Thursday, December 22, 2011


It is a sign of the length of winter this far north, at the end of the shortest day of the year when we had barely seven hours of daylight, that today would be the beginning of longer days – yeah, by 8 seconds!
Contrast that with the approximately 12 hours of daylight in Somalia, with the attendant heat!
Famine still stalks that land and its people, though hardly a news outfit in the world, at least the major ones like BBC, CNN, seem to mention it anymore.
Egypt and Syria have around ten hours of daylight being further north than Somalia, while North Korea these days they get about 5 hours of daylight, though many would say the people live in perpetual darkness.
I mention those odd bits of information simply because, as we await the birth of the Holy Child, Light Himself born to shatter all darkness, in my prayer here in the hermitage I hear the cry of human beings for hope, for light, for love – these  great yearnings only Jesus can truly satisfy so I pray, let us all pray, everyone will come to know Him, welcome Him into the manger of our hearts.
In the media these days, stories about economic matters seem to dominate, stories too about how anxious ‘the world’ is about what lies ahead: will the world economy collapse, will the Arab spring turn into an Arab winter, will North Korea start a war, will……………O Jesus how we need you!
Each day I walk a different area of the city, praying everyone will come to know him and yesterday I was wary of the ice on the sidewalk,[ the older I get the more cautious I am about ice when I walk, falling at my age leads to serious broken bones] so I was increasingly irritated at the man approaching, riding his bicycle towards me.
Irritated that someone would place my arthritic knees at risk by invading MY space with his bicycle.
As the man got closer I noticed he had the facial features common to a particular type of mental handicap and became more interiorly irritated, this time against myself for being such a sidewalk hog.
In that same instant the man past me, at a clip, as he said, with a great smile on his face: “Hello there! How are you? “
Not only a gift of light bursting into my interior self-preoccupied darkness, but a reminder the only way out of any darkness, economic crisis, oppression by dictators, step back from the precipice of war, to feed the hungry, is if, like that beaming man on his bicycle, my focus, our focus, like Jesus’, is on other and not self.
My youngest sister is clearing out my parents’ home, going through everything she keeps sending me packages of letters, photos, etc., she feels I might be interested in.
One such package contained the remains of my ration book from the war.
Millions of Americans today depend on food stamps, a modern variation of the old ration books.
We serve hundreds of hungry homeless people in the soup kitchen where I volunteer.
Over two millennia after the birth of Jesus, after Light Himself shattered the darkness, after the Holy Child came to teach us who we are, how to love, how to lay down our lives, how to touch and love Him by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, welcoming the stranger we remain a world obsessed with power, money, pleasure and wonder why we are so anxious.
We live in a cult of celebrity so much so I dare say the average Catholic knows more about Jersey Shore than the great desert of the early hermits and monks, knows more about Lindsay Lohan than the Little Flower, more about ………………….
It is not simply that we Christians fail to tell the story of salvation, which granted in this culture takes great effort, but we fail to tell our own story, our own history, to each other.
Check, for example, how often from the pulpit you hear a homily about applying the Gospel to some social justice issue and how often you hear the story of the life of a saint!
I am not suggesting either/or, rather we need both.
How can we have a sense of purpose, courage, possibility to preach the Gospel with our lives without compromise if we are unawares other human beings like ourselves have lived such light filled, joyful lives, all the while embracing the cross, the ordinariness of human life?
Few days remain before the Holy Child will be placed in our midst, in the manger of our hearts, anew by our Blessed Mother.
Here are just three examples of faith lived:
He lived until he was over a hundred years old. He was born in Egypt of Christian parents but orphaned at an early age, with a younger sister to care for. One day in church his heart was broken open when he heard the words of the Gospel, spoken by Jesus to the rich young man. So moved, he immediately gave away all but what was needed to care for his sister. He gave away what was left, and went deep into the desert.
There he became the greatest of all spiritual warriors.
Divine Wisdom was fused into his heart in the crucible of decades of solitary life in the desert, battling evil spirits, being emptied of his false-self by the Holy Spirit, who illumined Abba Anthony and, with fire, configured him to Christ, so that this saint became known as ‘the friend of God!’
 Abba Anthony famously said when asked about the future: A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us. ‘
Does the surrounding culture think we Christians are mad because we are different or have we become so like others we pass among the throng unnoticed?
The Communion of Saints is part of the living treasury of the Church’s life, the storehouse of wondrous works of grace from which the Church brings forth models of hope and holiness for us, which are ever ancient and ever new.
Closer to our own time another saint emerged from that great tradition which has streamed across the millennia, developing into various forms of monastic-desert life, as well as various forms of religious orders of teachers, nurses, etc., and the modern new forms of consecrated community life in the Church today.
One of the more ancient, tracing itself back to Mount Carmel and Elijah, at least within pious memory if not hard fact, is the Carmelite order, from whose religious sisters in nineteenth century France came a woman known popularly as the Little Flower, whom Bl. Pope John Paul II made a Doctor of the Church, namely: St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
On my journey of return to the faith, before I entered the seminary, her autobiography “The Story of a Soul” became a source of hope and courage.
A few words of wisdom from her: How sweet is the way of LOVE...True, one can fall or commit infidelities, but, knowing HOW TO DRAW PROFIT FROM EVERYTHING, love quickly consumes everything that can be displeasing to Jesus; it leaves nothing but a humble and profound peace in the depths of the heart.
This is the most difficult truth about actual conversion for many souls to accept: It is not the length of the journey, but the inward depth of the journey; it is not the quantity of the battles but the willingness to open wide the doors of our being to His transfiguring touch which enables us to become what He infuses within us at baptism, His own Light so we become light in the world.
Too often, infected as we Christians are with the Zeitgeist egocentric selfishness pervading our culture, we deny the reality of configuration to Christ by the Holy Spirit as meaning cross and death precede tomb and resurrection.
That contemporary Zeitgeist flays about in the quicksand error of love as what I experience from another, rather than soaring into the communion of joy which knows and lives love’s truth: love is gift of self to another first in imitation of God who is Love and first loves us, makes Himself First Gift!
St. Therese shows us how to respond to the culture of death, darkness, greed, power: In order to live one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your love, O my God!
In the lives of the Saints we see in concrete terms of human life the marvellous deeds of the Holy Spirit, brought to ultimate fruition in a manner which should encourage our wounded souls and hearts with the joyful acceptance in our own beings that nothing is impossible to God.
An even closer contemporary of this generation, whose importance in the deepening of Gospel life in the lives of ordinary Christians cannot be overly stressed, and herself a pioneer of the new forms of consecrated life in the Church, is the Servant of God Catherine Doherty.
Born in Czarist Russia, forged into adulthood as a nurse in the bloodletting of the First World War and the Russian Revolution, she was led by the Spirit into the desert of external poverty and service of the poor. Through those experiences she also was plunged into the purifying fire of internal poverty.
Often referring to herself as a poor woman, she was incredibly rich in her passionate love of Christ and all human beings, especially the anawim, those bent over by the burden of external or internal impoverishment.
From the mystery of Christ in the desert, through the life of Abba Anthony, the self-offering as victim of the Little Flower, to the treasury of practical spiritual wisdom from her own heart, Catherine Doherty poured herself out in service of the poor and filled with illumination from the Holy Spirit in her days spent in contemplation in her hermitage — always called by her according to its Russian name: Poustinia — comes clear wisdom: When God becomes a Child, then the wrong image of ourselves vanishes. Because in a cradle, in a crib, we see Love…..we look…and ask ourselves, “Why do I think that God does not love me? Here He is.”
Let us pick up the Holy Child and follow Abba Anthony into the solitude of our hearts and there pour ourselves out in prayer, with and through the Holy Child, for suffering humanity.
Let us hold the Holy Child deep in our hearts and with St. Therese offer ourselves, with and through the Holy Child as holocaust of love for those who do not know they are beloved.
Let us carry the Holy Child as Catherine Doherty did, bringing Him in person where possible, and always through ardent prayer, to the furthest corners of the earth to the homeless and hopeless, to the hungry and oppressed, bring He, Holy Light, to the places of darkness – yes – let us be so unlike others they shall declare we are mad!
And we will be absolutely, totally mad, nuts, crazy, insane, WITH JOY, and look, the Child is smiling upon us!


Thursday, December 08, 2011


Today as we celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Mother of God I am struck by the awesome wonder of it all!
The “all” in this context means  the beauty, holiness of this extraordinary woman, to be sure, but also of the exquisite tenderness of Love Himself, this Trinitarian bending towards all of creation, towards every single human being who ever has, who is, who shall ever be gifted with breath of life!
Each of us knows deep within the very core of our being, indeed in every fibre of our being, in soul’s yearning, mind’s seeking, and heart aching the immense impetus to seek to love and be beloved.
That is a most minuet ache, experience, of the infinite of infinite, if I might stretch the statement somewhat, ache, yearning, desire and active will flowing as immense fire of life and love from the Holy Trinity which, because God is love, in a sense compels creation, specifically creation of the human person, hence urges the self-gift of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to become a man, a human person, in the wonder of the Incarnation, to pour Himself out in the selfless gift of Himself in His Passion, Death, Resurrection, and more to remain with us, nourishing us with love and holiness in the Holy Eucharist and flowing within this river of Trinitarian love-fire-life the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us, constantly setting alive within us the capacity and ability to love and be beloved.
All this Divine design hinges on a simple word from an ordinary yet extraordinary woman, a true woman of the ordinary people, of an ordinary family, a woman betrothed, living in a small village in an occupied country, a woman aware as are countless women on the face of the earth today of life as an oppressed and impoverished people – yes all the splendour of life, of love, of holiness of redemption, of the outpouring of the Holy Trinity hinging on one word, freely spoken, freely willed, freely chosen, love-gift: FIAT!
We accept, as almost so ordinary few reflect on the fact, that the paten and chalice upon which/in which bread and wine are placed to become by the power of the Holy Spirit the Body and Blood of Jesus, the reality of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist communing infinite of love-life-holiness to us, be made of gold, be blessed.
Hence this great solemnity, this creating of she who was to be the Mother of God, the very one who would give to Jesus the body and blood He would pour out for us, given to us as the critical food and drink essential for fullness of life, for our ability to love and be beloved,  is as much celebration of the reality of the Immaculate Conception as it is celebration of preparation and purpose, of present and promise: preparation of the living vessel who would contain the One who cannot be contained; purpose of immediate, as it were, unfolding of redemption; in the present moment Mary is with us as icon of discipleship, trusting abandonment to the Holy Will of the Father, of intimate confidence in Jesus and taking up our cross and following Him, of communion of love animated by the Holy Spirit; promise too for in her assumption into heaven is revealed to comfort us the reality of Jesus as resurrection and life offering us too the everlasting embrace of Trinitarian love.
Yep, the wonder of it all!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


On this day in 1994 Bl. Pope John Paul released his Apostolic Letter: Tertio Millennio Adveniente [As The Third Millennium Draws Near].
How quickly it seems we have arrived already near the end of the first year of the second decade of the millennium!
Over and over, leading up to the Great Jubilee Year 2000, Bl. John Paul reflected upon the words from Hebrews that Jesus is indeed the same yesterday, today and forever.
I have pondered this mystery in my heart today, recalling that time in my life when, indeed, Christ was making all things within me new through the mystery of the call to priesthood.
This afternoon I took a break from my prayer and spiritual reading to treat myself to the movie Titanic, which I had originally seen when it premiered.
My heart was struck how that disaster was truly a Babel experience for early twentieth century civilization, for it so traumatically demonstrated the limitations of technology because of human arrogance.
Then my heart reflected upon that other technological trauma, the atom bomb, and how it too showed us the dangers inherent in our misuse of what we discover.
These reflections led my heart to the Holy Rosary, the simple prayer of children and adults, of childlike hearts.
The Rosary weaves into our hearts contemplation of the mysteries of our redemption: the life, passion, death, glorification of Christ.
The Rosary invites us to place our hands in the hand of the Mother of the Redeemed.
Once again watching that movie, Titanic, my heart was struck by the powerful scene of the priest, holding desperately with one hand onto a ship’s cable stock, his other hand holding onto a desperate soul, she in turn being clung to by others.
The priest is first shown praying the Hail Mary and then quoting from Revelations.
Scene of a modern flood, a sinking tower of Babel, children crying out to their Heavenly Mother, confident she will speak to Jesus of them, the priest a living bridge between terror and peace, darkness and light, despair and hope, sin and mercy, death and eternal life.
This is the challenge for we priests to, like that priest on the deck of the Titanic — granted, a movie priest on a movie set, nonetheless a valid symbol — like that priest we are called, in spite of our own inner struggles with doubt, battle with fear, to stand firm, one hand holding the Anchor Himself, Jesus, the other, holding the hand of every human being.
It means, as at our ordination when we lay cruciform before the laying on of hands and our consecration by the Holy Spirit, the shape of our priestly lives, our very being, is the Cross.
It is the shape of Christ.
It is, no matter what may be happening on the surface of our beings, to dwell always in sheer joy!
So my heart was moved then to meditate upon the central phrase from Sacred Scripture Bl. Pope John Paul constantly repeated as the prism word through which the illumination of the Holy Spirit shines into souls: Jesus who was, is, always will be with us. [Hb. 13:8]
The great truth of this cry from Hebrews is found in the very mystery which is summit and the very source of our sacramental life: the Most Holy Eucharist.
Christ IS the same in His Real Presence, yesterday, today and forever.
In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we rightly proclaim, at Christmas, the today of His Birth, at Easter that this is the night of our redemption, the day of His Holy Resurrection.
Through the mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of His Real Presence, we can enter the Bethlehem cave as surely and as in reality as the shepherds and behold the Child; take the place of the woman, our sister, at His feet and bathe them with our own tears; the place of the blind man, the prodigal, the Good Thief, our brothers, of the woman at the well, the ointment bearing women at the Tomb; take our place among those in the room on Holy Thursday — as indeed happened at my ordination — in the Upper Room at Pentecost.
All men and women are invited to open wide the doors of their being and encounter Christ in all His mysteries.
This is the wisdom known to the childlike of heart when they pray the Rosary and contemplate the mysteries; enter into those same mysteries, led deeply by the hand of Mary.
This is the illumination granted each soul who participates in the communion of Love during Holy Mass.
This is the reality of life lived sacramentally.
Christ, like a divine leaven, always and ever more fully penetrates the life of humanity, spreading the work of salvation accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. What is more, He embraces within His redemptive power the whole past history of the human race, beginning with the first Adam.
The future also belongs to Him: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever “ (Heb.13:8). For her part the Church “seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ Himself under the lead of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgement, to serve and not to be served “. [Ter. Mill. Adveniente: para. 56]
Standing on the shore looking out across the ocean, the burial place of thousands of souls over the millennia, walking amid the rubble of Hiroshima, hearing the cries of starving children, seeing the horrible films of death camps, it is understandable we can wonder, as the humble Rabbi who taught me about the theological challenge of the Holocaust did — as the equally humble woman survivor of Hiroshima also taught me — what of God, where God, when such things happen?
At such a moment, in the utter desperate depths of such a question, as the waters reach our necks and we sink in the mire without a foothold, when our throats are raw with crying out, eyes burned dimmed scanning the horizon as we seek our God-(Ps.69)-, the place to the Father is where His Son is, upon the Cross, within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — there Christ is in the depths of all human suffering, the desperation of every human shuddered ‘why?’ —  His being there in fullness of His ‘ the same, yesterday and today and forever ‘, is also our awaiting at the mouth of the empty Tomb where we listen, for He approaches, calling us by name! is helpful to recall the words of the Pastoral Constitution Guadium et Spes: “The Church believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under heaven been given to man by which it is fitting for him to be saved. She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point, and the goal of all human history. The Church also maintains that beneath all changes there are so many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever. [op.cit. para 59]

Friday, November 04, 2011


More than any other reading since it was released on October 24th by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, their statement on the global economy, I have been trying to come to grips with just what are they thinking?
Never before has a Vatican statement caused my being to shudder.
I am particularly uneasy about the call for a “world political authority”……”A supranational Authority……”
Immediately I thought of two books written in the last century, one near the beginning and one near the end: MR. BLUE by Myles Connelly and FATHER ELIJAH by Michael O’Brien.
I find it extremely difficult to agree with a document which frankly seems to me to miss the point: real people are suffering and arguing for more power over them by some supranational authority strikes me as bizarre.
Granted the so-self-named 99%, also known as the “Occupy Movement” appears not only bizarre in its own right but equally out of touch with the vast majority of the human family.
I visited the local camp.
I volunteer in a soup kitchen so am well experienced with the various smells of people unable to access clean clothes or showers, with people suffering all forms of mental/addiction pain, indeed often, as just the other day, helping a man who came to the door having just been savagely beaten and robbed of what little he had.
The local camp used to be a nice little park with green lawn, flowers, benches to sit on, an oasis in the desert of concrete towers.
Now the grass is gone replaced by mud and human debris, the smell is awful, the occupiers a mixture of ages, races, backgrounds, but mostly just angry and without a single cogent argument to clarify what they want.
Messages on cardboard span the whole spectrum of anti-just- about- everything and everyone, yet without clear suggested solutions to anything.
In a way it is just sad.
What again made me think of the two books mentioned above is the growing anti-Christian dimension among the 99% - witness the smashing of a statue of Our Blessed Mother by occupiers in Rome, seeking to disrupt Holy Mass and do damage inside the Cathedral in Vancouver.
No sane person can deny the global economy is in a mess or the degree to which greed, coupled with lax oversight of financial institutions and markets, makes not institutions but real people working in them responsible for the current crisis.
As a consequence real people, real families, indeed entire nations of real people, real families are suffering horribly and even those not hungry or out of work or who have lost the family home, suffer pernicious anxiety given how uncertain the future appears.
The Vatican document does, somewhat, reference the long tradition of social encyclicals – but all that remains somewhere in the ether unless bishops take the time to teach their priests in depth from this treasury and unless priests take the time, with in both cases competent faithful laity, with expertise in economic and social matters, to educate the wider Catholic community, indeed the entire Christian community so that, rather than a dangerous ‘supranational authority’ or the impotence of some ‘occupy’ movement, we have the birth of real energized by the Gospel of Life men and women, lay people, ordinary husbands and wives, widows and widowers, youth who will transform the world in the light and mercy, the teaching and life of Christ.
It is the sheer bigness of government and financial institutions, corporations and frankly of dioceses/parishes that is crushing people.
We need to learn from the sparrows: little, free, soaring yet industrious, communal yet never so huge a flock that they block out the light! [cf. Mt. 6:26; 10:29 & Lk.12:24]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


One year ago today John and Lucille Everett, [] and click on 2010 for their posts, experienced the immense pain and confusion of parents who suffer the earthly death of a child as that child is taken up into the eternal embrace, the everlasting communion of love, with the Most Holy Trinity.
John is my adopted son and thus in marriage Lucille is equally the child of my heart and so it was right that John called me just before two in the morning that fateful day and the Angels sure worked hard as the Everett family live in the next city over from this one, yet I made the trip as if somehow transported – of course by that I mean no red lights at intersections, for example.
It was a long and exhausting day especially for John and Lucille and for their other three children.
Their firstborn, a daughter, was just old enough to truly understand her little brother Dominic had just been born into heaven, but likewise she would not get to hold him here on earth.
Their third child, a son, was too young to grasp what had happened.
Their middle child, also a son, busied himself playing in the snow and did not say much, but I could tell he was feeling and sharing the pain of his parents.
I was granted a great grace of awareness of Dominic’s presence that day and every day since and each morning confidently ask his intercession for his family here on earth.
Yesterday, his brother the middle child, taught me a tremendous lesson about faith, about the tenderness of Jesus, about the Communion of Saints and reality of the gift of life, and yes about Jesus and balloons.
I can do no better than simply relate the dialogue without comment:
Grandson: “Papere we sent a yellow balloon up to heaven for Dominic to play with. He is with Jesus.”
Granddad: “Good for you. I know Jesus will play with the balloon too.”
Grandson: “Yeah. He likes Dominic. It is good for Jesus to have company.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Recently I wrote about the jealousy of God who loves us so.
Today I confront something within my own life, more in my emotions than heart, which is not pleasant to face.
I see more deeply now areas within me which undoubtedly trigger Divine Jealousy, most often experienced as Him pulling away until I see what He wishes to have me willingly face and hand over to Him for transformation, conversion, healing.
Two events have prompted this reflection.
The second in an email from a priest, who writes frequently needing affirmation, something I am pleased to give him as best I can, always with assurance of fraternal affection and prayer.
Part of loving one another, as we know, as Christ loves us is to affirm one another, listen to each other, pray.
The first event and the one which has been a source of intense emotional upheaval, resistance to the Holy Spirit trying to inform, teach, touch, heal, and came in the form of a single word in the midst of another note.
One single word: exclusive!
The word was in a note from a friend of a friend about why I would not be included in a trip to the mountains, as in: “sometimes we need exclusive time together.”
First I was totally shocked by the word, then by its implications, and for days now by the emotionally explosive impact.
Many of us, in spite of repeated toe-stubbing experience to the contrary, continually figure we can make it to the kitchen for a middle of the night snack or to the bathroom in the dark.
Those who learned the lessons about the silliness of repeated toe-stubbing either use night lights or put on the main lights.
I will confess this stubborn old man still egotistically figures if he tries just one more time and stays utterly focused he will make it – not!
Like spouses, whose only exclusivity of relationship in the sanctity of marriage is sealed, rooted, lived, grows, in Christ – thus paradoxically because He is their shared bond, friend in that sense there is no exclusivity, priests vowed to chastity likewise have foresworn any ‘exclusive’ relationship other than with Jesus, and thus in and through and for Him have an all-inclusive relationship with every human being, some close such as parishioners, in my case the homeless, as well as family, personal friends and by extension every human being – but the moment any of those relationships be extra-Christ, that is either excluding Him directly or in the person of someone else seeking to be included,  we have begun to forget who we are as priests, as baptized disciples of Jesus who calls us to love others as He loves us.
So what a shocker that word: exclusive.
A shocker not primarily because I was being excluded, rather my reaction.
Granted like thousands of priests these days I live in a type of perpetual exclusion, exiled and denied association and fraternity with other priests, for example.
Approaching seventy as more and more confreres, family members, friends die that is another type of ‘exclusion’ which unfolds. This is natural but I suspect, for me at least, not yet fully embraced.
Certainly the intensity of grief the other day when a beloved priest friend-brother died proves the point.
Though I suspected it was happening, and like the proverbial stubborn-nighttime-toe-stubber kept ignoring brut fact, I have been in denial that I have formed particular attachments.
What a pickle!
It is part of the work of the Holy Spirit in calling us to open ever wide the doors of our being to true purity of heart, detachment, to having Jesus as our love-focus, indeed forming us to be intimately the beloved of the Divine Bridegroom, that He, with a surgeons skill, though often it feels like He has skipped giving anesthetic – seeks to excise anything within us that is globs of darkness, not to mention sin.
Sure seems these days His scalpel, which is actually the laser like light of His love, is that word: exclusive.
I assumed, since 99% of the time it is true, whenever I am blessed to spent time with one or the other in particular of the two friends I always had Jesus with us and certainly when it is we three it is actually we four.
Clearly while that may be my prayer, my intent, in my old age, feeling more and more vulnerable and insecure a neediness has taken root, a type of dependency – no wonder I am experiencing the jealously of God!
So I have been praying this all be healed and thus for the grace NOT to resist the Divine Surgeon and my eyes fell on this word from the Servant of God Catherine Doherty, which prompted these reflections:
“What is friendship? It is never exclusive. It is two people, hand in hand, as it were, going to God – but never forming a closed circuit and simply feeding on each other. They always have one hand free to hold anyone who comes into that friendship.”
It is a word from the Tender Holy Spirit, a reminder, an invitation for me to be much more vigilant over my heart and emotions, indeed to imitate and be one with Jesus who is excluded from so many souls, to embrace in all its dimensions the pain of exclusion for love of Him, for souls.
“The word of God is something alive and active; it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely; it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from Him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the One to whom we must give account of ourselves. [Hb.4:12-13]

Monday, September 12, 2011


I almost wrote above “uncomfortable reading!” – But that would be disingenuous.
The fact is I have been using: The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen, for spiritual reading and meditation.
Pray for the people close to me because uncomfortable is really too tame a word.
I have been emotionally more erratic, needing way too much attention and just generally discombobulated of late.
Nouwen has written such a truthful series of reflections they leave you exposed, squirming, by the time you get towards the end of the book confronting inner poverty at its depths.
If grace is called for, if openness to the Holy Spirit takes place then great healing, restoration, takes root.
The journey between the depths of poverty and restoration in Christ is when an added grace is needed, to tread humbly near and with those we love: humbly by simply giving them a head’s up of the intensity of what is unfolding within self and loving them enough when we are in that tough place to decline invitations unless they are prepared to be like the Good Samaritan with the beat up traveller.
In the end, of course because nothing is impossible for God, all will be well.
Pray dear friends for I am a mere beginner on the journey and if you read the book hold tight to Our Blessed Mother while on the journey!

Thursday, September 08, 2011


Sometimes great feasts, such as the Nativity of Our Blessed Mother, which is today as I write, are easy to, as it were, enter into.
Other times it can be difficult what with the vagaries of daily life to stay focused on the wonder placed before us.
Praying before writing this afternoon I was focused on Our Blessed Mother and the stark reality of 9/11, the 10th remembering of which approaches, and for the first time was able to recall that day, and the day some months later when I was at Ground Zero with a Firefighter friend from New York who asked my company so he could return there and truly grieve – having been there on the day and lost so many brothers – yes thinking of Our Blessed Mother my heart suddenly understood she was/is the mother of everyone on that day, each day, this day – finally now I can remember: without anger or fear.
One who throughout his life had immense trust in her maternal love, intercession and protection was the Venerable Pope Pius XII and in my own way of preparing to remember on Sunday the reality of 9/11 decided to reflect upon his encyclicals.
I have been surprised that in the end I made notes from only two: Summi Pontificatus, his first written in the early days of WWII, October 20th, 1939 to be exact and what I believe was his last, Meminisse Iuvat, written July 14th in 1958 a couple of months before he died.
To this day most people recall where we were, what we were doing on that horrific morning and day.
Perhaps, as someone mentioned to me, undoubtedly the time has come to focus more on 9/12 – the wisdom being that eventually the sun did set and the sun did rise again the next morning and we have had ten years of new days since.
The secular philosopher George Santayana is usually credited with the fatalistic statement: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it.”
There is however, even within basic Christian common sense, a grain of truth in the statement, to wit: if we forget who we are and whose children we are, that is we are beloved children of God called to love as He loves, then likely we will forget the past, the lessons of the past, and may well make choices which, in the end, appear an inevitable fulfillment, or rather re-enacting of the past.
Usually not the better aspects of the past either.
Between his birth in 1876 and his death in 1958 Pope Pius witnessed civil disturbances throughout his homeland, wars among the European and other powers, and the unrelenting tensions of the Cold War.
As regards the two bloodiest of global conflicts, the First and Second World Wars, his priestly duties, culminating in pontifical responsibilities, had him thrust into the darkness and anguish, the immense human suffering of both.
During the same period of history he witnessed the rapid advances from cavalry charges to aerial bombardment of cities culminating in the devastation of atom bombs; likewise rapid changes in social structure, the sciences, politics, etc., etc., and the crushing anti-person power of states over whole populations from Fascism, Communism, Nazism and a post war world which gradually became enslaved to unbridled materialism, nihilism and countless other philosophies, movements, ideas which diminish the sacred dignity and freedom of the human person.
In the shadow of 9/11, ten years on, some of the Pope’s words, cries from the heart really, pleading prayers, bear re-discovering in light of the prayer request posed to me by my Firefighter friend at Ground Zero: “Pray Father we, the whole world, will be converted!”
From Pope Pius:
What age has been, for all its technical and purely civic progress, more tormented than ours by spiritual emptiness and deep-felt interior poverty?
What heart is not inflamed is not swept forward to help at the sight of so many brothers and sisters who, misled by error, passion, temptation and prejudice, have strayed away from faith in the true God and have lost contact with the joyful and life-giving message of Christ?
At the head of the road which leads to the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of the present day stand the nefarious efforts of not a few to dethrone Christ; the abandonment of the law of truth which He proclaimed and of the law of love which is the life breath of His Kingdom.
… must not forget the essential insufficiency and weakness of every principle of social life which rests upon a purely human foundation, is inspired by merely earthly motives and relies for its force on the sanction of a purely external authority. [ Summi Pontificatus]
………….a just peace does not yet prevail, nor do men live in concord founded on brotherly understanding. For the seeds of war either lurk in hiding or - from time to time - erupt threateningly and hold the hearts of men in frightened suspense, especially since human ingenuity has devised weapons so powerful that they can ravage and sink into general destruction, not only the vanquished, but the victors with them, and all mankind.
If we weigh carefully the causes of today's crises and those that are ahead, we shall soon find that human plans, human resources, and human endeavors are futile and will fail when Almighty God - He who enlightens, commands, and forbids; He who is the source and guarantor of justice, the fountainhead of truth, the basis of all laws - is esteemed but little, denied His proper place, or even completely disregarded. If a house is not built on a solid and sure foundation, it tumbles down; if a mind is not enlightened by the divine light, it strays more or less from the whole truth; if citizens, peoples, and nations are not animated by brotherly love, strife is born, waxes strong, and reaches full growth. [Meminisse Iuvat]

Monday, September 05, 2011


There are times when I write and then, a neat advantage of using the computer, I hit delete either because the essay has been a mere rant with no charitable purpose, something utterly self-serving or so pedantic as it would either bore those who read it or have them hit delete for the entire blog!
There are times when I write, and this is rather humbling, I sense what has been written is minus my fingerprints: that is I have managed somehow to write words for the Word Himself.
Finally there are times, like right now, when the writing is a self-imposed cathartic exercise to try and get past emotional wounds, confusions, and resistance to the healing touch of Christ, to hear over the cacophony of my emotions or faith-doubts, the clear voice of the Holy Spirit asking trust, surrender, yes, conversion – that change of heart which seems never ending if we wish to be totally Christ’s.
I am at an age in life when: even if being banished by my bishop had not radically cut off from me most of those in my life I care for, removed me thousands of miles from the ‘where’ of life I felt at home, now death takes away even more treasured friends and family members and the circle gets smaller.
Likewise at the same time the growth of John and Lucille in their married union and the expanse of their family of growing children means the circle is even smaller – sure there are moments like babysitting or the very rare gathering where I am present but, mostly I believe they are unawares it happens, both family and friends present tend to relate among themselves and the old man is left watching the children.
Eventually you stop asking, though not expecting, for attention, for things important to you like a trip to the mountains or to a hockey game, because no longer able or comfortable doing such on your own, asking and it not happening, the pain of disappointment becomes too much – forgotten birthdays etc., you refrain from comment aware others are some busy and forget you not out of a failure to love, you tell yourself, it is just the way society is these days.
Of course none of those interior conversations ease a wit of the pain and, dangerously if not checked and handed over to Jesus through Mary, such painful interior conversations can slop over into doubts about whether God loves us or not.
Then comes the real shocker when some event you are excluded from smacks you so hard an emotion surfaces you don’t want to admit is even there until its raging tenacity seeking to be faced wears you down so much you unwittingly begin to cooperate with the feelings and thoughts which nourish them: insecurity, fear, resentment, anger – and once aware of them you are ready to be devoured by self-disgust.
The name of the shocker: jealousy.
There is a part of the brain called the amygdala which is like a storehouse the manger of which seems not to care a whit about housing in the same room, as it were, cats and dogs, lions and sheep, which are stand-ins for diametrically opposed emotions, some ferocious enemies of one another, all in the same place.
No wonder some days we humans feel like our interior lives are a perpetual war zone and that even before going to the deeper level wherein spiritually we seem to struggle simultaneously with God and the devil!
Of course the devil is capable of one thing only: hate.
Whatever else he may seem to express or talk about or suggest or do it all comes down to the single spawn of his cold, dark reality of pride: hate, hatred especially of the children of God: beloved children of the Father, beloved spouses of the Son, beloved temples of the Holy Spirit.
God who is love, pure love, says of Himself He has jealousy – hence the conundrum!
Divine jealousy, like divine anger, neither is an emotion, nor is divine love.
Each is an aspect of GOD IS LOVE, an expression of the infinite of infinite divine love-fire: for us!
If we wish to have our disordered emotions healed, embrace full and joyful surrender to whatever the Father wills or permits in our lives, whatever Jesus asks of us, wherever He asks us to be with Him, indeed to surrender to by whatever means the Holy Spirit heals, purifies, converts, sanctifies, then, I believe, we need to understand divine jealousy if we hope to grasp even an iota of the divine-love-fire-gift of our very being.
It is NOT as Descartes claims that I think and thus I am!
It IS that I AM beloved, thus capable of thought – all thought, the neat, nice, loving ones and those less so!
In Exodus, with the sound of His “I AM” still singing throughout creation and in human hearts God who is love states bluntly in His own words directly or through the mouths of others: I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God…the Lord is ‘the Jealous One’….the Lord, your God, is a consuming fire, a jealous God….your God….who is in your midst, is a jealous God. [cf. Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24; 6:15].
In essence these words are the aching heart of love Himself who has created us as His beloved and He is virtually pleading with us to understand He loves us, to love Him, to love ourselves enough that all our human need for ‘other’ and any response from ‘other’, love returned for love, must be what they are intended for: means of embracing ever more His love for us – never a replacement.
But we do make those ‘others’ replacements for Him because they seem so real, tangible, closely present and so when they fail we think it is ‘our’ need not being met.
Sure there is some truth to that but the deeper, fuller reality is the pure-burning-white-light-truth we are ‘feeling/experiencing’, beneath the emotional chaos, IS the consuming fire of His jealous love for us.
Now I won’t quote them here, as in this moment it would cut to the emotional bone way too deeply, but now all those teachings of Jesus about how we have to leave dad and mom and son and daughter and place and can’t serve two masters and o yeah by the way when we fail to pay attention to each other, that one about declining the wedding invitation because we have places to go and fish to fry and other people to see…..that is a turning away from the Divine Bridegroom present in ‘other’ who is in front of us and……………….
It is all about love: His love, our love, my love, your love.
Now when Jesus tells us to love ‘other’ as we love ourselves the presumption is indeed that we truly love ourselves – that is we move and live and have our being rooted in the Trinity, rooted in God-love, knowing hey: it is not how I was accepted or rejected or whatever as a child that testifies to my Lovableness/not as a person; it is not how I am remembered for that family outing or whatever that testifies, etc., etc., - fill in your own pain, disappointment, rejection – it is my VERY living, breathing, heart beating, yes emotional turmoil, which testifies I am beloved of Love Himself, for He is incapable of creating a single person He would not love.
The difficult challenge, the never ending struggle then is both to embrace the purifying fire of Divine-Love-Jealously and that it burns most intensely when we are ‘jealous’, that is experience the pain of the failure of ‘other’ to affirm our existence.
Of course no husband, wife, son, daughter, parent, friend can ever affirm that in full – but it sure helps if they slake our thirst from time to time with a wee dram of their loving presence!
Finally, He Himself who is the living-water, the wellspring of life, of love, yearning to slake our thirst to the full, gives us the ultimate word about the infinite of infinite intensity of how God loves us as Jesus says to us with every one of our heartbeats: As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love {Jn.15:9}.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Why the silent scream?

Before dawn this morning I was checking the latest emails, of which two informed me of brother priests: one died peacefully in his 83rd year, after 55 years of priesthood and the other died by his own hand.
Out of respect for the priest who committed suicide I include here no other details suffice to say his is the second suicide of a brother priest reported to me this week.
I knew the first priest personally, though we had not seen each other in more than 20 years as the country in which he was born, lived, served is far away and his health prevented travel and my own circumstances likewise.
Heart to heart, geography is irrelevant since at the altar, in prayer, we were/are always together in the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
The second priest, until today, was unknown to me by name, but every priest shares in unity at the altar and in the Holy Hearts.
Normally my reaction when I hear of a priest taking his own life is one of intense pain, and prayer for mercy to be lavished upon him – yet this morning I was suddenly gripped with utter fury and found myself asking God where all the real bishops are? Where have they gone? Why do the bishops we have seem lacking compassion, courage, enough manly fatherhood to hear the silent scream of their despairing priest sons?
It is now mid-afternoon and the fury has abated, mostly, and I have prayed with affection for our bishops but cannot shake this sense something has gone terribly wrong that bishops in particular, but frankly all priests and yes anyone who knows a despairing priest, well somehow we are missing the clues, or don’t love enough or………..
There was a time when, it is said of St. John Chrysostom, that alone of all the bishops he refused to kowtow to the Emperor and spoke rather bluntly to the imperial personage who apparently told the saintly bishop: “No bishop has ever spoken like this to me!”
To which St. John replied: “Then clearly you have never met a real bishop!”
The bishop who ordained me saw himself as father-servant of his priests.
For example when we would be on retreat the bishop insisted on being sacristan, laying out vestments, preparing the altar. As well in the evening he would walk around praying his rosary and, stopping by each priests’ room, gently asking about how we were – not how our parish was but how we personally were.
One final example: even though he had to act as required when I was falsely accused he stanchly defended my innocence and when I was convicted of something I did not do paid for an appeal and once I was acquitted restored me to active ministry.
He has since died but I sense always his fatherly presence.
Eventually I settled down even more before I began to write this and was praying for all despairing priests when suddenly I remembered the first time I saw a copy of “The Scream” and how transfixed I was and yet how it seemed incomprehensible to me any human being could be in such apparent despair.
Each time a priest commits suicide I admit I tremble while praying for his immortal soul, always with intimate confidence in Divine Mercy, yet aware every one of us might also fall into despair.
I am blessed to have a loving and supportive family, loving and supportive confreres, each of whom keeps a close eye and checks, especially when I am stressed, offering all needed support – and – they never believe me if I claim to be okay when I am not.
To quote from the diary of Edvard Munch who painted “The Scream”: “I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature. “
All of us: bishops, priests, laity need urgently to beg Christ to have His heart with which to see, His ears with which to hear the silent scream of despairing priests.
Indeed we should be trembling, not so much with anxiety but with the intensity of our courageous, compassionate, active attentiveness and concern.
We need hearts and smarts, that is the wisdom to gently, yet if needed also firmly, to check that our priests are taking proper physical, emotional, spiritual care of themselves and if not then we need to intervene, to help them – for the silence around priestly suicide is itself the cry of our Mother the Church for her children who are no more.

Saturday, July 30, 2011



My Child,

You may not know me,
but I know everything about you.

Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.

Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.

Acts 17:26
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13
And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6
I have been misrepresented
by those who don't know me.

John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.

1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1
Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.

1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.

Psalms 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5
I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.

Jeremiah 32:41
And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.

Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4
For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13
I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.

Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.

Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.

Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.

Revelation 21:3-4
And I'll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.

Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.

John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3
He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.

Romans 8:31
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
His death was the ultimate expression
of my love for you.

1 John 4:10
I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.

Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.

1 John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you
from my love again.

Romans 8:38-39
Come home and I'll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.

Luke 15:7
I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.

Ephesians 3:14-15
My question is…
Will you be my child?

John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32

Love, Your Father,
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