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!