Thursday, May 31, 2018

Primary Purpose

The primary purpose of meditation is not so much to have spiritual visions, feel better, calmer, but rather so that we can do actions that are helpful to others who are in need of help.  But there is more.  Meditation helps us to do good acts, as good people.  Mediation changes us from within, so that we become more consistent in our connection with others.  A person might do a good deed, but maybe for reasons that have little to do with a pure heart.  To gain something or avoid a loss.  It is so sel-serving.  Look at AA for instance.  They meditate in step 11, so that they will be more consistent in step 12, which is to help others, not when it suits them but even in tough times.  If I ignore mediation, I might be nice, helpful, kind and comforting in one instance, and then soon thereafter I am all about me, whining and upset at demands made upon me.  You don’t want me on a day that I ignore the interior life.  I am a monster!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Power To Burn

The Anabaptists had a different idea about baptism than did the all powerful Catholic Church in the 16th Century.  The Anabaptists said that you should make an adult decision for Christ, and be rebaptized then, even if you were baptized as a baby.  You could get burnt at the stake for this as did Dirk Willems, a Dutchman.  Nowadays, if you were to say this you might make people upset.  They may ask you to leave and go elsewhere with your ideas, but they would not burn you at the stake.  Religion is not so powerful and government has protective laws against such stuff.  So I think it a good thing that my church is no longer all powerful in its public sphere.  I like my church to be humble and more into being powerless.  Lots of people and groups have done their best work when admitting to humility and powerlessness.  You can still challenge, encourage and discourage, but do so without being abusive.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Wedding Homily

A Wedding Homily On Feast of Most Holy Trinity

One of the bridesmaids wore a tuxedo.  The bride had tattoos.  This is all new to me.  My first thought?  “This is an abomination, an outrage!”  But I have learned in my spiritual practice to ignore first thoughts.  You cannot control them nor are you responsible for them.  Pause.  Don’t act on first thought energy.  What happens next?  Space for Grace.  That pause is the space and grace then goes to work.  My catholicity enters.  Catholic with a small “c” means all, as in everyone.  Jesus came to save all people, not just Jewish men.  Catholic is not a “gated” faith.  You can live in a gated community where you feel safe, secure, and correct, because everyone else is just like you.  But you cannot have a Catholic gated faith.  In Caholic we are all one but not all the same.  The many differences are what make us the best we can be as church.  

But you need to go beyond acceptance of differences.  An atheist can practice acceptance, and they do.  Catholic needs to go into the realm of love, that is, Oneing with others.  Work at becoming one.  How?  Think of salt.  Salt brings out the flavor of whatever it salts, but salt stays salt.  We need to enter into connections with others such that our presence, our love, compassion, care, salts them, so that these other people become the best that God made them to be.  They don’t become more like me nor I more like them.  We become who God made us to be.  Differences in unity.

The Trinity is One God but manifested in three diverse ways.  God is always relational in Love.  God is Love.  This couple today are diverse, but together as one couple they will become holy through and with one another.  But what if first thoughts ruled their lives?  What if when Hector met Katie, he saw freckles, for she is Irish.  What if his first thought is “Freckles!  An abomination.”  He would be the loser if he walked away.
And what if when Spring came and Katie put on a sun dress and Hector saw a tattoo, and said, “Oh no!  My mother will never accept her.”  And so on.  But Katie is not marrying his mother.  So first thoughts did not rule in his encounter with Katie.  

And when Katie found out the limo bus that brought all the male wedding party members to church had gone off without bringing the women, including her, what if her first thought was, “Oh no!  Disaster.  A sign from God that this wedding is not meant to be.  Hector is all wrong for me.”  She did not let such a thought rule her decision to marry though the wedding did start later than planned.  

Hector and Katie will now work on becoming one while still being uniquely gifted people.  They bring diversity to the relationship and mix it all with love, compassion, being good listeners, and becoming all God meant them to be.  For unless we become one we will become none.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Pygmy

Did you know that at one time the Bronx Zoo kept an African Pygmy as a speciman?  What was that all about.  Eugenics.  The science of the times had this belief in some people being better than other people and some people-looking somethings were not really people.  So whenever you start saying that some people are better or more human or more perfect than others based upon their ethnicity, color or language, you are on a very slippery road.  It is a kind of social Darwinism with the idea that different races represent different levels of evolutionary development.  It will end up in violence.  Religious scriptures challenge this way of thinking, but many a person in the pew or bench, hold to this evolutionary strata system.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Truth

I believe that one’s idea of truth comes first from experience.  They think their experience to be the truth.  Only later, with other experiences, and listening to others, reading and so on can they come to know a fuller truth.  Example:  why is the Pacific Ocean called “pacific?”  My experience is anything but that, when I look at the ocean on the shores of Northern California.  I would call it almost violent in its power and huge waves pounding against rocks and shoreline.  This is my experience.  Magellan had a vastly different experience.  He discovered the Tierra del Fuego, 400 miles of treacherous currents going around the southern tip of South America.  Windswept rocks and surging seas, currents going every which way.  When he got to the other side, the waters seemed calm in camparison.  So he called it the “Pacific Ocean.”  So be careful when you call your unexamined experience the “Truth.”  My experiences are a rather narrow world.  Ask. Read, Study. Seek.  Humility will be the engine that drives you.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


Are we really free to do whatever we want?  I hear people say that, "I am free to do whatever I please.  It is a free country."  It is a country which is built on co-existence.  If we all tried for unlimited freedom, we would destroy one another, while not building communities.  Even a hermit in the woods is not free to burn down the forest because the trees get in the way of a view.  Are we really free to cut down a forest, whose trees provide us with photosynthesis to cleanse our air and provide oxygen?  I find that the desire for freedom is tempered by some spiritual practice which moderates our freedom goals.  Monasteries would be an example of giving up one freedom or freedoms for another freedom.  It is more of pick and choose than unlimited freedom.  How does one know what to let go of and what to pick up?  A spiritual practice that gets beyond your thoughts and personal ideas is a way.  Left to our own devices most of us opt for "more" rather than learn to embrace the "less."  Less is often more, and that is not a koan.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Stranger

To welcome the stranger is to develop a relationship such that our freedom is compromised.  Any relationship will cut into our freedom to do as we please, but especially the stranger.  Spiritual practices seem to say that we should welcome the stranger.  I see it in the Bible for instance.  But not all of us want such a mutual dependence that this relationship brings. For instance,  the mother pregnant with new life is a dependent relationship that changes both the mother and the baby in utero, or fetus if you prefer.  The life in the womb is a stranger.  You have not fully met.  You have expectations or fears, anxieties, hopes, disappointments, whatever, so this is the "stranger" aspect of new relationship.  The infant in the womb is a "being from" as someone said, and is very dependent upon the "from."  It is oriented toward the mother.  The woman is a "being for" the infant, fetus in the womb, and even her body changes and takes away some freedom of movement and shape.  This being from and for one another compromises one's freedom. If the baby is brought to term it will practice lots of freedom but will still be dependent and so not completely free.  A new person in your life limits your freedom, or else it won't be much of a relationship.  If you value freedom above all else, it will affect, limit, destroy relationships.  My initial reaction to strangers is to want to pull away or go away.  I have learned to overcome it better now and have enjoyed some really good opportunities to grow.  Unlimited freedom does not work for me.  It appeals to my lesser self.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Beyond Dogma

It is said by some that they are going beyond dogma to seek a deeper spirituality.  I wonder if they will end up finding a deeper dogma, which is still dogma and maybe not so much deeper than dogma that took centuries to develop.  One thing I like about dogma, teaching that has lasted the test of time, argument, development over the ages and cultures, is that it has some sense of basis that can connect people.  Truth connects.  You can deny a dogma, but to dismiss it as OK but not for you, is to end up where?  Some might say, "This is my truth."  Well how much truth is it if it is only for you?  I think the value of truth is that it connects you to a larger group that acts to better the world based upon a common truth and vision that enlarges us.  Jews in this country make a big difference in our culture, and I don't think it is because each one is going beyond their dogma to a deeper truth.  Dogma is tribal, and the connections are what gives the energy and vision to make the world a better place.  Dogma can explain the larger world beyond the individual.  I would see myself as a meditator who has a dogma.  I am less self-absorbed this way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


The spiritual life is not something separate from "normal" life.  It is not like bifocal glasses with two separate parts in one lens.  The spiritual does its thing at spiritual time and then everything else is our normal everyday activities.  We don't meditate in the morning and then put that all aside and go about our business.  The morning meditation infuses the daily activities of our day.  Meditation can give us a second opinion on how to respond to a situation that arises during the day.  We don't so much say, "What is the spiritual thing to do."  We just have a notion or inclination or inspiration to act in a way that proves better for our overall growth and wellbeing.  The thought may come to mind to call or contact someone simply as an outreach.  We sense a world that includes us and calls us to be a part of it by taking action.  We isolate less and connect more.  We don't meditate with a plan for the day.  We simply meditate, like doing any exercise.  The day will work out better for us and others.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

False Belief

Some people feel that if they ingest, buy, put on something they will feel prettier, younger and more comfortable in their clothes, especially summer wear.  They believe that something from the outside will make a change.  And true, it does make a change, in the way they feel.  But this is temporary, since the reality will not make them younger or prettier or better looking.  The feeling though is real, but it is temporary.  And what you usually buy or ingest is not a good idea, since it had no practical value.  Take for instance, a drink of vodka.  It has nothing to do wit thirst or vitamins or energy.  It is to change a feeling, a mood.  It is all so temporary.  Two vodkas would extend the feeling, the fantasy, maybe.  Or it will rob you of some of your senses and motor abilities, and then you won't look so pretty or young at all.  Three vodkas, is bye bye.  Or you buy more stuff, not because you need more stuff, but you need a change in how you see yourself.  If I want to feel better about myself, I try to find a friend.  They always see me at my best, even when they can point out or notice I am struggling.  For struggles, I would suggest you not try drink or stuff.  Work on friendship.  Give time and energy to friends.  Then you will spend less time worrying about how you look.

Monday, May 21, 2018


All the children love one teacher, but then right next store is another teacher, and her children do not have the same love.  Two teachers, both competent, both with same age children, same demographics.    You could make it too priests, or two anybody, who have the same skill set, and intelligence.  Why is one loved more than the other?  I call it the hidden ingredient.  That is, it is hidden from the person who is loved, and even the children might not be able to name it.  If asked, they would say, "We just love her/him." Both teachers would be praised for their teacher skills, and competence.  But it is the hidden ingredient that brings out the love.  Since you cannot seem to control or manufacture it, just be glad that you have it.  Another name for "it" is Grace.  It is a free gift, I believe.  It is not the same as the love when two people are "falling in Love."  Or partner for "love."  Such love can fade as many people know when they hear or say, "I don't love you anymore."  The grace, the hidden ingredient that I am speaking about is not earned or manufactured.  You just have it.  How do I know.  Humility prevents me from saying more.😇

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Spider

I like this about the spider.  Why does it make its web where it does?  Wind, as in the breeze.  The wind blows little bugs toward the web, but the wind also helps make the web.  How?  The spider spins a length of thread, and attaches it to a board.  Then lets it go.  The spider waits.  The breeze, enough for a spider, blows the spider to the other side of the board frame.  There, the spider continues to spin the web.  The spider has a place to start.  Let go and let the breeze, or let go and let God, Power that is not the spider, Mother Nature.  The spider gets out of the way so that the power of the breeze can go to work.  What a metaphor!  You start to build a life that will nourish you.  You have to let go of resentments and character defects that would otherwise weigh you down and make you too heavy for the Power to  do its thing.  Know when to step aside.  In some circles it is called, "Let go and let God."  So be nice to spiders.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

School Lessons

Ms.  Dubois and all the other teachers in our Catholic schools, forget about teaching Catechism.  Kids forget that stuff.  I have a new practical curriculum.  My sample for this are my 93 years old friends who are twins.  They don't remember the seven deadly sins or the gifts and fruits of the Spirit.  But this is what they remember and kids need to know for a lifetime.  If you get cramps in your legs when you wake up, then have a bar of Ivory Soap in your bed.  Rub it on the cramps and they go away.  Also, drink Dill pickle juice and cramps go away.  Baking soda is good for many things, such as cleaning out stained coffee pots, odors in refrigerators and cleaning lots of other things.  If you have shingles, then sit in a warm tub of water with baking soda sprinkled into the water and the shingle pain goes away as will the blotches on your body.  The twins are 93 and that is what they remember from early life lessons.  God loves us even if we are ignorant of catechism, but why suffer cramps, stained coffee canisters and shingles!  If I preached this from the pulpit, I would be looking for work. 😍

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Rider

You might enjoy the movie, The Rider.  It has real cowboys in it.  You think "Oh no!"  But it is directed by a woman.  It shows a young man, with no education but rodeo riding.  It is who he is, and he gets injured and is not supposed to ride again.  But cowboys ride.  That is who they are.  But even more so, this movie shows a genuinely good man.  See how he cares for his mentally challenged sister.  He shows tender care for his bronco buddy who is debilitated from a rodeo accident.  Brady does not seem to need to get women into bed, to show he is a man.  He does not use people for his own benefit.  He has a belief in a God.  He has friends.  What will his decision be about riding again and why?  Well, you will have to see the movie.  Got lots of awards.  And who are you?  Are you living out who you are to the best you can?  Maybe you are a better person than you think you are.  Brady is.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Weather

I was on the way to the airport yesterday to fly to New York to see old friends, my Paulist community of priests, ordinations, museums and dinners.  On the bus to the airport I checked my email...too late, it seems, for my flight was cancelled due to bad weather at Newark airport.  The best I could do is the one available seat on Friday.  Bummer.  But the weather is not my fault.  So this is where I get to practice "life on life's terms, and acceptance of things I cannot change.  I try to keep boundaries between this weather reality delay, and my feelings, real but useless.  I did pretty good.  The feelings?  OK, they are, "God hates me," "Why me?" "My life is a mess," and then whining, self-pity, resentment, and fear.  They all come up, but they did not win out yesterday.  It turns out that other Paulists trying to get to NY also were delayed, and rerouted to other cities to spend the night or drive to New York in a rental.  I got to go home to my bed in Boulder, Colorado.  It is beautiful here, so I walked, got a haircut, met with lovely friends who accept me, and picked up some work for when I get back, assuming I get out to the ordinations which are on Saturday.  A spiritual program works, even for me, at least today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


The wait person in restaurants has a tough time in many instances.  They serve and struggle.  Maybe when we eat out we can be of service?  It is up to you but here is a little background on the tip world research.  First, there is no evidence that links attentive service to better tips.  But there is a correlation of better tips to something else.  What, you ask?  Looks.  The attractive women gets better tips.  Think about that one.  Now, there is a federal tip credit provision.  It allows owners to pay a sub minimum wage with the expectation that the tips will bring the worker up to or beyond the minimum wage.  This sub minimum was frozen in 1996!  So, some states raised their own sub minimum. Arizona "raised" theirs to $7.50 but West Virginia is $2.62.  Plus, servers find it hard to get enough hours of work each week.  We all have our own attitudes toward tipping.  But for me, I will keep all of the above in mind when I eat out in the future...assuming good service.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Car

I am a bit like a car.  Aren't we all?  My wheels are my two legs.  I am powered by mind, feelings, emotions, spirit.  Lots of parts have to be working together for me to go where I need to and ought to go.  Now, like any car, I need some maintenance or else I will not work properly or break down completely.  If no maintenance, then I become an unsafe car and will do damage to myself and others by running over them with self-will-run-riot.  So, on a daily basis I go into the spiritual shop, the exercise shop, the food shop, the rest shop, to stay tuned up.  Prayer, meditation, and trying to align my will and energy to go in the right direction is a good program.  If I don't get my power source tuned up, I will come to a grinding halt.  Then I will need serious repairs, or else I will break down altogether and be useless.  So, think of yourself as a car.  Stay fit on all levels.

Monday, May 14, 2018


I was about to post a blog for today, and something in me kept saying that May 14 was some special day.  Like what? Duh!  I suddenly realized that I was ordained a priest on this date 41 years ago.  I had such high hopes then, mixed with some fear and sense of being overwhelmed on this day so many years ago.  I was going to fix a lot of broken things, make the world a better place, make a difference.  I was sincere but a bit ego-centered.  I would find out, not soon enough, that I first had to fix me, and that would take a spiritual journey I had not envisioned on the day I was ordained.  What I know, is that God had my back, even though I was delusional.  Though some people tell me that I am a good priest, I see myself as good, given all my faults, and weaknesses.  That is, I could be a lot worse than I turned out.  And maybe I am still growing.  I would like to think so.  As long as I don't get stuck in my ways, I can be open to that Power, God, who has my back.  I still have work to do, on myself and for others.  Or God has work to be done and I just string along.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Purpose

We all have a purpose, I believe.  I am here for a short time for some purpose.  I think of characters in the Bible who show up once, do some deed, fulfill a purpose, and are never heard from again.  No one would even know that about them without reading the bible.  I may be like those persons.  I am sure something will be written about me in church or Paulist archives, but unless you read the archives, you will never know I even existed.  As long as I fulfill my purpose in life, the reason I am alive these few years, all will be good.  A fellow like George Washington is famous even if you never read about hime.  You hear about him in the USA.  Few people will be that famous.  But George and we can very well be equal if we all do the purpose for which we have been given life.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Gifts And Faults

If I want to stay connected to someone, I try to look at their gifts, rather than any faults or character defects they may have.  Unfortunately, this is work for me because I can tend to easily see faults but miss the gifts.  Maybe that is why I have so few friends?  Say it isn't so.  But if you want no friends, notice faults, verbalize criticism, or act critically, and you will create the desired distance.  We all have faults, priests less so than others, of course, so why focus on them.  Will they go away?  None of your business.  It might be their achilles heal to keep them humble.  Do unto others about faults.  Instead, I try to point out and celebrate a person's gifts.  I don't wait for them to agree.  Some people are simply very hard on themselves.  I try to be a "second opinion" in these cases.  All of us from time to time need second opinions because we focus too much on our own faults.  Some focus yes, for efforts to improve,  But too much focus is an ego trip.  "I should be better."  Enjoy being human, frustrating as it can be.  Pray for a friend who celebrates you and gives you a second opinion of your incredible self.


A few days ago I wrote a blog in which I suggested I was a "mediocre" priest.  Of the several hundred people who read the blog only 3 commented that I was NOT mediocre.  I did not know that so many people might agree that I am part of the problem.  Serves me right for fishing for compliments!  Humility is a good virtue to have, though at times not so much.  People say that I have a lot of fans.  I am feeling a bit insecure at the moment.  Acceptance and life on life's terms? There is a second blog today.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Being Of Service

How do you know that you are "being of service?"  You will feel better after the action.  I know people, myself included at times, who say they are being of service, or "helping" but they are grinding their teeth and carrying on this monologue about how others don't care, or appreciate them, or are just lazy and thoughtless.  If you find yourself "doing Good," however you define it, but are being judgmental, and resentful, then you might need Al-Anon as a better way to spend your time.  True service makes you feel better about yourself.  You have no control over how people will respond to your helpfulness.  Often you will be ignored.  The act will not even be noticed.  But when I am balanced, on my spiritual path, I don't really care.  I do the act for my own benefit.  Cleaning up around the house or where you work or meet would be a good example.  Be helpful.  Be anonymous. Love yourself.  You are worth it.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

When Weak, Then Strong

I have heard this phrase, "When I am weak, then I am strong."  Say what?  It used to puzzle me, but now I am beginning to get it.  The weaker I am, the stronger I can be.  Explain!  Well, some circles call the weakness, the "Gift of Desperation."  We have to get to a place where we know we are too weak to do something, that we have become powerless to change.  A bad habit might be an example.  By nature, a habit is something we cannot change on our own.  We need some help other than our own selves or our will power.  People who used to be rather shoddy in behavior and have found some spiritual path of change, often use this phrase of being weak enough to find strength.  They seem to share in common the gift of desperation.  I used to think that whenever I am feeling desperate, I am done, finished, a loser, defeated.  OK, this may be so, but it is not the END.  It is the beginning of seeking some other power, force, energy, whatever, that is not me trying to do it all alone.  I have made some nice friends this way.  We all shared the gift of desperation.  Then we began to share hope and strength that was in the group but not in any one person alone.  Isolation is the alone part.  Going into the seminary was an act of desperation, as I look back on it, but it did not work, because it was all about me trying alone to "get spiritual." I had to get more desperate.  I am still a mediocre priest, but it could be worse.  A lot worse.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Attitude To Action

When in a group, I have two attitudes about being of help.  One: I don't have to do anything.  Two: I get to do something.  If the first attitude, I sit there and let others do what seems to be needed.  There are other people who want to do stuff in the gathering, so let them.  It is not necessary that I be of help.  In this attitude, I do not grow much.  I participate, but at a less transforming way than if I have attitude number Two.  In this second attitude, I realize that the meeting, gathering, group, is an opportunity for me to be of some service.  Here, I find that I do grow not only within myself but within personal connections and bonding with others in the group who might be of service alongside me.  Even when I walk into an office, I try to ask myself, "What can I do to be of help to others?"  It may be saying hello, or how is your drive in to work, or how are you, or maybe just ignore someone because they seem at that moment to be concentrating on something. Say hello to someone else. Sometimes people are falling into isolation and maybe I can help to bring them back. The point for me is to avoid ISOLATION at all costs.  Is that a bad place for you too?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Manual Labor

The Cistercians were formed back in the 12th century because they thought the Benedictines did not do enough manual labor.  Manual labor, grunt work, was part of the Benedictine Rule.  I spend lots of time in a Cistercian Monastery.  Manual Labor was in part to make money for the monastery by producing something on a ranch or farm.  And in part it was to immolate the body.  BUT, most of the people who came to monasteries then and through much of the last century, were people who were already used to manual labor, from farms, factories and house chores.  No more.  Young people do not grow up doing house chores, work in factories or on farms.  If they grow up poor, they sure don't want to join a monastery that keeps them poor, as in the "simple life."  The poor today want to be out of being poor.  If they grow up middle to upper income people they have school and after school activities to keep them busy. If they work at all, and few do, it is seen as temporary manual labor to pay for school.  So to survive and get new blood monasteries try to come up with less manual labor and more skill ways of making a living through work.  Become tech servers for businesses.  Learn a trade skill such as woodworking that is not monotonous.  Monasteries that emphasize manual labor, rather than have it as a small part of the overall day, might be doomed.  We will see.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Stranger

What is a Stranger?  One person describes a Stranger as a Friend I have not met yet.  I like that, since I tend to be wary of strangers, not that they might hurt me, but that they might interrupt my controlling tendencies of the world around me.  Friends, even when not predictable, act within my accepted window of "OK" where fear does not take over.  Strangers tend to press the fear button, or the annoyance button.  I like things predictable.  But in reality, friends I have were all at one time strangers in my life.  I gave them and they gave me time to meet and know one another.  I don't mean someone who is meandering by or passing, but someone who enters into what I think is my space.  Airports and grocery stores are not my space.  Those are communal spaces where I don't do much beyond curtesy and kindness.  My school, home, office, social group, running group, these are places I go to regularly.  There, the stranger may indeed be a gift in my life, a new friend.  It is beyond acceptance, or life on life's terms.  It is an active and open reaching out.  The stranger may be a newcomer in my life.  And I may well be a newcomer in someone else's life.  Do unto others.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Worthy Touch

In some early Christian communities it was a custom to take some of the Eucharistic Bread home so people could partake of it each day during the week.  There were no church buildings as such then.  Mass was celebrated in homes on the Sabbath.  The early church thought people worthy enough to touch the consecrated bread, carry it with them and have it in their homes.  Way different than when I was introduced to Holy Communion.  We had somehow over the centuries become so unworthy to touch the Eucharistic Bread.  We received it on our tongues and had to swallow it before it melted, but don't let it touch any other part of our mouth.  It took skill to be a Catholic.  The church went from where the people were most worthy to host God at home, to where they were most unworthy.  The priest took communion to the sick.  You see unworthiness issues cloaked in other reasons all the time in rules and ordained, as to who can do which with what.  Who can touch this but not that.  I try to emphasize worthiness, but am probably breaking some rule.  I will plead ignorance rather than arrogance when I come to judgment.  Do you burn for trying to uplift someone's self-esteem?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Shift

The early followers of Jesus as a group were referred to as "The Way."  They hung around their native environs, talking to fellow Jews about who Jesus is, but always connected to what he said to do.  So the early believers were followers of his way of living.  Belief and action were always connected.  They did not take up the sword against those who disagreed with them, build economic empires, or rule everyone not them.  They shared all their wealth, healed people, prayed and preached The Way in their belief in Jesus' identity.  Then something happened.  There was a persecution and followers of the Way began to go to other lands.  One of these new places was Antioch, which is Turkey today.  Here believers talked to non-Jews who then talked to more non-Jews. There were conversions to a belief in who Jesus is, which eventually became the Dogma.  Here in Antioch, the followers of the Way began to be called Christian.  In time, I conjecture, the Way, the following of what Jesus said to do, as in the Sermon on the Mount, began to lose traction, as the belief in who Jesus is became the litmus test of being a believer.  Action softened up and Dogma hardened.  This would be a bit like someone saying they are in Alcoholics Anonymous but do not practice the Twelve Steps.  Membership without action, what is the point?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Don't Be Too Smart

I hear people say that they read a book that was really helpful in making their life better and fuller, or at least less miserable.  I ask them, "Did you ever reread that book?" Often they say no.  Hmmm.  Why would you not reread something that was so pivotal in your life?  I sometimes think that we get too smart and need to get a little more stupid.  Maybe you forgot key passages in that book that would help you now as your life is changing?  People say they read the Big Book, the Bible, the Tau Te Ching, the Vedanta, and so on.  For information? A bucket list item checked off?  I am always finding new things, or things I forgot in previous readings of transformative books.  I tend to keep them around.  Any underlinings were useful in the last reading, but hopefully, I have moved on and I need to read the whole passage or chapter, because there might be something there that I dismissed in previous readings.  Poetry can be like that too.  Read a poem once and then never again?  Ouch, that hurts.  But then maybe you never read poetry.  Whatever, but keep those books nearby that are helpful to you. They are our friends.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Solution To Life

Someone asked me, "What is the solution to life?"  Hmm.  You mean life as in the rest of your life?  I don't know what that solution is.  But I do have ideas about daily living.  The future, if there is a long term, is so uncontrollable and unpredictable.  But today, I can get a handle on that.  Repetition is my solution to daily living.  I find something that helps me to have a fuller life today, and I repeat it tomorrow.  If I think exercise, mediation, being of service, connecting with friends, listening to others who are working at a full life, are helpful, then I try to do those things on a daily basis.  What is a "full" life?  Try this:  Someone else is better off because you passed through their life today, or, you fed your soul as well as your body, that is, you ate of mediation,  the interior journey, or you did not trip over your bloated ego, or, you were assertive but not selfish, and finally, you did not whine.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


For me, the monastery is my "reset" button.  In all the other places I live or work, over time things go off kilter or amiss in me.  I get a bit out of sync in my spiritual practice due to other demands or the usual unexpected events that come into my life.  The monastery is where I begin to get back on track.  One of the things I work on here is the acceptance of life on life's terms.  "Stuff happens," as we all know. I can get caught up in resentment, or self-pity, but stuff will still happen because I cannot control the outside stuff, the decisions that others make that affect my life, though I may have little to no input into such events.  If I am properly reset when I leave here, then I have no expectations that things in other places where I live will be this or that.  Things will be as someone else wants them to be, and I just try and fit in or stay out of the way.  The monastery grounds me in contemplative openness.  Right now there is no hot water in our monastery bathroom.  Two days ago there was no water running in our monastery bathroom.  God is always working me over.  Where is the "reset" button?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Vine And Branch

Homily Notes
A Maureen Story!
Fr. Terry Ryan, CSP
John 15:1-8
April 29, 2018

Maureen was my first vine and I was her first branch.  I think she would have preferred to be a vine without branches, but I came along four years after she was born.  Her little brother.  She told me that when we were out together, I should stay close to her, do what she tells me, or else I will burn.  Such is the life of a branch.  One day, we were at The Bronx Botanical Gardens, with our parents, and a new baby, Elizabeth.  Neither Maureen nor I much cared for this new branch.  I was five and my big Sis was nine.  There was a pond.  I wanted to get close so I could look for fish, but it was quite muddy along the edges.  “Watch out,” she said.  “There are monsters in that water.”  This was a fib or course.  The Bronx would not allow monsters in their ponds.  Maybe Brooklyn, but not the Bronx.  Maureen tended to fib a lot.  I don’t think Jesus was in her Holy Communions, what with touching that fibbing tongue.  But I digress.  Back to the pond.  

I got too close.  Just as Maureen yelled, “Step back,” I slipped and fell into the mud and slid into the water.  I  could not yet swim.  I was helpless.  Suddenly, someone was in the water and pulling me up and out.  It was my big Sis, now all muddied and wet just like me.  She hugged me.  A miracle for sure.  Then she pushed me away and shook me, short of a concussion and said, “What did I tell you?  Are you ever going to do that again?”  I cried through my tears, “No.  Will I burn?”  “Not yet,” she answered, “But you will get a good spanking.  Here comes Mommy and Daddy.”  Our parents had been off yonder sitting on a bench, watching us from a distance.  

A spanking and then eventually burn is what one calls, “Having a bad day.”  As my frantic parents arrived asking what the dickens is going on, and looking at us Irish kids all wet and muddy in public, Maureen spoke up. “It is all my fault.  I should have been watching Terry more closely.”  My gosh!  Maureen was taking the rap to spare me a spanking.  Note however, that in Irish families I knew of, girls never get whacked.  Only the boys.  It is an injustice, I know, but I was born into it.  Oh, I digress again.  We all went home and got lectures, a bath and clean clothes.  Maureen was my vine.  

Jesus says he is the vine and we are the branches.  Stay close, real close to him and feed off his spiritual DNA.  Then maybe we will begin to love as he loved.  How might that look?  Well, it might look like a girl who gave up of herself, to pull her “to burn later brother” out of the pond, and then took the rap for his bad deeds.  If that is not a Christ figure then I don’t know who is.  So, who is your vine that gives you a life worth living?  Who is your branch to whom you pass on the best of yourself?