Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Spiritual paths all tend to have a component that includes being helpful, or of service, or of doing good for others.  This is not just about getting things done, or making the world a better place, though these can result.  It is about getting out of ourselves.  Not all service work does this.  At times I might be helpful to others, but it is not to get out of myself, or to stop thinking about me.  At times, it is to be liked for my good deeds, thought well of, or to influence someone's behavior as a result of my "good" deed.  I might do things to become popular, get a promotion, or to simply "look good."  The best service work in spiritual growth is to do something that no one notices or for which you may receive little if any praise.  Try vacuuming when no one is around.  Clean up a mess when no one sees you doing it.  The phrase, "If you want to be first, be the servant of all," refers to the kind of servant who does things no one will praise, but everyone wants or expects to be done, "by someone."  Lots of people go to spiritual talks and seminars run by volunteers.  When they walk in, I wonder how many realize that all those nicely placed chairs might very well have been placed there by the holiest person in the room.  I, ego oriented, prefer to teach.  Oops!  Gotta' go and clean up some mess.    There is always hope for conversion.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Children

Vested, I waited outside church just before the service was to begin.  I looked across the street to the parking lot.  A little girl, about six, was coming to mass with her family.  Usually she is very quiet, especially in church.  When she saw it was me who would be the priest, she exclaimed, "Fr. Terry.  Yes!" Then she pumped her arms with enthusiasm.  I have a fan.  But it shows to me that children do have spiritual lives that need to be fed. They are interested in God and church, if only someone would speak to them in their language, to their experience, to their way of understanding.  I seem to have a gift of preaching to children.  They listen and remember my Maureen stories.  They get the point.  I talk about the God of their world.  Unfortuanately, this is not the norm.  Children are told to go to church, but they find it hard to relate to the God-language to which they are exposed.  And we wonder why they drift off after Confirmation or whenever they can get away from "having" to go to church with family or school?  No doubt, many stay and are satisfied.  But I am a Paulist priest.  Our focus is on those who live on the periphery, those who feel on the outside, but who have a hunger even they might not know is about the Spirit.  Now if I could only preach deep theology to the adults.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Princess

Every year my Catholic elementary school had a play, usually with some music and even dancing and singing.  I was never in one, but my sister Maureen was in one that I have never forgotten.  She was to play a beautiful fairy princess, who would appear to sad and lonely children, and show them the way to happiness.  I figured she could never pull this off.  The casting director must have been desperate.  Maureen was the deliverer of sadness and misery in my world.  Witch.  I had to go to the play, since it was a family thing.  I figured Maureen would bomb as a "nice" anything, much less a beautiful fairy princess.  Curtain goes up.  Play goes on.  Maureen sells the role.  She looked beautiful and loving and kind and helpful.  She had a smile that radiated. No frown.  I began to think that maybe underneath the witch there was this beautiful big sister and I lived with her.  I was confused.  My world was unsettled.  When we gathered together with Maureen after the play, I blurted out, "Maureen, you looked beautiful tonight."  She smiled a beautiful smile.  No fangs.  I was still thinking about this later that night as I got ready for bed in my jammies with my teddy bear.  I left my bed and walked over to Maureen's bed where she was sitting filing her claws.  I was not frightened.  She just looked different, not witch-like.  I sat on her bed. She did not push me away.  "Maureen," I said, "I am confused.  Sometimes I get lonely and sad.  Could you be a beautiful fairy princess for me?"  She sat next to me and put her arms around me.  No claws.  "Well little brother," she said, "Anything is possible."

As long as I see only the claws and fangs in others, I will live in my lonely and sad world.  In that world, love is impossible.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Social Virtue

Jane Addams, who founded Hull House, to help the downtrodden, and Gandhi both read the bible and were attracted to the social gospel aspect of it.  This would be issues such as racial justice, equality, housing, and job opportunities.  But neither of them were attracted to "church" because they saw there the mere promotion of "personal virtue," which could avoid all of the social virtue issues important to Gandhi and Addams.  One could go to church regularly, keep commandments and rules of their church, avoid pride, lust, jealousy/envy, gluttony and sloth.  Yet with all that you could avoid caring about the poor, homeless, naked, imprisoned, orphans and widows.  I find that contemplative prayer, if it is authentic, combines both personal and social virtue, and this is one of its challenges as well as its attraction to the "Fulness of the Gospel," as I like to call it.  I have to remind myself that this contemplative silence and stillness is not all about my feeling good.  It is to get me out of my own way, so that I can sense a connection and obligation to those who suffer far more than I do with my little episodes of not getting my own way.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Vision

One day while I was deep into prayer at the monastery, I had a vision of my sister Maureen.  She was in purgatory.  She did not look too happy, as one would expect of someone in purgatory.  "Sorry you are still in purgatory, Maureen.  Sometimes I pray you will get to heaven.  But you gotta pay for being mean to me."  Maureen retorted, "I am not here because of my sins.  I am here because of yours, you bad boy."  "What, me, bad?"I exclaimed.  "Yes, you bad," answered Maureen.  "But I love you, so when I died, I asked God to let me spend your time in purgatory, so you would not have to come here."  "I don't have to go to purgatory Maureen," I said.  "I am a priest.  We get a free ride to heaven!"  Maureen replied, "That is just a recruiting tool to get you to sign up, the church being desparate for celibate men.  In fact, I will never get out of here because you just keep being bad, and lengthening your purgatory.  My love is getting a bit thin."  "Name my sins!" I demanded.  Maureen then gave me the list.
"When you don't get your own way, you whine."
"Hardly a day goes by that you don't have a bout of self-pity."
"You tell lies about us growing up, and call it a sermon."  
"You buy too many flashy running shoes to show off.  Then you wear them at mass."
"You want to be the center of attention, instead of Jesus."
"If someone criticizes you, you put them on your resentment list and plot revenge."
"You beg all the good cooks in the parish to feed you, telling them you are starving."
"Self. Self. Self!  All about you. I will never get out of here!"
Just then I woke up from this nightmare.  Back to reality.  Wonderful me!

Thursday, May 26, 2016


As we age, some of us think, "Who will remember me when I die? Will anyone know I made a difference?"  We think that if we are remembered after we die, or praised for good works while we are alive, we think this shows that we made a difference.  Maybe being remembered or praised is not so special.  Of the twelve Apostles, we know next to nothing about almost all of them, and a few anecdotes about a couple, or a letter or two.  I don't think this is a historical mistake in our record keeping.  God just might want us to do good deeds and not be known or praised for them.  Be anonymous in the life of the Spirit.  Th historical record of Jesus is threadbare, to say the least, outside of the Bible.  In fact, I suspect that the New Testament was written so that people would not forget.  Look at the universe.  Do you see God shouting out?  Science senses that there is something there or here, but "God" or the "Divine" is not a certainty to them.  So don't worry if no one knows your good works.  This may prove you are on the right path.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Being Mortal

Atul Gawande's book, "BeingMortal," is food for much thought.  Medicine can maybe give us better health, or survival.  But what about well-being?  A more contemplative prayer, or any prayer that has a bit of listening or openness to the Divine, is medicine for the soul.  I can have a team of people working on the health of my soul, or spiritual innards.  There is The Spirit, that is the Divine, friends or anam cara's who are on the same journey, and me in my daily practice of giving myself the right dosage of prayer.  Skip the dosage,  or contact with friends and ignore God, and I will be in a whole lot of pain that could affect the body as well.  The days when I skip my spiritual exercise, or dosage of prayer time, or attentiveness to the interior life, are days that go less well for me.  Why pay all my attention to a body that will cease to exist some day, while I ignore the soul that goes on forever?  But in fact I do this ignoring some days.  So I am insane on those days.  My beginning prayer each morning is, "Lord, let me not be insane today."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Stretching A Bad Moment

Someone texted me a single word, and that word upset me.  The upset could have been for five minutes if I knew how to let go.  But I stretched a five minute episode into a whole day or three, with elaborate plans of how I would act towards that person, who probably was not even thinking about the instant five minutes after the text.  One day someone else talked about having this same episode.  He said, " I did not have a bad day.  I had a bad five minutes that I stretched into a whole day."  Then he talked about letting go.  What a concept.  I can stretch moments into days or until I read or hear some wisdom.  It is good to share our lives with others who are flawed but working on becoming better persons.  People like me should not try to do life alone.  In the monastery this summer, I will have to go in search of "The Flawed."  I know where to find them.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Built To Last

Tradition is built to last.  My church is very big on tradition.  This church has been around for about 2000 years.  Tradition works because it lasts.  It is not much for innovation or change.  Tradition does not ask what is the best way to approach a situation in this day and age.  It is not about problem solving.  Change is the problem, not the solution to a situation for tradition.  Mom and Pop churches can be very  popular for a while.  It seems to respond to a specific want or need of church goers.  But because it has no tradition, it changes easily, and then too much for people who wanted something new when they joined but don't want new once they are members.  So Mom and Pop churches come and go.  Exciting, attractive, energizing, and then foreclosure.  I find that people in my church like a familiarity with history.  Come into a building and know what to expect, and can understand.  Differences within a tradition is OK.  The placement of things, the seating, the floor and walls can be different but within some familiar understanding.  Tradition will not respond to boredom, or loneliness or the sense that you do not have much control over what happens.  Those are people problems.  Tradition is about keeping the institution from foreclosure.  It has done a good job of that for 2000 years.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Racing Soul

With a big 10K footrace coming up on Memorial Day in my town, I think about running and the spiritual life.  The worst form of running is "washed up."  This is when you dabble at jogging but are getting nowhere.  No talent, muscles, lungs, nothing.  Fast walkers pass you on the trail if you even get that far.  One level up from this is "coming back."  You have been away from running for awhile for one reason or another and now you are starting to run regularly.  You can see some slight improvement in pace, breathing, comfort.  The next level up is "fitness." You build a base with long easy runs over time.  Gradually the pace quickens, but mostly it is disciplined miles that are adding up each week.  This requires discipline and patience.  Next level up is "training."  You can go to the track.  You can do very fast paced runs of 400 to 800 meters with just a little rest in between.  You are working on speed and a pain threshold.  Finally, you get to the racing stage.  Some race the course or try for a specific time.  The few try to beat everyone around them, and the very few to hammer all opponents.  I find that I am in the "coming back" stage all the time lately.  One thing or another betrays my body.  I stop running.  Then I start again and see some slight improvement.  I am on the edge of "washed up."  My enemies would say I am over the edge.  I must keep in mind that as my body problems seem to mount, my soul can continue to grow.  Soul need not age to become ''''washed up."  Nor do I need to always be starting over.  Each day, if I cannot run, I can pray.  I like to think that with discipline and patience, my coach, The Holy Spirit, will take me to where I can hammer the devil.  The devil is always fit for sin.  Gotta' go.  Time to train.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Right outside my window, across our narrow driveway, is the neighbor's roof.  Right now, roofers are at work.  They make noise and disturb my monastic quiet.  They have taken over my driveway with their ladders and refuse falling down from the roof.  I cannot get my car out.  What to do?  I could have a commentary that says I am a prisoner of my own house, there is too much commotion for me to work and pray.  I hate these roofers.  I hate my neighbor!  I am not too fond of God.  Time for sugar.  Or worse.  But today is a miracle, that is, a response that is not the norm for me.  Acceptance.  Peace.  I am helping my neighbor by letting my space be used to expedite this roofing job.  I am making life easier for the roofers.  I am being helpful and not focusing on me.  I must be channeling some holy person, certainly not Terry Ryan.  Or are your prayers for my soul having this effect?  Keep praying.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Wedding Night

If you read my blog from two days ago on graduation, you may be curious about what happened with Maureen and her new spouse on their wedding night.  I have the scoop from a good source.  As I slept in the same bedroom with Maureen for the first twelve years of my life, I knew that her magic powers weakened when she went to bed.  She would turn from a beautiful Irish Catholic girl, by day, back into an ugly witch at night when she went to bed.

So on the wedding night, her new husband, Fred, all fired up for bliss, saw the witch.  He scrambled out of bed and ran from the hotel into the street with whatever clothes he could gather.  It was July, so a warm night.  Scared and confused, he saw a nearby church.  There was a light on in the rectory.  It was a Catholic church.  Fred was not Catholic, but he was desperate.  An old Irish pastor, Fr. Flynn, from Donegal,  answered the door.  "Father, help me," said Fred. "I think I married a witch."  Fr. Flynn smiled and said, "Come in lad, and tell me all about it."  Fred told the priest what happened.  "Is your bride an Irish lass, my boy?" queried Father Flynn.  "Well yes," replied Fred.  "Well my son, all Irish girls are witches to some extent.  That is why there are so many Irish priests who embrace the celibacy!" explained the good Father.  

Fred hung his head, crestfallen.  "Not to worry lad. There is a solution," said Father Flynn.  "What is it?" asked Fred.  "You are not a Catholic?"questioned Fr. Flynn.  "No, I am not," answered Fred.  "Well become a Catholic, go to church regularly, give money to support Holy Mother Church, obey all the rules.  All this will keep your wife always looking and acting like a beautiful Irish Catholic wife.  Her witch powers will remain dormant."  

"But I don't know anything about the Catholic Faith," exclaimed Fred.  "Oh, lad, Catholics don't know anything about their faith.  They don't read the bible and the mass is in latin.  We priests will tell them what to think about God. And you had better make friends with Jesus' Mother if you know what is good for you."  

And that is how Fred became a Catholic, and everyone who knew Mrs. Avis, Maureen's married name, thought she was a beautiful Irish Catholic wife.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Wedding Night

If you read my blog from yesterday, you know that Maureen turned into a witch when she went to bed.  Tomorrow's blog will be what happened on her wedding night, or,
"How my brother-in-law became a Catholic."  My veracity is beyond question.


Well, children, if you read yesterday's blog you know that change happens.  Sometimes it feels good and sometimes it does not, but if we are going to grow up we have to go through changes.  Permanence is an illusion fostered by fear.  Maybe your First Grade was your happiest, with your favorite teacher.  But you cannot stay in the First Grade forever.  Some of us act like first graders as we grow up biologically, and that is a big problem.  I had dragon lady nuns in the third and sixth grade.  Moving on from them was a relief.  We have to grow  through the good times and the not so good.  It can all be a learning experience.  Christians call it cross and resurrection.  Summer is a time for lots of change.  People change grades, schools, jobs, and places where they live.  I made my first move when I was twelve, from the Bronx to White Plains, New York.  It was a tough move at the time, but I made life long friends in White Plains.  My sister, Maureen, had it even tougher than me.  She was sixteen and had to change high schools.  Fortunately, White Plains had enough witches so Maureen could make new friends.  Scary place sometimes, but it toughened me up.  Beyond fear of change, there are so many wonderful new discoveries.  Stay open.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Once upon a time there was a little boy named Terry, who was very holy.  he had a big sister, Maureen, who was a witch, but with magic powers she was able to disguise herself by day as a beautiful Irish Catholic girl.  At night, when she went to bed, she turned back into an ugly with.  Years later, this would make her wedding night problematic, but that is another story.

As this story unfolds, it is a nice Spring morning in May.  Terry sits in hi First Grade classroom.  He loved the first grade and his teacher, Sr. Mary Philips.  On this particular morning, Sister came up to terry and gave him a card.  when said, "It is time for you to move on to the Second Grade, Terry"  "Why?" he asked.  " I like it here  with you sister."  But his teacher said, "It is time for you to move on.  You have graduated.  You will have a new teacher in the second grade."  terry id not know what "graduate" meant, but was too sad to ask.  He wanted to stay with Sister Mary Philips forever.

When Terry got home he asked his wicked sister, Maureen, "What does 'graduate' mean?  Sister says that I have to go to the Second Grade and I don't want to leave her."  Maureen smiled and said, "Oh, graduate means that you are a pest, ,easy and lots of trouble for Sister, so you are being sent to a lower grade, and with a scary teacher, who is mean.  No longer first, you will now be second, and if you don't stop being such a pest you will be sent even lower;"

Terry thought fro a moment.  The he questioned, "But you are in the Fifth Grade. That is really low."  "It is different for girls," countered maureen.  "Isn't second grade where you get First Communion?" asked Terry.  "Yes," answered Maureen, "And that is to help you messy boys to not get even worse."

"I wish I were dead," shouted Terry.  "I agree," exclaimed Maureen.  Terry went to bed very sad, and the next day, when he went to school, he told Sister Mary Philips all that Maureen had said.  Sister Mary Philips marched off to the Principal's office.  Soon Maureen was called into the office.  The Principal, Sister Mary Evangeline, was heard to raise her voice, never a good thing.  That night, after supper, Terry was getting ready for bed.  Maureen came into the room fuming, and said, "Now I have to go to school for a whole week this summer and clean all the bathrooms, you tattletale.  Tonight is your last.  I will smother you in your sleep.

Terry smiled at the witch.  She no longer scared him.  "If this is my last day on earth," thought Terry, "I will die happy knowing my sister Maureen was being punished.

I still miss my sister, Maureen.  Even witches you can learn to love.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Maureen Fans

Tomorrow is a Maureen story for all you who are her fans.  So you had better check in.  I play my usual role.

Go To Learn

Some young marrieds in the parish have invited me to be with them in their group meeting to work on "Love In Marriage."  They might be delusional about me, that is, that I am holy and wise.  Or they might be desperate to have some priest, any priest.  Fortunately, I know that I have no expertise.  I am not going in order to give them all my brilliant answers or solutions.  What do I know about marriage?  But I am going to learn.  I do not get invited to young married couple homes.  So I can learn a lot about that generation by listening and asking.  This way, I go with some humility but with no pressure on myself.  I won't mess things up with silly solutions to make me look good.  Who knows?  Grace may intervene and God might speak through me, something I never thought of.  I might be helpful!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dental Spirituality

My dentist is key to my spirituality.  This may sound strange, but it is true.  I am waking up too much in my sleep.  This makes me sleepy during the day when I try to sit and meditate, or read spiritual books.  While others sit and get transformed, I fall asleep.  In a few weeks I go off to the monastery for a summer.  Lots of sitting in prayer, and snoozing off.  Bad for transformation.  But my dentist makes these mouth guards that go over your teeth and push your bottom jaw forward so the tongue does not get in the way of breathing when I sleep.  Learned all this in sleep lab tests.  If my dentist can make this mouth guard, or adjustable positioner to fit me before I go to the monastery, I will sleep better.  Then I will pray better.  Then I will get holy.  I never thought that my door to holiness was through my dentist, but there you have it.  Say a prayer for my dentist.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Often we get upset or resist doing certain tasks.  Doing dishes.  The mind gets going and the emotions follow or vice versa.  "I have so many other things to do."  Or, "This is beneath me."  "Why doesn't someone else help or do the dishes."  We are thinking about the future, our busy lives of more important things, or we are looking back in resentment.  We are not in the present moment.  Thich Nhat Hahn in his book on "Mindfulness" suggests that we just focus on doing the dishes, slowly, noticing our breathing.  Two things happen.  The dishes get done, and we are at peace in the present moment.  The "Now" is all we have.  The future will be a gift and the past is already gone.  Our meditation times can be a pointer for the rest our day.  It is a practice of letting go, but it is done when we have put all else aside.  It will not be enough to transform us.  We need to learn to let go of past and future in whatever we are doing in the present moment.  My God is in the Now.  God is Love, not used to love or will love.  Just Love.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Nightingale

Kristin Hannah's novel, "The Nightingale," is well worth a read.  It is a bestseller and ought to be.  Two women, sisters, respond to war very much based upon how they respond to the difficult life they had before the war.  Ultimately, love or the desire to be loved, carries them along as they make their different responses to the events that happen.  The enemy breaks their bodies as they try to survive.  Much is lost both materially and physically, but the heart cannot be beaten where their dwells love.  Love lasts.  It is how we remain, and carry on after so much suffering and horror.  I have found that if I am loving and feeling loved, much misery can happen in my life, but my heart does not get beaten down.  It is why I stay in touch with friends and with my prayer life.  I cannot control a lot of outside stuff such as a world war.  But love is a response.  it is the energy behind all response to horror and pain and suffering.  Read the book.

Friday, May 13, 2016

False Happiness

Continuing with yesterday's blog on happiness, my idea of false happiness is really based upon my opinion. What if my opinion is tinged with willful self-centeredness about how things "ought" to be?  If so, why put someone else in charge of my willful desires?  Am I not trying to make them part of a messy way of life? What if your opinion is that bed-making is standard procedure? It is your norm, and you want it for everyone else in your daily life.  If a parent says to the child, "Make your bed."  "No," says the child, in willful disobedience.  If the parent says, "You make me unhappy if you don't make your bed," you have just given the child leverage to get at you when things are not turning out the way the child wants.  Your child is not in charge of your happiness.  You are dealing with their disobedience, not your happiness.  You don't negotiate disobedience by using the "happiness card."  You will have a very messy way of life if your children are in charge of your happiness.  If the parent says, "I feel bad, punishing my child," their you go again, making parenting be in charge of your happiness.  Sometimes we have to do unpleasant things with people we love.  If their happiness is based upon them getting their way, or disobeying authority, then they will be unhappy. They can pout.  Pouting is an attempt to make you be in charge of their happiness.  Family and community life is hard.  I think I will become a hermit.  Want to come along?  I make my bed each morning.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Happiness

I hear people say that they get angry, impatient, resentful and generally upset when people, places and situations don't conform to certain behaviors or results.  Whenever I find this happening in myself I realize that I have assigned my happiness to someone else.  It has become their job to make me happy.  But they did not get the memo.  When I am more spiritually fit, I realize that the job of my happiness is mine and not someone or something else.  We go places, do things, and spend time with others in order to be happy.  We are dooming ourselves to disappointment.  Too many things have to go just right for us to be happy.  They never do.  I wake up and say, "It is raining or cloudy or windy.  This upsets my plans.  I am unhappy."  Is the weather in charge of my happiness?  Is God?  So many people are angry with God because God did not make them happy.  God loves us.  That is God's job.  Happiness is mine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A NIght Game

I went to my first night game at Giants baseball stadium in San Francisco.  Like many San Francisco evenings, there was a cold wind coming off the ocean.  I dressed up in layers, topped by my thickest winter coat, gloves and two ski caps, one over the other.  When I met my two long time friends, they laughed at me in my winter garb.  They had on their Giants' baseball logo jackets.  Walking over to the ballpark, and all during the game, I was comfortable.  No one around me dressed as I did.  I did not care.  I was not dressing to fit in to everyone's else style.  I was dressing for me to be comfortable in my body.  It is the same with religion.  In some ways I do not fit in to a norm.  But I am in my relationship and practice with God that seems to suit me.  I am not into someone else's practice.  Charismatic prayer is fine but it is not for me.  I am more of a contemplative, but that is not for everyone.  I simply invite people or tell them about my practice.  We are all God connected.  This connects us with one another.  We just have different ways of traveling the road.  Control is not important to me anymore.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Eilis Lacey

Why did Eilis go back to Brooklyn and to Tony?  Whatever the reason, she left all that was familiar in her Irish town, and returned to her husband and a most unfamiliar future.  She was growing up.  Now, mean Mrs. Kelly gave her a boost, but then the worst of people can sometimes help us make the leap into a new life and that would make all the difference into who Eilis became.  Read, "Brooklyn," by Colm Toibin.  Many people allow their lives to unfold in some natural, seemingly frictionless way.  Decisions are around familiar and predictable choices.  Grow up in a familiar setting, marry a boy from the neighborhood, and so on.  I don't know why I could not seem to accept the familiar.  The familiar was a bad fit for me, and this has made all the difference.  San Francisco became my home.  I could have stayed here if I would only accept my life.  it could have been comfortable. Columbia MBA makes good! I went instead into the Paulist Novitiate, 3000 miles away, for nine months.  When I came back to San Francisco that first summer for a visit, I could have stayed.  Zeal for my priesthood path seemed a bit tepid and distant, as I dropped into the familiar with friends and places out here.  I thought, "Just don't go back."  I did go back to the seminary, an unfamiliar future, and it has made all the difference.  Growing up is difficult.  I think that God had plans, but I did not get the memo, or left it unopened.  I left the familiar and I am a better person for it.  Of course, many Catholics who have had to put up with me over the years, wish I had stayed out here and died in my sins.  Lots of Mrs. Kellys in this world!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Rear View Mirror

I am not the best of drivers.  Sometimes I get a bit lost looking through the rear view mirror.  Disaster potential!  But I can do that with relationships and life in general too.  I keep looking into the past, my past and past relationships.  When I do this, I do not allow that people might have changed for the better, that is, matured.  Rather than confirm their growth, should I meet them again, I keep treating them as they once were.  If someone came up to me, (and it has happened) and said, "I cannot believe you became a priest, or are still a priest.  You were such a jerk!" it would not engender a healthy present relationship.  There would be no relationship.  One of us is living in the past, in a "rear view mirror life."  If someone who currently knows me were to say I am a jerk now, that might be OK.  But I am not the same jerk I was years ago.  I am a different jerk today.  Still, it would engender no relationship.  Names do hurt.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Dogma can become an attempt to make the unknown known.  Why do we do this?  One reason is that it gives us some sense of control.  The downside is that we box the infinite, which cannot be boxed, by our boundaries.  If control is central to our well-being than we tend to label all that does not fit into our dogma boundary as "wrong," or "bad."  At its worst, religion goes around killing people who think outside our box, our comfort zone.  One of the reasons there is so little Interfaith Dialogue, is that we use our energy to defend our boundary, our box, and have no interest in listening to truth that might be outside our comfort zone.  God is infinite and cannot be boxed.  We can only know a little about God.  Some have said that the beginning of wisdom is when you realize you know only a  little.  Jesus said that his relationship to God was Oneness.  This is a relationship, and not a definition of God.  Cultures give God a gender.  God does not have gender.  God is beyond all our thoughts about God, so say the mystics.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Prayer for me is spiritual stretching.  When I wake up in the morning, I stretch, even before I get out of bed.  I know that my body needs to be stretched if it is going to function well, or at least with minimal pain.  I do the same thing with my soul.  Before I get out of bed, I pray.  I know that left to myself, with no spiritual help, or reinforcement, I will have a worse day than if I stretch my soul by prayer.  Both body and soul need assistance in my case.  Left unattended, both body and soul will not do very well that day.  And even if I escape a bad day in spite of ignoring my body and soul, I may begin to develop a bad habit of skipping the stretching tomorrow.  Soon enough, the mess will happen.  So I try to stay in good stretching habits each day.

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Two

I am a bit of a "Two" on the Enneagram.  What is that?  In short, I tend to freak out when I am not needed.  When I let it go, then I smile at my silliness, and am fine.  The first summer that I realized the monastery did not really need me, I was restless and irritable a lot of the time.  "They have no use for me!"  "They don't care."  "I am not important.  I am a nobody."  I got over it, but not right away.  It was a gift to have time to pursue what other things God might have in store for me at the monastery.  Whenever I think that a parish where I live has no need of me, I think about leaving and going elsewhere.  "I am leaving this parish.  They don't really need me."  Then a friend talks me into staying.  It is really about becoming enlightened, letting go of this need, that is really a band aide to some inner baggage, and seeing that a door closed and another opened.  But don't stop reading my blogs, or else.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Damaged Goods

Surgery over.  I am damaged goods now.  I was thinking that I would go into this parish dinner/dance/fundraiser tomorrow night amidst all these people who are so elegantly dressed up.  Will I see myself as "damaged goods?" No.  On the outside, yes, I am the duckling among swans.  But in some ways we are all damaged goods just from growing up and living life.  The outside elegant and beautiful look does not change history.  Some of the people at this event were ridiculed in school, or bullied, or thought they did not fit in.  Some may have had a parent or other relative who was too critical and unkind.  Some had their hearts broken in love, or got badly treated in a job, or married a disaster.  Stuff happens.  We all share some good inside of ourselves.  We have Godness from our Creator.  So I will live out the evening sharing from my insides and not spend time thinking about me.  Now I might tell everyone that I am dying from cancer, and that they should bid for a dinner with "Father" because it will be a Last Supper for me.  Now that would be a fib, I hope, but the money is for a good cause.  Were my sister Maureen here she would simply say I am a monster who is just now showing monster on the outside, plus I will burn for lying.   I won't think about her at the party.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


This morning, maybe as you read this, I am having my face cup up to remove skin cancer.  It is supposed to be the "good" cancer, but still, I will be chopped up and then stitched up.  I will look like Frankenstein.  Then two days later I will attend a big parish/school function, called "Mayfair," to raise money for the school. Everyone will be looking their best, except me.  I am supposed to be raffled off for a "Dinner with Father."  I don't think anyone will bid on Frankenstein.  Now some of this is vanity or delusion on my part, so it is a chance for spiritual growth.  Vanity says I used to look good and attractive.  This could be delusional as well.  So I will smile, be pleasant, engage whoever talks to me, and just let go if people look away or talk about me when I am not in their presence.  The good news is that my face will be cancer free again.  The bad news is that I won't be raising any money for the school this year.  Frankenstein always eats alone, or with blind people.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Please pray for me.  Tomorrow I get my face chopped up to remove cancer.  Then stitches.  Someone named Boris said he was a surgeon and would do the procedure.  His assistant is named Igor. This did not sound too good.  So I am going elsewhere.

Sacred Cup

For about the first twelve centuries of my church religion, it was considered an abuse, bad form, to NOT drink from the consecrated blood in the cup when going to communion.  It was the norm to eat and drink at communion.  Then stuff happens.  We began to emphasize seeing and adoring the "Eucharist."  But you could see the host, the bread, but you could not see the wine because it was in the cup.  Elevation of the host began in the thirteenth century.  The cup did not get elevated for three more centuries.  The plague came along too.  Hardly anyone was going to communion and if you did, the cup was not offered.  In 1415 the cup was refused to laity.  The Eastern Rite kept the ancient traditions right up to today.  So you see, church changes, at least the Western church of which most Catholics are in this country.  Vatican II Council in 1960s tried to restore the cup.  In some places it is still on life support as a practice.

Monday, May 2, 2016


As the story goes, a minister went into a parishioners soda shop in the late 19th century, and ordered a dish of ice cream. It was a Sunday. On a whim he put a cherry on top and poured some cherry syrup on the ice cream.  He decided to call it a "Cherry Sunday," since it was Sunday when he made this concoction.  Flavors got added over time, but then the name changed to Sundae, from Sunday.  The word, "Sunday," like the word, "Sabbath," has religious connotations. We have a growing history of attempts to be rid of religious connotations in our country.  This is just one of them.  I think I will ask for an "Chocolate Ice Cream Sabbath," the next time I go to the ice cream store!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Me Before You

In Jo Jo Moyes' best selling novel, "Me Before You," Will Traynor is a paraplegic in a wheelchair.  He once was very active and self-willed.  Now he can do nothing without help.  He wants to die so he sets up an appointment with a clinic that will do the job for him, since he cannot even seem to kill himself.  Along comes a new caretaker, Louise Clark, who grew up in a much smaller and less wealthy world than Will.  Love happens. Will is being somewhat transformed.  He still wants to die, but now he has another reason.  It is so that Lou will have a much better life, a fuller life, without him around.  She disagrees.  What will happen?  Well you have to read the book.  Would Will be undergoing assists suicide, with all our judgments about that process for the person?  Remember that Jesus said he came to die, and even suffer.  He did not try and avoid it.  Plus, he told his disciples that things would be better for them, whom he loved, if he were killed.  He did not kill himself.  Pilate supplied that for him.  Pilate "assisted" in God's plan for our salvation, so we Christians believe.  Jesus and Will are on their path, out of love for an other or others.  Neither planned to kill themselves.  Will's death would be seen as assisted suicide.  Bad. Bad.  Jesus is seen as saving the world.  Good. Good.  I am more than Grateful for Jesus doing what he did.  I am not so absolutely condemning of Will.  I may not agree with his choice but life, and death can be complicated.  What do you think?  Oh, the book will be a movie this summer.  Bring the hankies.