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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
What do opioids give you? Chemical peace of mind...for a while. The problem is that this chemical peace of mind, for which you think you have a right, lasts only for a time. When that time runs out, you have used up the right, and now slide into addiction and away from any peace. You have abused the chemical. I have taken pain killers for surgical pain. But the pain for surgery goes on for a short time. So the pills are for short time use. I would not want "extra" or "more" just in case. The solution to chronic pain is not chronic opioids. Addiction does not solve chronic pain. And some people never know that they just took too much on any one day. Why? They are dead...from overdose. I am not pontificating that I have some tough guy solution. I just know what is not the solution. I have dealt with pain to some success, by talking to someone, picking up that heavy cell phone or land line, drinking lots of water, walking/stretching/yoga, reaching out to be of service. None of these things addicted or killed me. Now I have to go to take the ice pack off my shoulder.
Friday, September 29, 2017
Why do we sometimes lose something as a response to losing something? It seems insane, and it is. Example: someone loses a loved one to death, and the survivor responds by getting drunk or drugged. Not only has the person lost a loved one. They have now lost sobriety. I had found this to be an escape from pain, until it was pointed out to me that loss as a response to loss is not very effective as a solution to anything.
You never get back the first loss by a second loss. Someone loses a relationship. Response? A geographic. They move. Now they have lost roots, friends, community, and the relationship is still over. You lose an argument, a bet, your keys, your wallet, purse. Response? You lose your temper. You get all angry, but this does not find any lost item. Co-ed goes to frat party. Loses sobriety. Response? Loses self-respect. Hangovers never go away by waking up with strangers. Finally, I lose time by losing myself in fantasy.
You never get back the first loss by a second loss. Someone loses a relationship. Response? A geographic. They move. Now they have lost roots, friends, community, and the relationship is still over. You lose an argument, a bet, your keys, your wallet, purse. Response? You lose your temper. You get all angry, but this does not find any lost item. Co-ed goes to frat party. Loses sobriety. Response? Loses self-respect. Hangovers never go away by waking up with strangers. Finally, I lose time by losing myself in fantasy.
One of my talks is now on u tube. You can find it, I hope, under Fr. Terrys' Spiritual Stuff. It is a bout contemplative prayer and was given on September 16, in Boulder, Colorado. I think this is my first u tube. I am also on Sound Cloud. So far, no one I know has actually listened to any of my talks, so this keeps me humble. People tell me to record my talks. So now I do. Maybe God wants me to be a hermit and contemplate in silence all the time.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
One of the things I like about Jesus is that he seemed to invite people to follow him who wondered if they were any good, or good enough parents, friends, lovers and so on. Matthew is this fellow who was a tax collector in a world in which such endeavors were considered done by bad persons. Matthew probably did not have high expectations of God's love. Here comes Jesus and he says to the tax collector, Matthew, "Follow me." Now, just as you are. Then Jesus dines with Matthew. Jesus was trying to model what he thought God was like. God is Love. Not love, as a response or reward for your shaping up to some rule, but simply love. Matthew, with all his humanness, and imperfections tried to become love. Does this not give you hope? It does me. You don't have to be a Christian believer to get this point. The Wisdom figures in the world seem to see the divine as Love and it is unconditional. I feel better already. Maybe I can be a little bit of love today and so can you.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 20: 1-16
SEPTEMBER 24, 2017
As the story goes, the vineyard owner goes into the marketplace throughout the day to hire workers. Those who are first hired and work all day, agree to “the usual daily wage.” Some workers cannot get anyone to hire them until only an hour before sunset. They want to work, so the owner sends them into the vineyard for a hour. Sunset and everyone gets paid. The last ones hired, who only worked an hour, get a full day’s pay, “the usual daily wage.” You figure that the ones who worked all day in the heat will get a lot more, right? Wrong. They get what was agreed on, the usual daily wage, as did the ones who worked for only an hour.
“Unjust,” you say? It should be equal pay for equal work. This is a labor and management system that makes sense in our western mind. But to Jesus, who is less interested in western economics than he is in the kingdom of God, justice is about making sure that everyone has enough. What is enough? No one starves or goes hungry. The daily wage was to buy sufficient daily food for the worker. Less than the daily wage, they would go hungry or starve. The owner is showing compassion, mercy, a sense of connectedness to the poor worker, a sense of oneness.
The all day workers who grumble that this is unfair, have no compassion, mercy or sense of oneness with the one hour workers. In the kingdom, they are selfish, and heartless. They are focused on themselves and how much they can get. The owner reminds them that they have enough. When you have enough, that is, you will fill your belly, you don’t really need more. “More” can cause a lot of problems and a lot of disunity and hatred among peoples. Do you have enough?
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
I mentioned, in a recent blog, that I needed a Mom. Well, lo and behold, yesterday was the 14th anniversary of my Mom's death. Yesterday, I was on the phone with someone for whom I was going to do some work in Texas. In passing, he asked me what the plane fare was so he could reimburse me. I looked at the reservation that I had made last May, and to my dismay and surge in blood pressure, I noticed that the reservation for the Austin, Texas departure to Oakland did not say Austin departure. I had made the departure city, DENVER!!! Yikes. If he had not asked the cost, I would not have noticed this error and been standing, clueless, at the Austin Airport wondering where my flight status was on the departure board. My Mom, though dead now for 14 years, is still about watching over her son and his fading mental capacity. This is one of the reasons I believe in life after death. Thank you Mom, wherever you are. Of course, she is not in purgatory, where you know who is. Did that big sister influence me to make the error in the first place?
Monday, September 25, 2017
The day after I returned from the monastery, I went out to dinner with a woman, ate filet steak, and talked language of the heart. I am so attracted to honesty. At the monastery, I don't get language of the heart, with a woman, and filet. Honesty, non-editing of what you say, is so sacred to me, that it seems to naturally call forth quiet listening. I found myself fascinated to sit there, belly full, listening to her talk. It is the presence of God when a couple gets into this space, the language of the heart. So many relationships are edited. We all seem to decide what we will reveal and what we will hold to ourself. We fear someone will tell on us, or reject us, or judge us. I never reject anyone who offers me filet. I am a bad monk, since monks do not eat meat at the monastery. But I can be a good listener. At times, people come to me to ask what they should do about something. But they edit self-disclosure. It is frustrating. Honesty from another person is a gift. That evening I received the gift. On the other hand, my life is dull and uninteresting and my friend did not eat filet. So I was blessed while she might have gone home and said, "Good Grief!"
Sunday, September 24, 2017
I have a boo boo. I mentioned my fall that cut up my hands, two blogs ago. I need a Mom. Why? Well, I can clean my wound myself, but with a Mom I would get two things I cannot have alone. First, I would get advice. I used 70% alcohol content on my wounds and about passed out. A Mom would have said, "Don't do that," and would have some other better and less painful salve. Second, when I clean a wound I do it alone, with no Mom love, so the pain is FULL pain. When a Mom cleans the wound, I can turn away from the nasty look of the wound and feel her loving touch. Love lessens the pain. Since my Mom is dead, I am in need of a local Mom to help me with my boo boo. But there is a deeper lesson to learn here. We all go through some pain from time to time and some of us, chronic pain. The love of another helps make it more bearable. We can give people our time, attention, listening ear, and even a comforting touch as needed. One of the Moms at the dinner two nights ago, helped put the bandage on my wound and suggested how to clean it. Everything felt better when she was there and helped. I live with priests, men. They can be functional. It is not the same.
Saturday, September 23, 2017
If you hope people will act a certain way, then model that behavior in your own life. Scolding, shaming, guilt-tripping, or laying down a rule changes no one including yourself. A long time ago, when I first began to teach about prayer, I did not want to have an entrance fee or pay at the door manner. I wanted to practice generosity with my spiritual teaching. People should not have to pay to come listen to me. I simply had free-will offerings unless the venue chose to charge. That was their business. Now and again I would worry about how I will pay my bills. But rather than fret about it, I figured if this is God's work, then I will survive. If not, well then I will end up living and doing something else more in the traditional parish priest ministry. After a recent talk, I picked up the donations from the free will basket. In there was an envelope with a note. The donor, who is by no means wealthy, said that she had been given money by a relative, and she wanted to pass it on to God through me. The check was quite a significant amount. This woman was very generous, and it came when I am in a bit of an income deficit. Be generous and generosity comes your way. I have found it so. I may yet pay off my car before the end of the calendar year which was my deal with the Paulists who financed the purchase.
Friday, September 22, 2017
I am having trouble typing this blog. I tripped while exercising yesterday and fell on my hands and knee. They are a mess. I am icing the knee. It did not get cut. The hands did get skin torn off and are a mess. I went home and rubbed alcohol on my hand wounds. I about passed out from the alcohol sting on raw flesh. Ironically, if I could laugh, alcohol on the outside of my skin takes away germs and helps healing, after the initial ouching. I used to take alcohol on the inside of my skin for a different pain, but it never healed anything. It only numbed me for a while. So, I find alcohol does have healing qualities, if kept on the outside, poured over or rubbed onto a wound. Now if I had pain relieving ointment, that would have been nice. Tonight, I will limp to a party with seven couples who want to have dinner with me. They will ask how I am. I will lie and say fine, while maybe wearing gloves. I will secretly hope that someone has a miracle healing ointment and non-stick bandages. I seem to still be delusional, thinking that people come to dinner parties with triage kits in their purses. At the party, there will be drinking of alcohol. I have learned that no matter how yucky my hands and knee might feel, the alcohol on the inside will only make it worse. If someone going to the party reads this blog, I may yet have a happy, triage experience. But I will come sober no matter what. 😇
Thursday, September 21, 2017
In the Christian Gospel there is this fellow, Simon of Cyrene, who is minding his own business. But he is in the wrong place or right place, depending on his spiritual condition. The soldiers grab him off the street to carry the heavy cross beam to which the condemned man, Jesus of Nazareth, will be nailed in horrible crucifixion. Does Simon whine or grumble about his bad luck? Or does he see this as a chance to help someone, even a man condemned by the state for capital punishment? What would be your response if you were Simon? Well, here is my spiritual journey at this point. I might feel resentment because I have no time for this. I would feel self-pity, "Why me?" and fear of what the authorities could do to me in if I refused to help. The journey for me is not just from the street to calvary, the sight of crucifixion, but from the above self-focused attitude, to being ready to carry the burden of someone else, even someone condemned by the courts, seen as criminals. Some people have the God presence in them in a hidden way, or as Christians would say, "Christ is hidden in them." So I want to become a person who does not judge others, but rather someone who is ready to help carry another's cross, to be with them in their suffering. I cannot take away suffering directly, but maybe by my presence and attempt at love, I can slightly lift their burden.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
I have a friend who died recently. Right up to a few days before he died, he had an appetite. He had a seemingly normal hunger to eat. Then his appetite left him. This is usually a sign that death is immanent. And so he died shortly thereafter. I found it to be so with both my parents for whom I cared in their dying days. We have spiritual hungers too, and sometimes we starve our spiritual hunger, or fill ourselves up with non-nourishing stuff. To recognize this hunger for what it is begins the journey to inner fullness. Then we feed ourselves with such things as prayer, art, music, walks in parks, and even one on one reflections with a friend on the same journey. If this inner hunger is fed on a daily basis, then the dying we will do is a dying to bad habits such as being selfish, judgmental, controlling, procrastinating, porn, lazy, angry, resentful, jealous and food-binging. I try to allow my bad habits to die a little each day. How about you?
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Someone said that they were "right-fighters." They always had to be right. Is this you too? When I am at my best, balanced, centered, I don't have to prove that I am right and therefore you wrong. I say, "This is what I think" and then examine my opinion against the information I receive from others. The experience of others helps me to get a better sense of what is reality. When I am off my mark, then is when I tend to be prejudicial, judgmental, with a need to be right so as to overcome some fear that dwells within me. Nothing like looking stupid and being the last one in the group to know. This has happened to me more than once. The key to holding on to "being right" when I am wrong, is fear. I work on fear...most days. Living in the "Kingdom of Jerks" is rather painful, eventually. Better to trudge the road of happy destiny than to be mired in the wrong road altogether. Someone else's experience taught me this, when I was ready to listen.
Monday, September 18, 2017
MATTHEW 25: 14-30
SEPTEMBER 2, 2017
Three servants are given money to invest while their master is away. Each is given a different amount depending on their perceived abilities. The ones who are given more, make 100% return on their transactions. The one who is given the least to invest, buries the money and gets punished by the master, tossed out into the darkness of the street, unemployed and homeless. I do not think that this parable is one that weds capitalism to religion, specifically, Christianity. But many Westerners, educated in the Age of Enlightenment and the Reformation, with the Protestant work ethic, see it as good old hard work, talent and smarts are rewarded.
Here is my take. It is about surprising grace. Say what? Well, The master is a hard-nosed guy, who harvests fields that he did not have planted. This means that he foreclosed on farmers who could not pay their debts, took over their land and reaped the profits. Way harsh for religion, but not so harsh if you are a banker. It is business. The ones who doubled there money? Now that is quite a return on investment, so they probably did some underhanded method to make 100% return. Good business, but not good ethics. Maybe insider trading? Or took advantage of some persons who were in a tight spot at the moment? Very entrepreneurial but not very neighborly.
Now the fellow who buried the money? He did not lose anything, and did fear his boss, the master. But the greedy master wanted at least to get some interest on the money. So this poor frightened fellow is thrown out on his ear. The outer darkness of the street is where God is. God wants to embrace the world’s idea of “loser.” When we are failing to fulfill the world’s demands in commerce and industry, the desire for “more,” then God is ready to welcome us. God invests in lost souls, and powerless people. This fellow is the one who enters the kingdom of surprising grace. The others get a few short years of success in this life, and then find out that such behavior towards others does not do them any good in the kingdom.
You can’t take it with you.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
There are two kinds of "fits" in my life and both can be fixed, but with different steps. One fit is when I know I am doing something or being somewhere that simply is not a good fit for me. It could be a work situation or a relationship. When I am spiritually fit, I will intuit or sense this. Generally, the solution for this is to move on. In this situation, there is nothing the matter with me or with the work or person. It is just not a good fit for me. It could be a high paying, ego boost job, but it is not the job for me to be my best and truest self. It could be a wonderful person to whom I relate, but we just don't fit together. Move on. The other fit is "misalignment." Here, everything around me is good, but I am a mess. It could be at a social event that is otherwise healthy, or simply being at school, but I feel as if I don't fit in. I am misaligned with my surroundings. Now if I drink to try and fit in, then I would be "sliding into misalignment," even more. For this, there are the programs of recovery, the twelve steps, some spiritual practice to get me aligned with the world. When you are a mess, this is generally misalignment. When you are healthy, inside and out, then it usually is "not a good fit." No one needs to be fixed when it is simply not a good fit. For me, the business world I worked in was this sort of "not a good fit." I just did not belong there. The monastery is a good fit.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
E. F. Schumacher was an economist who wrote a book in 1973, Small Is Beautiful. He thought that we were headed to catastrophe if we made growth, efficiency, and production the ultimate measure of value. He thought that people should matter more than they do in that model of value. He counseled us to resist the temptation of letting our luxuries become our needs. This last part is something I am working on for myself. I do get needs and wants mixed up. I don't need any more running shoes. I have more than enough. Well, maybe one more pair in bright colors? Drat. I am still a work in progress. How about you?
Friday, September 15, 2017
Someone reminded me that there are three keys to kindness, and they are not what I thought they were. Here are the keys:
When I do these three things in my daily routines, I seem to be a nicer, kinder, less judgmental person. When I am a slug, eat junk, and stay up to late, I am not so very nice. How about you?
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Do you ever find yourself in the midst of negative thinking about persons or situations? I do. And when I am there I cannot seem to stop the negative thinking just by wanting to stop. Ever so slowly I begin to crawl out of my mind, and it does seem to be as helpless as crawling. I just cannot simply stop altogether. I say, "OK, stop thinking so judgmentally about that person. " But very soon thereafter, I am thinking badly about some situation be it work or community or relationship. What works best for me in these moments is to focus on doing one thing that will occupy my mind. Type out a blog. It has to be something that really does take up my mind. Cleaning my room won't do it. My mind is still to free to be thinking other things while I am doing this chore. What solutions do you have when negative thinking holds you hostage?
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
With all the hurricane activity, I sense that some people are praying now, who never or rarely pray. If they are praying, they must believe in something. Maybe desperation can bring people to faith, at least in the short term? Many a drunk in recovery has discovered this path to faith and prayer. They have no other way out of, or through their addiction. Hurricanes can bring us to the same sense of powerlessness. Such a feeling of reality can lead to some of the deepest praying. We are praying with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Fear and dread may accompany this time of praying. So don't put yourself down if you are praying hard now for life and home, though you rarely in the past gave much thought to God or prayer. Your prayers now are sincere and hopeful. Lack of prayer is often associated with the problem of control. When we feel control, then prayer lessens in time and intensity. Hurricanes remind us that we are not gods. Since my life is often like a hurricane whirling about, I tend to pray often and desperately.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Della Mary Gavin was born in Ireland. Her Catholic mother taught her that alcoholism is a moral failure. Della moved to the USA and joined a religious order of women. For ten years, as Sister Ignatia Gavin, C.S.A. she taught music. This was her vocation so she thought. Then she developed a nervous condition and had to give up teaching music. Her plans were not working out. Well, a Caholic hospital opened in Akron, Ohio and Ignatia was put in charge of admissions, the registration desk. No need for any nurse training. Alcoholics were deemed moral derelicts at that time, beyond any medical care. Sister Ignatia thought otherwise, and revised her mother's and society's opinion. She viewed alcoholics as an illness, to include a spiritual malady. She convinced a doctor to let some alcoholics in so they could rest, before setting them back on the streets. A year later, she met Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, who worked at that hospital. Both Bill and Bob were alcoholics and that year they founded Alcoholics Anonymous. It was at this Akron Catholic Hospital that Bill and Bob found other alcoholics. Alcoholism began to be treated here as a medical condition. Sister Ignatia went on to Cleveland to help establish an alcoholic ward in St. Vincent's Charity hospital. What if Ignatia had not gotten sick herself and continued on teaching music? Bad stuff is not always the end. Plus, all the AA people in recovery who have dumped the Catholic Church might notice how much this church had to do with AA getting off the ground. When it is about love, my church is wonderful! Irish Catholic girls are good examples of this. Thank you Sister Ignatia.
Monday, September 11, 2017
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 18: 15-20
AUGUST 10, 2017
I am reading Ron Chernow’s, Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was killed in a pistol duel with Aaron Burr. What I noticed from a duel, is that no one is changed for the better. Hamilton is dead and Burr walks away the victor. My big sister, Maureen, four years older than me, taught me a better way to encourage positive change when there is a disagreement. When I was a little boy, my sister and I were each given a beautiful holy card picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Maureen kept hers on her night table. I kept mine under my pillow. As little boys tend to do, I lost my holy card. What to do? I took Maureen’s. I figured that she was so mean and bossy, that Mary could do her no good. So why waste a holy card on Maureen.
Maureen came to me and accused me of taking her holy card. I said I did not. She then got our little dipper sister, Elizabeth, and told her what I did. Elizabeth said, “Terry, you bad!” “Oh, go poop in your pants,” I retorted. She promptly did. End of conversation. Maureen then brought the issue to the dinner table with the whole family. I denied it. Maureen had an ace up her sleeve. She had put a very small mark on her card. She told me to show the card to my parents. It had the tell tale mark. “Yikes,” I said. “A miracle! How did that card get under my pillow? Maybe Mary did it because she loves me best.”
No one was buying miracle stories that night. Maureen said, “You can keep the card, if you want, even though you stole it and lied. You will burn.” I was destined for the fires from an early age. For punishment, I was to get no dessert for a week. Each night while the family ate chocolate cream pie or banana cream pie or apple pie, I was to go sit in my room and think about the card. That week Maureen acted very strange, for Maureen. She did not give me the cold shoulder, but rather she was extra nice. She made my bed one day, and picked up my clothes another. I was very impressed by her kindness. Something was loosed inside of me. I felt a bit of a bond with her. This miracle was followed by another miracle. Near the end of the week, I quietly placed her card back on her night table. Love, not punishment changed me.
Jesus did not ignore the gentiles and tax collectors. He did not treat them as outsiders to be shunned. He healed and ate with them. Our church is not a sect, everyone the same. We are a community of more or less sinners and saints, with various moral character and opinions. God embraces us all.
The second point of this gospel is that when you accuse someone of “sinning against you” it might not be so much their sin as it is your personal opinion and judgment about their action. Jesus says to go to the person one on one. If there is no agreement then try to get two or three others who agree with you. If you are in the wrong, Jesus’ hope is that you will not find enough others who agree with you. This might then make you reconsider your opinion or sense of what you consider a wrong done to you. Then you might even go and apologize. This will bind you more to the other person and loosen the resentment within you. Love might even follow! A miracle.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
This captures my unhappiness in being in my own skin. I have a far away look. I don't really want to be where I am feeling whatever I am feeling. But also, I am thinking about something or missing something. It looks like negative energy, but it has a positive side, as it led me to pursue meditation. I longed for union and meaning in my life. When I was bored during a talk or conversation, I could take on this look.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
The Paulists have a complex on Lake George. It is several houses on a hillside that includes dining area and bedrooms up on a hillside. This pix is down below at the dock we have. I am sitting on the diving board and again am very happy, talking with someone(s). Find your place of bliss.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Then there was my mustache look. It reminded me of my impersonation of another Terry, Terry Malloy, in "On The Waterfront" played by Marlon Brando. I did not look as good as he was, but the leather jacket was my tough guy look time. For some reason people put up with me. Why was that? Did you have a lot of "looks" in your younger years or if you are young now, do you change your look occasionally?
Thursday, September 7, 2017
This is a pix of a few of us priests sitting on some rocks overlooking a cove between two of our islands. I sat in the sun a lot and loved it. Why do we get punished for doing something we love? But then again, I loved drinking. It must be early in the day, as there are no beer can in the picture.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
At one time I decided to do an afro hairstyle. I was living in Houston and was ordained about a year or so. It was a bit of a disaster. I had to done three times before it took. I think I burnt my scalp some too. Why do we have problems with our natural look? Well, if you come up with the answer please let me know. I forget why I kept having a beard. I think I did not care to shave. maybe I was hiding out?
In the picture I posted on yesterday's blog of me on one of our Paulist Fathers Islands at Lake George, I suddenly noticed that the pink sweat shirt with hood that I was wearing, I still have it in a closet somewhere! I try to hold onto friends and clothes. Do friends wear out? Go out of fashion? There is another blog today. This is just a postscript on yesterday.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
One of my happiness times and places was on "The Islands" which we owned in the middle of Lake George, New York, upstate mountains. I think that this photo captures my feelings about sitting on one of our five islands. We would sleep, cook, and play a card game, Hearts, there. It was a good bonding time. Do you have such a place in your life?
Monday, September 4, 2017
I think of the spiritual life that is lived at some depth to be one that comes out of a sinking ship experience. At a certain point, when our spiritual condition is mediocre or shallow at best, we begin to feel like we are on a sinking ship of life. My life is sinking. My first response is to try and fix it myself, with my power, my strength and talent. I plug this hole and that hole, but nothing seems to hold for long. Finally, I give up and surrender. "Someone help me!" I cry out to the void. And something happens. Some power takes me off my sinking ship and puts me onto calm waters and into a small boat with no paddles. Some power, not my own, seems to be steering my little life boat. Maybe there are others who encourage me to trust, let go, and pray gratitude. Nice, huh. Next, from somewhere, I know not, I find a paddle in the boat. Why? Because the smooth waters that protected me at first, will now have the rapids of life. The boat is still being steered, but now I must cooperate and do some work too. Pick up my paddle and go to work as the rapids come up. Don't be afraid. Trust. Pray in thanksgiving and ask for power to cooperate with my little paddle. Now life goes on with smooth and rapid. Real life, but I am no longer sinking in despair. I am into daily prayer of gratitude. Next, I actually ask to be of help to others who might be drowning. Is this not a big change from my egocentric self. And so my prayer is answered. I are lifted out of my little life boat and put into a bigger boat that can take on other people. The power that saved me is now working through me to help others. At least I have found it so. There are certainly other ways to grow spiritually, but some of us need to be drowning first.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Shopping can allow us the opportunity to interact with other people, or at least avoid isolation. We spend so much time on our electronic devices, that we may need to find ways and reasons to get away from looking at screens, and to be amongst others. Being in a coffee shop on our device is amongst others in one sense, but it is still isolation. We do not have much opportunity to relate to others in the coffee shop. Going to a neighborhood store is, well, neighborly. Ordering online isolates. Big box stores are less neighborly then mom and pop shops. I like New York City because it still has lots of small specialty shops, though these are fewer and fewer ascents rise. I was in a restaurant in Florida where you simply order from a touch screen and someone brings you your food. No waitperson interaction. One of my best experiences of de-isolation was in a restaurant with a common table. You ordered your food from a counter, but then sat down at a table with people you did not know. It was a round table too. The assumption was that such people wanted to meet and talk or else they would not have chosen that experience. Computer technology can be our friend, or sometimes not.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Someone reminded me not to let myself get caught up in the snapshots of each day. What? A snapshot is a mini-part of the day, maybe a few seconds, a short event, a feeling that may see me as a saint or an idiot. Try to stay in the big picture of the whole day. Overall, I may be doing quite well, with sanity and good things happening. There just might be a temporary situation in which I am all full of myself or think I am no good, or someone else is an impossible person because of one thing they just did or did not do. "You failed to take out the garbage! I hate you," is a momentary feeling that can pass if we keep wth the big picture. This person who did not take out the garbage has many good qualities, none of which I can access at the moment because I am focused on garbage. Someone cuts you off on the road, or cuts in line somewhere, or fails to recognize that you even exist. These can be "snapshot" events, but not the big picture. A recovering alcoholic remembers that they are sober this day, and this is a miracle with enough positive energy to stay sane when the world around them is not so recovering. I try never to take my sanity for granted. Gratitude is key.
Friday, September 1, 2017
C. S. Lewis gave me this idea in his book, The Problem of Pain. Think of your spiritual center or soul as a key. You have a specifically shaped key for a lock that will open the door into a fullness of life to which you are called. Everyone has a different shaped key, but the door for each leads to their fullness. Become what you are in your truest self. The problem is that we all try to reshape our key or place the key into a door that will simply not unlock. We remain outside ourselves living a life that seeks "more" to fulfill us, a life of frustration, alienation, loneliness, and a lot of negative energy. Meditation, or some spiritual practice that fits each person, allows unto discover the key, and then begin to find the door and the lock to the door that leads to a life of "all" rather than a life of "more." I have found it so in mediations, the experience of nature in sunsets and sunrises, quiet rains, walks on trails, and city streets with small shops, and bookstores. It is in how I look when I have a quiet mind.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
I suspect that like me you all have some reminder items in your life of people, places and events. I have a picture of my parents when the were yet healthy and living in Florida. On my night stand in San Francisco I have the little angel stone that a hospice worker gave me right after my Mom passed away. I have mom's rosary with me here in the monastery and my dad's rosary back in Boulder. I have his wedding band in Boulder. On my dresser in San Francisco I have a picture of my sister Maureen and another of my sister Jane and me on our first visit to Sear Ranch where we have been going each year for over 25 years. On my office door in Boulder I have a photo of my sister Elizabeth with me when we were children. A knitted frame picture of the hills behind Boulder is on my bedroom wall in San Francisco, made by my good friend Terry. There is more, but what are your reminders in your living or work space or that go with you in your wallet and purse? I never get so used to these things that I come to ignore them. They are good reminders. They remind me.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Insouciantly, Maureen asked me, "Do you think you can be a priest?" "I think so," I answered, a bit hesitant. "Do you know what you will be doing all day?" Maureen queried. "Well, I will say mass and pray, and hear confessions on Saturday," I said. "Yeah, well mass takes thirty minutes and your morning and evening prayers, which you often forget or are too lazy to say, take, at most an hour a day. So that is an hour and a half. What will you do the rest of the day?" she asked. "I don't know," I said. Maureen then pointed out all the reasons that would get in the way of me being a priest. "You are lazy, thinking always about yourself, and you don't do what anyone asks until they nag or promise punishment if you don't do as you are told. You whine when you don't get your own way." I realized that she had a point or three. She was not finished. "Priests need to be kind, and self-sacrificing, and be good listeners. That is not my little brother." Saddened by this bold reality, I asked, "So maybe being a priest isn't for me?" "Ask Mary for a miracle," was her reply. Over the subsequent years, I have realized that most of my life and priest problems have to do with my shortcomings as Maureen seemed to so wisely know. I did a lot of blaming, but much suffering was because of the way I "suffered injustice," being ignored, not getting my way, and so on, in my life. If I had known all that the priesthood involved before I joined, and knew myself as Maureen did, I probably would not have chosen this path. Maybe it is so for married persons as well. Knowing too much can get in the way of making a good decision. Fred Avis, the guy who married my big sis, did not know much at all. And I did not tell him. They had four good kids, so my point is well taken. Ignorance can be a blessing.