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.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Brooding over something is a great shot-term solution. Like all short-term solutions it might feel good for a while but it does not solve much else. I think I am justifiably angry when in fact I am just feeling sorry for myself that the world is not as "it should be." Brooding is kind of a dry response to my thirst for water to quench the emptiness that is within me. I may be unaware that I have this hole within me. I only know that the world is not as I think it ought to be in my life. At the end of the day, when I examine my conscience and look over my emotional life for that day, I generally see the truth. If I am lucky, I did not act on my brooding that day, so I don't have to apologize to anyone for actions. This is when I realize that God has been with me the whole time, that I did not act in a harmful way to anyone else. Why should others be punished by me for my not getting my way?
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
The Irish proverb, "You'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind," applies to me in my spiritual life some days. it begins when I get up in the morning and set my priorities out of whack. I decide to put off prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, till "later." I will do some other very important things, such as exercise and check my computer or go to breakfast with someone. I think about the spiritual life, but I don't do anything. That time called "later" never seems to happen that particular day. A spiritual life is action. Many people judge that anyone who sits with their eyes closed in silence and stillness is "wasting time," "getting nothing done." If my ego goes unchecked by prayer, the "active" life that day will not be productive of much good. This is my experience. No one gets to a meeting simply by thinking about going.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
I was sitting in a group that was talking about being active in a spiritual practice, and not just talking about it. What can we do on a daily basis to keep growing in the spiritual life.? This one fellow piped up for was having difficulties, of which I was well aware from my own humble beginnings. I meant to talk with him after the session ended, but being self-absorbed, I forgot. God did not forget. As I was walking out the door to the parking lot, this fellow was walking right in front of me and lingered outside the front door. What a coincidence, right? So I stopped and told him, from my experience what he might do to have a plan. He loved it. He said he had no plan and my advice was a good plan he would follow. I gave him my name and went home. God's grace is greater than my self-absorption. That is why I tend to call God a power greater than myself.
Monday, September 26, 2016
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
LUKE 16: 19-31
SEPTMBER 25, 2016
Sometimes people say that they have given up on God or do not believe in a God because there is so much suffering in the world and God does not prevent it. The story of Lazarus and the rich man is used to make their case against God. In fact, God did try to help Lazarus. God did not ignore Lazarus. God’s plan was for the rich man to take care of Lazarus. The rich man was a believer. Abraham was “Father” to the man. He also knew Lazarus. The rich man was supposed to be God’s skin in the world and take care of Lazarus. He did not do his job. All of us fail at one time or another to be God’s skin the world. We all have more of something while someone else we know has far less, and we ignore them
In school situations, one person has friends, is in a popular group, while someone who they know by name, does not seem to have friends or to connect. The popular person ignores the lonely person who they see every day! Some people use information as power. They don’t share it with others who are ill informed. Some people have skills but won’t share their expertise.
This gospel is not a critique on wealth or poverty. Neither the rich man nor Lazarus is judged for their situation. The rich man had it good in his lifetime and Lazarus had it bad. Sometimes we tend to blame the poor for being poor. Somehow, it is their own fault, so we don’t have to do anything to help them. Or we judge people with lots of money, to be an evil and wrong situation. The wrong of the rich man is that he did nothing for Lazarus who was right in front of him every day. Even in the Netherworld, the rich man never repented or apologized or admitted that he messed up. He wanted Lazarus to take care of his thirst in the flames. He who ignored Lazarus did not want to be ignored himself.
Some of us think that if we actually saw Jesus risen from the dead we would become believers, or stronger believers and practice our faith better. Abraham has it right. Sometimes we are so self-imploded that even a person raised from the dead won’t change us.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
If you do something that has no "done" to it, you might be addicted. Workaholics have no "done" in their work. They are never finished. Two guys are in a bar having a couple of beers. One says, "I am done," and leaves to go home. The other fellow keeps drinking. He has no "done" in his drinking. He may well be an alcoholic. When I go to run or gym exercise, I decide how long I will run or exercise. If I run too much or too fast or too long a distance, I will get injured. I might then qualify as a runaholic! Such people exist in the running communities. Some people are never done making enough money. There is never enough. "More" replaces "done." I try to live in moderation where I can. Otherwise, if not moderation, then abstinence. I have learned my limits, sometimes painfully.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
I hear people say that they are "on a spiritual path." To be on any path requires feet, or if no feet, then a chair that moves. Spiritual journeys begin with feet. I have to move to my place of prayer, away from unnecessary noise and commotion. If I gather with others to talk/share about things spiritual, I have to go to meet them somewhere. I don't Skype such groups. Inertia leads to inertia and cheap talk about growth without doing anything. At some point I may not be able to move anymore. Unless I am a hermit, I hope that the feet of others comes to me. Hmmm. Maybe there is someone out there who needs my feet to move towards them?
Friday, September 23, 2016
I don't embrace change. Wherever I live, I live with other people. Since I am away from my "residences" for some periods of time, whenever I show up, there has been change in how the house functions, given who is living there. My initial solution is to become a hermit, a whining, complaining, resentful hermit. I don't embrace change. I have problems with a God who might want to be teaching me something, helping me to grow, through the changes I encounter. So I start out with resentment and judgment. Unhappiness, and irritability follow. My tongue wags with complaint. Since the change looks rather permanent, and I having no power to turn it into my favor, I tend to fall back onto acceptance and surrender. Ironically, this seems to take me out of my misery, and to make others around me happier. I don't like surrender. I prefer power. Perhaps there is power in surrender and acceptance? I have heard this is so.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Someone said that she at times "shoulds" herself. I can relate. Sometimes I too say that I "should" do this or that. Should is the word that tells me I am in a bad space or on the way to one. With the should word comes the feeling and self-judgment that I am lazy, inefficient, talentless, and an overall bad person. I end up with guilt and shame. Now that surely makes for a bad day. The vice is really false pride. I think that I should be better, and even be SUPER person. I fail to be me, someone with a limited amount of power, who will need to find more power if I am to do any of the things I think I should be doing, such as saving the world. I find that doing nothing for the moment, and getting a second or third opinion is a much better way to go. Prayer gives me a second opinion. If God gives me no more power than I guess my "should" is bogus. I get a third opinion by checking in with someone who is on the spiritual path. For me, to negotiate my "should" notions alone is a disaster.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Well, if I can just tell people what books to read and go live in my cave, then why teach at all? I teach because I need to give back. No one may need what I am giving, but it does make me feel good and keeps me out of trouble. I have heard it said that one learns by teaching. I am not sure this is so for me because I often say things when teaching, that I have no idea how I came up with such a thought. I drift away from my notes and feel that I have some sudden insight, at least for me. Later, I cannot even remember what I said unless I write it down. Are these inspired moments for the listener? I don't know. What I know is that I seem to have these insights only when I am actually teaching. I hope God is in charge. All of us who are trying to become all that God made us to be, have wisdom from our life and we can pass it on. We each need to find a way to do this that fits us. Too bad letter writing is on life support.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
I try to meditate each day, to exercise my body, to eat some protein, and be helpful to others. It keeps me balanced. It is called, "staying in the middle of the boat." When I skip meditation, for instance, I am moving to the edge of the boat. I am getting a bit rocky and out of balance. At some point, I will go over the edge and be drowning in my own mess of faults and bad behavior. My boat is always in the middle of the water. All around me is messy behavior, but if I stay in the middle of the boat, I am OK. I remind myself of this each morning when I might want to just blow it all off, or am too busy with some more important task, or think I am a saint and can skip prayer. I can get an important task done from the edge of the boat, but it may be the last good thing done with good behavior for that day. I can wake up from a night's sleep in the middle of the boat if I am not over scheduled for the day ahead, saving the world with my focused ego, seeing the world as disaster unless I get into "Super" mode. There are no oars in the boat. I may have plans to get somewhere, but then so does everyone else. Sometimes, the best thing I do is pick up people who fell out of their boat...and don't even know it. Kindness, patience, acceptance, a smile all helps. I try not to be too busy for the drowning person.
Monday, September 19, 2016
I sometimes think that there is nothing original that I say when I am teaching about the mystics and contemplative prayer, or the spiritual life in general. I am like a bee that goes from flower to flower pilfering honey wherever it can find it. I read books, and teach from them. I am beginning to think of just notifying people in a blog or email of the latest book I read and telling them to read it. I could disappear into a cave on a mountain top, as long as I had wi-fi and UPS delivery for books and chocolate and of course room service. I would have plenty of time to pray, read spiritual books to recommend and still follow sports. Occasionally, I would come down from the mountain cave to play golf. A modern hermit!
Sunday, September 18, 2016
We hear the saying from the Bible, "Knock and it shall be opened." A lot of us thought we knocked pretty hard and nothing happened. God must be away or at least not on the other side of that door! The frustration might be because we think of the "knocking" as the first thing that we do. It is viewed as being at the starting gate of prayer. We have done nothing yet. We want to begin prayer. But I think there is another meaning. To Knock is to be at prayer already, beyond the starting gate. We move from slowly jogging as in verbal prayer, to a bit faster pace, as in meditation, and this is when the knock comes. We knock that God might open the door to contemplation, the full run of deep prayer. Just as an exerciser cannot go from a standing start to a full run, we cannot go from nothing to contemplation. Of course, if you are like me, there are some days in which I can barely move and some days when there will be no contemplation. But if I don't try each day, I will not have the good days too. At present, I am hoping that my prayer days are better than my running days. Otherwise, I will be spiritually washed up!
Saturday, September 17, 2016
If we don't get enough rest, we tend to suffer and eventually to fall apart. Most of us are rather conscious of getting enough rest in our busy lives. We tend to feel out of sorts when we don't get enough rest. I see prayer of silence and solitude as my time of rest for the spiritual part of me. I am not a body, and a separate soul. I am all one and if one part of me does not get enough daily rest, I will begin to feel it all over and it will effect how well I function. Rest is not optional be it prayer or sleep.
Friday, September 16, 2016
God's presence is like the breath. It is always here with us, keeping us going, but we do not notice or give it much attention. We ignore our breathing as we often ignore God. So it is with me. Now running is like prayer. I suppose any form of exercise might qualify. In running I definitely notice my breathing. In prayer I notice the God presence, at least most of the time. Prayer is calling myself to attention to the Presence. So maybe when I run, I am really praying? I am going for an hour run in a few minutes. If I suspect pain and suffering are approaching, I will definitely be praying.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Following on a previous blog on math, at least the math teacher does not have to "unlearn" you from bad math taught when you were younger. Math is progressive, one year building upon another. You don't have to unlearn physics 101 to learn physics 201. Algebra comes nicely after arithmetic. But in religion, we teach simplistically to youth and then later we have to deal with that when we are trying to teach adult spirituality. For instance, we tell children that God is in heaven, a place that is up, as in the sky. We go to mass or else God will punish us. We confess to a priest or else God cannot forgive us. Communion is a reward for being good. Prayer is our words and thoughts to thank God and then to ask for things. Many people, when they grow up, drop out of religion because a lot of this early age teaching is wanting. We have a buried treasure chest of wisdom. I try to dig it up, unlock it and then make connections where possible with their past religion lessons. And not fall into heresy. That leads to purgatory, at least.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
There is a Hebrew word that is translated, "Salvation" in the King James Bible. But that Hebrew word has another meaning, "Coming home." Hebrew words don't have vowels, so whatever vowels you add will decide what the word is supposed to mean. Way back when, it had the meaning of coming home. I like that. I had been looking for a physical place as the "home." I use to go home to my parents. Rectories where I "am assigned" is not what I would call home. It is a place I live for a while, but no one calls home a place where you are "assigned" for a while well you do some work. I can come home to God in the present moment and I can come home to my "tribe" who are people like me in their problems, honesty and spiritual solutions. I find them in every city where I go. When I find my tribe I feel saved, at least from my wacky self. No one can save themselves. I tried that solution too.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
What good is it to say, "I love the whole world," if you cannot love the person with whom you live, or your neighbor, or coworker. It is easy to love the world, to be kind to someone you will never see again. These people do not irritate you, or otherwise you would ignore that part of the "world." The people you see more regularly, they are the ones who are harder to love. This is why Jesus said, "Love your neighbor," instead of "love the world." The wise teacher knows that loving someone closer to us, is what will change us, if not them. Love is to make us the best we can be, not to change the other person. Many of us want the opposite. The other person should change, not me. Some of us attempt love so as to get our plans and agenda accomplished. It is conditional love, based upon change, not me, but you. Well, off to another day of trying to love the wretched people in my life. Oops! I had better read this blog again. Physician, heal thyself!
Monday, September 12, 2016
Thirty years ago today my Paulist priest friend, Fr. Jim Young, age 46, died. He had a lot to do with me being a priest and being the priest I am today. I left Boulder to work with him in San Francisco in 1986. He never made it to San Francisco. One of the unique things about Jim was that he began or nurtured lay ministries that responded to what people wanted and needed. Some priests will begin things they like or that the church seems to think important, such as evangelization. Jim began a ministry to separated and divorced Catholics when the hierarchy and many clergy thought such people to be pariahs. Jim taught the laity how to minister to one another. He was a big hit with the laity, those who felt they were on the edges or outside of acceptable church circles. A lot of what Jim learned, he taught himself or allowed the laity to teach him. Then he passed it on. Jim introduced me to Florida vacations. It is how I discovered Vero Beach, where I now spend some winter weeks. When I was working as a vicar in Houston, Texas, he was the one who told me I should think about moving to our church in Boulder. I did and that was a wonderful experience. So my life, and the life of many people I have worked with are shaped by my friend Jim Young. May he rest in peace.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Today is fifteen years since the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. I remember exactly where I was when I saw what was happening on the TV. I was on the East Coast time zone at the time. I pray for peace. I pray that in my own small way, I might be part of a solution, and not part of the problem amidst so many seemingly different persons, faiths, and cultures.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
It is easy for me to love when I feel good or "feel spiritual" as I like to say in my more pious moments. I am getting my way. People are not bothersome or stunting my plans. It is much more difficult to love when I do not feel love, when things are not going my way, when people are difficult. I tend to be judgmental. Things outside myself are the problem. Sages do not say we should love when we feel like it. To try to be loving when I don't feel the love has the possibility of changing me. What it will do for the other person is something I cannot control. I try to pray each day that I might stay out of my own way, and God's way for that matter. God might want to love someone through me. God is so inefficient, choosing me. God is ever hopeful though.
Friday, September 9, 2016
I think that God wants me in Boulder. I was having trouble getting my boarding pass on computer to return here last Wednesday, September 7. Then I tried on my cell phone and still could not get it sent to email. I called Customer Service. The rep asked me for the reservation confirmation code. I gave it to her along with my name. She tried to send me an email so I could print out my boarding pass. Nothing came through. Then she tried to send me a text, twice, so I could show the boarding pass on my cell phone at the airport. Nothing cam through. Then, while we were talking about junk mail and my server, a text suddenly showed up on the phone. I had a boarding pass for my flight on September 7. I went to the airport on that day and showed the boarding pass on my cell phone screen. Flew to Boulder. Wonderful. Later that afternoon, I was about to throw away the reservation sheet I keep until after a flight is concluded. That is when I noticed that my reservation was for August 31 and not for September 7, same plane, time, airport. The plane had 75 empty seats. I had missed my flight by a week. Only the computer seemed to know. The customer service rep overrode it? Tell me God does not want me in Boulder! Guess I am home.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Now I know why the Gospel does not get passed on very well or very quickly. It is Good News. Good News is not gossip. Good News travels slowly. Bead new travels like lightening. If the word came out that "Peter was having an affair" in the early church, it would have rocketed through the Roman Empire. Mother Teresa, our newest saint, worked for twenty years in India in obscurity, doing the same things for which she became famous when Malcolm Muggeridge did a story on her. Some blogs ago I said that Boulder did not feel like home. That news went everywhere, and quickly. Along with it were reasons given by the messengers for such a situation in my life. First, it is not bad news. My rectory life is fine and the priests are quite friendly and helpful. We pray together. We have the same cook for the last several years. So not to worry. I simply do not do well with change, if anything. The new priests want to do most of the masses so that they will get known, and get to know the people. I simply fill in when someone might be away. All is good. Now I bet this news will move at a snails pace. My reputation for being a good teacher does not seem to get around much. I thought maybe people hated my teaching. Now it is possible that my teaching is good news, so few people bother to pass it on.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
I find that there are few people who can teach math well. A teacher is supposed to help the student to understand. Math teachers understand their subject, but they seem to assume that the student likes and understands math. All the teacher needs to do for these math aptitude students is give them new info, formulas and equations and the student picks it up. But if you are like me, a guy who had to take math as a requirement in high school or in grad school statistics, I have no aptitude, but the teacher does not seem to know how to make the light go on for me. The math teacher is not helping me to understand or appreciate the subject. I thought of joining a math club once but I think I would have slowed everyone down, or frustrated the teacher. I must remember all this whenever I am trying to talk of things spiritual, such as God and prayer. Just because something comes easily to you, don't assume you are the norm for that subject. Patience and compassion would help if you want to teach what you love.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
I think of my Paulist rectory in San Francisco as a home for assisted living. This view seems realistic to me, as some of the guys here are not much for cleaning up or taking care of common space, and do not seem to be able to contribute to the general welfare of our house. This is the way of any assisted living facility. If I have expectations that everyone will contribute equally, I will just be upset and disappointed on a daily basis. I will get resentful. Compassion is what I try to practice and the to be helpful myself in cleaning up common space, shopping, keeping a grocery list, and so on. There are reasons why some guys cannot seem to be more useful in these areas, and it is not for me to judge. We are all wounded in one way of another. I actually feel better myself when I "get things done," around the house. Chores for myself and the common good have always been a "pick me up" for me. Apparently, this is not so for some people. Living in community can be a growth experience, but requires mounds of Grace.
Monday, September 5, 2016
I doubt that I will ever do the work that Mother Teresa, St. Mother Teresa, did in India. But what does challenge me is in the world of prayer. She said that if she became a saint she would be the "saint of darkness." For many years she carried on her difficult work while her prayer life had no feeling for the presence of God. That is her greatest miracle to me. So many of us will pray as long as it makes us feel good, or at least feel the presence of God. I hope that Mother Teresa will be praying for me the next time I feel blah when at prayer, so that I don't give up.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
I am a member of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I had not been to the newly refurbished and expanded museum since April. Today I went to see it. I decided to do only two floors, slowly. Come back another day to see other floors of art. Some of the art made no sense to me. Some I liked very much. The important thing is not to judge. My mind wanted to say, "This a 4 year old could do with crayons." I let it pass. I enjoy what attracts me and move on from what does not. There is all kinds of Modern Art. There are all sorts of prayer forms. Some attract me and some do not. I gravitate to that prayer which seems to call to me. In my work I meet all kinds of people who are sold on their prayer forms. They seem to wonder why everyone is not similarly attracted. Some prayer is a good fit for me and some is not. Life is short. Enjoy the Art and Prayer that is a good fit for you, regardless of how others praise what does not attract you. Just don't judge. It separates us. Prayer is to unite us.
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Someone said that it is sad that I do not feel I have a place to call "home." But I do not believe it is sad. It is disquieting, yes, because it is a change. But it is not sad. How can God being at work be sad for the soul? I am being asked to surrender, to let go of the sense of permanence in my life. I am being asked to let go of what is superficial, not what is crucial and significant. I am not losing my place to live, my room, or the companionship of good people. I am only losing that which is not essential to God's will and my growth. I can continue to do God's work where I live, but with that sense of impermanence that is so important if my work is to continue to be God's work through me. Surrender is seeing what is nonessential and letting go of it. The Love of God, the relationship of letting go of past and future is essential.
Friday, September 2, 2016
This past Sunday our parish in San Francisco, Old St. Mary's, had our annual picnic in our auditorium. It used to be outside in the courtyard, but we all got old, and nuclear winter is in the August air. The place was filled with people I don't usually see. Some I see, and many I do not. Some were low income, and some were not. Why so many happy people? Food. The poor come because it is free. The less poor, because they are frugal. I have found that when my church gives people what they want, they will come. When we try to give them what we think they "need" or should want, they do not come. I teach about prayer of meditation and the mystics. Few people come to these talks at my church here in San Francisco. Now that is food for thought for me. I offer what few people want. Is this what God wants me to do? Is it an ego trip on my part? I ponder. Then again, I could go Salvation Army way: free food if you listen first to a talk.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
I realize now that I have not left the monastery. Yes, my body left, and so did a lot of my stuff that I brought up there for the summer. But something of me did not leave. This is new for me. I always seemed to make a nice smooth transition from the monastery to wherever I was going next. Maybe the rest of me will leave the monastery in time. At my age, I do not make long range plans. So far, I feel like a visitor wherever I am. It is not a terrible feeling, just a different feeling. I have always been at home in the world of ministry, towns and cities. There is nothing that has to be solved. God is at work. Prayer keeps me from becoming hardened clay. I will become filled up as God chooses, with what God chooses. But I do keep jogging.