Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Most of us have to work on not losing our temper. But some people have to learn to find their temper. They have trouble getting angry because they do not love themselves enough. They tend to think that whatever happened to them they deserved because they are bad or stupid or just a mess. They cannot forgive anyone, or have much of a resentment, given this condition. They have to first learn to love themselves enough to see that they were wronged and it was not their fault, or at least not all their fault. Then they can get angry and then work on forgiveness. For some of us, anger is a dangerous emotion. But it might be better than not loving ourselves at all. I may be a mess, but I am a lovable mess. I have lovable, messy friends too.
Monday, July 22, 2019
Do you really feel better when you mutter or criticize someone? I don't think so. I don't. We really don't get much relief taking the inventory of another person. If I want to change myself, this won't do. I will remain tethered to the old me who wants things to be a certain way, for people to act as I say they should. I want control and I want what I want when I want it. Well, that is surely the old me and that old me will stay pretty young and current if I go around muttering about how others are acting. Changing them I leave to another power that is not me. I have enough just dealing with my own shortcomings.
Sunday, July 21, 2019
When I was a child I heard my church teaching, "Outside the church there is no salvation." I was told this meant that outside my Catholic Church their was no salvation. My protestant friends had no chance, but I had a step up on getting to heaven. But this is not the true meaning of that saying. What it means is that outside of the group, the tribe, the fellowship, you just won't become all you are meant to be, which is salvation. God made everyone with great potential, but it must be developed, fostered, nurtured by and in a group. You don't practice much virtue alone and you don't learn much virtue alone. How can you love if there is no one around to love? To care for those in need if there are no such? Church represents group that knows one another and relates to one another. The fellowship of Recovery Programs is the way that addicts recover. They don't do it by themselves. Alone, at best, you will be dry, not injecting your substance, but probably full of anger, restless, resentful and irritated by the world around you. I cannot go it alone. I need a "We." Where you find your “we” you have found your church.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
A good prayer for someone is when it is a “Runway To God.” The prayer takes off from where we are and brings us to a connect with God. So, following a strict method on a daily basis may not be a runway type prayer. It does not begin where we are, but where we think we want to be to enjoy God. This prayer is all about feeling good. It is all about the person who is praying. I wonder if it is prayer at all. So where do I start? I start with some words from my heart. These words need only to be honest. Or I start with reading some psalm or short reflection that might help me to get in touch with what sentiment, words, desires I might have at the moment. Maybe I want forgiveness, or to give praise, or just to say hello. Sometimes I might say I don’t really want to pray now. After some words or reading, I might just want to sit quietly and be. Listen. Be even more present to the present moment. The 11th Step of recovery programs says, “Prayer and meditation.” The prayer part is my honest words. The meditation part is the quiet resting in the stillness. “Help me God! My life is a mess,” is a very honest prayer to start one on the runway.
Friday, July 19, 2019
Facebook type internet activities having a growing problem, or we who use it do. Everyday I get a notice of some “friend” who has a birthday. As time goes on, more of these birthday notices refer to someone who is dead. Maybe a new job for the executor or the funeral business is to find a way to let the account on FB know that this person is dead. It might not even be possible. I think someone could make a lot of money if they could code such a way to eliminate dead people from birthday notices. Maybe a R.I.P. or keep them in memory? I wonder now if my dead relatives are still getting ad notices from various places. It seems pretty hard to drop AOL when you are alive, much less to have someone try and drop your account after you die. I guess when your email account gets all filled up, it just stays filled up. When I stop blogging, I will be dead or in a remote hermitage. Can you get off an email account if you plead dementia?
Thursday, July 18, 2019
I am kind of a bacon and eggs guy, not that I eat it on any regular basis, but that I am nothing special, yet I can be nourishing, food for others in my life. It is fine not to stand out, "be special" because that can be all about vainglory. Is is important to be nourishing in a relationship, to be a giver and not always a taker. In a breakfast restaurant, bacon and eggs on the menu is nothing exotic or special. And if you are a vegan or veggie person, such fare is ignored. So I am not for everybody. Some people think that I am not for their spiritual diet. I am too unorthodox, too "different" from what they would find acceptable. Actually, I am more for the outlier. But that does not make me special. I am just a guy in the background doing my bit. And my blog can be nourishing as breakfast fare. Breakfast is your most important meal, you know. Oh! Maybe I am special. But try to fit in today with the world as it shows up, and you will nourish someone. Even if you are an outlier.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
If you love sports, either to play, but also to watch, I think you would prefer to marry someone who shares your enthusiasm. Why would you marry someone who at best tolerates your interest? Or thinks it to be a mindless waste of time? My friend Sue went to a Rockies baseball game and sat in the rain till 10:30 at night. OK, that might be a bit over the top of enthusiasm. Plus the Rockies are a mediocre team losing about as many as they win. The Rockies are a professional baseball team in Denver for those who are clueless. Now Sue would be my kind of woman. If the Pope ever changes his mind about celibacy I hope to find a woman who loves sports. And old guys too. I am on the way out. Hurry up Pope.
A person becomes an object when their purpose is to satisfy the selfish agenda of another. Someone may say they love you, but these are only words. Watch how they act toward you. They may say they are doing things that are loving you, but in fact, you get the sense they are more about themselves, their needs and wants. This may do for a child, but growing up means that people become subjects and not objects. When you are a subject, you are part of the other person. Why? Because they make you the subject of their selfless love. A parent might know this in relation to their child. They feel a bonding with the child to the extent that the parent acts selflessly in the relationship. When you are the subject, the "I" of the other person and your "I" are one. Objects, from my English classes, are acted upon for the sake of the subject who does the acting. Love knows no objects. All are one. If you don't get this, it might be that you are only an object of the people around you. They have you in their life to get something they want. When you stop fulfilling their agenda, they drift off.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
In my church there are seven sacraments, signs of God at work, if you will. But I think there are eight and the eighth is one that everyone can have, but few partake. It is “The Sacrament of the Present Moment.” The seemingly ordinary present moment can be so sacred, but we miss it. We see the people in it as getting in the way, or not cooperating, or an energy drain. We see only trash and not the beauty of nature, the architecture of buildings, interesting faces. These are moments that can reveal to us the depth of life, the odd but arresting scene, the sounds of birds and animals. But if I am all about my sore back, late for a meeting, resentful at something that did not go my way, and the traffic, both walkers and riders, I am all into myself. I live in a cave of darkness at these moments and all I have to do is awaken to the light. Some days or moments, not so easy to do.
Monday, July 15, 2019
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
GOOD SAMARITAN, LUKE 10: 25-37
JULY 14, 2019
When a person walks into an AA meeting for the first time, that person is rather naked with their truth, “I am an alcoholic.” Some of them have lost quite a bit too, including family, job, home, money and self-respect. No one seems to want to be with them. Their previous social status, their present ethnicity, sexual orientation, skin color, makes no difference. Everyone in the room is the same, alcoholic. This new person is welcomed by the people in the room. The AAs not only accept and welcome you but they want to help you with your wounds. Their attention and no questions asked attitude is like the Samaritan with his healing oil and wine. AA meetings are filled with good samaritan type people. The Good Samaritan in the Gospel binds up the naked victim’s wounds and cares for him. The two coins the Samaritan gives the innkeeper are the 12 steps and the 12 traditions. Once the alcoholic, like the robbed victim, recovers enough, he has the chance to review his life and see how he ended up in a ditch. Did he have any part in this happening to him?
So many of us often present ourselves as hidden behind our wardrobe, career, job, home, car, stuff. When someone asks, “How are you?” we respond, “I’m OK,” when in fact we are not. All of us want someone to love us, care about us, listen to us, when we are our naked self with no outer disguise. Think of the bride who stands naked before her spouse and wonders if she will be loved as her naked self, not only physically, but in gradually revealing her secrets/raw feelings to her spouse.
Will the robbery victim in the Gospel recover and make changes in his life so this does not happen again? Who knows. The Samaritan is not responsible for the results. He is responsible for his non-judgmental act of compassion and mercy. God may be invisible, but we are not allowed to be invisible to one another. We are a society of individuals, whereas AA is tribal. In the tribe, misery attracts mercy. Perfection comes through weakness. When you know you need help you are on the right path. We can each be that help to someone. Be the Good Samaritan. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Sunday, July 14, 2019
If you think that you are doing something that is bad for you, but you cannot stop, then think of yourself as a prize fighter who is losing the fight. The fighter gets knocked down, but gets up again and continues to fight and get beaten up and knocked down again. Each time down the fighter looks and feels worse. But in their mind, they think that they can get up again and have different results. They think that they can win the fight. Up and down, worse and worse. Now, you would think such a fighter to be really stupid. How dumb can you be, you think. Well, that is addiction. You continue to do something that is beating you up, but you think next time you will win. You never win. It always gets worse. On a daily basis, I try to stay out of the ring. Cease fighting.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Here is something clever I heard. The spiritual guide tells the follower, "Take my advice. I am not using it!" Oh how I have done that. I tell people some things they can do for their spiritual journey, but I am not doing them myself. I am a hypocrite. I don't tell them I am not doing something. I would lose my status, right? But the good news is that after I tell them and they walk away with a plan to improve, I have to sit with myself and ask why I am not doing what I just said to do. It is wake up call for me, lest I end up in a mess too. You tell someone to exercise, but you have been sloughing off. You tell them to eat a certain diet, but you have not lately been doing so. You tell them to pray, but you have no time for that now. You tell them to floss, do yoga, a diary, and so on. Many of us have solutions. But we don't listen to ourselves or have learned to quiet our best self. When all else fails, I try to be helpful to another. It is my wakeup call.
Friday, July 12, 2019
Some people tell me that they don't believe in a god. So I say to them, "Well, why don't you get a God you can believe in, Get your own God." Use your imagination. So many of us picture God, if we believe, as someone who looks human. Their image varies in age, skin color, facial look and clothing. But still human. Why have a human God if it does not suit you? Even the Bible came up with non-human images. Look at Genesis 15: 17-18. God comes into view for Abram as a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch. No human characteristics to compare or critique. The imagination is the key to your God-comfort, not your mind. God as a pot! Why not.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
There is a wisdom saying, "A good tree bears good fruit and a rotten tree bears bad fruit." Jesus used this saying. You will know people by the fruits of their life. It does not matter so much how people look, but what are the results of their actions. Some people nourish others by their life and some bring bitterness and a bad taste. So we might ask ourselves how much time do I spend on my appearance, how I present myself, and how much time do I spend on making sure my shortcomings don't add bitterness to the world around me? Appearances and manner are the exterior parts of our life, We need also to work on the interior parts. Anything rotting, besides our aging bodies? Accept the aging, but don't whine about it, or use it as an excuse to be helpless. I hope most of my blogs are good fruit. Some of them must be rotten given the pacity of responses I might get any one day. My big Sister, Maureen, told me I was a rotten kid. The past is past. Work on today's fruit.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Some people think that prayer is like a stage manager who is putting on a play. The manager makes space on the stage in which to do the production. Then the manager writes the play, directs the production, the lighting, the sound, and hopes that all this work will make for a successful play. This is the idea that prayer is all about what we do and how well we do it. Success depends on us if we want to get anything out of the prayer production. In fact, prayer is more about simply having an empty stage, free of clutter. God does the production, and it is never the same play or prayer from one day to another. So first we make the time to find the place for our prayer and then we let go of the clutter in our mind and heart, such as resentments. Centering Prayer is one way of doing this. My mind is always putting on plays. I am the hero. The spotlight is on me. All others are supporting cast. But this is never prayer. No humility in my plays.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
I am what someone called a professional forgetter. That is, I am really good at it. That is why when I say to myself that I will pray later I always seem to forget to pray at all that day. "Just do it," is a better attitude no matter how I might feel at the moment. I tend to postpone something because I think I will be in a better "space" later, or will feel more like doing later whatever I am not going to do now. If you must, think of your God or Power as a car. Cars don't want you to wait until later to change the oil or fill up the tank, or replace the oil filter. Only bad things happen to the car if you wait until you are "ready." God does not much care for you to wait and certainly your spirit does not do well with your waiting. The spiritual life needs daily maintenance. It is not the quality of the prayer, but the doing of it. And who are we to judge the quality of any prayer we do? The proof will be in how we live a saner day.
Monday, July 8, 2019
Though I speak about meditation it is not a steady practice, one day to the next picking up where we left off. Some people begin meditation with the attitude of getting back to the good feeling they had in yesterday’s meditation. This is an unrealistic goal. We need to begin our prayer from where we are. Honesty is key. Today is not yesterday. Yesterday everything might have been going my way and I was at peace and serene. Today I am feeling resentful, angry and envious all at the same time. Some incident or person cropped up in my life and this is what I take to my prayer. It is the starting off point. I don’t have to wallow in it, but begin with expressing my emotions honestly and openly to God. Be yourself which at this moment means all these emotions, feelings and judgments. Sit with them in the Presence of Love. Let the mediation come rather than jump into your method or posture. We can only become transformed from where we truly are each day. “Lord, help me!” Not a bad way to begin. We are not perfect so don’t try for whatever you think is perfect prayer. Usually it is getting what you want. Not much intimacy there.
Sunday, July 7, 2019
We tend to weigh the possibilities of something happening before we ask God for it. We shy from committing to a request until we think it can actually happen. It is as if we doubt God, and we do. There is a bible quote that counters this: “If you say to this mountain be lifted up and cast into the sea, and do not judge in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, so it will be for you.” So ask boldly, without discernment or judgment. Stop weighing the odds. Think of the alcoholic who hits bottom, their life in ruins and they cry out, “ God help me!” If you were to pause and judge the situation, you might say, “No way God can help.” Why? Because you weigh the persons life, or they weigh their own addicted past and the odds are against them changing. Yet, they cry out boldly for help. And many have come into recovery after this prayer. I pray that I will become holy, though my past and present show no tendency in that direction. I trust in God and put it out there. Maybe you need a bigger God.
Saturday, July 6, 2019
Sobriety is more than not doing your addiction. It is more than "NOT" doing something. It is about getting a life worth being sober for. I think this holds for anyone who thinks about a spiritual practice. Some people get into some practice because they don't like the misery of the life they are living. Whatever the practice, they begin to put move away from problematic situations such as a person, a job, unhealthy practices, drugs and alcohol. But they do not work at putting something more life-giving into this vacated space, so that they will have a fuller, happier life. So at the end of my day, when I examine the day, I say thank you for not doing bad stuff, like drinking. But then I have to ask myself what did I do to add to the fullness of my life. Am I making my life worth living? Usually some service, some connection to others in a helpful fashion is part of the fuller life. But some days it is taking a walk in the sun or reading a good book for the pleasure of it. Is your life worth living for you?
Friday, July 5, 2019
I hear people say to me, “I want to become more spiritual.” What is that? I think they are trying to say that by praying more or doing more devotional spiritual things they will become better people, closer to some inner tug. I see this journey as becoming “more human.” That is, we become more the human being we were made to be. We release our potential. Our humanity has the potential to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, selfless, generous, and such. It is built into us but it is all bottled up by trying to live a life self-propelled by lesser energies usually generated by fear. My contemplative practice is not so much to make me more spiritual, whatever that is, but to make me more human, that is, all I am meant to be. Ah, time is running out. Yikes!
Thursday, July 4, 2019
Happy 4th of July! You have some special plans for today? If so, you probably have to drop some things that you might normally do on a Thursday. You don’t make time for a holiday celebration. There is no extra time to make. You rather find time by giving up one thing for another. You won’t work at your job today, or do some other daily task. It is the same with persuing a spiritual life of some intensity. People tell me, “I will have to find time for spiritual practice, or meditation.” No, you cannot find more time. You only have the 24 hours. So you make time by dropping something. It is all about priorities. Sometimes you give up some sleep, or some TV for instance. When you want it badly enough, the desire is strong enough, you will make time. I have found it so.
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
The bathroom can be good and practical for several things. I remember when I got my own bathroom. I was 26 and a bachelor living in my own apartment in San Francisco. All mine! But one thing I have found out about the bathroom when you share it is that it can become a paradise of isolation. It is the one place you can go to get away from everyone, but yourself. You still have the mirror. It can give you various opinions of yourself when you look into it. If you are coming off of some very recent bad behavior, selfish, self-destructive, resentful striking out, or just being on the pity pot, you won't like much what is looking back at you. You are in your paradise of isolation and feeling like hell. So the next time you find yourself running away to the bathroom, if for no other reason than to escape, you might ask yourself, "How much of this is my problem, and what needs changing in me?" We can only work on the person looking at us in the mirror. No one else can make that person whole again.
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Fr. Jim and I both "graduated" in the Spring of 1967, he with ordination and me with my MBA. We both moved to Chicago for our first full time jobs. I first encountered him at a weekday mass at Old St. Mary's in downtown Chicago. His brief homilies would speak to some unattended parts of me, or some unsolved issues. Well into my second year in Chicago I asked to meet with him. We sat on park bench, so it was during Chicago's all too brief summer. I said, "What is the meaning of my life? What is my purpose?" I had asked this question of fellow employees at Standard Oil of Indiana and they felt their life as worker, husband, parent was plenty for them. They were full. I was not. Fr. Jim took my question seriously. He did not play the answer man like so many young priests tend to do nowadays. In fact he asked the question of himself as well. What was the purpose of his life as a priest? I got two things out of this about the Paulist Fathers. One, they can connect well to the laity. They can be where we are, entering into our world though they are priests. The second thing is that within their vocation, they search for their unique work. Though priests of a corporate church they are individuals. Within two years, Fr. Jim was transferred to Boston where he began work with divorced and separated Catholics which was cutting edge and not very acceptable in main line church circles at that time. His work became the "North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics." Eventually it became ecumenical. A Paulist priest: connects with the laity in their world and looks for what needs doing while still being a sacramental priest. Still ravaged by my shortcomings, these are my goals.
Monday, July 1, 2019
I hear people say that they are not addicted to something. But I have found that this is often an excuse to injest or do that very thing! "Oh, I am not addicted to shopping, so I can go shopping now and not spend a lot of money on useless or self-aggrandizing stuff," is one example. This is a pretty good signal that they are hooked on shopping but don't want to admit it. It would make them feel powerless or weak-willed. A person in a restaurant says to her friend who is an alcoholic in recovery, "Oh, I am not an alcoholic so I can have a drink now." Why would you mention it at all? Giveaway. I can say I am not addicted to vainglory, and then go and do something that puts me in the spotlight to get lots of praise and feed my blotted, damaged ego. Usually we say such things because we want to quiet a hidden fear that just maybe we might be a little too attached to something that controls us. Eventually, if we live long enough, don't go broke, or ruin our health, we come to accept our addiction and move on, to a better, freer life. If I don't honestly face the reality of me each day, mediation will reveal me to myself and then the struggle is on. If humility wins, I am the better for it.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
The ear is not the only faculty that listens. The will listens too. We decide to ignore someone and so we don't listen to what they are saying. The will decides and the ear simply follows. Or we decide to think about something else and not someone else, as in, "What did you say?" The will decides on what is important information depending on our priorities. If you are starving, you will hear the dinner bell, no matter how distant. One of my efforts in becoming a better person is to align my listening will to whoever is talking to me. I think when people say that they gave up prayer because they heard nothing, it might be because they do not know how to listen, but only how to ask for what the will wants. And they did not get what they wanted.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
One of the reasons I seem to hang onto some of my character defects, bad as they are, is that they give me comfort. It is difficult to learn how to live without them. A new way of life would be one in which love gives me comfort, both receiving and giving. When I say that I am willing to have my defects of character removed, I am saying that I am open to love as my primary comfort, not selfishness, judgments, being the center of attention, and beating myself up to look good. Can I exercise as a way to praise God, or must it be so that I will look good to others? Can I be into surrender and letting go as a way of being more selfless for the sake of others without doing damage to myself? Can I be in the background and enjoy that others are in the center light? Can I be into action that benefits others and not worry so much about what I will get out of it? Can I accept love without having to try and earn it? Can I find comfort in not getting my way? Working on this one every day.
Friday, June 28, 2019
Did you know the male ballet dancer in classical ballet is called a danseur? In classical ballet he did not get to do do much alone. Mostly, he assisted the ballerina as when he held out his hand to help her completer her turn or spin on her toes. The ballerina is beautiful, but she needs help in doing her stuff in the ballet. What a metaphor for a sponsor or spiritual guide, one person helping another to turn around their life. Conversion means that we turn, but we cannot turn our life around all by ourself. How many times I have heard or said myself, "Oh, I will never do that again," only to do the same old stuff, left to our own will power. We all need help to change. The danseur must be skilled and the ballerina must trust him. She puts herself in his hand. God is my danseur who knows what to do. Alone, I just spin around and fall down, over and over. I got tired of that. God and I make a wonderful couple.
Thursday, June 27, 2019
When I am in Boulder, Colorado I live in a rectory in which the cook speaks Spanish. My understanding and speaking Spanish is terrible. The cook is an opportunity for me to practice not so much my Spanish, as resentment or humility. I try to opt for humility, because it diminishes my ego. When it comes to Spanish, I am but a dummy. I am out of my league and vulnerable to not knowing what is going on. The other priests speak fluently. I have self-centered fears about being less, not having control and so on. Our cook is a blessing in my life. Whenever I am full of myself, big ego and all, pompous and self-centered, all I have to do is walk into our rectory any weekday and be reminded of my shortcomings and my need for help. This keeps me right-sized. Oh, and if you have issues with Spanish try, traductor as an app on your smartphone. Write in English and it simultaneously translates into Spanish. But it seems like it quits after about 50 words, so it is no good for homilies, unless you are going to preach a 50 word homily. No priest does that!
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
When I was told as a boy that I should not swear, I thought it meant curse words. But the original intent was that we are always supposed to tell the truth, so we don't need to swear as in, "I swear this is true." We were expected to be truthful with everyone, rather than only with some people to whom we choose to tell the truth. Alternative facts are for people who we would judge as to not have a right to the truth. At least that seems to be how it works out today. We lie but don't call it a lie if it benefits our own agenda. Used car salespeople had this reputation for instance. I am usually lying when I would say, "I swear, I didn't do it!" I was a bad boy. Worse as a young adult. Slightly better as a priest. I swear I am better!
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Today is my sister Elizabeth's birthday. She is the middle girl of three sisters. She is very important in our family. She is the sibling that everyone wants so that they can say, "Well, at least I am not as bad as her/him." All of us Ryan kids were bad but in different ways. My big sister, Maureen, was a witch. But she went from a wicked witch when I was a kid, to a nice witch when I grew up. Janie, the youngest child was bad but she had the gift of making people think she was good. The baby of the family gets away with a lot. Parents are too tired and old to pay all that much attention. So Janie could say, "At least I am not as bad as Bebs." This kind of gave Janie a pass in her conscience. She and Bebs hung around with friends who were bad too. Party, party. Janie is better now. I was bad and stayed bad for a long time. I tried to hang around with holy people so I would have a cover and maybe get good. I am a work in progress, but thank God for Bebs. I use her as an excuse for not trying to improve myself. "At least I am not as bad as Bebs." Now she has gotten a lot better but we siblings cannot afford to accept that because then we cannot use her as an excuse to keep our bar of good behavior as low as we want. We all do this with coworkers, associates in volunteer associations, school moms, and I do it with priests. We all like someone we can judge as worse than we are at the moment. "I am fat? Well, look at her! At least I am not that fat." And on it goes. But to my skinny little sister, Elizabeth, Happy Birthday. I love you unconditionally.
Monday, June 24, 2019
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
LUKE 9: 11B-17
JUNE 23, 2019
Like many children at St. Frances of Rome parish in the Bronx, my First Holy Communion was a big deal. But not such a big deal that many of us would leave the church attendance when we grew up. I had a different experience that kept me attached to my church. It happened when I was an altar boy soon after my First Communion. I was comfortable enough with my tasks that I could actually pay attention to what was going on. When the priest held up the host for everyone to see, as his back was turned toward the people in those days, I looked up at the host and said, “Wow! That’s God.” It was a deeper wow than First Communion. I guess it stayed with me when I needed it most.
I went to mass regularly all the time I lived in New York. But when I moved to Chicago for a job, at age 24, I immediately gave up mass attendance and holy communion. Since I had a good salary, was single, with discretionary income, I debauched into mortal sin on weekends. I was a single bachelor with friends who showed me a debauched lifestyle. This went on for several months. Then I felt that something was missing. My life was not feeding me sufficiently on all levels. I missed holy communion. I missed that “wow.” Around the corner from our corporate office was a small church run by the Paulist Fathers. They gave good, short homilies for us lunchtime people. I went to confession, got rid of the mortal sins and went to communion. I felt that connection when the priest elevated the host and when I went to communion I was fed. I got to eat God. I felt a bit of a healing like in the gospel. Healed and fed. That wow moment of many years ago was still there. It kept me connected to the church, if by a thread or the width of a host.
Weekends I still fell into debauching. Weekends were not for church. But then a weekday would come along and that feeling of missing God came strongly to me. So I went to the Paulist noon mass, confessed and received. I moved to San Francisco and made new friends who liked to party like me. But up the street from my office was a Paulist Church, Old St. Mary’s. Same good homilies and same feeling when I went to receive. I would go back to the pew, kneel and think, “God gave me everything in this host. What am I giving God?” Since I am a wretched sinner, it took a while, but look at me now! A Paulist priest, but giving a homily that is neither good or short! My connection to the church all those years and even now might seem simplistic to you. There is some very sophisticated post modern theology about unity, non-dualistic thinking, each of us being part of a supernova that blew up billions of years ago to form our solar system and so on.
I get all that and it is impressive, but it never changed me for the better. I never felt a compassion or oneness with others because we all come from the same energy field. But when I receive the Eucharist, eat God, I think of how the people around me have the same God inside them, so freely and fully given. We are one in this God. And all those people who don’t receive are still part of this God that I just ate. I am challenged and energized, or graced, to connect with them all, one on one in kindness, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and service to them. Wow!
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Another metaphor for meditation is the night sky. At my monastery, at 8,000 feet altitude, I walk outside at 3:45 AM and look at the sky. At first, I see some stars, a lot more than I would see in the polluted Front Range of Colorado or the too lit city of San Francisco. But there are many more stars up there that I don't see at first. I have to stay in the darkness outside for awhile, freezing. Gradually, more stars appear. They are always there, but I need to stay in the darkness longer to get my eyes to open to the darkness. So it is with meditation. I go back inside the monastery and go to Vigils Prayer in the Chapel. At first, my mind is racing about with this and that. The imagination is in full power mode. But little by little I begin to quiet down and a stillness comes over the mind and imagination. I rest quietly, still, silent, in the darkness. And so much that is always here within and around me, comes to light. You must come to my monastery and get holy! You certainly don't come here to get a lot of sleep! Oops, self-pity. Not holy yet.
Saturday, June 22, 2019
When I walk into a room that is dark, no computer lights or night lights, I cannot see the furniture. But if I stand in the dark for a while, my eyes adjust and I can make things out and not trip over them. But I won't see the dirt on the same furniture or the floor/rug. When morning comes, and it is light from outside I can see all the dirt. This is a metaphor for a prayer journey. At first, all seems so dark and obscure. What am I doing? I don't see anything or feel anything special. I don't know where I am going. But as we stay in the seeming darkness, that is practice, or sit for awhile in silence, we may begin to sense/see, feel something more than darkness. We are not so uncomfortable. Lots of people get this far and they like it. Eyes closed but feeling OK. "Maybe I am becoming a spiritual giant!" the ego suggests. But if we stay with the prayer, as in a room, a light will come and it is not so beautiful a light. It is the light that points out our shortcomings, bad habits, vices, the mess that adheres tightly to us. Woe is me! Now what? For a recovering person this would be an intro to the content of step four. For everyone it would show that we need to do some work, and to continue with the prayer is part of the work. It keeps us in touch with the only Energy and Power that can detach us somewhat from these problematic areas so that we don't always act them out. Eventually we can practice better behavior on our neighbor. But keep with the meditation times. You are your first neighbor to love. You will find love beneath the dusty mess.
Friday, June 21, 2019
I think that the solution to a lot, if not all of my problems, is to find love. I think that is why I meditate. Deep within me is a force, an energy, a presence that loves me. I cannot see it, but I can experience it at times and it keeps me on track to live a better day. Meditation is intimacy in stillness and silence for me. Now, many people try to find this love through sex, but usually when they are doing this, they have put the physical before the emotional need for intimacy. The Desert Fathers and Mothers say, "The body saves the soul." The body energy tries to tell the spirit, the deeper self, that it needs to share its deeper self, feelings, thoughts, identity with a friend. But the will (somewhat broken) picks up on this message and messes it all up. The will says, "Oh, the body has a passion, a physical need. Let's have sex with the friend." So you do and then you are in a pickle. You are now afraid to reveal your inmost thoughts and fears because you don't want to be rejected and dumped. The sex was not so bad, but something is missing. Tell that to your new bed partner? I don't think so! I think that a lot of young people in recovery get caught up in this process. But since I never hear anyone talking about this, maybe I am all wrong or uniquely weird. But if you don't know what your deepest feelings, anxieties, hopes, and identity are then you cannot talk about it anyway. Mediation helps me to get in touch with that too. It takes buried stuff and brings it to the surface where I can feel it. That is not always fun. But growing up is hard work. And sex is not a short cut to growing up. As I grow up in honesty and sharing, I find love...and with my clothes on.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Whatever the color of your eyes, that is what they will stay. You cannot change that. But at the same time you can practice good eye care behavior to try and keep them healthy. Don't look directly at the sun for instance. It is the same with an addiction or a really deep dysfunctional habit. They stay with you, but you can make sure they don't mess you all up. First, admit you have the problem. Then practice good behavior instead of the problematic behavior. You are trying to find a new way of living that does not require your problem as the solution. You no longer use drink, drugs, food, sex, gambling as the solution to your present situation. You don't respond with anger, whining, jealousy, judgment, or self-pity to situations in daily life. If you have a cold and don't take care of it, you get sicker, as in pneumonia, and then you die. Addictions will do that too. And on the way, you will suffer the symptoms of restless, irritable and discontent. Daily medicine of meditation can help.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Barnabas was an early disciple of Christianity. He was a big deal. He sold property and gave the money to the church. He was at the first Church Council in Jerusalem to decide important issues. He was sent out as special emissary and he introduced Paul to the leadership when Paul was a nobody. Then he and Paul became famous as a team. Then Barnabas got dumped from the historical narrative. He disappeared from view as Paul became the more famous. This stuff happens to many of us. We seem to have a central and memorable role to play in the life of a family, community, business, club, and then suddenly or slowly we become anonymous, not so central, even forgotten. Many of us have the experience of: "I used to be somebody." I am nothing much now in the priest/church business. I have no title or clear job description. I used to be someone with a title and job: Pastor. Stuff happens and oblivion becomes our companion. But we who have this happen to us are no less important or less worthy than before. We are simply less recognized or needed in a specific role/job. The empty nest syndrome is an example, or your child becomes a "teenager" and you are just a pain in the neck to them. You get to a certain age in your corporate job, and get the feeling the bosses wish you were gone. But our self-worth is not based upon titles or what others think of us. It comes from within. Everything else is fleeting.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Many times, trying to get my will is not the best thing for everyone else. Example: I got up one morning quite early at the monastery because my body hurt in bed. I went downstairs to get a cup of fresh brewed coffee. I saw that the decaf coffee had not yet been brewed, but the fresh decaf coffee grinds were in the filter and ready to make a pot. So I put the filter into the coffee machine and turned it on to make a full pot. I was of service. My will was done. Then next morning I got up equally early and went downstairs to get a cup of coffee. Again, the decaf had not been brewed yet but the grinds were again in the filter ready to go. BUT there was a big sign on the decaf coffee pot: 1/2 pot only! I had set it to brew the morning before but there were only measured grinds for a 1/2 pot. So the decaf drinkers got brown water to drink yesterday. Their will and the will of the monastery was not done. My will was not in sync with the community. So too in prayer, I do not ask if my will is being done, that is, the prayer is going like I want. I ask is God's will or HP being done. Am I in sync with God?
Monday, June 17, 2019
My spiritual and emotional development meetings that I go to are all about action. People at these gatherings tend to talk about wha they do in order to keep on tract or to get better. They may share some of their false steps or mistakes, but that is in line with explaining their discovery of what to do, versus what not to do. I find this refreshing. How many meetings do you go to in which most of the talk is "complaining" and not about action to improve situations? I hav been to enough of these. People there act of if they are powerless to do anything. They talk about all that is wrong, and how life is a mess in their work or personal world. People complain about religion, leadership, always about the other persons and not themselves, the victims of all the mess in their lives. I go to these meetings when I have to as part of my work, but then I need to go to the more spiritual centered, pro-active meetings to get rebalanced and sane.
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Without an interior life to discover who we are, with all our faults and gifts, we live a life like we were a guitar that is always out of tune. We are always a bit out of sorts, restless, prone to cranky and flights of control, and so on. We are always out of tune and it irritates us. We are trying to tune our guitar life with a hammer. But in some interior life, meditation, solitude we make some space for the Tuner to come and get us in the proper tune. Then we realize for a time, “Life can be beautiful” without needing to be all about me. But the guitar goes out of tune daily. So daily we need that Tuner. Make the space. Reward those around you with being in tune.
Saturday, June 15, 2019
Time is the measure of motion. If there is no motion, there is no time. The universe is moving. Our planet spins around. Time passes. If nothing moved, there would be no experience of time. That is why in deep meditation or contemplation, we are not aware of time passing. The interior stillness is that profound. I find it so here in the monastery in the coming dawn, as I sit in chapel. The mediation becomes so interior and still, that I am not aware of time. Suddenly the bell chimes, and I realize that a whole half hour has passed. Where was I? What was I doing? In the stillness. Come visit my monastery. We age slowly here!
Friday, June 14, 2019
Staying on a spiritual path is not the same as staying on the right direction when you are trying to find an address, such as a movie theatre or someone's home, or business address. For those things we have our smart phones and GPS apps. What if you had no GPS and were trying to find a place with some vague directions or with a big paper map while trying to drive the car? And the map only tells you the street, not the exact location. Try that at night with no street lights. Well, the spiritual path is one with no smart phone GPS. God of your understanding is your GPS. This takes a lot of trust, and you don't know where you are going, how to get there, whatever "there" is. But each moment on the path is a "there," or time of arrival. You are being directed by love. You are always where you are supposed to be if you stay connected with this power that is guiding you. Love is your GPS. Thank you Ricky Manalo for this good advice.
Thursday, June 13, 2019
There is a quote, "It is 40 miles into the forest and it is 40 miles out." Which means? If you have lived much of your life badly, you won't change overnight. It takes some time. When people decide that they have had enough of bad behavior, find some spiritual path or program of recovery, they sometimes get impatient at how things don't go better all at once. Why do they keep doing some of the old behavior? Bad behavior, faults, defects of character that are imbedded in us from years of practice, don't disappear all at once. You cannot exterminate them like you do an insect. If you are self-centered and selfish, prone to whining and self-pity, blaming others, you will not stop all at once, but you will begin to catch yourself before you go too far into the behavior or you will begin to replace, slowly, bad stuff with good stuff. Acceptance and being useful to others will begin to bud in your life. And remember to ask for help before you become desperate. It is part of your spiritual way. You are not God, but rather a feeble person learning to walk a new path.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Did you know that tap dancing came about in the 19th century Bowery in New York City? You may have seen the Irish Jig. It is a very specific step up and down. So there is a tapping, but that is not tap dancing as we know it. A 16 year old boy of color, William Henry Lane, was doing some shuffling around, creating some movement with his feet but not tapping. He saw the jig. The Irish were everywhere in the Bowery, as were many people of color back then. Lane took the specific tap of the jig, and combined it with his creation of various movement with his feet. Voila! Tap dancing. I like to tap and make up stuff myself. I travel too much for lessons in one place. So I just tap and enjoy myself. It is good exercise too. And I don't need a partner. So no matter what your lifestyle is, follow your passion, or interest, and have fun. I leave expertise for bigger egos than mine.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
The founding story of my country and my church are quite different in one area. When I was growing up and studying history of the USA, Washington, Jefferson, Adams were towering figures that appeared seemingly without flaws. They seemed to work well together to create our institutions and our government. Monroe and Madison were equally wonderful. My church, not so much. Peter and Paul were the founders and they come across in the scriptures, the church early history, as full of flaws. Plus they did not get along so well. Eventually, they improved individually and with one another. The early church was not so afraid to show our imperfections. But I learned to love my church even with faults and failures. Love does not require perfection, or else there would be little love in my church. It was only when we had a powerful Vatican central government that we learned to hide our flaws. My country hid flaws early on, but later revealed them. Today we have wonderful modern critiques of our founding members. Jefferson and Adams did not get along. That they died on the 4th of July in the same year is quite ironic. But having discovered many of the flaws of my country and our founders, I can still love my country. Love allows us to work to change things for the better. If you hate something you just leave it if you can. People do that in my church. But I stay to make things better in my own little corner of the church and my country.
Monday, June 10, 2019
I run into a person here and there who says they have to leave their family or put their family second to following Jesus. I find this puzzling. Why? Well, if you look at the bible where it talks about what Jesus did, you might notice that he spent about 90% of his time with his family. Even when he went to Jerusalem for Passover at age 12, he was with his family. And when they lost him, and found him in the Temple, he went home with them. Then no one heard from him for another 18 years. He lived a family life. So given the percentages, I think family life is way important, and leaving it for the other 10% I might call into question. So if Jesus is God. as Christian followers claim, then God seems to like family life quite a bit. For some people, leaving family is just another way to run away. But you take your problems with you. Your own self.
Sunday, June 9, 2019
In religious paths, whatever they might be, and how they vary, all seem to have some divine visitation that will tell believers what is to come, i.e. the future. But after a religion has been around for a while, a good while, as most of them have, the followers don't seem much interested in the future. Why? The future is all about change. People don't want change. That is why they like traditions in their religion. They want things to stay the way they are. People want a comfort zone in their spiritual practice. The like the past to stay past. It is the parent of the present, and they really like what they have now, or otherwise they would leave. But we tend to put a nice term to this intransigence. We call it "Stability." Big Religion loves stability. It keeps power secure. But I believe that the future of stability is extinction.
Saturday, June 8, 2019
So you believe that you are a heretic? You have church teaching to condemn you as well? But you hang on to what you think to be the truth, your truth. Well not to worry. Yes, people will tell you that you will burn for not holding to orthodoxy as it is taught. But orthodoxy, the catechism, might not be able to grasp the seemingly oppositional thinking of some persons. That does not make such persons heretics, except in a too narrow definition. It is true that being faithful to one's beliefs, one's view, can result in short term unpleasantness from some hierarchical power structures. But not all is lost. I refer you to Joan of Arc. She was billed a heretic. She would not recant her views. They burned her at the stake. But later, much later, like centuries, they made her a saint. You just have to get through that burning at the stake part. No wonder so many of us cave in and just go along.
Friday, June 7, 2019
For some of us, we can treat religion like a Hollywood marriage. As the tabloids seem to indicate, if the marriage no longer suits you, dump it. There is no "for better or worse." So I don't want to treat a religious path that way. There are times I scratch my head over my Catholic church and ask, "Why do I continue?" The answer, at times, lies not so much in what I get, but in what I give. There are times when I settle for not getting one thing, but then getting something else important. But other times the answer is, "What do I give to make this work?" No religion, much less a spiritual path will give me everything. If it did, it would not be much of a spiritual solution. It would be all about me getting what I want. Like in a relationship, you never get all you want. The "all I want" is unreal and selfish for me. At times I grow to the extent that I give back. How? Be of service. Don't sit around simply waiting to be taken care of. Become the giver too. Relationships are give and take. If only one side gives and the other side only takes, you don't have a relationship, or a spiritual path or a religion.
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Modern conversion work is a flip from what it used to be. Nowadays the tendency is to go into an area and focus on the poor, the simple powerless people, deal with their everyday economic and social problems, meet them one on one, and this might attract them to your religion. Christians do this today especially, but this has not been the approach for most of Christian history. The missionary came to convert the powerful, and then their subjects would follow. It works especially in a hierarchical culture with kings and queens, who have subjects that follow or else. The downside is that the church tends to associate more easily with wealth and power, as can be seen in Western History. It does not much trust in government by the people. A second problem is that the converts are not true followers of the faith, but rather followers of the prince or power figure. You end up promoting survival, economic advantage, but the attraction of the faith becomes secondary. I like the 12 step modern way. It is attraction, one on one encounter, in which one person is attracted to the way of life of the second person and wants what they have. Everyone is equal. No bosses to sway you.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
When armies stop fighting, slaughtering, destroying and all that goes into war, "peace" is declared. A peace treaty might be signed. But this is not so much peace, as it is the absence of conflict. Devastation is rampant. Often one side is simply destroyed and not capable of making war. Surrender and then you have peace. War does not bring about peace, or at least a peace that is permanent. Peace for me comes from my heart, wishing good things for the other person or persons. This means I must let go of some things for the sake of another person. It might be as simple as letting someone cut into line in front of me because they are frantically in a hurry and lack all peace. It might be giving someone the right away on a street or highway even though they have the "yield" sign and I do not. It is moving to the center of the pew when someone comes in late or at is searching for a church seat. It is so everyday and it builds. Countries can learn to do this too. It is not appeasement but rather learning how to share on this small planet. We may be running short of resources but we never seem to run short of lethal weapons.
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
I just bought a new pair of running shoes, but not for running. They are multicolored and quite beautiful. I will wear them to show off. Yes, bad priest. But the shoes remind me of friendship. Though the shoes are multi-colored, no one color stands out. But all the colors come together to make one beautiful design. The colors mix and weave among each other. From a distance, the shoes might look all the same color. Up close you see the differences. I think of friendship and community as like my shoes. In friendship, everyone is equal and mixes well together. No one dominates. Differences yes, but differences are essential to the overall beauty so long as no one type dominates. From a bit of a distance away, a group of friends looks like a community of one, somewhat the same, as in the way they treat one another. But up close you see the differences and such differences meld together to make a beautiful whole. In a hierarchical, corporate, government, military structure you do not have this. It is rare to be true friends with your boss, the person who signs your check or works for you. Friends are not on guard about anything. Jesus said, “I call you friends.” I like that.
Monday, June 3, 2019
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 1: 1-11
LUKE 24: 46-53
JUNE 2, 2019
The movie, “Rocketman” just came out this weekend. It is the story of Elton John, the singer and song writer. I saw him in a live performance in Denver this past winter. In the middle of the concert, after he finished a song, Elton said to the audience, “In 1980 I said the three most important words in my life, ‘I need help.’” He was addicted to substances and knew that he had no power to control the addiction, much less stop it. All the power and talent and drive he had to make a successful music performance career was no help in kicking his addictions. He was witnessing to a life of recovery for the audience.
He got sober, and what he has to say to himself each day, if he is going to stay sober is, “I need help.” The addict can get all dried out and clean. The addict can learn all about the addiction and a program of recovery. But the addict is never going to be the power to stay sober. Yesterday’s sobriety took care of yesterday. Today one must stay in touch with that power. In the movie many did see, “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper plays the role of a famous performer who is addicted to drugs and alcohol. He dries out and gets clean, in a recovery center, goes to their meetings and comes out seemingly sober. He has knowledge. But he did not, on a daily basis say, “I need help.” it was as if he felt, “I got this. I’m good.” He hung himself. Jim Morrison of the band, “The Doors” died of addiction in his thirties. No power connection.
In both the Ascension readings today, Jesus tells his followers that they will be witnesses of what they saw in Jesus’ life, and his teachings. They will be witnesses in word but also in the new way they will live their life. But they had to wait until they received the power of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit they will do nothing more than be people with first hand information about Jesus. They could write a catechism. Their actions won’t go beyond that and some praise and worship. Disciples have to say on a daily basis, “I need help.”
I meet many people who used to practice some meditation method, like Centering Prayer, but gave it up and now do nothing. At one time they did ask for help in how to do a method. They found a group and practiced with the group in meetings. Then they decided,”I got this. I’m good.” They thought they had the power. All they had was a method, some information. They did not start out each day with, “I need help.”
I cannot transform myself into all God wants me to be. I cannot, on my own power, stick to what I know about the spiritual path or emotional sobriety for that matter. So I try to begin each day with, “I need help.” It has kept me trudging along the road to happy destiny. And somedays, I even tap my way along!
Sunday, June 2, 2019
Did you know that the distinct accent you hear from some native New Yorkers was begun in the Bowery? It was developed by a group of men to set themselves off from other groups. They wore a distinct type of clothing too. They called themselves "The Bowery Boys." They came about in the late 18th and then early19th century when New York City was pretty much lower Manhattan, named such from an Indian tribe living there. Bowery is derived from a Dutch word for "farm." The Bowery Boys certainly were not well to do, and the accent migrated to the Bronx and Brooklyn bye and bye. I am a Bronx boy and still have some of the accent when I get excited. The Bowery Boy Hollywood movies of the 1930s had nothing to do with the real Bowery Boys who were adult men. Whenever I hear this accent it is makes me feel a little bit of home. I wonder if this patois will be heard in heaven? Does God speak New York Bowery? It would give me a leg up for getting into heaven. I am holding onto my accent just in case.
I have found a way to have a bit of serenity in my life, but it requires some brutal honesty and courage. If I resent someone or something, some situation, I write it down. Then I ask myself what happened, that is, why do I have this resentment. I resent John. Why? What happened? He ate my private stash of candy, though there was no label on it that said, "Terry Candy. Do not touch." What was my response? Anger, self-pity, whining, dislike and fear that I will have a life without candy. With all those lethal feelings, I am having a rather bad time of it. But there is one more step. I ask the question: "What is my part in this resentment?" Grace shines a light on the reality that I am selfish, stingy, and gluttoness. I have control issues about my stash. I hoard. Why not share my candy? Horrors! Share? Yes, I realize that my problem, my resentment is my own doing. But now I can act so that I will let go of the resentment and feel better. Let go of fear and share. John gets candy freely given and I have a better day. Four part solution. I did not invent it. You can find it in the fourth step of recovery programs' twelve steps.
Saturday, June 1, 2019
As a kid, I watched the "Howdie Doodie" show on daytime TV. They referred to the kids in the audience as" the peanut gallery." But they did not eat peanuts. So why that term? It goes back to the Bowery Street Theaters in 19th century New York City. The poor folks all sat together, just like kids did at the Howdie Doodie show. The rabble of lower class people drank beer and ate peanuts during the performance. They did not dress as well as the upper class, nor were they as quiet. The lower class were referred to as "The Peanut Gallery." I try not to pigeon hole people as a class or type. Each person is unique and a special gift in my life to teach me or challenge me, to grow to be a better person myself. I don't give them a name, such as, "poor," "dumb," "ugly," or "worthless." But when I buy the cheapest seat in the house and can barely see the actors, much less their expressions, I do feel like I am in the "peanut gallery." But no peanuts. Does anyone remember the "Howdie Doodie" TV show? Quiz. Name of the Clown? The Princess?
Friday, May 31, 2019
I have zombie faults. They never stay dead and buried. They keep coming back. You really cannot permanently kill a zombie, but you can keep it from ruining your day and the day of others. Fear is the zombie's friend. If I am fearful, I will be destroyed by my zombie faults. I must be courageous. How? Keep in touch with what my role is in activating my zombie faults. What do I do, repeatedly, that gives them life to mess with me. Am I fearful about losing something I had or not getting something I want? This is often based upon self-centeredness and selfishness. The control zombie is given life again. So, on a daily basis, before I get into my day, I examine my safely buried faults. What can I do to keep them dead? Love, patience, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance might be some of the courageous things I need to practice and keep in focus. Surrender control! That takes courage.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
JOHN 14: 23-29
MAY 26, 2019
My problem is zombies. You don’t believe in zombies? At your own peril then. Zombies are such creatures that die but they don’t stay dead. They keep coming back from the grave to haunt a person. My zombies are my faults and character defects. When I am faithful to a spiritual practice, and things seem to be going my way, my faults seem to be dead and buried. I am at peace.
Then stuff happens. I get complacent or busy with agenda, usually ego driven, and slack off of spiritual practice. Also, things don’t seem to be going my way. My plans are not working out. People, and situations become the bane of my life. My character `defects and faults rise up from the grave and haunt me. I act out with zombie resentment, anger, whining, self-pity, judgments of others, and selfishness. No one cares. I am abandoned to my unhappiness. Zombies rule my mood and actions.
In the midst of zombie terror, the Holy Spirit comes to my aid with an incite to save me from myself. “What is that?” you ask. It is that I attach my happiness to how people, places, and situations act. I am no longer free to be happy. My happiness is controlled by outside issues that are beyond my control. I cannot control the results of everything that I do.
I can say, “I love you God,” but then not do what God asks because I am caught up in my zombie moods as it relates to the unpredictable and uncontrollable world around me. I react with zombie responses. But my happiness will only come when I do not let outside forces control me. What if people are unpleasant or pleasant but not doing what I would prefer? Must I be unhappy about it? When I am on my spiritual mark, my daily practice, I can choose happiness. The zombies stay buried. Daily practice avoids the terrors!
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Did you know that a cemetery and a graveyard are not the same? A graveyard is attached to a church, synagogue, or other such building whereas a cemetery is separate unto itself. So if you bury someone in your backyard it is a graveyard because the yard is part of your house property. Queens, NY is a big cemetery. There are more dead people in queens than living. I think of wanting to bury my faults and defects of character so that they will be completely gone away from me, buried in their cemetery. But the reality is that they are still attached to me, and at best, I am their graveyard. They might be dead but not gone, and if I don’t work at it, they will rise up and mess up my life. Like zombies! I have zombie faults. I don’t want to be visited or haunted by them, so I have to keep them buried with a good spiritual practice on a daily basis. You have zombie faults?
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
In many spiritual traditions that have some divine force, source, entity, power, none of which is ourselves, this power is referred to as a Shepherd. I guess that sheep raising was rather prevalent all over the world back when the traditions were being formed and developed. This idea of shepherd gives me comfort because a shepherd is always with the sheep. The sheep don’t see very well, and can get into a lot of mischief as they might wander off to places not safe for them. They do hear well and recognize the shepherd’s voice. I like it that even when the sheep sleep, the shepherd is nearby, even if they don’t see him. The shepherd is watching and protecting the sheep. I like it that my divine power is with me when I am in bed, sleeping, and with me when I might wander off into mischief. Been there and done that! My prayer is to listen for the shepherd. Paying attention is sanity.
Monday, May 27, 2019
The next time you talk on your land line phone, for those who still have them, and offices do, give a nod to my Catholic Church for providing the technology for the phone. What? Didn’t Marconi invent the stuff for the telephone? He got the credit, but his technology was as slow as telegraphy, the Morse code stuff. That is how fast one could talk on his technology. But there was a Josef Murgas, a Slovakian priest, an immigrant to the USA, who figured a way to send messages faster than Marconi’s technology. And Murgas could send the signal overland. Marconi could not. It was 50 words per minute for Murgas and only 15 for Marconi. Then Fr. Murgas gave his patents and research to Marconi, fearing his work would be lost without investors. Thank you Slovakia. Oh, and Fr. Murgas founded the Catholic Slovakian Church in Wilkes Barre, PA. Is it still there and functioning?
Sunday, May 26, 2019
A person says to me, “I used to be close to God, and now I cannot find God.” They wonder if perhaps God does not really exist for them, or they are doing something wrong, or God has abandoned them because of their imperfections. When I inquire where they are looking for God, often I hear that they are looking where they used to find God. They are going backwards to when they were younger, to try and conjure up old experiences. A problem with all this is that we are no longer that child. We are growing spiritually, even if we do not know it. What I mean is that our adult or senior age self has moved its spiritual center away from where it was as a child. God has not left them. Their God is right there with them, but they are searching for a past self and time that is truly past. I don’t pray like I used to. My routines change and shift as I grow older. It is natural growth. I try to ask, “What can I do for you Lord?” I used to ask, “What can you do for me?” The first question requires more listening. The second question is more about my list of things I want from God, with all the pleading words I use for attention and sincerity. Both questions are fair and good at a certain time. But at some point I think we are supposed to become more a listener. I have found it so.
Saturday, May 25, 2019
Do you ever notice that when you are doing something that seems rather obvious, people tend to ask, “What are you doing?” Or, “What are you doing that for?” An example: you are walking out of the house or wherever, and you have on a baseball cap, a tee shirt that says, “Robins Team” with a baseball glove in one hand and a bat in the other. Someone says, “What are you doing?” You could substitute ballet slippers and outfit, fishing gear, or tap shoes. Behind the question, that cannot deal with the obvious, is that people have a hard time allowing us to be someone they cannot pigeon hole, as we used to say. People decide who we are, for their own benefit, and then cannot grasp that we might be more than or other than their expectations. I could be in a hall tapping away on my tap shoes, and someone will walk in and say, “Father, what are you doing?” Followed by, “Why are you doing that?” In other words, priests can fit only certain boundaries, images, and context for the questioner. I do not live other people’s image of priest or me. Maybe that is why I have so few fans? Be you. And allow that to change as you go through life. Not everyone can keep up with change.
Friday, May 24, 2019
I cannot attend tap dancing classes on a weekly basis. So I am always falling behind. New steps are taught while I am not there. I am constantly behind. When I go home to practice I am dreadful about remembering or making tap steps happen as practiced badly in class. Thus I am dreadful when I practice each day. My ego is crushed. Pride takes a tumble. But there is one reason that I continue. I enjoy tapping. Isn’t that what ought to be important in undertaking something that attracts you? Being good or better than others, being praised, feeling like a big deal, all these things are fleeting and superficial. I believe the question is, “Do I enjoy what I am doing?” Yes it is work and effort, but I do still feel good about my pathetic attempts to dance. I do it for myself, and not for others. Tapping is not a service project. It is my fun. When I run, I should do it to enjoy myself, or maybe “give God pleasure.” Maybe I give God pleasure when I tap? What do I know.
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Someone said, “Growing old is not an affliction. It is a natural condition.” So don’t whine about growing old, whatever “old” is for you. I first thought that I was growing old when I turned 30. “Life is passing me by. I have done nothing.” Whiner. Many people never make it to 30. Their life is cut short from what is natural. We are supposed to age. Tragedy is when we do not get to do what we are supposed to do naturally. You young people need to treat us old folks better because we are in our natural condition. We are not a burden or living too long. And for us who are really old, we need to ask what is the plan for today, since we have this day. Really, each day is a gift of life, not an affliction to endure. Let’s be of service and useful to others today. Until we need our nap.
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
I think that worship services could be like a 5th step in the 12 step spiritual path of recovery. How? In the 5th step you say out loud your faults, character defects, and shortcomings. Embarrassing yes, but it does the job of “Recovery” from a messy, short-circuited life. In a worship service, I think we need to go beyond simply saying out loud, “Mercy Lord!” Mercy for what? Say out loud, for others to hear, what you want mercy for. It makes you reflect and list your shortcomings and say them so others will hear them. “Mercy Lord for I am selfish, self-centered, jealous, envious, lustful, prejudiced, self-pitying, etc.” We don’t want to do this, because we tend to put on our public face when going to public worship. But we don’t change for the better any more than a drunk gets better if they skip the 5th step. When I tell people in a homily, out loud, a shortcoming of mine, they may think me a bad priest and want me to go away. I call it my 5th step way of preaching. Or maybe I am really a bad priest?
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
We refer to people in prison as “doing time.” They do the same old things everyday, the same routines, fearful of breaking a rule, lest they be punished even more. Some people in organized religion are “doing time” insofar as they keep following rules to avoid punishment. Addicted people, following their addictions are enslaved, imprisoned in their addictions. So are people who are all focused on appearances. Recovery programs break free of addictions. Mediation can help people of religion get free from routines, fears, and dualities, that separate themselves from one another. Some things we have to do daily to survive, but many things we do daily simply build prison walls that take away the sunshine of the spirit that can set us free. Sadly, many people prefer “doing time.” They might fear the unknown.
Monday, May 20, 2019
The risen Jesus and the recovering addict are a lot alike. “Heresy?” You say. I think not. When Jesus rose from the dead no one recognized him. People who had known him thought that he was a fellow traveler on the road to Emmaus, or the gardener to Mary Magdalene, or a ghost to his cowardly disciples. When he called out to them from shore while they were fishing, they did not know it was him. Jesus risen was totally unrecognizable. But he was still Jesus. When a person gets deep into recovery from an addiction, you can hear their old acquaintances say, “We don’t even recognize you.” This is what we call a spiritual change. I call it resurrection, eternal life, a new person, but in fact it is the same person whose spiritual insides have changed their outsides. Recovery meetings are filled with resurrected people.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
It is a lot easier, in some ways, if you don’t believe in God. Why? Well, you won’t be bothered with the question, “What does God want from me?” My old belief in God was quite self-serving and self-centered. My question was, “What do I want from God?” Give me this and that, or keep this and that away from me. My religion was all about what God could do for me or what I wanted from God. The more self-sufficient I was, the less I bothered with God stuff. My outlook and focus began to change when I said, “I give myself to you, good and bad, to do with me as you want. May I do your will.” Since I am naturally selfish, I have to say this prayer everyday, or I am in peril. This prayer then asks what does God want from me. I don’t know, unless I meditate or have contact with others who might be self-destructing. When I am of service, I am more sure that I am doing what my God wants than what a selfish or fear-based ego wants. It is not easy. It is not the softer way.
Saturday, May 18, 2019
I remember looking for something that I thought I had lost. I think it was my chain of keys, car, house and office. My life was in ruins. Why does God abandon me! For what am I being punished? And so on. I looked everywhere. I backtracked where I had been and what I had done. Nothing. I gave up. My life was over. Then I tried to put something into my pants pocket. There were my keys. They were inside my pants while I looked for them outside. Dummy right? But don’t many of us look for our soul, our spiritual life, a god or power outside of ourselves? We go to nature scenes, parks, churches, temples, gurus, classes, self-help books and so on. Only to eventually stumble onto the reality that it is all inside of ourselves if only we keep looking. If there is a God or soul, or spirit it is within us. It is part of our DNA. And that stranger you see near your space. They have soul too.
Friday, May 17, 2019
I recall a time or many a time, in which I was going to do something not good, and said, “I will deal with the consequences later.” For one, I assume there will be a later. If I were going to jump off a cliff, or play with explosives, or drive while on heavy pain meds, a “later” is bit of an assumption. Second, I have found consequences tend to deal with me. They take control. If I steal, the consequences might be jail. I don’t deal with jail. I just suffer the consequences of loss of freedom. If addicted to something the consequences are guilt, depression, shame and loss of self-esteem. That can be a jumping off point and there is no later for jumping off. Most of us don’t really deal with these feelings. We bury them beneath some diversion like shopping, exercise, eating treats, or entertainments such as movies, music or just more bad behavior! Often, I avoid bad behavior by saying to myself, “I will feel worse later, or the same ole same old.” Bad behavior is not a solution for me.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Some of you think that my stuff about the twelve steps of AA having nothing to do with you because you are not a drunk. So let me tell you that if you are in a relationship, like marriage, the twelve steps can be a great help. Say what? Bill Wilson, the Co-founder of AA had a friend and advisor named Fr. Ed Dowling, a Jesuit. Dowling's day job was his active ministry with Cana Conferences. These were conferences, gatherings, for married couples. Dowling used the twelve steps to help married couples. So if you are having issues in your relationship with your partner or want to better the relationship, don't sell short the twelve steps. Maybe a recovering drunk could be of some help to you? Now, if you like the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, and Jesuits do, since he was their founder, Fr. Dowling noted a surprising resemblance between the exercise of St Ignatius and the twelve steps. The twelve steps are a perennial wisdom, put together in a fashion that is useful to many a modern person and our modern problems.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Why do people think that a spiritual experience or awakening must be like a white lightening event or a deep sense of Godness close to them? Some people don’t have that happening in their life, but they can still have a spiritual experience. Like What? Well, think of someone who is self-centered, who only thinks of themselves and acts in compulsive, self-destructive ways. Yuck, right! Then they follow some instructions that help them to grow up, such that they become people who try to be of use to others in a selfless manner. This to me is a spiritual experience. I can think of women who were all selfish, self-destructive, putting bad stuff into their bodies. Then they began to follow a much healthier way of life, and became fine wives, partners, and parents. That is a spiritual awakening. It is never simply and only private. Proof is when the experience becomes communal. Gotta go and be of service to someone.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
I know problem drinkers who say that the 12 steps are silly. They point to step number 2. It says some power will return them to sanity. They don’t think they are insane, so they don’t need the steps. They point out that they might make bad decisions but no different from other people. They take a job that is all wrong. They move to another place that is not a good fit for them. They marry the “wrong” person. Well, I point out that these examples are all under the category of “mistakes.” They are not considered insane. Insanity is when you compare and contrast yourself to others who don’t have your problem, your lack of power, and say, “See, we are all alike.” Like what? Like saying, “I can drink like a normal person.” Though normal in other flawed ways with “mistakes” you are insane in thinking you can drink like a “normal” person. This is why step 2 is early in the process. Oh, today, I am ordained 42 years. I had to admit insanity along the way.
Monday, May 13, 2019
I don’t try so much to change the outside world as to change my inside world to meet the conditions of the outside world and not get crazy. A flat tire is an example. Sure you can change the tire or get it changed. But what attitude did you bring to the discovery that you had a flat tire? Rage, whining, self-pity, and blaming someone else? This is all the inside stuff that no tire changer can fix. And you will take these moods and feelings into the rest of your day which will make so much more drama that changes nothing of the outsides. So I work on my insides, with meditation, sleep, healthy food, so that I will be able to meet the outside world as it presents itself to me, ever so suddenly. My daily plans move from “must” to “preference.” It works for me.