Monday, December 31, 2018
Alcoholism is called by some, “The disease of loneliness.” This is New Year’s Eve. It is a day/night when there is a lot of drinking. I avoid going out to party on these nights. There are a lot of amateur drinkers, the occasional kind who then try and drive home. But many people this night drink as they often do, too much. It is New Year’s Eve, they think, a time to drink a lot. If you are feeling antsy and anxious about NOT going out to party, you might ask yourself why? If you are feeling lonely, I suggest that going out and partying will not make you less lonely. At best, it will be a temporary fix, for the night, and then you will wake up, still lonely, but feeling physically and maybe emotionally worse, than if you just had a quiet night at home or with a friend or two, without all the over the top drinking. Alcohol, drugs, and one night stands never solved loneliness. The Alcoholic is a slow learner. I hope that is not you. But if you are, there is a solution. Hopefully, Happy New Year to you.
Sunday, December 30, 2018
Sojourner Truth, a former slave, and itinerant preacher against slavery, and for women’s rights, said, “Where did your Christ come from?...From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with it.” Something to think about for all those who believe in the Incarnation and Mary the Virgin. So why are men running institutional religions and most governments? Why did Jesus pick twelve men? It seems that women keep popping up, even in Jesus life, to say that they are central to what he was all about. A woman was the first witness to the Samaritans. Women were at the cross while men abandoned Jesus. Women discovered the empty tomb and a woman was the first to proclaim that Jesus was risen from the dead. Sainthood is filled with women of great accomplishments. But men have the institutional power. And many women seem to prefer it this way. That is what puzzles me they most.
Saturday, December 29, 2018
Each of us has gifts, talents, native abilities, if you will. You can develop a gift, but you cannot create it. Some people have the gift of running fast. They can develop this gift to the max, but they cannot create speed or fast twitch muscles. You can be gifted at math and develop it, but you do not create the math gift. I believe these come from God and I am supposed to use my gifts, meager as they are, in service to others. This is because I see myself as a holon , part or other holons, separate, but still somehow interconnected. I am an individual who is part of a whole. Now if you say phooey to God stuff, OK. You think your gift is hereditary, or evolutionary. OK. But then what is the purpose of the gift you have? Evolution is interconnected parts. You are not an isolated person. Self-centeredness will not make the best use of your gift, will it? I believe that it is a slippery slope to live as if you are an island unto yourself, with no responsibility to anyone else, and no connection beyond what you make, and such connection is temporary depending on how it serves you. For me, faith in God or self that is not interconnected is a fantasy. I try to avoid the slippery slope, Stay off the edge. Each day is a gift. Prayer for me is connecting with the Giver.
Friday, December 28, 2018
There is a lot of focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, at this time of year. I wonder if she likes all the titles that are given to her. Titles that include "Most," "Holy," "Immaculate Conception," "Perfect," and so forth, are all words that put Mary on a pedestal. I have never met a well-balanced woman who liked to be put on a pedestal. Ego-Centric women might like that, but I don't think Mary quite fits that type. Who put her there? Men. My church is run by men. We men seem to have a penchant for putting woman on pedestals and then connecting with them. It makes us feel better. An adolescent boy, teenager, low-self-esteem adult, might put a woman on a pedestal that they love or think they love. It fills up something that is missing in a guy. I did it when I was young, immature and dating. You had to be perfect, or I could not love you. Girls, women eventually, usually figure this out, but sometimes a bit too late for an easy getaway. Anyway, Mary may be wonderful, and lived a life that challenges me, but adulation will not change us guys for the better. Nor women, I suspect. You might worship a rock star, then find out they are not so perfect as you needed them to be. Then you turn away. There music is the same, but you put them on a pedestal, where they did not belong. I suspect it is need of believers to put Mary on a pedestal, not her need. I give her a title: Humble. I ask her daily for her aide, not to become perfect, but to become humble, a servant to others. Oh, and to get me over Vail pass when it is snowing in the Rocky Mountains, or just keep the snow away in spite of the millions of people praying for moisture to prevent fires. I am a work in progress.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
Gorgonia died in 372. She was a wife, mother and grandmother. She became a recognized saint in the church. She did not found a religious order, open schools for the poor, or orphanages for the abandoned children. She was a kind, merciful, and helpful woman to people in need. I know many a woman who is just like Gorgonia, but they won't be made saints for it. When she was very ill, she went to church touched the host, and was healed. Why no Gorgonias today? Virginity and original sin. They both became fashionable after Gorgonia's death. The Desert Monks, who were coming into fashion at that time, were celebates. No marriage for them. Monastic life was beginning to get a toehold in the church as the way to perfection. No marriage there either. Mary was seen as one who gave birth as a Virgin free from original sin. Virginity became the model to perfection. Even legitimate sex was problematic as a way to perfection and sainthood. In time, the cleric, who was celibate was seen as better than the lay person. This is clericalism. But many of us know better as we have witnessed the dying of a mother or grandmother, and known them to be saints. The laity know best. Some of my readers, mothers and grandmothers are on the way to sainthood. You are all gifts to those in need of unconditional love.
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
When I go to a meeting and it is crowded, I might say to someone next to me, a stranger, "Wow, this meeting is really crowded!" Why say this? Doesn't this person already know this? Yes. I am saying it because I am trying to make a connection with this person who is sitting next to me. Language can do this about things that we experience in common, though we "feel" alone. "Boy, it is cold out here," I might say to the fellow standing in the cold next to me. He knows it. I am not giving him information, but rather building a connection. Choirs at church, such as a children's choir, is not just about the finished product of singing a song well in group. It is also about building community among children who don't know one another all that well. They have to spend time together, compromise on what to sing and not sing, try to give up something of themselves to serve the overall product. In all this "language of singing" they are getting to know one another. They are building community. I suspect that the best model of a church community is the choir and musicians. When my friend Rhonda Gallagher was into forming children's choirs it was not all about the music. As a priest, I am a distant second to her building community. So I continue to say the obvious to strangers in gatherings. Isolation is not a good thing for me. "Hey! Yesterday was Christmas."
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
The Mouse and The Spider
A Christmas Story
Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a mouse and a spider. They both lived in a stable. They were not friends. The mouse wanted to eat the spider and the spider wanted to sting the mouse and kill it. Each wanted the stable all to themselves, no sharing required. If the mouse was not chasing the spider, the spider was sneaking up on the mouse, sometimes from its web hung over where the mouse was sleeping. The usual animals inhabited the stable from time to time.
Then one night two humans came into the stable seeking shelter. The mouse said to the spider hanging overhead, “It must be crowded around here, that humans come into our stable.” The spider replied, “We must beware of humans. They like to trap mice and crush spiders.” So the mouse and the spider kept away from the two humans. The woman seemed restless and the man seemed fitful. He cleaned out one of the feeding mangers and put in fresh hay. Then the woman began to moan and cry out. Suddenly, the sound of an infant baby filled the stable.
The cold air seemed to warm up a bit. By and by, the baby was placed into the manger. Animals gathered around the manger and breathed warm air onto the baby who was all wrapped up. At about this time, the spider and the mouse had the same thought. Coincidence? They lost their mutual desire to destroy one another. It was overcome with curiosity to go see what was in the manger. They had a strange sense that the humans would not mind. The mouse said to the spider, “It will be quicker for you if I carry you on my back to the baby.” The spider hopped on, with no fear of hurting one another.
When they got to the manger, the mouse scampered up the side, and they both peered into the manger. What they saw looked like an ordinary baby. What was not ordinary, the miracle, was that the from that moment on, the mouse and the spider became friends. So if you have someone who is bothersome to you, go together to the manger and look at the baby Jesus. Maybe even hold hands with one another.
Monday, December 24, 2018
Why do people hang Christmas socks over the fireplace in preparation for Santa? Well, it comes from the days when the poor would wash there socks and then hang them over the fireplace so that they would dry overnight. The original Santa. a Bishop named Nicholas, way back when, would drop money through the chimney or toss coins through the window that would land in the socks. Nick must have had good control with that toss. I am trying to be very good this year. One can only hope. When I was a little boy growing up with my sister Maureen, Santa would always fill my sock at Christmas. He would fill Maureen's sock too. She said I was bad, and I thought she was bossy, but Santa had a second opinion. There are a lot more people around now than when I was a boy, so maybe Santa runs out of stuff before he gets to me. If your stocking is full, I could use something in mine. G.K. Chesterton reminds us that the greatest gift in our stocking is ourself! We are a gift. So let’s attitude up and act as a gift in the lives of those around us. Be kind, patient, accepting, helpful, and generous with a listening ear. This will the gift of ourselves to others on Christmas Eve and Day. Oh, and if you watch the movie, “A Christmas Carol,” look for the 1951 version. I think it was the best.
Sunday, December 23, 2018
Why is gratitude so much a part of the spiritual life? Think about it. Gratitude, by its nature is thankful to some one else. So it easily leads to prayer which connects us to the source of this good stuff we are enjoying. If I am enjoying sanity, I know that it has not come easily to me. Left to my own devices, I tend to insanity. With prayer I get a little more balanced, accepting, patient, kind and compassionate. This is sanity. So then I have the prayer of gratitude to whatever gave this to me. A mother with children underfoot, will go insane, left to her own devices if she is anything like me with no prayer. “God help me,” can soon become, “Thank you God for this child.” Prayer is the great connector. I am grateful to all you who read my blog. Some who used to read my blog would like me thrown out of the church. They need more gratitude!
Saturday, December 22, 2018
What is a purpose of meditation? For one, it takes your mind off of thinking all about you. Focused on you, your mind will magnify everything. Drama! But you have trouble meditating? Or lack time? Why not try attentive listening to another person. If you are attentive, then you don't spend time thinking all about you while you are listening. Your mind, without a spiritual practice, always wants to make you the focus. It has your back, if life is all about you, but that is not always a good thing. You would tend toward isolation. So listening can be a good thing, except when driving on busy city streets while trying to listen. "Mom, I am thinking of killing myself." Your response? "Oh I hope I make this light or we will be late for school." On the other hand if you are into private meditation it should lead to attentive listening. The private should not ignore the relational. Even in the monastery we listen to one another.
Friday, December 21, 2018
Suicide is what stands in the middle between not wanting to die though fearful of life, and not knowing how to live. Fear of life and being clueless to living. Suicide is really the absence of...what? Of a spiritual condition, a spiritual practice. But you don't believe in God or mediation or any prayer? OK. But those are not the only ways to develop some spiritual fitness. You could be of service. Go, or stay, and help someone else. Suicide is so full of isolation and depression. When you are helpful to another, you are not alone. You connect. Maybe cleaning your room or bathroom would be helpful to another person. I have met people who would not lift a finger to be helpful to someone near them, but would go out to some town project or church work, to be helpful to strangers. Whatever, at least you won't kill yourself. You might even begin to believe that you are worth living.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
As Megan McKenna reminds me, a crowd does not become a community until there is sharing. In the gospels for instance, a crowd follows Jesus, but they do not become a community until they share food, as in the feeding of the 5000+. Pot Lucks are all about building a community. If everyone comes with nothing expecting someone else to provide, then you have a crowd, but not a community. When there is a soup kitchen or bread line, people are fed, but they remain disconnected from one another. A community is strong when all the pot lucks work out just right for everyone. The skid row person is alienated from everyone until they begin to share something, what little they have, with another skid row person. A shared bottle of cheap wine is an attempt to relate. So the next time you find yourself with a large group of people, a rock concert, for instance, or going to see the Pope, ask yourself if you are part of a crowd or part of a community? What did you bring to share with another?
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
I know of a man who will say he is your friend. He will relieve you of fear and inferiority. Sounds good, no? All you have to do is ingest a little liquid something. OK if it does not taste good the first time. You will get over that. You begin to feel a bit mellow. Fear and inferiority do diminish. You have a new best friend. You feel part of something. You feel you belong. You are able to talk and be funny and be accepted. Wow! Time passes. The fear and inferiority come back. But you know the secret says your friend. But this time you might have to ingest a bit more to get that mellow high. And so it goes over time. “More” becomes the solution until it becomes the problem. Your life has spiraled out of control. You have lost a lot of things, and people. You feel hopeless and hate yourself. Suicide? What happened to your friend, that fellow who told you so long ago the solution to being uncomfortable. He is laughing. His name? John B. Many will know what the B stands for. I have found a spiritual solution works better. Actually, the other way does not work at all.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Rest is not always about leisure. There is bad “rest” as in “All the rest is from the evil one.” How much of this rest do I have? I have a blanket. I need a blanket for the cold. I have a second blanket as sometimes it is colder than normal. Bu why do I have the third blanket? This third blanket is part of the “rest is from the evil one.” Excess. Waste for me, but useful for someone with no blanket. You can do this with clothes and all the other “stuff” you have. How much is “rest?” Are you a slave to rest? That is, you don’t have the freedom to say no to something you actually don’t really need. So, as I get rid of “rest” I am actually practicing freedom, in addition to freeing up some space where I live that had contained all this “rest.” As you approach Christmas season shopping, you might ask if you are really free or a slave when it comes to shopping/consuming. Lighten Santa’s load. He is getting old. But I hope he still comes to visit me! I will have M&Ms for him.
Monday, December 17, 2018
Someone told me that she was looking for a place to belong, not a place to live. It made me think about whether I simply live somewhere, have an address, a shelter, or whether where I live is also a place where I belong? To belong means to connect, to relate to people around you from within yourself. It is heartfelt. A child relates to “home” because the child knows it is loved and loves a parent, has friends in the neighborhood whose lives are important to the child. If you live alone, you can still belong if you have relationships in the town/city/area in which you live. The tragedy of poverty is that people are reduced to seeking simply “shelter” with no other relationships that are heartfelt. Soup kitchens and other helping programs may try to fill in for a lack of relationship in shelters. The best shelters give this sense of belonging, but it is temporary. I live in various places but I would not live in these places if I did not feel a sense of belonging. I never did get my cappuccino, after surgery, from my Boulder friends, so maybe I should call the moving van.
Sunday, December 16, 2018
So what does Cindy-Lou, the little girl who wants her mother to be happy, say to her friends? She says, “When you hurt, I hurt, because you are my friends,” or something to that effect. I don’t care if Rotten Tomato only gave this movie 57%. It made me forget my cut face, my wound, and focus on what is truly important.
Someone said that it is not the outsides that matter, but the insides. Make the inside of ourselves, our hearts, more beautiful, by how we live and love. Now I have rather yucky outsides since my face got cut up in MOHS, but the focus, especially in this season, needs to be on fixing the insides and cutting away the nasty and unkind within. It is the same with the Grinch in his latest movie. He has a heart that is two sizes too small and he hates Christmas because he suffers from old loneliness wounds. Only his dog Max knows the good that is in Mr. Grinch. Eventually, Mr. Grinch is befriended by a little girl who does not want “stuff” for Christmas. She wants her Mom to be happy. The little girl is a “connector” person. She connects to people, not things. This is love, and it gets to the insides of Mr. Grinch. As his insides change, he begins to have the courage to reach out, to ring a doorbell, and be invited into the lives of others. “Love and kindness” he says, is what we all need. So I will try to be a more loving and kinder person with a cut up face.
Saturday, December 15, 2018
People ask me, “What is clericalism?” I will give you an example. When a priest or bishop/cardinal is caught in a scandal, such as with a child, one of the ways that they are punished, is to be “reduced to the lay state.” Notice the language of the institutional church. Why is the lay state, a reduction? Because the ordained state is seen as better than the lay state. Implied is that the priest is a step up from what everyone else is. This is clericalism. To put power into the hands of the laity seems like a loss to clergy, or a lessening of the structure of the institution. Laity can run some things, but always under the guise of an ordained person. In solving problems in the institutional church, the ordained bishops and cardinals struggle with and debate the very idea of giving more power to a lay board to manage the lives of the ordained. Lay boards can manage charitable organizations, but not the lives of the ordained. That is a closed shop. Any hierarchical structure, not just religion, suffers from the idea that the higher up is better than. God sees us all as equal. Generals are not more loved that enlisted Privates, nor CEOs more than the person who takes out the garbage. We can respect an office, but it does not make that person better than others.
Friday, December 14, 2018
How fortunate for me that yesterday, as I woke up with a “shiner” as they call a swollen area around the eye, all discolored, I find out that it is the feast of St. Lucy! She is the patron saint for those who have eye issues. Lucy means light. Now some of you scoff at all this piety stuff, but not me. Why? Well, I am stuck at home icing my eye and stitched wound all day long. My friends are busy with lots of other things to do. But I am not alone, because I have St. Lucy who has my back. It makes me feel better. For me, faith is very practical on a day like this. It takes me out of feeling lonely and ignored, and puts me into a place of gratitude with a feeling of companionship. Some might call this a crutch, but don’t we use crutches when we have injured legs and back? I am injured. Lucy is my aide. I just wish she would bring me a cappuccino. Lucy, please get one of my friends to bring me a cappuccino!
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Well, yesterday morning I had some skin cut away near my left eye to get rid of bad cells so I would not develop Melanoma. The surgery is called MOHS. This is the third time I have had it on some part of my face. I am light-skinned Irish who tried to become dark skinned during past summers, some youthful and some later when I should have known better. For us Irish, we reap what we sow. My ancestors could have stayed in Ireland, starved to death and I would not be here. So it is a tradeoff and I am grateful, that I am here, and that there is a procedure developed by a Doctor Mohs to keep me healthy. Though I am sore and have a black eye, I am trying to practice acceptance and gratitude. I think healing of the body is greatly assisted by a good mental and spiritual attitude. Whining, and self-pity won't assist healing the body. If you are thinking of a future career, try dermatology. I see students on college campuses and in high schools lying in the warm sun to tan. The future will have no shortage of clients in the skin healing business. Or in the spiritual recovery business for that matter.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
The king or queen, if she is the ruler, were supposed to exemplify the highest ideals of the people. That is why their authority is bestowed on them by God, and they are crowned by a religious potentate, such as the Pope. Napoleon crowned himself. So much for living up to the highest ideals. Anyhow, royalty as ruler fell into disrepute because, well, kings and queens are human, flawed, and sometimes bad and crazy. We now elect our leaders. Any USA President still takes his oath with a hand on the Bible. We still hold out hope that religious leaders, ordained for example, will live up to the highest ideals which is why we get so bummed by pedophilia. But we do not expect so much from our elected officials. I think term limits are the practical answer to elected officials. If the majority thinks they are bad, then we can elect someone else. This does not work for Supreme Court Justices, appointed for life. Married people often asked for God’s blessing, because they were going to try to live up to some high ideals, such as unconditional love forever in this life. So I ask myself this: Have I today asked God to bless me so that I can live up to high ideals? After all, this day is a gift. I have been crowned with life. So if you dump God from your life today, whose ideals are you following? What power will make you better than mediocre? You can do it all by yourself? Maybe that is why we have such a mess today. Too much self-will run riot.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Pilate, the Roman official in the Gospels, is remembered by many for one statement, “What is truth?” Jesus is standing on trial in front of Pilate. I think this statement by Pilate was a cynical one. Truth for him was whatever the Roman Caesar says it is. There is no probing, examining or putting something to the test. If the boss says it is true, so be it. This is the top down organization for sure, and the Catholic Church tried to model it to some extent. The Roman Senate was supposed to have some power, but it was rather weak. Cross the emperor, and you are in an unhealthy situation. Jesus, one the other hand, was not buying into what others said is the truth, neither Political or Religious leaders. He was a Jew, and Jews argue the law. They argue about what is true. Jesus was against how the leaders lived out the truth as they saw it. Jesus strikes me as someone who said to himself, “What is true?” He prayed over it, put it to some test, looked into his own heart to see if he was a good person. He did a ‘checks and balances” on himself. Truth is supposed to set us free. If we are basically a good person, then our freedom will benefit all people. Selfishness, fear, resentment, false pride, are things that imprison us and hide the truth from us. Truth can make us the best person we can be. It may include a cross. Truth is not a theme park. Theme parks are fantasy. Some people live in fantasy and call it truth. I suspect a few Caesars and other potentates do and did that.
Monday, December 10, 2018
Two fellows were talking about staying spiritually active. I assumed, without investigation, that they meant “pray” more, go to church/synagogue and such. But “No” they said. Instead, to be spiritually active, they found someone who could use their help. Prayer is not the whole of being spiritually fit, active. Spirituality is all about relationship, and that means other persons. Private prayer, or community prayer must bear fruit in human interaction, where you give of yourself for the sake of another. You help yourself by helping another. Private prayer is not selfish when it leads to being of service to another. Works for me.
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
LUKE 3: 1-6
DECEMBER 9, 3018
John the Baptist was the son of a temple priest. He was supposed to follow tradition and become like his father, Zechariah. Instead, John went into the desert to live. John felt that his calling, his becoming the John God created him to be, required him to go against custom and tradition. Each of us is created by God to be a unique person. When we discover our true self, the one God created, and live it out, then we become the light of Christ for others to see. If we rather try to fit in, become what we think others want us to be, create our own self, then we stonewall the light of Christ. We do not become a beacon of God’s light and Good News. Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, all tried to be what they thought others wanted them to be, for the sake of power, security, wealth, and comfort. The light did not come through them.
In Philippians 1: 8-11 Paul hopes that love, knowledge, perception, and discernment of what is valuable will be in the followers of Christ. This is the true self about which the recently deceased Thomas Keating spoke. When you become all you are meant to be, you will be God’s light for others. All others? No, just the ones God wants you to encounter. Not everyone went into the desert to see John. But his personality, his sense of comfort in his own skin, drew some people to hear the Good News of God through him. Not everyone liked Fr. Thomas Keating. But if Thomas had not become all God meant him to be in this life, many people would not have heard the Good News, the wisdom of God that came forth through the teaching of Thomas Keating.
When I preach, I cannot try to be like someone else. I have to be the best of me. If I try to be someone I am not, then I am creating my false self, and God can only appear through God’s creation, the real. A false self is a fiction. I may not reach everyone with my preaching, but I will more likely reach the ones God meant me to reach if I am trying to be rid of false self, that is not me, and let loose God’s creation, my true self.
Abbot Joseph Boyle, who died recently, reached so many people by becoming, as a Trappist, the Joseph Boyle who was part of God’s plan for the Christ light to shine. His personality, his treating everyone the same, the way he looked at you, not turning away, remembered so many names, allowed him to bring the Good News of God’s unconditional love to the people he encountered. There were over 300 people at his funeral inside and outside our small monastery chapel. The rich, the poor, the rancher, the mountain resident, the seasonal people who had second homes here, those on retreat, visitors, all received equal attention and care. And he had such joy that caught people.
The challenge for each of us is to become who God meant us to be. There is so much cultural and internal pressure to be what someone else wants us to be or who we think we should be, when we have insufficient spiritual fitness. Become who God made you to be and you will be a straight path, a level road for people who are in search of a God who loves them.
Sunday, December 9, 2018
Where do I belong? This is what Don Shirley, the virtuoso pianist, asks himself. He is dark-skinned. He does not feel accepted by the white people who invite him to play, nor the African American people for whom his classic musical education was so unique, or so he feels. His marriage did not work out and he is atttracted to men. And he drinks too much. I won’t tell you the ending of “The Green Book.” Mortensen and Ali will get an Oscar nod for sure and the picture too. Do you have issues about where you belong? Being unique can reveal how contradictory people can be. They may like you in one way but shun you in another. Shirley comes to realize he belongs through his relationship with his automaobile driver who is white. Being together is key. So if you see yourself as different than someone, maybe spend some time with them and you may both be changed. I have found it so.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
The musical play, “Dear Evan Hansen” deals with issues that face young people today. The issues: does anyone like me for myself? Do I have friends? Will anyone miss me when I am not here? So many people feel that they have to be someone they are not, in order to be accepted, fit in, be popular, liked. We don’t get time to discover ourselves or develop our natural uniqueness, because we are trying to fit in. We wonder if the person who attracts us will like us. How do we talk to that person? So much stress in what is supposed to be an educational opportunity, school. With all this going through one’s head, it is no wonder that they cannot get still enough to meditate. When you are not sure you even like yourself, why would you want to be still and silent with just you? I hope that I don’t have to come back as an adolescent or teenager. I did so so, a bit clueless the first time around. How about you?
Friday, December 7, 2018
The Eucharist, Holy Communion, the blessed wafer, is the silence of God and the weakness of God. So says Carlo Carretto. In itself, the Eucharist is not powerful. It does not do anything. That is the point. God, as Catholics tend to believe, lets go of power, action, the noise of ongoing creation. Why? To teach us that letting go of our desire to be powerful, to get our way, to fix things, might in fact deepen our spiritual life. Stop trying to run the show and make other people act in a way you want. Don’t manipulate. Yet, in this silence, God is available to us, but only if we take the host into us with love, in silence, not babbling about all we want God to do for us. The power of the Eucharist is released when there is relationship and it is one of love, not utilitarian. A believer might become a better person if they receive the host with love, and let go of “wanting” stuff. Just be, and be silent, with the reception. Then the world might become a bit better place because of the way you relate to others, not with self-will, but with kindness, service, love. You might do good without complaining. That would be silence, like god in the Eucharist. Don’t worry about results. Be love. You feel powerless? Be at peace, You resemble God in your flesh.
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Some of the stories about St. Patrick and St. Brigid, Irish Saints, seem to many people to be beyond fact as in, “That did not really happen.” Such unfortunates are wandering in ignorance. The Irish are great story tellers. These stories are filled with truth, the really real, and the way they are passed on is to give them their power and their ability to be remembered. The truth of any event, for the Irish, is found in the facts of the story. Truth is meant to change our lives, challenge us to change. The post modern world of STEM school thinking, is all about facts. Facts are lots of pieces of information, knowledge that take up the space in our heads, but change nothing. When we run out of space in the brain, we have to forget some stuff to make room for new stuff. No one forgets a good Irish story. I know people, sceptics, who say the stories a priest tells about his sister Maureen are untrue. Well, may you people not find Brigid and Patrick at the Pearly Gates when you get there. They might vote you out. Irish, of course, get a free pass.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Someone said, "I have to give away what I want." Say that you want to matter in the world, to be recognized, that what you do matters. What many people do with this "want" is to spend useless energy whining and feeling lots of self-pity, and maybe resentment over not seeming to matter to the world around them. They feel ignored, anonymous, devalued and the like. Well, what if you felt like this? Why not let another person know that they matter and what they do matters. Call them up. Write a letter (snail mail!), text or just talk to them about their value to you. Praise someone for doing their job well. I suspect this will diminish your whining and self-pity. Anything that diminishes the power of resentment is a good thing for many people. I am one of them. Thank you for faithfully reading my blog. There are precious few of you, so you are special and rare to me.
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
I am back at the monastery after a difficult ride over the passes. The heat appears to work in my room. I had some coffee, but am beginning to get the altitude headache. Otherwise, it is rather easy to just settle in. The snow covers everything outside, but the sky is clear blue and there is no wind. It is a postcard winter mountain day. I will try and make this my Advent Retreat and I will preach at the monastery for the Sunday mass. Though it is 6 degrees outside when I arrived, I can still cover up and take walks. Enjoy the sun now because after I get my face cut up next week I will have to hunker down a bit and keep blood pressure low to let the stitches do their thing. That would be December 12. Santa might avoid me along with my friends since I will be looking a bit like Frankenstein's monster for a while. But I have six days here to just get into the stillness and the quiet. No telephones. No TV or video. I will pray for you all in the middle of the night when I get up for Vigils.
I do a work that I think is me, my calling, if you will. I teach about prayer of silence and stillness. Few attend out here in San Francisco. Am I a failure? I make little money to pay my bills. I have no fame. If that is the criterion then I am a failure. But what if I did something that is really not me, who I really am, but does make money and gives me fame? Is that a success? Think of the rock star who ODs on drugs or a unhealthy lifestyle of sexual promiscuity. What is success? I think it is doing what is you, the unique you. All else is done out of fear disguised as being practical. I can be practical and survive, as in grabbing onto a buoy because I am drowning. But for most of us, to be practical is often the way that we avoid the rough edges of discovering and living out who God made us to be. OK. You don’t believe in God. Then think of a life choice as doing what makes you comfortable in your own skin, that gives you a sense of accomplishment, of using your gifts regardless of who will recognize or pay you for it. There will come a time, I suspect, when health will decide what I do. That may be the aging process. That is a limitation I cannot escape if I live long enough. But I”d rather not put my own limits on what I do. I recognize fear each day, so I don’t trip over it and fall into being someone I am not.
Monday, December 3, 2018
Recently my new ex-friend, Deborah A and I were going to meet to go to her exercise club. She had a guest pass and I wanted to see her club setup. Then we would go for coffee and treats. She said she would “pick me up at 5 and we could do a Pilate’s class at 5:15.” Ouch! That is awful early, but Deborah travels a lot for work and I do some too, so this was a precious time to visit. I dragged myself out of bed at 4+AM something and was at the door ready to go into the cold air at 5 AM. No Deborah. 5:15 AM and no Deborah. I texted. 5:20 AM no Deborah. I thought, “She hates me.” Then, “I am so inconsequential to her that she got up and went to the club and forgot all about me.” Ex-friend file. Then she texted me: “I meant 5:00 PM!” OMG. I neve thought to ask, but being damaged goods, I could not blame my stupidity, so I blamed her for not being more clear. Who works out at night anyway! Then, I thought, why should I get upset. I lose a chance for specialty coffee and treats, and some time with Deborah. It is all about me, no? So I took her off the Ex-Friend list. We got together two days later and I had my coffee and treat. Don’t be like me, and I don’t mean the self-centered part. Ask questions and don’t assume. Take responsibility for your life. And hold onto your friends. Do as I say, not as I do.
Sunday, December 2, 2018
Prayer is like going to the gym or outside for a run/walk on a daily basis. We exercise the body for a while each day so that we will be fit enough to endure events the rest of the day, lifting, moving, bending and so on. We don't want to hurt ourselves by being unfit. Prayer is like going to the spiritual gym on a daily basis. We do it each day as we fit it into our schedule, so that we can do right behavior and avoid wrong behavior the rest of the day. Addicts can say "no" to an addictive impulse to drink, use or binge. All of us can say no to other bad behaviors, and thoughts such as judging, lying, cheating, stealing, jealousy, and procrastination to name a few. As you get used to the physical exercise when done daily, so it will be with prayer.
Saturday, December 1, 2018
Recently, I went on my first field trip with children, grades 3, 4, and 5. I was to be the priest presence. “Why am I doing this?” I asked myself when I woke up. I was into isolation mode, mixed with low levels of caring for children. I meditated, and then said OK lets do this. I was trying to fake being a holy and caring priest as I walked over to meet everyone at the school. Someone handed me a piece of paper that said I was in charge of five urchins, I mean children. What! This was not in the contract. I could not complain and whine. I was wearing my collar and clerical shirt. I had to fake love and interest. One of the women in the car I was in had a bad cold. What next! I will get the flu. Why does God hate me? But she got drugs from her doctor. Great. She was supposed to be my assistant with the children I had to watch. Then everything changed. A miracle! It was a wonderful ride down and back. The children were fascinating to watch what they enjoyed at this hands on museum and how they interacted with one another. I don’t think any of them cared one way or the other that I was there, but it was an experience for me that widened my horizons. I learned a lot...plus I got a chocolate treat and a cappuccino! Sometimes it is best to shut up and let God play things out. I had a wonderful day. Better than isolation and self-implosion. But I am glad I am a priest. No kids. Too much high maintenance. I am high maintenance enough!
Friday, November 30, 2018
Jesus and other wisdom teachers tend to challenge would be followers to renounce everything, all possession, and then follow. Wow! But I have met people who said they did just that in order to become holy, an adept, a follower. I am not sure material things is what the wisdom teacher had in mind. I have seen people who said they embraced material poverty, a simple life-style, but who were anything but whole much less holy. They forgot to divest themselves of soul baggage. What? Tightly stuffed into the bag of their soul they had stuffed such things as fear, distrust, arrogance, judgment of others, envy, jealousy, sprinkled with a dollop of whining. This is the stuff that the wisdom sayings are all about. Material things are relatively easy, though not really easy, to give up. There is a glamour in that. But the inside stuff, wow, these we cling to. We don’t need a Spiritual Power to clean out our closets, but we do need such a power to clean out our interior mess. What possessions possess you?
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Most people I know don’t care much for being “obedient” as they think it is succumbing to the will of another person or group. It is seen as something children and holy people ought to do. But if you look at the Latin root meaning of “obedience” you will see “obaudire” which means “to give an ear to or to at attend to.” It is a horizontal rather than a top down relationship. Judith Valente points this out. The point of “obaudire” is to move us off of our obsession with the “self.” When I try to listen to someone, and do so successfully, I am not thinking about me. Given my penchant for making myself the center of my universe, this “not-self” thinking is a good thing. Reading this blog, were you focused on it and not thinking about you? That would be obedience. Obey! Read blog.
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
John Kavanaugh, SJ, deceased, said something that rings true for me. He said: “Love takes time to show and grow. In life, little acts count. That is what life is all about, a long parade of moments deceptively inconsequential.” I like that. I hope my blogs are deceptively inconsequential. I love you in these little daily ways. All the small acts you do each day with some love, will build a base of a life worth being lived.
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
The root meaning of the word, education, in Latin, is educare, which denotes a process of being led outward. The vision of eduction tied to religion/spiritual dimension is that whatever you learned would make you more human. To be human is to be relational, to love. So you did not simply learn a subject so that you could better get a job and earn money. Your primary purpose was to contribute to a society of persons related to one another in caring and love. The money would follow. When education becomes strictly secular, than the individual is emphasized over the group, and money becomes the focus. At its worst the focus is "having more." No concern for any other person. So you might ask yourself, if you like STEM school learning, what is the purpose? Does any of this feed the soul, or do you think maybe soul is non-existent or not so important, or something for church, synagogue and ashram? I prefer a subject that can be taught in its practicality but with something for the heart and spiritual dimension of our lives. The way the Mayo boys were taught about medicine by their father is an example. It was about the patient and not about how much money or fame one could have. Watch the PBS.org "The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope, and Science." Would you not prefer that kind of doctoring? That is STEM with a heart and soul.
Monday, November 26, 2018
An 85 year old man found out that he had cancer in both lungs. What to do? I immediately thought of possible treatment decisions. But he did not think of that first if at all. He said, “What I need to do now is learn to be 85 with cancer in both lungs.” His focus was on being rather than on doing. When faced with unpleasant news or situations I usually think in terms of “doing.” The doing part might have a mixture of revenge, jealousy, anger, judgement, whining, and then action based upon all that negativity. I forget that asking what I am going to “be” in a situation is more of a choice rather than a reaction to a feeling. I can be helpful, loving and kind though I might be feeling some anxiety and fear. I need to learn how to live today with air in both lungs! And gratitude in my heart. Maybe happy, joyous, and free?
Sunday, November 25, 2018
Someone said, “For love to be real, it must cost.” What cost? Well, the idea of cost is that love must be empty of self. That is the cost. Do I really love “empty of self,” of my agenda, wants, programs for happiness? I think that “empty of self” is a pretty high bar for me, but I try. It gives me a focus or a standard whenever I ask myself if what I am doing is a loving act. When I am with a friend and they are having a bad time, or in a mood, that is, they could be a bit of high maintenance, and I say, “I am out of here for now,” then I am full of self. I have not paid the cost of love. A parent knows this cost with a child. So when you reflect on your behavior or staying power with someone you say you love, did you pay the cost? Protecting oneself from ruin or harm of course means a focus on self. Otherwise you are into codependency. My problem is being a loving friend who pays the cost of letting go of self-focus. When I do that, I do feel better, if not immediately, then soon thereafter.
Saturday, November 24, 2018
"Blessed are the eyes that see what you see." Stephen Covey says that we tend to see the world not as it is, but as we are. The thing that attracted me to my teacher, Fr. Thomas Keating, is that I wanted to see the world as he saw it. I had a spiritual blindness. I was blinded by my own narrow and shallow world, dimmed by my past, my shortcomings and faults. I had "baggage," as we say. Don't we all? But Keating seemed to have a lightness of being that shone through his manner. So now I have the desire to see as God, the Creator, sees. I had to stop seeing God as this separate person in the heavenly realms. I still have this childhood tendency, but it does not predominate. I found that my thoughts were simply, well, my thoughts, and not a way to "Truth." Thinking has its place, but it is not the be all. So, each day I spend a bit of time ignoring me, my plans, my thoughts and mind-filled images, and just be. If I want to see, I spend some time with m eyes closed and my heart open.
Friday, November 23, 2018
Someone told me of a very dangerous prayer. "God, do not let me out of this situation until I learn what you would have me learn." I never prayed that prayer before now. I prayed the usual foxhole prayer of survival in a powerless situation. "God get me out of this and then I will do thus and so." I never seemed to get around to the better "thus and so." This dangerous prayer takes courage, faith and hope. The belief is that the present misery has a lot to teach me. If I feel abandoned, lonely, rejected, failure, ignored, discontented, and restless, for instance, stay with it and maybe I will learn something. Drugs, alcohol, food, getting busy to escape, are not teachers. The pain is the teacher. I have found it so. My best teachers have helped me to identity the pain. And meditation is not about getting mellow, but about getting well.
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Happy Thanksgiving. I had a friend once who said that she had worked the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to find happiness. I asked her, "Did you find happiness?" "No," she said. "All I found was my faults and failings and the wreckage of my past." "Then what?" I asked. "Then I asked God to take my faults away, but I still seem to have them. I apologized to people, pray, but am not content, and many days not very happy." "Well," I said, "Why not try to be an effective help in the lives of others?" (That might be step 12, for those who don't know.) I think that happiness, or contentment lies hidden behind the door of helping others, or being of service to others. So on this Thanksgiving Day, why not be of some use to someone else, and see if you feel more thankful? If someone else is cooking, why not set the table, make the gravy (my job today) or take out the garbage? Or go clean up for those many volunteers who serve the poor today? I think it beats sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself. No one loves you? Hmmm. Could be a reason for that.
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
If someone loves you, one of the ways that you can give them delight is to give them an occasion to love on you, or help you in some way. If you happen to love someone don't you get some delight in exercising your love for them in some tangible way? It is not always about giving someone "things." Simply let people who love you know that you are not completely self-sufficient. Let them know when you are feeling a bit more alone than you would like. Or just invite them to spend some time with you, since they do love you. Love is action. It is a verb, so it needs opportunities to be of service, to love, to connect. Some people ask me from time to time why I live in Boulder or spend so much time at a monastery in Snowmass. Duh! Love. I get to give and receive. Mostly, I receive. Don't be alone on Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. Let someone love on you, maybe anonymously. I will be at a gathering of people, giving and receiving love.
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
I am a hopeful person and I think part of it is because I am a Catholic and a rather ordinary person. So why the hope? My belief is that the Creator of all this vast universe, or universes, decides to reside in something as mundane and ordinary as a wafer of bread, and not even good healthy baked bread. A thin tasteless wafer is fine for the Divine Presence. I too am ordinary and mundane and have many a moment when my mediocre ways remind me of my state. But if I can recall God in the wafer, then I don't spend time beating myself up. As we age we do become "less" in several ways. But I am still good enough, be it ordinary and mundane, for this Creator of the vast universe to dwell in me. It is what I call the "God-With-Us" way of thinking. It makes me incredulous at times, a real leap of faith, and to non-believers, a bit strange. But I just have to stop now and again and say, "Thank You." Thanksgiving Day, is in two days and God is on my list. So who do you say "Thank You" for the wonder that is you?
Monday, November 19, 2018
In the USA Thanksgiving Day is coming up this week. Canada had its Thanksgiving in October, so don’t go wishing any Canadian “Happy Thanksgiving” this week. They get upset. But I digress. No one has to be alone on Thanksgiving unless they choose to do so. Even if you just go to a bar, you are not alone and many bars will even provide some Thanksgiving foods. But I would find bars depressing on this day. For some reason, if you tell people that you will be alone on Thanskgiving, someone will invite you to dine with them. No other day is like this for outreach, caring and sharing. Restaurants, places of worship, and clubs that are open will all have Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. So if you hear of someone who will be otherwise alone, maybe invite them to your feast, if you are having one. We could all use a good meal to energize us, because the next day is Black Friday! I will be shopping in LA and maybe seeing a first run movie that opens only in NYC and LA on that day. And then there are turkey sandwiches.
Sunday, November 18, 2018
I am such a dummy. I was teaching in San Rafael, California yesterday and thought I did a good job talking about the spiritual life. But I forgot stuff. I talked a lot about becoming all God meant you to be, fulfilling your gifts and talents. We learn this, not from the culture, but from the interior life of prayer. Fine. But there is more. Christians are supposed to become Christ. Well, Christ is supposed to be God. If so, then why did Jesus come and live the simple life of a lower class blue collar tradesperson, a carpenter? He had so much talent. He is God! He could do so much more, right? The lesson God is teaching us in this Incarnation, God in human form, is that at some advanced stage we let go of even our talents, our accomplished life, and live a simple life, even seemingly ignored by “important” people, not trying to consume more than we need. From this way, we become even more in union with the divine who let go of all to be close to us. Maybe then we will understand the wisdom sayings of Jesus even more deeply. I have a ways to go still. Maybe I will let go of teaching!
Saturday, November 17, 2018
I met a guy who got drunk because no one at the office remembered his birthday. No one took him to lunch. Nothing. So he went out, got drunk, skipped work the next day, lost his job. Wow! Resentments can be costly. But feeling badly, lonely, forgotten, ignored, heart-hurting, over people forgetting your birthday is quite common. If you are brought up like me, with family making a big deal about your birthday, you are not prepared for the grown up world where you may well be ignored on your birthday. Now if a spouse forgets, you can make them pay. But if work associates, the outside world forgets, you have to lower the bar. We are not the center of the universe for most of the world. Rarely has any priest with whom I have lived ever remembered my birthday. So this coming year I may just go to the monastery, be in my cell, and thank God for another year of some sanity when my birthday comes around. Don’t tell people when your birthday is because then you raise expectations. People have lots of other stuff more important for them to do than remember your “special day.” And don’t get drunk over it.
Friday, November 16, 2018
We cannot control a lot of things that happen to us, such as sickness, job loss, partner change of heart, loss of loved one, and car issues, as in crashes. Lots of stuff just happens. Poor guy, Job, in the Book of Job, in Hebrew Scriptures. He was living with faith and moral uprightness, and he lost everything. Did he curse God? Did he whine? Did he go into a funk? Well, I guess you have to read all 42 chapters to see what happens. But he shows that we can have some control as to how we respond to things that happen in life. We can lie down and say, “My life is over.” Or we can say, “Let’s get up and get moving to do the next right thing.” Often, the next right thing for me is prayer and service. I can be of service by finding people who might need me, or going where I can hear about a positive action in response to unexpected misery and loss. I may not have a lot of choices about outside world issues and events, but I most often do have choices as to how I will respond. Your Guardian Angel is ready and waiting!
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Using addiction as an excuse misses out on a lot of good stuff. If you say, “Oh, I cannot help myself. I am an addict,” then you shrug your shoulders, or maybe climb into remorse for a spell, but you don’t get to enjoy unconditional love, or mercy, or forgiveness beyond your wildest dreams. The word, “Help” does not enter your mind or vocabulary. Addiction isolates us until we admit we are hopeless, helpless and not a very good person. Then we might say, “help.” Don’t bother to exercise your weary and weird mind about who, or what is going to help you. In a sinking ship of despair, theology is of no use. Speculation about heavenly help won’t solve your present dilemma. Excuses for behavior are no bouys for saving a drowning life. I have never experienced unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness until I first said, “Help!” The word help devoid of any sense of my own power to change, is the doorway to all kinds of good things and a better life one day at a time. If your first prayer or word when you wake up is “help” then you have a pretty good chance of staying out of your own mess. Even if you don’t think you are an addict to anything. You “non-Addicts” might be the most delusional.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
In the musical. "Waitress" the waitress, Jenna, who is in a loveless marriage, says that what she really dreams of is a long hug full of selflessness. How rare such a hug was in her life, and maybe in the life of many of us, especially women. Hugs often have "attachments" or "clauses" to them, unspoken but still thought and expected. A person might hug you because they want something from you. The hug is part of a silent negotiation. After a while, the couple know what the negotiation issue is. Hugs might be to get sex, or to be forgiven, or to get you to give or do something else, or simply because it is expected protocol. But a selfless hug, that is precious. Remember Olaf, the snowman, in "Frozen"? He said that he liked hugs. You cannot get much from hugging a snowman, so all his received hugs are rather selfless. He gets hugged simply because the hugger likes Olaf. We could all use selfless hugs to thaw a frozen heart. Hmmm. Chilly in here.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
I am going to see Elton John perform. My life is complete! But not really. Now I love the songs he has written and his showmanship, so it will be a great night in the Denver Pepsi Center. Plus I like Pepsi. There is more about Elton John that merits my attention. He is about my age, but he is still performing though it is called a three year farewell tour. He is still performing because he loves what he does. This is an important lesson for me. I am often asked when I will retire. Why retire? I love what I do. A couple of people like what I do too. But even if most people might find me forgettable, good for humility, I still love what I do. So age is not going to stop me. And if we love what we do and it benefits others, my two or three fans, then why not go on doing what I do? Welcome to Mile High Country Elton. Rocketman!
Monday, November 12, 2018
There are certain cells in the body that do only what benefits themselves. They will harm other cells in order to get what they want. They are called cancer cells. Cells that are healthy act to benefit other cells, to cooperate with other cells to benefit the whole organism. Is it not the same way with we humans? Some of us, sometimes, if not always, act in a way to benefit only ourselves. We act selfishly, with no compassion or interest in others around us, except as they may benefit our own selfish agenda. People in recovery, or people who have consciously entered into a spiritual way of growth, through steps, prayer, action, look back and see how they have been cancerous in their previous life. Selfishness kills the selfish person, slowly but surely, and will take others down with them. Alanon is a kind of cancer treatment for those who are in contact with cancerous addicted people. I think of my daily meditation and active life as a way to keep cancerous behavior in remission. If I think of myself as totally cured of bad behavior, I may stop the program that got me healthy in the first place. It is a one day at a time spiritual practice for the humble and patient.
Sunday, November 11, 2018
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
BOOK OF KINGS 17: 10-16 & MARK 12: 41-44
NOVEMBER 11, 2018
I hear some senior citizens say that they are too old to do much. They don’t have their former stamina, eye sight, hearing, and so on. They are full of aches and pains. I am old and feel washed up frequently. Well we may be past our prime when we compare and contrast ourselves with other younger more vigorous persons. In comparison we focus on our “less” and their “more.”
In the “Widow’s Mite” Jesus is more impressed not with how much one gives in comparison with someone else, but rather with how much one gives of what they have. Jesus does not compare and contrast. His challenge is to surrender all and not worry about its absolute quantity/quality relative to another person.
On page 164 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says, “Abandon yourself.” Well, there is not much to give up or abandon. By this point a person very likely has lost job, health, money, friends, family, and maybe even a roof over their head. But the point in not quantity of surrender but the act of giving whatever you are, and all of it. That is the point of surrender. Trust. Hope. Spiritual renewal does not come in the absolute amount but in the amount relative to what we have to give. No half measures here.
So even if we say that we have next to nothing to give, it is good enough for God if we give this “next to nothing.” It seems that God does not want us just to apologize for our wrongs, or give up bad behavior. God wants the “all” of us. Whatever we have left when we hit bottom, is enough for God. Why not say, “I will give it my all,” instead of a flat “no” the next time someone asks for help. You are not in charge of the results. God is.
In the musical, " Waitress" many scenes take place in a Pie Diner. A great pie is referred to as a pie that tastes so good the first mouthful, you want to eat more, and each bite has a bit of an added or new flavor come forth. People who attract us can be just like a good pie. Say what? Well, I remember years ago I was a young man in New York City, at a party. I saw a young woman. We were about to leave at the same time and she asked me if I knew where her jacket might be. I found it and we walked out together. I was intent on getting home for a good night's sleep before work the next day, and was going to walk her to her nearby apartment. We began to talk as we walked. We walked around the block, a big square block in New York City. We walked around a second, third, and fourth time. About the fifth time, still talking, I walked her to her apartment. Neither of us talked about how late it was getting, we were so absorbed in one another, or at least I was. Each flavor of ourselves that we talked about brought up something connected but new, layer upon layer of our life. That is like pie. It is special to meet and be with a pie person. Oh, and she let me kiss her goodnight. Mmm, Mmm good.
Saturday, November 10, 2018
People often ask me, “What is meditation?” Or they ask the next question, “How do you meditate?” I think these are questions from a modern science focused mind. These questions are the what and the how of things, but I believe the important question is the one that might actually lead to the practice of mediation. That question is, “Why meditate?” Why is it at all? This is the more spiritual question. We are all drowning in information from the what and how questions. We are starving for wisdom, and a wisdom that might lead to transformation through practice. Meditation at depth is not something that can be grasped with the intellect. Our spiritual innards remain essentially mysterious. It is a place of wonder, as in awe. The Power that does not need to be known by the mind resides there. It is Love. What is needed is a patient gaze in which you do not impose yourself in the seeing. You are receptive. You allow things to be. You are attentive, welcoming and disciplined to stay with it. It is a stance of wonder. Here in this stance you do not strive to be anyone else. Just be. Resist the tendency to put yourself at the center of anything. Let go of control. Like a fruit, let yourself ripen into all you are meant to be.
Friday, November 9, 2018
So I am sitting in a room where we are talking about things spiritual and someone irreverently pipes up with, "The message comes through your ass!" What? I waited to see how or if he would explain himself. The shock passed as he said that you had to be at the place where you can hear the message of spiritual growth from someone else. "Ass" refers to taking a seat where someone else is delivering the message. The message comes from others, is delivered through contact with other seekers. At some time each of us might be the messenger of wisdom. I think of being in a meeting, a conference, a class, or a place of worship where I might get the message from another. I can go to coffee with a friend, as I did with my friend Deborah last month, and get the wisdom. I have to sit and listen. But first I have to sit down on a chair. So I guess this fellow was correct in his own way of saying it. But he was memorable, I have to say that. Could I say it his way in a homily? Maybe my final homily😇
Thursday, November 8, 2018
A gift of mediation is that we learn to live in the "poverty of the present moment" whether bored or not bored. In prayer the spiritual dimension is actualized within us, is open to GRACE being at work. An example: nothing seems to be happening, yet something is. We are able to abide in this moment and not get bored. We are open to surprise, wonder, grace at work. Patience is required, and trust. Children tend to get bored if something is not happening, or going on, as they see it. They have the capacity for a spiritual life, but alas, they are not exposed to it in a way that would open them to "abiding in the poverty of the present moment." If they go to a worship service, they rue silence. The more affluent household keeps the child busy and active so as to prevent boredom. Learning comes across as "doing stuff." There are no dull moments in that pace of life, but there might be many a dull soul.
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
In the movie, “Beautiful Boy,” I never got the sense that there was a spiritual dimension to Nic’s recovery. There is no mention of a higher power, much less God. He has all the recovery lingo, goes to meetings, has a sponsor, but where is step 11? Maybe it is the only way the movie could be commercially made. Skip mediations and higher power stuff. At one point Nic goes to the bathroom at his girlfriend’s home and sees a bottle of pills on the counter. This is the moment when the program of recovery says only a power greater than yourself will save you from the temptation. He takes the pills. He begins another run of addictive behavior. During the credits at the end of the movie, the voiceover is of Nic reading the poet Bukowski. I read Bukowski. Oops! I’ve said too much. But even Bukowski, in the free verse poem Nic reads, though seeming to hate everything, including opera and oranges, comes to an experience of connection in the simple, everyday experiences of life. This is where the higher power hangs out. The fear based person misses it. So maybe Nic found his soul to fill the emptiness, but only after the story depicted in the movie. One can only hope. There but for the grace of God, huh guys?
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
There is the wisdom story I found in the Bible. A person has a devil, and the devil leaves, driven out by say good behavior or a spiritual practice of the possessed person. The person feels relieved, their inner house all swept and clean. The person stops the spiritual practice since they got “well.” The evil spirit roams around and finds no new home so comes back bringing seven more evil spirits or devils to repossess the person. The moral? “The last condition of the person is worse than the first.” This is what happens when someone is out of balance, as in habitual bad actions, addictions, character defects, self-will run riot. They get sick and tired of it, so in desperation they take on some spiritual path, practice, and get well. They stop the practice. The old behavior returns and is worse than their former bad behavior. While the person is coasting, the devil is working out and getting stronger for another attack. Ask any addict who stopped working the steps. If they are still alive and sane enough to talk.
Monday, November 5, 2018
People sometimes mix up presumption with Hope. Presumption says things like, “Oh, it will be OK. No big deal,” or “She/He will let it go. They are very forgiving,” or “They have thick skin. They will let it slide.” Such attitudes as that is not hope. We presume so much. I have seen it in religion and recovery programs, and spiritual paths of all sorts. People don’t do the work but think things will go along just fine. A good past effort is only connected to a good future by presumption if you are not going to continue to do the good that got you where you are today. “I used to go to meetings. I used to meditate. I feel fine but don’t need those things anymore.” “God loves me. All will be fine.” God or your HP does the heavy lifting and you coast? Presumption. Hope says, “I do not deserve forgiveness. I have messed up and deserve the consequences, but HOPE that I will be forgiven.” People of hope work out of a deeper sense of gratitude and powerlessness. I hope that I will or won’t do certain things today. Now I had better get to work. Hope cooperates with love, that is the love of God or another person. When you presume things about your partner, mate, spouse, you are on a slippery slope.
Sunday, November 4, 2018
Old folks will remember, if they can remember at all, that we used to have to rewind our watches each day, sometimes twice a day. This is a good metaphor for daily prayer. It is like rewinding the watch. if we think of ourselves on a spiritual path, or in a relationship to our spiritual center, we cannot take for granted that all will go well without daily effort. Without some daily prayer, reconnection, “time out” for some quiet solitude, we will run out of the spiritual energy that fuels right living. At first, our progress slows and wrong actions, like wrong time, will enter our daily life. Then we just stop growing. We become dysfunctional. We think we are in the present moment, but in fact we are living in some past, as a clock that shows the wrong time. I try to rewind myself each day lest I lose touch with the present moment and the energy to live it properly wound up to the real. Maybe this blog is a part of your rewinding?
Saturday, November 3, 2018
I met a guy who said that he was having trouble with this “God business.” It turns out this fellow used to be a horrible drunk, addicted to alcohol. He could not stop drinking once he got started. But now he was free of the desire for alcohol. “How did you do that?” I asked him. He told me some things that he did, sobe friends he had made, but ultimately he had no idea how the desire to drink left him. I suggested it might be “God.” He was conflicted because his idea of God was this separate person out there somewhere who never did much good for him. “Maybe your idea of God is just an idea,” I said. “Maybe God is not so much a separate person out there, a noun, but rather a verb, Love.” He is pondering this. To me, God is action, relationship, love. This is why I prefer Contemplative type prayer. It lets go of the noun God, the idea, the thought of God, and lets the Power be love.
Friday, November 2, 2018
I grew up as part of the “Obedience Generation.” To us you could say, “Go to mass on Sunday or burn.” We went to mass. But the obedience generation is becoming extinct. It might exist in Latino immigrants, but it won’t last into their children or grandchildren. If a priest is still saying “you burn” then he is preaching to the dinosaurs. The younger generation is more into the experience of mass. If it is boring, irrelevant to their lives, lacks communal bonding, then they are more likely to drift away. As John Paul II said, each generation is like a newly discovered continent. This implies you cannot simply impose the old on the new and expect all to go well. As a youth, when I went to mass I was surprised if there was a sermon and it was good or relevant to my life. I had no expectations. I went because that is what Catholics did. It was how we related to God with Eucharist and all. It was enough experience for me with Holy Communion. Mass was brief. Singing minimal if at all. You go early and get out soon enough to go to the bakery and butcher shop, get the funny comics in the newspaper and go home. I am a dinosaur!
Thursday, November 1, 2018
In my Church today is the Feast of All Saints. It covers all those people who have died, and lived saintly lives, but got no special recognition with their own feast day. Well, what about the living saintly people in our lives today? This should be their feast day too. I should celebrate it by letting them know how their good example, their selfless lives, their loving ways, have inspired me to try and do likewise. You might know such people in your life who are like this, and for most days of the year you ignore saying thank you, or asking that they pray for you. Well today is the day to NOT ignore or take them for granted. Give them a shout. My sister Maureen said that I was a devil, so my feast day is tomorrow, All Souls Day.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
When I pray and feel good about it, fervent, warm and fuzzy, I think I am quite close to God and God is very pleased. But this prayer is all about me. I simply project onto God my good feelings. That is, if I feel good then God does too. Whereas, when I pray and the feeling is all dry, boring, dull, distracted, then I think it is not a very good prayer, and God is not particularly happy with it. Wrong. Prayer is all about the “wanting” to pray. God appreciates my wanting, not my feelings good or bad. Wanting to pray when I feel nothing much overcomes a bit of self-will that is controlled by feelings. Feelings are not so important as attitude. Think of love for another person. When you are really fired up, “in love” all is easy. But think of loving someone when you don’t feel like loving them, or think of someone loving you, being faithful to you, attentive to you, when they feel little in their heart. This is the test of love, the wanting when you don’t have the feeling. A commitment to prayer, is like a commitment to relationship. Pray for the “wanting.” The feelings will come and go. Happy Halloween!
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
In the movie “Frozen” the trolls sing a song with the refrain: “He is a terrible fixer upper, who can be fixed up with love.” They are referring to their mountain man friend, Gustav, who they want to marry the beautiful Princess, Anna. Anna thinks she can love only a prince, not a rough mountain man in his smelly clothes and unkemp look. The Trolls know that Gustav is in need of fixing up, not by a salon, but by love. There are times when each of us needs some fixing up in a way that only love can do. Sometimes we just have to love ourselves a little and not get so frazzled by impossible schedule demands. Sometimes we just want someone else to love us, with patience, kindness and compassion. Love can be a great fixer upper. So what do we do when we see someone that could use some fixing up, such as they are having a bad day, or becoming somewhat high maintenance? Do we ignore them? Walk away and look for someone else who is less work and more fun? Hopefully, a blog or two of mine is a good fixer upper for your day.
Monday, October 29, 2018
Irving Berlin wrote, “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep.” This is what is called gratitude. I have my gratitude list and I recite it at night when I get into bed. When I focus on my plans, and programs for happiness, it is easy to get whiny, worried, and resentful. The world is not cooperating with me. So, I focus on things for which I should or am grateful. My room and my bed are on my gratitude list. Gratitude helps me to see the “plenty” in my life and not the “lack” according to my plans. I seem to sleep better because I am a bit more worry-free.
Sunday, October 28, 2018
In the movie "Frozen" the Trolls sing a song, "A terrible fixer upper can be fixed up with love." They are referring to the rough mountain man, Gustav, in relation to Anna, a princess. Their point is that some people are in much need of being fixed up, in more ways than a make-over at the salon. When we meet such a person we might be able to help by the way we are toward and with them. Assuming it is safe, can we be kind, compassionate and willing to listen, maybe even forgive? Or do we just ignore such people as being "too much work." I talked to the Catholic School students at Sacred Heart of Jesus school in Boulder about this and they got it. Their parents and teachers sometimes need a little bit of love. If our only response is to be selfish, self-centered and whiny, then we cannot give much love. Of course, maybe I should have been giving a sermon on dogma, but I spoke about Frozen instead. I might have to burn for this, but at least I was in the child's world. Should get some time off for that!
Saturday, October 27, 2018
I notice that readership of my blogs has dropped by 50% or more in the last week. Where did I go wrong? I thought that when I went away on holiday, I would be missed. Wrong. I am forgotten. Now this gives me a chance to practice acceptance and humility both of which follow self-pity and delusional thinking that I am important. Maybe my ego had gotten too big and now I get a chance to practice being right-sized. But the monks at the monastery, though they do not read my blogs, do miss me and want me to come there, throw away my computer, and just live there with them. I keep telling the monks, “No, no, I cannot do that. People love me in other places. They would miss me and want me with them.” Well, maybe not so much if my blogs are any indication. Whatever happens, at least I get to practice the spiritual growth of acceptance and humility. But that self-pity stuff seems to be hanging on! I need a hug. Don’t we all?
Some people say that the goal of a spiritual practice or program is love. Love is the goal. But I like to think love as part of the path. The goal is a quiet heart. To have a quiet heart in the midst of a tempest seems to be what the spiritual giants have in common. Being of service to others is part of the path to a quiet heart. It is not the goal. Forgiveness, compassion, a listening ear, kindness, acceptance are all tools that build a quiet heart. There is a peace of mind that goes with a quiet heart in spite of how our plans are interrupted or cut short. We cannot control all the stuff that goes on around us, but our response, the tools, the spiritual practice on a daily basis, can decide how we will respond. Instead of me saying, “How do I get what I want?” I ask, “How do I have a quiet heart in this situation?”
Friday, October 26, 2018
At Sea Ranch I like to cook. Yesterday I made Petrale Sole with my own dressing/flavoring. I only seem to make it here on vacation. Today, I made an Italian Spaghetti Sauce that a friend taught me to do. It was my first time making it by myself. My sister added meat balls from a recipe she has. It was delicious. I love to cook for a couple of people if it does not have to be on the table at an “exact” time. I could be a good house husband. Though some days I am high maintenance. Not at Sea Ranch. Two questions you young ladies might ask prospective partners is: Can you cook? And are you high maintenance? These are lifetime gifts to a bride. I don’t know if marrying money makes up for being high maintenance and being clueless in kitchen. I await responses. But I am your go to guy for fish and pasta.
Thursday, October 25, 2018
I am at Sea Ranch, California right now on my annual holiday vacation with my sister, Jane. This is not one of those travel vacations. I am not sightseeing or visiting friends. We have been doing this Sea Ranch time a week each year in the California Fall, over a 30 year stretch. We started in 1988. There is no other place like this Sea Ranch time. I cook here. I don’t much cook anywhere else. I jog, swim in the pool, read the Times, and watch Sports. It is the World Series times. My passions! Oh, I pray too, but not like a ton. Why sit a lot of time with my eyes closed? I am on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. You can google it and see. Hardly any tourists are here this time of year. It is quiet. There is a wonderful fish and butcher shop and fresh veggies and fruit in town only 3 miles away. Sea Ranch is on the road to heaven. I miss you all, sort of.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
I like this term “adult-ing.” It is the act of being an adult. It is not the bliss or the tantrum of childhood. It is not so much being cared for as being the care-giver, the responsible one. Some of us like being considered an adult when it suits us. “Treat me like an adult,” we might say to someone who is dissing us. But at times we are “grown up” physically, but are being treated as children because we might be acting childish. This is not the same as child-like in wisdom literature. We cannot have it both ways, acting childish but wanting to be treated as an adult. If we are whining, self-centered, blaming, and pouting, then we won’t get “respect.” And if we are acting childish when we are supposed to be taking care of a real child, this is disaster. It is hard to be an adult, and often a thankless task. It is OK to have a few “Poor me,” feelings, but we cannot act on them.
Adults have to suck it up a lot of times. But the world would be in such a worse mess if there are not enough adults in it, being adults.
Adults have to suck it up a lot of times. But the world would be in such a worse mess if there are not enough adults in it, being adults.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
You hear someone say, “We fell in love and then we got married.” But it does not always, if ever, go that two step simple. Here is another process someone related to me. “We fell in like. We fell in lust, and then we fell in love.” To go from lust to love, one must realize that they have more to offer than sex. This realization comes from the partner relationship. You learn to accept and be with one another, to value each other, without there being a “catch.” My Catholic Church does not like the process of going from lust to love, and many parents are real Catholic when it comes to this. But lust to love is real, so we might as well face it and see how the process can work out for the best. The relationship begins to build to some permanence when the couple realize that sex and lust are not so primary. You become a person and not a body. You don’t come together with some end of the evening trist planned. Being together and sharing life becomes more and more wonderful. And you learn that sex fixes nothing much worth fixing. Selfish, self-centered people, often start and end with lust. They don’t like themselves very much, so they won’t like anyone else. Love is foreign to self-imploded people, but the truly clueless think lust is love. I hope I never come back as a teenager. It was a rough time for me the first time through. It seemed to last forever. But then I digress!
Monday, October 22, 2018
Abbot Joseph Boyle died early yesterday morning from cancer. He was 77. He had been the Abbot of my monastery since 1985, and was a New Yorker, so twice holy. Abbot Joseph was the one I asked and who said yes to me coming to live for extended periods of time at the Trappist Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, beginning in 2004. The monastery sits in a beautiful valley at 8,000 feet altitude. It is 3600 acres of ranch, hills, trees and of course our monastery and retreat houses. I had a chance to say goodbye to him when I was last there. So the next time I go up there in December the monastery will have a different feel to it. I know not what that will be. I will visit his grave and thank him again for his kindness and wisdom. Please keep him in your prayers if you pray. Another New Yorker in heaven. Place is full of them.
I have heard people tell me that they have troubles but are grateful they have never been to prison, like so and so, who did go to prison. Oh? What about bondage to self? Often these same non-jail people are in bondage to spending so much time and energy thinking about themselves, in a whiny, anxious way. A self-focused person will never get all they want. They always want “more.” So I look at my own life and ask how much of the day, this day for a start, do I spend thinking about me, and thinking/acting/fretting in a way that I cannot seem to stop? It is one thing to be self-reflective here and there each day, especially for people who are fighting compulsions. Check in with ourselves, but then get on with letting go of self-focus to attend to the deeper world of prayer or wider world that might benefit from your compassion and love. I must admit that there are jags of time, too long a jag, when I cannot get out of me. The phone is too heavy to call, life is so unfair, no one loves me...we all know that drill. Unless of course you never suffer from bondage to self. What to do? Admit you are in prison. Ask for parole from the Spirit. I find that God releases me from my self-imposed prison, not because of good behavior, but in order to practice it. Surrender does not get one into prison. It frees us.