I will end this year with a thought on the Bronx, my beginnings. The Bronx was a place of adventure for a child like me and my friends. Outdoor play sometimes meant that we went exploring, but we always knew how to get home on our own. We could be astonished at seeing something new or interesting in the Bronx, or even Southern Westchester County, but at the same time we felt at home in it, because we always could get back "home" on our own. It was a great way to adventure on one's own, with friends, without having to tag along with adults to some distant place. Children now don't so much go out to play, as they go on long car rides to places or fly to places and are kept in strict supervision by adults. I did not have to go to a movie to enter into some new world of the movie, while being safe in a theater. My world was always real. It did not need the movie or outside entertainment. The Bronx had enough for me. I could risk with safety, but risk nonetheless. I wonder what I will risk in 2017? Happy New Year!
Friday, December 30, 2016
Tchaikovsky wrote the Nutcracker Suite music. He did not control the dance routines, choreography. When his Nutcracker debuted in 1892, it did not go over well. It was not the big success that it is today. The music was great. The dance, costumes, and scenery, not so much. He needed some help from others in that area. Eventually, all the other parts of the Nutcracker came together and you have what we see today around the Christmas Season. Sometimes, a good idea needs help to bring out the best of it. A choreographer cannot do much with bad music. So the next time you work on an idea that you think is good, don't give up just because it does not go over well. It may need some help. Don't we all at one time or another? We are all God's good idea, but we need help to bring out our best.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
If God came upon the earth as a baby, why? Why not come as a fully grown powerful, brilliant hero type figure to fix things for the rest of us? I think that it is because God wanted to reach children. God came upon the earth as a baby because God wanted children to identify with God in their own little lives that need love, support and protection. I think that Christmas is to help children to get the idea that God loves them just as they are, because God knows what is is to be a child. As children grow up, this often gets lost in catechism, reformation wars about theology, interfaith proofs for the singular specialness of Jesus, and then lots of rules and regulations. Christmas is a special time for children and the childlike.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
The Gospel of Matthew has a genealogy for Jesus, where he came from in his lineage. All of us have a genealogy that goes back to beginnings, even of human existence. What genealogy means to me is that there is some evolutionary plan to each of us coming along as we do, and there will be others after us. Not me of course, because I am a celibate priest. Wait! That's it? I am the end? My sister Maureen would probably say, "Good," because then there would be no more brats and pests just like me. No one has called me uniquely gifted, so maybe it is good for my line the end. Enough about me. Overall, genealogy means that there is some evolutionary unfolding from the beginning, that brought each one of us to birth. So when you think you are nothing, realize that you are part of something much greater and more connected than you think! You are not random and meaningless. We are necessary parts of a chain. If I am the last link on my chain, maybe this is part of an overall process. Think the Pope will change his mind about celibacy?
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Pope Francis gave a list for the recipe to happiness. One of them was, "Respect those who think differently. The Church grows by attraction, not proselytism." This sounds like something right out of a twelfth step program for happiness. Institutional religions seem to have a problem with listening and accepting differences. They fear "relativism." Listening and accepting does not mean agreeing, but not listening or accepting often leads to strife, war, anger, and punishment by those in power over those who have less power. The pope also added to his list, "Play with children." This is what seems to give life to grandparents and the elderly as they age. Pope Francis did not say to play with children all day every day, but rather as some regular part of your weekly life. Playing with children is a way to "Give yourself to others," which is a third point in the pope's recipe for happiness. The pope is 80 but he keeps going with plenty of energy. Maybe his recipe for happiness has some truth?
Monday, December 26, 2016
It took a little three year old to remind Christians what Christmas is all about. God really did become human, with the limitations of humans. Here is the story. A mom brings her three year old daughter up to the manger scene a few days before Christmas in church. The manger is empty. The three year old says, "Look Mommy, the manger is empty. Jesus is not there!" The mom then proceeds to explain all about how Jesus does not come until Christmas Day. It is a bit too theological for the child and misses the point of awe. The three year ignores her mother's explanation and says," Oh, I know. Jesus had to go potty." She got it. The gospels are all about what goes on between potty breaks. Jesus does not seem human like you and me in the gospels. Humanness is all about limitations and human necessities. If God is willing to be human, why do you have problems with your own limitations. You and I are not God. Acceptance of our limitations and those of others makes for more peace on earth and good will to all.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
The big problem with God becoming a human being, as Christians tend to believe, is not that God did it. It is that God did it outside of anyone's expectation or plan. It is awfully hard to get someone to believe something that does not fit their plan of how things ought to be. The Christian teaching is that God came as a baby, to poor people, in a stable, in an out of the way town, in a backwater country. No one could buy it. But this seems to be so consistent with the way God operates. I mean Moses was not prime time for representing God. He was a fugitive, a shepherd, with a stutter, and God sent him to mighty Pharaoh? No wonder Pharaoh would not buy in. I can only tell people on this Christmas Day what I believe. It is God's job to deal with how people respond, since God seems to decide to act in such unexpected ways. Merry Christmas. Be open to the unexpected. God is funny that way.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
The precursor of Morning and Evening News was the Monastic Life! Yes. Before television, many people would greet the morning light with some prayer, called Morning Prayer. I suspect some farmers and ranchers still do that. In the evening, after it got dark, pre-electricity, needed for TV, people would say an evening prayer and review the day, sometimes called an examination of conscience. We got all this from the monastic life of praying according to the light and darkness as we greeted God who gave us the light, and then said goodnight with the darkness. A lot of that has gone by the wayside, replaced with electricity and television and now on line computer time. With the old time prayer cycle we stayed in our own world, the real world. With television and now computers, we stay in someone else's world. I still try to tune into God. This puts me behind on who won some sport game. But it also keeps me from escape.
Friday, December 23, 2016
Breathing is a gift. I don't make breathing or create breathing. I just breathe. When I eventually stop breathing it won't be because of my effort or control. But I can maximize my breathing as in when I jog. On a cold or windy day or just a day when I am not feeling all that excited about running, I start out rather slowly. The effort is minimal. I begin to think that I will have the slowest run of my life. But at some point I begin to feel better and then for a while I give it my all. The pace may be slow, but the effort is what counts. Most of the time I cannot control the pace or speed with which I run, but I can maximize my effort and that is what makes a good run for me. The results are the results. I am only in control of the effort. It is the same with life. I do not know how something will turn out, but I can control the effort I put into it. I may start out willy nilly, but if I don't start out, then nothing is done. Like breathing, I sometimes find that "starting out" is a grace. Amazing and surprising things seem to happen after the starting out phase.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Did Mary have her ears pierced? Who knows? Most of the statues and paintings have her with a veil. But my big sister, Maureen, said Mary had her ears pierced. Maureen was my first theologian, so I tended to believe whatever she said about God issues. Growing up went better that way. But I did have problems with my Blessed Mother in heaven having pierced ears. To me, back then, girls with pierced ears were Jezebel types, bad girls. Movie posters had bad girls wearing ear rings in their pierced ears. My Mom wore earrings but they were clip ons. Maureen had pierced ears. I suspect now, years later, that she used Mary's ears as an excuse to get her own ears pierced so she could wear earrings. I told Maureen, "If God wanted girls to have pierced ears, God would have made their ears with holes in them." I called Maureen a "Jezebel." That is when she told me that Jesus' Mother had pierced ears. I was shocked. What is heaven coming to? My hope, and belief, was that when Jesus grew up, he healed up the holes in his mother's ears, so that she would go to heaven without pierced ears. My faith was secure.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Someone told me that they had a Santa Claus God at one time. Ask God for things and expect God to deliver on schedule, that is, fulfill your expectations. Then this person learned to forget themselves, or at least not to be so self-focused, and began to give of themselves to others. This person than found that they became happier in giving. Maybe this is why Santa seems to be so happy, or jolly, as the jingle goes. Santa is a giver. God is a giver too, but not much for self-centered people who emphasize their own self-importance over against others. So my friend has discovered. Sometimes I find myself drifting into prayer to a Santa Claus God. So this is a good blog for me. What about you?
Most people who make comments to me about my blog come up as "anonymous." But we aren't AA, so being anonymous may not be all that necessary. But people tell me they don't know how to identify themselves when they make a comment. So here is what you can do. Below the daily blog is a comment box. At the bottom of the box is something that says, "name." Hit the arrow and a list of choices opens up. Choose "Name/URL. Then you can put in your name and I will get a better idea of who is reading my blog. If you say nasty things, I will know to take you off my prayer list.
If you would like to read me, NOT in Facebook, for one reason or another, you can simply go to your search engine and type in frterrysspiritualstuff.blogspot.com and get the daily blog. I suppose you could bookmark this blogspot. I will have to ask my newly discovered blogmeister, Patty, who could be my new best friend since all I seem to be able to do is content and not tech stuff. This housekeeping blog is going out thirty minutes before the regular daily blog today. So look for another blog for today, if you got on before 4:00 AM Mountain time.
If you would like to read me, NOT in Facebook, for one reason or another, you can simply go to your search engine and type in frterrysspiritualstuff.blogspot.com and get the daily blog. I suppose you could bookmark this blogspot. I will have to ask my newly discovered blogmeister, Patty, who could be my new best friend since all I seem to be able to do is content and not tech stuff. This housekeeping blog is going out thirty minutes before the regular daily blog today. So look for another blog for today, if you got on before 4:00 AM Mountain time.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
When it comes to caring for the sick, I am proud of my Catholic Church. Back when medicine was rather primitive, and not very lucrative as a practice, Catholic women started what became hospitals. Some started out with bringing the sick into their homes. This example interested other women, and then they started hospitals. There was not much secular interest in caring for the poor because there was no money to be made it such medical practice. In our modern world, where medicine and caring for all kinds of sick people has become a big business, costing lots of money, the Catholic hospitals cannot stay in business. Governments and corporate business, the johnny come lately ones, have gotten into the hospital business. But the Catholic Church was there when no one else was, doing social justice. I like that.
Monday, December 19, 2016
After WW II, Europe was a mess. Many people were homeless and starving. Governments had to be reformed, or formed anew. What much of Western Europe decided is that free market capitalism, left to itself would not work for taking care of all the suffering people in the present. But Europe did not want communism. So they wanted some form of socialism to moderate Capitalism. What to do? Along comes the Catholic Church. Europe decided that the model to use was the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church as a safety net, working with capitalism to build up the economies while caring for suffering humanity. This was enacted before the Marshall Plan of 1948. So, when we are kicking around the Catholic Church for its human blunders, it would be good to know history. Yes, we are human, but with a touch of the divine. At its best, my church is quite good.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Suddenly, the number of people reading my blog has dropped by a lot. Maybe I am washed up? A person of little substance, tiresome over time. People may have moved on, which is good for them if they are growing. What to do? Ah! I will blog less and train more, doing doubles (two workouts a day, gym rat) to get into peak condition for my age. Well maybe not. That could lead to heart attack or injury. Maybe move to a cave that has no internet. Become a hermit. No, that would be isolation for me. Maybe God wants to teach me something about being ignored. I will ponder this.
There was a woman named Crispina. She was a martyr and the Catholic Church said she was a saint, as martyrs tend to be in my church. I love here quote when she was on trial for her faith before the Roman Proconsul. She said, "A religion that inflicts torture on those who do not adhere to it is not a religion." This was in the year 304. Christianity was just in the "start up" phase. Start up religion generally does not persecute. But if they get powerful, and even control the government, then things tend to change, e.g. the Inquisition, and Religious Wars in Europe. So it is probably good that religion not have such free reign. But even within the religion, is it not a form of terror to tell someone that if they do a certain action, then they go to hell? I mean, how do you know? No religion is so powerful that it can tell God what to do. My God may be powerful, but is not a terror God.
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Someone gave me a piece of advice that I have found helpful. When I walk into a room of people and "judge" someone, or think someone to have little in common with me, I should try to go up and say hello. Why? The idea is that all people are wounded, including me. I might find out something about myself through this other different person, that will help expand or deepen me. I can learn something from hanging around people who I judge to be just like me, in my comfort zone, but this is still too narrow a group for a deeper growth. Differences perceived can be great teachers. I sometimes find out that the difference was only in my head, or heart.
Friday, December 16, 2016
I read that the root Latin word for obedience means "listening intently." This makes sense to me. How am I going to follow directions if I don't listen intently? My ego driven self-centeredness will get in the way if I don't listen. I think this is why meditation, prayer of listening, is recommended for all people who are trying to be on a spiritual path. For believers who don't have this prayer of listening, their ego begins to play God and tells them what to do. This gives religion a bad name and bad advertising. It becomes a place where we find a lot of silliness being expressed as the will of God, when in fact it is simply self-will run riot.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Nature has seasons. A tree, plant, flower and such have times when they blossom, bloom, sprout and grow, and then times when they seem to die or be dormant, barren. Nature has its ups and downs. So why not us too, since we are part of this universe. a species among species? Cannot it be normal for us to have down times and up times, times of energy and times not so much? Why does every day have to be an up day? Why take drugs to feel better? Why not just say it is a winter day for me, or a winter hour, and let it be or pass? Just as nature needs these seasons to grow, maybe we do too.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
In the Catholic Church we have this celebration of Mary being conceived without original sin. It is a gift, right? I mean you don't earn something like this. So it made me think about gifts in general. Do we not all have some gifts that we did not earn? That seems to be the nature of gift. In the Catholic thinking about Mary, she gets this free pass to grow up without having all the personality shortcomings of people like you and me. When things don't go her way, she does not have an episode over it. Maybe she has no plans that have to go a certain way. Who knows? The important thing for us, is that one day, in the bible story, an angel tells her that the gift has strings. She is asked to be the mother of a baby savior but with no sexual relations. Tough call. Who would believe that! Plus, she does not know how it will all work out. Way over her head, but she is asked to take it or leave it, participate in God's work or not. She says yes. Now back to us. We each enjoy unearned gifts, but at some point, like growing up time, we are supposed to use our gifts in service to make the world a better, or more whole (holier) place. Believe in God or not, that is what gifts are for, not to be buried or misused. A spiritual path allows us to not get in our own way, so that we can use or allow our gifts to be used for a better world. So what are your gifts? Don't know? Ask a friend. Don't ask your big sister. I did that once, and she said I had no gifts and was useless.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
I got back to Boulder, Colorado with the air at a single digit number and snow falling. No heat in my office? Does God hate me? Maybe, but that was not the reason for lack of heat. It seems that someone at some point late last winter, felt that his office was too hot. He does not spend much time in it. So, as the rumor goes around, he turned off the valves in other offices so as to cut the heat off to his office. I guess this is possible. I know mediation not heat pipes. When we tried to crank up the furnace to heat our offices, nada in the offices that had their valves turned off. The valves have now been opened, and we have heat. I am hoping that when this valve-turning-off person dies, he will have lots of heat for a very long time. Oh! I forgot. I am spiritually evolved. Or maybe not, if I think this way. I need some prayer that will turn on the spiritual juices of my heart so I will love wicked people. But then, maybe it was all just a rumor.
Monday, December 12, 2016
I have problems with the idea of being paid for something that you did not do and may never do. A professional baseball player signs a contract that says he will be paid a certain amount for the next several years. The team wants stability and order, but this is really disorder waiting to happen. There is no guarantee that the player will do the things for which he is guaranteed a "salary." You don't really earn something, if you get the money no matter what you produce. No business ever hired me, saying I would be guaranteed so much money for so many future years. They would pay for performance, and if I did not perform, or performed badly, out the door I would go. Would God say, "I guarantee you heaven for the next six years based upon your performance for the last year?" It does get silly. I think we grow by way of a certain creative tension. I pray each day, practice certain healthy exercises, eating a certain way, do certain things on a daily basis, because I know that as soon as I stop, I begin to go downhill. Human nature, being what it is, does not respond to guarantees without performance. Saints and Recovery people know this.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
I read where the Vatican is going to recognize the first USA martyr, a priest, Fr. Rother, killed in Guatemala in 1981. I am confused. Were not four women killed, two raped, in El Salvador, in 1980? To me they were martyrs. Military people killed them. It is documented, as far as I know, but then maybe I know nothing. Are not nuns and lay women martyrs just like priests? if you get some facts to clear all this up for me, please do. Thank you.
Saturday, December 10, 2016
In my rectory in San Francisco, 10 priests live. Some simply do not clean up. They have low housekeeping skills or low interest. I like to clean up after them because it allows me to be of service AND to check my tendency to judge others, generally as so much worse than me. When I clean up after them I get to check what I am thinking about my housemates. If I am into acceptance, at peace, feeling uplifted by being of service, then I know that I am truly on a spiritual path of growth. Change does not come from simply sitting in meditation and letting go of stuff. This is only part one. There is a part two: action in the everyday world. That is where I test for the fruits of my prayer. As for getting people to do what I want them to do? That ain't never gonna happen!
Friday, December 9, 2016
General Franco in Spain, back in the 1930s wanted to restore Spain to the time when the Catholic Church reigned as in former centuries. The Catholic Church supported this idea over against a government that might burn down churches for being cozy with people of money. But what gets really interesting is that both Hitler and Mussolini supported Franco in the Spanish civil war because Franco would triumph over a liberal government that included Socialism. Franco won. The Spanish church stayed conservative. Years later, religious groups formed in the conservative Spanish church to spread a conservative theology that cared little for modernity. It was exported to the Western Hemisphere of Central and South America. Then it came here in the face of Spanish speaking priests from these countries, who think little of our secular government. Such priests would think they had a more "pure" Catholicism than what we had without them. They are here to convert us "nominal" Catholics. A little knowledge of history might show that even the "pure" have dirty hands. For the spiritually evolved person, history brings humility. For others, it brings denial.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
The experience of Grace, or God at work, comes to me when something good happens, and I have no idea how it came about. It seems to be pure gift. Fro example, I have been trying to get work in the San Francisco Bay Area for the 9 years I have been out here. I have never been asked to speak in the East Bay. I offered. Nothing happened. I had pretty much given up. Then one day, I was asked to speak over there. I have no idea how it came about. My presentation went well. I don't do mass mailings, brochures or calling cards much at all any more. I probably did something to get this invite, but I like that I don't know what I did because then I can experience the event as pure grace, God at work. It keeps me humble too.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
A little spiritual evolvement is a tricky thing. If there is a devil, it usually would trip you up here. See, when our lives are a disaster, zero connect to soul, God, a healthy lifestyle, we might be willing to do anything to get better. This is when we are most likely to follow directions, to get out of our hell. When we are in very fit spiritual condition, we will continue to do those things that got us there. It is the in-between times that get us. How? Well, you get a job, you feel physically better from good diet and exercise, you may have a family or your family back. Life is getting busy with good things. So you begin to say, "I am too busy" to do whatever got you in this fit spiritual condition in the first place. I have these "important" things to do. I have no time to meet with my group, read uplifting literature that directs my life, be of service to someone who is now where I used to be, a mess. We are too busy to attend to soul with meditation, or a walk or exercise, or correct diet. The "too busy" temptation is really a tuxedo/evening gown excuse to trash our lives, but we are too evolved to be that directly tempted. So the evil one comes up with some more acceptable excuse that will ultimately send our lives into the spiral downward that never seems to go away. How many times have I heard someone say, "I was too busy to...." and then they lost their job, family, health and pretty much every other good thing.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
If my Mom had a halo over her head, as in a Saint, it would be in the shape of a dinner plate, just like the halo over the head of St. Martha, the patron saint of cooks, depicted on the early cover of The Joy Of Cooking cook book by Irma Rombauer, My Mom cooked us countless meals all my life. Even as a priest I would love to go "home" to her cooking. She never complained or seemed to be resentful or angry about cooking. She just cooked, night after night. As a boy, I rarely said "Thank you." Sunday dinner was in mid-afternoon, so there was no cooking at night on Sundays. Friday was fast and abstinence in Catholic homes, so the meal was simpler, but still she prepared it. I grew up on pork loin, lamb, chops, goulash, pasta and meatballs, roast beef, and some chicken. She served without complaint. She did put on the plate what portions we were supposed to eat. Eat everything was the rule. I would like to be a saint who serves without resentment, complaint, or whining. I have a long way to go. How about you?
Monday, December 5, 2016
Now that I am older, I no longer want to run the show. But there are times when I realize that my ego does not want to retire from running the show. I know that this is happening when I find myself judging others, being critical, resentful, with feelings of self-pity. I still work, but try to stay out of the way of managing parish decisions, or the machinations of people for whom I am working. My good days are really good. Bad days, not so good.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
If a person is not willing to change, why bother to tell them about their faults, or spend useless time focused on their faults as you see them? It won't change those persons. You are the only person you can change. Concentrate on your own faults. If another person wants to change and asks for advice, opinion, help, then you can bring things up. You can only help people who want it. Of course if you don't change then you probably don''t want to either.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Cans can rust. They is metal. To prevent rust, the cans are coated on the inside with a plastic based product. However, the chemicals in the liquid soda drink can react with the plastic coating. Stuff happens. It is called chemistry. It is best to store a can upright so that the sealant of the lid does not interact with the soda itself. Lid interaction seems to especially bad. The sugar of the soda itself is actually used to keep rust and bad interaction down. "Rust" is a book by Jonathan Waldman. See, you don't have to read my blogs just for spiritual issues. Enjoy your next plastic, I mean soda drink! Yikes, in Boulder, our rectory stores the cola cans on their side.
Friday, December 2, 2016
"Sobriety" is not a word for drunks only. It refers to a way of living for everyone: live in the present moment. Everyone is called to sobriety, but many of us spend time and energy escaping the reality of the present moment. Addicts do it through their drug of escape. Others do it through fantasy, or resentments which keep us in the past, and fear which keeps us in the future. Spirituality is all about getting us anchored into the present moment where God lives and loves.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Who? A fellow named Exsuperius lived in the 5th century. He was a bishop so concerned about the poor that he sold off the church's fine vessels to obtain more money to help the poor. He carried the consecrated host in a willow basket and the consecrated wine in a common glass vase. Why would God want to dwell in expensive gold while God's people suffered hunger, homelessness and nakedness? I think that maybe he has a point? I like it that our Paulist Church here in San Francisco does not have much in altar finery, and that we inconvenience ourselves so that the hungry might be fed through a feeding program that is organized and distributed from here. Our finances are scary, but we seem to hang on. Maybe God wants us here?
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Generosity is not measured by what is in our pockets, but rather what is in our hearts. It is quality and not quantity that makes for change. Even if we feel that our pockets are empty, that we do not have much to give materially, we still can give of our hearts. We can have an attitude of compassion, attention to others, kindness and time. Too often, do we not pray to have more in our pockets, our material stuff, than to have a change of attitude? I have the potential for riches of heart more than I have the potential for material wealth. It is all a matter of banking on Grace, outside help, or inside help, who I call God.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
The phrase, "Widow's Mite," refers to giving of what we got, or of all we have. Hold nothing back. If we give our all, then do we not give both the good and the not so good, or the bad? Yes. Some of us think that since we have not much to offer in terms of talents, behavior, or skill, then we offer nothing. We hold back. We leave it to others to do something. I rather like to think that it is better to do something badly, then to do nothing at all. If you think something is worth doing, then give your all, both the good and the bad. Your action may not be perfect, but don't let that stop you. There is a prayer is the recovery program of drunks, that says this exact thing. They offer their Higher Power, both the good and the bad. To do nothing is the slippery slope to dark depression. I bet the widow felt better after she dropped her last two coins into the poor box. Hope, trust, and a positive attitude overcame depressing inertia.
Monday, November 28, 2016
Addiction has two solutions: surrender and death. You who are not addicted would think that a sane person would go for surrender given the other solution. Not so. Very few addicted people go for surrender. They die by quick or slow suicide. By the time one is addicted, sanity has long left the scene. I think that surrender is a miracle. It seems to show up when least expected, and for reasons the insane addict cannot fathom, they grab on. With help they begin to recover some sanity and stop the addicted intake. They work on becoming a better person, facing their character flaws. But the insanity, like the addiction, is a subtle foe. It wants the person dead. How does the insanity show up again down the road of recovery? The addict thinks that they don't have to do all the things that got them well. "I am fine." Soon enough, the second solution to addiction shows up, often unexpected in overdose, car wreck, bullets. You know people in recovery? Keep praying for them.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Someone coined the phrase, "God of my misunderstanding." I like that. I believe in God, but I don't know God. I only think that I know God. When I think that I know God, I figure out how to ask for stuff believing that God wants for me what I want for myself. Then things don't work out as I wanted. God hates me? I asked wrong? God is not listening? None of the above. I simply do not understand the God in whom I believe. When I look at all the good things I do have in my live, i.e. gratitude, I realize that this God is at work. God's will and mine don't always agree. But that is often a good thing.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
I cannot run my life by myself. Self-management does not bring optimal results. I need help, advice, companions on the journey, a spiritual time of pray. Without these efforts at second opinions, the only thing that I do alone is self-inflict pain, resentment, judgment and a dose of irritability. Alone, I seem to suffer general discontent. So I don't try to run the show on my own. This of course goes up against rugged individualism, the self-made person, strong-willed person. I do have a strong will, but it is usually riotous when given full reign. This is one of the best reasons I have for early morning prayer, and evening examination of my day. In the morning I set my preferences, not "must happen" plans. I try to be open to the unexpected, the stranger, to get a sense that I am connected with all the world around me. I ask for help, knowing I well need it. Bad things can happen, and do. But I have found that a lot of the pain from them can often be diminished by my attitude and spiritual condition.
Friday, November 25, 2016
It is the day after Thanksgiving. Were you kind, caring and compassionate to everyone yesterday? I tried to be. I want some people to like me, not all, but some. I find that if I am kind and patient with everyone, including those who I find tedious, work, difficult and fault-filled, then I will be in a good and caring mood with the people I do want to like me. Being kind is like a train. You cannot make a train stop and go very easily. it takes a bit to get it moving, but then it is easy to keep it going. I find it is the same with behavior. If I practice good behavior all the time with everyone, then it is easier to practice it with people I want to like me. If I am grumpy with some people, I find it difficult to turn on the charm when someone I like comes along right after the grumpy episode. Avoiding everyone never worked for me either. Practice, practice. Today is Black Friday, a great chance for me put this advice into practice in LA.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
I remember my first thanksgiving in San Francisco in 1969. I was single, as were all my friends at that time. We were too poor to go travel to "home," for Thanksgiving. We all got together at Mimi's apartment for a Thanksgiving feast. Each of us brought something. The ladies cooked the turkey. We all stayed sober. My heart was grateful for these new friends, and a bit sad that I did not have my family thanksgiving with parents and siblings back in New York. No one cooked turkey like Mom, gravy and stuffing unique. What I have come to realize is that not everyone might have felt the same as me in that San Francisco singles thanksgiving dinner. Not everyone has good memories, or any memory of a family thanksgiving. Sometimes it was a lot of drunkenness and debauchery with poorly cooked food. Or maybe life was so dysfunctional there was no thanksgiving, no family. Walk around a city on Thanksgiving afternoon and see how many people are in bars. So I say "Happy Thanksgiving" to those who are having fond memories, or look forward to a day of friendship and sobriety and a good shared dinner. To those who see only sad memories or a sad today, resentment will not make for a bette day. On my worst of days, if I catch a bit of spirituality, I look for what I can be grateful for in my life.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Today was a first. I walked into a steak house restaurant in the suburbs. On our table was a computer screen. "What is this?" I asked, being of the computer Stone Age. Well, now you can pretty much avoid the waitperson and they you. You tap the "order" icon on the screen and place your order. When you want to pay, you tap the "pay" button and your bill comes up. You pay on line with your credit card. All the waitperson does is bring food and clean up the finished plates, refresh drinks stuff. I am OK with paying on line, but I prefer some interaction with the staff when I sit down. Specials? Food recommendations? How is your day, and stuff like that makes for a more interactive restaurant experience. We are all on this planet together or else we will isolate to our own destruction. I am not one to walk around with ear buds hanging from my ears connected to a smart phone I hold in my hand. Looking around my town, I see that I am becoming so "yesterday." The question is, "Will there be a tomorrow, and what will it be, if we ignore those around us?"
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
I am reluctant to tell people who have no clue of the Bible that "You should read the Bible." Why? Well, I might be their first contact with the Bible. If I exhibit messy behavior, bad habits, then why should they read the Bible? I am a product of that book. It is the same reason that I don't go around all the time in my clerical clothes. Any moment, I seem to be prone to acting like a jerk. In clerical clothes, I am someone's only contact or first contact with my church. There is a substantial number of people who have walked away from religious groups because of the members outward actions and words. If a Buddhist said I should read some sutra, I would first get to know the Buddhist. If he acts no better than me, why read the sutra? It did not do much for him, or so I would think. People in recovery often say, "Read the Big Book," to a newcomer. They might be some drunk's first contact with the Big Book. If the so called, "Recovering Person" is not drinking, but practicing judgmental, resentful, whining behavior, why would the newcomer read the Big Book? Until I walk the walk better, I will be careful about the "advice" I give to people.
Monday, November 21, 2016
There is a saint, a martyr, I believe, named Barbara. She had very long hair. She had been imprisoned in a tower, probably because she made some nobleman upset that she did not do what he wanted. Barbara is the backstory for the fairy tale, Rapunzel. Nice girl, unjustly imprisoned by some ugly person. Fairy tales may not be true literally, but they have truth in them for they are based upon reality. You might say, a fairy tale should be taken seriously but not literally. A fairy tale has truth in it, but not literal truth. Our modern world has made fairy tales into simple stories for children with no meaning for real world adults. Mystics know better. Oh, I pray to St. Barbara for parking places. In San Francisco this is a rare occurrence. We all need extra help.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Sometimes you will see a priest wearing a ring that looks like a wedding band. It is meant to signify that he is the bride married to Christ the bridegroom. It comes from the Song of Songs imagery in the Bible. I never did get a ring. I am still too flawed with selfishness and self-will. When I was ordained, I thought that maybe I would now become "good." It did not take. I stayed selfish. I am not ready to marry Christ. I see myself as still dating in my prayer and work. I am inconsistent in being good and doing good. Sometimes I can do good things, but I might be grumpy, or pray, but only to try and get God to change God's mind to give me what I want, or avoid what I don't want. I am still too much about me to be married to God. As I look around I see other people who said, "I do," but they did not change either. I dodged that bullet. God is at work still in my life.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
If you and your significant other have separate bedrooms, you are in what is called "A Victorian Marriage." In the 19th century, the Victorian Era, this marriage regarded privacy over intimacy. In many ways the married couple had their separate friends and lived very much separate lives, but had times each day, such as meals when they would come together. Nowadays, we still have many a Victorian setup in the home, but the common meal thing seems to have not kept up. If you don't worship together, eat together, or socialize together, then it might be the job of children and grandchildren to bring the couple together. I have found common meals to be important if there is to be any community among priests. If you value privacy and private space without a balance in intimacy or a shared life, you might have less community than a celibate religious order priest.
Friday, November 18, 2016
Something does not go my way. So I get angry. In anger, I take dishes from the kitchen and throw them against a wall. More things don't go my way. More anger response. More dishes thrown agains the wall. Eventually, I run out of dishes and the wall is trashed. Solution? Buy more dishes and repair wall. Then get angry and behavior is repeated. Now, you say, that is insanity. Yes, it is. It is not a solution to things failing to go my way but I repeat my solution. Don't judge. Rather ask yourself the next time something does not go your way, and you get angry, "Is this the first time I got angry over this situation?" Humbling, no? You may have your dishes and wall but you are no more in the solution than I am.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
What I find to be a gift in my life is a group of people who invite me back when I am at my worst behavior. So many groups want nothing to do with us when we are irascible, irritating, judgmental, narrow- minded, and discontented with life. "Go away, and never darken this door again," is what we might hear. Bosses fire us. Significant others dump us. Social clubs cancel our membership or don't renew it. A truly accepting group that might eventually help in healing someone is a group that keeps inviting you back even if you don't know you are a mess, or what to do about your mess. Are there such groups around? Yes. They usually meet in church basements. Upstairs in the sanctuaries, acceptance is a little more narrow.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
If you are hurting in some physical, spiritual, or psychological way, the body, including mind and soul or spirit can heal if I do two things. Remove things that cause illness and add things that are natural to healing. They body does the rest. If I smoke, I am constructing inner flow of vital fluids. If I drink liquor I am introducing a basic poison, alcohol. Eat sugar, and body breaks down. Too much of some things that are really foreign to my natural health will do me no good. Gluten would be one of these things. Jog when and where there is a lot of car pollution will mess with my lungs. Too much exercise will break me down. Lack of rest, isolation, bad posture, the list goes on. Sex without love and mutuality is debilitating. If I add rest, diet and exercise in moderation, the body will do a lot of healing. I add meditation and being in nature scenes. I have heard people say that eventually, some illness, cough, sore, went away. They took no pills or medication. Not everything responds to this way of living, but you might try it before undergoing more "modern medicine" scientific approaches.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
I have a group of friends who have something in common, a messy past, and not so past. What is unique is that they don't talk about their failures or successes, where they live or the car they own, or any crazy escapades. If any of this is mentioned in passing, it is to give context to their deeper self. We don't focus on deeds but rather on feelings, why we did things that were messy. I may not identify with a particular crazy action of someone's past, but I seem to easily identify with motives, and feelings. It amazes me how often the word "fear" comes up, especially in guys. Spiritual growth comes with knowing that I am not struggling alone. I am not unique in my feelings. When the group is only guys, there is a lot of laughter. I figure the only reason any of us have wives that stay with us is because we are wonderful in some way. Oh. Delusion is one of our issues too. Ladies, we men are work, no?
Monday, November 14, 2016
I am reading a lot about how we are supposed to make friends with nature, recycle our garbage, take care of the earth, and find God all around us in nature. The earth is our friend. We are in a covenant with the earth. Nice. But I was in an earthquake last week. Middle of the night there was a big thump and the house shook. Quake was nine miles away. Now I can love nature all I want, but if I am in a certain place at a certain time, and the big one comes, I am done. What happened to our nice covenant? Does a loving God crush nice people living on an Italian hillside in homes built hundreds of years ago? You might counter that if I slept under the open sky or in a teepee, I would not be crushed. But I don't. I live in San Francisco. God made San Francisco. It is to be lived in and enjoyed, though now only by rich people, but that is another story. If you check earthquake websites you will find that earthquakes are going on regularly all over the world. No escape from tech tonic movements. Loving God, friendly earth and earthquakes don't fit right. But I will continue to recycle while I ponder this and await your "anonymous" responses.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Remember when you used to get a Percentage number or letter grades for subjects on the report card? It is changing. Now you get a number from 1 to 4 on many things that you "should know" or be able to do. I am not sure who the should know deciders are, but one of the should know is phys ed. Now I know a lot of guys who cannot throw a ball or run without tripping over themselves. It has nothing to do with being old. They never could do those things. It was OK in school since you were not graded on skill level in this area. A guy might think himself a failure but it was never an official record. Besides, he could just go do something else in which he had or developed a skill. Esteem would not take a public hit. Then there is the subject, "sociability." I know guys who will not give you eye contact, or exhibit any sociability if they are not in their right space or time of day. So what if the evaluation is given when you are in your non-sociability space? I am glad that I only had to know reading, righting and rithmetic: the three R subjects. Not too good in math. Thank God for my vocation to be a priest. Lots of "math dummies" in my profession. And all we had was a slide rule! Remember those?
Saturday, November 12, 2016
My Mom never left the house if there was an appliance at work. Dishwasher, dryer, oven, clothes washer, whatever. She came home once and the clothes washer has leaked all over the floor. Machines at work in your home are ignored at your own peril, so my Mom taught me. I think people are the same way. Ignore people and they will break down and mess up the world around them, which might be your world. At times people choose to be ignored, such as if they are jogging and think they are passing a mass murderer on the trails. Do I really look like a mass murderer? Back to Mom. She paid attention to people like she paid attention to working machines, which in a way we are. She would recognize the existence of someone when she passed them by or saw them. She did not appear to be in a hurry, though at times I know she was. Her first impression of people was not mass murderer. Mom lived to be 89 and had a great reputation for friendliness.
Friday, November 11, 2016
When you finish eating an apple, I was told that if you buried it, an apple tree might grow from the seeds of the eaten apple. The apple had fulfilled its purpose in the universe. It had become a fruit for some other part of creation to eat. In the earth now, it's matter will develop into something else. And that will grow, as long as there is an earth that breathes sufficiently for life to go on. I would not put the eaten apple into a pine box and bury it so that bugs would not get to it. We do that with humans. We put dead people into boxes, bones or ashes and bury them. Why? We have this theology, developed before we knew much about the story of the evolving universe, that says bodies will rise on the last day. To join their souls? And so it goes, but does not seem to fit our sense of an evolving universe of which we are a part. The theology says that people are sacred and the apple is not. Humans get boxes burials. Apples do not. This allows us "sacred" people to chop down the apple tree because it gets in the way of our view, or prevents us from adding more unnecessary square footage to our homes, to reflect our large egos. Then there are some people who are more sacred than others, or so the theology used to say. This permitted slavery. All is sacred. The human may be more evolved than the apple, though at times I wonder. The human is not more sacred. The matter, the stuff of the universe, that makes up my present body may have once been part of a star that exploded a long time ago. The stuff of my body can rot in the ground, be eaten by bugs or whatever. My job is to treat it with respect, help it to do what it is supposed to do in the overall story of the universe and my inner spirit. Something of me will live on with the Divine, but part will be reformed to become something or someone else. The box burial is to recognize body sacredness. But don't forget about the apple or the earth. All is sacred.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Sometimes, an oasis is not such a good thing. If someone is living in a mess of their own making, and they realize they cannot escape their mess, they wallow in hopelessness and bad behavior. Then someone comes along who lives in the same mess. This person is an "oasis" for ongoing bad behavior, which will now be enjoyed with another like-minded person. I always found it uplifting to be bad with another person who liked my kind of badness. Bad behavior can be transformed into "fun" when shared with someone else who is just as bad. The shame, guilt and hopelessness give way to laughter and forgetfulness. Sick? Yes. It is the behavior of addiction. But then can the same principle work for goodness and transformation? Can one person, on a spiritual path, but not being preachy, help someone else who might lack the strength and courage left to their own weak powers? I say yes. We do not evolve alone. There is an "ecology" of goodness.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Even when my Mom was dying of cancer, terminal, under hospice visiting nurse care, she would want her two lotto tickets each week from the grocery store. I would go to the store to shop for some groceries and such. Mom was too sick to give much concern for a list of things to buy, but she always reminded me to "get a ticket" for her and for Dad. Each ticket cost a buck. The pot was pretty big in Florida. The winner would be rich. What would a dying woman do if she hit the right numbers? I never asked. Mom died without winning the pot. I never bought another ticket. Dad did not much care. I think Mom would have split it up with her family and others who she thought might need money. This is the way she was. She died a loser? I think not.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Some religious traditions like to think of themselves as free of secular culture, or acting as a corrective to narrow secular views. I think maybe not. Martin de Porres was a Peruvian Mulatto. He had a black mother and Spanish (more white) nobleman father. The father had no interest in Martin. The father was Catholic. So Martin applies to the Dominicans. They are in Peru to do convert work. Become Catholic, but if mulatto, don't bother trying to become one of us, a Dominican. They take him in as a lay brother. He is not to be included as a full member of the Dominicans. Let him sweep floors and clean toilets. The Dominicans were very much a part of the culture of prejudice. But God is not so prejudiced in giving out talents. Martin had a talent for herbs, as in medicinal benefits. Plus, he seemed to enable healing by his touch and manner when in the presence of the in-firmed. So he gets a bump to running the infirmary. From there, he ministers to all those groups that were being put down by the upper crust Catholic nobility of Peru, the conquerers. This would be slaves, native Indians, the poor, and such. The biggest miracle is that Martin did not succumb to the culture, either religious or secular. Saints are Outliers.
Monday, November 7, 2016
I hear some people say that good Christians are ones who follow the rules, believe the creed and for Catholics, go to church on Sundays. This supposedly makes you a follower of Jesus. But Jesus came before creeds and rules. He wanted his followers to be doers of his way. But there is something else here. His original gaggle of men and women were people of flaws, some more flawed than others. John seemed to be pretty good. Peter, not so much. Most seemed to be somewhat clueless. Talent seemed to be buried and needed some excavation to bring it out into the open. Not a good start, huh? Now look at yourself and the people around you. Do you write some of them off because of their flaws or seeming lack of smarts/talent? School teachers do this at their own and the students peril. Everyone has something to bring to the table. The teacher, parent, co-worker, friend, fellow student, can be loving by trying to find a way to bring out that talent. Passing a test, a good grade, does not guarantee that someone will be a doer of good later. Report cards do not have a grade line for selflessness, kindness, patience, mercy and forgiveness. If they did, how many of us would be failures, but with correct answers to creeds and rules.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
If you know someone who "drinks too much" alone, here is what might be their history. At one time they felt uneasy in social situations. They found that drinking helped them to feel more comfortable with others, or with another person. Subsequently, they kept trying to have that comfortable feeling in social situations. They drank with others and at times drank too much, to where others felt uncomfortable with them. What was happening was that the drinker, now an alcoholic in behavior, had developed a craving for alcohol. They no longer drank to fit in. This craving is unknown to the normal drinker. This craving will lead the alcoholic to finally begin to drink alone. They have progressed way beyond the desire to fit into social situations. They just crave the alcohol. If they keep at the drinking, death will make them cease. One starts out wanting to fit in, or escape some feeling of being an outsider, and end up being an outsider. But by then it is all about alcohol. Craving always trumps will power.
Saturday, November 5, 2016
I am impressed and sometimes befuddled by people who believe in a God worth serving, after they have experienced tragedy and suffering. It is hardly faith to believe in a God who seems to give you what you ask. You find parking places, missing keys, good health news, and you say you believe. These good results support your faith. But for many of these same people, tragedy and suffering leads them away from faith. They stop believing or wanting anything to do with God issues. God did not come through for them. I read about a fellow, Alphonsus Rodriquez, whose wife died in childbirth and then his two young children died. Shattered, he did not give up believing, but decided to devote the rest of his life to serving God in others. He became a doorman at a Jesuit college. He was welcoming and caring for everyone who passed through the door. He was declared a Saint. When bad news transforms you, now that is a miracle. Still want to be a saint?
Friday, November 4, 2016
Lucifer means light. In mythology of evil, Lucifer was created by God as are all angels. Then Lucifer decided to rebel against God and go rogue. Thus we have evil. But Lucifer was created good. God is Love. So God still loves rogue Lucifer. In Christian scripture Jesus said that he came to seek and save what was lost. I like all this. God is not out to punish me when I go rogue with bad behavior. I did not lose God's love or have to do something to make God love me again. Many people feel that they have to do something to get God back to loving them or at least not punishing them. I think it is more productive to simply admit to myself, God and some times another person that I messed up, again. Then move on with how to avoid this bad behavior in the future. I know people who run off to confession to get God to love them again, but then go out and do the same stuff all over again. Confession is not a magic tool for negotiation. God's love does not change. What needs to change is me.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
I think my Mom was a bit of a saint. She had a friend who would call her now and again just to talk. Mom said the friend, Mary, got depressed or sad at times and just needed to talk. Mary seemed to know that Mom would listen to her. Mary always seemed to call at the right time. There was only a land line with no called ID. The phone call was usually a long one, but Mom felt that when Mary finished, things were good. I don't think that Mom had an elaborate prayer life of meditation or scripture reading, but she seemed to have compassion and empathy, that I, with all my prayer and priesthood still lack spontaneously. I have to be in "a good space" to be able to listen to someone who just needed to talk. Technology now helps people like me to be somewhat helpful to others as my mom seemed able to do naturally. If they call on my cell, I can see the name, and decide if I "am in a good space." You don't want to talk with me when I am in a bad space. I seem to have more good space times each day as I take care of my spiritual practice which includes taking a look at my shortcomings, alone or with friends who like me are trudging along. Nothing like other people to remind me of my humanness. I bet I am not alone in struggling for "a good space. Fess up!
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
I often wonder as I walk up stairs next to an escalator, why so many people take escalators, when there are stairs right beside the escalator, and then go off to the gym to work out on a stair master? People are wearing good walking shoes or gym shoes as they stand on the escalator. They have no heavy bags with them. We are strange people sometimes. I always take the stairs as part of my cardio, especially when I am traveling, or have no time for exercise otherwise. There are certain muscles that you use when you walk stairs, that you otherwise don't use. Try living in stairless Florida and you will see muscles atrophy. We do this in prayer too. We have our prayer time, like our exercise or gym time. Outside of that time, we don't think about praying. There are so many chances to pray as we go through our day. You can pray while walking stairs. Pray for the escalator people.
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Today is all saints Day. For guys, a Small way to practice saint ness is to take off your hat when you are speaking to a woman. You think this is so out of date that young women would not even notice? Wrong! And it can pay off in all kinds of ways. Women notice. I took my hat off in addressing a sales person in a store. She gave me an added $10 off the already great sale. I most like being a saint when I don't suffer. It encourages good behavior while I am still tinged with self.
Monday, October 31, 2016
Happy Halloween! It is the one day a year when we put on obvious masks to hide our true identity. All the other days of the year, the mask is not so obvious, but it is on nonetheless. Why wear these masks. I think that it might be because we think we lack power, control, security and esteem. That is, if you really knew me, you would not like me. I would lose leverage in my world. I like my faith and my religion. Someone does know who I am and still loves me. This is God as I understand God. I am always amazed when I reveal something embarrassing about myself, something that I see as really bad, and a friend accepts me. Their attitude toward me, their love does not change. They may even tell me something about themselves, maybe even the exact behavior as I just revealed. I accept them. We have compassion for the human condition because we suffer it. Anyway, today you can be an obvious fake and get some treats. Go to high end neighborhoods. They might give you Godiver chocolate.
So why do so many Catholics think that abortion is wrong? If they say it is because the fetus is a human person, this is spiritual kindergarden. The spirituality behind anti-abortion goes much deeper than that. Christian spirituality begins with Jesus, not biology. What did he do? He gave his life for others. This is sacrificial. The cross is not just jewelry around the neck. Second, he was blameless. His suffering, his sacrifice was blameless. Like a rape victim, he did not do anything wrong, but violence was done to him, and he is willing to suffer the consequences for the sake of another. Fourth, love is a decision. Jesus did not wait around to feel love for the other or for all people. This is the Christian path to transformation. I think it is everyone's path to transformation. I do know some Christians who wear crosses as jewelry, and are against abortion because of their opinions on biology and the status of the fetus being a human being. But they would not enter into blameless suffering as a decision for another. Bringing an unwanted pregnancy to birth is very counter-cultural today. I suspect the cross has become counter-cultural as well. St. Paul calls it a stumbling block, much like an unwanted, and even blameless pregnancy. Now pre-birth humans that are killed/destroyed while still in the womb are much like Jesus. They decide to love the mothers, though their death was blameless. They are with God and praying for their mothers. The miracle is that no matter how we are conceived, we are all lovers from conception. Though daily life can harden us, transformation returns us to our original true self. The cross says that it is no easy road.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Why do I need rest, both physical and in prayer? Someone pointed out to me that we need rest so that we can be ready to be of service, to be helpful, to be welcoming to the next person who God puts into my path. Without rest, both sleep and meditation, I tend to not be so welcoming to others who come "unannounced." I am too busy. They are bothersome. I have plans and they are not part of my plans. A better day begins with the night before when I go to bed early enough to get good sleep. This is followed by some morning meditation. If this is a regular habit, I can better deal with surprises that interrupt my routines. I suppose if you have a partner, or children, you would need to negotiate some space for yourself. Your partner, your significant other, your spouse, who used to be the love of your life, your best friend, is now an inconvenient interruption. This is the signal that you might be a mess in need of rest. I am single. I chose the easier, softer way.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
I lack sanity. Here is the episode. I walked into the dining room of our San Francisco rectory. I open the refrigerator. The light is off. My first thought is that the electricity is OK. I need do nothing. This is because I don't want to be bothered. I look around. The toaster does not work. The Keurig coffee maker does not work. Now I move into disaster mode. All the food will go bad. I will get sick. I try to reboot electricity. I fail. Now I am worthless. I am stupid. Next, why doesn't someone who lives here all the time come and fix this so that I don't get sick? Someone comes. He is unaware of the problem. Why is he unaware. He should be more omniscient. I storm out to go to meet people who will pray together. At the prayer meting, the light goes on. I confess to the group that I am whinny, an idiot, immature, insane, fearful and resentful. No one disagrees. I think I need new friends. God heal me.
Friday, October 28, 2016
Being in a fit spiritual condition means, in part, that our pause button is working. We are not perfect, nor need we to be on our spiritual growth. That is false pride. We are still flawed, but the pause button allows our flaws to be noticed by us, but not acted upon. We hit the pause button, and thus do not activate our bad habits or weaknesses. An example: someone does something that upsets you because you have drifted into "the world is all about me," or you are frightened about not having something work out according to your plans. You are about to say or do something that will solve nothing, and make matters worse. Your spiritual condition suddenly remembers the pause button. You realize bad behavior on your part needs to be de-energized. You have an inspiration to act in a much more positive and constructive way. Feelings and thoughts simply arise. The pause button frees us to choose not to act on every thought and feeling that we have.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
I think that you can have a spiritual life even if you do not believe in a personal God separate from yourself. I hear people say, "Find God and good things will happen." It sounds as if God is a thing that you look for. I think that spiritual experiences are in behavior that makes us better persons. Like what? Well, become more honest. Accept others as they are instead of judging and gossiping. Be come grateful instead of complaining. Be compassionate for the sufferings of others. Become more helpful and less self-imploded and fearful. Ask a person of good behavior to walk with you on your spiritual journey, so that you are not so much self-directed. Find people who are tolerant of your non-belief. I have met some very good people of the behavior just mentioned, who don't believe in a personal God that they have had to go find. If I want to become a chemist, I need to find chemists who know a lot more about chemistry than I do. I find a lot of spiritual wisdom when I make the effort to look, search. I don't find much wisdom when I sit around thinking about it in my head. Non-belief is OK. Isolation, not so much.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
A prophet is someone who identifies your behavior and tells you what will happen if you continue on your present course, but people don't listen because they see no problem or change "in the present moment." In essence, the behavior of the moment has not yet reaped prophetic results. The first drink for an alcoholic would be an example. The first drink is "prophetic." It is announcing, as much as a drink can announce, that this first drink is a bad idea. It will lead to craving for more. More drinking will lead to more drinking, and then disaster happens. But the alcoholic does not listen because the first drink makes them feel good in the moment. Now consider a good spiritual practice. Meditation, prayer, is prophetic too. Say what? Well, it is telling you that if you continue on a daily practice, your life will change for the better. You tend not to believe this because day one of this prayer seems to bring no great change, if any. Keep at it and good things will happen. For the recovering alcoholic, what if you spent as much time on spiritual matters as you did on drinking? Wow! That is a lot of prayer.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
A lot of young people don't even think about God. It is not that they have lost interest or rejected God. They never had an interest. Clergy are not getting the memo on this one either. We are like physicists talking about neutrinos. The physicist is all excited about neutrinos and wants to explain it all. But a lot of people, like me, are not interested in neutrinos. We neither think about them or find them at all important in our daily living. We don't care. God and neutrinos are taking a big hit nowadays. I find that I cannot begin talking about God with the idea of God's existence, as if that is a given. I have to start out with someone's experience. Too many clergy dismiss a person's experience, as less than important. If you want me to be interested in neutrinos you had better start out with my experience of daily life, and then connect me with the importance of neutrinos. See if the light goes on.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Some of the health issues that I now have, originate in bad habits, or unhealthy patterns of many years ago. I look back and remember when I used to smoke, sunbathe, eat lots of sugar and drink. When I first began any of those things they seemed to be pluses or at least harmless. Having a nice summer tan, or better, a winter tan from vacation, made me look good. Sunlight is a good thing, right? Alcohol at parties and sport events made things more fun. Sugar always tasted good in whatever form, except fruit. It caught up with me. Even bad habits, stopped long ago, seem to be having their effect. I puff and pant when I run. My dermatologist is always having to do something with my skin. Now if bad habits have long term effects, what about good habits? Maybe I might start a good habit, like a daily reflection/meditation time. At first, maybe no seeming effect. But over time, I suspect good habits will have lasting effects, just like bad ones. Never too late to start a good habit, and drop a bad one.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
The nuns always told us to wash our hands. Dirty hands were unacceptable. Why? Jesus did not mind dirty hands. What were those first disciples doing when Jesus called them to "come follow me?" They were cleaning their nets. They had just finished handling dead fish. Not only did they have dirty hands, but their working class dirty hands made them ritually defiled. They were simply outside the law, kind of low life, or you might say working class trash, if you were an uppity temple priest. Jesus did not say, "Wash your hands first and then come follow me." He invited them to come as they were, imperfect and all. So the next time some Catholic school teacher or Christian parent says dirty hands are unacceptable, just pull one of those WWJD (What would Jesus do). Don't tell them I said this. It will get me in hot water and wrath. How you look is of little importance to Jesus.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
It is one thing to be anti-culture and another to be counter-culture. Someone who is anti does not want to have anything to do with the surrounding culture. They generally would not read the local news or participate in local events. They participate in their own world that does not depend in any way on the wider cultural world of sports, concerts, festivities and seasonal gatherings. Consequently, they have very little influence on the larger cultural. Counter-cultural people are ones who do participate but with their own set of values that might go counter to the prevailing mores of the larger world. The more immature person thinks this means that they dress differently, or look a certain way, or act a certain way. They have no influence on the larger world. The young person who sits at the mall dressed in black, tattooed, unemployed, along with like people would be one example. So what might be counter cultural that would make others pause and think? At times, carry no cell phone. Take the bus or train. Read opinions that disagree with your own. Eat meals as a family. Avoid plastic. Watch a sunrise or sunset. Work in a community garden. Give to the "undeserving" poor. If you run a consumer business sell at lower prices than supply and demand would fetch. Monasteries do this. Periodically, have a day of fasting. Become willing to suffer from aging or illness as an opportunity to witness to life on life's terms. Don't drink or drug when everyone else is getting wasted. If in a college dorm, go to bed earlier than others and get up earlier to have some quiet time, maybe going out to look at the stars before dawn. Drink only as much caffeine so that were you to stop you would not get massive headaches. Study without headphone music. Practice a little silence and solitude each day. Offer rides to people in your high end luxury car. It will make their day. Read poetry.
Friday, October 21, 2016
A nitch parish is one that offers itself as a product, a high end product. It is for people who want to feel special, "better than," more advanced in some way. This would be a parish that specializes in doing things a certain way that would appeal to but a few people. It is a bit like selling a high end car, like a Rolls Royce. There are a few people who want it and are willing to do what it takes to get it. It makes them feel special, as if they have arrived. It sets them apart. Usually, this is a sub-group in a larger, more ordinary parish, because the nitch is so small in numbers that it could not maintain a whole parish, nor would it want to. Generally, they are not much for joining the larger parish which is tainted with too much ordinariness, and mediocrity. They would well admit that they are sinners, but not quite as bad as those "others."
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Some parishes believe that they are offering a service. They begin with, "How can I help you?" In the Catholic church we have certain standard things, such as seven sacraments, and mass schedules. The service model of parish realizes that not everyone fits into a pre-planned product. The religious order run parishes are generally more service model than diocesan parishes. The service model parish is usually a better listener to people who don't fit in, or see themselves on the outside looking in. The focus is somewhat less on law, rules, and customs or "the way we do things here." So I have found it.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
I find that churches vary as to whether they see themselves as offering a product or a service. In the Catholic experience, when a parish has a product mentality, it seems to say, "We have this or that for you. If you want it and qualify, you can have it." The "it" is generally a sacrament such as holy communion. It is a top down organization of people who are pretty set in their ways. There is not much going out to find new members. New members are welcome so long as they don't upset the way things are done by the longterm members. There is a core group of believes who talk to one another and like things just the way they are. This is the product variety parish. Tomorrow I will talk about the service model of parish.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
This is for early stage alcoholics. There should be another blog today for those not interested. Back to early stage drinking. It is not how often you drink, but what happens when you drink, that is key to catching alcoholism in its early stages. I have heard some people say that when they started drinking they did not drink every day. The drank on special occasions or some party atmosphere. So they thought themselves not addicted. Frequency is not the issue early on for many potential alcoholics. The key is how much did you drink when you did drink? What happened? The alcoholic may be a binge drinker at this stage. Once they start to drink, they don't stop until they pass out, or run out of ways to get "more." Over time, without a recovery program, binge drinking becomes more frequent. Then you move to daily drinking at certain "controlled" times, with or without binges. Then the morning drinking. Then you die.
You are not a failure if you don't believe in God. This does not make you a bad person, or a "less than" person. To admit, to a company of believers, that you don't believe in God is to tell your truth. Why be a liar to fit into some group? You can still be on a spiritual path. You are being honest. Honesty is important in becoming all that you are made to be. The real lie is to try and live someone else's life, or someone's idea of what your life "should" be. If you are doing crazy, destructive, hurtful things, those will have to stop. But a fake belief in "god" is not going to help much. With some communal support, some spiritual guides, you might be able to cease bad behavior. That is a good thing. But real change comes when you come to some self-acceptance about faith. Faith is a gift. If you don't have it, OK. Practice love. How? Observe people who act lovingly. Follow good action, not words.
Monday, October 17, 2016
I have days when some portion of my faith does not make much sense. I may be able to recite a dogma, but not always make sense of it. So I have to work at faith. I have to ponder it which means it must be interesting enough to ponder. If I am eating something I do not like, or does not appeal to me, I will not sit there chewing on it. I spit it out. So faith must be tasty enough to be worth chewing on. This is why I keep looking at scripture and reading some spiritual book each day. In summary, my faith is important enough to work at it. I don't take it for granted.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
How do I keep the monastery experience of each summer fresh day by day now that I am back in "the world." I go out in the early morning and look up at the stars just as I do in the monastery. I try to find quiet time with no phone, TV, or people talking. Then I read a little of the same spiritual type things I would read in the monastery. Then I try to sit quietly in meditation that might lead to stillness and interior quiet. I try to repeat some of this later in the day. Finally, I go to bed early most evenings, around 8:30 PM or thereabouts. When you have a really good retreat or vacation you might ask yourself what made it so special? Then see what you can near duplicate of that special time, given that you are back in your routines. If you went with a special friend, try to stay in touch. If you found some new recipes, cook and eat the food. There are certain things you do on a retreat that can be repeated. I try never to get too busy, and frazzled. It is the quickest way to destroy all the benefits of the time away.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
I know people who are pursuing a spiritual path, but don't believe in God. The God that is most often referred to in this context is what I call "God In The Box." It is a separate person, other than myself, who lives somewhere, heaven, and looks at creation. Many good people do not believe in this image of God, which seems to be one given to us as adolescents. It is a simplistic child's God. You talk to it and ask for stuff. When things go well, you might say thank you. When things go badly, faith takes a hit, and so on. I ask the non-believer if they are loving, compassionate, forgiving, merciful, and kind. The good ones are that. I tell them, that is God in you. God is a verb. But they say, being loving comes natural to them. I say it is not natural. It is super-natural, because a lot of people are not loving at all, many of who say they do believe in this separate God. God is not a noun. God is a verb. When you live love, you live God. Not believing in an adolescent's God does not make you an atheist. You might be an adult on a spiritual path of love.
Friday, October 14, 2016
OK, folks from the 60s. Get out your old Bob Dylan albums. Nobel just discovered the singer, song writer, Bob Dylan. A nice Jewish boy, Dylan did not like the mores of the modern western world, that seemed to lack compassion and was full of cold war fear. So he used his gifts to focus and awaken us to a deeper life. What were his gifts? Certainly not a beautiful voice in a classic sense. His gift was song writing and his voice was just right for his message. This is why he is getting the Nobel prize for literature. Dylan could write lyrics that would make one think, if one cared to stop and think. I admire Dylan because he did not seem to focus his musical career on making money by becoming famous and appealing to anti-establishment sounds and looks. A lot of groups gave the "look" of anti-establishment in hair and clothes, but were really out for the dollars. Dylan lasted because, well, he just stayed Bob Dylan, funny hats and all. Youth today probably do not even know of our Bob. So, old folks, you have job to do, and the news of the Nobel gives you an opportunity to get out the message of this lyrical genius.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Going deeper into the cave will not generally get you out of the darkness. Yet, that is what many of us do in our behaviors. People have a few drinks, feel good or better, and decide to have more. People run and feel good, and so they decide to run some more. Things often do not get better with more. They get worse. A lot of the "more" behavior is an effort to feel better. It is all about going deeper into the cave, but such behavior thinks it is going toward the light. Even in our prayer life, we think more is better. The mystics speak of dark nights, which might be OK for mystics, but most of us are no more mystics than we are Olympic runners. Prayer has to lead to action from the fruits of the prayer. Pray daily, but with some moderation. We might try that with a lot of behavior.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
One of the great things about growing up in New York City and going to Catholic schools, is that we got off from school on Columbus Day. It was always on that exact day, no "Columbus Day Weekends" where you move the date to accommodate travel or sales. There was a parade in Manhattan to celebrate the day. We all loved Columbus for getting us this day off from school. A normal kid would trade "fun" at school for a day off anytime. There was plenty of stuff to do on our day offs. Lots of play things. I am afraid that life outside of school might be more boring for kids today. What does one do in a neighborhood where kids do not live near one another, and everyone is worried about being abducted? Columbus Day is no longer a day off from school or work. Days off have become a burden for parents and missed by kids. So school is supposed to be the place to have fun. The nuns never got that memo, and would laugh if you sent it to them.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
This evening starts the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur, a day of penance. It is also a day off from school for Jewish kids, and when the feast comes to the end, great food. So we Catholics lose out on a day off from school, and great food. We think Jesus was God and God is supposed to be smart. Why would God found a new religion that keeps kids from getting out of school and from really great Jewish food? We should of all have stayed together. I think Jesus would agree. I think too many guys who don't know or care about good food must have gotten my church turned in some other direction. We do plenty of penance but not with the day off from school and the good food. We Irish could learn something from our Jewish neighbors.
Monday, October 10, 2016
I don't know that it is good idea for me to tell people that they can be anything they want to be, that they are free to follow their dreams. Some of us are delusional and our dreams are unrealistic. I might want to be a baseball player and make lots of money playing at a game, but I have no talent for baseball. So I cannot be anything I want to be. I cannot do physics and math, so I don't have the talent to become a physicist. What I can be is all that I am made to be with my unique talents, dormant or realized. As a God believer, I am made with a God plan in mind. The spiritual path is to actualize this potential. But even if you believe in no God, you can only become what your talents allow. To discover, develop and use your gifts for a greater good is a life well lived.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
I just got an email from a dead person. He was a friend of mine. In the email, he told me that he had something very important to show me, and I should click onto an attached link. Now what could a dead man have to tell me that is so important? I got it. There is a God and there is heaven and my friend, a good man, in his time on earth, is there enjoying it all. It must be true as well as important since it is on the Internet, right? Isn't this why the millennials spend most of their waking day on their smart phones? To keep up with what is important, and true, well worth knowing? I gotta go. I need to get a life.
Saturday, October 8, 2016
I had a vision in a dream one night. It was my sister Maureen, and she looked happy. She looked very happy in the dream. So I asked her, "Maureen, why do you look so happy? I thought that you were in purgatory." "I am not in purgatory anymore," she said. "I am happy because I know where you are headed when you leave this earth." "How do you know this?" I asked. "Because I am very close to God now, and God told me where you are headed with this earthly life you live." "Well," I asked, with some trepidation, "What did God tell you?" "You are not coming here, directly, and maybe never!" "What!" I exclaimed. "I am a good boy." "You are delusional. You think you are good. I know better," Maureen countered. "I am going to purgatory?" I asked fearfully. "Doubtful on that," she said. "God has used up his bag of mercy in your case. Only a big bag of comeuppance awaits you, baby brother." "You are happy that I will suffer torment?" I asked. "Shush Don't tell God!" Maureen exclaimed. "I am happy I am in heaven. My guardian angel pointed out to God that a mistake had been made in sending me to purgatory. So it is all good now." "Can my guardian angel get me out of the torments?" I asked pitifully. "No, yours has gone into retirement. You overworked your angel," she said. Just then I woke up. Only a dream. Maureen is still in purgatory. But is my time running out?
Friday, October 7, 2016
I hear people say that they want to get rid of a bad habit or shortcoming in their manner of living. Well, when you get rid of something, what replaces it? There is no such thing as a void in behavior. Either we do the right thing, the virtue, whatever that my be, or we do the wrong thing, the vice, bad habit. When I do not seem to be getting rid of a bad habit, I find that it is because I have not practiced sufficiently a good habit. Someone says, "I want to stop drinking." What is going to replace it? If you drink too much, it is your solution to some misery, identified or not. If I run too much and am hurting myself, I cannot simply say, "I will run less or no more." I run too much as a solution to something. What is going to replace my running too much, that will deal with why I run in the first place? All bad habits lead to misery for the practitioner or those around them. A void does not replace a bad habit. Gotta go and run. People say I am looking a little skinny. What do they know?
Thursday, October 6, 2016
When I am in my saner moments I tend to get second opinions when I am trying to decide something. I try to live in the moment, but then I have to decide what is the right thing to do with the moment that follows. If I have been getting second opinions, that is, I am not traveling the spiritual road alone, I tend to make sane choices. When I try to live life in isolation, making decisions about what is the right thing to do, I tend to mess up. This is what I call insanity, continuing to make wrong decisions, alone. We all know what ordinary maintenance of self and surroundings entail, from past training and experience. Then why do so many of us ignore good maintenance. We eat wrong, live in mess, don't get sufficient quality sleep, and avoid healthy solutions? At least I know I can be insane. This is the first step to a better way of life.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
I meditate in the morning. I am ready to have a day of tranquility, trust, peace, acceptance, patience and confidence that God is with me. Then comes the "self check out" at the store. Fear. No trust. God has abandoned me. I am stupid. The one line with a cashier is full. Go there and I have to camp out for the afternoon. So I go up to the check out machine. I do what anyone in a recovery program does. I admit I cannot do it on my own. I need help with directions. I see a sponsor employee with his employee jacket on. He comes to my aide. First off, I should ignore the computer screen. Good, because I cannot figure out what to do. He shows me how to register each item using bar codes. He does the first item and I do the rest. Then he points to the computer screen and asks me to make choice: no bags or some bags. I choose no bag. He points to the next screen and tells me that I can now pay money. The total is on the screen though I cannot seem to see it until he points it out. Fear of failure and incompetency, and a publicly crushed ego blind me to the obvious. He shows me where to pay my money and where the change will come out. I would never have found those slots either. I pay and get my change. Success. I walk out a new man. I have a new skill. I feel good. Try it...but make sure there is help nearby. This is a good idea for life in general.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Now even if you do not believe in any of this Christian saint stuff, your dog, cat, bird or whatever pet you have, may have some faith and want to be taken to a nearby church that is on the ball and blessing animals today. Yes, on the Feast of this saint a lot of churches bless animals. This is because St. Francis loved animals and all living things. He was very ecological. In the ceremony today, your pet gets baptized with holy water, the same kind of blessed water that baptizes people. Your pet is your blessed friend. Why not get a little blessed water sprinkled onto them.
Monday, October 3, 2016
This is the Jewish New Year's first full day, Year 5777, I believe. It is also the first day of the Islamic New Year, I think. We get to celebrate NewYear's day several times a year here in this country. It is what comes with our freedoms. There is the Western calendar's New Year's Day on January 1, and then the Chinese have their New Year begin in February some time. If you like New Year celebrations you get to have several each year in this country. If you heard any ram's horns blowing last evening that was your Jewish friends feasting at the beginning of their celebration. Lots of good food too. Wish people happy new year as part of our celebration of diversity. In some other parts of the world diversity is looked down upon.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Remember to say hello today to your guardian angel. Today is the Feast of Guardian Angels. I try to have gratitude for my guardian angel, because I need someone to guide me away from my blind ego-centered self, and to speak well of me when I get to the pearly gates. Guardian angels have experience in trial defense. I am hoping that mercy triumphs over comeuppance. Ignore your guardian angel at your own peril.
I would rather tell a child that they are unique rather than special. I would explain unique as meaning that the child has gifts and talents that they need to discover and develop so that they can be the person God made them to be. So the child does not need to try and look, act, and be like everyone else. Become yourself, not some other person. If every boy in your class wants to play football, but you are attracted to the violin, then you go for the violin. That is your uniqueness. Being told that one is "special" too often ends up them thinking that they are better than others in their differences. "Special" sets a very high bar in relation to others. The violin player does not have to play the instrument better than others play football. There is no competition. When you are called special, the pressure is on to do better than others in grades and common achievements. Special people end up comparing and contrasting. They fail to identify with others around them. If their lives become messy, or they develop bad habits, they are befuddled as to why this special person is doing so badly. Special people can end up quite lonely and maybe even suicidal. I thank my sister Maureen for convincing me that I am not special. Boy, was she unique.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
I don't think that God is unchanging, static, unmoved. I was at the museum recently to view an exhibit of 20th Century women who painted "Abstract Expressionism." The paintings are a lot of color and flow, or seeming movement, without any discernible figures, trees, people, buildings. Their is a unity in all the colors. The paintings are to be experienced in all this abstraction. I felt myself experiencing God. God is ever flowing, creating, mixing color, uniting from the divine imagination. In times earlier than the modern world, God was seen more like a still life or a portrait. Still. Unchanging. Why should God be still and unchanging? That is a human idea. Is not God free to change? Whatever we think of God today will probably be different in the next century. And so it goes. God cannot be pinned down. God can be loved. I sit still in silence, not because God is still, but because I have distractions in my head and body that need some time to become quiet. I need the flow of my life to be unitive and not crazy-making. God is ever unfolding!
Friday, September 30, 2016
More so when I was much younger, when I stayed up too late, and partied too long, as I could do when younger, I had to work hard the next day to convince people that was I OK. When I got up the next morning, I went jogging, if I could, and then showered. This made me "look" better and even feel better. Then I could go public. If I tried that now, I would need a body transplant. I was living in a rather happy world, quite a good world around me, but I was not particularly happy inside. This experience of life turned into a grace later, because I have people even today who come to me and say that they feel they should be happy, they have so much to be thankful for, but they are not feeling happy. They come to "Reverend Holy" thinking I have a magic, and quick solution. I tell them I had that same problem and will have it again, if I am not on a spiritual path of recovery from unhappiness. I find it uplifting to know that I am not the only person who felt "crazy" about being unhappy. I have found that even if we know why we are unhappy, such as some past bugaboo, that does not make us happy. Knowledge in itself does not transform us. I slog along with my daily meditations, and some other tools I use, and on most days I feel gratitude. Grace at work.