Monday, August 21, 2017
Often, when you love someone who has imperfections, you see the imperfections but you accept them. With love, can come the gift of acceptance. If you are always trying to correct someone, to fix them, make them into what "you" want them to be, is that really love? Acceptance is not the last step in this process of love. You next begin to see yourself and your own imperfections. Then you no longer seem to see or focus on the imperfections of the other. This the doorway to serenity. This is the spiritual path of love. Love, puppy love, falling in love, is the first step. We do not control it. But then the deeper journey can begin. After the initial stages of this falling in love, if the relationship is to be sustained and deepened, we have to love the person after our eyes are open to their imperfections, faults, shortcomings, or else we split. Accept or split. As the spiritual journey of love deepens, we spend more time working on ourselves and our shortcomings and imperfections, to the extent we can. A deep union with the other person develops as we no longer seem to notice or focus on their imperfections. Union is not two perfect people admiring one another. Union comes when you see with new eyes. What changed? Certainly yourself, and most likely the other person, given your example of love, has begun to change as well.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Some of my readers say that they simply cannot meditate. They have tried and it has not worked for them. Not to worry. I cannot jump off a high diving board. But that is not the only way into the pool. Think of mediation as a way of getting out of yourself and your problems, pre-occupations, fantasies, mental images, thoughts and so on. Meditation in some sitting position is not the only way to do this. Some people go for a walk and look about. See what attracts them. Maybe they notice a flower. Stop and let the flower be flower for you, not thinking about flowers, just letting this flower grab all your attention. This is another way of entering the "pool of letting go." It is a way to get into the now, rather than the later or the past. Whatever slows down the mind is what will work for you. We are all an experiment of one.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
I remember when I was in my twenties and living in San Francisco as a bachelor. One evening in December of 1970, I was in the apartment of a coworker who had just gotten married that day. I had shared his apartment with him the night before because I had to sub-lease mine, due to being fired for bad behavior. I was in his wedding earlier that day. I felt a loneliness and disconnect at the reception. A drink, food, conversation did nothing to lighten the darkness. I did not even know I was lonely. I thought I was miserable because I had no job, no girlfriend, no apartment while he had just gotten married and was quite happy and successful. After the reception, I went back to his apartment. I was alone. Panic. I felt unsafe just being with me. What to do? Human contact. But with whom? Not just anyone. It had to be someone who cared enough about me. I called my Big Sis Maureen. She was three time zones away and asleep, at least until I called. She did something that was brilliant for me. She knew, even before I did, that I was a person of compassion. So she started to tell me about her difficulties. Why? The pain of others took me out of myself. Maureen seemed to know this even before I did. Maureen told me about her years of miscarriages, after she had birthed two boys. She was finally going to give birth to another child. She had suffered so much over those years. We are not a telephone family, plus I was full of my own life with highs and now lows. I was all about me, until that moment when we talked on the phone in the middle of her night. My misery, from being a jerk, fell away, as we talked about her life and losses. I only lost a job, and apartment. People often ask if Maureen and I ever made friends. Well, that night she saved my life. It began the second chapter of our friendship. You want to keep friends like that. Two months later, I had my epiphany about becoming a priest. Many people say they have been helped by that decision. Don't thank me. Thank Maureen.
Friday, August 18, 2017
When I am judging people I am looking at all their faults, as I see them. I can list their faults. I, of course, do not have the faults I see in the other person. I am making an inventory of all the wrong things they do, their shortcomings, and wrong-headedness. It does not make me feel better about myself though because all their faults are such a pain in my life if and when I am with that other person. This is the weight of false pride and judging others. But I seem to have a better day, if I stop thinking about them and look at my faults, such as my tendency to judge others. If I look at my own inventory or faults, all stacked on the shelves of my personality, then I can go into action. First, I see that we all have shortcomings. Second, I can do something about my own stuff, whereas I cannot do anything about another person's imperfections, as I see them. Third, when I look at myself, then other people don't seem so difficult for me. I get into some acceptance of them. Judgements and false pride change nothing but my mood. The path to wholeness and growth lies within me. I take my own inventory each day. It is better that way for everyone.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
My Facebook page now has the two talks that I gave at Snowmass monastery last Saturday. the topic was Contemplative prayer:Let God Do the Prayer. I put it there on Facebook under Podomatic. The photo image was a mess. I hope the talk is better. They are each about an hour, so good for a walk or eliptical at the gym.
If you believe in heaven there is a cost to get into it. It is not free, nor can you jump over the turnstile and cheat your way in. Heaven begins now, but you don't get to enjoy it in this mortal body without paying the price. What price? Each day you have to pay/give up something. You pay a little selfishness, fear, resentment, fall pride, envy, jealousy, gossip, judgments of others, whining, and so on. You give up a little bad behavior and immaturity on a daily basis and you will get to enjoy some heaven right here and now. I have found it so. Initially, making the payment, call it dues if you want, there might be some wincing. You really take pleasure in the gossip and put downs of others. But after you pay, or resist the temptation, which is the currency of payment for most of us, you will often find that you do feel better. It is a little bit of heaven. Unlike this blog, heaven is not free of payment.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
On this date in 1950 my big sister Maureen said, " Well, the Feast of the Assumption is when a lot of Catholics punch their ticket to hell." I was seven years old at the time and did not understand her. Not understanding Maureen was typical, as long as I obeyed. She had been in Catholic school for four years, so I figured she was a theologian by then. She looked at my blank face and said, "OK, dummy, let me explain." She continued, "The dogma of Mary being assumed body and soul into heaven has just been proclaimed by the infallible pope. Today is the first time that we celebrate this feast as a Holy Day of Obligation. That means you must go to mass or burn. Did you see how empty the church was yesterday, August 15?" In fact the church had few people in it. Maureen was not finished as she added, "It is no excuse that it is summer and people aren't thinking about church or this new feast. They will still burn if they get hit by a trolley before they confess." So spoke Maureen the oracle. It was for me my first experience with this new Holy Day and the actual event of the pope speaking infallibly. I have spent my life since that day, trying to remember to go to church in the middle of a weekday in the summer, and to understand what the Assumption is all about. But I think that my big sis probably mellowed as she got older because some of the people she loved did indeed miss a few Assumption masses. Though the pope may be infallible, I did not think he was very smart to make a Holy Day in the middle of the summer when there was no school. I liked holy days when school was in session because then you got a day off from school. This was not a good reason to like holy days. It is not very pious, so I may have earned some time in purgatory. Maureen thought there were many other reasons as well for her little brother to burn. If you missed mass yesterday, avoid trolleys.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
I find that something good can at times get in the way of something better. I like to run. It is a good thing for my type of body. But if I run too much, then two things happen. One, running gets in the way of prayer, which is exercise for my interior self. Two, I get injured, and then I cannot run at all. I go into rehab. So, in order to run and pray, I try to keep moderation in both. Moderation keeps me from running too much. I never seem to have moderation problems with prayer. I seem, at my best, to pray in moderation. I am not for three hours a day meditation. I try to keep daily, good things, with no one good thing taking over my life. Notice that no one ever demands that I run or pray. It has to come from within. The demands of life seem to come from others. So don't wait for other people to demand that you do good things for yourself.
Monday, August 14, 2017
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 14: 22-33
August 13, 2017
Jesus tells his disciples to go to the other side of the lake in their boat. The other side symbolizes going from the flesh and blood, limited, human, earthly side of ourselves, over to the spiritual, transcendent, side beyond space and time. To go from one side to the other one must go through the storms of transition. The storm is the doubt that there is anything else but the mundane, daily routine, or there is the fear of entering into another dimension in which we do not have control. But there is a natural attraction for the transcendent. We came from it before conception and we return to it, hopefully, enlightened, beyond the door of death.
The disciples begin the crossing. The storms come up and they are having a tough time of it. The spiritual journey can seem daunting at times. It can seem like more than our frail and limited bodies and brains can handle and comprehend. But God goes with us, and at some point will reveal in an unexpected and new way, the Presence. This is Jesus walking on the water. Fear grips the disciples, but Peter dares to get out of the boat. This symbolizes one who senses that there is a deeper dimension to us, the “walk on water” dimension that will bring us to union with God, deeper than thoughts, images, worship and dogma. Peter is assured that he can do it. He is invited to enter into the new dimension. His spirit is capable. All he needs is confidence and trust.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
St. Nonna married. She and her husband became saints. He became a priest and then a bishop, married the whole time. They had three children, one of whom married and had children. St. Nonna then became a deacon. These married people had no problem being married, doing a good job and became saints. Notice that marriage did not seem to get in the way of everyone doing a creditable job such that they became saints as well. St. Nonna, the wife, became a deacon. Save that for another day.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
You have heard me talk about purgatory in blogs. It is not such a bad place if you think of it as the "mezzanine." In a theater I like to sit in the mezzanine. It is not necessarily the best seat in the house, which might be orchestra center near stage where you can see the actors and their facial expressions. You have to pay a lot to get there. Big sacrifice. On the other hand, the mezzanine is not the balcony, which does not cost so much, but is far away and hard to see faces and maybe even hear the words of the actor speaking. So I like the in-between mezzanine that is not too expensive and you get enough for me. I am not in heaven nor am I in hell. So, given the amount of myself I am willing to give up for the sake of being a better person, I guess I am a purgatory guy. I will do something to be good, but not a whole lot. I will never be a saint, but I hope to at least not be a really miserable person to myself and others. Had my big sister, Maureen, been nicer to me, spent more of herself to attend to me, the prince, she would be in orchestra center section of eternity. Her admirers? Balcony people.
Friday, August 11, 2017
There are times when we look to someone with admiration, and then there are times when we simply envy a person, and don't like them so much. What makes the difference? The difference is, "do they diminish me?" I can admire someone who writes a novel that I really enjoyed. But I am not going to write a novel, nor do I see m self as a novelist in waiting. Their novel does not diminish me in my own eyes. On the other hand, I might have certain fantasies about myself that I think are real possibilities. When someone else accomplishes what I have not yet done, I get envious and don't like them so much. I might even resent the person. For instance, I might think that I should have a bigger parish to pastor than I have, and resent someone who has such a parish. I am envious of them. This is the envy as in one of the seven deadly sins. I have the fantasy that I am someone who I am not, a big parish pastor. I have since dropped that fantasy. I am a small time blogger. I no longer envy big parish pastors. I was never meant to be one. I have too many character defects for that. Envy diminishes with discovery of truth, and maybe a little maturity. Maureen said I was always slow.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
One day, my big sister Maureen said, "I am going to learn Latin when I go to high school next year." "Why?" I asked. "I thought only priests had to know Latin." "Think of it this way, dummy. When the church prays the mass, it is in Latin. I figure that Latin is the language God understands. Maybe God will listen to me and answer some of my prayers if I say them in Latin." I thought about this for a moment and then asked, "Doesn't God answer your English prayers?" With a sigh, she said, "So far, no. I asked God to make you clean up your part of the bedroom, and keep your part of the closet neater, but so far, no dice." I pondered this a bit in silence. Then I thought out loud, "Protestants don't have mass and don't pray in Latin, do they?" "No," she answered. "That is why God does not listen to them. Very few Catholics speak Latin, so God can focus on these few and not get over loaded with requests. So I am going to study Latin." I don't think Maureen studied Latin in her high school. But I took her advice and studied Latin in high school and college. Then the Catholic Church dropped Latin in the mass and we all began to pray in English. I guess this allowed God to cut back on work if God only understands Latin. God has been around a long time and probably needed a break. I pray in English now and ask God to get Maureen out of purgatory. If Maureen is right about the Latin, then maybe she is still there. What is the Latin for "purgatory."
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
One day I was walking with my big sister, Maureen, and I asked her, "Maureen, why do you have such a long face when you walk with me?" She sighed, and answered, "Because you are a mess of a boy and someday, I will have to marry one of your kind." "What mess, am I?" I queried. "Well, for one, you pick your noose. And you put on clothes that don't match. You cannot put a straight part into your hair, and you only brush your teeth when I tell you," she replied, exasperated. "Do you think maybe I will get better when I grow up?" I asked, hopefully. "Probably not," she retorted. "But since you will grow up to be good looking like daddy, some girl will be fooled, as we all are, and marry you, much to her misfortune." Maureen was not finished. "So why not become a priest? They don't get married. You can keep all your bad habits. Plus you only wear black, so you won't have to worry about color coordination." "Don't I have to be holy to be a priest?" I asked. "That does not seem to be in evidence in our parish, so don't worry about it. You say mass with your back to the people so you can pick your noose and no one will notice. I would never go to communion to you though." "But Jesus would remove all germs on the host," I countered. "Jesus removes sins, not germs," Maureen corrected me. Years later, at my ordination, Maureen received Holy Communion from me. She had a smile on her face. Later, I asked her if she was smiling because I had gotten over bad habits. "No," she said. "I smiled because you spared some woman from marrying you. And I brought handy wipes." Then she broke out into a big, hearty laugh. Now you know why my big sister had to go to purgatory.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Meditation is like pliers. It loosens my hold on my thinking. Thinking can be held by prejudices, judgments, fears, resentments and so on. All these attachments to my thinking need to be dislodged or loosened up, and eventually removed. Pliers are used to loosen things that are too tightly bound. Meditation is my spiritual pliers. Deep meditation dislodges me from the focus on my thoughts. I rest for some moments detached from thoughts. This allows for something else to move into a more central place in my mind. I begin to get some insight, a different way of seeing the world around me, a greater openness to diversity in my world. So if you want to be reminded to meditate on a daily basis, put a pair of pliers next to your bed or coffee cup. And remember this blog.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Fr. Terry Ryan, CSP
Matthew 17: 1-9
August 6, 2017
One day when I was about 5 years old, my big sister, Maureen, said to me, “Terry, our relationship reminds me of a donut.” Since she was my first theologian and moral ethicist, I requested some explanation. “Why do you say that?” I asked. She explained, “I am like the part of the donut that is sweet and everyone wants me. You are the hole in the middle. You are nothing.” I thought for a moment, and then said, “But a donut cannot be a donut without the hole in the middle.” “Yes,” Maureen answered, “This is true. So your purpose in life, so far, is to be nothing.” “Will I ever be something?” I asked. She thought for a moment and then gave me hope. “Yes, when you receive First Holy Communion you will be something.” A few years later when I received my First Holy Communion, I was probably the only one at the communion rail who was thinking of donuts!
Because Maureen was mean to me, as in the above situation, she is most likely in purgatory. But she did have a good point that I discovered as the years went on. We all have donut days in our donut spirituality. Some days we feel like nothing. No one cares about me. My prayer life is a mess. God has abandoned me. My life is in ruins. And so on. It is those days when we are living focused on the middle of the donut. It is the empty hole and we feel just like that. But the hole is part of the donut, just as we are part of God, the outside sweetness of divine light. The donut is not a donut without the hole. We are part of God with our empty feeling moments. God is never away from us. The Light is always part of us.
Though we look and feel quite ordinary, we are always quite divine as Children of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus became human and people could not see his Light, his transfigured brilliance. We miss that same brilliance in ourselves and in others when we get into our dark moments. Yet we are transfigured persons looking in the wrong place. Sometimes, when I go to receive communion I still think of donuts, but also of receiving Sweet Jesus.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
If you see the total eclipse of the sun, you will see stars. They are not where you see them. Say what? Well, when the light from the star passes the sun on the way to your eye, the gravity of the sun bends the light. As a result the star is not where you "see" it. It is the General Theory of Relativity as Albert Einstein puts it. Now how about Terry Ryan's general theory of judgment. You judge a person by what you see, but what you see may not be completely accurate. What you see is distorted by things you don't see. You cannot see gravity. A person might do an action that you see and experience. You don't know their motives, or the pain they might be undergoing, or other "hidden" circumstances. A person steals. They are bad. Sinners. Too lazy to work, and so on, in your judgment. But they may be starving, unemployable, desperate to feed others in their care. I have met any number of people who think alcoholics are weak-willed, selfish, uncaring people. Such judgment does not know addiction. We judge people for being too much for God or not enough for God and so on. Since we do not really walk in amy shoes but our own, maybe it is best to not get caught in the Terry Ryan theory of judgment, in case I am right.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
On the latest airplanes there are three computers for when the pilot cannot see anything, as in a landing. The three computers all have to agree or else the calculations are done all over again. They are all checking data to see that they agree on the landing. Think about this in your own life. Do you act compulsively and later say, "What was I thinking?" Do you bother to ask anyone else if what you are considering is a good idea or step to take? Many people have spiritual directors, sponsors, good friends along the journey of life with whom they check things out before making a decision. If you have been burnt a few times by total self-reliance, you might want to consider adding someone(s) to your decision process. Many people pick the wrong spouse. They think they know, when all their friends are advising otherwise. Asking for a second opinion is one thing. Then you have to listen with an open and sane mind. Or crash.
Friday, August 4, 2017
Whenever we tend to take our fit spiritual condition for granted, we tend to slaken off. We got to this good place because we disciplined ourselves to practice such things as meditation and examination of conscience on a daily basis. So now we may do some good activities, helpful to others, improving the world, but these take the place of our spritual practice. We skip it for a day or two. No meditation. Nada. We don't actually plan to skip the practice. We simply get so involved in other things that we forget. We pure of heart now need some humility. Our lives begin to spiral downward. We feel scattered, frazzled, and out of sorts. So we decide to meditate to get that fit conditon back. But it does not come back right away. Scar tissue from wounds of neglect. The moral? You cannot easily retrieve what is poorly guarded.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
When I was in the 8th grade I was elected President of our class. I had only been in the school one year, so I thought this was a big deal, and I was a big deal. I liked the title. Then one day, the incorrigible Catholic boys in the classroom were so bad that the teacher left the room in tears and went to her office. The girls in the class looked at me and said, "We elected you President. Go and do something about this." Yuke! I don't want to do anything about this mess. You see, I liked the ego boosting title, but when it came to being of some service in a difficult situation, I did not want that part of the job. So be careful when someone gives you a title or you get elected to something. It means a call to service. Selfish, whiny people ought not take on these titles or jobs. I have found it so.
For those of you who listen to podcast type stuff when walking, exercising or whatever, you can now hear a couple of my talks on contemplative prayer. It is on soundcloud/frterrysspiritualstuff. Note I am keeping the "spiritual stuff" logo as this is a way for me to remember where is what. Happy listening. You might go to soundcloud.com and then find me that way. What do I know. I just do the talking. And now someone wants to publish all my Maureen stories in a book. So I have to find out where they are all located. Two new ones are coming up in the not so distant future for you Maureen groupies. I think she ends up in purgatory both times.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Some of us find that working at recovering a spiritually fulfilling life is so hard that we tend to go into fantasy. Fantasy is where we are super people, doing all kinds of wonderful things, naturally, with heroic effort. We are wonderful, powerful, maybe beautiful, all without doing anything. Our behavior changes instantly, in our minds and imaginations. Such people, me included, need to be with others who can recall us to reality, not my reality, but the really real. With the support of others, a community, I find that reality is not so bad that I need to escape to fantasy. With others, I find that I am better than I think I am. Alone, I tend to think I am worse, I guess, because that is when I escape to the unreal world of super person. I am never very loving when there because I find it a bother to be helpful. It interrupts my fantasy life. Someone out there tell me that I am not abnormally crazy, but rather Normally Crazy.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
A lot of us try to keep a list our our faults or character defects/shortcomings as a way to keep track of how we are doing on a daily basis. I have my list but find that this "cataloguing" is very hard to remember. I can review it at night, but it seems I don't access it when I need it during the day. So what I try to do is focus on one thing: being loving in service to others, and making time for meditation. If I am kind and loving in action, it does not matter what negative "catalogue" thoughts come into my mind. I can ignore them if I am focused on that one thing: being loving and helpful. The mediation time is to make sure that I don't over help and burn out. At night, in my review of my day, I find that I have been less selfish, whiny, resentful and judgmental. My heart is changed more by action than analysis. It works for me.