Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Giving

It has been said that a big reason for the struggle with depression is that we have a too strong dependency on other people and outside circumstances.  Like what?  Like the need for approval, affirmation from others, or the need for prestige from outside situations.  Our focus in all this is to "get."  We have this need to get things from people, or situations such as work or a group or an event. With Covid, there is not much of that.  We are somewhat by ourselves or with a family that sometimes wants to get from us while not giving much in return.  What to do?  A suggestion for a solution is to give love in some way, or try to be of service even in social distancing.  How?  You might share what you are reading, or project you are working on that might appeal to someone else.  You might write a letter and put a stamp on it.  You might call someone out of the blue that could use a pick me up.  In other words get out of yourself and try to be of service.  I hear people in Zoom meetings talk about how glad they are to "get" this chance to connect or be with others on the internet and how tough things have been.  But then they don't share any solution or offer anything that might help another.  Dwell less on what you are missing or not getting, and think more about what you can share to help another struggling person.  We are all in this thing together.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The End

I am thinking of dropping my blog and doing no more after today.  I have run out of things to say.  So my next career will be to focus on being useless and lazy.  I mean if I drop out of contact with others I will avoid getting the Covid19, right?  I will stop teaching because I keep saying the same stuff over and over.  I think people might just be coming for the homemade treats which are a lot better than my talks as far as I can be the judge.  To rest my brain I will drop my subscriptions to all my intellectual religious journals and just get a subscription to Sports Illustrated.  I will start jogging again more regularly as long as it does not interfere with my laziness goal.  I have done a lot of good works but I don't think they will overcome the bad ones of the past.  So I am going to burn.  I will do one good thing though.  I will start saying nice things about my big Sis Maureen.  April Fools!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Renunciation

Often I read in the spiritual masters the exhortation to renunciation of stuff as an early part of the spiritual journey.  It is attractive, the thought of simplifying my life, letting go of things that occupy so much of my time but seem to offer little in making me a better person.  But I give up little.  All seems so necessary.  But now with Covid 19, I don’t have to renounce anything.  The virus renounced it for me.  I have no job to go to or social occasions, or events to attend, those “don’t miss events,” that were highlights of my life.  All gone.  So what is my response?  I wanted my life to become simplified right?  Now I have it.  And I find myself at times longing for the “old ways.”  There is a bit of fear involved.  Fear of losing what I had, like an income.  Maybe fear is why I gave up so little in the first place.  Well, now it is gone and like it or not, I have the opportunity to examine myself in the challenge to live a simpler, less frenzied life.  If you have children at home, maybe you can think of yourselves as all being in the same classroom learning the art of being together in a simpler way.  Boredom is a challenge for a child to learn how to be self-creative and examine why they do not like being with themselves.  We all might ask one another, “If you don’t like being with yourself, why should anyone else like being with you?”  If you are bored with you why burden someone else with your boring self?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Eden

The Garden of Eden had an issue of spiritual dimension that calls me to attention.  Do I want to “know” God or do I want to “love” God?  Or, if the God issue is a stumbling block, do you seek knowledge over love in as relationship?  In Eden the couple had an intimate relationship without a lot of knowledge.  The temptation, as for many of us, is “More.”  We want more and the more in this case is more knowledge.  Search engines, internet, gathering information will not make for love, but it will make for knowledge.  If you want to grow spiritually, many a guru would say, get out of your own way.  You really cannot control or improve the growth which is love, by gathering more stuff. Learning is not irrelevant, but don’t ask it to do what it cannot do, fulfill the hole in your heart.  Love.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Offer It Up

“Offer it Up” as the Irish used d to say, and many other groups as well, does not mean that we grumble about something while we endure it.  The goal is to change us for the better.  So we aim to go through some difficulty, medical, physical, relational, work, with some cheerfulness.  It may not remove the pain, but it might make us better people, at least better people to be around.  Why do we sometimes feel isolated and alone while we grumble and complain about something we are undergoing?  Maybe it is in part because people don’t find us very pleasant.  We become more of a burden because of our attitude in the face of pain.  Serious dope might relieve us of pain for the moment, but it will not make us better people.  I may not be perfect in my attitude today to some misery, but I hope to make some progress.  Offer it up.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

My Birthday

Today is my birthday.  Two months ago I was looking forward to a party.  My Mom always made a big deal of birthdays when I was growing up.  I got a chocolate cake fresh from the bakery, and presents.  As an adult I became disappointed when people ignored my birthday, no party, no cards, nothing.  Then I realized that a lot of people grew up with birthdays being no  big deal.  Sad.  So I became my own agent for advertising my birthday which is obnoxious to some so I try to do it only with people who I think have a birthday celebrating capacity.  Then comes Covid 19.  Cannot get around that.  So I guess I will be socially isolating today with some hope that chocolate cake will show up at my front door, socially isolated of course.  Maybe no candles to blow out but no one is getting everything they want these days, but we do try to get what we need.  I will take love even if it must be 12 feet away or socially isolated.  Anyway, Happy Birthday to me!

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Upside

We often hear from spiritual gurus that we need to withdraw from worldly values.  But by and large we ignore that and thus miss out on some good stuff.  But now with the Virus, worldly values have withdrawn from us.  We cannot go to a movie, or shopping or a pub or some social gathering to escape our down moods, depression, anxiety, or boredom.  But some of us may finally stumble on meditation, that thing we have on our bucket list or do sporadically here and there for short bursts.  What we might find is that if we let go of thoughts and emotional focus, through the meditation method we use, and do it each day for a goodly amount of time, a lot of anxiety and negativity will leave us.  Meditation for some of us will be our defense against stuff that leave us in dis-ease.  We may even get into acceptance of this virus, since we are powerless to make it go away.  Meditation might connect you to a power that makes your life a bit more manageable and less in need of an escape.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Eagles

Unless the Coronavirus has become a pandemic, I will be going to see and hear the Eagles in Denver indoor arena.  No, you Billie Eilish fans, they are not birds.  They are a singing band from when I was younger and wilder.  I am not so young now, but I still love their songs.  I will be going to the concert to celebrate my birthday which is in two days.  Now if I were a church holy priest, I might celebrate with a pilgrimage to a sacred shrine, or some special pious activity.  But I am not holy, so my shrine will be the Pepsi Center in Denver.  Not everyone will be old like me.  Younger people appreciate great music that survives time.  They will be there too. The Eagles were never a fad or a one album group.  They wrote and sang great stuff, poetic to some of us.  They can touch the heart as well as the body.  I will get to bed very late, so tomorrow's blog will be quite tardy in showing up on Facebook.  That is why you should get it sent direct to your email.  I like sleeping in and waking up to the Eagles on Spotify.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No Exchange

Yo might do something as an economic exchange. That is, you give someone money and they give you something you want for that money.  This is not love nor is is transformative, though some of us think that "getting" something, some stuff, will transform us.  Then there is the hoped for exchange.  That is, you do something or give something to someone in hope that they will change, conforming to what you want them to be.  It is a hoped for, and sometimes, an expected return.  The exchange is not guaranteed, but hoped for.  It can be a bit manipulative and generally is not transformative.  Then there is the exchange that truly changes us.  You give with no expectation of return.  It looks for no reciprocity.  So what do you get who gives?  You get transformed.  You don't do it to be transformed. You do it for love.  It is the love, selfless, that transforms us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Back To Normal

I hear people say they wish we could get back to normal.  I wonder if we are having short term memory loss?  What was normal like before Covid 19?  Some good things yes, like a paying job.  But a lot of normal for many people was a frenzy of over activity, trying to get it all.  Children were run from one thing to the next so that they would not “miss” anything.  Being bored was equivalent to being a failure, as if boredom could never be a part of 21st Century life.  People did not get enough sleep, they overindulged in sports on TV and read too few books.  We did cameos with member of our own families, and so on.  So what normal do we want to get back to?  Is the normal American life a frenzy of fear that we may miss out on something?  Advertisers are most often showing families having fun and being fulfilled by going places, any places but being together in the home.  Let us learn what we can learn from this virus which has vanquished our old way of life.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Presnet

One of the reasons that we try to avoid being in the present moment is because it hurts.  So we wander about in times that do not belong to us, the past and the future, or we let the imagination create a present that feels better.  We can prop up the unease of the present by giving it the support of the future that does not belong to us and is not guaranteed.  In this case, the present is never the end.  The future alone seems to be the end and so we say we live in hope, but in fact we are only hoping to live, as we avoid the actual living in the moment.  We never actually live, but hope to live.  This is why I find mediation so helpful though not so easy.  To live in the real of the present is fulfilling though at first it often seems tedious.  That is why I give myself a set amount of time to meditate and always a few more minutes than I "want" in my busy life to get on to the future!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Diversions

Why is mediation so difficult for some?  It is not a time issue but rather a 'Diversion" issue.  Many people avoid boredom by the use of diversions.  They go to the past or the future with fantasy, resentment, regret and fear for instance.  It eliminates introspection which is a key part of meditation.  Meditation is introspection without diversion.  We don't need to let go all thoughts, but only those that are diverting us from the present moment of feeling, and just being present.  When you are new to meditation or have been away a while or feel a bit uneasy, don't try to let go of all thought, but just the ones that keep you from the present reality.  Fantasizing about the now is not reality.  It is the imagination trying to paint over your boredom.  Cell phones can do that too.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What To Do?

Schools are closed and many a parent is trying to work from home.  I am a bit bemused by the fact that this may become a very uncomfortable set up for a family.  Many a family pay high prices to live in a home and in an area they find attractive.  But they really don’t want to spend much time there with one another.  Kids do school and after school events.  Parents get out of the house for work or other activities.  This virus could be a long siege and such families could be “stuck” with one another.  But maybe there is a way, another way.  Get to know one another.  Or, if you think you have done enough of that, then learn to be alone but not lonely.  Explore solitude.  Read.  Walk and look at nature.  Of course there are people with special needs.  Maybe write a letter to someone.  And find a stamp.  Keep a diary of the Covid 19 year.  Catholics could actually begin to read the Bible from page one, Genesis.  Take on a personal project that does not want someone to entertain you.  Learn to entertain yourself, drug and alcohol free, of course.  I am making plans for this time of solitude.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Flow Of Grace

The ballerina dances a prayer.  Her prayer is to let her soul, inner self, develop a sense of peace so that it will shine forth through the efforts and labors of her body that will then feel unforced and graceful.  It is discovering the divine or goddess within her and letting it come out in dance so that the audience is transformed, somehow being touched in their best center of self.  The ballerina is working hard but appears to be working not at all in her graceful movements.  She feels the flow and so she flows.  This is why ballet is rooted in a culture that has a God of love, always at our deepest center.  I think it began in Russia with its Orthodox mystical beliefs.  To dance the ballet is to be a mystic.  She becomes comfortable within her body so that she moves with an ease of existence.  People do not go to ballet to be entertained.  They go to be transformed.  Though ballet school is closed due to Covid 19, one can always practice at home.  The ballerina cannot skip dancing anymore than the mystic can skip meditation.  The ballerina is always becoming someone for others.  Quiz: Who sang “Tiny Dancer?”

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Invaders

We have quite a big budget for military Might so that we can prevent invasions and other countries from doing things that might harm us down the road.  The military prepares for possible futures that may or may not happen.  But we are prepared for people with military weapons.  We are not prepared for a virus that can invade and kill.  So maybe we need a medical budget to beef up readiness to respond to potential invasive dangers from microbes?  It seems that we are not even prepared for the present in terms of personnel and supplies.  Nor is there much spent on all important Research and Development to be ready for the future.  I hope this is a conversation that will be a result of Covid 19.

We’ll Always Have Paris

Louie is all about himself, but in the end something changes him to take sides as a patriot against the darkness.  What changed him?  Rick did.  Rick was in love and for this he knew great joy and great pain.  He loved Elsa, and then he let his heart grow cold and hard because of things he did not know about.  He went from caring to not caring, and then to sacrifice so that she and her husband would be safe and the darkness of the world might be brightened a bit.  Love can make so much happen from despair, and harshness to great sacrifice.  When Louie saw what Rick did, in sacrifice, in giving, out of love, Louie was changed.  Love can hurt, but what else changes us for the better?  Now the quiz:  movie, star and costar, and name of famous song.  Hint: the movie was in 1942 and got some Oscar stuff but don’t cheat and look it up.  God sees cheaters.  Oh and today is the Feast of St. Joseph.  Talk about a guy giving it up for a girl!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Coupling

There is something called “Coupling” that has to do with suicide among other things.  I always thought that if someone was going to kill themselves they would do so by any of several means.  If one measure did not work or was not available they would find another method.  Not true says the coupling thesis.  A certain number of people each year jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  Up until a few years ago, maybe two or three, there was no safety net or barrier to prevent people from jumping.  Then the authorities put up a net/barrier.  Suicides went way down.  In other words, it was the bridge suicide or no suicide.  If they could not jump off the bridge then people did not choose some other method to kill themselves.  Other methods did not increase.  This is coupling.  Now take hand guns.  A great many men kill themselves with hand guns.  Where there was an effort to take away hand guns, this form of suicide went down quite a bit.  Either some men kill themselves with a gun or not at all.  If you want more, read, “Talking to Strangers.”  I am pondering it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Isolation

People began isolating long before they went shopping for their toilet paper and other sundries.  The self-isolating of social distancing at home is only the latest manifestation.  In the store, a person sees three packs of toilet paper.  They do not think, “I will take one pack, so that there will be two more for two other households.”  No, they think of themselves separate from others.  This virus may be a long siege.  They do not want to run out, as if this country did not make toilet paper.  So they take all three packs.  This is social isolation.  When we talk about rampant individualism we see it manifested in grocery stores.  Fear fuels some of this.  And if I am not thinking of anyone else then why would I believe or operate as if anyone is thinking about me?  Religious belief operates in the grocery store but many of us prefer it to be a dogma or set of worship rules, so that we can go about getting all we can get.  I would rather a thoughtful atheist.

Fragment

It seems to me that Catholics should be the least down on their littleness or lack of importance, or appearances of being too little, not enough.  They have their Holy Communion or Eucharist.  It is a thin wafer, seemingly tasteless, very small.  But it is supposed to be very powerful with the presence of their universal creator.  If this is all so for them, then God uses everything, every crumb to reveal power and presence.  So when Catholics feel “crumby” they are very important as they carry around this awesome Presence within them.  They are not mere crumbs, worthless, of little matter since their God has chosen to be within them and reveal this Presence through them to others.  Each person then is a treasure box.  I don’t think many Catholics believe this or if they do they don’t act it.  They let the world tell them who and what they are.  When you say, “I am not enough” what is it you are avoiding?  Sometimes I am condemned by my own dogma.  Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Wear green.

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Short Prayer

“Oh God, I am here.”  Now on the one hand you might not be too sure of who or what this God is, or else you are real sure, dogmatically, in which case, this is not God.  God is not a dogma or a thing or an “It.”  So why spend time thinking about the first part of the prayer?  I think it more important to question whether you are really “here,” as you say.  If you are consternating about God then you are really not here, present to your body being present.  It is a short but deep prayer.  Once you truly enter into it, free of thoughts, but present being here, good things can happen.  It can take a lifetime.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Placeholders

Meditation methods are largely seen as placeholders.  Our intention is one thing, such as to let go of our attention to thoughts.  Let go of fantasizing while we try and sit quietly and still.  While that might be the intention, to let go of monkey-mind random thoughts, filled with anxieties, fears, resentments, our plans and so on.  But the intention does not hold.  We start out with our mediation method be it breath or word or body motion, and then we try to be still and quiet.  Right?  All of a sudden we realize that we have lost our intention and are very attentive to some issue in the past or future, some scenario of our life or someone else’s life.  “Where was I?” We might say this.  So we pick up the placeholder of our intention and renew the effort.  Even if your mediation is a go into the woods or park, you find yourself not even noticing the fauna around you.  Attention trumps intention.  So we go to our placeholder, our intention and renew the walk.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Christendom

Many historians think that Christendom has passed.  The Church used to be a big time World Kingdom.  But I think that a piece of Christendom is still with us.  One aspect of Christendom is that the Church assumed there was an essential identity between Christianity and European society.  Asians, Indians were supposed to think, act and believe just like Europeans.  That is, the local culture was dismissed as anything of value to be met on its own terms.  Today, I see clergy and parishes that simply dismiss the local “secular” culture as having nothing of spiritual value.  Little is done to learn or participate in the local culture.  Sports, art, music, recreation, festivals and all are ignored.  Little or no participation as a parish or clergy person.  I think that the local secular culture has a spiritual hunger but it won’t always be fed by what goes on inside the church buildings.  A Paulist priest tries to engage the culture as it is.  Listen.  Spend time in the “out of church” world and get out of strictly religious events.  A Paulist does not just talk and teach.  A Paulist tries to listen and learn.  God speaks through all kinds of persons and surprising places.  The Bible tells us so.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Down But Not Out

When feeling down what do many of us do?  We isolate.  We don’t call someone and say “Let’s get together and talk.”  We don’t go out and find something to do or see.  We go inside and then inside of ourselves.  We feel disconnected but tend to up the disconnection.  So I try not to let this happen.  I find that when I get out of myself, and often this begins with just getting out and connect with someone the mood tends to pass.  Art, theatre, conversation, exercise with others or just find something that occupies my mind in a way that I stop thinking about me and how I am down.  I have learned the difference between solitude and isolation, or alone and loneliness.  Am I being filled up or depleted?  I find that blogs connect me, though I am wary of cyberspace as a solution.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Antsy

One of the reasons that some of us have trouble with meditation is that we cannot wait to get busy doing stuff.  Why?  In some cases it is because we want to avoid a confrontation with our chaotic mind and heart, our thoughts and feelings.  Try sitting in quiet stillness, not focusing on your thoughts and feelings.  The mind and heart will often rebel at this attempt to be ignored.  A whole part of the spiritual journey is to allow the mind and heart to get comfortable during this meditation time. All of our faculties will be again engaged after meditation, but minus some of the fears, anxieties, worries, and apprehensions about our life.  We engage and strengthen some new tools such as acceptance, an inner peace, and a sense of connection with and in the world around us.  A calm mind and a pure heart are not bad friends to have.  They take some cultivation in mediation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Change Actions

Science and medicine seem to say that we don’t change once those neurons connect or fail to connect.  For instance, a person born blind, won’t someday see.  But that is not the only change possible.  Actions can change.  For instance, once someone becomes an alcoholic, it seems that they will always be an alcoholic.  Recovery is so that they don’t drink but do change their behavior.  Actions and behavior can change.  The spiritual path takes one from being selfish, self-centered, fearful, resentful and so on and makes them become compassionate, selfless, kind, generous, and loving.  There is a whole industry that might help you to change your body, physical appearance, but not your attitudes and actions.  In other words, you might look different, but you act the same old way.  I think that if we have what we might call a biological or physical shortcoming/weakness, we do not have to be defined by it.  I can be “Short” Irish and bald but that does not define me unless I let it.  I think my actions are more what define me for better or worse.  That is the change I work on daily.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Celebrate

A good friend dies.  Why were they a good friend?  Maybe because they loved you for who you are and can be.  You mourn the loss of your loved one.  How can you honor them in your life?  Why not celebrate and live your life, the one they loved, to the best you can be?  Yes, there will be days or moments of loneliness and sadness.  But you are still alive for a reason.  You are not done yet living out your gifts and talents.  We may age, but we are still here for a purpose.  Celebrate your friend, your loved one.  Live.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Gifts

There are gifts which we seem to have as part of who we are.  I might say that my gifts are who I am. But unless I develop these gifts they serve no useful purpose.  I cannot create a talent, but I can develop one.  If I develop my gifts then I become who I am supposed to be. This is the difference in being, having a gift, and becoming, developing a gift.   Example: I might discover that I have the gift, as I see it, to preach short and to the point homilies.  Not every preacher can do this or sees it as a gift.  There are all kinds of preachers with all kinds of gifts, but they must be developed to be of service.  So I am the short and pointed preacher.  I need to work on this on a regular basis otherwise, I will become someone I am not.  And this would be a mess.  If I develop my gift then I am of service to those who like short and to the point homilies.  Discover your gift.  Develop it.  Become of service.  This might have been too long a blog!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Off Button

Do you have an “off” bottom?  I have to make sure I stay in touch with my off button.  I need to turn off from work, exercise, computer stuff, cell phone.  Some people don’t have an off button for their job.  They are always their job or work.  Some exercise too much or eat too much or drink/drug too much.  No off button for them.  But there are some things that are really never for an off button.  I am always a priest, as someone is always a parent, spouse, such as this is part of their identity, rather than their job.  There are precious moments with old friends when I am just “Terry” but they are few and far between.  With my sisters I am just their brother.  You know when you have forgotten and/or are in need of an off button when the song, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” makes sense.  Quiz...who sang this?  Problem drinkers know the sentiment of that song.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Travel Light

Some of us try to travel light when going on a flight somewhere.  We find that carrying a lot of luggage is more of a burden than it is worth.  This is OK for outside stuff, but how much inside stuff do we burden ourselves as we go about our day or on a trip somewhere?  How much resentment, fear, anxiety, distrust, anger, self-pity and bondage to self do we carry around with us?  For me, every morning, and a checkup during the day, I have to ask how much inside stuff am I dragging about with me.  I might start out the day OK, lightly packed on the insides, but then without really noticing it, I burden myself with all the list of stuff I mentioned.  I have to stop now and again in the day, and unpack and give myself a good talking too before or right after I make a mess of things.  How about you? Gate-check time.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Samuel

There is this kid in Hebrew Scriptures, First Book of Samuel, if you are looking, and in his sleep he hears God calling him.  OK. Kids have lots of imagination.  But when he wakes up, his opening comment or prayer is, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”  How did this boy learn such a prayer.  I never learned to pray this way when I was a child.  I learned word prayers.  God was supposed to do the listening.  I learned to ask for stuff, say thank you, praise, but it was all my words and thoughts.  Plus I never thought of myself as “servant” of God.  God was supposed to serve me.  No wonder I had such a shallow spiritual life.  I think the prayer way I was taught was good enough for starters.  But why not trust that children can learn to stop paying attention to their minds, their agenda, and just listen without becoming all antsy?  Maybe less sugar and plastic products wrapping their food.  Who knows.  It is not so hard for me to stop talking about my agenda, but much harder to stop thinking about my agenda while someone else might want to talk.  I work on it. Keeping my mouth shut does not mean I am listening.  But I try on a daily basis.  Release from bondage to self is all I say many a time in my meditation.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Inconvenience

Being responsible is generally inconvenient.  It usually means I have to step up and do things I would prefer not to do.  Like what?  Well, a person walks into your group of buddies.  The person is a newcomer.  If I am one of the regulars at the meeting, I prefer to talk to my buddies.  But the group says it is open to new members and is supposed to welcome new people and take time to talk to new people and be helpful.  If no one talks more then a hello and welcome or a smile, handshake and the person leaves to never come back again, who is a fault?  Me.  And that is when being responsible is inconvenient.  I have seen this ignoring or barely civil behavior at many a gathering in churches and other so called “spiritual centers.”  If I go into a new place, and don’t have on my clerical dress/priest collar, I am pretty much ignored.  Then again, in some groups, if I do walk in with my collar on I am ignored.  Strangers are an inconvenience.  I need to step up my game.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Sleep Of Death`

I pray to my Mom.  She is dead.  But not so dead that she does not watch for me and be concerned for me.  I am a simple soul and I like the wisdom saying, “I sleep, but my heart watches.”  When I get into one of my “poor me” moods, I think, God does not care.  God is sleeping.  So what, says the wisdom saying.  God is still on watch for me.  A loving parent might go to bed and sleep while their teen daughter is out on a date or with friends.  But the parent still watches and awakes when the child comes home.  Shepherds sleep but still keep watch over the sheep.  The Bible calls God a Shepherd.  That’s how shepherds are, sleeping but watching.  Death is often called a sleep in spiritual circles.  This is why loved ones, “sleep, but their heart watches.”  Hi, Mom!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Dirt

The word “Adam” as in Adam and Eve, means Man.  And the word “Adamah” means soil, or dirt.  So there is a very close connection between being human and being dirt.  When you say, “I feel like dirt,” I might ask if you mean you feel like good dirt or bad dirt?  Anyway, we are always dirt according to the creation story.  Dirt can be alive to growth, and it becomes good/better dirt to the extent that it is nourished.  So when we are more selfless, compassionate, caring for others we are good dirt and something in us is growing that is fruitful.  If we are all about ourselves in a self-centered way, then that might be bad dirt in which not much good can grow.  To keep me in some humility when I am doing wonderful things, as others might tell me, I remember that yes, I am still dirt, but good dirt.  At times, I am amazed at what this good dirt or a human being can do!

Monday, March 2, 2020

You Could Not

Some people say, “I wish I did things differently back then.”  But if you are influenced by an addiction, you could not do things any differently than you did them in the past.  Addiction controlled your actions.  It is the nature of addictions.  It could be work, or food or drug or sex or internet, but whatever, it controlled your behavior.  I think the answer to the past, when you finally get into some recovery, is acceptance.  The past is done.  The present and future depend on the active effort at a spiritual solution.  The core of a spiritual solution is that you are no longer the center of your world.  When life and thinking was all about you, your goals, wants, fear, and attractions, it is called “bondage to self.”  The past was the best you could do in a bondage to self.  I try not to use up energy or time fantasizing about a different past.  It is just more escape from the work that needs to be done in the now.  You are not dead.  Use the gift of today.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Leaving Church

When someone belongs to a church it can be a way that they feel a sense of belonging and attachments.  “This is my church,” or “This is my parish,” they might say.  They identify as “Catholic” in my circles.  But what happens when they leave that church over bad behavior by officials?  They lose a sense of attachment.  Their institution of church was a place for them.  They have lost place and it is not re-placed.  When someone says, “I don’t believe anymore” it is less about doctrine or creed and more about the loss of attachment, the sense of belonging.  The grief in moving on or away from, is the sense of no longing belonging.  Unless we can find something else, something communal to belong to, loneliness and stunted growth can easily set in.  Drugs, drink, sex, gyms, geographic moves, job, will not fill the hole.  I like to hang around the periphery of things and places.  It is where I might run into such searchers, even if they are not aware of their search.  I have been a “detached one.”  It is a daily effort to stay connected.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Limits Are Good

Belonging means limitations.  When you belong, you are part of something bigger than yourself and this means you have limits.  Community has limits by its very nature.  If you want to be free to do anything you want, you will never be shaped into becoming who you were meant to be at your best.  Attachments, belonging, are what shape us.  Tarzan had issues! A young child without attachment to a parent, such as in orphanage, may very well have their emotional and psychological growth stunted.  They may survive yes, but growth is survival plus.  Attachments are the plus.  Refugees are detached from home and at times from family and community.  This will take a terrible toll down the road for and from the survivors.  Alcoholics are isolators who begin to recover and grow up through belonging to a group of fellow recovering alcoholics.  They meet regularly and begin to bond in friendship and service impossible in their isolated, selfish, fear-based drinking days.  I try not to do life alone.  Happy Leap Year.  An extra day to love.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Faith In Action

I don’t see faith as much use if it is an assent to a series of doctrinal statements.  I see people recite their creed but then see no action that builds community among those believers.  If I see people who have a “faith” community as they call it, this did not come from their doctrinal faith, but rather from some activity usually associated with children or some common event of interest in which they met one another.  Send your child to a Catholic elementary school and you meet other parents.  Put you child in a sports program and you meet other parents, and these adults may become your friends.  But it did not come with doctrine.  I think that a faith which leads to community building directly is from a response to a God experience.  God acts in such a way that energizes you to build community.  You might have the sense of the sacredness of each human person, the homeless as well, and you go and work in a food program that brings the hungry, the homeless, the lonely together to meet one another on a regular basis.  When senior citizens move to a new place, they don’t have the child school attachments to bond them to others.  It can be lonely unless they find a way to meet people with a common interest.  Going to a church of their faith generally does not do it.  Faith builds community not walls.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Pebbles

Some people want only to do big deal kindnesses that will feed their ego or make them think they have accomplished something important and unique.  But Dorothy Day suggests we not wait for or desire such "opportunities" as they are rare for most of us anyway.  Why not do "pebbles" of kindness she says.  These are the many small things that we can do to treat one another decently.  There are dishwashers, coffee machines, dirty sinks, rides to a doctor, a smile as you pass someone on a walk, letting someone cut into line who seems frazzled, helping someone with their luggage on an airplane and so on.  You don't have to go off and run a soup kitchen, or develop a parish helping committee if you ignore those who you see everyday or with whom you share daily life.  Pebble kindnesses do not go unnoticed unrewarded, except to big egos.  The reward?  A transformed, fully your best self person.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

All Those Statues

Some people wonder why the Catholics have all those statues and paintings of people in their churches.  Is it idol worship? Some other strange thing like delusional talking to statues?  Not really.  The meaning behind all this art, if you will, is to celebrate and remind Catholics that their God came to earth in the flesh, as a human being.  It is called the Incarnation.  These images can be looked at and touched as a reminder of what this God did, so freely, and without anyone earning it.  Besides that, the statues and pictures remind us that we are flesh too, and have this goodness within us.  It is a reminder to be good and caring toward our bodies and do likewise for others.  There is a sacredness to human life, and all life for that matter.  Some pictures have animals in them too.  Even when no one else will listen to you or pay attention to you, there are always statues and images as a reminder that we are not alone and that we are being listened to.  It may save you from despair and depression and other dark moods.  To have a 24/7 chapel in your town can be a lifesaver.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Middle School

I heard from a middle school student that their teacher called the whole class “stupid.”  The teacher might have been frustrated but I would still think it bad pedagogy.  The middle school student wants to learn, but maybe does not want to learn everything or at a pace that the dreaded curriculum wants to rule as “school learning.”  Why not ask the students to write down what they are good at?  What they are good at might be of interest to them.  Be ready to be astonished by the potential and hope-filled surprises that come up in the student.  Encourage them to pay attention to their gifts.  Their light may begin to shine.  Too often these young people worry about how to fit in and be popular, to have friends.  So they might dummy down a talent because they don’t want to stand out or appear odd, or off center, whatever that might be.  I think of Billie Eilish and “Winner.”  Very popular with these young people.  Does not fit into Hollywood glamour.  If you don’t know who Billie is, (a girl), go to middle school.  You will learn something!

Monday, February 24, 2020

A Talent

There is a saying, “The one who has not, even what they have will be taken away.”  Who has not what?  Encouragement.   For instance, a child might have a gift, a talent that they don’t even know is a talent.  It has not been made visible or developed.  So maybe the child needs encouragement.  What they have not is encouragement to develop a talent.  Otherwise, it might remain hidden or lost over time from lack of use.  A talent that eventually becomes big, accomplished, always starts small and maybe a bit hidden.  It needs encouragement and loving support.  How sad it is for someone to kill themselves because of loneliness or a sense of not fitting in, when in fact they had the talent to be a great artist, but no one encouraged them?  I keep doing what I am doing because people encourage me.  Be a talent scout for others especially the children.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Taking Inventory

The phrase, “taking inventory” refers to looking at shortcomings, bad habit, defects of character to see what needs work.  I do this frequently.  Unfortunately, I do it of others much less than of myself.  I think I am very good at judging the faults and shortcomings of others and know what should be done, unless I think they are helpless and hopeless to change.  What people say, how they look or sit or talk, and I have the list of their mess.  When I do get around to my own faults, this is one of the first ones I seem to notice.  A daily examination of conscience in the evening, if not a daily spot check catches me at this bad behavior.  So I don’t often go to sleep or to bed with resentments or anger or muttering to myself.  Unless of course I am muttering to myself about how I keep doing the same old, same old.  At this point the only people I think should burn are those who don’t park between the lines at grocery store, mall and church parking lots.  But I am working on it.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Skid Row Of Success

I have heard of the "Skid row of success."  It is when things look good on the outside but on the inside you are coming undone.  Outsides are often about things, your stuff, your toys, or appearances.  Job, home, income, vacations, lifestyle, clothe, family all look good.  It is the way we often judge ourselves and others.  It is where we put a lot of our energy so we can have all this outside stuff.  So why is it skid row?  Because on the inside we are killing ourselves and if we don't attend to our spiritual center, we in fact may literally kill ourselves, should we have the courage.  Fear and cowardice are good things here. We are destroying ourselves, just like people do who live literally on a skid row situation.  We destroy ourselves by trying to fill the insides with the outsides.  Such unfulfilling activity is often muted momentarily by drugs, alcohol, sugar, exercise and sex but to no avail.  All temporary and then such solutions become the problem.  Thus the metaphoric skid row becomes the reality of life.  The outsides are gone and the insides are empty.  What remains? Desperation.  If you get that gift, you don't have to stay empty.  And if you follow it you will live with gratitude forever.  I never forget where I came from.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Old Forest

Look at an old forest that has not been “Managed” by some agency or property owner.  What you may think you see is a mess, no order, lots of rot.  But what you see is not all there is.  That old forest is interconnected within itself.  The dead and rotting trees as you call them, are not so dead as they appear.  They are contributing to the growing trees and to future new trees.  Forestry services tend to like some order, and managed growth, so they clear away the fallen trees, the “debris” as they see it, to get more trees that can look nice or be cut down for wood products.  Such action loses more than it gains.  A lot is going on beneath the soil that you cannot see.  It is the same with the funeral home business.  They embalm bodies and put them in boxes and bury them.  I think the monastic communities have a better idea.  Bury the body in the ground the day after death, with no box to surround it.  Our dead bodies are valuable to the eco structure of life.  We are interconnected with the earth and serve it even in death.  Like the dead trees we are not so dead after all!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Love Your Best

Jean Vanier founded a ministry to live and work with people who had developmental disabilities.  Did he cure them? No.  Did he help them to live on their own? No.  So what did he do?  That question begs for results.  Vanier was not into doing extraordinary things.  He did not raise the dead or cure the sick.  His goal was to do the ordinary but do it with extraordinary love.  If one can do that, then there is a healing.  Extraordinary love heals, at least in the one doing the loving.  Many people suffer always or from time to time from the developmental disability to love selflessly.  I have my moments.  Vanier challenges me to get up and try again.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

More Babies

I have heard it said that the reason young adult women marry later in life and have fewer babies is because they are career oriented and too self-centered to have a bunch of babies.  I beg to differ.  I think economics and the work world affect women’s decisions.  For one, there is usually a lot of college or post-college debt to be paid off once you get a job.  Then there is the job insecurity with a lot of outsourcing of work, lack of medical benefits and geographic insecurity.  Then there is the high cost of buying a home in many a place where there is work.  Then you have to pay for child education and some day care.  It is not so much our young women who have to change, as it might be more the economic model and culture of our modern western world.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

David And Goliath

David is a small guy.  Goliath is a big guy.  David put himself into harms way since now Goliath wants to kill him in battle.  What to do?  David makes a decision that affects Goliath.  David sling shots a stone into the forehead of Goliath, which knocks him out.  David then kill Goliath with his own sword.  Many decisions we make affect someone else, in this case, not so innocent a person, Goliath.  But what if you are about to make a decision that does affect someone else who is good, innocent, not deserving of the consequences of your decision?  Do you say, “I am free to decide what I want to do?”  Such decisions are not all about me.  So I have to take into consideration as to how it will affect others.  What has changed for me is that I used to do pretty much what I wanted, if I could get away with little tolerable consequences.  Now I find myself asking, “How will what I want, affect others?”  I find in this new attitude, that I don’t as often want the things I used to want, when it was more about me.  But there are still moments when growing away from bondage to self that is hard.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Why Of It

It is a good thing to do something that affects someone else for love of them, as in love of neighbor.  Such action might be motivated by compassion, a sense on oneness with this other person.  But I have found that there is another reason for doing an action that affects someone else.  It is motivated by insecurity and/or low self-esteem.  If I get caught up in this, then I act in order for you to like, praise, approve of me when in fact your opinion of me is none of my business as my sane friends remind me.  Or maybe I act from a blotted ego that needs constant feeding.  No one likes to think about their death, their mortality, but it sure is a way to keep us right-sized when ego and insecurity are out of control.  Or hang around with people who are working on these issues successfully.  Or keep an honest diary or daily inventory/examination of conscience at night before bed.  Don’t assume your motives are always selfless.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Old And New

My experience is that I cannot place the new on top or in the old.  There is a saying, “You cannot put new wine into old wine skins.”  The wine is meant to expand and it would break the already old wine skin that cannot expand.  So the old me is not going to do much with suggested new behavior.  I might do a little better, live a little more sane and less self-centered, but not much.  I will survive, but there will be casualties in how I treat and live with others.  I need a new me.  Meditation, reading to expand my horizons, listening to other people who are trying for a “new me” transformation really helps.  Just trying on my own will power won’t do it.  The old me has a broken will power.  It needs more than repair.  So each day I wake up and say a gratitude prayer (that I have another chance at change) and then ask for a new me.  Since I am asking for a lot, I have to put in a lot.  Action beats wishing every time.  Even trudging is better than complacency and fantasy.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Temp

I just finished the book, “Temp” by Louis Hyman.  More and more we are becoming a temp work force rather than full time security and benefits.  I was feeling badly for all those people who want full time challenging work with benefits, and then I realized that I am a “Temp” worker.  I am a temp priest.  Right now I help out at a parish because they do not have a full time pastor.  But as soon as he comes, I will be dropped from being a priest in that parish.  This is the life of the temp.  When I work I get paid.  Don’t work.  Don’t get paid.  A retired priest who has a retirement income can help out here and there at different places, a mass, confessions, and maybe a funeral.  But it is to supplement his income.  Me...I have to work.  The life of a temp is that there is no full time work out there.  You can develop the virtue of humility and acceptance when you realize you are not really needed.  I wake up with gratitude that I have any work to do each day.  

Friday, February 14, 2020

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!  It is a day to talk about love.  I realize that I am not in love with God.  At times, I am in love with God but I don’t love God with much consistency.  Let me explain.  When you were young or are young now, you may have fallen in love.  “I am in Love,” you tell anyone who will put up with you.  When in this state you will do anything for your beloved, pretty much.  That is, you give up your will for their will.  You go out of your way for there wants, much less their needs.  But what happens when you move on from being in love, to loving?  Notice that you don’t do everything your partner wants.  Your will takes over quite often.  You might negotiate who gets what when.  But basically you don’t do much surrendering.  You did that when you were falling in love and that stage is mostly past.    So it is with me and God. ON a good retreat I might be in love with God. But retreat emotions pass.  But generally, on a daily basis.  I don’t do everything that God might wish me to do.  I am self-willed.  So obviously I am not “in love” with God.  Only occasionally do I do God’s will, but quite often I just do what I want even though I know it is not my best self.  I don’t really sacrifice of obey or surrender on any consistent basis.  So now and again, I “love God” but it seems to be when our wills coincide.  So how does it go with your partner if you have one?  What does “Happy Valentine’s Day” mean?  God is supposed to be a significant other in my life, but today reminds me that I am of the tepid variety of love.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Cancer Report

So I had a polyp removed from my colon and it was sent off to the lab.  I get this colonoscopy exam every five years. A week later, a live person calls from the doctor’s office and says, “How are you?”  How am I?  My heart is in my throat and hardly beating.  I am waiting to hear that my life is over.  Please don’t start out with chit chat.  I would prefer, “Fr. Ryan you are cancer free.  This is the doctor’s office.”  Then we can do nice, pleasant talking.  She can tell me what the name of the polyp is and that I will have this done again in five years.  All good.  I talk the talk of hope, faith, God has my back, but I walk the walk of gloom and doom when it comes to biopsy reports.  But for now I am good to go for another five years.  This could mean endless blogs.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Tyranny of Emotions

I like this phrase, The Tyranny of Emotions."  Why should my emotions run my life?  All emotions pass.  They are emotions.  But when I am feeling good why must I try and maintain or up that good feeling?  Enjoy it for the moment but I don't have to act on it.  I see a girl across the room and say, "I am in Love."  Never met her.  The emotion then takes over my life and I do whatever it seems to indicate.  We make mad passionate love that I say is undying.  I wake up one morning and say, "I don't love her anymore."  Whoops!  People who wait on such love emotions and don't act them out,  do so to avoid the tyranny.  They are not prudes.  When I am down, feeling depressed why do I have to do something about it?  I am down.  It will pass and drugs, alcohol and other substitutes are just that.  Yes, some people have mental and chemical body issues that require treatment but for most of us, it is just a need for patience.  We are human and the bad times remind us of this.  Besides, for me, God has my back.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

God Feelings?

If you believe in a God, does your God have feelings?  You might say yes, because God loves you.  But love is an action, that does not require a feeling.  A lot of people may feel love, but they don’t act in a loving manner because they are unable to act with anyone’s self-interest in mind but their own.  I think of God as beyond all feelings and thoughts.  My God is love, an action poured onto me even when I am most unlovable in my shortcomings.  At my best, I love even when I do not feel love.  A person asks me to do something that I don’t want to do simply because I am into myself, but I say yes anyway.  This is what makes me a loving person.  Feelings pass and are usually more self-serving as in adolescent love.  But you Christians might have a leg up on God feeling love.  As I recall, Jesus is supposed to be God and he rose from the dead.  But what rose was a body.  Bodies car feel love, and the truly transformed body, and in this case, a resurrected one, can feel and act out that feeling.  So when Jesus ascended to heaven, he did so with a  body.  So now, God can feel love.  I thought this all up by myself, not in a book.  So if heresy, it is all mine.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Restless Adventurer

What if education could be an adventure that appeals to the restless heart?  Not everyone who squirms in their seat in class has ADHD or needs medication.  Such a child might really want to learn but senses no appeal to the heart and no adventure though they cannot articulate it like this.  What is the adventure?  Well, education should be a risk.  It should not be so safe, as in learning a skill or vocation so you can insure a safe living.  That is not education.  Education helps us to find out what we are willing to live for, and as follows, what we are willing to die for.  Learn what is good and what is evil from traditions of the ages. Education ought to show us how to have the victory of good over evil.  We want the virtue of courage which can be learned from such an education.  How many people  finish up there advanced education with fear and uncertainty about what to do and how to act?  How many are paralyzed into conformity with a status quo that is at best mediocre or want someone else to fix their messy world?  A lot of this education is very spiritual, as it appeals to the heart, but we think spiritual is all about organized western religion with its rules and control issues.  I read and listen to what challenges me to grow.  You might say I live for this education.  IT took a lot of growing up.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Self-Interest

Adam Smith, who wrote the seminal work of modern economics and capitalism, “The Wealth Of Nations,” said that enlightened self-interest is the driving force for prosperity.  What is often forgotten is that he was a Calvinist minister.  Enlightened meant for Smith a moral framework to include the Ten Commandments, the Bible, and an empathy and love of neighbor.  But as religion and belief in God got dumped or diminished in modern times, all that remained is “self-interest” as in me and mine, and “more is better.”  Empathy for neighbor is out the window in economics, as is the commandments and the Bible with all its Wisdom sayings.  When we dump religion all together, there is a price to be paid.  We don’t hold onto any moral structure that connects us to one another in a healthy way.  Historically, bad things begin to happen and societies get trashed to build a new world in which a lot of people get murdered.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Best Friend

Another dog story.  John Bosco, also called Don Bosco, connected well with poor boys in his town of Turin during the Industrial Revolution.  Kids were running around on the streets.  They lacked food and purpose, and some even homes.  Don Bosco founded the Salesians to minister to the boys.  He often walked the unsafe city streets at night looking for boys wandering around. Up pops a dog named Grigio.  He was three feet tall.  He could put the fear of dog into criminals and other bad people.  Bosco did not find the dog.  The dog found him.  At night the dog would suddenly appear beside him just as bad people were about to waylay Don Bosco.  Grigio never accepted any food.  He just came and went when Don Bosco needed protection.  It is said that Grigio appeared thirty years later when Don Bosco was lost in a marsh and led him out to safety.  Well, Guardian Angels don’t always need to show up with wings.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Blessed James

This fellow James was from near Lombardy, in Italy during the 13th century.  One historian said that the 13th was the Church’s greatest of centuries.  Well here is one to put a dark mark on that.  James studied law but then became a priest.  He finds an abandoned hospital and from his own expense restores it and cares for the sick.  He shared his legal knowledge with the poor, but he upset his bishop. Why?  Because in his legal research he found that previous bishops had unjustly appropriated funds for that hospital that had gone to ruins.  The current bishop was unwilling to acknowledge or rectify the injustice.  James brought legal suit in court and won.  So the bishop invites him to dinner.  On the way home, brigands arranged for by said bishop, ambushed and assassinated James.  Money and reputation often are behind a lot of bad stuff.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Wrong Solution

What is the attitude toward drink that a person has when they begin to drink “too much” as we might say.  I think that the hope of such a drinker is that they expect things to get better the more they drink in any drinking session.  They have a tough day or they want to celebrate an event.  They think that a drink will make them feel better, and then another, to celebrate better.  More drinks to get even better.  Things turn into disaster by the end of the drinking session or bout.  So next they decide that they want to drink normally, but have more positive results, less car crashes, jail, spouse and family leaving, loss of job and so on.  This all sounds crazy to many of you right?  But ask yourself what you overdo in order to feel better?  The flu gets you down, but you think you will feel better with some gym work or a run or go to work.  The thought of bed and fluids leaves you thinking, “That is not enough.”  Where do you get into trouble when your thinking says, “More is better.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Our Words

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
LUKE 2: 22-32
FEBRUARY 2, 2020

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord as a baby in the Temple.  A fellow named Simeon recognizes Jesus as the Christ and praises him as a light to the world. What wonderful words to say to a baby or a child!  Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Blaise, when we bless throats in the Catholic Church.  So today, I blessed throats too when lots of people are at weekend mass.  The blessing of throats is not just to avoid physical illness.  The throat is the place from which our words are sounded out, for good or bad.  

The blessing says, “May God deliver you from every disease of the throat and every other illness.”  That other illness is that God deliver us from saying unkind, and hurtful things to people.  I heard of a teacher who told a whole class that they were stupid.  Do we not speak words of darkness and hurt when we call people stupid, lazy, worthless, idiot, ugly and so on.  Think of what that might do to a child who is so unsure of themselves and so insecure.  

Jesus was always saying uplifting words to people who felt badly about themselves.  His biting challenges were only to those who suffered false pride and it was to awaken them to their smugness.  But otherwise, he was light for those in darkness.  Now, we may not be able to control our thoughts and emotions that simply, and suddenly pop up within us.  But we can control our words.  So we are invited today to be more like Simeon.  Choose words of light rather than words of darkness.  It may call forth the hidden talents that another person has.  Speaking such words can become a talent within each one of us!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Suffering In Silence

Some people suffer depression and anxiety in silence.  This means that they may not let on either in word or expression.  So what might I do with this thought in mind for today?  Well, maybe try for some more meaningful encounter with each person I run into, rather than a “Hello, how are you,” as I walk by.  They may simply say, “Fine,” since they don’t think I would care, or am too busy for them, or, if they are a silent sufferer, will go on silently suffering.  Make my encounters an attempt to be more meaningful or compassionate.  I am often in a hurry to complete some less important task than being of service to another suffering human being.  Today, I will be getting a colonoscopy.  How am I doing?  “Fine!” 😇

Monday, February 3, 2020

Comfortable Convictions

Sometimes we believe something is true because it makes us feel good.  Such convictions work well for us, and thus we think we are right and anyone who differs is wrong.  If others who disagree are not so wrong or we are no so right, then we stop feeling good, and who wants that?  Most people don’t like to live in a grey area of anything where truth is not so settled and certain.  We are OK with making some statements about the galaxies since it does not so much affect our comfort zone.  Black holes don’t make or break my day.  But talk about religion, sexuality, politics and you get into heated argument.  These arguments are not about learning new information, or taking an open look at another stance or view.  Such arguments are about feeling more comfortable with one’s beliefs and therefore feeling more comfortable period.  Such a stance always seems to presume to know God, and there is a God, and to know what God is thinking and doing.  I prefer the mystic who experiences the Holy but presumes to know little.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Validation

If I find myself trying too hard for validation, importance, being needed, it will never be enough.  People who are secure in their self-worth never spend a lot of energy or onyx on getting more feedback from others as to their worth.  If we are insecure about our worth even when we get some validation, it never seems to last long enough.  So I have tried to stop focus on outsides and work on the insides.  But I am getting a lot of validation from a nearby parish in Boulder that did not even know I existed until their pastor left and they were desperate.  It might be that the desperate will like anyone who will help so I won't get too prideful about it.  When they get a new pastor I will return to anonymity.  So I keep working on my insides of acceptance so I can be of service as needed, or wanted.  But this is nice while it lasts.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Teacher

Sometimes you must decrease as someone else increases.  That is, your influence or importance in their life goes into the background while the person you influenced grows and moves on.  I think of the teacher, parent, sponsor, guide.  A second grade teacher, a parent of a small child, a sponsor of someone just getting sober, a guide to the lost, all have an important and influential place in the life of whoever they are mentoring or guiding.  The second grade teacher is central to this small child.  The teacher models, challenges and encourages the student one on one.  Then the student moves on, grows up, while the second grade teacher goes into the background or compartment of the grown adult’s past.  The teacher may never know of the importance of anything they did for that student.  They don’t stay in contact.  But the adult is living a better life because of the second grade teacher.  It is the same for a parent, sponsor, guide, and even a friend.  So I try to do and be my best for someone with whom I have a relationship or encounter in the present.  We may move on, and my importance will decrease while they might increase as living out their potential.  Hopefully, I had some good effect though I may never know it.  I was once a pastor somewhere.  I was central, important, influential.  Now I go back and I am “Father Who?”  So it goes.

Friday, January 31, 2020

More For The One Who Sees

Think of those magi going into the house where Jesus lived after their long journey following a celestial light.  Great expectations!  What do they see?  A kid, with a peasant mom and a working class carpenter.  Not much, huh?  I guess it depends on how you see.  Lots of times, I think there isn’t much in a situation or even in my own life.  That feeling, “I am not much.”  Life seems pointless, drab, so so.  But there is always more if we can get beneath seeing with the physical eye, and initial feelings.  I find that getting “out of myself” as some say, as in meditation, or a meandering walk, or helping another person, does give me a deeper view of what is going on.  Sharing my ‘Nothingness” can give me new sight as to my value and the sense of worth about life around me.  I guess the magi had the same experience, as they shared their gifts.  We all have gifts.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Crossroad

I once was at a crossroad of two streets.  One was darkness and the other was despair.  I was lost and without a map.  There was no google map at that time.  The darkness confused any direction and the despair sucked my energy.  My life was in ruins.  Trying to think about anything seemed fruitless since my thinking had gotten me to this crossroad.  So I stopped thinking about me, a first.  This was a gift, to not think about me.  So now what?  Well, instead of focusing on my mind and my thoughts, jumbled and constant as they were, I had the inspiration to notice I was breathing.  I did not think about breathing.  I simple noticed it, one breath at a time.  Then came gift #2.  I noticed that there was something else of me besides my thoughts.  I was not just my thoughts.  Well what else was there?  A kind of peace and a hunger for being, enjoying that part of me that was not my thoughts.  I fell into an acceptance and comfort in this breathing calmness not focused on my thoughts  Life was not all darkness and despair and I was not only my thoughts.  I had discovered the presence of a More, and it was Me, or calling me to be this Me.  After I rested in this discovery, I did the next right thing and that is why I am here today typing out this blog one breath at a time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Light

Sometimes I feel like a black hole as in universe stuff.  A black hole is where gravity is so strong that light cannot escape from the star.  The star is invisible but it exists.  The black hole me is when I have light but am so turned into myself, so self-centered, that I cannot let me light shine for others.  I cannot be of some service or love.  Sometimes, I am like a planet.  A planet has no light of its own.  It is lit by light from elsewhere, a star, like our sun.  The planet me is lit by the love of a friend.  I may feel I am just spinning my life around and they light up my life with their love.  Remember the song, “You light up my life.”  (Quiz: who sang it?).  Then sometimes I am like a bright star.  I shine my light and my warmth onto others.  I have a spiritual process or steps to help take me from black hole to star.  And I have friends along the way, who help me with their light.  Become a star.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Thoughtful Kindness

Sometimes, people can be a bit overwhelming with their kindness.  This is not always a good thing.  For instance, if you see a person who looks down and out, their hands shaking, and they ask or you offer them a cup of coffee, don’t overwhelm the person with a full cup.  Why?  Because they are shaking and could spill hot coffee over themselves and onto the floor.  Give them a half cup.  Being thoughtful sometimes means that we do good by half.  Kindness is not meant to make us feel better.  It is in service to the other person.  Less can be more, or at least enough.

Monday, January 27, 2020

1917

The Academy Awards, that is the Oscars, will happen soon.  I love the Red Carpet venue the best.  I think that the movie "1917" is going to win best picture.  It has some gruesome scenes, but it is worth seeing, and on the big screen.  I mean it is a World War.  Two guys are given the task of bringing a message to a group of soldiers far across the battle zones, to tell them that they are about to be ambushed.  One soldier says it is a waste, being too dangerous and impossible to get through all the enemy lines.  The other fellow presses on.  The doubter's life is saved by his companion, and this changes him.  He becomes all in, even after his friend is killed.  Alone, he pushes on until...go see the movie.  My point is that when someone is willing to put himself in danger's way to save you, it can transform you from a doubter, or self-serving person, or a fear-based person, into someone who would give their life for another.  Sometimes you are not even aware that you are loving.  You are just putting one foot in  front of the other.  Extraordinary things can happen. I mean the guy went over the waterfall and into the raging river.  And the movie is a true story.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Questions

I prefer a theology of questions rather than of answers.  Too many of us want our religions to make us safe and secure with the “right” answers.  There is little challenge for me to grow in such a situation.  I don’t think that Jesus or Buddha or other great spiritual adepts were much about answers.  People are always asking about the “right” way to meditate, and what is enlightenment as if it had an answer.  Read the sermon on the mount and see that it leaves one with a lot of questions that don’t get answered by Jesus.  “Come follow me,” and “The Kingdom is in your midst,” leaves out a lot of security and certainty.  Whenever one gets close to the answer, if there is one, I think they become fire rather than secure and safe.  Truth consumes me, but does not make me comfortable.  Mediation leaves me with much to do and ponder in humility, and courage, whereas going to mass on Sunday is a check off on the to do list of things that will make me feel better about being “religious.”

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Lapsed But Listening

I seem to have some appeal to people who used to be with some religious practice, have stopped, thus called lapsed, but are still listening.  To what or why?  Well, they wee not being spiritually fed from their perspective, but they know that they have a hunger for more than just not practicing.  I think recovery programs have a lot of lapsed but listening people.  Their religion as they knew it did not help them in their addiction.  But they sense that they need more than just abstinence from whatever was killing them or destroying their life.  I might be a bad priest for sometimes thinking outside the box, and be that as it might, but it is my spirituality at this time, and I hope I serve a useful purpose to someone(s). I serve the “lapsed but listening.”

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Boss

I rarely hear people say, “I used to be Lutheran, or Methodist, or Congregational,” and so on.  Nor do hear people complain about such past denominational connections.  But I do hear Catholics say, “I used to Catholic,” or “I can’t stand the Catholic Church,” or “I am Catholic but I don’t practice.”  Identifying as the non-practicing Catholic is often a way to say your intelligence is no way diminished by such a connection.  So I sense that when you become a Catholic it is such a connection that is hard if not impossible to be rid of.  It is like sacramental duck tape or a spiritual DNA.  I tend to agree with the Boss, “Once you’re a Catholic, you’re always a Catholic.”  You don’t know who the Boss is?  Rock and Roll guy from New Jersey?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Identity

One of the reasons that my church attracts new members, is their desire to be part of something great as they see it.  My church is big and 2000 years old.  The isolation that comes with urban and suburban life often lacks a way to overcome the struggle for social recognition.  People crave a sense of worth and positive dignity that is missing in mass urbanization, single driver rush hours and mass transportation.  Latinas who feel diminished in their ethnic or immigrant status may gravitate to a church of like culture that makes them feel important and recognized as a group. the Irish, Italian, and others all did this in the past. There is a tension between individual expression and the longing for a community of like minded people.  For some, religion fills the bill.  Evangelization can become a way to make you feel important, but it will not transform you.  Why would one seek transformation in which ultimately you must become less, if you already feel like you are nothing from the uncaring society in which you find yourself?  Feeling part of an elite group is short term for deep spiritual growth.  Maybe that is why Jesus had so few followers, and I suspect still does.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Holiness Through What We Have

Staying with yesterday’s blog, how does one become holy who has things?  Not simply by giving some away as in contributing to a charity.  Lots of people do that but holiness, fullness of being eludes them still.  I think two things are necessary.  One is the idea that alone I am never enough to solve issues, deprivations, sufferings.  This gives us humility in spite of our stuff.  Second, is to see what we have can be a blessing if we give it away with love, knowing that it is not enough in quantity.  The love, the attitude, is what makes up for quantity.  To give something away with love requires that it be more personal, more face to face because that is where we see we are never enough on one hand and yet more than enough on the other.  I grow the most holy when I go up to someone or am with someone face to face being of service to that person.  I don’t worry about being the solution.  I seek the holiness that comes with the interaction and proper attitude.  A humble self-giving.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Post War II for Moms

Two things changed for women after WWII, especially if they were wives and moms.  One change was money and the other was something to buy.  During and before WWII there was little money and not much to buy outside of necessities like food, shelter and clothing, of the barest sort.  The church’s spiritual teaching was that of simplicity of lifestyle, having little, was a good ascetic practice for getting a good seat after we die.  The monastic life for all.  The one percent folk who had a lot and lived lavishly, purchased lots of mass intentions for when they died because they knew they had not lived the ideal spirit of simplicity.   The church, especially monasteries with lots of monk priests made a good income saying mass for rich people and royalty.  But after WWII the consumer society took off with the fifties.  Families had some discretionary income and there were new consumer goods to buy.   I loved the 50s.  This trend has continued more or less since then. But the church has had a lot of difficulty coming up with a spirituality for the consumer society.  Government adjusted.  The Mom and Wife is expected to act more like the disappearing nuns of old.  A seat at the table with some economic power is not the model of old.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Knowing Not Enough

Just to know something of the spiritual is never enough for me.  So I am a searcher, not just a researcher.  I want more than information or dogma or direction.  Information is the easier part.  To search is hard.  I think of the magi, those guys from Persia who traveled all the way from there to Jerusalem, a hard journey, following nothing other than a star.  They knew that a King had been born but they had no experience of the King.  The mind and body were engaged in their journey, but it was not until they encountered the King, that they “saw” as with the inner eye.  This was the mystical moment that is life-changing.  There are many things that we see but our lives are not significantly enough changed.  And there are things that I know exist, but I have no interest in going to see them.  I know Mount Rushmore exists, but I am not interested in that journey.  Maybe there was a time in the past, but it has passed.  The magi did geography, traveling across land, but it was all in the interest of the interior search.  Thus I find myself more into the interior travel.  No frequent flyer miles here.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Holiness

Some people think that holiness is all about abandoning the world, going off to pray away from the secular.  Perhaps, but it is not my way to holiness.  I need some time each day for stepping away, but I think that holiness is more about living in the world in a way that gives comfort and compassion to those who are suffering within or without.  In my quiet times I often realize my own wounds.  I also can have them brought to the center of my consciousness by gathering with other people who are working on a more spiritual life in the world.  I am much more comforting and compassionate and attentive to others when I am centered and aware that all my growth is grace.  I try to balance my monastic self with my being of service self.  My detractors would rather I just go away.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Myrrh-Bearer

I want to become a myrrh bearer.  What?  Myrrh is a resin that is produced when a tree is wounded.  It is meant to help heal the tree.  Myrrh is also used as a beauty aide and in burial rites.  So if I am a myrrh bearer kind of person, I am a presence that is healing for others. I want to be a myrrh bearer person kind of friend who helps others to realize how beautiful they are when they are down on themselves or only noticing imperfections.  And I want to be there for when people die, to comfort the mourners and do good funerals.  Death can often bring a lot of wounding to those who live on.  Some days I am a better fragrance than other days!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Cartoons Lie

I always enjoyed the cartoon, “Wile E. Coyote.”  The road runner always sped away from the coyote. That is false as I recently found out.  The coyote at top speed is much faster than a road runner.  All the coyote had to do was chase the road runner.  Maybe the coyote did not know this was the answer or that it had the capacity for such speed?  So, though I am crushed by the lie in the cartoon, maybe there is some truth for me and you.  Maybe our growth comes from knowing more about our capacity and then pushing ourselves to that capacity for us to be all that we can be.  Just because I say, “I cannot,” or “That is beyond me,” it may not always be so.  In meditation and spiritual reading, my horizons often get expanded and new possibilities arise.  I often find that I can do something that I did not think possible.  It is not always simply one time effort.  It is often the discipline of not giving up.  But I hope that my favorite cartoon, “Bugs Bunny” has no fibs.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Cannot Change

I don’t know why we vex ourselves over a lack of faith in a God.  I think the key is acceptance.  If you don’t believe in a God then don’t worry about it.  Accept the things you cannot change.  If you say that you believe in nothing, then you can become quite a mystic.  Meister Eckhart says that God is “No Thing.”  He prayed.  Buddha said God neither is nor is not, and he meditated, a lot.  Just because someone says that they believe in God, does it mean their belief is more than their imagination in some image or person somewhere?  They would say yes, but then I ask how truly transformed they really are?  It seems to me that some of the best non-believers in the “Idea” of God, are some of the best prayers and meditators and the most transformed.  So pray to no thing, and you might be on to something.  How to pray to “no thing”?  Stop talking, and thinking about...Be still and silent.  Your problem may be more with the stillness and silence.  We can use our lack of “faith” as an excuse.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wants And Needs

I know that I am on the spiritual path when I can be more focused on my needs than my wants.  My wants are more often about me while my needs are more about others, or more about my outsides and less about my insides.  Why so?  Well, what I want is usually more about my comfort and convenience than it is about anyone else.  Example:  I want a parking place near to the entrance to where I am going.  Do I consider an elderly, or injured person who might be wanting that same parking place?  No.  I have no wants for any other person but myself.  I want a treat.  I want to go to a movie.  These are all about me.  A need almost always connects me to a world larger than myself.  I need love, but this includes another person and I must be selfless enough to love in return or else it is not love.  I need money to pay bills, survive or else I cannot be of use to others in my present circumstances.  But I don’t need money to go on holiday.  That is a want.  I might say I need to ski or go away from work, or have some fun, but this often it is escape from doing the interior work that needs to be done on myself.  That is why I need to go to my monastery, but have little desire to travel and see new places.  As we age, wants and needs shift but a want usually does not satisfy.  It cannot deliver what the need is.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Homily

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 3: `3-17
JANUARY 12, 2020
Some people believe that they become holy by spending a lot of time in church or doing novenas, devotional, prayer books and such.  But I think that does not do enough.  I think that holiness also needs some “breaking open.”  In my church we have bread, hosts, that are broken and then shared.  It signifies for me that our Jesus broke himself open and shared himself.  OK, so how does that work for the rest of those who believe in him?

It can start when you are a child.  You are asked to make your bed.  You don’t want to make your bed.  You want to do what you want to do when you want to do it.  It is all about you and your self-will, selfish as it can be.  But instead of being all about you, you break yourself open and make your bed for your parent who asked you.  You are of service to the will of another to do a good deed.  Part of you says, “NO!” But then part of you breaks off and says, “YES.”  Holiness is also called “growing up.”  Many people never grow up.  

Baptism is being dunked into the waters with all our selfishness and self-centeredness, all our “ME” world of self-implosion.  The coming up out of the water is the decision that we will no longer live only for ourselves, but rather be of service to others, as was Jesus.  We get the Holy Spirit, Power to live out this decision.  Baptism is into a religion of service, not private spirituality.  All private prayer, meditation, stillness and silence is in the service of accessing the Power, Spirit, to become more selfless.


An obstacle is that we think we are not enough to be of any real use to change the world for the better, or we think that whatever we do will not be enough.  This is like John the Baptist who thought he was not enough to baptize Jesus.  But Jesus says he is enough, with Jesus.  We are enough with God Power.  And why should we worry about the results of our actions, service?  We are not in charge of results.  Our transformation into holiness is not about results but about action on our part.  Leave the results up to God.  Keeps us humble too!  

Monday, January 13, 2020

Choices

Doing my best is not the same as doing what I have to do.  I believe that we have choices in spite of bad stuff happening over which we seem to have little control.  We have to adjust to survive.  Think of catastrophic weather in which everyone is endangered and stuff is being destroyed.  One person decides to “travel light” and be helpful to those around them, not worrying so much about their own stuff being washed away or destroyed.  Another person decides to loot.  The looter might say, “I don’t have much at all, so I am doing what I have to do.”  The one who has something and is losing it, does their best to help another.  When I do my best, my world is better for it even though there is a lot of mess and loss around me.  When I “do what I have to do,” it is so often around fear, jealousy, selfishness and resentment.  I do my best with my blogs, though some of them are trash.  I try never to have to do them.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Antipasto

Antipasto refers to that which comes before the main dish in Italian circles.  You might have antipasto salad or noodles.  Well, I think of anti-days, as in spiritual programs of growth and recovery.  What I do today will connect with how tomorrow goes.  If I pray, am selfless, talk to people on the path of such growth, get out of my own way, then tomorrow has a good chance of starting out well and going well if I can string along regular days of doing the same things, the spiritual food needed on a daily basis.  Today’s main dish becomes the antipasto for tomorrow.  I starve myself when I eat nothing of this spiritual food.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Service

I am bemused when a pastor comes into a parish the first day as the new pastor.  He calls it “my parish.”  It is the clericalism and hierarchy of the Catholic organization of top down power. The pastor might use the word “service” as in he comes to serve the people, but in fact he comes to be boss. He moves furniture, redecorates, changes a lot of the outsides to suit his taste, and so on.  There is minimal consultation, since all the parish groups know he is the “boss.”  AA is so much different as an organization.  It is not top down, nor hierarchical and the leaders really do serve the group.  The person who runs the meeting, makes coffee, buys literature, and so on, each works for a short period of time, say six months at that service position.  Then the group elects new people to take all the “service” positions.  They serve the group.  If there is a master, it would be alcohol.  It has all the power to kill and destroy.  People can choose to join a parish, and may have some spiritual growth.  But an alcoholic comes into AA with one gift, desperation.  The miracle in their spiritual recovery is that they move from desperation to becoming a servant of the group, from self centered focus to selfless focus. Pastors, with all that power and control have a difficult time ever getting past me and mine.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Saint Roch

There appears to be a patron saint of dogs.  St. Roch from France.  He was saved from plague death through the care of a dog he did not know.  More interesting is that someone did a study, for what it’s worth, saying 40% of people with dogs hang up a stocking for their dog at Christmas.  Would that be you?  Maybe the other 60% don’t do Christmas or stockings.  I have a Christmas stocking with my name on it.  I hung it outside my office a couple of times and Santa ignored it.  Where I live they don’t do Christmas Stockings.  I felt like the 60%.  I try not to lose hope when I feel ignored.  There is always a message.  Like what?  I am not the center of anyone’s universe.  Or, it is giving that makes me whole not getting.  Or, be humble, and love, even with an empty stocking.  Stuff like that helps me through the tougher days.  Next year though, I am going to find a home where Santa visits and hang my stocking there.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Confession

Why is confession a good thing? It is even one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.  I think that confession to another person is a good thing because it is a place to tell our secrets.  Our secrets will kill us, I have heard said.  We can talk about actions, thoughts, fears, feelings, and in the telling, our secrets lose their power to hurt or embarrass us.  If we tell the right person, someone who keeps confidences, someone who accepts and does not judge, then we feel a sense of relief, freedom from our secrets, even our bad habits.  This can help to make it easier for us to love and accept others.  As a priest, I hear secrets.  But someone who sponsors another on a spiritual path, a mentor, can also hear secrets.  I don’t want my obituary to say, “Death by secrets.”

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Independent Study

When I was trying to recover from the wreckage of my past behavior, I did it at first as ‘Independent Study.”  That is, I went to meetings, and listened some, but talked to no one at any length or depth, or asked for aide in my search.  I then bought the spiritual book recommended and read it alone.  Then I did some of what it said to do, but alone, no advice, no guidance from another human being.  I  did not get well.  I was a dry rage.  No fun.  So I don’ recommend that you do any spiritual path alone, even if you think you might want to become a hermit.  Live in the middle of a group that is on your path, before you go off into the wild of a cave.  I do not have hermit in me.  I practice group spiritual recovery.  I am a forgetter.  A group or tribe on a spiritual path together always has some rememberers among them.  Sometimes it is even me.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

A Spiritual Pill

Think of a spiritual path as taking a pill on a daily basis.  Now some pills you have to take with food. The pill works best in combination with something else, food in this case.  A spiritual path pill metaphor should be taken with an open mind and willingness to do the work.  If I simply read some Buddhist scripture to get information or to show how wrong it is, then I am not on that spiritual path. I have no open mindedness and am not willing to do any of the meditations.  So if I am going to read some spiritual path book, I first ask myself, “Am I open minded about what I am about to read?”  Fundamentalists generally are only opened minded to what already agrees with their view.  I call it tribal reading.  Read only what your like minded tribe subscribes as true.  I go into reading something quite different from what I know, believe, think with the attitude, “What can I learn from this wisdom that will help me to expand my horizons, and grow into a better person?”

Monday, January 6, 2020

Epipany

Remember the Three Kings from Christmas stories?  Well, today is their day in Christian circles, except in the United States.  In the USA and maybe in some other places, it got moved to Sunday. Why?  We don’t move Christmas?  Well, let’s face reality.  Many a Catholic is not so much in love with their God as wanting to stay on God’s good side for eternal insurance as well as to want current plans to go their way.  If you really loved God, you would go to mass on Epiphany Feast Day, January 6.  I always did growing up.  Now we could make it a Holy Day Of Obligation and that would get a bunch of people to go to church, but a whole lot more would skip it.  They are churched out from Christmas stuff. Mediocrity won’t change, so change the date of the feast.  We moved it to Sunday.  If you love someone then obligations transcend into gratitude for love.  If you don’t love, then obligations are just a chore, and we often skip our chores because we would rather be doing something else or we are just self-imploded.