Summer thoughts

Most of the folks who are virulently anti LGBTQ are unsure of their own sexuality. I’ve found gay people to be twice gifted with unique contributions to make. Indigenous people in the Americas referred to gay folks as the people of two spirits.

Taking away a woman’s right to choose is also profoundly wrong. Imposing your narrow religious beliefs on the rest of us is fucked up.

The real existential threat facing our world is climate change. If you aren’t concerned about that you ought to be. I’ll be long gone when the worst happens but our children and especially our grandchildren’s lives will be cut short by a mass extinction happening within the next 100 years.

Living in the present moment

I was listening to a Super Soul podcast with Oprah Winfrey interviewing Eckhert Tolle and as they were talking about the present moment I had a helpful insight. In the midst of all this stress and daily projection and worry I haven’t been living in the present moment. Sometimes words are just words until they come to have meaning in my life. Today was one of those days when the present moment became more than two words. A chap once said to me, “if you were to ask God what time it is what do you think he would say.” I said, “I don’t know.” My friend said, “he’d say it was now.” Many years later the thought of the conversation returned and I came to appreciate the power of now.

The past and future are imaginary. The only thing that matters is now. All we have is now. Right now I’m okay. Earlier today I had a chance to visit one of my favorite quiet spots in nearby Ellicottville. I visited Nannen Arboretum. It’s a very contemplative setting. It was a beautiful day.

Expressing doubt is normal and healthy

Today I posted a picture of my rosary on Instagram and posed a rhetorical question about the effectiveness of that ancient prayer. The only way I learn is by experience and asking questions. That led one of my followers to respond that my family was healthy which indeed they are. I’m grateful for that. This month Pope Francis has asked us to pray the rosary everyday and pray that Mary intercede for us with the pandemic. I’m inclined to be a skeptic of rote prayers and particularly the rosary but I’ve been praying the rosary everyday since early March. It’s been part of a larger effort to seek and do God’s will. I usually recite the rosary when I’m walking. It’s a walking meditation for me but being a curious guy I wonder does it really accomplish anything. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Mary. After all I was born on a Marian feast and blue is my favorite color. I believe that doubt is integral to faith. They’re two sides of the same coin.

As Jesus was dying on the cross he is supposed to have said, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” If the son of God can express doubt then isn’t that a sign of spiritual health. I hope so. Is everything so certain in your walk of faith that you don’t question the effectiveness of your prayer life? My life has been a series of conversion experiences. Dark nights and soul searching followed by metanoia.

Earth Day 2020

We can no longer exploit the resources of this earth—the trees, the water, and other natural resources—without any care for coming generations. Common sense tells us that unless we change, we won’t survive. This Earth Day let’s resolve to live in harmony with nature.

Dalai Lama

Maybe this pandemic has a silver lining. Maybe it forces us to realize that we can’t continue to exploit the planet. Our existential crisis has to be a point of reflection for all of us. The age of fossil fuels must end but that’s not all that we need to change. What must we change and how must we live are no longer ideals they have become essential questions.

Hail Mary

Most football fans know that a “Hail Mary” is a desperate pass to the endzone hoping that one of your receivers can catch the ball and get the win for your team. Earlier today my friend Brother Kevin Kriso, OFM sent me a text message that asked me to join millions of others around the world for a “Hail Mary” moment of prayer to relieve the Coronavirus pandemic. The message also asked me to pass the message on to then others and ask them to share it as well. I prayed a “Hail Mary” and passed on the message. As I walked today I continued to pray. I often pray when I walk and more often than not it’s the “Hail Mary.” It’s my go to prayer in almost any circumstance.

Is Mary listening? Is God listening? Is there a God? Does prayer work? Those are all valid questions and I hope that some prayers or positive energy can save the day. People around the globe are dying every day and in increasing numbers as this pandemic unleashes its fury. Prayer is really our only hope. What else can we do?

Prayer walking is a mindful meditation that stills my racing mind and keeps me from freaking out. Sometimes I say the Serenity Prayer when I walk. Mindful walking can center the mind and relieve stress. I’ve been walking mindfully for many years and frequently have my best thoughts while I’m striding along. You may not have a large area to walk in but you can still walk mindfully aware of what you are doing and focus your energy for good.

The real miracle is walking on earth

In the spring of 1996 our family journeyed to Salt Lake City, Utah as part of a family vacation and visit to a friend. While we were there I visited a bookstore which is one of my favorite things to do. In the bookstore I came upon a title “Living Buddha Living Christ.” Its author, Thich Nhat Hanh was someone I had never heard of. I picked up the book, began to read it and eventually bought it. Since that time I have purchased many of his books and enjoyed his writing. He was a friend of Thomas Merton who is another of my favorite authors.

I often think of Thich Nhat Hanh when I’m walking. Today was one of those days when I was really trying to walk more mindfully. I was praying a simple repetitive prayer as I walked. Many know it as the “Hail Mary.” It centers me and its mantric simplicity keeps me focused not on my thoughts but on its words and rhythm. While not living mindfully it is possible to ignore the miracle of life and think that miracles only happen to saints.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Walking itself is a miracle as is all life. It’s easy to get sidetracked and scared by what’s happening around us everyday. But it can be changed by what we do. We are what we do each day, not what we think. Walking mindfully is my way to bring about change.

Breath of life

It’s that season in the United States when some folks roll out the “real Christian” card and it’s usually around a woman’s right to choose. I hope most folks choose life. I’m glad my Mom chose life. Even with its ups and downs it’s been a great life. That being said I do support a woman’s right to choose. There are many who assert that life begins at conception and while that may be their belief I believe that life begins at first breath. I used to work in labor and delivery forty some years ago while serving in the United States Navy and babies had to take their first breath. Some babies had difficulty and required extra help and we were there to assist them. Breath is the miracle of life. All living things breathe therefore breath is life.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. — Genesis 2:7

Coming home

It’s been a great two days of retreat at Mt. Irenaeus. I needed to get some time alone with nature. I live a good life and have a lot of contentment, but there is something special about coming here to a place that is so peaceful. There are less distractions here. A walk in the woods and only the sound of a gentle breeze, leaves underfoot and an occasional cracking tree branch. I’ve spent two days and soon two nights here. Time in the chapel and walking upon well worn paths are very settling. I tried something new today using Facebook Live to share a contemplative walk on the land.  I was able to share the quiet with some friends and I hope it will cause them to spend some time mindfully walking on their own. It has been a several years since I’ve spent this much time here. There are many good memories and it’s always a homecoming. I’m grateful to have been able to take some time apart and be able to bring the fruit of this to my daily life. Peace.