Me on St. Augustine Beach / Winter 2007
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.”
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.
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
Hi !!! :)
My name is Piter Kokoniz. oOnly want to tell, that I like your blog very much!
And want to ask you: will you continue to post in this blog in future?
Sorry for my bad english:)
Piter Kokoniz, from Latvia
Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
Your, Raiul Baztepo
Bob, congratulations on being able to celebrate your anniversary ordination. Will you be doing that in Orlando? With classmates? Inquiring minds want to know.
The celebration will be in the first parish I served in forty years ago — Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Melbourne just south of Cape Kennedy on Saturday, May 30th at 2 PM with dinner and festivities to follow. I am the only surviving member of Archbishop Borders first ordination class. Two are dead and one, well . . . We’re thinking of a workshop in the morning to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Arise, maybe something in the order of “Recognizing our gifts for ministry arising from our brokenness.” Do you think we could re-convene that group from C. U. that came down forty years ago?