Tuesday, July 29, 2014

People Forget

After I have been away awhile, there is a couple in my Boulder parish, who when they see me again, reintroduce themselves by name.  I find this refreshing and a great help to me.  Now I remember their names.  I know who they are from seeing and talking with them, but forgot the names.  Most people seem to assume I remember their name, even though we may not have talked for months.  Sometimes they even want to make an appointment, and assume I will write their name down in my appointment book.  The fact is, I and many others, forget names, and sometimes faces.  When I see some acquaintance, who I have not seen in some time, I always reintroduce myself.  I never assume people remember my name unless they are good friends.  It keeps me humble, and is very practical to boot.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Now and again something happens and I feel in touch with my mortality, the fact that I am aging.  James Garner died recently.  He was "Maverick" the cool gambling guy on TV when I was growing up.  He was forever young.  He had the same look each weekly show.  Things changed around me, but not Maverick.  How did he ever get to be 86?  The shows of my youth kept everything the same.  The more soffisticated type of TV came later, after the 60s.  Maverick was eternity on TV.  Do you ever get reality and entertainment mixed up?  I guess I do, or did.  Anyway, I miss Maverick.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014


When my Dad died ten years ago, I came to this monastery for a four month stay.  I have been coming now for eleven summers.  From the first summer to this one, I tried very hard to prove to the monks that I could do a good job, as in special.  I wanted to be helpful, important, needed, competent, for this is what I was for my Dad.  What this did was trash my body, but not bring my Dad back.  There are no surrogates.  My Dad needed me.  The monastery does not, no matter how hard I try.  There are no special monks.  So now I am here for the right reasons.  I do some work, but not more than they ask or I am capable of at my age.  I use my time here for a deepening experience of God, more reflection on how my spiritual life is doing, some discernment, and writing up teachings.  I have always done this too each summer.  I don't need all summer for this.  I may not be the holiest of priests, but I am a better priest, and more needed as a priest than a hay rancher.  Thel monastery ranch can be fun, and I can be helpful, but two months will be plenty.  The days of a long summer in the monastery are over for me.  I have other places to see and people to meet.  Life is short.  I do hope that when I am gone someone will miss me as much as I miss my Dad.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Lawn

When we moved to the suburbs and our house with a lawn, my Dad was going to become a lawn grower.  The fellow across the street had a beautiful lawn, no weeds, all grass, no brown, all green.  Post card stuff.  My Dad worked on our lawn year after year, but it grew weeds and brown spots before mid-summer.  The backyard was a beautiful green lawn, but no one saw that but us kids and our friends.  My Dad wanted the lawn in front to look good.  When I moved away twelve years later, he had not yet given up, but he had not yet gotten a green grass lawn.  Years later, after my parents had retired, I made one of my summer visits.  Dad had a green grass lawn.  Patience my friend, patience.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Birch Trees

I grew up in the Bronx until the 7th grade.  We moved to the suburbs with a house, trees and a lawn.  We had five beartiful birch trees in our front yard in White Plains, NY.  We did not know that birch does not have deep enough roots to keep them up when they grow big.  Within the first five years there we lost all our birch trees.  Our front yard looked so barren.  But behind many a disaster or disappointment, there can be a new opportunity.  My Mom and Dad became flower gardeners.  They had to learn the basics. They were City people, as in cement everywhere.  They learned.  The place of the birch trees became the most beautiful garden in our neighborhood.  It was always a pleasure to come home on visits and see the multi-colors of the flowers in the summer.  Stuff happens.  But it allows for something new.  Unless of course, you want to whine forever about loss and change.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Enemy Hath Done This

I was 23 years old with a semester to go for my Ivy League MBA.  I had a girlfriend, the love of my life.  I was a good boyfriend.  Come the following Valentine's Day, I sent her flowers and a card.  She lived in another state and I had not seen her since Christmas.  No Valentine response came my way.  What is up?  I called.  She had another boyfriend.  I was out.  My heart was broken.  Tears.  My life was over.  What did I do?  An enemy hath done this.  I got a job offer to move to Chicago.  I took it.  I had never been to Chicago, but I wanted to move away from New York and bad vibes.  In Chicago, I met the Paulist Fathers for the first time.  They were just around the corner from my office.  I used to go to weekday mass at times.  After two Chicago winters, I moved to San Francisco and another job.  Who is at the downtown parish near my office?  The Paulist Fathers.  Six years after the breakup, I joined the Paulists.  It took six years, so God did not get me on the rebound.  The rest is history.  I was meant to be a Paulist priest.  So when bad stuff happens, wait.  God is at work.  People dumped Jesus when he was crucified.  Should'a waited, no? Some of the best stuff comes after the most painful of messes.  Of course, some people wish my girlfriend had married me, so that they would not have to listen to my drivel sermons or see these blogs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First Things First

In the Twelve Steps of recovery, there is a specific sequence.  Thus they are called steps.  You take one before the other.  Step eleven says you pray.  Step twelve says you help others.  Notice that prayer precedes action.  This is the teaching of countless spiritual teachers for centuries.  Without a spiritual connection to God, in my case, I will not be really helpful to others.  Prayer puts me in touch with my faults.  Prayer diminishes the power of my faults to do harm to others, while I think I am helping them.  This is a prayer more of meditation and self-reflection, rather than talking with a lot of words.  It helps to know our faults.  Earlier steps in the Twelve Step process does that for the addicted person.  A daily examination of conscience is what I use.  I have my scriptures too.  It all helps.  Do less for others if you are doing little for your interior life.