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.