Thursday, February 28, 2019
You might ask, “What goes on in those recovery meetings?” An example: you walk in, sit and listen. Listening is basic. You hear someone speak about their pain and you have a response. One response is “observation of the heart.” You then have a sense of compassion, “com passio,” you feel with the person’s pain. You identify with the speaker. You respond. How? One of two ways. You reach out to the person to give them some sense they are not alone. You offer your time and energy if they might want it. You do not focus on yourself. But there is a second kind of response. You jam up your compassion. How? You feel insecure, You have self-doubt as to your ability to be helpful. Or you have a bout of selfishness. So you hesitate, and the opportunity is gone. Someone called this second non-response, “incurving.” You curve in on yourself and get all swallowed up. I find that “the meeting after the meeting” is where a lot of my growth happens. All of us have something to offer one another. Are you “incurving” today?
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
I notice that some people who are in recovery, and working at it, often are in a state of desperation. Like what? Like not wanting to die through suicide, or becoming homeless, jobless or sicker. But I see this in a lot of areas and I am not immune. People don’t keep up their residence or home until they are desperate to sell it. They ignore diet, proper sleep and exercise until they get diagnosed with some bad health issue. They ignore a relationship until the other is going to die, or abandon them. They slack at a job until they fear termination. And so on. For many of us, “maintenance” of a good condition/situation does not exist in our life. Fear drives many of us to action. I remind myself of this many a day, so that I will continue to do what has gotten me into this place of balance and even peace. If I wait for desperation, I might overshoot it. To go past desperation is really bad. The abyss.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
I went to Houston this past weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Spanish mass that I began in my first Paulist parish, as a newby priest. I did not know much Spanish, taking lessons from my teacher each week at her kitchen table. She was a good teacher. I was not too good a student. She had great patience. My homilies were about three minutes long. Up to then, we had only English masses and many people thought we did not need a Spanish mass. Turned out, there were many people living in the parish area who spoke only Spanish. They spoke very fast and I understood very slowly, so I was not all that pastoral. But when I moved on to my next parish assignment, the Paulists sent a Spanish speaking priest to continue with that once-a-week Spanish mass. The Paulists continued this ministry until they left the parish in 1993. Today, the Scalabrini Fathers have the parish and there are five Spanish masses each weekend. A Thousand children attend religion classes and most are taught in Spanish. There are several more buildings added to the complex and St. Leo the Great is now probably the largest Spanish mass parish in the huge Archdiocese of Houston. Not bad for a dummy like me. Probably the best thing I ever did as a priest. And they 💖 me in Houston!
Monday, February 25, 2019
Someone reminded me that nowadays, a time of silence and stillness, the contemplative practice, has become rehab for many a person who is addicted to their cell phones and internet. The contemplative practice is not the social isolation that the cell phone attached way of life is. In contemplative practice you will learn who you are, your true inner self. Once you are self-connected you will connect with others eye to eye, face to face, in a listening mode. Because you will come to love yourself in your own imperfections, you will have compassion for others in their imperfections. This is what I see as the path to becoming human rather than robotic. Like any rehab program you need your daily dose of meditation. You practice a daily showing up to meet with your truer self. This will keep you real. Real means that you do not go into daily encounters trying to be who you are not. You are comfortable being you. In meditation, the only purpose of the cell phone is as a timer.
Sunday, February 24, 2019
I have days that someone referred to as “grief and grace.” I get up in he morning and I decide to get into my agenda. I don’t ask for help, seek guidance, reflect on any shortcomings that might get in the way, but just get into the next thing. Grief. Things go sideways. The relationship is off-kilter. The task ends up not going right but filled with whining, complaining and blaming. Then, if I am fortunate, I stop this grief train and take a break to seek a better way. I ask for some help, pray, check on my side of the street for my weaknesses. It does not take long to do this. A little patience and then I go about my agenda. Grace. Grace is a way to restart a day that began with self-propulsion. Grief comes with self-will power. Grace comes with some other power, better than my self-power. I am never alone, except in my head.
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Kierkegaard could be tough on mediocrity. He did not much value it. He gave the example of a fellow who takes the wrong end of an axe to chop wood. He chops nothing. Most of us would say of this mediocrity, that it is the wrong way to cut wood. Kierkergaard would say, “That is not a woodcutter.” Now take it to Chrisitianity. If someone says they are a Christian but their practice is mediocre, or only remotely mirrors New Testament, we might say that they are a mediocre, imperfect, or inexpressive Christian. Soren Kierkergaard would say, “These people are not Christians.” Baptism does not make a Christian is his point. Right action does, which mirrors what the Bible says. Well, there is a kick in the right direction! I need to toughen up in my practice, not just my dogma belief.
Friday, February 22, 2019
We have a lot of teenage virgins who are martyrs in my church. They would rather suffer torture and death, than to marry the guy who is having them killed for rejecting him. Pious people in my religion give a theological reason: they are the bridegroom of Christ. But for those of you who don’t find that at all helpful, I will give a more modern reason. These teenage girls are not going to let men define who they are. Men define women by common narrow terms of pretty and good for sex and babies. That satisfies the male dominated culture. These teen martyrs rejected that. Men or parent expectations, or the fears of friends, will not define them, and they are ready to suffer for their beliefs. You go against the male powers and you will suffer, girls. But then I don’t think any teenage girls are reading my blogs. But I have a great respect for these teen martyrs of courage. Who defines you?
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Someone said that if you don’t want to get hit by a train then stay off the tracks. Of course, you might say. But in daily life many of us act like someone who stays on the tracks but thinks they will figure out a way that the train won’t hit them. You live somewhere that you know is not good for you. You are in a relationship that is lethal. You have a job that is just not for you. You practice behavior that is not healthy and you do it over and over. In all these examples you often think you will make it work, or fix it, or you will leave later but later never comes. I have found that if I am in a bad situation, or practicing bad behavior, I have to get off the tracks or I will get hit by the train. The train is not going to stop. I am the one who has to change direction. Sometimes I have let the train hit me rather than change my direction. So I find some help to get me off the tracks. I call it a spiritual journey of contact with my God. I know for sure it is some force that it not me. Left to my own devices, I stay on the tracks.
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
You might wonder how those seemingly little birds can get above those high mountains, while you have to increase your effort the higher up you climb. Well, you are not a bird. The bird need not be big, but it needs the desire to get over the mountain to survive. So God gave them some help and it comes in God's wind. Birds have to make a big effort in the beginning of the climb, just to go up. Your effort is easier at the beginning. But then you don't need to climb the mountain to survive. The bird climbs/flies battling the wind for a while, but as it nears the peak, the wind naturally goes upward, like an upward draft near the peak. God loves birds. So when you are making your greatest effort, sucking for oxygen, the bird simple is letting the wind lift it up and over the mountain and go on its way, while you, panting, look up. So whenever you think there is no god and no plan, look up. God is at work.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Think of ourself as homemade bread. Someone took certain ingredients and then lovingly did something with them to make the end product: bread. Bread is then fed to others who are hungry. So, your talents, gifts, are the ingredients that can be used to make a certain kind of person. But they must be combined, and worked on with love so that they can eventually become a person who can be of service to others who are empty. You cannot be any kind of bread. No one has all the talents and gifts of the human condition. You have some, and that is enough to become the nourishing you for others. Who kneads you to make you bread? Ah! That is a Power, a Force, God, the Really Real, the One, or whatever you might name it. Is is not you, but it is what will make you rise up and be your best self, a loving, non-judgmental person for instance. The daily spiritual connection is to allow this Power to work on you. God the Baker! I like that. I still don't like whole wheat bread though. I "knead" to be more open.
Monday, February 18, 2019
Baggage Drop-Off is where you let go of heavy burdens so that you might travel more easily to your destination. You "Lighten Up!" I think this is a good metaphor for the spiritual journey. Many of us need a place/way/process where we can drop off the baggage in our life that burdens us as we try to journey into all we are meant to be. I use the process of meditation, spiritual reading that might point out my flaws to me, and getting together with other people who might have solutions to "letting go." So many situations in my life I find that I am the problem though I blame or focus on the shortcomings of others real or perceived. I cannot change others, so why focus energy there? Work on me. Daily, I need to drop off the baggage of self, and self-will run riot. If I ignore this process, then I inevitably weigh myself down with self-pity, judgment, false pride, resentments, and selfishness. What a burden! Baggage drop-off can be found in Recovery meetings, Spiritual reading, walks in the countryside or city streets, meandering along, mediation and yoga. These are just examples I have found to be helpful. A day may not be stress-free, but it need not be stress-full.
Sunday, February 17, 2019
I usually think of alms as giving money to others who seem to need it. I think of fasting as giving up some food. But someone gave me another way of looking at alms and fasting. Alms can be seen as giving up of self to be of service to another person or persons. Sometimes I think I would rather just give the money, as it is easier and takes less time. I don't have to do so much or give up time and energy for someone else. That would be the selfish me, hiding behind putting money into a poor box. Now fasting can be seen as giving up something of myself, my agenda, as in almsgiving for service to another. When I look at it this way, I see how almsgiving and fasting work together to cut into my ego, my "all about me stuff." Lent is coming and almsgiving-fasting are recommended. Maybe this Lent I will do less focus on me and more on being of service to others. That could be a long forty days!
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Some people who say they do not believe in God don't want to change. Now you can believe in a god as an idea, or thought in your head. Such ideas do not lead to change, to better behavior. Lots of people believe but are not very loving except where it suits them. Selfish. But if you believe in a God as a relationship, then you will change. I have found it so. Why would I ignore prayer on a particular day? I am focused on me, which might include self-centered fears about what I won't get or what I want. My agenda on that day without prayer is all about me. Relationship nudges me to change, to become less about me and more about others. If you are selfish, it is easier to be so if you don't have a God relationship. Faith is not about ideas for me. It is more about letting go. Some days I have more faith than other days. I know this by how I treat others, or ignore them.
Friday, February 15, 2019
We have a heart. It welcomes love and prayer...when it suits us. We have the energy for love and relationship but not the ability to persevere. This is the superficial heart. We have brambles of laziness. We have the roadway stones of fickleness and fleeting desire. What to do? I have found that the answer to the superficial heart is to do something good when you don’t want to do it. In recovery programs, the best time for a meeting or to make a contact with someone is when you don’t want to do it. If you say it is a waste of time, that is because you think that love will bear fruit only if you are in the mood, or have the energy for it. That is the error of a person who thinks their spiritual growth in love is under their control or power. This is self-focus. Love is about going out of ourselves. So I pray best when I don’t want to pray and go to meetings when I don’t want to. Whether I feel good at the moment of prayer or meeting is of no importance. The fruit of the effort will come out later, when it needs to come out in service to others and feeling better myself. I never judge things in the moment that I do them. Spiritual fruits are often a delayed ripening.
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, especially those who feel they are doing most of the loving and less of the getting loved in a relationship. You feel a failure? Well, what if success is not quid pro quo, or efficiency of giving and getting in equal measure? In the more spiritual realm, the wisdom figures might say that love is successful when it is magnanimous. I find this in Jesus on the cross for instance. The efficiency experts would say he is a failure. He gave all and got nothing. But spiritual wisdom says love is the act where we have the outrageous courage to give away our best knowing that not all of it will bear fruit. This would be the action of the perfect lover to which we might aspire to be. So if you give your all to someone, like your child for instance, or your partner, some fruit will quietly grow, maybe long after you have planted the seeds. Like the parable of the sower, some seed falls on rocky ground, or thorny ground. Eventually, people may begin to clear the rocks and thorns, all because they were once loved magnanimously. The Buddhist Adepts refuse Nirvana, so that they can stay around to help other sentient beings. Wisdom seems to be in the giving.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
If you are unhappy with work and relationship, I don't think that is a good time to "choose" a vocation. I think that we need to be a bit settled or maybe even happy in our heart, and then we can choose. When I first decided to enter the seminary, I was unhappy with my life. Fortunately, it would be a five year process, so that when I did decide that I wanted to be ordained, I was more settled. I enjoyed what I was doing. Thomas Merton says that vocation is not about becoming something or someone I am not, but about becoming the person I was born to be. It is important to be comfortable in my own skin, rather than ask someone else to make me happy. Lots of divorce and broken relationships, broken hearts come from the job description, "make me happy."
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Fr. Terry Ryan, CSP
Luke 5: 1-11
February 10, 2019
Many of us like to use aging as our excuse not to do something. “I am too old, or too busy for this or that new task,” is what we tend to say or think. This is our response if we think that God wants us to do something or if someone else even hints at a new task. Peter had an excuse after God gave him all that abundance of fish. Peter says, “Go away Lord. I am not a good person.” We think that Peter is being humble. Perhaps. But I think it is more of an excuse to not get involved with this Jesus person. Notice that he did not invite Jesus to put the fish back into the Lake or release them from his nets. We love to take the good stuff from God at whatever age, but when God wants something in return we come up with an excuse.
Lots of us are always asking God for this or that, but we do not think in our asking, that God might like to ask something of us. Would we make so many requests if we thought that we would have to change our life or our will to conform to something God might want?
We do not have to be a particularly good person at the moment, or have energy or even desire to do what God may want. God provides. Peter was to learn this. God does not ask the impossible. It is only we ourselves who see limitations or use limitations as our way to get out of doing God’s will.
So be careful about letting God into the boat of your life and your daily activities. If you ask God for something, that is letting God into your boat. You get upset when God does not give you what you want? Be glad God does not get upset with you for failing to do what God wants.
Monday, February 11, 2019
What I do today will show up in how I act tomorrow. Take exercise. If I run today, then tomorrow will dictate some exercise but not running. The day after that will be running, and so on. Tomorrow's plan begins with what I do today. In the spiritual journey it is the same. A meeting with friends who help me today to get focused on right attitude and behavior will affect how I am when I wake up tomorrow and how I act tomorrow. If I pray today I will pray tomorrow because today's spiritual exercise gives me the energy and focus to repeat it or do something slightly different but connected to what I did today. If I love someone today in a selfless fashion, then tomorrow that relationship will most likely go well. If I am mean, nasty, selfish and fearful acting today, then tomorrow will reap all the darkness of today's action, until I work to reverse it, probably getting back to the meetings with friends who help me along the path of right attitude and right action. Keep up the prayer and meetings and you will do good things for others and reap the benefits yourself. Start with now.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
I notice that in the Bible, the New Testament, as Christians call it, Paul's letters seem to emphasize belief in who Jesus is. He is appealing to the mind to convince us of Jesus' identity. Paul assumes that Jews already know how to act, so he does not talk much about conduct. With Gentiles, he does much the same with a bit more emphasis on action. In the very end of Mark's Gospel, which many say was not even written by Mark, but by a later person as an addition, it simply says to believe and be saved. No action required. The signs that accompany the new community of believers have nothing to do with everyday relationships. It speaks of driving out demons, speaking new languages, handling serpents, drinking deadly poison. This is not much to do with anyone's everyday conduct with one another. Institutional religion focused on the belief, an appeal to the mind, and not so much on right action, so that people could have right belief yet treat one another in a rather prejudicial, judgmental and uncaring way. Belief separates. Love unites. I have found it so.
Saturday, February 9, 2019
As a priest, I try to help people find a God who will not let them down, a God that they can understand is consistent in love and presence. Love is the power of their God once they find it. We humans will at some time or other let one another down, because we are human, not perfect nor all everything. We will not be there for someone because we forget or get sick or overscheduled, or just get too sad and depleted to respond. It happens. Some people want priests to be their god, always there for them. It ain’t gonna happen consistently. How is this God going to help? Well, it may reveal to us that most of the time our difficulties are of our own making, not all the time, but if we don’t cause the difficulty we make it worse by our response. At times, we are the source of our own problems. Meditation is taking time to be with God who won’t let them down, not a fix it God but a loving one, an accepting of ourself God. I will take that God. It is the one I know.
Friday, February 8, 2019
We have given God the wrong job description according to our wants. We want God to fix stuff including ourselves at times. World peace, climate change, poverty, suffering and so on, seem to go on and on. “Where is God?” We ask. Maybe God is doing God’s job, but not what we want. What might be God’s job? Giving us unconditional love and acceptance is God’s job, for each one of us. “Is that all?” You complain. Is that not a lot? Who else gives you such love? Rare. Being loved unconditionally no matter how we behave, might be tougher than world peace. Just because you don’t feel loved in such a manner, does not mean that God is not loving you. The mystics say that such love is so deep it is beyond feeling it. That does not seem like much of a plus if we have to always feel things. Faith for me is not so much that God exists, which is reasonable, but that God loves me unconditionally, which seems beyond reason, given how I act at times.
Thursday, February 7, 2019
It is late into the night and I am still wired from a great performance by Elton John and his band. People, young and old were there giving him a mile high welcome and lots of love. He shows what good music can do. It can bring a group of people together and form a community. Sometimes I wanted to sit and listen and sometimes I wanted to stand, clap to the rhythms and sway with the music. I love the outfits he wears and want to find a couple pair of the eye glasses he wore, especially the one that form hearts for each lens. Anyway, I will be worthless for productivity tomorrow but it was well worth it. It is now 2 degrees in Boulder and lots of snow on the ground. None of this kept me away. Oh, and I had great steak and lots of other foods at “Elways” restaurant before the concert. A magical night. I thank my friend for it all.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Tonight I am going to an Elton John concert. If you don’t know who he is you are either very young or grew up in a world very different from my own. Now, many a Church going Catholic will say I am a bad priest for going to an Elton John concert. I should be in chapel praying, or reading holy books or helping others. Tonight I will not be doing those things, so maybe I am a bad priest. I surely will go without any shame and guilt, or repentance. So maybe being a bad priest is not all bad. I would call myself a mediocre priest who likes to have fun with sanity. There may be a few people at the concert that will not be so sane, but I cannot help that. Elton John music is my kind of music and he is a great showman, with his colorful outfits. I will be standing up and dancing, singing, clapping and being oh so...Anyway, I will get home late, and next time I go to the monastery for a retreat, I will be singing Elton John tunes as I drive. Mediocrity can be fun!
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
I have met people who are no longer practicing addictive behavior and have a better balance in their lives. They seem to be happier with themselves and more useful to the world around them. Yet, they tell me they do not believe in God. They don’t believe in the church/synagogue, religion god, who lives someplace else and does not seem to be fixing world problems. So I ask them what they did to change their addictive behavior. Turns out they are in a recovery program with steps, meetings an service for others. “Who got you to go to those meetings?” I ask them. “I was so miserable, frightened, depressed, I just decided to go,” they tell me. I remind them, or reveal to them, that most people in their circumstances just die from the addiction. No addictive person has the power to get into recovery. It is some energy greater them themselves with which they cooperated to get them to that meeting where the light went on for them to start shaping up. In other words, the God they don’t believe in got them there. And the program is meant to get them to a God of their understanding. Power exists. I see it everyday in these walking miracles of unbelief.
Monday, February 4, 2019
At times I hear people tell me that “nothing is changing in my life.” They mean nothing of outside circumstances is changing. They have no good job or loving partner, or nice place to live. These are outside stuff. But then I interrupt their whining with, “You don’t seem to be drinking or doing dope, or so angry, resentful and selfish.” Then the light goes on for them. They are changing from the inside. A spiritual path is not a selfish pursuit to better your outside circumstances, but to change your insides so that you are better for others. There are people who do have a lot of the outsides covered, good job, partner, home, stuff in the closet and bank, but are really miserable and selfish on the inside. They lack a spiritual dimension to their life such that they are being changed on the inside. If I work on my insides, I find that even the outsides begin to look better. What changed? Me.
Sunday, February 3, 2019
How does being forgiven affect the rest of your life? If you keep asking forgiveness for the same old behavior, then there is no real change in your life. So what to do to get out of this rut, assuming you want to? I would suggest, that what works for me, is to take some action that involves being of service. For example, there is the fellow who is paralyzed and brought through the roof by his friends to be plopped in front of Jesus who is inside a capacity full room. Jesus forgives the fellow his bad behavior or sins as the story goes. The fellow is still paralyzed. He is powerless to overcome his physical difficulty. So Jesus then says to him, “Pick up your mat and go home.” Ah! Be of service. Get this stuff up off the floor and move on. Clean up after yourself for the sake of others who are crowded into the room. The man is no longer paralyzed. This frees him to be of some use to and for others. Being forgiven, without service for the sake of others, changes nothing. Addicts know this. They are paralyzed in their addiction. Bad behavior continues. In the twelve steps they experience forgiveness. But they won’t escape the addictive powerlessness until they begin to be of service to others. Don’t just tell people you are sorry. Clean up your mess.
Saturday, February 2, 2019
Some of us are a bit in love with bad behavior or else why would we tend to it so frequently if we know it is bad behavior? Whatever embarrassing reason we come up with, I try to wake up in the morning, and and ask myself what good habits I did recently to keep me on the path of a well-balanced life? I then resolve to do those good things over again today. This is my idea of vigilance. Repeat what works on a daily basis. I do not assume that today will be fine, because yesterday was fine. Yesterday I fell in quite nicely with reality or at least comfortably adjusted to it without having an episode of bad behavior. I am a member of the group that can easily go back to bad behavior if not vigilant in daily maintenance of a fit spiritual condition. My list of good practices would include talking to someone on a spiritual path, or maybe someone who is not, but would like to be, eat healthy enough so that a little treat is OK, mediation, gratitude list reflexion, and reading a little good spiritual stuff from somewhere or other. Most likely, with this I will end up being of some good use to others. I like a little exercise in moderation, but that is not always possible on a daily basis. If you think daily vigilance is boring, you might reflect that bad behavior revisited is catastrophic. I never forget my past.
Friday, February 1, 2019
Why do you get angry when you try to correct another person? Does your anger really change them? Maybe they will repent for the moment, but no one changes overnight from bearing another’s anger. So what does anger do in that situation? As a wise wisdom figure once said, “You gratify your own passion.” For the moment you get out your feeling of anger and maybe feel good...for the moment. If you feel good for a long time after, you may need some help. If you are a good person, you will soon feel badly that you got angry. “Why did I do that,” you ask yourself. It changed nothing of this traffic jam I am in or the driving habits of that person I just flipped off. Does you child actually start making their bed from now on? You say that you must have some control. You cannot just let things be. If so, I begin by trying to control my anger.