is very irreverent and has lots of bad words, but I laughed a lot. The main writer of this musical was a New York City Catholic when he was younger. I thought that the whole play was going to make fun of religious belief in general, not just Mormonism. But what struck me as the play came to an end with a rousing finale of group song, is that the people all believed in doing better in their life. There is something at work that brings out a good in us. The religious leaders of Mormonism in the play, wanted a certain kind of "orthodox" Mormonism, but the people end up with kind of a hybrid "The Book of Arnold," as they dub it. But this belief makes them better people. It is very difficult, in my experience, to become a better person without a belief in something more than our little personal world. If I burn for laughing so much, I hope it is not like the bad Mormon dream of hell.
Friday, September 4, 2015
The soul is like a lawn of grass. Prayer is the water that sprinkles it. We have a sprinkler system at our house in Boulder. One of the sprinkler heads is out of commission. The grass in that area has gone brown. I reminds me of my need to pray on a daily basis. My soul cannot survive without the watering of prayer. I have to water my soul each day, early in the morning and again later in the day or in the evening. Meditation is my sprinkler system and it is not on automatic. No timer. It is driven by willpower. Sometimes my willpower is out of commission. Then I dry up. Then I pray out of desperation. I try to keep my will power in good order, but I sometimes get "busy," or very important. I have to do a lot of stuff. I have my checkoff list. Somehow prayer gets dropped from the list. It is best not to have delusions of self-importance. It makes for a better prayer life, and I am actually more functional for those around me when I water my soul.
Thursday, September 3, 2015
There was this Old Testament prophet who warned the people that it was not enough to have faith in the correct God. They actually had to do something. Jeremiah said that they had to show mercy and justice. This reminds me of Pope Francis who is not very popular with a few of the Vatican Cardinals and bishops. Seems in Jeremiah's time there was a yawning gap between the rich and the poor. Sound like anything we hear today? I find that a lot of us have orthodox belief and worship on the Sabbath, but are not much for the action that Francis and ole Jeremiah calls for. Jeremiah did not have too many friends and even had to go underground for awhile. Sure enough, Jeremiah lived to see the Temple destroyed and Jerusalem burned down. Stuff happens when all you have is catechism faith and worship.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Jesus knew that money and buildings would divert his followers from the message about the kingdom and how to avail ourselves of this kingdom in transformation. A fellow named Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, also got this wisdom. Unfortunately, my church did not quite hang on to the Jesus wisdom. We got big into money and buildings. This is one of the reasons that a lot of hierarchs are focused on money, property and prestige. Bill Wilson, a spiritual neophyte, got it right. The Sixth Tradition of AA states: An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose. Such wisdom, and it came from a drunk. Sometimes AA acts more like a spiritual program than does my church! Ironically, AA rents space from church buildings. I hope those recovering drunks remember that the next time someone dumps on Christianity.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Most bad behavior begins with a thought. I may be going along just fine and serene and suddenly, something happens. I have a thought about it. I don't like what just happened for whatever reason or maybe no reason at all. If I am going to continue with my good day, I note the thought but don't act on it. Usually, I act on it. I complain, whine, get angry and/or gossip. Sometimes, nothing at all seems to be happening out there in my world, but I still have a thought, seemingly from nowhere. It is probably from some childhood trauma or past event about which I have forgotten. But something in me has not forgotten. Anyway, the thought seems inviting. To continue with my good day, I have to note the thought as a trick or temptation that looks good but is not. Then do some things to get rid of it or at least its power to control my actions. At times, being weak, I entertain the thought. I got no chance to resist at this point. I have learned to not be alone when dissembling thoughts come to mind. Pray or call someone. Anyway, it works for me. My guess is that a lot of unhelpful thoughts come as a signal of feeling lonely. Just a guess.