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.
…..one 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}.