Sunday, December 27, 2009


To everyone, but especially to those who leave comments, and whose blogs I visit and draw inspiration from, on this feast of the Holy Family, know I treasure each of you as family in my heart and extend a blessing for each of you and everyone in your family.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


As we continue to celebrate today the birth of Jesus, we also remember the First Martyr for Christ and the Gospel of Life, St. Stephan.

Here is a brief word from the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, from her book: Bogorogitza.....

"Martyrdom and forgiveness, in a sense, go together.....Sometimes it takes a martyrdom of the spirit, of the emotions, to consent to forgive."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Glory to God in the highest!

This Child, this Light!
In the Holy Eucharist, in His glorified reality, He enters within the manger of our hearts!
He touches us and we recieve Him.
We hold Him within and He loves us.
We contemplate Him and from the moment His eyes opened at His birth, until this very moment, He gazes with love upon us.
Jesus, manifestation of the love of the Father for us.
Let us have intimate confidence in Jesus who is in our midst.
Let us, as Pope Benedict urges drawing on the very teaching of Jesus, turn and become childike of heart and welcome the Holy Child.
Let us, through Baptism and Holy Communion, guided by the Holy Spirit, in company of the Most Holy Mother of God, become Christ-bearers to every one, living icons of hope and reconciliation, witnesses to the sacredness of human life, bringers of reconcilation and compassion.
Christ is born!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry & Holy Christmas To All

From his first Christmas in 1978, until his last in 2005, Pope John Paul remained steadfast in pleading with everyone to embrace the Gospel of Life, saying powerfully that the “newborn Infant is wailing. Who hears the baby’s wail?”
The wail of the Holy Child is the wail of every suffering, lost, confused, human being.
It is both lament and prayer.
Pope Benedict from the beginning of his pontificate reminds us that God is Love.
The Holy Gospel teaches us the great truth: Christ IS the manifestation of the Father’s love for us in the flesh. Christ IS light come into the world, a light the darkness cannot overcome.
The sight of a possibly deranged woman assaulting the Holy Father, as he processed to begin Midnight Mass to celebrate the birth of Jesus, revealing the vulnerability of the Holy Father, an elderly man, is the vulnerability of all the elderly, of everyone who suffers or is assaulted in any way.
It is the vulnerability of the Child born this night.
We want an all-powerful god of huge miracles and other manifestations, yet such a god would be unreachable, untouchable and we would remain therefore, lost.
Born in a manger, poor, small, vulnerable, wailing, needing like all babies to be held, touched, and loved – this is the one true God.
He is in our midst.
He is our Eucharist, our communion of love and with Love.
The Angels this night told the Shepherds the sign of truth, the sign of the Redeemer being amongst us IS the reality of the baby in the manger.
As Pope Benedict reminds us that, rather than some huge manifestation , the sign is God’s humility, God making Himself small, a mere child, and He “let’s us touch Him and He asks for our love.”
The culture of death and darkness weighs heavily because individually and collectively we want to be loved and when we do not feel loved we become angry, hateful, violent, demanding, greedy, crazy, desperate to the point where we leap over a railing and assault an elderly Shepherd or abort a baby or plow a jet into a tower or....
Yes we would prefer a different god than this vulnerable, powerless, in need of touch and love, of being protected and fed Baby!
Yet only a truly all-powerful God could become Incarnate. Only the all-self-gifting God could be born as we are, as one of us, for us.
All false gods, all evil, all darkness, devours.
Only the true God, all good, all light, all life, all love, makes Himself our food.
Christ is born! Hope is in our midst!
Christ is born! Darkness is banished!
Christ is born! Come, let us approach, let us listen, let us touch, let us love and the wail of the Child will become the cry of joy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Doors!

Many years ago I was working in the financial heart of the country. My office was some thirty stories up. The outside walls were floor to ceiling glass. The building, in severe wind, was designed in such a way there was enough sway a slight trembling of the glass was audible.
One particularly gusty afternoon a panel of glass shattered.
It was discovered upon investigation by the building mangers some delivery people had propped open a large door beside the revolving doors at the main entrance of the building, thus causing a significant loss of pressure within the building so that a gust of wind pushing against the weakest window had caused it to implode.
Mostly, I suspect, for most of us doors are something we pass in and out of numerous times throughout the day at home, work, going to church, getting in and out of a car, etc., without much thought, save perhaps an awareness of the security we feel behind a locked door at night.
As much as open doors are inviting, welcoming, closed doors make a statement of either ‘stay out/don’t bother me/no one is within’.
Every crossing of a threshold is a type of rite of passage, some extremely important and significant, such as crossing the threshold from being within the womb of our mothers to life ‘outside!’
Indeed we say, almost automatically when crossing certain thresholds through particular doors that we are ‘going out’ – or ‘ coming in’, people arrive or leave through a door: birth is arriving, death we see as a leaving, but ultimately it is the final crossing of the definitive threshold for which we have been granted existence by Love Himself.
As we approach Christmas and the birth of Jesus, today in Holy Mass we began in the Entrance Antiphon crying out with the Psalmist for the gates, the portals, the doors to be lifted up – in a word for our entire being, all creation to open wide that Christ might be in our midst.
Anyone who has read the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis, or seen the film, knows what adventures occur when Lucy goes through the door of the wardrobe, crosses the threshold.
Opening or closing any door, crossing, or not any threshold, sometimes demands a willingness to risk, to have openness to, or at least like Lucy and the children, a curiosity about what lies beyond.
Within the Latin rite there used to be a definitive, an important symbolic demarcation between the sanctuary and the main body of church buildings.
Commonly called ‘the communion rail’ it had within it a centre gate and sometimes side gates.
It was a diminutive reminder of what in the Byzantine tradition remains as the Iconostasis.
During the Divine Liturgy there are many points at which the priest enters and exits by the main doors or the side doors of the Iconostasis, with accompanying prayers, incensing, or processions.
This coming and going reminds us of the exchange between heaven and earth, thus during the Holy Season of Pascha [Easter], since Christ has risen and thus opened the gates of heaven all the holy doors remain open, the curtains drawn!
In the beginning Adam and Eve lived within the Garden, in intimacy with God until rebellion and sin were chosen and Adam and Eve were cast outside and an Angel posted to guard the tree of life. [Gen. 1, 2, 3]
Preceding the Exodus of our Elder Brothers and Sisters in faith, the Chosen People, the first Passover called for the marking of the lintels, the thresholds, with blood that those within might be spared death of the firstborn male child.
The Holy Child born Christmas night, is born to BE our Passover, to be the Lamb who is slain for us, and by His Blood we are redeemed, and what has been closed becomes open to us.
Jesus will urge us to enter into an intimacy with the Father akin to that experienced by Adam walking with Him in the Garden. We are to cross the threshold into solitude and silence, to “shut the door” for the secrecy of profound intimacy in prayer. [Mt. 6:6].
Jesus also teaches us that He is the Way, the gate/door/threshold [cf. Jn. 1o:1 ff; ] and in the crossing over the threshold into His death for us Jesus is sealed into a tomb whose door is shut until opened by the Angel after Christ is risen, for no longer is any closed door able to shut out Jesus [ Jn.20:19ff.], save the one over which we have free-will control, the door of our own being.
The Risen Jesus comes to us and with immense tenderness, even I would suggest a type of Divine Love longing, tells us He is waiting at the door of our being, assuring us that if we listen to His voice, and open the door of our being, He will enter within, in Eucharistic intimacy. [Rev. 3:20]
So little time remains before Christ comes in our midst as the child placed within the manger.
As the Servant of God Catherine Doherty teaches: “Christ desires to be born in the mangers of our hearts. Are the doors of our hearts wide open to receive the shepherds, the Magi, the stray a word, humanity? Are they open to receive one another as Christ would receive each one of us? Are they open to receive those around us in our daily life?” {from Grace in Every Season}
It is never too late for we can always open!
Yes, behold, Jesus at the door of our being!

Dear Bishop-elect

I just got word yesterday that a brother priest and most respected friend has been appointed Bishop-elect of the diocese of.......these are some words my heart was moved to send him.}
Perhaps the words are no longer uttered but there was a time in my youth when a priest was named bishop-elect, his confreres would remark: “Ah, he is to receive the mitre, the crown of thorns!”
With the seemingly endless procession of news reports but the universal horror of crimes of abuse, sins of abuse, against children by priests, and all the pain, anger, outrage this rips open again and again, I presume only the most obedient and willing to be one with Christ-crucified, of priests, accepts becoming a bishop.
Therefore dear Bishop-elect, you can be assured of my constant prayer for you.
No doubt soon, if not already, priests and laity will be seeking your attention with their needs, perhaps complaints and pain.
You may find yourself overwhelmed, especially by the pain among our brother priests, for as you well know, as horrific as are the actual sins and crimes of a few, in the current climate the false accusations against the many, upon whom church authorities impose the same sentence as on the guilty, has created among priests a demoralizing climate of fear and uncertainty.
What is a bishop to do when secular powers and their agents, as well as certain groups among lay Catholics, insist on extreme measures against all accused priests and the holus-bolus approach of automatic suspension of all accused places an indelible mark upon them?
What is a bishop to do when lawsuits bankrupt diocese after diocese, and when faced with even one verifiable act of abuse the pressure for drastic action is constant?
How is a bishop to render justice to innocent victims, protect the vulnerable, yet remain a true father and shepherd for all his priests?
How is a bishop to heal the wounds of the victims, comfort all Catholics afflicted by the repercussions of this scandal, strengthen and uphold all his priest-sons, yes even those convicted justly, in particular those falsely accused?
Dear bishop-elect I cannot answer these questions but pray you will not flee from them, but will take them deep into your heart and through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, seek the way to truly shepherd everyone who is in pain.
From our beloved Holy Father to the ordinary priest and lay person, it seems outrage dominates all discussion and response.
With full respect for the Holy Father, yourself, everyone who is indeed rightly outraged, I must pose yet another question: Whence, compassion, reconciliation, restoration?
In just a few days the Child will be born anew in our midst, He who comes among us to redeem, forgive, restore.
Standing in the midst of the immense pain within the people and the priesthood, how shall we imitate Him?

Sunday, December 20, 2009


First thanks very much to Adoro and Kam for your encouraging words.
I also know of your prayer for all priests and see what follows as an answer which so consoled me my heart is moved to note it here:
A dear elderly, retired, long-suffering and long-serving brother priest sent me a great email yesterday and within it shared a story about one of his boyhood heroes, Roy Campanella, a great catcher, whom I also remember, because in the summer other than street hockey, which we played every day, there being no hockey games on the radio, the alternative was we’d listen to baseball – I was a true Dodgers fan – but I digress.
Father reminded me about the car crash which left Campanella paralyzed and decidedly discouraged.
Someone sent Roy a prayer.
That prayer sure touched my heart.
Father did not say the origins of the prayer. Perhaps that can be found in Campanella’s book “It’s Good to be Alive,” –here is the prayer:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for
but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken words were answered.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thanks for your prayers

The technical problem has been solved with help from an unexpected source and not the compnay we usually rely on.

The basic colour is different, but I trust Our Blessed Mother will like it!

Now to get past a recent bout of writer's block!!!!

Technical Glitch

Dear Readers,

As is obvious from the appearance of the blog we are experiencing a computer system glitch.

A computer expert has been contacted but it is unclear when the problem may be solved.

Your patience, and prayers for mine which is sorely tried, are appreacited.

Fr. Joseph

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Normally at this time of day, mid-afternoon, when not serving in the soup kitchen but rather in poustinia [hermitage], I would go for my prayer walk, each day a different section of the neighbourhood, praying for the people here and throughout the city.
However after a two day blizzard the extreme arctic cold has arrived and it is dangerous to be out for very long – do pray for the homeless that they find shelter.
The blessing of extra time to read and write is welcome as my heart has been moved by two people who commented on this morning’s post, one who shared their re-consecration to Mary will take place this Saturday, feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, and another who will make her first consecration, the Montfort Total Consecration, likewise on this coming feast day.
Both remind me of how much I owe Our Lady of Guadalupe, she who is so persistent in seeking out all the lost and leading us back to Jesus!
First then, thank-you both and everyone who loves and prays for we priests, especially this Year of the Priest, when I pray in particular ALL priests will consecrate themselves to Jesus through Mary, Mother of Priests.
Second, then, in anticipation of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day, an example of how Our Lady is always a true mother, teacher, guide.
Almost forty years ago, through a series of unexpected events, being at the time a Marxist-atheist-hedonist, I found myself in Mexico and eventually, on Christmas Day actually, in Mexico City and, frankly rather angry about it, in the plaza in front of the ‘old’ shrine as opposed to the ‘new’ one of present day, which at the time was not yet constructed, of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The immense crowds were pushing up the great staircase into the basilica and a friend who was with me insisted on going to Mass, which I thought was an idiotic idea and refused to go along, but oddly agreed to go as far as the top of the stairs and to wait there or back down in the plaza until ‘it’ was over!
Suddenly there I was standing before the open doors, and just as suddenly no more people were shoving past to get in.
Given the extreme bright noonday sunlight I should not have been able to see inside the great building, nor from that distance to see clearly, as if right before it, the tilma, upon which is the holy image of Our Blessed Mother.
Yet so it was, so it is within my heart this very moment.
I wanted to flee but was frozen to the spot until, wrenched from the core of my being, gazing upon her beautiful and maternal face, a cry leapt from my being: “Bring me back to your Son!”
So shocked was I, and suddenly able to move, by this experience, I turned and fled down the stairs.
Halfway down an elderly Mexican woman, ascending the stairs on her knees praying the Rosary, grabbed my wrist with rather a solid grip and told me in Spanish not be afraid, Our Mother “has heard you.”
As quickly as she had grabbed me, she released me, and I continued my flight!
The journey of conversion [still ongoing to be sure] was rather long but some years later, thanks to a good priest, filled with compassion, who in his university days had become Catholic thanks to Our Lady, I returned to the sacraments.
Three years later, on the feast of the Assumption, Father urged me to enter the seminary, which I did a year later on the feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Mother, eventually being ordained on the feast of the Visitation – the same day 22 years before when my Spiritual Father was ordained.
I especially love Our Lady as Our Lady of Combermere, who is imaged coming towards us, indeed rushing towards us, just after the Annunciation, arms wide open, mantle flowing to envelop us and hold us close to her heart and womb, she now the living Tabernacle of the Incarnate One.
Yes, intimately close to her Son Jesus!
Teaching today in Rome, Pope Benedict reminds us that: “....Mary constitutes a sweet and reassuring presence....She tells people of our time: Do not be afraid, Jesus defeated evil, uprooted it, freeing us....”
Then, towards the end in remarkable words the Holy Father reminds me of that Elderly Woman who grabbed my wrist, of homeless people I know who, in all their pain pray constantly for everyone, of so many “...who in silence, in deeds not words, strive to practice the Evangelical law of and women of all ages, who realise that it is not worth condemning, complaining or recriminating, that it is better to respond to evil doing good.....”
As Pope Benedict urges so I pray that we will all: “...listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She tells each one of us that wherever sin increases, may grace overflow all the more, first in our hearts, and then in our lives!”


This is really the season of Our Lady, for she carries the Child. In Advent the heart moves in rhythm with her life. God bent to a woman and the world heard the words: “Hail Mary, full of grace!” She was going to be the Mother of God. A little girl, beholding the vision of an angel, spoke the truth. In doing so, she gave us a lesson in humility. “May it be done to me according to your word.” We rejoice in Mary because she always brings us her Son.”

from: "Last Word", by the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Surgical Tears – 2

In the classic work PENTHOS, Fr. Hausherr, S.J., relates a story from the Desert Fathers wherein one seeks persistently to know where another, Abba Poemen, ‘was in the depths of ecstasy’, until the old Abba finally relented and said: “ My thought was with St. Mary, the Mother of God, as she wept by the cross of the Saviour. I wish I could always weep like that.”
Pope John Paul II again and again referred to the necessity of going to the ‘school of Mary’, almost as much as he used the expression, derived from Christ’s own directive to the Apostles, about going “duc in altum”, that is, “into the deep.”
If we ask to enter the school of Our Blessed Mother then Mary will, in reality, take us by the hand and lead us into not only the depths of the Holy Gospel, of Liturgy, but ultimately into the depths of surrender to the purifying and sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit, hence into both ‘intimate confidence’ in, and union with, Christ the Divine Bridegroom.
We will also experience ever more, with less and less resistance, the penetrating into the depths of our being of the ‘living and effective’ word of God [cf. Hb. 4:12ff] and will unhesitatingly, necessarily for our own salvation but also as intercessors for every human being, ‘confidently approach’ Divine Mercy for all grace needed.
Likewise we will discover the graced suffering and purification, the ineffable joy of, going ‘into the deep’ within the second Beatitude and discover, as Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis notes in his classic FIRE OF MERCY, pp.188-9, that, prayed and struggled to be lived, the Beatitudes by the action of the Holy Spirit will place and deepen within us ‘...the fundamental attitude of self-forgetfulness....receiving in an open and fruitful heart the grace of reconciliation with God...”
While it is true that in the first instance the blessedness of mourning relates to the grief over the death of someone and that the comfort is found after death because of the Resurrection, nonetheless we should also be open to the reality that ‘death’ has many forms.
I believe it is within the blessedness of accepting the pain, and purification of these other experiences of death we will experience in life the Holy Spirit’s gift of joy, which is ultimate comfort.
So when, commenting on Mt. 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn....” Erasmo states the “...heroic heroism...” of willingly feeling “...profound pain of the death of another.”, he connects this to, because of the Resurrection of Jesus and therefore Jesus’ obtaining resurrection for us, the virtue of hope.
Here, however without discounting the blessedness of such mourning, and constitutive tears, I am suggesting another dimension to the Beatitude, an apostolic, intercessory dimension, indeed a going into the deep of Christ-like solidarity with the entire human family, indeed with all creation itself.
We all know that the false self, so intensely woven from the experiences of early life, and some subsequent ones, is NOT the real “I” created by God, rather the false self is the flesh, the old man, of which St. Paul speaks, and which must die if we are to achieve that point of fullness of baptized personhood wherein, again as St. Paul stresses, the false I is so completely deceased that “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” [Gal. 2.20]
We also know Christ’s teachings about the grain of wheat which must fall into the ground and die if there is to be fruitfulness [Jn.12:24] as well as Jesus’ urging us to embrace full discipleship while cautioning us about not clinging to our life, which is also, if we contemplate Him and His word, the promised reward of following Him through death into resurrection [Mt. 10:16-40].
We fear death in all its forms.
Not merely the cessation of life on earth but of the so intricately constructed notion of self, indeed the equally ferociously clung too preconceptions we have of God, Church, other people, etc., etc..
We are so fearful if we lose them, if those illusions are shattered, die, we shall be terribly alone.
Pope Benedict, in his wonderful book, JESUS OF NAZARETH, itself an experience of the school of Mary and going into the deep, stresses the tender gaze of Christ upon us [cf. Pp. 71ff] when He pronounces the Beatitudes over us.
Pope Benedict also teaches that the Beatitudes are our actual condition as disciples for as true disciples we “...are poor, hungry, weeping....hated and persecuted...”
Lest we become discouraged and overwhelmed, the Holy Father reminds us that, “Jesus brings joy in the midst of affliction.”
Further on [cf. Pp. 86ff.], reflecting specifically on the second Beatitude the Holy Father takes us deeper, when he teaches that “...there is also the mourning occasioned by the shattering encounter with truth, which resist evil...heals, because it hope and love again...”
Pope Benedict, like Abba Poemen, looks to another “...image of mourning that brings salvation: Mary standing under the Cross.”
I learned very early in life never to show weakness, never to shed a tear.
So deeply constructed was this particular aspect of the false self, so virtually impregnable, that I was well past fifty years of age when my Spiritual Director noted with amazement that he knew I had never wept and then stressed how critical it was that I should pray for the gift of tears.
Pope John Paul in his first Letter to Priests of Holy Thursday 1979 calls priests to go very deep into the mystery of priestly chastity and stresses that “...The priest, by renouncing this fatherhood proper to married men, seeks another fatherhood and, as it were, even another motherhood, recalling the words of the Apostle about the children whom he begets in suffering.”
Briefly through a series of encounters and with the blessing of my superiors I became a foster-father to John Everett who himself would be blessed with, to quote him and fully agreeing, ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’, Lucille as wife.
[ cf.]
Eventually I ended up living as I am now in exile as an urban hermit and thanks to Lucille’s closeness to Our Blessed Mother, who inspired Lucille to encourage John to have me come and live near them, once their first child was born I became a grandfather.
Six years ago, still not surrendering to actual tears though by then I was constantly begging for the grace to weep but was terrified at the same time, one evening Lucille asked if I would babysit the then three month old Little One.
Lucille gave me all the usual maternal guidelines and noted that I should put the Little One to bed at such and such a time and “ Don’t go into her when she cries. She’s at that stage and eventually she will just go to sleep.”
Now pre-sleep crying I assumed meant some sort of near silent whimpering.
Man was I wrong!!!!!
At the appointed time, having given her bottle, made sure the diaper was dry, the little pj’s on, blessed her as she lay there and smiled angelically, I turned off the light and left the room and headed down the stairs wondering why Lucille had cautioned me.
I got barely three steps down when a wail beyond any heart-wrenching, ear splitting, cry-scream-groan-moan of cosmic proportions ripped through the air.
That such a tiny, angelic being could at such a pitch, so seemingly unceasingly wail like that was beyond anything I had ever experienced in my life and my entire adult-male-protective-rescuer being wanted to turn, rip that door from its hinges, grab the Little One and simultaneously comfort her out of such distress and beg forgiveness of the obvious hardhearted cruelty which had allowed me to abandon her!
Instantly however, frozen to the stairs, by now sitting hunched over I heard in my heart Lucille’s voice and another woman, the Woman, and this latter was telling me most tenderly that “This is not about you. Stay. If you go it is not about her. Stay. Listen to the silence of God.”
I stayed.
With some effort [indeed later I realized I had not been aware at whatever moment the Little One had stopped wailing and fallen asleep as Lucille said she would] I struggled to be still, to listen to the silence of God.
Suddenly I was hearing not the wailing of the Little One but the cries of every endangered child in the womb knowing abortion was afoot, of every hungry, homeless, rejected, abused child; I heard the cries of every battered woman and man, of every youth selling themselves on the streets, of the addict in withdrawal, the person suffering mental collapse, the human being they strive to break day by day in the labour camps.
It was if I was seeing in the silence of God all human suffering, feeling the weight of evil.
I wept, and wept and wept until I became aware the interior silence was also exterior and suddenly it was the Child Jesus of whom I was aware, and aware too of Jesus who ‘looked at him and loved him’, Jesus with Magdalene washing His feet with her tears, Jesus gazing upon Peter, Jesus appearing, risen, saying not to be afraid.
Penthos tears became tears of joy.
“The mourning of which the Lord speaks is nonconformity with evil....those who mourn suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness....standing under the protection of God’s power, secure in His love – that is true comfort.”
“The converse is also true. The sufferer is not truly comforted, his tears are not completely wiped away, until he and the powerless of this world are no longer threatened........true comfort only appears when the ‘last enemy,’ death...and all its accomplices have been stripped of their power.....” [cf. Pope Benedict, op. Cit. Pp. 87-88]
Interior peace and joy, the Spirit’s gift, comes if we willingly contemplate, as Pope Benedict says, “...what consolation the Lord holds in store for all those who mourn and suffer in this world.”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Surgical Tears – Part 1

I have been researching to write more about the Holy Spirit’s gift of tears, Penthos, as the Fathers say, the ‘second Baptism.’
St. Francis, no doubt tongue in cheek because of his clear love of all creation and life, referred to demands of our physical being as ‘Brother Ass’ – the French, referring to the oftentimes tumultuous emotional components of our imagination use an expression best translated into English colloquial expression as: “the crazy living in the attic!”
I come from a highly emotional race, not muted by a generation living in this country, and those of more sanguine cultures don’t get that the spikes of anger, hurt, for example, are just that, momentary spikes, whereas the common emotions are love, joy, and passion for life.
Since I last posted here my emotions have run the gambit from pure, that is untainted by being bent towards self, grief to the apprehensive state I am in at the moment, from pure penthos tears to vinegar ones of self pity!
While I appreciate having a PC, a laptop, cell phone to text with, I write often, as I am in this moment, with pen and ink on paper.
The pencil and pen where the first writing instruments of my childhood, the ‘straight-nipped’ pen and inkwell with the unique scratch-sound on paper preceding my first fountain pen, a Confirmation gift.
There is something uniquely human about writing and it witnesses to the wonderful parenting of Mary and Joseph that Jesus is recorded as writing, albeit in the sand.
He, of course, is Himself the great Word of the Father to us, indeed if I might be so bold, Jesus is the ultimate love-tender letter/word of Our Abba to each of us His Beloved Children.
Writing in her book DEAR FAMILY, the Servant of God Catherine Doherty notes that the family is ‘a little church’, and is likewise the ‘primary indissoluble unit of society.’
Indeed the entire human race is but one family with one Abba/ Father, one redeeming Brother-Saviour, one animating, illuminating Holy Spirit.
One way or another every human being is born in family, at least the universal family – but not everyone grows and develops within the heart of a family of love and holiness.
We shed a lot of tears, if we be honest, because of the lacunae’s of family life, and for some because of the damage done by extremes of poverty, abuse, ravages of war, parental addictions and thus child neglect, or the impact of flight, like Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt, because of the dangers of death squads or other pursuers.
As I get older there come unexpected tears, sometimes of regret about people no longer present in my life, for the older we get the more familiar a visitor is death. However the tears of missing quickly become tears of joyful memory.
At the moment I pen these lines in the waiting room of my dentist where, again the age thing and the body wearing out, something Pope John Paul refers to in his encyclical on human labour as a good thing, for it is right our labours should wear us out, so while spared so far major surgeries today is the first of a series of dental surgeries.
Growing up in the days of slow-speed, un-cooled drills, before novocaine and the like, also in a neighbourhood of such poverty the dentist, who operated out of his basement, was, to be kind, rather gruff and rough, figured boys should learn to endure pain. So to this very day all dental stuff unnerves me, big time!
Any delusions I may have about being a strong, tough or courageous male – well I am completely disabused of them any time I am in such an apprehensive state as at the moment awaiting the dreaded drill and lance!
This, irrespective of reality, i.e., novocaine, high speed and well cooled drills, lasers and the like.
Yes irrespective of the great reality with this particular dentist, no matter the procedure, I have never experienced pain – so surgical tears for me [obviously wept interiorly where no one can see what a wimp I am!] are, frankly, bitter, impure, rooted in the emotional spikes of the crazy character which, in moments such as these, inhabits my imagination!
So I return to earlier points about grief, death, family.
As I sit here I have a choice to make about the apprehension, my wild imagination, the inner vinegar tears.
Will I wallow in this and allow it to go to waste or will I take hold of the pro-offered hand of Our Blessed Mother, allow her to open the mantle of my wounded, yes neurotic, being as she opened the cloak of Bl. Juan Diego to arrange the roses within?
Granted she will find a bouquet of less than roses, but Our Blessed Mother has a way of transforming poverty into generosity, vinegar tears into penthos, if we let her.
Thus my heart is suddenly aware of the women and children in Darfur, of men, women, and children in North Korean labour camps, scouring the garbage dumps outside Cairo or Lima, the child soldiers brutalized until they become brutal, of...........
A common mistake well intentioned Christians make is to believe that somehow I have to get something all together BEFORE I can, for example, weep pure penthos tears – or – be truly loving and forgiving.
The yearning to pray is itself prayer and the ultimate degree of prayer we seek will come the more we yearn to pray and struggle to pray – most especially when we are distracted or tired.
Prayer is everything I am and do, not just formulas said, as important as they are, but everything.
Indeed the great St. Theresa of Avila complained to the Lord for not sparing her distractions in prayer and the Lord responded by stating it was precisely when she was most distracted that her prayer pleased Him because of her fidelity to prayer.
If we wait until we ‘know’ we are kind to be kind; patience to be patient; have enough money to be generous, etc., etc., we will forever be selfish, cranky, and miserly.
A soft smile to a bus driver at rush hour becomes the smile of Christ upon a tired soul; stepping aside for one moment so a woman pushing a stroller can get ahead in line eases the weight of her life; in a word everything is connected to the iconic lesson of the Widow and her one penny as Jesus underscores for us in the Gospel.
Of course, it may be, when it comes to such little things, tears are little droplets, we fear the other aspect of surgical tears.
That we be in Part 2 as, shudder, the dentist has just summoned me!

Friday, November 06, 2009


During prayer this morning it came into my heart to note briefly why the particular links on the mid-left-hand side of this Blog.
A Penitent Blogger impresses in particular because of their reflections on the Scriptural Readings, Saints of the day.
Adoro Te Devote because this faithful woman writes from the heart, has a great love of the Priesthood, of priests.
Catholic Love Blog because, frankly the Everetts are members of my own family and I am very proud of them, but also because of their wisdom about marriage and family life.
Fr. Arthur’s Web Site, rather un-humbly, admittedly, self evident!
MPECS Inc. Blog I note first this is NOT any form of paid advertisement but they do freely supply all hard and software needed to keep this Blog and the Hope For Priest’s website going, plus this husband and wife business is run on solid Catholic principles and, while most of the postings deal with technical matters from time to time there are posts, well studied, about ethical business practices.
Plot Line and Sinker is from a Catholic wife, mother, writer and with her husband a strenuous advocate of all life issues and holy marriage questions.
Saint Blogs Parish is informative since I cannot link to every site I visit nor evaluate here the orthodoxy of all sites this is a helpful place to check things out.
These Stone Walls may be controversial or even painful for some to read but I am touched by the courage and openness of the writer.
Whispers In The Loggia is the classic site for those who feel a need to be ‘in the know’ regarding who’s who and what’s what in the institutional Church!
World Priest, visit their home page and you will quickly see why this site is, I believe, a must for priests and those who love, support, pray for priests.
While I appreciate when people send site suggestions I cannot link to all but I do check all of them out and if one particularly touches my heart then mostly likely it will eventually be linked here.

Monday, November 02, 2009


It is the time each day when, normally, having just prayed the Office of Compline, Night Prayer, I would go to bed.
After all, in union with the whole Church, I have just prayed the blessing: “May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.”
Yet, this late evening of All Souls, some in particular are on my heart, for whom, at least to external appearances, death would appear to have not come peacefully.
The first death I witnessed when I was barely five years old.
To this day I do not know if the baby was a boy or girl for when I heard the breaking glass of the tenement window, saw the mother throw her baby through the window from so high up, watched the child crash onto the roof of the coal shed below, I was too far away, likely too shocked as well, to realize much other than the horrific vulnerability of being little.
Decades later, working always that shift, rightly in many ways, called the “graveyard’ shift, as a child protection officer, in the middle of one shift the homicide detectives put out a call for those familiar with a particular part of the inner city to stop by the morgue and see if we could identify a body.
This was in the days before DNA and given the body had been in the river for several days, that the deceased had been tortured, mutilated in a manner to make identification near impossible, and murdered, executed to be blunt, the detectives were desperate for help.
It was near three in the morning before I had a chance between calls to stop by the morgue.
In those days I was a true atheist so my attitude approaching a dead body was akin to finding an empty shell on a beach.
The horrific method by which death had apparently devoured the young man was the antithesis of peaceful.
You can well imagine how stunned I was as I stood there unable to identify him, yet suddenly sensing this was someone’s child, brother, perhaps husband, father, when I distinctly heard: “You will remember him at your first Mass!”
Nearly fifteen years later, concelebrating with my newly ordained confreres, other priests and our Bishop, I did so, and do every year on this day.
One day I was called to emergency, not unusual for a priest, and when I arrived an elderly woman approached me and said she was the younger sister of the woman I had been called to anoint.
She explained to me they were from another part of the country and named the city.
It was the city of my childhood.
She further explained the her sister had been for years a member of the Sisters of.....but one day had simply quit, without ever getting dispensation from her vows, and had also left the Church.
This gentle woman also told me that her sister had not asked for a priest and at that moment grief replaced words with tears.
Holding her hands I asked her to tell me her sister’s name and her name in religious life.
When she told me the latter I smiled and said: “Ah, yes! I remember her. She was my teacher in the parish school of St....”.
I approached the dying woman who was still conscious, bending close to her ear and calling her by her religious name said: “Dear Sister when you taught us the Hail Mary you were so emphatic that we should trust Our Lady would be with us at the hour of our death. Be at peace for Our Lady has brought a child you taught to you to fulfill her Motherly love for you.”
In the memorial of the Fourth Canon we pray for “...those whose faith is known to You alone.”
Ultimately it is neither the time nor manner of our death which determines if it is peaceful or not, all external appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
It is, and mostly this is invisible to our bodily eyes, but the heart often sees, the outstretched hand of Jesus, of Mary, catching a falling child, cradling the youth sinking into the blackness of frigid river water, caressing the fevered brow of an elderly nun as they say: “Do not be afraid.”
Yes O Jesus, You who have conquered death, grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


When I last posted on October the 18th I sincerely expected to be posting at least a few times a week – however as the ancient saying goes: Man proposes, God disposes!
While from time to time over the past two weeks I have made notes, the time to actually compose something coherent simply was not there!
I volunteer at a soup kitchen, where the numbers of men, women and children coming for food and clothing doubled in the spring and doubled again this fall, so besides the normal times I am there, twice I was called in to help some more – and Jesus present needing attention in the poor is always more important than any plan of mine!
Also a family member was in a car crash, she was not physically hurt but that event meant Jesus in a woman, a wife and mother, Jesus in her children, Jesus in her husband wanted me away from my plans and present with Him.
So a week went by!
Then I was laid low for the weekend with a severe cold – and like most men would rather have a broken bone than be felled by a wee virus – but sometimes Jesus wants us to just let go and be still, sometimes using the Pauline goad of a wee virus.
Come Monday I was well enough to return to the soup kitchen – no worries I’d be back in the poustinia Tuesday and would have time to write then – except Jesus in the person of the Volunteer Coordinator stopped me as I was leaving Monday evening and asked my help Tuesday.
No worries, Wednesday in poustinia in silence, solitude, writing would be fine.
Except Wednesday there was a family member needing help, Thursday it was hours in line for the H1N1 vaccine and the brain was too mushy to write and Friday was an early morning drive to the next town to help another family member and when I got back I slept!
Ah, but I knew as I feel asleep Saturday, Our Lady’s day – yep she would make sure I had the silence, solitude, time to get ‘my’ writing done.
Well here we are Saturday evening!
I was awakened early this morning with a long distance phone call from a priest from one diocese asking if I could find a canonist for a priest from yet another diocese and so the day unfolded, phone calls from various priests and lay people with one pain or need or another .
Sometimes alone in prayer in the poustinia I weep – the tears are most prevalent when I sense in my heart the pain of the priesthood, of the women and children in Darfur, the pain of some person who has just phoned, or what I read in their letters or emails.
Sometimes I weep because of a bout of the pts-syndrome is triggered and fear gnaws at me. Then I must abandon such weeping for it can become a whirlpool of self-pity which is contrary to living in the wonderful gift and mystery of priesthood.
The Fathers of the Desert have taken a Greek notion and ‘baptized’ it into a powerful understanding about Jesus, about gifts from the Holy Spirit, about tears.
Pronounced and written in the common alphabet as: Penthos, originally the name of the ancient pagan spirit of mourning and lamentation but, as with so many things from ancient worlds and cultures, the Baptized Fathers discovered a grain of truth in the ancient mythology through a Gospel understanding, a lectio divina upon the weeping of Christ.
Some of the Fathers referred to the gift of penthos, the gift of tears, as a second baptism.
When the tears flow from self pity or a sense of having lost or been denied something, from a type of un-availed grief, common among those who have no understanding of, belief or trust in the Resurrection, they are limited and rather self-directed.
When tears flow TRULY as gift of the Holy Spirit then they are in union with the tears of Christ – true the aforementioned mere human triggers may be used to get them going by the Holy Spirit but the transformation becomes a weeping, a penthos of personal contrition/compunction, a weeping in union with Christ, a co-mingling of our tears with His for the conversion and salvation of the whole human family.
At La Salette Our Lady revealed her penthos.
Mostly when people are interviewed for news reports about abuse of children or some murder, soldiers being killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or when we see reports about abortion, epidemics, floods, fires, famine – mostly people are angry, want what they call justice, which usually is code for revenge.
Anger has become prevalent.
Anger at God, Church, Priesthood, government, banks, family members.
Anger is the blame game usually.
Anger is loud, public, frequently out of control, and usually all about self.
It seems we have forgotten how to weep, or perhaps we are afraid to weep, for penthos is silent, hidden, neither of my doing nor in my control.
It is gift – a wee bit for myself, but like all gifts from the Holy Spirit the major portion is for others.
Penthos is a salted fire of tears, a grace, a blessing, a gift of intimacy with Christ.
Towards the end of his epic film on the passion Mel Gibson has the camera with fish-eye lens, it seems, pull way, way, way up above the scene of the three crosses until it is almost as if we are observing from outer space when suddenly we are rushing ever faster back down until there is a single teardrop landing on the earth.
The Father’s penthos?

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I truly believed when I posted the announcment last spring I was on the road to real recovery from a bout of despression and the resurgence of the post-traumatic-syndrome from which I have, and do suffer as a result of the false accusation.

It has been a long struggle since then, however as always Jesus is with us, for as Hebrews reminds us He is the one who has been first tested in all things by which we are tested[cf. Heb.4:14-16].

You will note a couple of changes here: First the image of Our Blessed Mother, known as Protection.
In this Year of the Priest, with the priesthood suffering so, more than ever we priests need Her protection.

Second the addition at the top of a quotation attributed to Pope Leo XIII which was sent to me by a suffering priest who found it on a web site:

With your prayerful help dear friends this is not merely a return but a new beginning.

Do pray for all priests.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Dear Friends I just realized, finishing yet another chapter revision, that because of pressure to finish the final edit of my book due to be published early this summer, I have failed to post here.

There is about a week's worth of work to finish the manuscript so please pray for me and the writing and rest assured once completed I will resume regular posts and, when the publication date is offical, will post same and where to get the book, already a nine year project!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Throughout this month, traditionally dedicated to St. Joseph, I have been reading and meditating a lot about him, in particular the traditional Litany of St. Joseph.
Rooted in the liturgical history of the Jewish People through the refrain of petition and response found, for example in many Psalms, litanies in the Roman Catholic life of prayer are divided into those which can be used in public prayer, of which there are currently seven approved including the Litany of St. Joseph, and those which are approved for the private use of the faithful, such as the Litany to the Infant of Prague.
I will be alternating over the coming weeks further essays and reflections on “The Thin Place” and reflections, given the global economic crisis, on Church social teaching.
Given the times in which he lived and the very depths of his absolute surrender to the will of the Father, indeed his very fidelity to his vocation to love and serve Jesus and Mary, as a man of faith, it seems appropriate to take time and reflect through the litany on this good man, a true model for our times.
Should you not be familiar with this Litany, do not have a copy; it is easy to Google for it at
Sacred Scripture shows us clearly St. Joseph is both the embodiment of the history of the Chosen People, bearing within their lives and liturgy the history of promised redemption, of the Messiah,[ cf. Mt. 1: 1-16 ] and St. Joseph is likewise a type of connecting link between the Old Testament of promise and the New Testament of fulfillment.
Child of the First Covenant, St. Joseph is the guardian of the New Covenant in the person of Jesus and thus St. Joseph is rightly the Protector of the Church.
Thus in the litany St. Joseph is first invoked both as noble son of the House of David and as the Light of the Patriarchs.
While we do not have, neither in the Holy Gospels nor in other reliable sources, a detailed biography of St. Joseph, we can garner insights about the man from what is clearly there within the sparse words in Scripture.
If we contemplate Matthew 1: 18-25, and know the recorded history of this period of the Roman Empire, then each detail within Sacred Scripture can be unfolded and we can imagine the reality of an extraordinary man.
Clearly St. Joseph loved Mary and she him and this love had deepened into mutual gift of self, one to the other, growing and deepening to the point of betrothal and St. Matthew presents Joseph and Mary to us on the threshold of holy marriage.
Most probably Joseph the carpenter if he had not built their house, soon to be home, entirely by his own hands would certainly have built the furnishings and Mary, as any woman of the time, would have been skilled at making clothing, gardening, cleaning, cooking, in a word would have learnt from her mother and other women the skills necessary to make a house into a home.
In a word, life for Joseph, obviously a profoundly good man of complete integrity and great charity, a man of faith and prayer, would have been unfolding as ordinarily as that of any other young man of his day.
However we should remember Joseph and Mary and their contemporaries were an oppressed people living in a land occupied by a foreign power, ruled by a despotic traitor of a king.
While the suffering of countless husbands and wives and families in today’s global economic crisis is very real, raw, widespread, life in the days of Joseph and Mary would also have been marked by poverty, uncertainty, oppression.
Presumably very close to the wedding day it became apparent Mary was pregnant and the shock for Joseph would have been overwhelming.
It would have appeared the woman whom he loved completely, had betrayed him.
The starkness with which St. Matthew describes the whole event reveals the immense stress and pain in the depths of the being, the person, the man, the righteous man who nonetheless places love of Mary, places selflessness and truly manly protective-servant love before himself or his needs.
By choosing informal divorce, rather than a public forum where Mary would have been seen by one and all as a betrayer, indeed as guilty of adultery under the Law and vulnerable to death by stoning, Joseph would have been seen as a cad of the worst order, presumed to have chosen to abandon his pregnant wife.
Most likely he would have been shunned and had to leave for some other part of the country.
How long this agony went on, how long the struggle, how intense his prayer for the strength to make the loving choice cannot be gleaned from the text as St. Matthew describes these events staccato like.
We do know, and who has not been in some deep decision-needed agony when it seemed God was silent, it is only after Joseph has chosen selfless love of Mary over his reputation and legitimate heart’s need, that God sends the Angel to reveal to Joseph the truth.
Thus the Litany exalts Joseph as Mary’s husband.
However more is asked of him and so while he is to be a husband, it is to be so without the physical intimacy and bond of spouses and so he is lauded as, in truth, the Chaste Guardian of the Virgin.
Even more is asked of Joseph, for he is to be a father, he is to have a son, he is indeed to name his son, the traditional prerogative joy of a father, but he will not have a son issued from his own body, only from his heart, hence his is forever known as the Foster-father of the Son of God.
This is where St. Joseph is patron of all priests who are true fathers of sons and daughters: that is of every human being, born not of our bodies but of the suffering of our hearts.
Eventually to the eyes of everyone else Joseph and Mary were married, settled into their home, awaiting the birth of their first child.
Like millions of couples around the world this very day they lived, embraced, and yes endured, the realities of ordinary daily life.
They would have followed the life of faith and prayer of every observant Jewish family of the day, but all of this living unfolding within the stark reality of being an occupied country and an oppressed people.
Recent history well documents the cruel forced movement of peoples by invading armies, oppressive regimes, so we should be able to see and hear in our hearts the tremendous suffering of the upheaval recorded by St. Luke 2: 1-5.
Today countless families are being uprooted because of the global economic crisis causing massive unemployment, loss of home, possessions.
People are being forced to be on the move. Many to return to their ‘ancestral’ home, to move in with elderly parents, or other relatives.
In many cities the ‘regular’ ranks of the homeless are becoming swollen with entire families and in some places already tent cities, harking back to the dark days of the first Great Depression, are becoming common place.
When the Angel stressed the truth the Child would be Emmanuel, God-with-us, it is because there is no experience common to human beings unknown to Christ.
Even before He was born, in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb and Joseph’s heart, Jesus was on the move in the midst of the oppressed and the homeless.
St. Luke’s simple statement of there being no room in the inn [2:6,7] and of Mary placing her newborn Child in a manger, is precisely the cold reality of a family today huddled inside a cardboard box.
Mostly we are familiar with the account of the Angels giving glory, the Shepherds coming to see the Child, but surely, though not stressed in the Gospels, St. Joseph must have been extremely vigilant over Mother and Child.
At the same time he must have been working, somehow, for it is doubtful they were in the stable rent-free and it may well be that the forced relocation to Bethlehem meant a complete starting over, thus Joseph must have laboured and earned money to care for his little family, since St. Matthew, when telling of the visit of the Magi refers to a house wherein the Magi encountered Jesus [Mt. 2:11].
How many families in our own day have to start over?
However long the time was in Bethlehem, certainly we know from St. Luke long enough to fulfill the waiting period before the purification rites {cf. Lk. 2:22ff} all too soon once again Joseph would have to uproot his family.
This time to flee: to save the very life of the Child.
St. Matthew [2:13-18] reveals to us those horrific events and once again, from the earliest days of His life on earth, Christ our God is in the midst of human suffering, experiencing the very harsh reality of every persecuted person, of all people’s targeted for extinction: in the camps of the Holocaust, the Gulag, the Killing Fields, in Darfur and places barely reported on such as what is happening in the darkness of North Korea.
Even more, no person has even been or is a refugee fleeing oppression, or an immigrant seeking a new life, or a migrant in their own homeland as is happening again and again today as factories are shuttered and families must go in search of work and shelter, no person endures such things alone, for Christ has endured all.
St. Joseph is rightly called Defender of Christ because from the moment he chose to protect Mary from public shame to the events of Christ’s birth, to saving His life from the death squads of Herod, indeed as any father, Joseph fulfilled his role of protector until the day he died.
In the eloquent words of Pope John Paul in his Apostolic Exhortation on St. Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church #14, referencing the flight into Egypt: “...divine providence once again had recourse to Joseph”, noting further that: “...Joseph, guardian and cooperator in the providential mystery of God, even in exile watched over the one who brings about the New Covenant”.
Thus rightly is St. Joseph invoked further in the Litany as being Head of the Holy Family, just, prudent, valiant, obedient and faithful.
As Pope Benedict noted during First Vespers for the Solemnity of St. Joseph just a few days ago, stressing how fully and completely St. Joseph lived out fatherhood, “To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth..” and in this we see too how St. Joseph is a model for everyone in these days of such suffering in all its forms throughout the world for St. Joseph, as the Holy Father notes: “For the sake of Christ..experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails.”
Is not the plight of millions of families because of the economic crisis with the attendant sudden unemployment and loss of home an experience of persecution, exile and poverty as raw as that of those families who suffer because of political or religious persecution?
If men especially, as husband and fathers, look to St. Joseph they will have the courage to remain selfless and steadfast at the service of wife and children, for to serve them is to serve Christ, to endure suffering for their sakes is to endure for the sake of Christ.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


{ A friend about to be ordained and live the eremitical life, in poustinia is the term, wrote and asked reflections on priesthood and poustinia.}

My Dear Brother in Christ,

I have been praying over your upcoming ordination and for you, as well as listening for the right words to answer your request I tell you about my eremitic life, and was struck by a profound urgency in my heart to encourage you to be steadfast and courageous in your own priestly life.

The kiss of Christ, the embrace of Christ, the passion for us of Christ’s love for us echoes the cry of every man, woman and child on the face of the earth, in particular the unborn at risk of abortion, the endangered women and children throughout the world, such as in Darfur, the suffering Holy Father, the hungry, priests in danger of all kinds, husbands and fathers suddenly unemployed and unable to care for their families, wives and mothers bearing the burden of these uncertain times, government leaders and civil servants facing the challenge of a world gone mad and populations increasingly restless, for we are on the brink of global catastrophe and war and are in the depths of spiritual warfare of ferocious intensity.

Within the Islands, where Our Lady has led you, for centuries there has been and is extreme evil because of slavery, occult and modern causes; while here in Canada, as in the United States, the poison of relativism, and a tragic spiritual sloth, cries out to heaven for intercessory prayer and atonement that the grace of true repentance and conversion will permeate the ranks of Bishops, Priests, Laity that all might return to Christ.

To be a poustinik in these days means to be profoundly one with Christ in the depths of His Holy Kenosis, hence to be humanly powerless and as priest entering ever more deeply into the courageous meekness and humility of His Most Sacred Heart; to be one with Him in the depths of the Desert, that is being totally childlike of heart as the evil one seeks to disrupt, distract, threaten, batter, tempt, confuse; it is to be one with Him in the Garden, following the example of the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, comforting the lonely Christ by allowing His agony, His prayer, His fiat, His love of the Father and of every human being to permeate us so completely we become more and more oblivious of self and truly, as Catherine says, letting Our Lady of Combermere there in the Garden, and on the Cross, and yes even in the Tomb, form our priestly and poustinik hearts so that, like Christ’s our hearts are pierced, torn open “..for the whole world to walk through”; it is to be one with Christ on the Cross so that, again as Catherine says and Our Lady forms within us, most especially when we are celebrating Holy Mass over and for the whole human family, all of creation, for the souls in Purgatory, but frankly also within the depths of every moment, which is both fulfillment of the duty of the moment and the moment of beginning again, always, in Him, we simply, humbly, hiddenly being be priest, love, serve, are crucified and crucify ourselves so that we “...may be lifted up and draw all things to Christ.”; thus in every Holy Communion, not by anything we do but rather by the lavishness of His Merciful Love we enter ever more deeply into His Holy Resurrection.

Oneness with Him in the tomb then is to be hidden in the depths of the poustinia, of the will of the Father, of the folds of the Mantle of Our Lady of Combermere, for poustinia must never be about anything we do, indeed neither should priesthood – both are of heart’s being.

Yes as a priest-poustinik there is the Divine Office to be prayed, and other prayers such as the Holy Rosary, the Jesus Prayer, letters, phone calls, the normal dusting, cleaning, cooking, there is being available to listen, to serve at the soup kitchen, help with family, blog, site, essays, manuscripts to write, but all of that “doing” of the duty of the moment must be, can only be, preparation for Holy Mass, being made ready to be lain myself on the paten, poured into the chalice, in a word to be both the one offering and oblation, and all the ‘doing’ can only be thanksgiving for Holy Mass and Holy Communion – priesthood, and indeed poustinia, should not, must not ever be about ‘moi’, but only about Him, for Him, in Him, with Him, through Him, while holding onto the hand of Our Lady of Combermere, deep in her school, so that poured out for every human being, like Catherine at night in her poustinia howling on behalf of the Church, priests, this and that person, the whole world and wounded creation, we too are poured out.

In that is the truth the priestly vocation IS a vocation of joy!

With my love and blessing in Jesus and Mary.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Slamming Into!

Let me be clear at the outset I will give no clues about the person before whom I have had to bow low and beg forgiveness – when they see this they will know right enough!
However if you have ever been thick-headed in a relationship, or on the other hand thin-skinned in one, even to be blunt in relationship with God, then be not afraid, nor embarrassed, just read on!
A few beginning points:
1] It may be urban myth but someone said the other day Google has a system which prevents firing off ill-conceived emails if one is not in a state of sobriety. Frankly I am looking for a computer-voice that before I post, send anything would bellow: “ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THAT?”
2] About the only printable word used by others about my temperament is: volcanic!
3] Some people who have read my essays, albeit their kind words are appreciated, seem to be under the impression that living in the “Thin Place” means a life without turmoil, weakness, or, to be blunt, personal stupidity!
{ I recall a student coming for confession once who sincerely asked, without explanation, for absolution: “Because I did something stupid.” Thankfully, so far, the Vatican has not listed that as a serious sin!}
For someone contemplating the mystery and grace of the Thin Place, seeking it, finding it, or rather at least discovering the threshold and trying to crossover, I can be [frequently says he, blushing shame faced I assure you] rather thick-headed, to wit as any dictionary is quick to assert: being one who is lacking in or more bluntly is marked by a total lack of mental acuity!
Acuity of course is to have sharpness, keenness of thought and vision.
There’s more! One of the reasons my temperament is volcanic, besides my Italian heritage is my lifelong primary experience of thinness is, especially when it comes to relationships – yep even with God – I am rather thin-skinned, which if you have never encountered a thin-skinned person, we are the ones who, oh way too quickly, get offended, hurt, confused, misread signals and intentions, wallow in puddles of self-pity because no one understands, etc., etc., etc.
{So let me tell you another story – some year’s back I had been asking Jesus for something very important, at least to me. Totally convincing myself it was the Father’s will, would be absolute proof Jesus loves me, and would even make the Holy Spirit happy.
When the answer was No...Gently revealed to my heart. I absolutely exploded blathering on to the very knife edge of blasphemy and way, way past disrespect.
Eventually I calmed down, and sought out a trusted brother priest for confession who, as I am trying to repent, is laughing so hard tears are running down his face.
“You are so Italian! Relax! The Father understands, Jesus loves You, trust the Holy Spirit knows best.”}
Some decades back, in deep winter snow, I had my first tangible experience of the authentic Thin Place when I went to spend a few days in the poustinia used by the Servant of God Catherine Doherty.
She was away at the time and I had been asked to spend a few days in there, keeping a fire going, so when she returned she could resume her poustinia days in that little cabin without having to wait for the cold to be dispersed.
Now in the old Russian tradition the door to a poustinia is deliberately constructed lower than the height of the average person so that upon entering you have to bend – to bow – to at least by so doing be aware this is not just ‘any’ place you are entering.
In my youthful haste every single time I entered or left by that door I slammed into the doorframe.
Even years later after Catherine died and I would visit a beloved priest who lived in there I would invariably whack myself silly.
Interiorly I would explode because thick-headed as I am it still hurt and thin-skinned as I am clearly the door hated me!
Today I forgot in the presence of someone I love to bend low before crossing the threshold into communication [ a form of communion ] and whacked my head into them [verbally] because I was so wrapped up in my own needs and agenda I lacked the acuity, the vision, to be aware of their needs, of what they were trying to tell me.
I was pushing myself to the head of the line, ahead of God, ahead of the other and in so rushing to be first I was that youth rushing again into the Thin Place without bowing low.
As a dear friend remarked after I had begged forgiveness: “Order has been restored to the cosmos!”
Actually I shuddered because suddenly I understood the connection between the thick-headedness of warring factions, be they nations, ethnic groups, religions, neighbours, street gangs, interest groups, friends, spouses, siblings – and the thin-skinned dimension too - and my contributively making things worse unless I truly learn from, imitate and live out the meekness and humility of heart of Jesus.
It is not enough to feel the pain of my brothers and sisters in Gaza, Israel, Darfur, cold and homeless on the street, suffering alone in a hospital if I lack the acuity, the keenness of vision to see the pain, the need for love, of the person right beside me.
It is not enough to pray and fast for an end to the holocaust of abortion or for an end to the war in the Holy Land if I am quick to take offense at not being the priority of those around me.
Only when I live the real connection, not between my actions and some cosmic chaos theory but between how I do or do not love, humbly serve, and nations waging war, or any other aspect of suffering humanity, will I truly be allowed, frankly, to cross the threshold and dwell here on earth in the Thin Place.
The poustinia [urban or deep in some forest] being the Thin Place is the place of meekness and humility, of other being the priority.
Pray [ even before my headache is gone! ] I re-enter the right cosmic and human order: God first, my neighbour second and I am third!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Stepping Across!

Back in November I promised the next posting on living in the Thin Place would be about stepping across the threshold.
Since then there have been, clearly, other posts.
Today, when in some countries the Solemnity of the Epiphany is anticipated, I have been contemplating the mystery of light, of Epiphany and Theophany, thinness and war!
Herein is the promised stepping across!
I sat a long while in silence with two chapters from a book I have turned to time and time again for inspiration and meditation: CIRCILING THE SUN by Robert D. Pelton, specifically today the chapters entitled: The Feast of Enlightenment: Epiphany and Theophany; The Gift the Magi Received. {For copies of this splendid book contact: noting in the text the title of the book/to the attention of Fr. Pelton.}
Because of the meditation based on the above chapters, an experience of the thinness of light at dawn the other morning, the thickness of the darkness when the invasion of Gaza began, in many ways this essay might be titled: THINNESS OF LIGHT!
At this time of year this far north with temperatures hovering so close to the minus 40 mark it matters not if you mean Fahrenheit or Celsius!
Cold air is thinner than the muggy thickness of July afternoon heat.
Freezing morning air often is filled with tiny ice crystals. They are so thin that when the rising sunlight touches them, caresses them as it were, each becomes a little prism, a floating diamond from which flows the colours of rainbows!
They dance upon the air!
The lavishness of light and colour is glorious!
Most of us as little children at some point became aware of the thickness and weight of the absence of light, usually at bedtime and may even, for a time, have been so fearful of not only being ‘alone’ in the dark but of surrendering to the imperative-apparent darkness of eyelids heavy with sleep, we cried out in the dark.
Nowadays little nightlights can reassure – while our cities are ablaze with light originally intended to convey safety but now garishly proclaims that if we step past the light into the darkened places of movies or dance or worse, what we believe is external darkness causing fear or shame or confusion or loneliness, will be supplanted by the reassuring false light of pleasure, distraction.
This seduction of false light can dampen, even virtually snuff out what real light may still be within us until that light itself becomes as darkness.
Something happened towards the middle of the second millennia a few centuries after the Church was wounded and rent asunder into East and West.
The East became unceasingly fractured into ‘national’ churches and in the West a mere secular king decided he was greater than Christ’s own Vicar. Soon others from ‘the Continent’ would exacerbate the divisions within Christendom; nation states began to emerge and devour the earth with imperialist adventures, while the followers of Christ waged war upon each other. Out of this chaos emerged that collection of ‘forgetters’ who declared they had discovered the Enlightenment, and in the pools of revolutionary blood sowed the seeds which grew into such disorders as the Wagnerian division between music and the voice of God, art divorced from beauty, reason from faith, and chaos stampeded into the 2oth century of blood wherein the prophets of the new age gave us the bile of Marx, the blood of Lenin, Stalin, the ovens of Hitler, the split between heart and soul of Freud, the arrogance and greed of unbridled capitalism, the crushing darkness of the culture of death with its ultimate self-devouring and dead-dark-weight of abortion.
Anger, hatred, famine, epidemics, sexual disorder, war, addictions, loneliness, fear, economic chaos – when will we cry out from under the weight of darkness for light?
For my heart there is a direct link between the suicidal holocaust of abortion and the suicidal lobbing of rockets against a people whose nostrils and hearts are filled with the smoke of the ovens and a parallel suicidal amnesia seems to overtake when someone has decided more tanks and bombs will defeat aspirations for homeland, silence the rockets and lead to peace!
Darkness is the thick and heavy cloak of hatred, a darkened mind in the extreme is psychological depression, spiritual despair darkens the heart, weighs down with exhaustion.
The ubiquitous fog of war, of deliberate forgetting of who I am and other is, seeps into mind and heart, engulfs reason and hope, like a poisonous cloud, as if the individual person, a whole people, are grasped by the cold hand of death.
We have become blind because we choose blindness.
We have become darkness because we distrust that which seems too thin, so fragile: light.
The dark into which we have chosen to walk terrifies us and knowing we have chosen the dark we become enraged in our fear.
Rather than curse the darkness itself we curse the other whom we blame for the darkness – but NOT the real dark creature who tricks us.
Him we choose to pretend does not exist.
So we curse one another, the person we label in our enlightened understanding of the ways of the world as one, not like us, because he is of different race or religion or failed as parent or friend or...well does it really matter?
Quite simply he is not one of us, therefore he is enemy, source of all our pain and fear, wounds and loneliness.
Herod’s real challenge to the Magi was not to find “The Word made flesh, dwelling among us.”, not to find God the baby human being, but to find the enemy, the usurper of darkness by being born as Light!
Herod was so enamoured of darkness the light must be snuffed out.
The Magi, being seekers and trusting of light simply turned their backs on that agent of darkness and followed the ever guiding star to Light Himself.
Unless we begin as individuals and as Christian communities to remember and yearn for the fullness of faith and common-unity before divisions, unless we begin as individuals and nations to remember when music was beauty and beauty sang, when reason feasted on faith seeking understanding, indeed unless we remember every human being is child of the one Father, redeemed by the one Son, in-lightened by the one Spirit we shall remain cold and terrified, alone and grief stricken in a darkness, ever more engulfing the entire world: a darkness of our own choosing.
The thinness of light is its greatest strength, the darkness cannot overcome it; the newborn smallness of light is its very grandeur, darkness cannot over shadow it.
Since time immemorial, our ancestors sought the light, yearned to become immersed in the ultimate light they assumed was ‘the ‘ light, the sun.
However the stark reality is the sun is too big, too hot, too bright, too far away, actually too dangerously thick, heavy, spoiled by dark spots, for it is neither pure, nor pure light.
Even if we could approach like Icarus, our egos would prove insufficient to the task and we would plunge deeper, and harder, back into the darkness.
Only the pure, spotless, Son, the child in the manger, Divine Fire-Light-Love is small enough, close enough to be-hold because He embraces us, fills us with His radiance, making us light!
We need a healing of memories, that is we need to remember what we have forgotten, Whom we have ignored.
We need to remember as Fr. Pelton writes: “....the light of the world, the promised one, the radiant Lord, standing with splendid face, not just in the presence of your pain or mine, but in the midst of every agony our race has ever experienced since the first sin.....everywhere he stands, glory pours from his face, touching all, blessing all, healing all. “ [p.38 op.cit.]
In the darkness of bunkers in Gaza or Israel, in the darkness of needle filled alleys, in the darkness of jungles where child soldiers lay in wait, in the darkness of depressed hearts, in the darkness where children are enslaved, sold, abused, in the darkness of the soup lines where homeless huddle, even in the incomprehensible darkness of a northern home where the newly unemployed parents, victims of the darkness of an economy gone insane, made a pact to kill their children and themselves, even there, wherever there is darkness He stands, Light pouring from His Heart so lavishly the darkness cannot overcome it.
In that thin place, that thin moment, in the deepest and darkest of moments when a little family lies in pools of blood, when it seems the darkness is impenetrable, because frankly we have not asked for eyes to see, the Light of Divine Mercy is greater than the darkness of evil.
Because satan rejected for all eternity the smallness of newborn Light, because he was too big and strong to kneel before a baby, there is no light within satan and the fires of hell smoulder darkly and are absolute zero cold.
At sunrise, just as in each moment of each life, there is a very thin place.
It is that incredibly thin and seemingly porous line between the opening edge of light and the retreating wall of darkness.
A thin threshold.
Will you be stepping over into the Light already in your midst?