The story of how we got here.
I have been writing and involved in print publishing all of my adult life. My Arise reflection / letter is now in its twentieth anniversary year. I have long tried to help folks find meaning in our holidays. To go deeper than tensil and getting drunk at parties (and what might come after that.) But Lo! last December 2007 a brand new creativity emerged from my soul and burst, though somewhat erratically, onto the Internet by way of email.
I have many creative gifts to share but I have been struggling with the technology of emailing and getting a web site together (I don’t even know how to change the message on my answering machine) all year long. I believe a Web Site can be a Sanctuary, an actual special place on the net where you can come and relax awhile find solace and peace and perhaps. My aim is to help you connect with your inner self and some authenticity. To find in yourself, in the midst of the meaninglessness and hopelessness that so many young people experience today. promise you, what I write comes from the depths of my soul. I mean what I write pray. What you see here is a start of a new vein of creativity coming from within me that I am delighted to share. Check out my place on the Web http://spirit7.com if you want to go deeper.
What I do here is to select some images from my photo collection; then transport myself into the scene; invite my Lord to join me there and then composed a prayer-poem to let them speak. (I am a Catholic priest with a a hunger to make sense out of my own experiences of God, the scriptures and my everyday life. And I have an insatiable thirst to share the gleanings of meaning I collect along my wandering life’s journey with whomever would care to partake of the simple repast I might offer from day to day.
It is my goal that you (and me because I always seek to be nourished and challenged by what I create) find some peace in the midst of pre-holiday insanity and some meaning and hope.
So I greet you with love. I am glad you found me. And invite you to follow along on this journey – wherever it might lead. I rejoice in the sometimes intimate relationship I have been able to develop with many of my readers since the very beginning of my print journal Arise (now in its twentieth anniversary year. Some recent ones of these are available on my web site.) Now I rejoice that I have a new audience and must also develop a new writer’s voice to communicate with people I may not have met. I hope that I can develop a way to help you realize the eternal truth that brings essential meaning to my life: Every human being was created individually and uniquely in the mind and heart of God at the beginning, and will exist forever. But many today who are influenced by machines (tech stuff) do not know this.
Ponder this: If what I have just said is true, then every single word we utter, every thought we think and every deed we do or leave undone can have meaning and purpose.
I respect everyone. We are all children of God. You are all sisters and brothers of mine. In fact, I respect (or try to) all life. For me, all life is sacred and is to be honored, respected, delighted and rejoiced in. I am wont to look little creatures like the ducks and squirrels around our condo in the eye and receive the sacred energy that flows through them to me. I especially respect and honor those who have difficult paths or unconventional paths to walk. I fall into that category myself, as you will come to see if you follow along and join me in this blog. And I am not afraid of my fellow religionists who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. My enemies are Jesus’ enemies – not Muslims or Jews or Blacks or Homosexuals – but hypocrites, the ones who plotted Jesus’ death and crucifixion because they hated his message of love and because he preferred the table of sinners to that of the self-righteous. (The difference between me and Jesus is that I prefer to befriend these folks; I would prefer not to be crucified But if that is my lot, so be it.
It is always my desire to strike a chord that might resonate in the hearts of my readers. Meaning makes all the difference in our lives. Victor Frankl said, “The one who has a why to live can deal with any how.” Just today I read from St. Ambrose speaking to his brother fourth century bishops, “Let no word escape your lips in vain or be uttered without depth of meaning.”
In this Advent series, I invite you to pause for a moment or two in your running around, quiet your mind, sit in silence and ask the Lord (or your Higher Power, if you prefer) to help you find the thread of meaning in your life. Ask yourself in this pre-holiday frenzy what does it all mean? What is it all about? This Advent section of my blog (actually all of it) is meant to help both you and me make the meaning of our lives. I grab hold of the idea that the thing that sets us apart is that humans are called to be meaning-makers. Rather than rush through life from experience to experience, we can construct or fashion our life into a story for good or for ill. And so, I ask you: what is your shopping/gift-giving/partying/family-gathering all about? Where’s the spiritual nourishment? Where’s the love? Where’s the peace? Where’s the meaning – the sense of it all?
With all creative processes, such as writing a novel, the creator (or shall I say co-creator as I want the creative, enlivening Spirit of God to be the sole source of my creativity) is beholden to the process; one never knows what is going to happen next. A true novelist is never sure how the story will end.
I want my reflections to be as fresh as possible. I get up very early in the morning to sing the psalms and reflect on the Scriptures the liturgy places before me for the day to find God’s nourishment for me – for us – anew each and every day, or at least as God provides the grace to do so. It is my desire once this blog is begun to let it grow and grow and grow and to reflect for you and with you my experiences — and someof the people I meet from day to day — wherever I am in the world. The title of the blog will be simply I’m Here” If you parse this word you come up with “Here I am” which Samuel and Isaiah said in response to God’s call. It’s Adsum in Latin which a candidate for orders says when he presents himself for ordination. I repeat those words and the commitment to my priesthood and service to my elder Brother Jesus more than several times a day. All it means for me is thaat I have “showed up” in whatever situation I find myself and will do the best I can to make that experience a good one for me and the people I am with.
You see, I never stop reflecting. I always stop to talk to the frogs and ducks and examine the flowers and watch the clouds float across the sky here in South Florida. I find – or at least – ponder – the meaning of everything. I believe this is a meaningful and purposeful world and there’s a reason for everything — if only we have the patience to live with our questions. I have had much suffering and aloneness in my life but I have come to realize it’s all good. In fact, it is my sense that this economic crisis swirling about us might wake us up before we go like lemmings over the precipice to disaster. Yes, it’s all good.
I have lived with some very significant questions throughout the 39 years of my priesthood that are still not resolved. I am more interested in the questions than the answers. My bipolar mind doesn’t grasp details but I remember somebody saying, “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.”
I am an explorer of my inner and outer landscape. Throughout years of being locked within the confines of a bipolar mind I have explored a great deal of my soul. I believe that the soul is as expansive as the universe itself — and if we’re attentive — going inward connects us with the deepest mysteries of the universe. (In the early 80’s I remember “groking” on a book by John Lilly http://www.johnclilly.com/ The Center of the Cyclone. Another very influential book inmy life is Morton Kelsey’s Other Side of Silence.
That’s on the existential level. But for me, life is Both / And. I am equally ravished by our great Christian story, the mystery of God’s love affair with the human race which we celebrate at Christmas. Our Christian story is that God wanted his son to be Emmanuel – God with us. He became incarnate, literally encased in fleshiness of human existence. The Christian story (and belief for many of us) is that Jesus is Son of God and Son of Mary. We will try to reflect on this mystery as Advent and Christmas unfold, one day at a time.
Since June 2007 when I had a frightening mystical experience of a nuclear free-for-all in the Middle East, I have devoted myself to intercessory prayer and meditation (mediation), beginning in the night (might) hours before first light that God would save us as a nation before we go the way of our great civilizations before us.
So, I will continue this theme in this blog for the time being. My sense is that each one of us Americans must go before God and cleanse ourselves of our own complicity in wrongdoing (sin) before we go accusing others. I implored us as America to do that before we went off attacking terrorists in 2001 because I know God will not give us the ultimate security if we do not face our own wrongdoing and seek righteousness first for ourselves.
And I so invite you, dear friends, to enter the “Refiner’s fire” (one of the Advent images) so that we can be purified and cleansed of our immersion in the seven deadly sins by an inner personal renewal:
+ complacency by diligence and watchfulness
+ arrogance by humility
+ envy by kindness
+ self-indulgence (gluttony) by self control and moderation
+ lust by purity of heart
+anger by patience
+ greed by generosity
This theme of being willing to enter into personal transformation for the sake of the transformation of our country will be the underlying message in my writing continuing into the New Year. Each of ushave to do our own part to renew our country. – at least the few * (Cf. Remnent below) of us who realize that we must do this before it’s too late) We cannot expect the president or any of our elected officials do it for us. John Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
What we need to do, first and foremost, is to recognize our own complicity in sin, our own idolatry and unfaithfulness, get down on our knees and beg our Higher Power – or however you choose to image God, even if it is, as some say in AA “simply Good Orderly Direction” to help us do what we as a country are becoming powerless to do.
Only God can do what we are powerless to do without God!
But we have to be humble enough to ask.
* The Hebrew bible is filled with references to the remnant the ten percent of the people who remained faithful to living the covenant. (Cf. Isaiah 10:20) The word is taken from the textile industry; i.e. a remnant garment, a piece of a cloth. It is the remnant that will save the whole. An associated word is Anawim — the poor, the forgotten ones Jesus speaks about in the Sermon on the Mount. I guess I speak to the remnant of America.
Are you one of us?