Contemplata tradere

Thomas Merton once said, “not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally.” I can’t be a hermit although at times I feel called to it. I need silence and solitude and the older I get the more I realize I need it. Most of what passes as news is scripted to make one think that the most important things in life and in this country in particular is winning the war on terror. A war on terror. Think about it. War is terror. How can war rid of us of terror?

It’s all noise. Just noise and more noise. The truth only begins to emerge in silence and solitude. Living a contemplative life can be difficult. There are so many temptations to yield to cynicism, to give up hope. I do give up hope, probably several times a week. I also regain hope several times a week. It’s the ebb and flow of life and the encouragement of the people around me. I need people to sharpen me, to hone me and yes to drive me to solitude.

I’m sitting here now writing this journal, listening to the fire and fan of my pellet stove. I’m enjoying the return of snow to our lawn following several surreal 55 degree plus days in January. As long as it’s going to snow, I’ll just watch the snow.



I was out riding around in my car tonight and listening to John Michael Talbot. He’s not the only musician I listen to. I enjoy a diversity of music including jazz, classical, new age, and Gregorian Chant. Nonetheless I got to thinking about my earlier post and I’ve forgotten that in the past several years I’ve come to know that I’m a mystic. I’m not a swami, but I am a mystical person. For a number of years I’d go to Mass and just feel lost. I couldn’t relate. I read Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton over 27 years ago. Ever since that time there had and has been an awareness of a longing for mystical union with Christ.

Soon after reading Seven Storey Mountain I visited a Trappist Monastery in Piffard, New York. I regularily visit there. In the ensuing twenty plus years I was searching and couldn’t put my finger on what was missing for me when I attended Mass. Then after a long absence I visited Mount Irenaeus, a Franciscan retreat about 30 miles from where I live. Soon after attending Mass and a Holy Week observance in 2000 I began to realize that I was finally home. Here was a group of Friars who lived and celebrated mysticism. I began an exploration of centering prayer, liturgy of the hours, stillness, quietness, reflection, contemplation and work.

I remember as a little boy how much I loved those times in our church that were mystical. Holy Thursday night and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The smell of incense during Eucharistic Adoration on First Fridays. I used to just visit the church when there was nobody else there and sit quietly and listen. I felt a closeness and a peace that I could never really describe or replicate during other liturgical ceremonies and events.

In the last six years I’ve come to really find a home with other folks drawn to the intimacy of the Mystical presence of Christ in the Eucharist. To me the Eucharist is deeply personal and mystical. Because of this mystical presence my heart is softer, my eyes, ears and soul more attentive to the cry of the poor, the disenfranchised and the those who just hurt. I can’t watch movies like Patton anymore without wincing.

In my earlier post today I spoke of the fallacy of just war. My views on wars, violence and killing have been deeply steeped and strengthened by the recognition and acceptance of my mystical union with Christ. I am not a pious person. In fact I can be very profane, but I am also deeply mystical and religious.

Shalom, Pace, Pax et Bonum.

Just War means Just War

Today the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has decided that it is time for the United Statest to leave Iraq. The bishops have called, “serious and civil national dialogue to help our nation chart a way forward”. This is an interesting development. The concept of preventive war was debated prior to the onset of hostilities. There were some who thought and I suppose continue to think that there is such a position as a “just war”. The “just war” position was originally articulated by St. Augustine at a time when Christianity had become a state religion and the state at that time needed a way to limit the scope of these conflicts. Now, nearly 20 centuries later, leaders invoked “just war” as though it was part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and they used it as a way to justify warfare not to limit it.

I think the concept of “just war” is dung. Where in the gospel is there any concept of proportional violence mentioned in the teachings of Jesus? “Blessed are the peacemakers”, “Love your enemies” come to mind. Preventive war and just war produce death, destruction, resentment and are only metaphors for a justification for nationalism and conquest. The Iraq war clearly would never have happened had there been no oil under their sand. Nominally “Christian” nations looking for a justification for this conflict used a “red herring” to justify attacking an inferior country. The cause of peace and stability for all nations and the advancement of the dignity of the human person is at stake. Catholic social teaching clearly articulates the sacred nature of all life and the dignity of the human person. This principle is grounded in the idea that the person is made in the image of God.
I believe that there is no way war can be justified. Killing anyone whether an unborn child or a soldier from another country is still killing. I find it difficult to kill little animals that manage to find their way into our home from time to time. I frequently pray to them and ask them to leave and most of the time it works.

A couple of months ago a little mouse made its way onto our enclosed porch and my wife set traps to get rid of it. I “talked” to the mouse and begged the mouse to leave. I prayed that the mouse would leave but unfortunately, the little rascal didn’t leave and it found it’s way into a trap. Somehow the mouse managed to survive and with tears in my eyes I carried the mouse to the edge of our woods and released it, begging it to never return. It did return, the trap worked in a more fatal fashion this time and the poor little rascal was killed. It broke my heart. I love animals. I don’t like snakes, rats and even cats but I can’t bring myself to hurt one. They are all made by the Creator. Even rocks and trees bear the image of the Most High.

When I served my country during the Vietnam era I did so as a US Navy Hospital Corpsman because then as now I saw killing as un-necessary and counter to all that I believe. Love your enemies. Peace.

St. Theresa’s Prayer

God has no body on earth but yours
Yours are the only hands with which he can do his work
Yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world
Yours are the only eyes through which his compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world.
-St. Teresa of Avila

Today has been very tiring, up at 5:45 am for a four mile run. It was beautiful this morning. The moon and stars were still out when I left for the gym. Lots of walking and lifting computers and peripherals today. Time to think who I’m working for. Glad to be alive, beautiful day, 53 degrees and sun. That’s unusual in Western New York in January. I meet lots of little people every day who come from homes where they may be unwanted. I remember how nervous and out of place I felt in school at times. I try to practice blessing everyone I meet with a compliment. It’s fun to see people’s faces light up when a little compliment is paid. Nice dress, nice sweater. Gee, you look nice today. People need to be reminded over and over again that they are good. I’m reminded of St. Francis’ message to the people, “Good morning, good people.”

I spent some time today listening to John Michael Talbot’s , “St. Theresa’s Prayer”. Lyrics posted at the top of this message. Peace!

Living Jesus?

I just got home from a day’s work in a public school. I’ve been working in this public school for nearly 27 years now. We’re a relatively small K-12 with lots of poor kids. Median per capita income in my community is a little over $13,000 a year. We’re way down the list in New York State.

I was reading one of these internet blogs or journals or news sites and the headline “Religious Freedom For All.” I read the article along with another article by Mr. Colson somewhere on the Internet. These folks want to have kids saying prayers and mentioning the name Jesus in their classrooms and some of the folks are indignant that they can’t. I think they think that if we mentioned Jesus more in the schoolhouse and posted the Ten Commandments in the courthouse that somehow everything would be wonderful. They seem to think that what’s wrong with public eduation and society as a whole is that there isn’t enough of their brand of Jesus.

Praying in school is okay with me and I’ll bet Jesus loves it. Jesus was a regular guy, just like one of us. I don’t think they had public schools in his day, but if they did I’ll bet he’d have attended one. He was born in a stable, his folks were kind of like wetbacks. Soon after he was born his folks had to leave their native country and flee because the leaders of his day didn’t want another king in their country. Then after sometime as refugees his Mom and Dad return home and live in Nazareth. It’s kind of a crummy town. It’s a military outpost. I’ve lived on some military bases and they aren’t usually in the best parts of town and most of the enlisted folks who live on or off base live in inexpensive homes. What I’m getting at is Jesus was a poor guy. He opened his public ministry with a statement about coming to liberate the poor. From the 4th chapter of Luke, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”

That’s a radical message. What do you suppose would happen if we started teaching that sort of stuff in public schools? What would good tidings to the poor be? How about if we start proclaiming that message at the top of our lungs in public schools. How about if we tell the poor kids in Franklinville and elsewhere in these United States what Jesus said about “Love your enemies”. I wonder what would happen if the next time a military recruiter shows up at the school if I started laying a little of what Jesus has to say about, “He who lives by the sword, shall die by it also.” What if I shared what it is written in the 12th Chapter of Romans? “If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”

What if poor kids or even rich kids started really buying into Jesus and started living like the Book of Acts. What if they refused to buy into the war machine, but instead bought into the Jesus message? That would be radical. I think following Jesus is difficult. It’s a counter cultural message, because if you’re really following Jesus you can’t take revenge on the people that irritate you. That is very difficult. Oh well I don’t think that what the Family Research Coucil had in mind. I think they were after a more watered down Jesus message. One where there is flag waving, mom and apple pie.

Imagine what it would be like if more of us started living the message of the gospel. WOW!


Deep within your heart

Yesterday I posted the Franciscan Blessing which begins…”May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.” I think a lot about the easy answers. What are they? Why am I driven to live deep within my heart and to hear a voice that few here. This voice or resonance in my heart causes me anguish and joy. The pain of my life is the blessing of my life though most it of the time I miss that.

All around me I’m surround by a world and culture that lives on half truths and superficial relationships. Policy makers of all stripes seem intent on deception, but maybe they are so deceived that they are not aware of the deception. They’re not bad people and the world isn’t bad. Both the people and the world are created by the Almighty. They’re patterned in the image of the most high. “Most High Glorious God enlighten the darkness of my heart”, a simple prayer of St. Francis. Living deep within my heart is the respect for all life. It is jaded at times by peeves and worries, but it continues to burn deep within. I cannot betray it.

I see paradox after paradox being lived out in front of me. Physical vision with spiritual comprehension. Remember, “He who has ears let him hear, he who has eyes let him see.” I thank God that I have ears and eyes that see more than what is right in front of them. Maybe that’s the problem, the people, the governments etc. can’t see beyond what’s right in front of them. Maybe the focal point is the issue. Maybe my discomfort causes me to see beyond. Maybe it is the distance that I need.

I’m reminded of the scene in the movie, “Patch Adams” where the older gentleman in the asylum suggests that Patch look beyond the hand directly in front of him. This awareness comes from my daily contact with Franciscans and others who help me to look beyond. Maybe this awareness is the “night vision goggles” of the spiritual life.

“You will be holy with the holy, kind with the kind, with the chosen you will be chosen, but with the crooked you will show your cunning.For you will bring salvation to a lowly people but make the proud ashamed…”–Psalm 17

Look beyond. Don’t look at what’s right in front of you. Look beyond the easy answers…

A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.


From “Troubadour: A Missionary Magazine”, UK Spring 2005

Use words only when necessary…

St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel everday and use words only when necessary.” That’s part of the legend of Francis. That quote which came to me by way of a friend who was my adult introduction to a Franciscan way of life. I’m reluctant at times to share the Gospel with friends because the Gospel has been given a bad name by “Bible thumpers” who seem more intent on demonstrations of personal piety than actually living out the story.

St. Francis saw himself as brother and sister to all. I wish I was as optimistic as Francis. I live my life at times both at work and at play with no real evidence of good news. I think, “how can I be good news?” to the people I work with, the children I meet everyday. What is it that the people I work and live with each day need the most?

One of the challenging stories in the New Testament is the story of the Good Samaritan. Who are the outcasts at my work and in my life who I’m asked to bathe and care for?

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life. Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”–St. Luke, 10:25-37.

Explaining a Spiritual Experience

I got this link today from a friend and it’s just beautiful. I hope it grounds you as it has me.

Explaining a spiritual experience

This is very beautiful and came from a friend who wanted to contribute something to what I’m trying to do here. I think there are lots of people out there who are getting lost in the maelstrom of everyday living and they are not getting fed. I sense a real hunger in most people for a spiritual experience that’s grounded in their own daily life. St. Francis reminded the people of Gubbio that they were good people. They didn’t have to accept any doctrine or profess anything, they were just inherently good as created by God. He greeted them, Good Morning, Good People! Peace and all Good!

How often do I bless those around me with a greeting like this?

I don’t know where I’m going…

I really don’t know where this blog will go but I’ve had it in my head and heart to have a blog where folks who’d like to celebrate peace and life in the manner of St. Francis and St. Clare could share ideas and maybe some prayers for each other and the world around us.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the Incarnation in Franciscan Spirituality and the implications that has for person or persons attempting to live out Franciscan values. What does it all mean?

One of my favorite prayers and contemplations comes from Thomas Merton.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.Nor do I re ally know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”