It is the last day of the year. Some people say, "Where did the time go?" Hopefully it went being of some service. Why? To avoid the "poor me" summation of the year. Poor me focuses on all the things that we don't have or lost, such as a home, due to fire or other disasters, or personal bankruptcy. We might have lost relatives, spouses, parents, children due to illness, death, divorce or Alzheimer's. We might have lost a job due to downsizing, or alcoholism. There are lots of reasons for losses. What to do? Besides allowing emotional space for some grieving, we might do service. What? Yes, help someone else who might be suffering loss. It will connect us. It will lessen our isolation. It will get us out of ourselves. Service is a way to heal ourselves. What we have lost is lost, gone. Fantasy will not bring it back. But we still are here and a New Year is open before us. For many a drunk, that is not to be taken for granted. To be of service lets go of control. We cannot control the outcome for the people or situations into which we pour ourselves. But we may guarantee our healing for the time we do have in this world.
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The message of Christmas is also a question for Christians. How do they make space within themselves for God to come into the world through them? In the Bible God came into the world, according to the Bible, in many different ways throughout the history of the world as seen by the people in the Bible. For Christians, God came uniquely through a human person. So, if you say you are a Christian then God wants to come into the world, your daily world, through you. How might this happen. I would look at the original experience of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. How did she make space for God to be born, or Incarnated, through her? She gave up control. This is a meaning of the words, "Be it done unto me according to your word." So you might say, "OK. I will do that and things will go well. Life won't be so chaotic." Wrong. Mary does not get to have the birth take place among family in her familiar surroundings. She has to go to Bethlehem, and a stable or cave. This is most unfamiliar. It could be frightening and bring about whining and anger...unless she had let go of control. Then she gets visited by pagan star-gazers...that is, strange people, foreigners. Then she has to flee to Egypt, become a refugee in another country. No wonder God is so hard to find in this world...it is full of baptized believers who are trying to get their way and control the world around them, to limit their fears and anxieties. Each day we wake up pregnant with God. Each day is a due date. Will God be born into the world through you today, in your little world of relationships, work, bucket lists?
Friday, December 29, 2017
In the birth of Jesus, he is born outdoors in a stable or cave because "there is no room in the Inn." For me, this means that Christ seeks to be born each day through me, through my heart, but if I am so preoccupied with my own little world, I fill up that inner space and have no room for him. God comes into the world each day through how we act with one another. A selfish, self-entered person has little time for the concerns and needs of others. Other people are simply meant to help us get what we want. If they cannot do that, we avoid them, or try to eliminate them, or control them, all for our own selfish ends. Compassion, love, acceptance, forgiveness, charity all are the ways that God is born each day into our world. Meditation is the way that I begin each day to make room in my Inn for God. Even if you don't believe in all this God stuff, meditation will make room in your heart for the needs of others. Not their wants, but their needs is what calls for our loving response.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
So you don't believe in God. OK. But why judge those who do believe? You don't like being judged for not believing. Just say, "My experience is different from their experience of spiritual matters." If it makes you feel better to ridicule other people for their belief in God or some Higher Power, maybe you are not so comfortable in your own non-belief. Or maybe you are reliving past scar tissue when you were put down or ostracised for your non-belief, in which case the past continues to be the present. It is called resentment, re-sentire, to feel over and over again. Yes, you will run into believers who think they have all the truth and you are damned. But you don't care about being damned since there is no there there after you die. If you let such people irritate you, then they control your emotions. Be a loving person toward them. They may very well be unhappy and insecure in their truth.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Do you want to be usefully whole? You do not have to believe in God for this to happen. I know atheists who found peace through daily service. What they found was not so much a faith in a Deity, as they found that they were not so angry anymore. The question to ask yourself each day, is not so much "Do I believe in God? or "Where is God in my life? but rather ask yourself, "How can I be useful today?" I know people who are God-Believers, but they are mean and nasty people, selfish and dysfunctional in any group. They are angry people, shallow in happiness, deep into misery. But they believe in God. So don't wait around until you believe in God before you try to be useful to others. Be useful without resentment or judgment. Whining not optional. Who knows? Grinches might give thought to why you are happy and they are not.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
People get tattoos on their skin and wear clothes with signage that express something of who they want to say they are. These are outside expressions but they may have little or nothing to do with our identity. They are simply costumes. Who we really are is imaged on our hearts. So what image is impressed upon your heart? You will know by the way you speak and act in the world around you. A person may have a tattoo of an angry animal on their skin, but in fact this same person is kind and loving, compassionate and forgiving. The tattoo was done at a different time in their life. The true tattoo of the heart comes out in our daily manner. We can never hide the heart's tattoo. We express it daily in how we live our lives. I wonder what the tattoo is for impatience and whining?
Monday, December 25, 2017
Christmas Story 2017
Once upon a time, in the magical kingdom of The Bronx, there lived a good little boy named Terry, who looked forward to the coming of Santa Claus at Christmas. Santa would come with presents for good little boys if they went to bed on Christmas Eve and did not get up in the middle of the night to look for Santa dropping off presents under the Christmas tree. If curiosity or impatience won out and you saw Santa, all your presents would disappear.
But there was a wicked Christmas Witch who also lived in the kingdom. She hated good little boys, Santa, and Christmas with all its love and presents. For most of the year the witch disguised herself as a beautiful Irish lass with curly dark hair and beautiful eyes and smile. Only at Christmas did she show her true self when she was able to make little boys unhappy. Terry had never seen the Witch or Santa.
Now the wicked witch had a plan to get Terry to see Santa and lose all his presents. She went out into the Bronx Forest, known as the Botanical Gardens, and gathered up all at the pine needles she could find. She stored them away so they could dry and be especially irritating to the body. Then, on Christmas Eve afternoon, she came in through the bedroom window and put the pine needles under Terry’s bedsheets. Cackling away, she flew off.
That night Terry went to bed in anticipation of Christmas Day and presents from Santa. But Terry could not sleep because of the pine needles hidden under his bedsheets. He tossed and turned while impatience and curiosity got the better of him. After his Mom and Dad and Sister Maureen had gone to bed, and the house was all quiet, Terry got up and quietly tip toed to the room of the Christmas Tree. There he saw Santa with a stack of presents in a bag.
Suddenly, all Terry’s presents disappeared. Santa was startled and turned around to see Terry staring at him. Terry began to cry. Suddenly, from somewhere nearby, the cackling of the Christmas Witch could be heard. She was so happy that Terry would get nothing for Christmas. Santa realized that the witch had tricked Terry. But then Santa had an idea. He had been dealing with this Bronx witch for a long time. He said to Terry, “There might be a way to help you.” Suddenly, Terry had hope, as Santa waved his hand in the air and a sprinkle of light came into the room. In the light appeared what looked like an angel. Terry’s mouth hung open. The angel said to Santa, “Well I see that the witch has had a good cackle over all this, Santa.” Then the angel turned to Terry and said, “There is a way for you to get your presents.” “There is?” asked Terry. “First, I will show you who the Christmas witch is. Come with me.” The angel led Terry back into his bedroom which he shared with his big sister, Maureen. Maureen was sleeping, or so it appeared. The angel waved an angel wand over Maureen and she slowly turned into the ugly, hateful, cackling Christmas witch. Terry was horrified. “My big sister is the witch! I hate her. She is so mean and ugly.” “Well,” said the angel, “That won’t get you a good Christmas.”
“What if you kill the witch in her sleep? At least I will get revenge.” “But you won’t get presents and the baby Jesus won’t show up either,” said the angel. Terry had forgotten about the baby Jesus. He was focused on presents. “If you forgive your sister, and love her, even though she is, well, a witch, she will lose her power to make Christmas miserable for little children,” said the angel. “Forgive and love?” asked Terry. “It is the only way for a good Christmas to happen,” said the angel. “By forgiving and loving, you will allow other children to have a good Christmas. Hate and revenge won’t do,” said the angel. “How do I do this?” asked Terry. The angel produced a little cross and handed it to him. “Hold this cross and ask Jesus to help you to forgive and love, just as he did when he became a big boy.”
Terry took the cross in his little hand, closed his eyes and asked to forgive and love Maureen, the witch. “If you are feeling a little forgiveness and love,” said the angel, “Go and give your big sister, a kiss on her witch face.” Holding the cross, Terry went up to his sister and kissed her on the cheek with a little forgiveness and love. The witch turned back into his beautiful sister, who sat up, smiled at him and they hugged. Terry turned and asked the angel, “Do you have a name?” “Yes. I am the angel Gabriel. My work is done here for now.” With that, the angel disappeared.
The next thing Terry knew, it was morning. There were no pine needles under his bed as he awoke. With his big sister Maureen holding his hand, they walked to the Christmas tree. Under the tree were all Terry’s presents. On top was a beautiful little box. When Terry opened it, there was a note. It said, “Thank you for letting me come into your world today. Forgiveness and love is all it takes.” It was signed, Jesus.
Sunday, December 24, 2017
OK, it is Christmas Eve and you are thinking, "God does not care. If there is a God, it is not helping me." Christmas can be a tough time for skeptics, doubters, and agnostics. Atheists have pretty much made peace with this season. If you are feeling a bit humbug or ignored by God, you might see yourself as in a "Sinking Boat." Your thinking would be familiar to the original Chosen Twelve of Jesus. They were all in a boat in the middle of a sea and there was a storm. Water was coming into the boat from the waves. Meanwhile, Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat. The Twelve got upset. "Don't you care that we are drowning," they shout to wake Jesus up. I often feel that way. "Hey, God, I got some stormy time here in my life. Are you paying attention? Are you going to keep ignoring me?" As in the Bible story, Jesus was not ignoring anyone. They only judged him to be ignoring them based upon what they were experiencing. Fear was in control. Jesus suggests a little faith, or a little more faith, than in his mere existence. He calms the storm...for the moment. There will be future storms. So I learn not to judge what God is up to based upon my fearful look at my life and any one situation. Fear blinds us. We cannot see God at work. A little baby in a stable food bin of some stinky animals is God? That is a stretch. Many of us would like God to give us a bit more, or maybe a lot more, certainty about existence, action and presence. But then we would not need faith. With faith I will be a bit less frightened the next time I am in a sinking boat experience.
Saturday, December 23, 2017
So maybe you are thinking about how to show special love in these Christmas days. You think that if you do this or that, you will make someone happy. But watch what you choose to do. You very well might pick something that makes you happy, with some expected response from the receiver of your good deed. Well, what if their response is rather off-putting or even negative? Then you are not so happy, nor are they. Why not do something that might help you to grow into a better person, that will also benefit someone else, even if they do not know it? Do something that is loving, even if you don't want to do it. This type of action is a real self-changer for the better. Like what? Wash the plate, or even the dishes. Say what? Well, no less than Mother Theresa says, "Wash the plate not because it is dirty, but because you love the person who will use it next." You don't like to do dishes? And there may be a lot of them in big Christmas meals. So now you do something you do not like to do, and you do it with as much love as you can muster, for some other person. They will never know or even thank you. They may be irascible and difficult to love, but this will be all the better to make you a better person. Our Good Deeds cannot make other people better. We can only work on ourself. Or give others the chance to work on themselves. Give your children or some young people this blog and ask them to do the dishes after a big meal. Oh the whining!
Friday, December 22, 2017
As we get closer to Christmas "Infancy Stories" about Jesus begin to take center stage. Two Bible writers, Matthew and Luke have very different stories about the birth of Jesus. Details vary, or are added, left out. What gives? Why are the stories not the same? A way to look at this is through portrait painting. Two painters will paint the portrait of the same person, but each portrait is quite different with some similarities. We can accept this. The painter is not taking a photograph. Each painter is interpreting the person, emphasizing one thing over another. The painting is an impression from the view of the painter. So it is with the Gospel infancy stories of Jesus' birth. It is the same Jesus and the same birth, but with some details more prominent in one story than another. Each writer is interpreting the historical event. It is what writers and painters do.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
The American Institute For Cancer Research says that a recent study connects women who drink a single glass of wine each day to an increase risk of breast cancer. Wow! So I guess maybe one of the benefits for women in AA is that they have a reduced risk of breast cancer. If this study has any validity, it would not be good for the wine industry. On the other hand, what if women began to drink Jack Daniels or Wild Turkey or beer? I don't know if the study refers to the alcohol content or if it is just a study on drinking wine. Women who I know who can drink a single glass of wine for a meal or when they relax after work, tell me of all the benefits they experience. I know other women who have never been able to drink only a single glass of wine anywhere, or at any time. So I don't know what "increased risk" means. So the next time I am with a woman who is drinking a single glass of wine should I say, "You know that wine increases your risk of breast cancer." I think I will keep my mouth shut.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Someone in prison said he could not go back and make a brand new start, but he could start to make a brand new end. Some people say that they are going to make a brand new start and fix the past. The past is past. What you broke, is broken. We think of repairing things, with the idea that we will make them as good as new. No you won't. They will always have some of the scar tissue or damage hidden in them. This includes relationships, jobs, friendships. What we can do is accept the past as done, and redirect or repair so that the future will be different. And maybe something of the past will help us to stay on point about daily working to make a better end. I am sure that the fellow in prison hopes that his life after prison will be different than what it was before he went to jail. He will always be a felon, but that does not have to define his future. An alcoholic will always be an alcoholic, but they can begin to live in a new way so that their end will not be so miserable. I try to let go of yesterday with its shame or guilt, and work on today. If I messed up yesterday, emotionally or physically, or relationally, I usually need help to make for a better today. Better today's will make for a better end. This is why I need something of a spiritual life. It is a helper.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
What the heck is a spiritual journey? What happens? Well, for one, your personality changes for the better. What better? You become a kinder, more compassionate person. You are less judgmental. You become a better listener. You are less controlling and more letting go into acceptance. You are less obsessed with people and addictive stuff. You are more at peace with life as it happens on a daily basis. You of course protect yourself from abuse, but in the spiritual journey you focus on how you abuse yourself with a lot of bad behavior. However you pray or what you read or who you hang out with, the food you eat, the exercise you take, the journals you keep or don't keep, the journey is spiritual for you if you change for the better as outlined above. There is no one way. Spiritual practices are suggestions until you find what works for you. Then it becomes a daily effort, a rule for your life.
Monday, December 18, 2017
I just finished putting together my Christmas story. It has Maureen and Santa and an angel and of course me as the Star! So for the Boulder, Colorado people who want such a story for a homily you will have to go a bit out of your way or usual time. I will have mass on Christmas Eve at 4:00 PM at the Dunn Memorial House on Baseline and Foothills Parkway in Boulder. Then at 6:30 PM I will be in Lyons for a mass at the only Church on Main Street, a Methodist Church. Lyons has a Catholic Community. On Christmas Day, I have the 8:00 AM mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus in downtown Boulder. I don't know that many children would come to any of these places and times. Too bad. It is a good story...and true of course.
Many Catholics don't really care much about the sermon or homily. They put up with pretty much anything, be it the message or the delivery. Many simply say, "This is my parish," and so this is where they worship. Some go because they want a community of people they recognize and give them some support. They may be involved in the parish in some way, maybe through school connections. For a Protestant, the sermon is crucial. If there is a lack of message or the delivery is unnerving, thy will go elsewhere. Or they will get the speaker fired. For a Catholic, the onus of attendance is all on the Catholic in the pew. The teaching is that you have to go to mass each Sunday. There is no canon law or church law that says the preacher has to be competent. In the Protestant culture, the onus on attendance is all on the preacher. If he, or she is dreadful, people will go elsewhere, and there will be no money and the church folds. In other words, incompetence has a price in the Protestant tradition. Historically, I guess the Catholic church figured out how not to deal with incompetence. Make a rule that says you have to go to church and then push the guilt. I think I would be more of a Protestant. I would go where I would be fed. As a preacher though, I have said some rather silly things, been incompetent and dreadful, yet been spared by those Catholics who keep coming anyway. If they went where they would be fed, I might be looking for work. Yikes!!!
Sunday, December 17, 2017
One of my readers brought up a good point about yesterday's blog, so I need to be more clear. If a path is spiritual, it changes a person who is on it. The work is hard but if the path is a good fit you are inspired to do the work and change for the better in the virtuous life. I know this from my own experience. I was on a dogmatic path as a Catholic Christian. I believed in the divinity of Jesus much as some people believe in the Dharma, Four Noble Truths, Vedanta, Upanishads, and Tao Te Ching, or The Twelve Steps. This is a dogmatic path, not a spiritual one. I was not appreciably changed by my belief. I did not or could not do the work of the spiritual path. Each day I would take up my cross, not Jesus's cross, and I would try and be happy, which is to get my way and avoid misery. Neither happened because I had a lot of active character defects. I wanted everything and everybody to change, but me. I looked at other paths but they were not a good fit for me in however I tried them. Defeated by my own personal path, I came back to Christianity and a sober Catholic version and began to do the work. It is not easy. The path did not change but little by little, I did. This is how the Jesus path became a good fit of me. Many people will go to mass on Christmas, but that will be it for mass that year. How many of them are on the dogma path and not the spiritual path is something I cannot answer. I used to teach and focus on Catechism, but I now leave that to others. I now focus on teaching surrender, detachment and the contemplative way. I have a small following, as you might expect.
I belong to a group that is bound together by common suffering. You might ask why I would want to be part of such a group? Isn't suffering to be avoided? Well, that is why I joined the group. In my group we all have a common suffering, but we have a lot of love and respect for one another, and believe me, we are all quite different outside of our common suffering. We are never exclusive but rather inclusive. People who don't have our suffering do not seek to join us or stay within our group. They self-select themselves out of the group after a visit or two. Our group is bound by suffering, not by belief in an agreed upon Deity. Our belief is in the group and our dynamics of action stemming from what we learn in the group. The rest of the day, we go our separate ways, but follow some common steps or path that keep the suffering at bay. We may call one or another or text, as a way of being helpful outside of the common meetings. Gratefulness always seems to trump suffering in my daily life. Thank you group.
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Just because you have spiritual convictions that work well for you, does not mean that you have all the truth. That is an assumption and an arrogant one at that. Such people tend to demand that everyone agree with them, their "right" spirituality, when in fact they simply have a Brand" of spirituality. We seem to accept brand in almost everything, but matters of spiritual truth. We don't mind that people buy cars that are different from our car. We have little problem with matters in the consumer world of brands. But woe when it comes to belief. When we bought that car, we bought what "fits" us. So why not simply say that your spiritual path fits you. When people ask, you can tell them why it is a good fit for you. That is all the "selling" you need to do. False pride goeth before the fall.
Friday, December 15, 2017
The reason the monastery has cold, unheated areas and times, is two-fold. First, we are supposed to be practicing detachment from all our wants, or at least some of our wants. I want warm. I don't get it. How do I respond? Whine? Think about it constantly? Wear more clothes? The answer is to just be, and and think about the warm breath of the Spirit, or some other spiritual thought about God's love. Which brings up the second reason for the cold. Don't focus so much on things that are unpleasant, such as the cold. Live with some suffering, but don't let it control you. As Thomas a Kempis says in "The Imitation of Christ," a classic of Western Spirituality, "No one gets everything they want." Stop with all this focus on wanting "more." I have some warm places here at the monastery. I just don't have all warm places. If you always want more and focus on what you don't have you will be unhappy every day. I find myself already getting into an acceptance, and an ignoring of the cold. It prepares me to toughen up, which is what I need to do if I am going to jog through the cold winter. It snowed last night. It would not snow if it were not cold outside. The hills and fields are beautiful with snow cover. And now the sun just came out. My car is happy being in the sun. Gotta go. Suffering is not optional. But our response to it is.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
This is my first winter day in my Trappist monastery where I spend the summers. There are places in the monastery that lack heat. These are tough monks. Toughness is foreign to my personality. But I am sucking it up and learning to adapt. The dining room is heated for our midday dinner. Not so much for breakfast time or supper in the evening. The cloister corridors are not heated. My room is heated as is the shower area in the basement. The chapel has some heat, and I bundle up under my choir alb. My car is out in the cold, the very cold it turns out beginning today. If my car survives, I think that I can make a go at some winter time here in the monastery. Maybe I will even get tough, and be able to adapt to cooler rooms. The prayer life is wonderful. The silence is quite deep here. We are baking cookies today, so God is good. I will fatten up on a few rejects from the cooking process. They are still very good cookies. People in Boulder, Colorado, 3000 feet lower in altitude probably don't even know I am gone. I have a low profile there now. I am working on a Maureen homily story for Christmas mass, but most of the children will attend the Christmas Eve masses for families. I only have Christmas 8:00 AM at the parish. God is in charge. Time for dinner. Gotta go. I am back. Delicious tofu midday dinner. No meat here. We have a twelve foot fully decorated Christmas tree in our dining area. At night when I go outside to look at the winter sky, I can see the Christmas tree lights through the dining area window. We also have a Santa statue in the dining area. The choir chants are not the same as the ones we do in the summer. Advent/Christmas have special chants and words. I am new to these chants, so it will take some getting used to. We still have cows in the field because it has been warm all Fall up here, but that will change soon, very soon. I feel sorry for my car, and sorry for me if my car gets cranky, and grumpy. I will go out now and love on it and give it some attention. You might do that for others around you so they do not get cranky and grumpy. Show them a little love.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
If you are looking for some improvement, change for the better, mood changes, or just some hope in your life that things can get better, why ignore a spiritual path? Some people say that they do not participate in religious or spiritual based groups because they do not believe in God. Why wait until you believe in God? It is not necessary as the impetus to action. What you need to believe is that a group that is changing for the better, can help you. You simply need faith in the group. The key virtue is HOPE. You hope that by following the suggestions of the group, the winners, you too can change your life. God belief is all personal. Change comes from a group dynamic. See AA for instance. Addicts come to and STAY in AA, following suggestions because the addict believes in the group that is proof of change. Deity is optional and personal. The Hope of the newcomer is that by doing what the group does, the newcomer will change for the better. If you are thinking of joining a church/synagogue/temple it is the same dynamic. Why join a group that is just like your messed up self? Some people do exactly that. They want to "get God" but join a group that is just as dysfunctional as they are when they enter the door. So be an atheist if you want, but HOPE for the gift of HOPE that you find a group that is living the way that attracts you to change. Of course, if you do find a group and do change, you might ask yourself how that happened?
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
When people feel a suffering, discomfort, unease, negative sort of feeling, they come up with a solution. Loneliness is a common enough discomfort. Some people stumble upon a solution and others make a conscious effort to figure out what to do, in this case, relieve loneliness. Most of these solutions have a shelf life. One reason for the shelf life, or end point, is that we change, grow, evolve as years and circumstances pass. If you married someone as the solution to loneliness, at some point it won't work anymore. People change. Loneliness does not change. It got eclipsed by relationship, but eclipses end. Now, someone who stumbles upon a solution, such as drinking or drugs, finds that loneliness goes away. This solution has a downside, "more." These people will need more of the solution as time goes on, and then there lives fall apart. So now they have loneliness along with other miseries due to their addiction to their solution. When the solutions fail to solve the "problem" I have found it best to seek advice from people who have been on the same non-working solution road but found a way to get off. Such people have learned how to feel less lonely and less isolated, and have found what to do what such feelings or situations arise. None of us are such geniuses that we have found a singular solution to the human condition. Dead end solution roads have been well traveled. I have found it best to not judge the solution advice of winners until I have first tried it.
Monday, December 11, 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
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.