Monday, December 11, 2017

The Stopping

Things I don't like seem to keep happening.  I try to think of something joyful that happened each day before I go to bed, so that I am not overwhelmed by things I don't like.  So if the world is not going to change much in my outside surroundings, then maybe I can change to be able to have more joy.  What would such change look like?  I think it would look like acceptance.  Why fight something that I cannot change?  Work on myself.  This is a spiritual path or practice.  With acceptance I might be able to pour some forgiveness and love into the empty vessels of hate, judgment, selfishness and mega-control.  This will take some sacrifice on my part.  A lot of misery comes from trying to get "more" or more than is necessary while giving up little or nothing.  Happiness is in the stopping.  Spiritual growth is to know what to stop and when.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Talking To Yourself

If you go to places where there are sermons, have you ever noticed how the preacher is not even remotely talking to where the people are at in their spiritual needs?  Why would this happen so often?  Well, the preacher may have a preconceived idea about the audience, that they are just like him in their interest.  Or the preacher may have an agenda, a message, that they want to get out, that they judge the people should hear.  The preacher may have made a judgment about the state of the listener, and confuses this judgment with a sense of knowledge about the listener.  In a nutshell, the preacher may be in a whole different place than the listener, but the preacher is clueless.  There is no effort to find out, from the people, what is their need.  The preacher decides what they need, such as a good kick in their deficient moral character.   I have seen preachers wax on and on to a group of way retired people, about abortion and birth control.  I get the idea that the only reading the preacher does is in something that supports their already formed idea of how things should be.  I get trashed for preaching stories, even fairy tales to children, to make my point, when another preacher thinks the same children should get a good dose of catechism.  So be it.  My criterion is to ask myself what will help the children to become more of who God made them to be?  God is in story.  Read the Bible.  Maybe I should just retire.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Immaculate Conception

Yesterday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  What is that?  Well, think of it this way.  If all the animals that eat, sting or poison one another, were to be gathered together in Mary's presence, they would all sit quietly together and not bother one another.  Why?  Before Adam and Eve, a Creation Story, had messed up by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were in charge of the world and every living thing was at peace with one another.  There were no hassles, no pollution, no one animal attacking another out of hunger or turf wars.  Forests were not destroyed and so on.  Adam and Eve had not gone on any ego-power trips, or fallen into the temptation for "more."  Once they messed up, or "fell" the world got very messy and violent.  Animals began to eat one another into extinction and snakes bit to kill.  The way to survive was to destroy something.  Then along came Mary.  She was the first one, so the story goes, to exist just like Adam and Eve started out.  No sin.  She did not go on any ego trip for more of anything.  She actually gave things up, like her reputation, and almost her marriage.  She sacrificed so that the world might be a better place, even if she was not sure how this might happen.  She gave up of her normal, comfortable life, and took a chance on God.  Not so much Adam and Eve.  This is why the animals gathered around Mary are all at peace.  I wonder if they were in the stable when her baby was born?  The lion lies down with the lamb?  Read that somewhere.  I wonder if it works for nations, to all be gathered and at peace?  She is called The Queen of Peace for a reason.  I think I will just work on letting go, a little sacrifice of self, and see what happens around me.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Obsession

When I was growing up, and that took a long time, I grew physically and emotionally, but processed emotions as an infant, an emotional infant.  When I would say, "I instantly fell in love," what really was going on was "instant obsession."  I mixed up love with obsession.  I met people who acted the same toward me.  I guess like attracts like?  A sane person would know the difference between love and obsession.  I was not a sane person for quite a few years.  As someone said, I was an emotional infant walking around in an adult body.  As I began to gain some sanity, I realized how lonely I had been.  Loneliness, undiagnosed, can bring on obsessions with people and other stuff.  So the next time you fall instantly in love, check to see if this might be an obsession.  Don't trust your own answers.  You could be insane! Check with someone who you think is sane, maybe at peace and serene.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Idea Not The Belief

Someone said, and it is written in a book, "The idea of God works."  What?  So many of us reject any God help because we do not believe in God, or at least do not believe in a God who can help us.  But maybe the faith road is not so necessary.  Just the idea of God, even one who you don't believe in, might be able to help you to act better, less insane, less bad behavior.  The idea that there might be some sort of power can get us to ask, "If you are anywhere, I could use some help.  I am at the end of my rope."  You don't have to believe.  Simply act on the idea.  Faith is not necessary.  People have told me that it works for them.  People with addiction issues have used the "idea" and have had good results.  Miracles apparently don't need faith.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Know The Past

When we make a change in our lives, be it a move, job, marriage, living arrangements, we can only know the past, not the future.  For something to be future, it has to be the unknown, or else it is the same old, same old.  When you enter into marriage after being single, you know single.  You don’t know marriage.  It is On The Job Training.  When I moved to Chicago and away from my home in New York, I knew NY.  I did not know Chicago.  It was the same with the priesthood.  All my time in the seminary did not teach me all about the priesthood.  I had to say yes to it, and then learn.  The ego and the heart helps us make the leap.  The ego thinks it knows more than it does and the heart desires the change.  This would be in most marriages in the Western culture.  You desire the other person and think you know what it will be like.  Living together fools a lot of people.  Look at the statistics at who stays and who leaves after marriage.  I think it is a good idea to admit that I know little when I am making a change.  Isn’t it humbling to admit to yourself that you know nothing after you have made a decision to change something in your life? Humility might be the beginning of making something positive out of what feels a bit negative.  I have found this to be so in my vocation.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sing Your Praises

If you want someone to sing your praises loudly for all to hear, then befriend a blind person, or one who is mentally challenged.  Why?  They tend to talk loudly, so if they praise you it will be with a loud voice.  I got this from no less than Jesus himself.  Seems a blind guy was on the side of the road as Jesus walked by.  He called out for Jesus in a loud voice.  Maybe when you are ignored a lot, you tend to talk loudly.  Anyway, Jesus cures him and the blind fellow then follows Jesus praising God in a “loud voice.”  So if you want to have someone say nice things about you for all to hear, don’t ignore  people who have learning problems or are blind.  You can learn a lot of practical stuff from the Bible.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Soldiers For Christ

When I was confirmed as a third grader, I was told that, with Confirmation, I was becoming a soldier for Christ.  Who was I to battle?  The devil?  Where is that?  Years later, I have come to realize that I was indeed a soldier, and my war was with the attack of my character defects.  It is a war that is never over,  and I need all the grace and help I can get.  Each day I awake to differing battlefields.  I might awaken and it is quiet and peaceful.  This is temporary, and very temporary if I do not be a good soldier and prepare for the inevitable attack.  Prayer, meditation, checking in with other soldiers in the same situation as I am, group support and being of help to others in this battle, all become the preparation and the honed weaponry for “The Attack Of The Character Defects.”  If I do no preparation, then I will be overwhelmed and beaten down by a surprise attack.  Attacks are never expected by the prideful soldier who fails to bond with powers greater than their singular self.  The battle is within.  Character defects don’t necessarily attack because of outside situations.  It is the inner weakness of non-preparation, no daily drills, that make the outside event into an attack of character defects.  So I guess that my third grade teacher, a sister, was right when I was about to be confirmed.  I am a soldier for Christ.  I should be teaching confirmation!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Smoker

I have a friend who smokes cigarettes.  Now you say, "What a filthy habit.  She is so silly.  She is killing herself.  What a waste of time."  Are you finished with the judgments?  Let me context her "bad" habit in a wider spectrum.  She spends maybe twenty minutes to a half hour a day with a cigarette in her hand.  The rest of the time she is loving, giving, caring, doing all kinds of charitable things, going out of her way to be helpful and kind.  I have seen this in her.  Now I look at myself who does not smoke.  But little of my time is spent doing all the human connections of my friend.  I exercise, meditate, read, go to a museum, shop, write blogs and none of this has any human contact.  I am not being kind and loving or going out of my way for anyone.  So ask yourself, when you are patting yourself on the back for having no bad habits, "What's in your day?"  Being self-centered may not be connected with cancer, but it can be quite addictive.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

No Fault

Being single is not a fault.  Yet, single people are often treated "differently," if not ignored by institutions.  Does my church pay any attention to single persons?  Hardly.  In reality, little money, time or energy is given over to connecting with single persons.  Church assumes that they are on the way to marriage, and that is when religion will again pay attention to the single person, during the marriage prep phase.  Corporations look on a single woman as someone who is "temporary" in their lifestyle.  Don't commit too much to the single person, as they will move on when they meet their mate.  Or, if they don't seem to be getting along to marriage, there might be something "weird" about them.  Go to a bank and try to get a loan as a single person for something more than a car.  And so it goes.  When I was single, living in Chicago and working in business, I met Fr. Morrissey, a curate at the local Catholic Cathedral on the Near North Side.  He was comfortable with us single people.  I and others could feel it.  So we gathered with one another and Fr. Morrissey was part of the glue that brought us together.  He was young and we wee young.  Now, I ask my old self, "Am I much use to single people?  Do I help single people to know they are not at fault?  That they are wonderfully made as single people?"  Hmm.  Anyway, Jesus was single.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Vatican II

Back to the movie, "Novitiate."  Why did so many women leave the nunnery life after the changes?  The movie gives a reason in something that the Mother Superior says near the end.  She tells the young nun protagonist, that when she came to the monastery, she had nothing.  The monastery gave her three things: an identity, a work, a community or place of belonging.  The trappings of rule and habit (clothing) was all part of this identity.  She saw in Vatican II changes, the loss of all this.  No longer would nuns have to wear the habit.  The strict rules of suffering were abrogated. The nuns were to be reduced to the level of more "ordinary" laity.  They lost their identity as they saw it.  We each have to ask ourselves, what gives us our sense of identity, sense of self, who we are and who we are not?  What can be taken away and what is essential?  Selfishness can blur all this, as can power trips.  Honesty helps.  I think I need a spiritual path to get it right.  Then gratitude follows.  Why?  Because the essential seems to show up as gift.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Male Power

Staying with the blog idea of yesterday, when men are in power, and women are not, women's bodies do not do so well.  In the male dominated Church that is mine, women who wanted to have an especially deep and intimate relationship with God, a male image, needed to be in a cloister.  Married women, having some sex, were too tainted.  It seemed weird to the Jewish male leadership that Jesus would have anything to do with hanging out with prostitutes or even talking to a married woman.  The first thing a woman had to do if she wanted to get close to God was shut down the body.  Cloister life, no men in sight, lots of strict rules, was a severe way to do this.  Monks did this too.  Eventually, the clergy were not to marry or mess around, though they did.  See the Renaissance.  The body, feelings, emotions, are always things that get in the way of intimacy, so goes the thinking.  But God made the body and in my faith, even took one on in Jesus of Nazareth.  He seemed to empower women.  Hollywood, Corporate hierarchs and anywhere that male power prevails, never seems to be good for women and their bodies.  Many a man leaves a marriage because he cannot take a woman's self-empowerment.  But some other reason is often given for the divorce.  But of course, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Novitiate

In the recent movie, "Novitiate" which is in an art theatre of San Francisco and probably not in Boulder, Colorado, one of the norms is that punishing the body is a good thing, but giving comfort to the body is not so good.  Feelings, especially of a sexual nature, the wanting to connect to another in touch, for instance, is a bad thing, but whipping the body is a positive thing that helps to make us more perfect or less imperfect.  The movie takes place in the early 60s before my church went through a change toward openness to the modern world.  So, I remember the time.  I still here about this old attitude today.  The body is problematic because it has feelings.  If it is one of anger, especially in women, then it needs to be confessed as a sin.  If it is one of physical desire, well, you have really gone beyond the pail.  You won't get to perfection that way.  You love God, your spouse, by sacrifice.  Love and sacrifice can go together of course, but the sacrifice that is exhibited here is one of confusing what is normal.  It becomes normal to punish yourself by fasting (starving) or beating yourself.  Abnormal, in the path to perfection, is to accept feelings as indications of something that needs attention.  you must be rid of these feelings and or punish yourself for having them. We are not talking about sex addicts here.  Good Catholics cannot go see this movie because it has sex in it, but being a not so good Catholic, I saw the movie.  Melissa Leo is great as the Mother Superior.  Probably an Oscar nomination.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Helping God

I have heard and even said myself, “God has no hands.  God needs our hands to do the work.”  Oh?  What happened to the all powerful God we are supposed to believe in?  I think maybe God can do whatever God wants and does not need me as much as I think.  So what is my first chore each day as relates to God?  I think it is to allow God to love me and just to love God, first without doing anything.  I need to stop making love happen by my actions as it relates to this God who is supposed to be love.  Love God without doing anything, without pious thoughts or words is a good way to allow God to love us.  If I start out by first doing good works to help God out, that seems to me as something that is energized by a big ego trip.  “I “ am important to God’s work soon becomes doing things without first checking in with some intimate loving of God.  Do less and mediate more might be what many of us active people need to do.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Telemedicine

Soon, in Texas, you can call your doctor when you are sick and talk to the doctor on your computer.  You get face time but can stay at home.  Say you have the flu or feel fluish.  You want to talk to your doctor “now.”  You are sick and don’t really want to go out into the cold winter to drive to the doctor’s office.  Plus, you probably cannot see the doctor for several days.  By then you will be dreadfully feeling near-death experiences.  With this new method, you get on your computer and talk to your doctor who can look at you on the computer screen.  Assessment is made and medication proscribed.  No visit out into the cold weather is needed.  Now how about my church doing this with confession.  You would still be having a live encounter, face to face with the priest.  He does not have to have specific confession hours that are usually inconvenient for many people but not for the priest. Or there could be specific times for teleconfession.  With new technology, physical presence is not so important.  If you are elderly, in inclement weather, cannot drive, you still get the sacrament.  Media can be the Churches Friend.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Trying

T. S. Eliot, the British poet, said that “for us, there is only the trying.  The rest is not our business.”  I don’t think he ever met Bill W. They think alike in this regard.  We spend so much energy fretting about results and have too little energy to focus on our own efforts, “the trying.”  I can pray all I want for results, but at some point I have to act, do something.  This is what I can control, and my prayer is more that I do the action, rather than wallow in sloth or whining.  If I do act, but with a bad attitude, then I whine about the results not being what I want.  “God has abandoned me,” becomes my mantra.  So I focus on trying to do the best that I can now and let go of fretting about the results.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Beatles

Why were the Beatles, from Liverpool, England, and other British rock groups so popular in the early  60s?  Because there were teenagers and  these teenagers had money to spend.  They were the new generation of consumers.  If you read yesterday’s blog, you learned that Europe lacked young people after WW II.  Then the babies came as the economies rose up from the rubble of war and bad pre-war economic decisions.   Eventually, money became less scarce.  No longer was all family income needed for necessities.  Now there was a bit “extra” and there were thing to buy.  Remember transistor radios?  No?  My friend Margo and I remember.  Anyhow, “teenager” became a category somewhere between child and adult.  In Europe, this was a late 50s development.  They were a consumer group with the desire for their own music.  Along came the Beatles.  They did have talent.  But now they had an audience who would pay to hear them or buy records and record albums.  This teen group would have its own hairstyles and fashion clothes.  Remember Neru suits?  No?  Well, welcome to a cultural history lesson.  Do teenagers read my blog?

Friday, November 24, 2017

Birth Control

Many people think that the reason the pope was against birth control in 1968 was because it was the traditional teaching of the church, and the church was against change in tradition not to say morality too.  But there is a reason that is rarely heard: Europe lacked children.  Birth rates had been down due to World Wars, Depression Era, infant death, lack of men all after the end of WW II.  If Europe was going to recover, it needed people, young people.  With the improvement of medical care, more prosperous economies, the chances of living past birth and into adulthood picked up.  Italy was one of the latter countries to get onto the economic bandwagon, though it did too.  Most of the lifetime of Italian Pope Paul VI in his early formative life was in this era of low birth rates.  One of the engines of morality is often economics.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Many people will be eating a feast of food on this day, Thanksgiving.  I hope you are with loved ones at table.  But it is also a day to feed the hungry, the poor, the homeless.  My parish in San Francisco does just that on Thanksgiving.  Our auditorium is full of anyone who wants to come and eat turkey and all the fixings.  It is cooked and served by volunteers.  Not only the poor come, but people who would otherwise be alone that day.  People of every culture, ethnicity, income, color and language sit side by side enjoying the dinner.  It is all free to the participants.  Some of the priests from the Paulist residence attend.  Many people will go to recovery meetings and give thanks for the miracle of their sobriety.  Some, like my friend Margo, will celebrate Thanksgiving during the day and then go to the opening of a movie that evening.  How are you giving thanks today?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What You Give, Not What You Got

A call, a choice of vocation or relationship, or career is not so much based upon what you have, but in what you give.  I am an example of this.  When I joined the Paulist Fathers, I was not anything special, except in my own delusional mind.  Big ego filled me up.  I was ordained as one of nine.  I have never been a “Star” in the Paulist Fathers, never asked to do the big jobs, or assignments.  The Administrations knew me better than I knew myself.  But God had a plan for my ordinariness.  God would do the heavy lifting while I simply persevered in my stumbling and wandering way.  Anything I did that was successful, in a parish was due to the lay people who did the ministry.  I was a sort of “chaplain.”  I might have an idea, but the parishioners were the ones who actually adapted and made it work, from my days as Catechism coordinator for Children in Houston, to Baptism and Marriage Preparation ministry in Boulder, and the Bookstore in San Francisco, to Camus Ministry in Knoxville.  Thanks to my sister, Maureen, I had lots of stories to tell for successful parish missions.  Now I simply teach about prayer, and can only do that successfully where parishioners or local lay groups do all the work but teach.  I have come to realize that God can take a bit of mediocrity and do a lot of wonderful things for others.  I just keep doing.  I am not retiring.  I give what I got, like a long distance runner who can but put one foot in front of the other for a long time.  Many people thing I am wonderful, but it is God’s doing.  I am the vessel, empty without Grace.  So don’t worry if you think you are not pretty enough, or strong enough, or smart enough.  Give what you got.  God is at work for the giver.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Change

In the movie, “Wonder” which I recommend to junior high students and teachers in elementary school, there is a line that says, “Augie cannot change the way he looks, so maybe we can change the way we see.”  Brilliant.  Augie has a face that is scarred by many surgeries since he was born.  He is homeschooled until middle school.  Then he begins going to school where he encounters students who “see” him in a certain way.  The way they see Augie directs the way they act toward him.  Children can be cruel and boorish.  Augie will always look “different.”  The students begin to change the way they act towards him and with him, when they change the way they see him.  AA has a book entitled, “A New Set of Glasses.”  We tend to see the world as distorted when in fact it is often the way we look at things that is distorted.  So whenever I catch myself seeing people in a way that seems to want me to separate, ignore, judge or distance myself, I will ask myself if I need to see differently.  At time it is me who needs to change.  How about you?

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Bezel Person

Are you a Bezel person?  A what?  Well, a Bezel is the border around your iPhone, if you have an iPhone.  You never think about it, but it is there.  Is it necessary? Apparently not so necessary says the iPhone X ( that is 10, not ex).  There is no border, which allows for a smaller phone with all the stuff of a bigger phone.  So, something we take for granted and even think is necessary, can be eliminated. Are you a bezel person, someone who you think is necessary, and even taken for granted, being so necessary, who can be eliminated from a job, a marriage, a friendship, a relationship?  People might say, “Oh, we cannot live without you,” or “What will we do without you?”  Then when I am not around, people seem to do just fine.  If I thought I was so necessary, then I would be a “Bezel person.”  I can be eliminated from people’s lives and they do just fine, or so it appears.  Bezel people are basically delusional.  They think they are so important, until they find out they are not.  My blog is a bezel blog.  It can be eliminated.  Oh! Say it isn’t so.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Airport Seating

Why do people take up two seats at an airport, one for themselves and one for their luggage?  One reason might be that it is convenient to do this.  Nothing on the dirty floor, plus stuff reached without having to bend over.  But there might be another reason.  We don’t like strangers to sit next to us.  Some people who are standing feel the same way.  Even though there is seat available, they will stand until there are two seats, one for themselves and one for their stuff.  But we are not really alien strangers to one another.  We travelers are all “refugees” type persons.  We are not at home and are either trying to get to someplace that is not home, or trying to get back home.  If we think of ourselves as fellow travelers, it might not engender enough compassion to give up your luggage seat for someone else.  But as fellow sufferers, compassion might be engendered.  So I tend to just take one seat.  And I will sit next to someone in the waiting area, though they might be thinking of me as somewhere between a nuisance and a terrorist.  I will even talk to strangers sitting next to or near me.  We are fellow refugees.  We are at that moment without homes.  Like flood or forest fire victims in Houston and Santa Rosa.  Human contact is not all bad.  Isolation does not have to be the norm when traveling through airports.  Our behavior often depends on how we see the other person.  If you think you are married to a jerk, or work with a jerk, or are associated with a jerk you will treat that person in a certain way.  Terrorists, likewise get terrorist treatment.  My deportment at airports gives people a second chance to have an opinion or judgment about the “stranger” who sits next to them.  Fear is often what gives our luggage a seat.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Compass

As a Boy Scout I had a compass.  It gravitated naturally to the north.  It gave me a sense of direction so that I would not get lost.  Well, my soul has a moral compass and it is broken.  It is supposed to gravitate to doing good, but it is not very consistent.  Left to my own unaided power, I will somedays stumble into the right direction, but more often than not, I will go in the wrong direction behaviorly or just wander about clueless.  So for me, I do not buy into the cultural ideal of “being free to do as I please.”  Prayer for me is not optional.  It is the exercise of my soul.  If you commit to exercise or diet, do you not have somedays when it is more difficult to discipline yourself?  Prayer is like that.  So in some way, I need to be a ‘Slave” to a spiritual practice and just do it out of obedience to my commitment, or in my case, God.  Most of us don’t like discipline, but Olympic Atheletes and Saints seem to find it crucial.  I will be neither, but at least I need to get pointed in the right direction.  Is your spiritual compass broken too?  “Going South” is a phrase that points to failure of one sort or another.  Addicts who do not practice daily recovery know what “going south” means.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Living Room

When my parents moved to Florida, there home had “the living room.”  Lots of homes in their neighborhood had this room.  It is nicely furnished, neat and clean, and no one uses it.  It is for special guests, and “special” means people we hardly ever see, and with whom we lack a certain amount of comfort in their presence.  A priest would qualify for this.  So, the few times that people invite me into their homes, they offer the living room and we eat and drink off of special plates, cups and glasses that are rarely used.  It is a bit too formal and dreadful for me, but I comply.  If someone asks where I would like to sit and talk, I would say, “the kitchen.”  This is where my family gathered most comfortably in the Bronx.  Some people’s kitchen have no place to sit or the chairs are dreadfully uncomfortable, so the den would work well too.  Well, my soul has rooms too.  When I am feeling guilty or ashamed of bad behavior, I tend to the “living room” motif for God.  I am not too comfortable in God’s presence due to my failure to measure up to God’s love.  When I am more balanced, with my spiritual practices active, I welcome God to the kitchen of my soul. Prayer and action give me a sense of comfort with God.  So where do you welcome God?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Minds Tongue

When my church speaks of “sins of body desires” we Catholics jump to sex sins.  But the body has many other parts that could practice bad behavior.  I find the tongue to be a powerful and oh so easy way to drag me down.  How? One obvious way is in gossip, speaking judmentally about someone, in which we practice false pride.  You say “I am not a gossip!”  Well, there is the “Tongue of the Mind.”  The tongue of the mind is where you might think something about someone, and carry on a whole conversation with yourself, muttering and grumbling silently or even talking to yourself out loud.  Yes, some of us do this while driving alone in the car.  We think of gossip, or making judgments about another, as something we say out loud to another person.  Some of us can avoid that or at least repent of doing it afterwards.  But we seem to let slip by, and therefore repeat habitually, the gossip of the mind’s tongue.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Final Plan

Each day I make plans for the day or the next few days or coming weeks.  I have my plans for various events and times.  But I never make a plan for today being my last day.  Someday will be my last day.  Do I have an “in case” plan?  I did finally make up a will, and it was not easy.  I don’t have much, but there are so many things that have to be considered.  I have to name a person for this and that, and then back up people if the named persons die before me or go crazy.  I did the will and try to have things such that friends and relatives won’t have a big hazzle to deal with when I am dead.  At least for those you care about who live on after you don’t, maybe make a plan for your last day?  Why leave a mess for someone else you love to cleanup or figure out?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Giving All

Some people ask me why the Holy Communion, or Eucharist, is such a big deal for me.  What is the attraction since God is everywhere?  True, God is everywhere, if you believe in God.  What attracts me, is that someone would give themselves completely for me.  “This is my body,” “This is my blood” sounds pretty complete.  It is not metaphorical.  Jesus really did do this.  If he is God, then God gave all of God for me.  But more, I am drawn to the whole possibility of someone giving themselves for someone else.  It is a challenge for me.  Do I do this for anyone?  Can I?  If not, why not? What holds me back?  I ponder this at each mass when I say and hear these words.  I am attracted to the whole idea of self-giving.  I think it is a secret to fulfillment.  Maybe even happiness.  I have seen people give themselves for the sake of others, such as sponsors in recovery programs, caring for the less fortuanate, the poor and so on.  These giving people seem rather fulfilled and happy.  Selfish people seem less happy, if at all.  I know that side.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Circle of Love

A Desert monk once said the world is like a large circle with God in the middle.  We begin our spiritual journey from the edge of the circle.  Everyone else does too.  As we journey closer to God we grow closer to one another.  We experience a sense of solidarity and oneness with all around us.  If your spiritual journey is giving you a sense of isolation and distain for others, you might want to try a different path.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Magnifying Mind

Someone reminded me of my “Magnifying Mind.”  Say what?  Well, a magnifying mind is one that takes a negative comment and makes its into a much bigger deal than it need be.  A classic example is when someone has a problem and makes it your fault.  Example: the other person cannot stand any distractions, or noise.  They lose concentration, so they say.  They blame you for the noise, for their being unable to listen to something.  You might have a baby with you.  You might be stuck in the only squeaky chair in the room, and there are no other seats.  You may be allergic and sneezing, or have an oxygen tank.  But you magnify the comment and decide never to go back to that place again, even though it was a very helpful place for you...before this negative comment was made.  Why punish yourself for other people’s shortcomings, or problems or lack of tolerance?  I have seen people never come back to church or recovery meetings, or other assemblies they enjoyed.  In your absence these same people will find something else that bothers them.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Rich

Jesus did not have a problem with people being rich.  Rich can be OK in the Bible.  It is what you do with it.  I learned that the word used for rich by Jesus meant, “wanting more.” “More” can be a sign of addiction.  Jesus is concerned with what one does with their excess, their riches.  If you hoard it, or spend it all on yourself, that is no good.  There is a blood disorder with the same Greek root word as “rich” meaning wanting more.  Normally, the blood takes the oxygen that comes into it and spreads it throughout the body.  The blood is the highway and distribution center for oxygen.  In the disease, the blood hordes all the oxygen and one dies.  Be good blood.  Spread your extra stuff around.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Texas Freedom

I was taught that Texas wanted freedom from those mean Mexicans so that Texans could be in a control of their government and culture and not under the thumb of foreign rulers.  Well, there is more or less to the story.  Freedom yes.  “Remember the Alamo!”  But not freedom from all.  Mexico did not favor slavery.  Texas territory was cotton country.  If you want to attract Cotton growers, all white people, from the Eastern United States then you needed to make cotton profitable.  Slavery made cotton profitable.  Texas wanted the land to be pro-slavery for the sake of the economy.  It joined the Union as a slave state and then the Confenderacy in the Civil War.  Sometimes the expressed desire for freedom is all about money, and not freedom for all.  I am in Texas as I write this.  Texas is not so much about cotton, oil, or cattle.  It is now also about High School Football and Friday Night Lights.  Great Sports Pages! Hey, this is Friday night. Gotta’ go.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Stolen Check

I just found out that there is more bad news about the insurance check made out to me for $2045.  Yes it was stolen from the rectory in San Francisco.  We knew about that.  I just found out that it was cashed in a Capital One Bank in St. Cloud, MN and with my signature forged.  I saw a copy of the signed check. Bye, bye money.  Hello Debtor’s Prison.  I won’t even have a stocking at Christmas for coal.  The Medical Insurance people will have a long investigation, and I believe the bank will have an issue to deal with as well.  Eventually, maybe six months, I will be sent an affidavit to sign.  Should I live long enough I might see some money some day.  But I am maintaining my elusive sanity.  I was not murdered in church while praying, nor did I lose my home and all my possessions in a fire as happened in Santa Rosa, CA, not far from where I am typing this blog.  There is the lingering sense of being violated, and I will be dealing with this with friends.  Is this life on life’s terms?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

My Tree

I came back to the monastery, to my room, and it was filled with light.  What happened?  My room is like a cave, the sun shut out by a big wide evergreen tree outside my window.  I look out the window. Oh!  No tree.  It was cut down.  I liked my room because it was dark.  I felt like a hermit living in a cave.  Now I live in sunlight. I can see aspen tress and mountains.  Is this not a metaphor for the spiritual life?  First we are not prayerful.  Then we are prayerful, but with ideas of how it will all play out.  I will be a hermit, hidden away in the monastery.  My room gives me a sense of being separated from the world of light.  I could go visit the light, but then come back to the darkness.  God is hidden in the darkness.  God seems to have other plans, and seems, in my case, to be quite out in the open light.  God wants me connected with the world.  Maybe for all of us, it is OK to now and again enter into a retreat setting or the interior darkness of ourselves.  Yes, God can be found in this way, but God also wants us to come out into the light and be light for others.  So now, my monastery seems to be bathed in light.  But it is very cold inside.  Can God be found in the cold?  I am working on it.  I hate suffering.  But, as with yesterday's blog, I have a second chance to examine the cold and see what positive things are here.  So far, just cold.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trust

Trust is the engine of action, not faith.  Lots of people say they believe, but they don’t act on that belief because they do not trust.  Say what?  Example: I believe in God.  OK.  God says forgive others.  Someone does me bad.  Do I forgive? No.  Why? I don’t trust that forgiveness is going to “fix” things.  The offender needs to be punished.  I don’t want to be taken advantage of.  I want them to suffer for what they did.  If I simply forgive they will never change.  BUT the issue might be that my belief is supposed to help me to change.  I need to trust in this God in whom I say I believe, or else I will not change for the better.  I need to forgive and trust that God is at work, and all will be well and I will become a better person.  Lots of people believe that Recovery Programs and the 12 steps are good for them, but they don’t trust the process enough to actually take action.  Some of us want faith to be “certitude.”  Move into trust, and certitude may disappear.  Thus the journey really begins.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Doing Beats Saying

A teacher once said, “It is not so much what to say or do that educates; what really educates is who you are.”  I like this, but it is a challenge.  As a teacher, I ask myself why sometimes a lot of people come to some of my presentations and sometimes hardly anyone attends.  Now I know that in some places I must be a rotten person who talks good stuff.  Though I might say, “They hate me,” that is but drama and whining.  If I don’t exude the transformation about which I speak, I deserve no participants.  Enough about me.  As for you, recall that God is not unduly upset about people who speak against God, or in my tradition, Jesus.  This means God does not get all upset about angry believers, or atheists or pagans.  That is all about belief issues.  God does get upset about people who “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.”  It is in Roman’s Chapter 12.  Blasphemy refers to how you act in your Daly life as the person you have become.  Again, who you are is more important than what you say in faith areas.  If you are kind, loving, compassionate, selfless and forgiving than you are following the Holy Spirit Energy, regardless of what you say you believe or don’t believe.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Good News

I hear a lot of talk about the Gospels, the New Testament writings for Christians, as being Good News.  My sense is that most of the people who say that, don’t really mean it.  First, the root meaning of Good News in the Bible is something like tidings of joy and power.  In Roman military terms it meant a big military victory announced.  Such news is powerful enough to at least change our day if not our life.  But for most so-called believers, Good News is treated more like old news.  Old news was good yesterday, but today it is just old and does not affect me so much as it did when I first heard it.  I become mediocre as does the news.  “Oh, I heard that already.  What else is new!” This is the attitude.  The effect of the news quickly wears off.  The news quickly loses its surprising freshness.  It is like the day after Christmas or Easter Monday.  “What’s next?”  The good news of our marriage, health report, surgery, fade over time, and gratitude, much less joy, seems to seep away.  I am trying to keep my health, friends, spiritual condition, as Good News, rather than take anything for granted.  This way, I won’t become such bad news for those around me.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Relief

Do you notice that when you suffer alone, you whine, but that when you suffer for another, or to relieve their suffering, you don’t whine, and even feel quite good.  So it is not what you do, but the reasons and circumstances that induce your reaction.  Example: my sister Jane, cooked roast pork for dinner on our vacation.  I clean up after dinner when she cooks roast pork,  and it is quite a mess, being roast pork pans and such other pots and pans.  Janie usually is my assistant clean-up person.  But just before dinner she burned her hand on a hot dish.  She became useless to help clean up.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner though, and then I suffered in cleaning up by myself while she sat and attended to her burnt hand and sore back.  But I did not whine.  Why?  I was relieving her suffering by letting her sit and relax and defuse her pains.  Had I been cleaning up alone because of a bunch of lazy and uncaring persons who would not lift a finger to help, then I would have whined and had a long resentment list.  So my sister Jane and her burnt hand are a source of grace for me.  Think about that when next you do good deeds that extend you, for others.  Children are a source of grace for parents.  Co-workers, friends, club associates can all be sources of grace if we see our efforts as that of relieving the sufferings of others.

Friday, November 3, 2017

All Souls

Yesterday, in my church tradition, we celebrated the Feast of All Souls.  This is a special day of prayer for sinful, imperfect people like me who are not going non-stop to heaven.  We would go to purgatory.  Now, not everyone believes in purgatory in my tradition.  It is being debated even in theological circles.  But if it exists it is a place much like being on a New York Subway in the summer, very crowded and stuffy hot/humid, stuck in the dark tunnel, electricity off, waiting for someone to fix the electrical grid and get the train moving to our preferred destination.  On the purgatory train, we suffer, but are powerless to fix anything.  Outside forces are our hope.  Prayer for those in purgatory is like helping to get the grid back on.  We are the people outside purgatory, praying for those in purgatory.  Our preferred stop is heaven.  Since my sister Maureen spent some time in purgatory for being mean to her little brother, I prayed especially for her.  I hope it helped get her out.  If so, she can pray for me when I get onto that train of misery.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Then again, maybe if you have suffered the New York City slow, antiquated public transportation system, you will be doing purgatory on earth!  Then it will be non-stop to heaven when you die.  Think on that when you are next stuck on a subway train.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Grumbling Goodness

Yesterday was my sister Janie’s birthday.  I told her she did not have to do anything.  I would cook and clean up.  I prepared cheese, sliced bakery bread, apples for before dinner and then cooked fish, had shrimp cocktail,  and cleaned up.  I was thinking, “I can’t wait until her birthday is over.  I am exhausted!”  Oops!  Good deeds while grumbling only get you partial credit in Good Person School.  My heart and soul might be into cooking and serving, but my body was not.  I was not “all in.”  Does this not happen to parents, co-workers, teachers and clergy and church worker people?  I think so.  We are doing good deeds but grumbling and mumbling about our sufferings.  Don’t beat yourself up too much.  Partial credit is still credit.  You are doing the assigned work that you have been given.  Sometimes we cannot be “A+” in the School of Good Person Deeds.  But we did not drop out.  Children, friends, co-workers, associates, and people whom you serve are glad you did not drop out.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Dark Times

Today, as related in yesterday's blog, according to our ancient Irish Celtic way of seeing things, is the beginning of the Dark Season.  It is my sister Jane's Birthday.  On the day Janie was born, Pius XII declared the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary.  Mary was considered a person of Light, and so my church wanted to say that Light overcomes Darkness.  I think that my sister Jane caught some of that light, unlike my big sister, Maureen, who was not so much light.  Maureen liked the darkness, as when I walked into our walk-in closet at night once to get something in the back of the closet.  Maureen came in after me, put out the closet light and made eerie, scary sounds.  I about soiled myself.  She was a witch in the making.   Janie, my youngest sister, the baby, is most like me, because she likes sports.  But I digress.  For years, on her birthday, Janie and I go to a remote place on the northern California coast, to celebrate.  I cook her birthday dinner.  I used to be more helpless, but love expands our horizons and now I can cook.  Janie is also like me because she will eat treats.  Maureen was not much for treats.  They make you sweet.  We talk about Maureen.  I tell Janie Maureen stories on Janis's birthday, and she tells me I am fibbing.  Maureen was way older than Jane, so Baby did not know Witch very well.  Then something very strange happens by the end of the dinner.  We both miss Maureen and realize what a treasure Maureen was in our lives.  Big sisters are very special and important.  But it is only on Janie's birthday that I remember this.  So, what do you do for people you love on their birthday?  If you could be with them on their day?  The first thing is that birthdays have to be special.  They are not for a lot of people.  So what day do you make a day special for someone you say you love, that takes you beyond a Facebook timeline note?  I cook, and I am good at it.  And my sister Maureen is very special to me, but if I always said that, these blogs would not be so much fun for me or interesting for you.  I try to make sure that I see my two still living sisters each year.  Maureen died too suddenly and too young for me.  "Next year" is not always an option.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Egads! Maureen Is Coming

Today is Halloween.  Happy?  Well, it all began with those ancient Irish and Brits.  They had two seasons: Darkness and Light.  Being in the Northern Hemisphere, Dark Season began around November 1, the birthday of my little sister, Jane.  Since she cooks leg of lamb and roast pork for me, I will say no more.  There was a veil between these two seasons, but on October 31,  the veil was at its thinnest, the Light fading,  and the Dark just beginning.  Everything was thin on October 31, so the dead, confined to the Darkness, could pass through the thin veil and visit their old homes at night.  They were nice dead people, not scary.  To help them find their way in the dark, the living would place candles along the roads and in windows, in hollowed-out turnips to protect from the wind.  Pumpkin idea came from Central America.  No pumpkins grow in Ireland.  My deceased sister, Maureen was not part of the above nice dead.  She was part of another group, witches and demons who roamed about celebrating darkness and winter.  To keep these witches and demons from doing harm, you bribed them by leaving food outside the house.  Egads! What to do.  I don't recall Maureen liking either darkness or winter.  She did not care to drive at night and moved to North Carolina to escape the cold of New York.  And she was not a big eater.  Will she come to haunt me tonight?  My only hope is that she will go to her home in North Carolina, or visit her kids and grandkids and haunt them.  But I fear she has it out for her baby brother, so I will be hiding out in Sea Ranch, California today, hoping she cannot find me.  Oh wait. I will be with my sister Jane, who was born the Day Darkness took over.  A future witch?  What do her old friends say?  Well, maybe a rack of lamb will balance things out.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Receive The Light

Hildegard of Bingham, a saint of long ago, reminds me that when we are healthy, like a healthy plant, we can receive the light and transform it into energy and life for others.  A plant receives the light of the sun.  If we have a healthy interior life, the source of all growth for the better, we can receive light from some divine source, creator, force, or divine energy, and let it be transformed through us into energy for others.  This is the experience of feelng good, whole, balanced, at peace, and then seeing how well we connect with others and are a positive force in their lives.  I see this in my work when I am balanced.  I am sure that Moms, CEOs, blue collar workers, retail store workers, corporate execs, all see this proven in their daily life.  A morning spiritual practice of quiet reflection makes the rest of the day go better for you and for those around you, even when your plans go awry, or chaos seems to show up.  It is how you handle such that shows the difference in being a healthy plant and unhealthy plant.  Let your inner self flower and grow.   Was my big sister Maureen Darkness?  Well, we all have our bad days.  She said that my bad days seemed to run into one another.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse may be the hardest resentment to overcome.  Some people sue and this may give them a sense of revenge or justice, but the resentment still persists as a controlling power to make the abused one miserable.  Such a resentment insures futility and unhappiness.  The abused person might keep going back over the past and blame themselves for being so stupid to be in that situation or even crazier thoughts that maybe they were part of the cause.  Blame, shame and pain can kick one around.  What to do?  Well, a suggestion is that you pray for the abuser.  What!  That miserable, wretched person deserves no such thing from me.  This suggestion is about healing you, not about the other person.  You cannot control their healing, but you can pray for them so that YOU WILL BE HEALED.  How does this work?  Prayer for a person you resent, or hate, is about developing compassion.  Compassion heals you.  What do you pray for?  You might gag a bit, but pray for their peace of mind, serenity and happiness. They may indeed be bad, evil and wretched people, and if any of you prayers come true for them it will be because they got help and healing and no longer abuse people the way they did. Thoughts might come to you, such as, that person was born a baby just like you.  They did not come out of the womb an abuser, a sex fiend, a destroyer of your life.  In their developed sickness you were the solution to their misery.  You might or might not forgive, but if the resentment begins to lose its power over your life, then you are beginning to heal.  I have found that prayer for others is to change me, not the other person.  I don't want to give anyone else that kind of ongoing power over me.  That is self-abuse.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

So Petty

One of the things that we realize when we get onto a spiritual path that transforms from the inside, not just attendance and participation at church, synagogue, meetings, is that we begin to realize that most of the resentments and fears we have been lugging about, are really quite petty and insignificant.  One of the benefits of realizing this is that we begin to lose self-pity as our constant companion.  We accept people more as they are than as we want them to be, people who would make us the center of their universe.  We have developed the awareness of a spiritual connection, call it what you will.  This is our source of esteem and well-being.  We may even begin to think of how we might be more helpful to others, especially those closest to us.  What use is it to be angry and resentful at your family, those with whom you live, but then go out and try to save the world in your work and social services or charity stuff?  I can wake up with a resentment.  But I can rather easily laugh at my pettiness.  In a spiritual journey you realize you are quite funny, and that is a great wisdom.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fear Solutions

Fear might drive someone to go to a recovery meeting, or a bunch of them, such as AA.  The person is feeling shame and guilt, thinking of suicide, and feeling worthless.  They may stop drinking, from attendance at meetings, maybe saying something here and there, and you think, OK, problem solved.  No.  Drinking had been the solution to feelings of fear and anxiety.  The  person, now not drinking,  feels worse without a drink!  So the person goes back to their previous solution, alcohol or drugs, and stops going to meetings.  Now they feel like a failure.  Suicide thoughts, and more self-loathing, and still the fear haunts the person.  This is not all bad.  A Power might be at work.  Desperation might be a gift!  The person comes back to a meeting, and sits in the back, and maybe cries a bit, trying to weep as silently as one can.  They may even share and say they are a mess.  All pretense is surrendered.  Now the  miracle.  Someone walks up to the person and says, "I will be your guide through this spiritual path.  You don't have to be so miserable anymore."  Would that religion had this encounter when one comes and sits forlornly in the last row in church, bewildered and lost.  This guide person then brings the weeping one through the steps of the recovery program.  The feelings are written down and "confessed" in honesty, to the guide.  The guide is HOPE with a human face.  The guide leads one to the light, and willingness is the engine that carries the weeping one along.  Those killer feelings?  They may never go away, but their power to kill, and make for a miserable and futile life, are gone.  The recovering process means that a feeling's destructive energy no longer has the power to dominate and control our actions.  Something of Light overcomes the negativity, and the energy of the Light wins out.  This is a Promise.  Try it.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Notably Lacking

Someone's bio referred to their life as "notably lacking in eventfulness."  Wow!  What if someone said that about you now or after you died?  Would you be bummed?  Well, after you die, I guess feeling bummed is not an issue.  But the person referred to above was declared a Blessed, almost a Saint, in Caholic Church circles.  Why, if her life was so uneventful?  Because she did seemingly small things, with all her energy and talent, with love and compassion, and thus she is seen as extraordinary.  The world of culture looks for the extraordinary, spectacular event/action that calls attention to a person.  This almost saint did not call attention to herself that media, larger world.  Those around her saw her specialness in the way she was with people on an everyday basis, in the everyday seemingly uneventfulness of daily life.  All of us have that in common, the uneventful daily life.  It is how we live it and how we are in relation to others in this daily life that makes us holy, no matter what you believe or don't believe about God.  What good is belief if you live but a selfish life focused on yourself and your addictive desire for "more?"

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cold Seat

I read about the suffering that some saints go through in trying to discipline their body.  Why?  A good discipline is one that challenges you to stop complaining about some everyday occurrence, that is not destructive.  In the monastery my bodily discipline happens in our bathroom.  We don't heat the bathroom.  When I get out of my warm bed and it is cold everywhere but my room, I walk out into a cold corridor, but I have some warm clothes on.  Then I go sit on the toilet seat.  It is a very cold seat.  It won't kill me, but it will get me to face my grumbling and complaining about the world, in this case, the world of the toilet seat.  It is petty and silly, yes, like a lot of our complaining.  So right away in the not yet dawn of the day, I get a look at my silliness, complaining, whining, and such.  I really want no suffering, inconvenience, discomfort or anything that does not go my way.  I face my hypocrisy that my prayer is I want to follow God's will, but not in the toilet seat world.  So each morning, I grumble, face my silliness and then stop grumbling.  It is a grace to not complain about cold toilet seats, or other inconveniences.  Someone suggested I blow a hairdryer on the seat before I use it.  Sometimes the proposed solutions are sillier than the supposed problem.  Think of this blog the next time you are confronted by a cold toilet seat.  It gets us days off from purgatory.  Offer it up and so on.  Very Irish.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Good Meeting

Meetings that do not seem to do much for me are ones where people spend most of the time talking about what everyone there already knows or believes.  Such as?  Well, people who believe in God and get together to talk about God and dogma or make judgments about people who do not believe in their God.  Another, would be where a bible study is pretty much about bible translations, or what something might mean.  Why are these so pointless to me?  Because people are spending time talking about what they already know or believe, but not about how it will actually make them better persons, from their own experience.  What is all this knowledge going to do to make you be kinder, more compassionate, and less judgmental, for instance?  What are you actually going to do and how will you do it, is what I want to know.  That is why I think recovery meetings are quite good most of the time.  AA does not talk about drinking very much.  Everyone there already knows about drinking.  That is why they are there.  Drinking is talked about only to help new people identify as alcoholic.  Most of the meeting is taken up with how to live better lives as alcoholics.  They get rather specific.  They don't say, "You should do this or that."  We all know what we should do in all the above meetings.  The value of the meeting is how do YOU do it.  I want to hear personal experience, not something you read in a book or bible. I also find it quite helpful to hear how someone tried and failed.  We can all learn from HONESTY.  In religion, I am usually the witness to "tried and failed."  I am banking on God's unconditional love.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Donuts

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 22: 15-21
OCTOBER 22, 2017
I am in a parish in the Texas Hill Country.  The people are very nice to me and prayerful, but they do not have donuts after mass.  Can it be a real Catholic parish without donuts after mass?  Are these people into suffering and fasting?  They do have donuts one Sunday a month.  That is their Catholic Sunday.  Unfortunately, I am not here on that Sunday.  Inside me, where there should be a donut being digested, I am whining and grumbling.  I cannot do this out loud, publicly, or then people will know I am not holy.  Priests must appear holy at least.  Then the gospel hits me over the head.  What do I owe God?  I owe God gratitude.  I have God’s love, my faith, sacraments, my priesthood and this wonderful hill country with its cool Fall weather.  

I so focus on what I do not have, which is usually insignificant.  I forget to be thankful for what I do have, and thus take things for granted.  So now I am trying to express gratitude.  How do I do that?  Well, do something kind for someone else, something that might take something from me for someone else.  And don’t worry about the results.  That is up to God.  An example is when I am in a public space, sitting down, such as on a bus or at an airport waiting for the plane.  Why take up two seats, one for me and one for my “stuff.”  While others stand around waiting, my stuff has a seat.  Convenient for me, plus I don’t have to worry about sitting with a terorist or other crazy person.  But it is selfish and self-centered to take up all that space.  Put my stuff on my lap or on the dirty floor and leave the seat vacant.  It is not for me to worry about who sits in it, if anyone.  

When on a check-out line, when I have lots of stuff in my basket and the person behind me has but one or two things, why not let them go in front.  I practice letting go, kindness, and neighborliness, not to say selflessness.  These are the ways to cooperate with God in my own transformation so that I will become a follower of Jesus and not simply a believer with Catechism answers to theological questions.  


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Second Chances

A sign that we are on a spiritual path is that we get "second chances."  We all have shortcomings and bad moods from time to time.  It is the human condition.  Without a spiritual way, we tend to encounter a situation, follow it with some negative thought, feeling, emotion, and then immediately let that energy take over us as we act out.  Example:  You plan to eat something that is in the cupboard or refrigerator.  You are hungry and looking forward to this food.  You go to fetch it, and it is gone!  Enraged, angry, hurt, you begin to judge and accuse someone(s) of being dysfunctional to your plans.  If no one is around to blame, you begin talking out loud to yourself in anger and frustration.  You plan punishment for others.  None of this satisfies your hunger.  It gets you no food.  Now, with a spiritual program, you get a second chance.  Same instance: you go for the food and it is gone.  Same feelings come up...BUT you don't act on them.  You recognize them and the energy of these feelings but something else rises up, a different thought, that gets in the way of your acting out as above.  What thought?  Something, such as, "Oh I guess someone was hungry.  It is not my personal cupboard or refrigerator.  My name was not on the food..  I hope someone enjoyed it."  This second thought, less angry, more connecting in a positive way, is your second chance.  You get a second chance to respond to the same situation.  Recovery programs are second chances for addicts.  The first chance, very precarious, is that you will be happy with your addictive way of life.  Crash.  Enter recovery.  A second chance at life.  Second chances are living life on life's terms, not your personal and isolated plans for happiness.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

My Will

Why is it that "my will" does not seem to be able to get done what it wills?  It has been pointed out to me that there might not be enough "my" in "my will."  It is as if I am sharing my will with someone else or some other power, energy, or force greater than myself.  Example: A student says that she is going to study over the weekend, get some school projects done.  Use the school break time to finish up some things or get ahead of the assignments.  The weekend comes to an end, the break is over and what got done in the school work?  Nada!  Though you might flunk out or get poor grades, or lose your job or lose your promotion, there might be some good news yet.  Why not reject fumbling and stumbling along in life?  Begin to reject mediocrity.  Admit that you are helpless to do what you say you want to do, as in the above situation.  This is a condition for holiness: honesty, helplessness or powerlessness to function as you want on "my will" power.  For me, the next thing is to believe that some power can do what I cannot do.  I call it God.  It surely is not me, whatever it be called.  So then I pray like this: "God, you can.  I cannot.  Transform me."  I do not ask that "my will" be done, since perhaps my will longs for things that are not good for me.  It is a slow process, but it starts with failure.  We are all familiar with that. Perfect people don't read my blogs.  I should be teaching this in schools!...be it God's will.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Without An Edge

I wish that church evangelizers would have a attitude more like lacrosse players.  What?  Well, lacrosse players never assume that you once played lacrosse and quit on it.  They don't spend time trying to convince you to come back, that your reasons for leaving were silly, and that you will never be happy unless you return to lacrosse playing.  No, they assume that you know nothing about lacrosse, have never been exposed to it or given it any thought.  So they simply tell you how and why they enjoy the game, and then if you still seem interested, they might explain it to you and then invite you to give it a try.  Optional.  Their lives will go on without you playing lacrosse.  The evangelizer on the other hand, assumes that if you have no church connection or practice, that you are a drop-out, a "leaver" or one who has rejected the church.  So the evangelizer speaks with a certain edge to get you to come back.  "You will be miserable, unfulfilled, damned, without our religion,"  in so many words, and often very many words.  The reality is that more and more young people are like the lacrosse situation.  They have had no exposure to religion of any kind.  They have thought about religion the same way newspaper sports pages think about lacrosse: hardly at all.  They never left or rejected any church or god.  I try to think about talking religion the same way a lacrosse player talks to someone about lacrosse: assume they are unfamiliar, and give them the option and space to be uninterested.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Non-Belief

God can work with nonbelievers.  I have found it to be so in recovery programs, as well as church related situations.  An example:  A guy goes to AA to get sober.  He does not believe in any god.  So when everyone holds hands at the end of the meeting and prays the Lord's Prayer, he keeps his lips sealed.  The Higher Power goes to work.  How?  A fellow across the room who likewise has no belief, sees this guy not moving his lips, so after the meeting, he goes up to the sealed lip guy and talks to him, and then asks him to help to go through the steps.  It's ironic you say?  Nothing is beyond spiritual power.  I have seen it in church where people are attracted to those who don't seem to be so pious.  The moral?  Be yourself, in a healthy way, with a spiritual program that makes sense to you.  You will be surprised at who might notice.  Not everyone wants to be a holy card saint.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Needle's Eye Camel

People who are prejudiced against riches and wealth, often quote the Bible verse, "It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get to heaven."  But the translation is not quite accurate.  The word that got translated as "rich" really means  "many things."  And the word "wealth" really means, "disposable things."  Now this bible saying opens up to a lot more of us who have garages and attics, and spare rooms full of "stuff."  It is not that money and stuff are innately evil.  It is that we try to ring happiness out of "things."  We tend to go down the road of worry about our stuff, and using up energy to get more stuff.  People accumulate wealth simply to have more of it.  So I have to ask myself, "What is the purpose of this stuff?"  What is the purpose of having more of the same stuff, and all the time and energy in gaining it.  Do not most of the things we accumulate bring us but a momentary happiness?  Then what?  Are we to become adults with more toys than we need or could use, but will not share with others?   Less may be more.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Not Looking So Good

Think of all the places you show up at and try to look good, when you don't feel very good.  Why?  Whatever the reasons, there is one place where it is best to show up NOT looking good if that is the way your feel.  It is a recovery meeting, the addiction people meetings.  Think of what a relief it would be to just be yourself when you walk into the gathering.  Now some of you outsiders who have read a bit about twelve step programs might say, "Aren't you supposed to be passing on the message?  Aren't you supposed to show how you got better, and then newcomers would ask you for guidance?"  Well, if I were a newcomer, I would probably show up looking on the outside like the mess I am on the inside.  I would be a desperate person.  If I looked around the room and saw only people who looked so much better on the outside than I feel on the inside, I might not identify, and would not come back.  I think newcomers need to see the honesty of people who are doing well today, to show where recovery can go, but also people who are simply having bad days, or just not doing what the recovery program tells them to do.  This runs the whole breath of feelings and results on any given day.  Some newcomers might look for a person who is not drinking/drugging, but who seems to be suffering feelings with which the newcomer can identify.  The Higher Power works best with honesty, or so it seems to me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Put On The Wedding Garment

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 22: 1-14
OCTOBER, 15, 2017

Most addicts are invited at some time to come to a recovery meeting.  People around them know the addict is a bit of a mess before the addict is willing to accept it.  They reject the invitation because they are too busy destroying their life.  Then one day, they are dragged in, maybe off the streets, by the gift of desperation, or a jumping off point, or even for a cup of coffee and a warm place to hang out.  If they don’t stay to get into detox and recovery with the steps and sponsor, they will be dragged out by self-will run riot and insanity to die a miserable death.  

But if they do stay and get into recovery, they eventually “put on the wedding garment.”  Say what?  They begin to go to meetings because they have this program, are working it daily and want to share it with others who are just coming in or having a bad day.  The wedding garment is a symbol of celebration for the good fortune you have been so freely given.  In the gospel, people were dragged into the banquet, not asked.  The wedding garment symbolized the desire to connect with love for other suffering people.  Unless they “put on the wedding garment” they will go to meetings for themselves, to feel better.  When they feel better, not imbibing, they will stop going.  They will die a horrible death or just keep coming and going like a revolving door without any real healing.  True healing comes with being compassionate and helpful to the still suffering person in the room.  

Apply this to church going people.  Do they put on the wedding garment.  Well, look at whether they welcome the newcomer, the stranger, maybe even the smelly drunk come in off the street for warmth and a donut.  If a person comes to church for themselves, talks to their respectable familiar friends, then they have not put on the wedding garment. 


At work, how does one react to the newcomer in the office?  If it is a country club or a social group of some kind, how do you respond to the newcomer?  It should not be just the chosen few who do this hospitality.  It is for us all.  We were once the invited newcomer. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Step Three

In Step Three of the Twelve Step Spiritual growth program, the word "care" appears.  If I turn my will and life over to the "care" of God/Power on a daily basis, this means that I get something back, no?  I give over self-will power, and get "care." God is able to care for me better when I don't try to get my way all the time.  I am like a person who can start out the day on the right track with self-will.  I discipline myself to get going.  But all too soon somehow the track switch changes, and I am off onto some dead end and crash into mess/barrier of bad habit.  "Care" means that God is driving and powering my engine.  When this happens, all the attached train cars are God's plans for me and the power to carry them out.  My self-will power does not "care" for my best interests.  It seems rather to want to destroy me in some messy dead end.  I take solace each morning that I am in the care of God.  I may not get my way, and bad things may happen, but I won't be the cause of these things.  I may suffer, but I don't want to be the cause of it.  "Care" does not mean I get my way, or life is pain free of disaster.  It means that I don't cause it by my thinking and acting in self-centered, unloving ways.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Getting Ahead

As the story goes, one person says to another, "If you work very hard and give up some of the things you enjoy, you will get ahead."  The second person answered, "Ahead of what?"  Good question.  Do you want to get ahead of others in promotions, income, prestige, status, size of home and car? And if everyone is getting ahead, then everyone is still even.  There can be a cost to making more money, or having more and bigger things.  Maybe the price you pay is less time with family, or relationship with someone.  Maybe you have less time to properly eat, sleep and exercise.  If I did not spend all summer in a monastery, I could do more things in my teaching, preaching and income.  I could become better known and better connected.  But there is a price to pay and I don't want to pay that price to "get ahead."  What about you?  If you say that you are getting ahead because you love your family, but spend little time with the family, is this counter productive?  I don't know that love and getting ahead are very compatible.  If I am going to be doing "much" of something, I would rather it be love and not "getting ahead. "

Friday, October 13, 2017

First Love

A couple of weeks ago I presided at a wedding.  I was not the first choice priest.  They had wanted someone else.  I am not sure how far down the list the couple went before they decided to ask me.  But so what?  It is not important to be first choice in life unless you have a fat or wounded ego.  I was chosen.  I was lucky or blessed, and I enjoyed the wedding event, meeting the couple, and their friends, and eating good food.  I did not need to be first choice for any of that.  Are you the first choice of your spouse?  Do not many people have a first love, but they do not marry that person?  Maybe you are not even the second love, but you are the love that your spouse married.  Only a wounded or damaged ego would be uncomfortable thinking that there might be a first love of their spouse lurking in the world.  Were you the first choice chosen for a job?  Maybe someone said no and then they asked you.  But you have the job.  You don't need to be first to be fulfilled or successful.  I am sure I am not God's first choice for heaven, but if someone else says "No" and a place opens for me, I won't complain.  I try to keep this idea in mind whenever I get asked or chosen, knowing I was not the first or even the second choice.  Now the bride in the wedding I presided at has two unmarried sisters.  I  wonder if I am on the short list to be the priest?  Oops!  Be still, ego.  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pinstripes

All Cleveland Indian baseball fans are probably going to heaven because the baseball playoffs are their purgatory.  The Indians won the first two games against the young Yankee baseball team and needed to win only one more.  They had the best pitcher in baseball.  They lost three in a row.  They stopped hitting.  Maybe God gave them great hope in those first two wins, only the crush them with three straight losses, a losing streak unknown to Cleveland most of the 162 game regular season. There is much in the bible that says God punishes and then redeems.  Who knows? The Indians have not won the World Series since 1948. This is the longest time without a title of any professional baseball team.  There are people, a few, who grew up in Cleveland and don't care anything about the baseball team.  They do not get a free pass to heaven.  Plus, diehard Indian baseball fans, long-suffering, would not want them in heaven anyway.  You say that God does not care about baseball, or sports in general?  If you are a Catholic, that is a confessional matter.  On the other hand, the Cleveland collapse is proof of one thing for me.  God wears pinstripes.  On to the next miracle.

Step Six

I think that meditation as a practice for people working the Twelve Step Programs, begins to take focus in Step Six.  Meditation as a practice  is not officially mentioned until Step Eleven.  But Step Six says, "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."  You say there is no mention of mediation there?  Get thee to a meeting!  Mediation as prayer is waiting upon God or your Higher Power.  Mediation is really a response to God which kills off our egotism.  Step Six says "entirely ready."  This implies the aspect of "waiting."  If I am ready for someone or something, then I wait.  I don't make it happen.  You wait for your date, your pizza order, your restaurant bill, your bus, my blog.  Well, maybe not the last one, but waiting implies doing the action, Step One through Five, that gets you ready.  You have to get to the bus stop, restaurant, call in the order, and then you wait.  Mediation is waiting upon God to act.  We stop talking, and stop thinking about all our ego plans, focused upon self, and wait for the Power.  Most people hurry through Step Six to get to Seven and then on to amends, and so on.  Is not Step Six an excellent place to stop, let go, and just be with your God/Power?  You won't get rid of those defects of character by the power of your will.  Will power is a bit too damaged for that task.  If you could have stopped on your own will power, you would not be doing these steps.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tithing

I am not much for tithing, which is giving a fixed percentage of your income to, in this case, the church.  I have always thought of it as an optional thing, unless a pastor made it a rule for his particular parish.  But I have found out that tithing has a fascinating history, of not being so optional.  A local church council in 585 A.D. made tithing a rule or else you were subject to the threat of excommunication.  Wow.! Now it was not automatic excommunication, but it was  threat.  A few hundred years later, Charlemagne, an Emperor type person, made tithing a civil law.  It was initially limited to food.  Money as we know it was not common.  But still, a civil law!  Then in the Counter Reformation of the Catholic Church's answer to Protestantism, The Council of Trent, 1545-63, said tithing was due God, and if you did not do so it would lead to excommunication.  Way harsh, you think?  Our 1983 Code of Canon Law eased off on the excommunication part and said we were obliged to assist the Church by providing what is necessary for charitable works.  That is pretty broad.  Today Catholics rarely tithe.  I wonder if anyone was ever really excommunicated, and if so, when they died in such a state, not tithing, did God have to close the gates of heaven to them?  And when we eased off the rule, did such people then get into heaven?  Excommunication is unfathomable to me, given how we change things in ecclesiastical circles.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wrestling With Nature

Two days ago I was leaving Knoxville, Tennessee with a hurricane bearing down on the airport.  I got into beautiful, sunny Denver.  The next day, yesterday, I drove in a blizzard to get up to the Snowmass monastery.  This is the dangerous part of nature, and more so, when I plan to travel during its most inclement weather.  But there is a payoff.  In Knoxville, I visited with friends who love me.  In the monastery I am with my monks and our Trappist lifestyle.  I also saw my chiropractor nearby the monastery who realigned me.  Because I did not let outside, uncontrollable forces have total control over my life, I was blessed and spiritually realigned by these travels.  It is not so much the travel, as what awaits me when I get to where I am trying to go.  I used to stay away from the monastery in the winter, because it was, well, winter.  That is cold.  But I miss out by doing that.  It is not so cold now, though it did snow a lot.  My car is super and gets me up here in all that snow.  I call this week, "My Extended Summer" at the monastery.  And the aspen tree leaves are golden colored against the snow covered hills.  Such a blessing.  What do you have to do to get your inner self realigned and balanced?  I find it to be a place of beauty, in people I love, and the scenery.  Now if my friends Colleen and Tom were available for a post Eucharist breakfast, that would be the tops.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Liberation

How is it that acceptance can be liberating.? Well, it frees up energy and lightens the heaviness of mood.  How so?  Say that you do not accept someone or some situation.  What happens?  You get into a mood where you are grumbling to yourself, talking to yourself about this negative world around you where people are a mess, or messier than you, and no one does what they are supposed to do because they are all screwed up.  It takes a lot of energy to walk around in this weighty mood.  And you are so unhappy.  Meanwhile, the outside world does not change to your liking.  Now what happens if you accept things and people as they are?  You still will not be getting your way, but you may find yourself not wanting or needing that way anymore.  People and situations may not change at all, but you will be in a lighter mood, sunnier, and feel a lightness of being.  You will have more energy for other things that you have been putting off.  You may even have a happier more productive day.  And why should people and situations go the way I want?  I could be selfish and narrow-minded, or full or below surface fears.  So my way may not be so right.  I try to at least make acceptance one of my viable choices.  On my really bad days, it is not even a choice.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ashamed

I try not to be ashamed when I get angry or upset.  Self-shaming is an ego trip.  Why should I be better than I am?  And don't bury the anger so that no one knows and then might think badly of me.  I rather like to take a look at the anger and ask myself why I am angry.  Most often, I find that it is not a justified anger at some injustice.  Would that I cared about injustice.  When I take time to examine my anger, my becoming upset, I find that it is about fear of not having enough of something, or my plans going awry.  I am not getting my way, which is usually all about me, when I get upset about it.  I am not the center of the universe.  People are not acting according to my plans.  The world around me is out of my control.  Fear.  If I become a hermit, will I be free from being upset?  Anyway, shortcomings such as fear can teach me about myself in ways that will help me to be a better person, and not be so grumpy.  My friends like that, my being less grumpy.  When I am grumpy, they give me literature about becoming a hermit.  My friends lack patience.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fractured

A society, culture, country is like a structure, a building that is built with different elements that are  properly fit together.  Differences can make for a stronger and more beautiful structure, but they have to be fit together properly and this takes work.  Example: a house can be built with brick and wood.  Brick and wood are different things, but carefully put together, they can make a beautiful and well built house.  Some people want houses that are only wood, or only brick.  Some people are in such a hurry that they do shoddy construction.  The house will fall.  It takes work, patience, and openness to differences that can make for a beautiful house.  A society can be made up of differences.  In fact, only sects and cults are made up of sameness.  Gated communities are attempts at sameness which is why I tend to like cities, because there is more diversity there.  Think of ethnic foods, Mom and Pop stores, cultural differences in outlooks.  Wherever everyone is the same, there is the tendency to think that their opinions are revealed, universal truth.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bag With Holes

Whenever we act selfishly, self-centered, mean-spirited, in trying to obtain, earn or hold onto something, it is like putting money into a bag with holes in it.  There is never enough in the bag.  Whenever we look into the bag, we find there is not enough, and then we want more and try all the harder, but no less kindly, to get more, to fill the bag.  A spiritual program of some sort sews up the bag.  It is the same bag, but with stitches in it.  The wounds of our life are the holes, but we can live with them if they are stitched up with prayer, diet, exercise, sleep, and service to make the world around us a better place for others.  My inner life is like a stitched bag that used to be all about "more."  And "me."  If I ignore m inner life then the stitches will come undone, and the old wounds will leave me empty.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Animals

Yesterday afternoon, a beautiful sunny afternoon in Boulder, I blessed lots of animals when school got out.  Had my brain been working better, I would have given advance notice that I would bless toy animals too.  Lots of people, not all children, have toy animals.  I have a bunny rabbit and a bear toy animal on my bed.  Sometimes, they are the only things in my life that listen and accept me on my worst of days.  Toy animals are not so inanimate to children and adults with imagination, or desperation, at times.  These animals are very personal and share intimate moments in our life.  We can be naked with our animals, and tell them anything.  We can even ignore them and they forgive and accept us.  They do not leave us.  We may lose them at times, but that is us leaving them somewhere. They wait for us wherever we last put them down.  Anything that important in our life should get a blessing.  We say God is Love.  Love can show its divine self through our toy animals.  God is everywhere.  We need a toy animal blessing day!  Maybe after one of the school masses, we could bless all the children's toy animals?  I think this would make God happy.  Or maybe I am just a child at heart.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bless The Animals

Today is when Catholics especially remember St. Francis of Assisi.  He lived in the early 13th century.  He loved all nature, but especially animals.  He reminds me of Snow White, who seemed to get along with all the animals.  So on this day, though I wish our parish school would show the Disney movie, "Snow White,"  we bless animals.  I will have my holy water and special animal blessing prayers at 3:00 PM outside of our school.  We bless animals because they are part of God's creation, and they reveal something of the creator.  Animals have a holiness about them.  Bambi looked holy to me, though this is hunting season and Bambi won't be coming out into the open for holy water.  Catholics are rather attached to blessing things too.  W bless cars, homes, offices, and none of these are made by God.  The Holy Water represents our connectedness to all things and life, through the Spirit.  Jews bless things too.  I don't know that Protestants got too much into this.  I like being Catholic on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.  Except one time when a dog went to the bathroom on my shoe while waiting to be blessed.  I guess we did not start on time.  Catholics are short of patience when things don't start on time.  Can animals be Catholic?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Powerless Power

I have often found that even people who say they do not believe or doubt the existence of God, actually do believe in a higher power or godlike force...themselves.  They are Clark Kent types, like Superman or Superwoman.  For some of the day, they look and act like everyone else.  But when they feel a little fearful, or sense danger to their programs for happiness, they shed the outer self of apparent normalcy, and reveal, a not so good self-will run riot.  Some of these people will use alcohol to fuel this power.  They begin to act self-centered to the max,  and work to make everyone else conform to their idea of what is correct.  In other words, if everyone would do what our self-powered person wants, the world will be a bette place.  Me-power rarely experiences anything greater than itself.  Unfortunately, on several levels, this power dissipates rather quickly, and sometimes never quite gets off the ground.  If it is alcohol induced, you end up on the ground!  The solution is a power called love.  Love self with all your faults, your mess and fears.  Then love others in service, compassion, mercy, acceptance and companionship.  I meditate to remind myself that I am not the power.  Since I seem to forget this wisdom regularly, I tend to meditate regularly.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Guardian Angels

Lots of people do not believe in guardian angels.  I do.  Not the naked cherubs with wings in the clouds kind of angels.  I do believe that I have a guardian angel that watches over me.  Sometimes my angel takes on flesh and blood humanness.  When I am flying, the airline pilots and attendants are guardian angels.  When I get on the bus, the driver is a guardian angel.  Medical people and crossing guards are guarding angels.  The techie who helps me with my talks on social media is a guardian angel.  People on a spiritual path are guardian angels.  My angel just keeps showing up in all sorts of ways.  I hope that I can be the human presence of someone else's guardian angel to be helpful to others.  I think it is one of the best ways to say thank you to my angel...be of service to others.  Today, in my church, it is the Feast of The Guardian Angels.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ode To A Young Gril On Her Wedding Day

ODE TO A YOUNG GIRL ON HER WEDDING DAY

When girls from the Catholic elementary school come to the weekly school mass, they are not all paying attention to father at the altar.  Some are looking at the center aisle and thinking of one day walking down that aisle in their wedding dress to meet their heart’s partner at the altar.  This is a very positive and healthy thought for it says that she believes she is worth being loved by someone for life. Boys do not think much about standing at the altar in their rented tux.  Grooms tend not to be center stage.    

The day of this little girl’s actual wedding is therefore a very special day for her.  It is a transition day, the past connected to the present and future by love.  And it is special for me, the priest, to be a part of such a singular event suffused with this love.  Wedding are a blessing for me.  All you who are here today are likewise blessed, as well as chosen.  You are blessed to be part of this special day, and were chosen to be invited, because you each have had something to do with this day taking place.  If you listened to the talks at the rehearsal dinner you would have heard people talking about the blessing of knowing and befriending the bride ( and the groom) during the growing up years.  You have all learned to love from one another through your relationships in elementary school, as siblings, in college and through work.  You in this wedding party and congregation have made a profound impression on this couple who are pledging their lives to one another.  They are who they are, and some of you are who you are, because of these relationships.  


Our bride will go on to become a mother.  She will share with her children the way and depth of loving that she has learned from her relationships with you, and with friends and relatives who have passed away all too soon to enjoy this day.  I think the virtue of hope is enkindled in  all of us when we hear these marriage vows recited.  These two people at the altar will pledge a lifelong, unconditional love, in a world of change, passing fashion, and short-term, self-centered commitments.   The God of Unconditional Love is here in each of us now, reminding us of our connection to one another.   We are holy people.  Love has made us so.