Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Elevator

Transformation is like riding an elevator.  We all start out on the top floor, inside the elevator.  Outside, all around us is sunshine of the spirit, and clean, fresh air.  But we don't know this yet because we are inside an elevator.  We cannot yet see through.  Some anxiety or loneliness or fear sets in.  Emotions go a bit haywire.  Stuff happens, real or imagined, in the elevator.  We come up with a solution.  Press a bottom and go down.  We descend.  The door opens and it is a bit shadowy.  Life is not so spirit-filled or fresh. Solution? Stay in the elevator and go lower…and so on, as life gets darker and darker.  At some point a person decides they have gone as low as they can stand.  Their solutions have not worked.  Life only got darker each time.  They have hit a bottom. They surrender. They get off the elevator.  It is dark.  They don't know what to do in their misery.  Darkness is now their friend because they have given up trying to do things their way, selfish, fear-based, distrustful and so on.  They see a light coming through the slit in a door.  They open the door, walk outside and look around.  They experience the sunlight of the spirit for the first time.  God was with them the whole time they were descending.  Even in our hell, God is with us.  And God will give us a guide to show us how to stay in the spirit-light.  Could that be me?  One can only hope to become a spirt-guide.

Friday, April 29, 2016


As a follow-up on yesterday, many people say that they want their life to get better, when in fact they really mean that they want their life to be different.  You are sitting on your couch and you are felling lonely.  You say you want to feel better.  But you get drunk or drugged or eat a lot of sugar and carbs.  You may very well feel differently, but you won't feel better.  There are many short-term solutions to "different."  There are only long-term solutions to feeling "better."  A bit of daily abstinence in some behaviors, a bit of moderation in spiritual practice, exercise and staying connected to world around you is a better practice.  I have found it so.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Emotional Disappearance

We tend to try to get away from pain or from conflicting feelings because we want to escape some emotion, some feeling.  It is why people overdo drink, medication, food, exercise, work, shopping or fantasy.  We want to feel better, or at least other than we now feel.  Painful or discomforting feelings are to be avoided.  Yet pain can be a great teacher if we can learn to stay with it.  If you had a broken arm, but felt no pain, you would do great damage by not seeing a doctor or ER.  Pain points to something that needs attention.  Think of pain as something we must all go through to become the best we can be.  Accomplished athletes, musicians, actors, doctors and so on, go through pain to get to where they want to be, to reach their goals.  If an athlete tries drugs, or "gets juiced," to avoid pain in training, they will suffer longterm consequences.  There are no shortcuts.  I call it the cross.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Cushion

Why do we allow denial to cushion our pain?  Many of us, when we first suspect someone has betrayed or abandoned us, someone important in our life, we try and deny our suspicions.  "This could not be so. He/She loves me."  The pain will fester.  We will be faking our emotions when with this person.  The pain of abandonment is too much to bare.  We do this with God.  I hear people make excuses for why things are bad, but God did not cause it.  They protect God or their need to feel safe and good in relationship with God.  Why not pray as you feel?  Plenty of people do it in the bible.  Jesus did it on the cross and he is supposed to be God or at least especially loved by God.  "God, you abandoned me.  I am angry and don't like you."  Lightening won't strike.  Honesty is very uplifting emotionally.  Pray as you feel.  God seems to prefer honesty, rather than your manipulation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

High Noon

OK. So what was the "High Noon," movie point for my homily?  For you movie buffs, at the end of the movie Gary Cooper, with four dead gunmen lying in the dust, throws his Sheriff's badge on the ground, looks at the townspeople who had abandoned him in their cowardice, and with disgust on his face because of their weakness, takes his new bride, Grace Kelly, gets into the wagon and drives away.  He wants no more to do with these people.  They failed him.  God does not throw his badge into the dust in disgust at us.  God took on skin in Jesus, so believe many of us.  Jesus died, abandoned by his followers, cowards, and rose from the dead.  He came back to them, forgave them and gave them a task that would make them better people.  God never loses hope in us, in spite of our past and our ongoing handicaps.  Peter would not forget that he had cowardice in him.  But he would make the most of it and do quite well in becoming all God made him to be.  So can all of us.  We all have mess, past and not so past.  Grace comes to all of us.  We need not wallow in the past, or use it as an excuse to be helpless or part of the solution.  We can all become saints with our baggage.  Grace makes the load lighter.  God is never going to abandon us.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Disaster Homily

I stared out at the congregation and realized that the homily I was about to give was not going to be of much help to them.  I was going to begin with the example of the Oscar winning movie, "High Noon," starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.  Excellent start for a congregation of white seniors, or people who liked movies from vintage times.  My congregation in front of me were all Asians, and even the older ones had not arrived here yet when Gary and Grace did their thing.  I tried to explain the plot.  Painstakingly.  Blank faces.  I then tried to make the connection between the movie and the gospel and Jesus.  More failure.  Afterwards, as people were leaving, the Asians were pleasant.  They always are, or maybe they expect little from us old guys.  A couple of old-timers remembered the movie and got the point.  So I was not a total failure, just an overwhelming one.  Remember this.  When you are trying to explain something of your spiritual journey, to be helpful to another, you need to be able to relate to their experience.  I think I will move to LA and preach in Hollywood!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Convents And Corners

Juliana of Liege lived in the thirteenth century.  She lived in a convent or monastery for women.  Nuns back then did not go around taking care of people suffering on the street corners or in hovels.  Juliana had a vision which encouraged her in a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the consecrated host/bread.  This led eventually to the feast of Corpus Christi and various devotions that had to do with a focus on the host and being inside churches looking at the host.  It fit into convert life full of devotions and prayers.  Saint Katharine Drexel died in 1955.  She founded a religious order dedicated to outside work with Native Americans and Freed Slaves.  She did not have much focus for sitting inside a church or convent looking at the host.  She was a woman of her time, who lived her vocation on corners of public life, and not in convents.  There is a place for both devotion and the social gospel.  I find a growing interest in the devotional but not so much the outside work.  Jesus broke bread with his disciples, and then told them to go out and do something.  He did not tell them to just sit there and stare at the bread.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Man Rules Woman?

In Genesis 3:16, it says that because it is a fallen world, Adam shall rule over Eve.  This went on to become, "Man rules over woman."  The Pope in his writing on the family, points out that man's ruling over women is a result of a fallen world.  When God made the world, man ruling over woman was not God's plan. So if you want the world to be as God wants it, and to follow God's will, then guys, stop ruling over women.  Equality is the Divine Plan.  A lot of guys never got the memo.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Goldfinch

If you want to know what transubstantiation, what a piece of bread, a man hanging on a cross means, then read Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch."  It is almost as long as the bible, at 771 pages in my copy.  I believe she captures a meaning.  For many of us, we remain at the station of philosophy, theology, or dogma.  That station won't change your life, but will give you information or admiration.  But we are made for more.  The painter can capture something in a work of art that gives us a glimpse of more than the mundane God we hold in a place in our heads, a mere thought, walled in by the limitations of the intellect or the imagination.  There are "between places" in each of us, God-made, between places.  They are never at any station or platform.  Believers want solid ground, and in that, they miss, at it's deepest.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

First Communion

This is the time of year when lots of children receive First Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.  It is for many of them a powerful religious experience.  But if it not followed by lots of communions, this one experience won't change their lives and make them all God wants them to be.  The Apostles had two powerful experiences of Jesus alive, Risen, after death.  It was not enough.  They went back to Galilee, home, and back to fishing, which was their old way of life.  Jesus had to come to them, unrecognized, in their mundane world, while they futiley fished and caught nothing.  He fed them again, only this time they helped provide the food.  Jesus was saying in this action, that they have to keep eating of the food of his presence, or else they won't become who they were meant to be in God's plan.  If they won't change after two eye to eye experiences of him Risen, why should any of us with a now and again or once in lifetime communion?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Psalm Child

There was a little girl, between the ages of three and four who I used to think was ADHD, or simply undisciplined and a general pain, too often clamoring for attention.  One moment she was happy and kicking me on the couch as she squirmed around, the next thing she is all sad and crying about something.  Quiet only when she sleeps.  Then the light went on for me.  She is a Psalm Child.  Say what?  Read all 150 psalms in order in which you find them in the bible.  No one, not even monasteries do that.  A psalm praising God, happy, full of gratitude is followed at times immediately after, with a psalm of whining, complaining about how God has abandoned them, and how lonely and forlorn the psalmist feels.  Then love and compassion for all sentient beings.  Then a desire for revenge.  Wipe all my enemies.  Then love of all enemies.  On and on.  The psalms are the inspired word of God, so believers tell me.  I guess God is OK with all this back and forth, this highly charged emotional life.  The little girl is a teacher for me.  So she is OK now in my book.  But please God, no kicking when I am watching dramatic sports' moments!  I guess this plea is my psalm 151.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Picture Frame

A picture frame is not supposed to detract from the picture or the painting.  It frames and assists us in focusing on the painting.  If our eye keeps going to the frame and not the picture, then the frame is not doing its job.  Unfortunately for me, when I teach about prayer, I seem to be a fame pointing to myself.  I talk too much about me and my experience in prayer and not enough about the ideas of the person or writing I am supposed to be presenting.  So people don't get to learn a lot about famous, insightful people on prayer issues, but do get to hear a lot about my experience with reflecting on the material I am supposed to be teaching.  I would make a lousy college professor.  At the end of one of my presentations, I sometimes feel that the people learned little.  "I am a failure," or "Time to give this up,"  and so on.  Then someone comes up to me and says how helpful my talk was because I gave my experience and did not just talk about the book or author.  Even my experience of failure in prayer seems to help some people.  Maybe people are not so interested in more information?  All very confusing.  Maybe time to for another line of work.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hell Is The Beginning

People seem to think that whenever something bad happens, nothing good will come of it.  That is part of being labeled, "bad."  But for many of us, the only way we got closer to God was through a lot of bad stuff that seemed to end up in a life of Hell!  That is, hell is not the end, but really a beginning of something better, fuller, more whole and healing.  The nature of hell in theologies that believe in hell, is that hell is a place of powerlessness.  You cannot get out on your own.  You see what a mess you have made of things and can do nothing about it.  At this point, only Grace, some other power, energy must go to work.  The key is surrender rather then whine, self-loathe, or resent.  You are in darkness.  Light can overcome the darkness.  A belief in a God is bolstered much more by reformed lives than by pulpit exhortations or witnessing on street corners.  A changed life is hard to deny.  I am still working on it.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Old Saint Mary's

When I live in San Francisco, my home is Old St. Mary's Church, the crossroads of Chinatown and the Financial District.  What anyone can see of our ministry does not look like much.  Few parishioners, few people in our convert classes, our adult ed classes and few people from the area in our daily masses.  Are we failures?  No.  There is an anonymous ministry there.  Every weekday at noon, we provide space for AA meetings.  About seventy five to eighty people show up at this meeting.  In other parts of the complex there are other meeting for other recovery issues.  We give people what we  have.  We give them space and hospitality.  Old St. Mary's has become "Recovery Central" for the Financial District of San Francisco.  We have location, space, and the wisdom to do what we can and not what we cannot or should not.  There recovery meetings are very spiritual, filled with humility and gratefulness.  Shattered lives are now being restored and even better than before the shattering.  Catholics upstairs in the church pews believe that they find Jesus in the tabernacle.  Yes.  But he is also at work and dwells in other surprising places.  I have found it so.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


What is the opposite of humility?  Many people say it is pride.  I do not.  Pride is too fuzzy, and does not give much direction about what to do.  Be less prideful?  What is that?  Rather, I think the opposite of humility is trying to manage life on your own power.  When you do this, the first thing you lose is "gratefulness."  Why would you be grateful to God or anyone else if you think you are doing fine on self-will power?  The journey to falling apart and hitting a spiritual bottom begins with failing to be grateful for what you have and taking time to say "thank you."  Prayer is a way of saying, "thank you."   This becomes fertile soil for humility.  My best days at prayer are when I begin with gratefulness for what I have.  I don't complain that the world ignores my blog, but rather am thankful for the handful of those who seem to get something out of it.  You who are reading this, "thank you."  Maybe I am a lousy blogger?  Oops! Get thee away self-pity.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Inspector

A lot of us think of God as an inspector.  The inspector senses or believes that there is some nefarious activity, and is looking for the culprit to bring to justice and well-deserved punishment.  So we avoid God if we think we have some dark secrets about our motives, or hates, prejudices, thoughts, and the general worst part of ourself.  We feel that we cannot approach God or pray if we have behaved badly.  Or we must confess first, take our punishment, and hope that God is satisfied.  But God is not the Inspector.  God is love.  God dwells within us right alongside all our mess and loves on us.  God already knows our mess.  Few people ever change because they put in their time in jail, or feel that they paid the penalty.  Love is what changes us.  Many people believe in the existence of God, but fewer believe in Unconditional Love.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


The "Eleventh Hour" song as they say in show biz, because it comes near the end of the play at night, is a theme for the musical, "Wicked." "Because I knew you, I have become good," is the focus of this show stopper ending song.  The two witches, come to realize that they are better persons because they knew one another and became friends.  Along the way they were rivals, had issues with one another and did not like one another at times.  But in the end they realized what a gift the other was.  A witch, even a green one, is beautiful, depending on how you look at her.  I call my big sister Maureen a witch, but I mean that in the best sense as brought out in this play, "Wicked."  Because I knew her, I am a better person.  I am not a better person because I know God, but because Maureen revealed God to me through herself, in all her greenness.  Or was that meanness?  Oh, I can still be a bit bad.  But I hope that a few people are good because they knew me.  That is a successful life.  Maureen lived it.  I am a witness.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New And Old

If I asked someone if they were hungry and they said, "No, I ate something a week ago," you would think they were crazy, or at least very foolish about physical health.  Right?  But what about our spiritual health?  Don't many of us say our spiritual condition is fine now because of a prayer or spiritual experience we had yesterday, a week, month, or year go?  We seem to know enough to eat every day to feed the body, but we don' have the same urgency to feed the soul.  I cannot survive even on yesterday's spiritual program.  I need one for each day.  If not daily prayer and meditation, I will have daily craziness.  Insanity grows when I think I am OK while doing nothing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


My sister, Maureen, died on this date, twelve years ago today.  When I speak of her in stories, people ask me where she is now.  I tell them that she is in purgatory.  They are shocked that I would even think that.  I tell them she was a witch and so she has to pay.  No one believes me.  You say that I am a rotten person for saying such things and my mouth should be washed out with soap?  But consider first, that I must be saying wonderful things about my big sister, or else people would not have such a good opinion of her, never having met her.  This goes to prove that it is what you recount about a person when telling of events in their life, that makes or breaks their reputation.  She is beloved for what she did.  My opinions have no standing.  So if you want to be thought well of, don't worry about what names or opinions people give or have of you.  A life lived in Love and Loving trumps all opinions and evil words of bratty, little brothers. Deeds last forever, whereas people's opinion of us die with them or change. Twelve years in purgatory, maybe she is in heaven by now?

Monday, April 11, 2016


When the bible made the biggest change in my life, I was reading it without anyone telling me what it said, or said to them.  I did not consult scripture commentary or scholars.  All you get from that is a lot of information, but your life does not change for the better.  You don't become a better follower of Jesus because you know more stuff.  At least not for me.  I decided back in 1971 to read the bible and see what it said to me.  What did it mean to me.  If I did not understand something or found a piece that was uninteresting, I just moved on to the next part.  I am not on anyone else's spiritual journey.  I am on mine.  What a book means to them is there journey.  If something like the bible is going to make a difference in your life try not to keep it on the level of a class course or book club.  I know very little "stuff" about the bible.  But what I do know makes a difference in my life.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

San Francisco

Today, I fly to San Francisco, to my Paulist home, where the guys say that they miss me.  All the time that I am away, they do not forget me, but miss me.  This is the wonder of community living.  It is a bonding that is more than living in the same building or apartment house.  The Paulists on my floor are more than "neighbors."  We pick up on conversations as if we have not been so distant in time and miles.  I feel "at home."  In Boulder and at the monastery, I am the guest of someone, there with permission from the pastor or abbot.  The Snowmass monastery is most like the Paulist community where I live in San Francisco.  The monks say, "Welcome home," when I arrive.  I fit in easily, and feel part of the lifestyle and life there.  I think that the key is small ego.  As I age I find that mine is getting smaller.  Where this is so, I seem to fit in better.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Catholic Statues

My friend Farquar Ganoosh is once again digging himself deeper into the fire.
He mentioned to me recently that Catholic statues prove that the Church is racist.  What?  Farquar is a bad Catholic.  Instead of simply obeying rules, he asks lots of questions, and makes various observation unique to himself.  His point about the statures is that in whatever country you go, the statue always looks like the same color and facial features of the people in the area.  "Why doesn't a statue or picture look like a Jewish Semite in the Middle East," he asked?  "Jesus was not white, and European," he reminds me.  
Farquar went on to say that people in Northern Europe don't want a Jesus or Mary that look like a Middle Eastern Galilee person because Europeans don't much like Middle Eastern people.  Just look at the immigration mess.  Farquar jumps from one thing to another.  He has lived for a while in Mexico and knows that the Guadalupe, dark skinned Virgin, is not so universally admired in that country.  Move out of Mestizo and Indian dark-skinned areas and you will find local Virgin statures, not Guadalupe, that are as light-skinned as the people of that area.  But if you are a good Catholic and don't ask questions like Farquar, you won't have to worry about seeing him in heaven.  I pray that he is only being mischievous and can at least make Purgatory.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Messenger

When I hear people say that they cannot advise someone who wants a spiritual life, or at least a step out of rock bottom misery, I find it full of false pride.  These "good" people think it is all up to them to help someone to change.  It is not.  We who are on any spiritual journey or recovery from rock bottom, are simply the messengers.  God does the work.  When I try to proclaim the Good News, I don't worry about "doing it right."  I try to speak from my experience of which I have confidence.  I don't have to be a great scripture scholar, or deep thinker.  So when someone asks for help give them your honest self-experience of God, recovery, health improvement or whatever growth area you and they are in.  Leave the rest up to God.  False pride says we are not good enough.  God works well with damaged goods.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Five Points

Women, mothers and children from El Salvador protested outside the White House on Easter.  They were against inhumane detention centers that are set up in Texas an New Mexico.  Such places, they say are dirty, unhealthy and not fit for living.  I suspect a lot of this is about fear of terrorism, but not all.  When my Irish ancestors came to the USA in the 19th century, they were "processed" on a NYC island and then released.  To where?  That was an immigrant's problem.  No detention center.   You had to find your way to the Irish section of lower Manhattan, for instance.  Five Points was dangerous, bloody, and crowded.  People were stuffed into tenement housing, little apartments.  Survive or else.  Those who did not die from disease, drink, accidents, or bloody battles, did more than survive.  But they had the Industrial Revolution, massive Civil War depopulation, and inventions to assist the movement out of poverty.  Today there are no such housing in NYC for instance.  Cities have done away with this poor housing, by law or profit.  There is no more Industrial Revolution with all the inventions of the late 19th and early 20th century.  The iPhone?  Made in some other country.  El Salvador women are not being hired by Silicon Valley.  I would like us to be rid of detention centers too.  Then what?  We welcome people who are escaping violence and this is a good thing.  But the greater solution is long term, if there is a long term.  I hope there is a long term.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rita Antoinette Rizzo

Mother Angelica has passed away.  She might give women who want ordination pause to think.  Why was mother Angelica so successful.? There are several reasons that have to do with her personality and gifts, and timing of her message, but one important reason is that she was a religious order nun attached to a convent or monastery.  If she were an ordained priest, and took on the bishops as Mother Angelica did from time to time. she would have been moved by the bishop, ordered to cease activities or lose faculties and so on.  Not so easy to get to a religious order nun.  There are other reasons that Mother Angelica was able to stay independent, but I bring this one up for those who think the only way to make a difference is to get into the pulpit or run a parish.  You may not agree with her, but there are no pastors who had her clout.  My parents were fans of her.  She provided some very good things for elderly people who were not able to get out to church.  I might have some issues with her message, but I admire the messenger.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Starbuck's Church

There is the example of a church that a diocese no longer wants to keep active.  They would like to sell it.  A developer wants to buy it and turn it into a Starbuck coffee shop, for instance.  Historic preservation people want to keep the church facade, but don't want to spend any historic preservation funds to maintain it.  The diocese cannot afford it as a church.  It needs repairs.  What seems to be working in some places is that the developer buys the church and property.  Then the facade is kept for preservation purposes, but turn the insides into a Starbuck.  I might like to have my mocha in such a building.  I know of a church that became a restaurant in a southern city.  It was quite lovely, and the food was good.  I live in a Historic Preservation church in San Francisco.  So far we are able to keep it as a church, but cannot change the outsides of it.  The insides are quite beautiful and many tourists come by to view it.  it is a special place for me.  It is called Old St. Mary's.  It is old.  Often it is cold, as is summer in San Francisco.  Heat is expensive.  I offer it up as a penance, not for my sins, which are few, but for yours.  Delusional, you suggest?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Saying Goodbye

Girls don't know how to say it's over, "goodbye."  I have a personal sample of four different relationships.  Looking back there were signs that things had changed for the worse for me.  She was not as available, or communicative.  She was with another or other people whereas before she was with me.  Letters, you remember snail mail, stopped coming.  But there was no explanation or a goodbye, "let's end this."  Ironically, in each case, I think it was a right decision.  Long term, I was disaster.  Sooner or later, I would go back and ask what happened, curious at least, and maybe hurt as well.  There was never a "winning back."  It was over for her.  I just had to catch up to reality.  But I am the same way in my relationship with God.  I am really into the relationship, faithful to prayer.  Then something else comes along, a person, place, event, thing, and I drift off with no explanation to God as to why I am not showing up and being "faithful."  God really is the one for me, but I am such a spiritual drifter.  Will God ever stop taking me back?  God is always faithful.  The bible told me so.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


I have been taught to stay right-sized, that is, don't get too fat an ego.  Now I did push this to the edges recently.  I preached about me on Easter.  I was trying to use my birthday as an example of something, but I am not sure if people heard all about me, but not too much about Jesus being Risen and all, which is the point of Easter.  Then I got to thinking.  Jesus being Risen is supposed to lift us up who believe in this.  Well, I got lots of birthday wishes and cards and treats during Easter week.  These surely lifted me up at a time when I am falling apart from a respiratory illness.  All this love is very healing.  So maybe my birthday is enfolded in the Easter Event of Jesus being risen.  We believers are supposed to apply our religion to our everyday lives to make us better.  My birthday is my everyday life and I feel a lot better.  So I must be doing something right in my Easter preaching.  Then again, maybe my sister Maureen will be proved right and I will burn.  Yikes!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2016


When I teach I try to teach a lot from my experiences.  I do give teachings of other people as well.  but I try not to tell people how to pray.  I tell then more about what works for me.  If I am teaching about a particular mystic, if I find that some of it does not make sense to me, then I am likely to not tell it to others.  If no one benefits by my examples, at least I do.  So my teachings are never a complete failure.  At least I benefit.  Maybe that is why I teach?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Midnight Meditation

Continuing with yesterday's blog, I suspect that deep meditation while lying in bed in the middle of the night, can affect one's dreams.  I seem to have dreams of love, peaceful, interesting relationships that I pursue in the dreams.  Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night I think maybe it is God calling me to pay attention to our relationship at some intimate level.  I do.  It relaxes me and then I seem to be better able to go back to sleep.  Since I got my cold/flu/misery, I seem to be aware of my dreams much more so than when I am very active during the day and fall asleep from exhaustion.  My body craves the bed when sick, and dreams seem to come.  Maybe it is the medicine to some extent, but the meds have pretty much worn off late into the night.  Meditation is a healing med.  I even seem to cough less as I meditate.  I see some healing here.  I have read it to be so.   This is no April Fool.