Turn away from sin and follow the Gospel

That’s frequently said by priests and others who administer ashes to the faithful on Ash Wednesday. Today is the beginning of Lent. What is Lent and what does it mean in 2020? What is sin? Everyone might have a different answer on that. How about lack of universal healthcare? That’s a sin. What about income inequality? What about endless war and inaction on climate change? Those are global sins we can all easily see. I’m challenged by Lent. What can I do to make a difference in the world around me? What can I give or give up that will change me and the world we live in? Agnus Dei qui tolli peccata mundi dona nobis pacem. Peace be with you and us all.

Ave Maria Gratia Plena, Dominus Tecum

During Lent I began a process of trying to remove toxicity from my life. Lent is always a time of new beginnings and since I don’t like giving up Chocolate and other goodies, I thought how can I get more positivity in my life. Since the election last year I had become pre-occupied with politics and the changes happening in our country and though I tried to be loving and accepting it wasn’t happening by merely trying to think nice thoughts. There is a wisdom tradition that states that if you pray for the person or persons with whom you are at odds that you will come to love and accept them and you will be free of the resentment that you have. So I began to pray the rosary each day during Lent and one day I realized that I didn’t feel resentful anymore and though my own policy preferences for the country were different than some of my friends I had lost the toxicity. What began as an experiment has become a daily prayer time in the car or walking down the street. Until now I’ve not been a rosary prayer but I have found in it’s rhythm and intention a quiet peace that has overtaken my life and I’m grateful for that. I’ve also rediscovered the creativity that I had lost. I’m not sure how long I’m committed to this practice but I’m here to say that it worked for me and maybe it can work for others too. Peace be with you.

We shall remain

This morning I got a preview of an epic televised special which will be airing on PBS next month. It is a topic near to my heart, not because I am a Native American, but because my life is so closely woven with those who are.  One of the people I have been privileged to call a friend in my life was a Seneca. He and his wife drove my wife and I away from the church on our wedding day. My father worked with the Seminole and Micosukee natives of South Florida and the Yurok and Karoks of Northern California too.  Nearly everywhere I look and all of the land I own was once theirs. In fact it all really belongs to the Creator as they call him.

Thanks to Public Broadcasting System for bringing us this special television event. We who have been quick to condemn others in the world for ethnic cleansing have our own past for which to atone. Lent is a time of rebirth and renewal. I hope this special can awaken one for us too.



This morning I drove toward Mt. Irenaeus in with a hint of snow in the air and a pall of overcast. It didn’t look like an idyllic Palm Sunday. Our liturgy began in the library under Holy Peace Chapel. Fr. Dan Riley, OFM blessed the palms and invited us to process outside, along the path and up the steps to the chapel. As we walked we sang, “oh Sacred Head surrounded by crown of piercing thorns, oh bleeding head so wounded, reviled and put to scorn…” It’s a song I remember well from my youth. The words of the song are ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux. That information was new to me but the symbolism was not lost as I am a frequent visitor to Trappist Abbeys. Continue reading “Prelude”

Awaiting on you all

One of my favorite musicians is and was George Harrison. He was the mystical Beatle. Harrison more than Lennon and McCartney seemed to be most in touch with the world around him.  That might be very unfair to Ringo Starr and if so I apologize. One of my favorite Harrison lyrics is “Awaiting on You All.” Last night I was listening once again to the Concert for Bangladesh and the song played. Lent is a time of renewal for many people and those lyrics speak volumes to me about renewal.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P-2MthG190] Continue reading “Awaiting on you all”

The light of the world

Today was a beautiful, sunny day as I drove toward Mt. Irenaeus. Today’s Gospel was about the young man born blind who regains his sight as a result of a miracle that Jesus performs. Blindness is always assumed to be a physical defect and nowadays no one even assumes that the victim got his disease through his sin or the sin of a parent. In the time of Jesus such was not the case. We’ve made some progress since then. We understand that blindness is caused my many conditions, but that sin is not one of them.

Continue reading “The light of the world”

Thoughts on prayer

Yesterday, I wrote about what makes a monk. It was a popular post and even invited a response. I am a contemplative and maybe could even claim to be a mystic or at the very least attracted to mysticism. I love to sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Holy Thursday is approaching quickly. The celebration of the Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper is one of my favorites. I’ve often wished that I had been among the disciples that evening.

During Lent I try to do something positive. This year I’ve made a commitment to two periods of contemplative prayer each day. So far I’ve been able to sit. Sitting is not always easy and each time I’ve tried to stay with the sacred word I’ve chosen. In the past I’ve given up because I didn’t think I was accomplishing much, but I have noticed that I’m more upbeat and more relaxed and I’m drawn each morning and evening to stay with the practice.


I will lead you into the desert, and there I will speak to your heart. Hosea 2:14

Campaign 2008 and the news media in general have driven me into the desert. I’m really blessed because the onslaught of media both print, internet and televised has driven me to silence and contemplation.  It’s been a gradual thing. At first it began intentionally four or five Lents ago and now it has become a way of life. The desert has been a metaphor for a place of radical truth. I’m grateful the media then for driving me closer and closer to a contemplative life that seeks more and more to live apart from them and their reality.  Life can be very beautiful most of the time without the constant harangue.

Guns not butter

Tonight’s Olean Times Herald had a front page item that proclaimed that our new federal budget will break Medicare. The Times Herald is a pretty conservative paper. They have been unabashed apologists for much of the Bush agenda. Earlier today I read that for the first time in American history the defense budget has 12 zeros in it. That’s a one-trillion dollar budget for war. We’re not really defending anything except the status quo. The status quo in the United States is the military-industrial complex. We’re not fighting conventional forces yet we continue to fund battleships, aircraft carriers, submarines as if we were still locked head to head with the former Soviet Union. Continue reading “Guns not butter”

I’m going to listen

What is Lent? Today I got up at 5:30 am and headed for the gym. It was raining hard. As I ran I could hear the rain beating on the roof of the gymnasium and I was reminded of Thomas Merton who said,

It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.

So whenever it rains its a call to holiness for me. It’s an invitation to think of Merton and contemplation. The sound of rain is beautiful. Rain washes over us and over the land and I think it’s like grace, except that we can see it. God’s grace is all around us. It isn’t just on Ash Wednesday or during Lent. It isn’t just Sunday, but on Monday and Tuesday too.

We just have to look for it. I’m trying to look for it more.