Free to be faithful to conscience and to self


Dear Friends,

It’s is a brilliant sunny day here in Lauderdale.   I type lazily on my silver Macbook Pro sprawled out on my lounger  on our second-floor screened porch overlooking the pool and a wonderful expanse of trees and luscious beds of red and white impatiens.  The mowers are scurrying around trees and flower beds  in our condo courtyard nearly the size of a football filed.. (If I ever needed  job in a second life I think riding a tractor mower would be fun.) The Canadians are enjoying their last week with us by the pool or playing petangue before they go back to Montreal for Easter.  Shivvy is sitting at my feet waiting patiently for the natural crunchy treats he delights  and which I forgot to give him which I forgot to give him this morning. (He is such a noble creature, a devoted companion of the past 11 years  in my otherwise alone bipolar journey.)

But there is a sadness mingled from my gratefulness that I have such a place to  live and write.  I kinda get this way before Holy Week as I try to immerse myself  a little more deeply in Jesus’ Paschal Mystery and unite myself with his concern for our world.  I always look for new meaning, hopefully deeper understanding of the sacred mysteries and allow them to penetrate the needs of our times, to see where Jesus is crucified in our world today, where there is hope for new life.  I have the draft of my special Holy Week Arise out to my editors and, as all writers do, I guess, am a bit nervous to get their reaction.

As always before Holy Week I am thinking of my priesthood.  But this year I’m preparing to write the story of my uncoventional journey as a priest who after thirty one years of severe manic depressive  illness has retained his priestly faculties (credentials) but no community to be a part of as yet.    We’re reading Hebrews in the Office of Readings: “Since he (Jesus) was himself tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18) And I am pondering: has my priesthood of forty years been fruitful?  Have I touched some people’s lives?  In spite of the unconventional nature of my priestly journey, do people see me as one who desires to please God?  As one who has a passion to share the love I have for Jesus and his love for me? Do people see Jesus when they see me?  But many do or cannot.  Some see me as unworthy of priesthood.  But my bishop in Orlando still recognizes me as a priest in good standing.  Many look down upon mentally ill people; perhaps part of my witness is to simply walk the path among all those who have been marginalized, whose talents have not been recognized and to give us a voice.  I move in and among people who haven’t got it all together.  I know for sure I don’t.  But I have finally realized — and I want you to know that GOD DON”T MAKE JUNK!  Each of us is cherished by God;  each of us has a purpose for being on this planet.

And that is a perfect segue for another reason I am sad today.  Each human person is cherished by God.  But we don’t cherish each other.  We don’t cherish the gift of life.  We don’t cherish the gift of the planet God has given to sustain us.   I fiercely respect all life; I don’t even like to kill roaches.   I voted for Mr. Obama.  I pray everyday for the gift of sight for him and for so many in our culture that God would open their eyes to see the gift, the wonder of all life.

I am also sad because I believe we need to change our rhetoric in the abortion discussion.  We have to learn to listen to one another.  The sad thing is that neither side on the abortion question is willing to change the nature of the discourse.  We are screaming at each other, instead of listening.  Mr. Obama, I do not appreciate being called an “idealogue” because I believe that science must respect the laws of God. I expect you to take the leadership in listening; of asking God to help us all understand.

But I feel betrayed, Mr. Obama. I voted for you because I see possible greatness in you, even when so many of my fellow Catholics feared you.  As you also are an author, I have seen in you a quest for authenticity, of integrity.  In my own quest for integrity as a priest and a writer I understand how difficult that quest for honesty and authenticity is.   So,  I pray for an intellectual conversion for you, an “aha experience” not unlike Saul of Tarsus who was trasnformed from a murderer to one whose eyes were opened.

Your understanding of what makes a human human and mine differs, Mr. Obama.  I believe  that God creates each individual uniquely and loves each of us individually.  Yes, I have reverence for the process of evolution and even natural selection.  But I also believe that God uniquely creates the soul of each individual.  I believe that each of us exists for all eternity.   I feel so sad that you cannot see that!  It’s so obvious!  A woman conceives a new life, with new DNA, with a unique soul, a life as precious as the life of the mother.

America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave if those with strong convictions about life and death do not have the right to stand up for what they believe in.  You must respect the consciences of those of us who witness to that.

On the other hand, I am sad about the hatred I see among many pro-life folks toward you.  Jesus said, “love your enemies.” Brothers and sisters, the truth will only prevail in an atmosphere of love and dialogue, respect and civility and kindness. Perhaps that’s what the President of the University of Notre Dame had in mind when he invited Mr. Obama to the graduation ceremonies.  Who knows?  Maybe our Lady will zap him good!!! while he’s there.  You know, it could very well happen, and I pray that it would.  Instead of being acerbic, let us double our prayer for the President — and so many other’s conversion.  And our own too. Because we become so self-righteous in our condemnation.  I wonder if we are more taken by the righteousness of our position than the result.


Mr. Obama, you have said you want to bring us together as one nation. I call you to the great statesman I think you can be.  But that will happen only if you safeguard all life and respect the consciences of the health caare workers who do.   As best you can, of course.  I pray earnestly for you, pleadingly, every day that your empathy and compassion would not just be for women but for the unborn as well.

Brothers and sisters, if you agree with me, I call you to intense prayer.  I know God answers the prayers of the humble, not of the self-righteous.

In the middle of writing, Augie and I sat down to read the powerful scriptures of today.   And then the Spirit opened our hearts to one of those teachable moments that we need to be ready for and not be too busy to overlook with our kids.  Its the story of the innocent Susanna from Daniel and in St. John, the adulterous woman condemned then freed and forgiven. We aare reminded that Jesus stood in defense of sinners to his own peril.  His conviction, his staying on message no matter what brought him to his own death.

Now that’s the Jesus I know and love.

Lord Jesus,

please open our eyes to see and understand Your ways.

Let us more and more build a society in which we cherish and respect one another,

including the unborn.

Please be with Mr. Obama, who bears the heavy burden of office

in a most difficult time of American history.

Dearest Lord and dearest Lady,

I pray that you would grant him the grace

to see and understand that all life must be protected.

Help us to enter into Holy Week with mind and heart renewed.

To You be glory and honor forever.  Amen.

Submerged in a book


Dear Friends,

You haven’t heard from me for a week because there’s a time to nourish and a time to be nourished.  A time to give and a time to receive.  Besides, my body seems to have been requiring extra rest; I haven’t been given the energy to pray and to write in the pre-dawn hours of Cypress Chase A as I prefer.  A year ago I made myself crazy and manic trying to do things my way.  I think I’ve finally learned to realize that God works quite a bit more slowly than than I would like.   The book  In Due Season: A Catholic Life by Paul Wilkes is an honest description of a wandering sinner, like me, who has an insatiable thirst for God.  It’s the story of Augustine and Thomas Merton.  I am reflecting on my own unconventional journey as a priest as I prepare to write.  There are similarites and differences which I’m trying to grab hold of.    I am also working on my Arise reflection / letter on accepting death.  I believe we must let capitalism as we know it die so that a new people-centered economy  might rise like the glorious Phoenix from the ashes. Erich Fromm recognized in 1956 Art of Loving) and the movie Matrix in 1999 that as we concentrate on buying and selling of material things we ourselves become commodities as well.  Capitalism as we know it is just as atheistic as communism; it has destroyed our spiritual life in this country.  The economic crisis is, in reality, a spiritual crisis.

We’re two weeks away from celebrating the Paschal Mysteries, the richest experience of faith and hope and love in which the church renews itself.  The sad thing is so few Catholics experience its power for transformation.  The experience of Holy Week makes clear that if we enter the way of Jesus and accept our own sufferings, and the dying that needs to take place in us that we will also experience Risen Life.  But we must realize, there are not shortcuts for one who intends to live a life of authenticity as Jesus clearly tells us . . . .

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal (John 12:24)

May I suggest that each of us meditate on the profound wisdom that is encapsulated in the words of the Master.

Lord Jesus, we are coming close to experience your Passion 2009.

Help us to realize the things we need to surrender / to die to / to let go of

so that we can experience New Life for us and our country.

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

This is all for now.  Hope to see you soon.

What (who) are you thirsty for?

img_0255 a coffee mug in Barnes & Noble

Dear Friends,

Well, looks like I’ll be able to write again if I can keep my head above water weaving the writing into trying to form an online publishing company around it, getting Augie through all the Broward County hoops of getting medical, psychiatric care and food stamps, going to thrift stores, etc. etc.

We’re in an important series of Sunday scriptures that has John the Evangelist interpreting for us how he sees Jesus and his significance for us. Last Sunday (JOHN 4:1-42) has Jesus and his buddies passing through Samaritan territory. The hour’s about noon and he’s tired, hot, dusty, sweaty (I guess) and thirsty. He sits down by Jacob’s well but has no bucket; the cool stuff is right down there but he can’t access it.

Along comes a woman with a bucket and he’s about to break all kinds of taboos:  One, Jews don’t associate with Samaritans. And two, men don’t speak to women in public. She is shocked by his shattering both of these impenetrable barriers and is quite flustered. And three, she’s not exactly a woman of high moral standing.

He soon puts her at ease by asking her for a drink, and as the great Teacher he is, he reverses the symbol and says he will give her “living waters so she will never be thirsty again.”

She’s intrigued and begins to relax in his accepting, easy manner. (We forget that He was probably a handsome 31 year old.) In fact, she quickly feels such total acceptance that she trusts him to touch her on the inside. The conversation cuts to the quick very quickly. She has had “five husbands and the one she’s living with now is not her husband.”

Jesus has a true pastoral manner that, very sadly, so many of my friends who have left the church did not get from a priest or family or a community when they needed it the most. The same thing happened last week when the Archbishop of Recife, Brazil apparently was scandalously judgmental and lacking in compassion.

I pray he rosary everyday and one of the new “Mysteries of Light”  has us meditate on “the proclamation of the kingdom.” at some point because I wasn’t preaching and celebrating Mass publicly I realized that I must learn how to share (proclaim ) the Good News not over the heads of masses of people but to share it as Jesus did in this situation one person at a time. I ache inside when I realize so many have turned a deaf ear to the church because our lives often do not match our words or because we use harsh and condemning words which push people away and cauterize their souls instead of drawing them close.

Through my own life experience I have learned to do as Jesus did with the woman at the well. He befriended her first.  He treated her as a person. He spoke kindly. He did not condemn her but in revealing his own vulnerability (his own thirst) he brought her up to his own level.

In my videographer’s eye I can  see the two of them sitting close to each other on the wall of the well, gently conversing as Jesus listens to the story of her brokenness. Now that is the way — the only legitimate way, in my estimation — to preach the gospel — in mutual regard and respect, in mutual vulnerability.

If we keep screaming at people in harsh words we will be just tuned out.  St. Francis of Assisi is known to have said, “Preach the gospel; when necessary, use words.”

I am fiercely pro-life; I don’t even want to kill a roach (I escort them out of my house!) And we have a beautiful truth to share — the sacredness of all life and the sacredness, the holiness of the ground beneath our feet — but we can only get that message across when we get down there with those like the family of that 9 year old girl in such an unbelievably tragic situation to cry with them and hugging them instead of screaming at them. Jesus would never do that.

I repent of the times that I have been harsh with others.  And those times have been many. And I pray that, day by day by day, Jesus, the gentle One, would help me to be more and more gentle and nurturing and respectful to those I meet whose lifestyles and values are different than mine for I know that if I want to have any influence on them, I need to let them get close to me and let them know that, despite everything, they have a place in my heart.

The story of the woman at the well ends by telling us that this wonderful human being in Whom-God-shown-through (Gospel of the Transfiguration — Second Sunday of Lent / Mark 9:2-10) broke down the wall of prejudice and hostility between Jews and Samaritans that the whole town welcomed him and he and his buddies stayed for two days.

Now THAT, dear friends, is the Jesus I know and love.

And want to be like.

Lord Jesus,

I give thanks that I have had mentors who drew me close

in whose loving embrace I received non-judgmental love

and from whose example I myself desire to love without judgment.

In my own thirst to receive the faith of those I care for

may I always bring them to You, the spring of living water

so that the water you give them “will become IN THEM

a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.”

So be it! AMEN!

bob traupman

priest / writer

Welcome to my life

img_0808 Me on St. Augustine Beach / Winter 2007

Dear Friends,

Well, I’m here at home on a rainy morning (5:24 am) in Fort Lauderdale.  I am thankful for the rain; our canals have been down about two feet. It’s a gentle soaking rain.  It’s been raining all night.  You haven’t heard from me since March 11 because there’s been a lot of swirling going on in the tidal pools of my soul deep within.  (For an INFJ – bipolar person that kind of intimate connection with the inner / outer world is not unusual.

Thirty two years ago my spiritual director said I was a “Victim-Intercessor” and he tried to dissuade me from the suffering that that entailed (See the link to my Arise letter “The Mystery of Human Suffering” below. I would take the suffering of others, coupled with my own and try to work that out there.  I have been very concerned and fearful about Mr. Obamas inability to see that human life — all life — needs to be treated reverently.  As I said in my blog before the election (Reconciliation: In search of common ground we can stand on –we need to stop the angry rhetoric, the closed-mindness and learn to listen to one another.  This refusal of both sides of the right-t0-life issue is a real anguish for me.  I am returning to deep intercessory prayer for the transformation of our country.  We treat each other as non-persons — as commodities to be used or discarded at will — in our society.  If we do that to each other , then. of course we’re going to do it to the most vulnerable.

Yesterday afternoon I just got word that I will be able to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of my priestly ordination — and at that moment it started to rain.  I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen because there have been problems with my credentials for the past couple of years because of bipolar and other issues.  I consider it the sheer grace of God that I have been able to be faithful to the priesthood all these years and I am eager to give thanks for his calling me to priesthood on the Vigil of Pentecost, May 24, 1969.  And I want to celebrate with my friends.

My retreat with Father Don in Lousiana was for the purpose of deeply listening to God’s Spirit to shape my major writing.  I am about to begin writing the story of my priestly / human journey from the perspective of my bipolar mind and I have been trying to muster the courage to do that.  All writers have to muster a great deal of courage to write what they see.  And I want to write sensitively / compassionately / courageously / truthfully.  I am a stranger in a strange land.  I do not really identiify with our culture or with our country or our church as they are now.  And so, the time has come to begin.  I want to write to sow a seed or two for change.  Pray that I will write as closely attuned to God’s Holy Spirit as humanly possible.

With 30 years of walking the bipolar journey coupled also with addictions to drugs and alcohol I know the ropes, and have been a seed-sower, planting a seed in a community or person here or somewhere or someone else.  From the outside many would (and have) considered my priesthood a failure.

I have experienced rejection after rejection. misunderstanding after misunderstanding and abandonment from friends, family and brother priests and have been made stronger for God’s own purposes yet to be revealed.  Not only that, I spent seven anguished months in a church-sponsored psychiatric  institution that focused on what was wrong with me rather than what was right with me with little love or encouragement.  How is it possible to get well in a place or with people who you feel completely misunderstand you?  I got through those seven months in 1983 alone before the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel when everybody else was in bed and I cried and I sang.  I sang my way out of depression.  Still do.  And lovely melodies emerge. I’m always composing, but haven’t written anything down.  Yet.  One thing at a time.

  As Mother Theresa has said about her own inner experience of isolation and sense of abandonment that it made her want to connect more with others.  At this point, I have had it with psychiatrists and most doctors and institutions:  It is unconditional love that heals.  I take my cue from Jesus who I know without a doubt loves me unconditionally, even though so many people and brother priests have rejected me, except for the faithful, beloved readers of Arise who have followed my journey for twenty years and who seem to be nourished by what I have to say.

At this moment I am getting the sense from the Lord I’m supposed to share with you, my new readers, what has always been the halmark of my writing — as Carl Rogers said “What is most personal is most universal” for I believe that the only thing I have to give is my life. And that is really is about all I have to offer.  I never stop reflecting on life, the cactus with glorious spikes of new life outside my condo or the sparkle in Augies eye since I last saw him before he went to jail on his 31st birthday last November 10th.  So for those of you who want to follow along, welcome to my life and my reflections as we walk along this valley of tears.

And so, I end with a reflection on the Jesus I know and love, the reason I’m Here today.  The gospel for this past Monday (Third week of Lent: Luke 4:24 -30) finds Jesus reflecting on the fact that few people are listening to him (“No prophet is accepted in his native place”, he says). He is in his home town of Nazareth were he played in the streets as a kid, knew everybody, delivered Joseph’s wood products to his clients and learned his trade as a carpenter.  In the synagogue of his home town he muses about how the great prophets Elijah and Elisha were tuned out as well.  And then Luke says, “When the people of the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.  But he passed through their midst and went away.”

Lord Jesus,

I wonder how you dealt with the rejection and controversy that filled your life from day to day

because you said things people didn’t want to hear.

Were you sad?

What did rejection feel like for you?

Did you ever get discouraged?

Did you ever get unsure of yourself and wonder if you truly were on the right path?

Did you ever wonder if you really were hearing the gentle Voice within you that was guiding you,

leading you through the mine field of your life?

Did you ever get angry  want to lash out?

Were you ever tempted to “play it safe?”  To just go back to being a carpenter?

Did you ever get frustrated that even the guys you chose for your companions didn’t get it?

Lord, You are the One who is my hero.  You are the One whom I want to be like.

I thank you with all my heart for drawing me to Yourself in such wonderful intimacy and friendship,

for never abandoning me

You are my elder Brother.  I love you with all my heart and want . . .

day by day

to see you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

follow you more nearly

day by day by day by day.  no matter what.

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

1) “Day by day” from the movie Godspell – Watch Now

2)  Reconciliation: Finding common ground: Read now

3) The Mystery of Human Suffering: an Arise reprint. Read now

How Jesus dealt with conflict


Fort Lauderdale, Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent / March 11, 2009

Dear Friends,

Well, I’m here, back in Fort Lauderdale and you may have been looking for me. I came back with a bug of some sort and have been giving my time to a friend of mine who just got out of jail and has been struggling to begin his recovery. I have several friends presently in jail and two in prison and others over the years.  Our judicial system is tragically unjust, wasting precious lives.  I need to write about that some time.  But that’s for another day, though I have been sharing those thoughts with my print readers of my Arise reflection / letter.

Last Sunday’s gospel, the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountaintop is a very significant event in Jesus’ life that has much to teach us but I haven’t had the time to sit down and work out what I want to say.  That should happen in a few days.

Today I want to reflect on the issue of how Jesus dealt with conflict.  Jesus was a threat to some of the Jewish leaders of the day.  Yesterday’s gospel narrates a story (Matthew 23:1-12) of how he told the crowds: “the scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe all the things  they tell you but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  All their works are to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  They love places of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces and the salutation “Rabbi.”

The people he’s talking about are the hypocrites.  Those who say one thing and do another.  There are still plenty of those around in the church — and everywhere, I guess.

I was disinvited from a parish once for preaching on this text.  I said that the hypocrites still sit in the front pews of our parishes.  It wasn’t a remark I intended to direct toward any individuals in particular, just a general observation.

A lot of people abandon the practice of their religion because of what they’ve been shocked or hurt.  Many priests and bishops and Eucharistic ministers give lip service to their faith without living it.  And many people who have deep faith have had burdens of guilt laid on them because their marriage failed or they’re gay or something.

But I’d like to say this to you:  That’s not an excuse for throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  Of course, it’s natural for us to say there’s no meaning there.  But there is.  There is wonderful meaning in our faith.  You just have to scour around to find it and find the people who inspire you and nourish you.

“Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus,” says St. Paul.  He was not dissuaded by the hypocrites.  My pastor has a big sign up on Oakland Park Boulevard who quotes the Pharisees as accusing Jesus:  “This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them. And he knew they would eventually get so angry with him because he stood up to them for the sake of the people, for the sake of the truth his Father wanted him to faithfully proclaim without compromise that they would kill him.

Jesus was a man of absolute integrity.  He was on the outside what he was on the inside.  And he had the courage to be that person, even though he did not fit into the mold that others were demanding that he do.

If you want to get a summary of what Jesus taught, what he believed, what he committed to, read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter 5 -7.  The core of Jesus’ teaching is that we must love our enemies.  Now that’s where most of us go away and say this is a hard saying; who can accept it.

So Jesus was fearless.  Unafraid to say what he knew needed to be said.  No matter what. He was a man of absolute integrity.  Now that’s the Jesus I know and love.

I pray that he would give me the grace to be like him.

How ’bout you?

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

The Temptation of Christ

img_09771 christ in the desert monastery / ubiquiu, nm / palm sunday 2008 / (c) bob traupman.  all rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Still in Lake Charles, LA but on my way home today.

Dear Friends,

Lake Charles is just off of I-10 so I visited  Father Don exactly a year ago on my way to that other kind of wilderness that I much prefer – the desert.   I felt beckoned to the wilderness then too, but for a different reason. I was on my way to the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico to also make a retreat, to listen to the silence, to make a pilgrimage, applying my intense prayer for America, mile upon mile, out on I-10 and back on the old Route 66.  Shivvy went with me and he sure enjoyed the journey.  He was even a guest at the Grand Lodge on the very edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

My destination was the Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monastery thirteen miles out into a desert canyon on a potholed road near Abuquiu, NM.  I don’t know how they built this magnificent southwest edifice out there.  There are twenty monks who sing the full office every day.  I was there for Palm Sunday and gained a new wonderful friend there, Mother Ben()dicta.  She takes the “I” out of her email address as a reminder that “she must decrease.”

Being there was so awesome, so beautiful in its starkness, so expansive.  My spirit soared from canyon wall to canyon wall.  And again it was so silent.

I had a night of agony then.  My soul felt tormented, much like Jesus in his forty- day desert experience.

So, let’s reflect on the important message of Jesus’ desert experience:

Matthew says: “At that time, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.” If you have a moment, read the full text: (Matthew 4:1 – 11.)

Lent always has us enter the desert with Jesus.

I journey to the desert last year at this time to pray for the transformation of our country.

Personal renewal and transformation always begins in the desert
– the hard places of our lives, the  crisis moments
— suffering, illness , worrying about losing one’s job or home.

In those vast and empty spaces of our soul,
we are confronted with the possibilities we have, the choices that lie ahead  of us:
We can choose life or death – good or evil
– self-centered choices or choices that consider the good of others too.

Jesus went into the wilderness to prepare for his mission.
He spent the time in profound prayer and fasting.

In all the harshness of the desert and its many harsh and cacophonous voices,
he noticed a Soft Voice within.
He began to trust, to train himself to hear and heed every single word.
This was the soft voice of his Father in heaven.

Jesus’ life was a life in union with his Father.
He was obedient – even unto death, death on a Cross. (Philippiians 2: 1-11.)
To be obedient is simply to pay attention to. To listen.

We’re all obedient to something.
Many of us, unfortunately, are obedient to money.
We pay attention to how to get it.  And what it can buy for us.
We obey the messages that prompt us to go out and buy the latest stuff.

Jesus chose from moment to moment to pay attention to what the Soft and gentle Voice
of his Father who loved him and whom he loved with all his heart. He responded to the guidance of that Voice because he knew that Voice saw the big picture while he was on the ground.

Jesus was fully human and had to shape and form his mind and will
just like the rest of us. As he grew, a young man about age 30, he discovered, the same way the rest of us do, that he had certain gifts and powers.

And like, the rest of us, he was tempted. God had given him – and us – a free will.
He was free to choose to use those gifts and powers for good or for ill.
And like, the rest of us, he was tempted.

Matthew reports three powerful temptations for this powerful man.
And note this:  These were REAL temptations.
Jesus was free to choose.

1.) He could choose to become arrogant and obey only his own voice.  He could choose to do it MY WAY, as so many of us try to do.  But he chose to rely on “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

2.) He could choose to get people to follow him by making a dramatic show of his
power, thereby twisting and distorting the powers God gave him.   He could make his “gig” a traveling medicine show.

3.) He could choose to succumb to the temptation to take the power trip that many of us are on, including some priests and bishops. Like so many of those who get the taste of power he could “get off” on building his own kingdom.  Instead he chose  to be the servant of all.

This story tells us that Jesus was tempted to worship the d(evil).
To use his power for his own ends rather than his Father’s will.
And this is what he came to understand:

To understand that his Father’s will is to lift up and care
for every single one of his children on this planet.
Jesus saw himself as brother to all of the human family.
He is one of us and with us.  He knows what it’s like to be human,
with all its difficulties and problems, even what it was like to have powerful temptations.

The desert experience did that for him.  And through fasting, he learned to control his body / emotions / intellect / will   (the four dimensions of the human person) so that he could carry that out.

In the desert, Jesus made his decision.
He chose very simply to be in union with the Father and to be led from moment to moment by God’s Holy Spirit. He chose – not to be successful, but to be faithful.
Faithful to the Father’s will — one day at a time — to the end.  No matter what.

And what did the Father want for him?
Simply to let the world know that God loves each one of us with an everlasting love. That’s all.

To be faithful to Love, Jesus understood that the Father wanted him
to do nothing but love to the very end.

He chose even to love his enemies, even those of his own religion, the hypocrites who had him killed.
And the heart of his teaching is that we do the same.

To be a follower of Jesus begins at the Cross.  To love our enemies.
To do good to those who persecute us.
To refuse to pass on even more hatred and violence.
To be at peace with all.

Know this: We will not be admitted to the kingdom of God;
that is, we will not experience peace until we are reconciled with every single person in our life.

That is a tall order.  But that is what we must do if we are to call ourselves a follower of

And it can be done. That is why we need a time of repentance and transformation and renewal.

The time is at hand to enter the desert of our heart.
To purify and cleanse our own hearts and souls of  hatred and violence of
tongue and heart toward our spouse, our children, our neighbor, our fellow employees,
for the sake of the cleansing and purification of our country.

Lord Jesus, help us understand the profound message of the desert.
Help us understand that hard times are opportunities for us to shape and form our life  in the service of Love.

Help us understand that temptations are positive things:
They help shape our character.

O God of our understanding, help us to be persons of integrity, who are on the outside what we are on the inside.
Help us, like Jesus, to learn more and more to rely on You for guidance in our every decision.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Give us the grace and the will to change the corruption that pervades our land.
Help us to have the courage to face our own demons and to change within ourselves
whatever is necessary

May we stand in peace and joy and love in the knowledge that we have done our best to be in union with You throughout our life —  the One who cares for and loves every person who has ever lived.

Give each of us in this time of repentance and transformation
the courage to look into ourselves to see and to change
whatever is not of love,
whatever is not of being honest and true to ourselves — no matter what the cost.

Character and integrity is the issue.
Life-long service to God and humanity is the issue.
For those the president or mayor of our town.
Or for you.  Or me.

Now this is the Jesus I know and love.

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

Swamps have something to teach us


Lake Charles, LA

Tuesday, March 4, 2009

Dear Friends,

My retreat is in its final day now.

I don’t at all like this swampy wilderness.  It’s so bleak, uninspiring; makes me feel depressed.  We walk above it on the catwalk.  The swamp connotes the stagnation, the stuck-ness of life.  I said the other day that sin is stuck-ness.  Not growing.  Not moving.  And one might ask the question: Am I in a swamp?  Is my life not going anywhere?  Is there no place to get a firm footing?

So, let’s think about that.  Where are we stuck in life?  Where’s the stagnation?
What do we need to do to paddle our canoe out of the swamp onto the river of life again and start flowing downstream.

And here’s a thought for you:  Heaven is down, not up; that is, if you apply the metaphor that life is flowing like a river.  Rivers flow down to the sea.  The ocean is a symbol for the mystical life, eternal life, the “the Other Side of Silence” as Morton Kelsey calls it in one of my favorite books.

So, figure out what’s needed to get you unstuck and flowing again.

And if it looks like you’ll be stuck for a while (as our economy will be) then . . . well, um, learn to live it / grow with it / find life while we’re waiting / talk with the people we’re stuck with.  And most of all, learn how to love the one’s we’re with.

And don’t let the frickin’  mosquitoes get you!

Tomorrow I’ll segue over to the desert and we’ll reflect on the “real deal” of why Jesus spent forty days in the desert.

I’ll be on my way back to Florida after a very fruitful retreat.  Thanks for your prayers.

With love,

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

Voices in the wilderness

Friday after Ash Wednesday / February 27, 2009
Lake Charles, Louisiana in a bayou

Dear friends,

(This post was written Friday but is not being published until just now, Monday morning, March 2nd.  Lent always begins by inviting us to go into our own wilderness experience with Jesus.  Mine began this morning (meaning – Friday.)

I slept well but almost crashed my 65-year-old bones onto the floor, not used to a single bed.  I spent time with my Lord as usual this morning.  This morning the harp sound on my iphone at 3:33 sounded like it was echoing in a cathedral; I was very hungry about 5 AM, had some cheese and eggs, resonated deeply with an awesome reflection by St. John Chrysostom on prayer, and rested deeply on the Word as I am accustom.  (The ancient process of Lection Divina has one savor  the sacred text, phrase by phrase, listen to whatever the Spirit wants to say to you in particular and then rest in the word; literally, to fall asleep and let God do his work in you below the level of your consciousness.  Indeed, that is how one changes.  We surrender to God’s grace and let him do the work of transformation and purification on a very deep level at the core of our being.  Thus, if we let go and surrender, if we listen in the silence, the process of transformation becomes easy for us.

I was awakened by the sound of birds greeting the early morning, though the sun had decided not to appear behind the misty clouds that are still now streaming across the sky.  My ears were very attuned to the bird-song, actually a little quartet of four distinct species.  I wish I would listen to nature’s sounds more often!

With an 8 oz foam too strong coffee, I headed down into the cypress swamp.  My mood became quite depressed at the site of decay, of long-dead stumps.  (I don’t find this bayou very inspiring; there’s death and decay everywhere, but also I can see tiny buds on  the cypress when I looked closely.  I became aware of the stillness.  And thought of what Jesus must have experienced in that other kind of wilderness, the desert. This morning I am attentive to every sound, the sounds of silence, the voices of the wilderness:

The bees busy on one of the few flowering plants /The squeaky hinge on the gate that invites one to be open to a watery-wilderness experience /The stirring of the trees in the wind / hounds barking a mile away / a train whistle in the distance /my breath as it entered and exited my nostrils/ my pulse against my neck/ the hoot of an owl in the wood next to the bayou/the crack of a twig as I walk / the rustle of leaves underfoot along the bank of the Calisceau.  And when I got back to the retreat center, a quadrangle of yellow brick corridors around a stark empty courtyard with one tulip tree already budding in one corner, there is are the voices of the bass and treble wind chimes and the Angelus bell!  Oh, how long it’s been since I’ve said the Angelus!  Every town and village in the Middle Ages rang out the Angelus bells morning, noon and night.  That was a part of Catholic life long forgotten now.

The message of the wilderness for us is exactly that:  to tune us into the sounds, the voices in our lives.  Each of us are bombarded with so many sounds, conflicting /confusing / crashing sounds that make it difficult for us to hear the soft voices that bear the messages from afar or the cries of a hurting inner-child within.

Jesus went into the desert to sort out those voices. The harsh voices of the world that tempted him to not even realize that there was a Soft Voice behind and beneath them that would be the Voice he chose to listen to and respond all his short life.

So, we too, have learn how to silence the Harsh Voices that still inhabit our soul that prompt us to hate ourselves, demean ourselves, do destructive things so that we can hear the Soft Voices, the gentle voices that affirm and nourish us.

In the desert Jesus discovered that there was one still Soft Voice that he loved to hear, the Voice that he learned to call Abba / Father.  Jesus is calling his God:  Daddy!

Now that’s the message of the desert, the wilderness experience:  to learn how to listen deeply.  But that’ a major problem for us.  Most of us are so uncomfortable with silence that we get very nervous and anxious when we’re by ourselves.  Some people have to have some “white noise” the hum of a fan or refrigerator in order to sleep.   There is very little silence in our world today.  And that means God is left out of our lives because silence is the language God speaks.

And so bring some silence into your Lent each day.  If you can’t find any place more creative – for you guys, the garage,  close the bathroom door, put the lid down on the john, turn the water to submerge the blast of the TV in the den.  Try to do this every day until Easter.  You might at first be fearful of the voices you hear, the voices that emerge from within, the voice of your conscience.  But realize Jesus did exactly the same thing in the wilderness.

Lenten is about listening.  Open the ears of your mind and heart.  Don’t be afraid.    You will enter the wilderness – the wild-ness – within you.  But you will also find yourself and your inner strength, the real you and the Other who loves you and has been there all the time though you knew it not.

I’ll write more whenever Father Don allows me to.  Right now, I’m going to go back to the swamp, which is a wilderness experience I don’t like; it’s quite depressing, let alone inspiring. And those damned mosquitoes! I much preferred the wilderness of the desert experience I had exactly a year ago in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico.

The Jesus I know and love is the One who had the courage to silence the conflicting harsh voices of the world and his own ego to hear and love and respond to the voice of his heavenly Father.  He is beckoning me to do that once again here on this retreat.

I will write again soon.  I am eager to share more about the Jesus I know and love but Don says now is not the time!

Monday morning, March 2, 2009 / The First Week of Lent

With love,

Bob Traupman