Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Egads! Maureen Is Coming

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Receive The Light

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sexual Abuse

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

So Petty

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fear Solutions

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Notably Lacking

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cold Seat

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Good Meeting

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

Monday, October 23, 2017


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

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Second Chances

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

My Will

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Without An Edge

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017


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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Needle's Eye Camel

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Not Looking So Good

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Put On The Wedding Garment

MATTHEW 22: 1-14
OCTOBER, 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Step Three

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Getting Ahead

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

First Love

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017


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

Step Six

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wrestling With Nature

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

Monday, October 9, 2017


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

Sunday, October 8, 2017


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

Saturday, October 7, 2017


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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bag With Holes

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Animals

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bless The Animals

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Powerless Power

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Guardian Angels

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ode To A Young Gril On Her Wedding Day


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

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

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