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talking to myself

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markdohle

A pleasant memory of my childhood in Panama

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A pleasant memory of my childhood in Panama

I find that when I am out in the woods, I can feel overwhelmed by all of the life surrounding me.  I get overloaded and can’t take it in.  I have always been that way.  The same goes when I am in a large place with lots of people.  If I do not shut down in some way, I get scattered, and tired, very quickly.  I can’t say I understand why this is so.  Music (apart from dancing) is the same, as well as food.  Though I do like to eat, a lot.  Yet I really can’t take much in before I get overwhelmed. 

I have some plants in my room, simple ones, and I am at times overwhelmed by their simple, green beauty.  One or two at a time is good, but a room full of plants and I again, can’t seem to take it all in. 

Perhaps that is one reason that I do not like sightseeing, but would rather stay in one place, and get to know a certain area over a period of time.  As I age, this only gets worse.  If I go into town, driving, when I get back, you would think I have been working 12 hours non-stop. 

When in Panama, things were not like that.  I still liked being myself most of the time, but for some reason, when In Panama, when in the Jungle, or at the beach (Pina beach mostly), I never felt overwhelmed or tired when I returned home.  I do not think it was because of my youth.  I think the reason was that I felt totally rooted, at home, wherever I was.  I guess after I left, perhaps, even after 47 years here in the Monastery, I have never felt so at home.  Granted I love it here, and when I go for walks, there are times when I don’t have to shut out all of the beauty around me, but it is not the Panama of my youth. 

One of my greatest pleasures was going swimming at Gatun Lake.  I loved diving deep and slowly floating up to the surface.   I loved it underwater more than above water.  The same goes for being in the Jungle, the amount of vegetation around me never tired me out but only gave me a feeling of peace, comfort, and yes, home.  Not quite sure why Panama had such an influence on me.  I am not really an outside kind of guy.  Though I did love camping, I would prefer reading or staying at home, to doing anything like that.  One of the good things about being in the Canal Zone was that I was constantly being lured outside to go into the jungle and just be there.  I loved all of it.  The plants, the animals, and even the insects, though they could be pesky critters.  Here I am thinking of hair wasps (?)….boy they could really make me run for the water. 

One memory, which seems very simple, and even uninspiring, stays with me.  I was with my brother David in the jungle.  We were walking beside a small stream one Saturday morning, and we came upon a section of the stream that flowed into a hole that was perhaps two feet deep, and perhaps three feet wide.  I stopped and looked into the hole and saw a single fish swimming around in it.  For me, it was something beautiful as well as peaceful too look at.  I spent about thirty minutes watching the fish, and thought what a perfect place it to be.  Just looking at this natural piece of living art brought me a sense of deep rest and contentment, and this simple experience, image, is still with me even though more than 50 years have passed. 

Simple things, moments that are not so obvious, can be the ones that stay with me.  I have lots of memories about Panama, but this is one of my favorites, though most people will scratch their heads, thinking…..uninspiring. 

In the Navy, Midday Island was like Panama.  The ocean, lots of plants, and really a lot of quiet as well.  I think one of the reasons I loved it so was because it did remind me of Panama, which is a no-brainer. 

I really wish that my senses did not get so overwhelmed so easily since it causes me fatigue problems, but as I age, it seems to only get worse.  Not that it is a real problem, I get all the time I need to regroup, etc. 

I am so thankful that I was able to live in Panama, for it simple, low key memories that have such meaning for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the way I am, but wonder what would have happened if I was built in another way?   So many questions, no time to figure it out.

Now, when dancing, it seemed not to bother me.  Perhaps because the rhythm would get into my blood and I felt no separation, my blood would boil, and I would simply let it carry me.  If I sat and just listened, I would tire out, but get me on the dance floor and I would fly all night.  I could just be.

I have no desire to go back to Panama, or for that matter Midway Island.  Memories are time locked, and I believe important to think about once in a while.  I can’t go back, and I love it here in Georgia, and the Monastery.  It is the life I believe I was made for, and am thankful for being here. 

I guess if I had to leave, or the community moved, I would look upon this place the same way I look at fond memories from my far past.  Knowing that allows me to truly love and appreciate what I have.—Br.MD

markdohle

A death in my extended-family

 

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A death in my extended family

Peggy is a second cousin of mine.  I have grown quite close to her over the years.  In fact, I am touched that she has always reached out to our side of the family.  I do feel a connection with my family of both my mother and my father’s side.  However, we moved to Panama in 1958, so the connection has not been all that strong.   It is also a large family.  I have many cousins as well as nieces and nephews, many that I have not had the privilege of meeting.

Peggy called me early last evening to let me know that the wife of one of my cousins was dying.  Her name was Jane, and I am sorry to say that I did not know her.  I met her a couple of times but never had the privilege of spending any time with her.  She had a difficult life with a chronic health problem that caused her a great deal of pain.  It was a long road for her and now she is at peace.  From what Peggy told me, she was in hospice. 

When I got up this morning, I found a text from Peggy letting me know that Jane died last evening.  While I did not know her, I still felt some sorrow, because of her husband (Tommy), and children, who have lost someone they truly loved.  It is never easy, losing a loved one, and the loss really never goes away.  This is, of course, something that most people have to go through. 

The most common event in this world is death.  Both of loved ones, and yes, well, one day, mine.  I can be sure of that…. I will die, just another human being departing from this beautiful, lovely, painful, and at times, ugly world.  Yet a wondrous place to pass through.  Jane had a difficult passage for many years, but now she has moved on.  She got through it, as we all will.  Not an easy journey for anyone I believe, but just one day at a time, doing the best we can, is about all we can do. 

Our lives are a seed, and at death, that seed is planted and will bear fruit.  From what I heard about Jane, she was a kind person and loving…..who had a heavy cross to bear.

During the mediation period this morning, I was praying the ‘Chaplet of Mercy’, and in a special way, I remembered Jane.  It is a simple prayer, which in reality prays for ‘everyone’, especially for the dying.  As I was slowly saying this very simple prayer on my rosary beads, the parable of the Good Shepherd came to mind.  It is the notion that God, Jesus, will leave the ninety-nine, to seek out the ‘one’ who has wandered.  As I was thinking of Jane, and all of mankind (myself included), it struck with force, that all of us are the ‘one’ that Jesus goes after.  There is only ‘one’ for God.  For each is loved as if he or she is the only person in the world……such is Infinite Love.  Yes hard to grasp, and perhaps one of the most difficult things to believe. 

So Jane, a woman I did not really know and did not think of really, is before God, the ‘One’ that he will leave all others to seek out.  Suddenly, I understood that every human being is so precious before God, and that is what Jesus came to reveal, we are all precious. 

One may ask, well that is all well and good, but what about her suffering?  Well yes, that is a question, but is it a problem?  I don’t like suffering, I hate it actually, yet we all suffer, and we all die.  Christ Jesus suffered and he died.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked that his suffering, be taken away, yet it was not, for he did say if it is according to the Father’s will…..so he suffered.  On the Cross, he cried out in despair, feeling the aloneness/alienation of all of humanity, as we each feel it, so his experience was so profound that I doubt any human would have been able to bear it.  So he died, a loser, or so it seemed at the time.  Yet what happened (?)……he rose from the dead, his love, his not seeking to escape pain through the many forms of self-medicating that we humans do, that is, in the end, is self-destructive, he overcame, because he never stopped loving. 

Jane was part of his suffering.  Her life, her joys, her sorrows, all were taken up into the heart of Jesus Christ…..or as Catholics like to say:  “His Sacred Heart”.  A heart that was fully human, loving, and a state that we are called to achieve, grow into, by graces free gift.  This can easily be forgotten, the reality of the Risen Lord, that we Christians are asked to Incarnate in our lives. 

Jane had faith, she trusted in Christ Jesus, yet she suffered, greatly, and I am sure going through many days of inner desperation, and perhaps at times felt near despair, yet she ran the race, and I will pray for her that her deepening incorporation into the Body of Christ will usher into the joy of being in the presence of the God who loved her so much, that he left the ninety-nine to seek her out…….we are all the 'one' God seeks.  When that is lost, then the central message, that is presented so strongly both in the parable “The Good Shepherd”, and the story of “The Prodigal Son”, the core of our faith is lost.  When the mystery and sense of “Agape” are watered down, all we have is just another bland, watered down, salt-less, faith to pass on. —Br.MD

 

 

markdohle

A unique love

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A unique love

My Heart has a particular love for you, a love that My Father destined for you alone and for no other from all eternity. How it grieves My Heart when the unique love I offer a soul is spurned, or ignored, or regarded with indifference! I tell you this so that you may make reparation to My Heart by accepting the love I have for you and by living in My friendship. Receive My gifts, My kindnesses, My attention, My mercies for the sake of those who refuse what I so desire to give them. Do this especially for My priests, your brothers.

A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart--The Journal of a Priest at Prayer
(Kindle Locations 600-604). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.

 

The human heart is made in the image of God’s heart, as revealed in Jesus Christ.  However, the love of God cannot be reduced to human love.  We can love a few uniquely, and love ‘all’ in a general way.  We can have good will towards all, yet this is not loving in the way that Our Lord loves.  It is perhaps beyond understanding, though because we love, we can grow in our experience of God’s love for us, and by that, expand it to everyone. 

Once a human being feels that they are actually ‘seen’, it follows that they will experience love in part, like the love that God has for each human being.  When we are seen by another, and still loved, it is because this ‘seeing’ goes deeper than what is often presented to the world around us.  Love goes to the true heart of the matter, and in that, can draw out love from the one being embraced, accepted, and yes when needed, forgiven. 

One term used to describe the Holy Spirit, is “Soul of my Soul”, which points to a ‘seeing’, and a ‘being with’, that is closer than we are to ourselves.  I see a great deal of chaos in my soul.  Yes, even strongholds, that seek to hide from this light of God’s love.  Yet, when seen and embraced, the experience of healing can be felt suddenly, or slowly over a period of time.  I am the one who does not know how to love others without condition, yet when experiencing Infinite Love, it opens up my heart, shatters it, and from the ashes, from the pain, comes something new. 

We can either be wounded by the healing compassion of God’s love, or we can be wounded by our ways of ‘self-medicating’, which leads to stagnation at its least, or to a destruction of our own soul at its worst.  Hiding from the loving gaze of God is an illusion, once that is understood, then nothing within our own inner world, or that which is without, can have dominion over us. 

In human relationships, love purifies both parties, if the love is true, and not just an infatuation, or a desire to use, and manipulate.  To love a man, or woman, who is healthy, and has good boundaries, by that very fact, anyone who seeks relationship with them, will have to grow, mature, and let go of self-centered, self-destructive habits, or the relationship will die.  There is nothing to hold it together. 

The love of God is what the human heart seeks.  In order to deepen that love, that relationship, then the affectionate exchange of love, will cause inner healing, which comes with a certain level of pain.  Not from the love of God, but from our own souls, allowing our inner wounds to be healed by the fire of Infinite Love. 

 

Once it is known

Lord, once your love is experienced,
nothing remains the same,
our journey can be rough,
but your love is sure,
no demon within or without
has power over us,
though we experience our wounds deeply,
 your love sees all,
 loves all within,
so ‘Soul of our Soul’,
teach us to wait, to pray,
to be patient, and to, yes,
love all that we meet
with your deep penetrating love.—Br.MD

 

markdohle

Strange thoughts

Strange thoughts

For the last three months or so I have been having a strange kind of headache.  It is a pressure felt right at the top of my head.  Sometimes there is a little pain around the edges, still on the top but a little further off from the pressure point.  In years past, in that same area, I would also get a quick pain, it felt like someone had put an ice pick through my skull, and then it would pass.  Now, this seems to have moved on to something different.  Because of this, I tend to think whatever it is, is not serious, just another ‘bother', of which seem to pile up as I get older. 

I was going to just wait and see (as stupid as that sounds, or is), but Rose would not let that happen.  So I called the VA at the East Point clinic in South Atlanta and got an appointment.  So I went, saw the Doctor, who is very good, I have no complaints with the VA, the one here in Atlanta is truly wonderful, at least my experience.  When I go I just make sure have lots of reading material, so no matter how long the wait, it goes pretty quickly.

The visit went well, I passed the different test, but even then the doctor wants me to have a CT scan of my pointed little head.  It is truly a strange place to be, waiting for an appointment to see if there is indeed a serious problem.  Even if I am almost sure there isn't one, it can lead to thoughts mostly never entertained.

What if?  Could this be the time when the doctor has to set me down and give the bad news?  "You have only so long to live, we can try this or that, in the end you may live 5 years, if you don't try anything kind of treatment, well you could die in 3 years."  Yes, a strange place to be.  But not uncommon, for in the end most of us will sicken of something that will lead to our death.

I look at things differently at least for now; not in the sense that I ‘know' that I will die soon, but that one day a visit will most likely be the way that my curtain of denial will be ripped away and I will really have to face the reality of my temporality.  What then?  How will I react?  My scenarios tend to be of the sort that makes my ego preen itself......I can be such a silly rabbit at times.

I think when that moment comes; it will be one of deep fear and denial at least at first.  I will, of course, hear the words, but the truth of them may take some time to sink in.  What then?  I would think that it is a lonely land to be in, knowing that this world will soon be over, and the reality of one's doubts will raise to the surface.  Faith and doubt dance together, which one will lead, the other follow?  Being a man of faith, I hope it will be faith that does the leading, but who knows?  Perhaps my relationship with doubt will have to deepen, be faced and accepted, but then, will I doubt my doubt?  I think for many, that is what faith is, doubting doubt, for it can be easier not to believe than to hope for what one cannot see.  Perhaps all of our belief systems are based on faith.  For the belief that science is the only way to find the truth, is not something that can be proven.  Science is about the world of objects, the depth of the heart, our deep inner longings, well that is for other avenues of knowledge; perhaps more important than science. 

It seems we can't get away from questioning, seeking, no matter where we are on life's journey.  That is what perhaps we are all made for.  I may doubt at times, but if I were an atheist, I think my doubts would be a lot more vehement than they are now for me as one who seeks the eternal, and often feel myself really being the one perused.   So many paradoxes on the path, incidents to ponder, that make atheism seem like a possibility, but one that is unlikely, at least for me.

Proofs of God, in the end, are personal, not scientific, for God is not an object among other objects, hence the impossibility of proving anything about its existence or non-existence.  For some atheism makes the most sense and I say, good for them.  We each must take a stand and move forward living lives flowing from our beliefs.  Though failure is also part of the journey, everyone's; at least from my experience.  To date, I have seen no exceptions. So when hypocrisy is flung at me, I say "yes, of course, I fail, I am a sinner, and so my being a hypocrite at times should not surprise anyone, least of all me".  Or when others fall, well, as the saying goes:  "there but for the grace of God go I"; is something well worth pondering--BrMD

markdohle

Praying, Hoping Trusting

 

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Praying, Hoping, Trusting

Gail is a very good friend of mine.  She allows me to share some of her musings from time to time, for which I am very grateful.  She is a good writer, very childlike, and transparent, in what she writes down.  She has taught me about joy, seeing beauty in what goes on around me, and yes, in the power of grace to overcome inner obstacles to joy, peace, trust, and faith.—Br.MD

Praying, Hoping Trusting
--A poem by Gail Bardis—

I am sitting here
waiting for a miracle,
praying to believe,


I am sitting here eating
my healthy breakfast,
praying to trust God.

I am sitting here
my windows wide open
praying to give thanks.

I am sitting here
my soul is filled with wonder,
praying to praise God.

I am sitting here
waiting for movement
praying for quiet,

Waiting…Praying…
wondering…trusting,
believing, praising.

markdohle

Breathe in; breathe out

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Breathe in; breathe out
(the practice of prayer)

 

 

 

When I ask this “what do we pray for”, many do not understand what I am getting at.  I guess we can start with the question what is prayer?  The simplest answer is that it is “raising our heart and mind to God”.  But that answer can lead to another question…..what does that mean for me in my everyday life?  Prayer, if pursued and the impulses of grace are followed, which is, in fact, an invitation from the Holy Spirit, can slowly grow over the years to become a deeply ingrained habit.  Prayer becomes a form of breathing for the soul.  The Holy Spirit breathes in us, and we breathe out prayer. 

To stop and pray, to be open to the Holy Spirit opens us up to the healing and mercy of “the fire of God’s love’, which is stronger than death.  So as the life of prayer deepens we can often find ourselves in a dry desert with only faith and prayer as our guides.  Or we find that we discover depths within our souls that block us from living fully in the joy and love of God.  Prayer gives us the humility to grow in the knowledge of God’s grace and our total dependence on his mercy and love. 

So we can find ourselves on stormy seas, without the false luxury of blaming others, or of seeking ways to self-medicate that only complicate the matter and pile on more problems.  Prayer frees us from being a victim as well as drowning in anger or self-pity.  The more we understand ourselves, the more we understand the struggle of others and find our hearts becoming the Heart of Christ Jesus.  Prayer and our openness to God’s grace makes us aware that Paul’s statement that “It is not I but Christ who lives in me”, is not some abstract statement, or theological principle, but an actual living reality. 

Fear, bitterness, anger, and cynicism are ways that we protect ourselves from the on- slot of life. Sin is the shield that we use to keep life out, which leads to only more suffering and a deepening of our wounds.  It is only by letting go of fear that we can understand the healing balm of God’s love.  As John says in his 1st Epistle, “Love cast out fear”. 

The death to self that Jesus calls us to is a letting go of self-concern to the exclusion of others.  As well as freeing others from manipulation and being made into a mere object so that we can feel secure and in control….illusions both of them.  Yet when we discover the love of God, its depth and what Christ Jesus went through to save us, we come to the understanding that we are truly embraced in the everlasting arms of Christ Jesus’ love. 

We can forget how short our lives are and that we are pilgrims.  One good thing about aging is that illusion of “I have plenty of time” is taken away.  If someone lives to be 120 years of age, on their death bed, it will seem like a passing dream…..our time is short here.  Being 68 (or will be in December) has freed me totally from that illusion.  Life is more precious to me as I age, yet I know that ‘soon’ I will move on.  What is life for?  We need to ask ourselves that question and live from what we discover. 

Breathe in, breathe out, allow the Holy Spirit to pray in you, through you and let yourselves be used so that our arms, become the Arms-of-Christ, our hearts, become The-Heart-of-Christ and our minds, to become, The-Mind-of-Christ.  For in our bodies we make up for what is lacking in the body of Christ.  We have a great calling; we are all members of Christ Jesus and belong to the priesthood of the faithful.  The more conscious we are of that the more we can allow the Holy Spirit to use us.—Br.MD

 

markdohle

A life changing moment

 

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“This is how much I love you….At that moment my life changed.”

I felt the urge to look up in the sky and suddenly or felt like … a stroke of love, which took me straight to the heart, in a very strong way. According to my watch, this experience lasted only three seconds, but it was very, very powerful. At that precise
moment I felt that God was speaking to me and he was telling me: ” This is how much I love each of you, all over the world “.--María Vallejo-Nágera

 

People will often say that they believe that “God is Love”.  Of course, the love of God is a central theme in the Christian faith.  A love, shown to us in Jesus Christ.  The parable of the ‘Prodigal Son”, brings this clearly too light.  However, to say “God is Love”, can become a cliché, or understood in such a way that it is not much use at all.  For a revelation shows something that has always been, but yet unknown, until brought too light. 

The woman ‘Maria’ who spoke the above 
quote, one day, without asking for it, or on a conscious level even desired it, had an experience probably like the one St. Paul had.  For from one moment to the next her life was transformed, changed, and suddenly she found herself on a different path. 

If God is indeed love, then all or loved, embraced by God.  If this love is experienced at ever deeper levels as one goes through life, or if given suddenly like it was with St. Paul and Maria, everything is flipped, values change, inner freedom increased and the ability to embrace life is also enhanced.  The need to
run, or escape the pain and choas of life, is lessened or taken away.

Once God’s love is experienced deeply, freely, it is then that the understanding of what it means when Jesus tells us “Not to Judge” becomes central to one’s life.  For each human, is beloved of God.  AsMariafoundout, when God’s grace touched her heart.  I do believe that each human will experience this, it is called “a Damascus event”, where for a longer or shorter time, the reality of God becomes manifest, as well as God’s love, which unlike any other.  Because God’s love for all is infinite, I believe that everyone will have this sooner or later in life, perhaps only at the time of death. –Br.MD

 

In Medjugorje, God told me: “This is how much I love you….At that moment my life changed.

Below is a simple account of Maria’s experienced:

 

Translated by Google Translate. Published originally at La Luce Di Maria

In Medjugorje God told me: “This is how much I love you” and at that moment, there in that remote place of Bosnia, my life has changed. María Vallejo-Nágera , Spanish writer, recounted her moving experience in Medjugorje: “I would like to tell you this little story of my life, which changed completely when I went to the village called Medjugorje for the first time”.
The trip to Medjugorje, organized by friends.

It was 1999 and she lived in London, with her three children. It was called Catholic, but “however I did not realize what God was, I did not have faith, I did not want to talk about God, I was not interested in either the Church or  God”. Then, the trip to Medjugorje, organized by some of his friends, changed things.

“The first day was really boring for me, I did not understand a word, nor what happened, I did not believe that Our Lady appeared to those six young people, I did not even behave during the Mass , I had found one in English in the morning, but I had done nothing but take pictures all the time, without listening to a word of what the priest or celebration said. “
On leaving the Mass, María Vallejo-Nágera headed for the hall where the visionaries held talks. “We walked near the confessionals and at the same time on my right was the outer wall of the church of San Giacomo. I was surrounded by my friends and I was joking with them.

Conversion
I felt the urge to look up in the sky and suddenly or felt like … a stroke of love, which took me straight to the heart, in a very strong way. According to my watch, this experience lasted only three
seconds , but it was very, very powerful. At that precise moment I felt that God was speaking to me and he was telling me: ” This is how much I love each of you, all over the world “.

I also felt a kind of shock of fear, of pain, because at that precise moment I realized that I had been really bad towards my affections, towards faith and God “. Since then, María Vallejo-Nágera has begun to go to Mass every day, to go to confession, to feed on the Eucharist, as she had never done before. And it has changed, as he says, also his way of writing.

Antonella Sanicanti

markdohle

Playing with magnetic tiles

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Playing with magnetic tiles


(Play is everywhere.  Even in our painful struggles, it is also a dance,
or perhaps it may feel like an arm wrestling match……)

One of our brothers, was before he entered the Monastery, a teacher.  He taught young children, and like most teachers who have the gift of relating to young people, he himself has a very strong, mature, childlike personality.  He is a good speaker, and when we sometimes do a retreat together, I enjoy in how he relates to the group.  He draws them out, asks each one their name and where they come from etc.   On my own, I don’t do that, but like it when he does. 

We have become good friends, and he still teaches me.  I can be a bit scatterbrained.  I do believe I have a touch of ADD, so when I go off on some tangent, he always calls me back by calmly saying my name, once, or twice, or six times….works every time.

About two months back, he decided to place some colored tiles on one of the boards situated on our ground floor that is no longer being used.  So he put them up, and a few of us play with it.  Well let’s say, I am probably the main one since I love moving things around, and seeing what comes up.  They are of different shapes and colors, so there is room for a lot of variation.  I play with the tiles, the same way I write, I just do it.  Two other brothers that I know of also like to move them around.  I find it relaxing, and fun, and frustrating.  Since I may have something in mind, sort of, but what comes out looks different.

I like to press them close together on some days, making both sides the same, balanced, perhaps a bit OCD on my part.  Then on other days, they are spread out and can take on some shapes that look like some sort of archetypal animal totem.  I was playing one morning and found that the long stream I was working on, had the head of a fighting chicken on it…..can’t have that, so I tried to change things around, but no matter what I did it still looked like it had some sort of head.  One brother, the teacher, said it looked like a dragon……I have no idea how he got that. 

Some days the tight formation, is sort of in the middle of both styles.  True, tightly packed, but both sides do not match up, though it might not be obvious at first.  Expansion and retraction.  I have always been a big believer that what we create, no matter how simple, or just playful, is a window to our inner life.  It can also bring out the inner conflict that I think is part and parcel, of least my life, my inner life. 

When I pray, and feel that I have gone deep within, the experience can be either peaceful, with a feeling of connection with the Infinite.  Or my experience can be one of an explosion of color, feeling, and emotion.  Which is not always a wonderful experience, but I have learned I need to stick with it.  If in my meditation I feel loving, later, I will have to deal with the so-called opposite, when it fact it is just part of the continuum of one’s inner life.  

Play, is everywhere.  Even in our painful struggles, it is also a dance, or perhaps it may feel like an arm wrestling match……yet to stick with it, to calmly observe the inner drama, leads to inner wholeness, though it is one small step at a time.  To seek to escape life’s many frustrations, will only over time increase the inner tension that can be manifested in addictions, troubled relationships, and a feeling that one’s life is aimless.  Being an eternal cycle of the same exhausting struggles that lead nowhere, except to one’s own personal death.   

Play, is not always easy, nor pain-free, but to understand that all of our lives is ‘play’, it can help us to find balance, and to have a more realistic outlook on life. 

The more deeply we trust in the process of life, which for me is fed by my faith, the more easily we can allow the needed struggles and even failures to work themselves out.  There will always be pain. Yet, both our pain, and suffering, can lead to deeper healing, or to a deep all pervasive bitterness.  I find it strange that the road to bitterness is easier to choose than the one for healing.  Since to heal, means that one has to choose to take a path that is arduous, hidden, and with much less drama.  Yet when the road to healing is chosen, the Infinite draws closer, or perhaps we just become more aware of what was always there all along, patiently waiting for our hearts to open.—Br.MD


 

 

markdohle

Our struggle with humility

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Our struggle with humility

Our Lord sends the crosses; we do not have to invent them. ---Padre Pio

Humility is not a popular word. For many when thinking of humility they think of weakness, or people who falsely depreciate their selves, when in fact it is far away from being true humility since lack of self-esteem is not humility at all. To be able to accept the truths we learn about ourselves, be it something beautiful or its opposite is not always easy. Yet we are called to do that.

Humility can spare us from a great deal of suffering that comes from defensiveness. When not living from a place of truth, we invite a great deal of suffering into our lives that only distracts us from walking the road that Christ Jesus is calling us to.

Without humility, we have to blame others for our sufferings, which only causes more suffering. For people will react and rightly so, to unjust or malicious treatment, throwing it back on the accuser. It takes a lot of energy to run from oneself. Grace and our love of God allow us to not be afraid of truth no matter where it comes from. We learn to embrace life and not run from it.

If anyone wants to carry lots of manufactured crosses, all you have to do is to disdain humility. .--Br.MD

markdohle

Our true nature

 

 

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Our true nature

 

September 11—At the grotto. “Break free of yourself. Take note as to whether even here, you are acting for Me or for you. Cease to exist in your own eyes and focus everything on Me. First and foremost your thoughts, since your actions depend on them. At noon couldn’t you take stock of your inner life in such a way as to tighten the bonds between us? I call you so often. Call Me, so that you may come; it’s not I who fail to come. Ask My mother for the grace to live like her, in our company which is more real than all the visible world. “Enter, enter into Me. What really counts is the life of your soul, you understand? Everything should be subservient to it. And the center of it should be I, your Christ. All things uplifted to Me, everything for Me, since we are one as I and My Father are one. Didn’t I give the example? “Oh, My little girl “Oh, My little girl, in this hallowed grotto, give yourself wholly and for always.” . . .

 

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 2991-2999).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

 

Narcissism, on any level, is based on a lie.  It is not something that is expressed on a conscious level, but, is lived out to a greater or lesser degree in our interaction with those we meet.  I can only be truly aware of my own ‘consciousness’, and with that comes the ‘illusion’ that the whole universe revolves around me.  Of course, this can be insulting to other ‘consciousness’s’ who again, to a greater or lesser degree, live under the same illusion.  I certainly do it, and when it is in full force, I can, in reality, be like a 3-year-old, who desperately wants to get my way, or I will pout, cry, stamp my feet, and who knows, maybe even hold my breath until I turn blue.

So yes, it is often about ‘me’.  As frustrating as that can be.  Since those around me won’t play the way I want them to.  Yet over time, most people slowly learn, that there are in fact others who need to be taken into consideration, and even honored, as another self. 

It is a terrible way to live, fighting others all the time so as to get my way.  When I do get my way, it is then not something that makes me happy, or content, for long.  I think this is so because I wish to be free of the dominion of my fear-ridden, angry, pouting, inner narcissistic child.  Being part of a large family has helped me a bit on that.  Also experiences of feeling freer, and happier, lighter even, when I actually do reach out to others or help them, even if I do not want to.  Some say I feel that way because we help others out of a selfish need to feel good about ourselves.  Now, there could be some truth to that.  Yet I also think there are layers in our souls that also bring out this inner sense of happiness, and lightness of being.  It is because we are working out of our true nature.  Being made in the image, and likeness of God, who is revealed as love, is also our deepest reality, we are beings made of love.  When we forget this and seek other loves that are unworthy, it is then we suffer deep pain, insecurity, and as time goes on, bitterness and rage. 

When we reach a place of truly loving others, it is then that we get out of our way, and allow the grace of God to pour through us.  Self-seeking, in the end, often leads to isolation from the very thing we seek the most, the love of others, to be seen, and accepted.  The tyranny of self-centeredness, to the exclusion of others, is a hard taskmaster.   The world is a place to be consumed, yet our appetite is for the infinite, so finite desires and pleasures, just fall into an infinite abyss.   Our hunger can only be fed by the Divine, by Infinite Love.

How do I get out of my way?  Still working on that.  However, I am slowly learning that much of my love of God and seeking, is in reality, a desire to escape from my own inner fragmentation, and fear of annihilation.   I can’t give myself what I most desire.  I have to learn to not fear pain, to seek the Infinite because that is my true home, and grace is the way that God allows us to walk that narrow path.  To let go of self-regard, of seeking to make God an extension of myself, and to stay at a level of a three-year-old, still trying to get back to what it was like in the womb.  We are called to the exact opposite.  Oneness with God is not going back to the womb, but a dive into ‘reality’, ‘clarity’, to death to the small world that I seek to create, to allow that to be transformed into the ‘real’ world of Divine Love.—Br.MD

 

markdohle

Healing, pain, purgation

 

 

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Healing, pain, purgation

Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That He can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with Him and can stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.--Pope Benedict XVI

 

Pain comes from the soul.  Often we are wounded by others, and then, we can be the one who injuries.  We build off of our pain, and then, we seek to share it.  Or we can try to escape our inner discomfort, and wounds, by seeking out pleasure, or power, or oblivion, to hide from it.  To no avail.  Our pain only increases. 

All healing has some pain attached to it.  Going to a doctor is not pleasant.  Many put off going to the doctor, and live in denial, until the time comes when they have to seek help, making it many times more uncomfortable, or painful than if they would have just gone earlier. 

Relationships, those that are based on true caring, and love, and not some form of obsession, or a desire to own, and manipulate, is also a process of healing, or of purgation.  Whatever gets in the way of our relationship has to be let go of, which can be painful, yet in the end, if both parties seek to grow in their love for one another, there is a deep union that becomes real, that cannot be broken.  Yet this can’t happen without some form of death to ways that are detrimental to union.  For a friendship or a marriage, to deepen there has to be vulnerability, a certain type of bravery, which will not run from whatever is needed to allow true union to grow. 

Yet, there are some areas in each of us I believe, that no one can heal, since the wounds are too deep.  Also, our sins, are also death-dealing, since we seek to become our own healer, our own god, or seek something other to do what is impossible. 

We can’t put together the scattered pieces of our souls. Since we do not have the power to transform ourselves at the level that only God can see, and loves.  As we draw closer to God, in a conscious relationship, our need for healing, and mercy, becomes more apparent to us.  We discover there are inner walls that we can’t breach, but find the over time, with faith, with inner struggle, healing comes of its own since it is God who in the end heals us.  The pain that comes from that is from our souls.  God is not into pain, he is into union, love, and compassion, and has a deep empathy for each human being.  This love can only be described as ‘Fire’, a fire that cleanses all that blocks union, with the loving heart of the Father, as shown us through Jesus Christ.  To see Christ, is to see the Father. 

At death, I believe that our unconscious mind becomes fully conscious.  It is then that we see ourselves as we truly are, in God’s sight, yet at the same time, we feel Gods love and invitation.  If the soul seeks God, loves God, it will desire to be healed by the fire of God’s love.  The smallest flame of love will be enough to start the journey of healing. The pain comes from the healing of the soul, not from God, who only seeks our union.  Healing and pain, seem to be partners in a dance that only takes us deeper into joy.  So the souls in purgatory are only filled with love, joy, peace, and happiness, even in the midst of a deep healing suffering that is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Purgatory is a pure grace on God’s part, since we cannot save ourselves, but need the freely given grace of Jesus Christ to lead us home.  All men, and women, of good will, who seek the truth, will gladly bend their knee at the name of Jesus. 

Those who reject this grace, place themselves in a place where they will not have to deal with God, truth, or others.  God’s judgment, is to allow us to choose where we wish to be in complete freedom, and truth.  In this life we struggle for freedom, once death comes, all barriers to truth and self-knowledge are taken away.  What we do not do here, what we avoid and run from, will have to be acknowledged at death.  This life is important, for here we can choose, even in the midst of great struggle, to do the loving thing, to embrace God’s will for us, which is to grow in love of God, self, and others.—BrMD




 

 

 

 

 

 

markdohle

 


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The man who was freed of a heavy burden

“Believe in the matchless beauty of a humble soul that shows Me its wounds and hopes in Me alone.
I clothe it with My merits. How could I ever do otherwise?”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3582-3583).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

One of the most natural things for men, and women, to do, is to without even knowing it is happening, is to hide from themselves.  I guess I know this because I do it myself.  It is ‘normal’, though not healthy to do so.  There is so much in each human being, a whole world, a universe of personal experiences, and as well, how these events were experienced, and interpreted, when very young.  Our path, began when we woke up to the suffering in the world around us, as well as within ourselves, the first time we experienced pain, abandonment, or some form of physical, or sexual abuse. 

When the inner path is initiated, or perhaps, to put it another way, at the time the spiritual path is commenced in earnest, it is then that the unmasking begins.  It can be a very painful process, spanning over many years.  Our strengths are used to build up others, while our weaknesses, and yes, our failures, are used by the Lord, to draw us deeper into trust and a holy stubbornness, to continue.  Trust, trumps fear every time.  The deeper our trust in God’s love, and mercy, the less fear plays a role.  Once we understand that we are loved by God, a hard lesson for many, is when we begin to run, yes and trip, on the road to union with the Infinite. 

Jesus showed us that it is in serving others that we become great.  To seek to understand others, rather than to be understood.  To learn to listen, rather than demanding that we be understood, and interpreted correctly.  In other words, we slowly begin to understand what living out the ‘golden rule’ is about.  Though imperfectly…..there is always room for deeper growth and healing. 

Once we become childlike before God, and yes, others, it is then that we experience the reality of what is really important in life.  It is often at odds with the overall cultural narrative.  It is then that we have something to share with others, and we become open to what others can share with us. 

One day, about two years ago, a man asked to see me.  He was very professional looking, a no-nonsense kind of man, about 50 years old.  What he talked about was a change that came over him when he was 40 years old.  One day he asked his wife a simple question, in a joking sort of way.  The question was:  “How am I doing”?  He thought that she would respond in the same vein, but instead she said, “Not too good!”  She then begin to tell him what kind of a man he was.  It was not a pleasant experience for him, but whatever it was that she told him, it started him on a path of self-discovery.  Until that point in his life, he told me, he was very self-complacent, though, that insight, only came after his wife’s statement, started him on a long road of learning, to look inward, and to see who he actually was. 

He had faith, but it was the sort of faith, that would only flicker into existence on Sunday morning when they went to mass, and once they left, it would return to its ashen state. 

When he started to look at what his wife told him, he also found himself praying more for grace to be able to go through it.  Over the course of a year, he actually begin to see that he was often overbearing to those at work.  Always had to be right, and was capable of bullying others as well.  To his shame, he also discovered that he would often take his wife for granted, and more often than not, not considering her needs. 

When he opened up his heart to receive these truths about his immaturity, he was amazed that he did not see it earlier.  Since he could be overbearing, people were afraid to speak up, so he was never called upon to look at himself.  “It was quite a can of worms”, he laughingly told me.  Though at the time it was very painful. 

“I still have a long way to go, “but my marriage is better, and I get along more smoothly with my co-workers, as well as with my subordinates.  All, in all, my life is easier to put up with”. 

He talked about how the more he opened up to the truth about himself, the closer the Lord seems to be drawn to him.  He could not figure it out.  For he always thought that it was important to only put one’s best foot forward.  Now he sees that the more he understands himself, the more he can understand others, and get along with them. 

His marriage is better than he thought it could ever be.  “Just think”, he told me, “I asked my wife in a joking way ‘how I was doing’, and her answer started the first domino of my many denials to fall down”.  

As he left he told me that now that he is not so self-protective, he finds others approaching him, and talking to him a ways that he never thought was possible.  As he left, I thought, what an amazing story.  Not sure many men, or women, for that matter, would make such a journey on such a simple event that he had with his wife.  It probably saved his marriage, and who knows, his career.--BrMD


 

 

 

 

markdohle

 

 

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A simple but very powerful Near Death Experience
(my time with a retreatant)

“What could ever harm you? You are God’s child and Christ is your brother. Isn’t that a wellspring of joy? Escape from yourself. Forget all earthly cares. Return unceasingly into the eternal womb that bore you. Give yourself to the Spirit. He will quicken you. He will interpret you to the Father. You can’t understand this; so knowing that you know nothing, give yourself all the same, and the smaller you are the more the Spirit will exalt you. Go over your deficiencies. You would like to fly and you do not even know how to walk. “Then hold out your arms and the Spirit will take hold of you.”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3574-3578).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

I have spoken a few times on how powerful, and yes, humbling, it is for me to sit down and talk with the men, and women, who come here for retreat.  When people share, and truly listen to each other, the reality of the uniqueness of the ‘other’ becomes ever more apparent. 

This week there was a retreatant here for a four day retreat.  The name of the retreat was “Too Deep for Words”.  It was given by Jackie R., and our Br. Elias.  It was based, more or less, on his book, “The Tears of an Innocent God”. 

The man’s name was Thomas, and he has given me permission to write about what he shared with me. 

While it is true, that life is very hard, I believe, for everyone, and that none of us knows the future, and that future will be very difficult at different times in life, and sad to say, there is no escape from that reality.  No one is spared from the “Outrageous Fortunes” of life.  So how are we protected by the love of God?  Not an easy question.  Also, not one I can answer, or give it justice, even if I tried.  Yet, I do feel that we are protected from deep harm to our souls.  Some believe that our lives are not just about physical survival, but there is also a spiritual battle that is going on, and is borne out in people’s lives through personal experiences. 

When I sat down with Thomas, and he was sharing his life with me, I was impressed by his balance, his deep spirituality, and humility.  I felt truly, that he was teaching me.  I meet many who are far ahead of me in the spiritual life, and love to converse with them.   Towards the end of our meeting, he brought up that at one time, not too long in the past, he was heavily addicted to drugs, to opioids, in fact.   He mentioned that it cost him his marriage, though at this time, he does have a good relationship with his children, and a cordial one with his ex-wife. 

He shared that he was brought back from dying from an overdose, four times in fact, over a short period of time.  Then, he died, during the fifth overdose.  His body was found in the bathroom of his home.  During this time he had a very simple, straightforward NDE, not much fuss, nor meeting of anyone, no deceased family members coming to greet him.  When he died, he felt himself leaving his body, and then he saw this flash of light.  He knew then that he died.  He continued that he called out to God, and said, please don’t take me now, it is too soon, please take my addiction away from me.  Then he woke up, and saw the EMT’s, working on him.  He was taken to the hospital.  They took his blood to find out what he overdosed with.  To everyone’s surprise, as well as his, he came back clean.  There was no trace of drugs in his system.   After that he told me, he never desired to take drugs again.  It transformed his life.  Now he knows that the meaning of life is to love and help others.  Not to try to escape it.

Was he protected?  Well, not from his beginning his addiction, nor the loss of his marriage, but on the level that matters more than anything else, his soul was protected.  When he called out, it must have been from the depths of his heart, and he was healed, restored, and regained his family, though still divorced.  He has a good apostolate, and also makes good money which he uses to help others. 

I do believe that at the time of death, all are given the choice to be called late in life, to a loving, trusting, relationship with God.  He was able to accept, and he was also healed because he was ready for it, there were no obstacles to God’s healing love.  We have to open our hearts and minds to the grace that is always offered.  It is a freely given grace, brought at a grace price.

Like in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father of lights, as revealed in Jesus Christ, waits for each of us to return.  When that happens, we are picked up and embraced. Any, and all, who call on the Lord will be heard and as Infinite Mercy has shown them, they are loved.  Those who don’t, it is a choice that is free, deliberate, and sad to say, eternal. 

Only God knows each heart.  From this man’s story, no one is outside of God’s mercy.  So to pray for all, is often to pray that when they come to their own deaths, that there is a small flame of love there that the Holy Spirit can increase. 

We should never lose hope.  It takes courage to stay on the path when it is filled with many falls and starting over.  Yet humility grows in our falls, and grace lift us up, all we need do is to open up our arms to the Spirit, just like Thomas did.—Br.MD

 

markdohle

A woman lonely and troubled

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A woman lonely and troubled

“Win the right to see Me. Let this secret longing be your constant thought. I say ‘secret’ because it is still feeble. Ask Me to make it grow in you, so that it may be light and warmth to those who come near you; and they too will understand that I am the End. The End of every beginning day. “And when at last you close your eyes, hope that they open only to see Me, your very gentle, your most loving Savior.”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3522-3526).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

Many people see doubt as a lack of faith.  Or they allow doubt to grow without seeking a deeper understanding of what they are doubting.  I do believe that having just an intellectual understanding of Christianity is not enough to keep anyone on the path for long.  The Christian path, or faith, is about the passionate love that God has for all of us.  A fire more powerful than all the suns.  This can only be understood if, over time, the pilgrim experiences something of this love.  It talks a lot of cultural-deprogramming to arrive there…..a journey that takes a lifetime. 

One of the painful aspects of living in this world, is that there is so much ‘hiddenness’.  Christ in others has to be believed, acted upon, and then over time, one begins to experience the reality of “God with us”.  Flowing from the deepening awareness of Christ Jesus presence in those we meet.  Our loved ones, friends, strangers, and yes, even in our enemies.  It is not an easy journey, for trust is hard, it is for me. 

Working in the retreat house can be an eye-opener when dealing with the many guests that come through here.  Many come here because they need a quiet place to simply rest in the Lord’s presence.  Men and women of all faiths or none come here.  It is an honor meeting them. 

There are those who come here that becomes problematic.  As a retreat house, we are here to try to give an environment that is safe, and free, of unwanted interference from others.   There is a minuscule number that comes here who arrive for another reason.  A place where they are accepted and were they will be allowed to do whatever they want.  They are for the most part good people, who don’t fit in anywhere because of some mental issue.  They are often unaware of their condition, or simply deny it.  They will not take any form of medication for their condition.  Which is understandable.  The side effects can be profound for some.  So in dealing with them, it can cause distress from both sides.  It weighs heavy on me.

Recently, we had a woman come in who fits the above category.   The last time she was here, she did pretty well and so I allowed her to come again for three days.  I was worried but asked her to please not approach/corner others.  It turned out that she could not do that.  So I was going to talk to her the next morning and see if I could get her to understand that she could not bother the guests who are here for healing themselves and many need silence for that.  In any case, she did not have the right to corner others and tell them her life’s story. 

I guess it was about an hour after I went to bed that I received a knock on my door.  The neighbor of the woman I am writing about asked to see me.  When I left my room, we went to the dining area and she told me that she was freaking out over the woman.  She would not leave her alone and talked for over an hour about things that scared her.  She was afraid to sleep in the next room.  Luckily we had an extra room available and I put her in there.

As I was trying to go back to sleep, I felt a deep sorrow over the fact that I had to asked her to leave.  She was a lonely woman, with really no one to confide in.  Her family had to back off from her because she literally drove them crazy.  So the next morning I talked to her and said that she had to leave.  She was taken aback by it.  We talked for a short time and I asked her if she was on any kinds of meds.  She said no.  She seemed to have no idea that she has some mental issues that were keeping her isolated from others.  Her approaching others was one way, she wanted to talk, but not listen. 

She left about an hour later and it really caused me some inner pain.  I had to ask her to leave, but this is one part of the job that I hate.  My heart goes out to so many people who need help, and can’t get it, or don’t want it.  She does live in a house in a small town not far from here, but she will often just take off and not show back up months later.  So again, that family has really had to back off.  Hopefully one day, they will be able to help her.

There are situations that are simply impossible to navigate.—Br.MD






markdohle

The human journey

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The Human Journey
(life needs to be lived, though it is not always understood)

I remember when I was very young, that there were days when I felt very old.  Even then, I felt a certain type of inner fatigue….why does life have to be so hard I would intuit, if not actually think it out.  Of course, life was not always hard when young, but it was the times of struggle, and fear, that made the biggest splash in my small pond. 

I used to like to sit and listen to adults talk.  Not sure why that was so, but they were more interesting than children my age.  Did not understand everything, but one thing that stood out was how often disappointment, failure, and sorrow took up a lot of time, aside from the gossip I guess.  I would sit there and wonder, why do adults suffer so much?  I understood suffering, anyone who has been on this planet for any length of time, knows that.  Even someone five, or six, years old.  It is not the whole story, but I have known no one who has not been through ‘something’ that leaves a lasting impression.  Adults, for me as a child, were another life form entirely.  I guess I never thought I would ever become one, but I did…..it is still a shock. 

I did not like being a young child.  I found it scary for some reason.  I remember being picked up and placed here and there, which I did not like.  Being afraid at night, and unable to get out of my crib, or seeing strange dark objects in the corner of my room.  Yes, I had a good imagination.  Still do, though now life is not so scary, at least the way it was when I was young, very young.  Children are much more aware than many adults believe.  Those who remember ‘way back’ into their life, say even in their crib, or two years old, understand this.  We can see, hear, and interpret life around us, often in ways that are more ominous than they really were.

In a house in Steelville, Mo., there was a narrow walkway outside our front door.  It seemed a long run to me, but of course it was not.  However, that small space scared me, and I would crawl, and stumble, and sort of run through it.  I would plunge out of the front door and land on my knees….still have the small scars that show it.  I was terrified of that small space, an empty space, a safe space, yet I was terrified.  I remember many years later, when I was in my early 30’s, telling my mother about it.  She was amazed that I never told her and wondered why I was always skinning my knees.  It never occurred to me to tell anyone.  It was just life, which was the way things were.  I had no way to judge what was good or bad, life was life. 

I have very few nightmares now, perhaps one a year if that.  I think the reason is that I reached my limit at about the time I reached 10 years of age.  I used to have nightmares every night, and I guess I knew I was dreaming.  I could feel my eyelids trying to open. It would start with a green fog slowly flowing into the dark forest that I found myself in.  It was a gravel path I was standing on, and it was cold and clammy.  There was also music, which made the whole dream worse.  It was like movies that I saw when older that were scary movies.  Then the zombies would come, people who would shuffle trying to get me.  I would try to run, but the gravel path was really difficult to navigate, and my legs were heavy and hard to move.  I was never caught, and when I found someone who I thought would help me, they would simply laugh at me.  Funny thing, I was never afraid to go to sleep, nor did these nightmares follow me throughout the day.  Then when I was ten, they stopped.  I do think the nightmares came from a time in my life when I was two.  I guess I outgrew the fears that plagued me, or they lessened enough to end the need to dream them.

There were also many good times when young.  There was laughter, peace, a feeling of being safe, good meals, happy holidays, and my parents were always around.  My dad worked long hours in the gas station in East St. Louis, my older brother Skip helped out.  We always had a place to live, and we never went hungry.  So in many ways, my life as a child was peaceful and happy.  It was my own inner life that caused me so much trouble. 

I do not think that my childhood fears are unusual.  Children feel everything too the depths of their being, it is later I guess, that I learned to repress.  I would have this long hallway in my mind, and I would get something unpleasant and simply put in a room and lock the door.  I guess I have been trying to unlock those doors ever since.  I think I may be about halfway through that long hallway.  So if I live to be 140 years of age, I may get to the last door.

Now I am at the opposite end of my life.  Soon to be 70, I find myself happier and at peace.  I did not like being young, but I do like getting older.  Not that it is easy of course.  Not sure any time of life is easy for us here in this world of constant change, at any stage.  The fragility of getting older is, of course, different than when I was very young.  I can think about it, perhaps understand the process a little better, and even find meaning in it.  When young I think it was about clinging to life, learning, and simply taking the next step.  Now I guess it is about letting go and finding a certain peace and joy in that.  I can see the end, more or less.  I am aware of the light more than when young, but how close it is, that day when the light becomes the most real ‘thing’ in the world; not sure.  It is close, but by that I mean, it could be 20 years in the future or more.   I could live that long.  However, since the last 30 years have passed so fast, I am sure that the next will speed up even more. 

My faith is different than when young.  I do not feel I have to convince anyone of my faith in Jesus Christ.  If someone attacks me for being Catholic, I just smile and tell them that I do not argue over faith issues anymore.  I see how hard it is for me to change and grow, to become a more loving person, so it is not all that hard to make jumps for others.  My only business is to seek to love others more.  Now that keeps me busy.  I still fail more than I succeed, yet one step at a time O Lord.

I am thankful for many things.  I can now make friends, in the past, it was difficult for me.  I was always on my own, I took care of myself, did not feel the need for anyone.  It was of course based on fear.  Now that I now that I am anxious more than angry, it helps me to be more open to a ‘few’ very close friends.  Yet I also have friends that are not close in that way, but I love them very much.  So yes for me, getting older is much better than being very young. 

Fragility is something that those who live to be ‘older’ learn.  We have to let go of long-standing ways of doing things.  I can’t run upstairs anymore, nor can I lift heavy objects, because of my back.  I no longer have the energy to easily do what I could when young.  My mind gets befuddled more than when young, and I need to spend more time alone, though I always needed lots of it.  Fatigue is now my constant companion.  I see how I fail more than I get it right, but have learned after many dark times, to understand that God’s ‘YES’ is always that, it is never ‘no’.  That can come from me…I still wrestle with God.

I am not in control, never way actually.  I am not perfect, I believe I sort of knew that when young.  I certainly have less answers than when young, and am happy about that.   Even though my faith in God’s love deepens, I understand less about how he works…..that helps me to lessen my childish judgments about others.  That is a burden that I am glad is getting lighter. 

God is faithful, I am not really, yet because of that, because of his constant fidelity, I find myself becoming the sort of person that I actually like.  I know my gifts, well some of them.  Since they are gifts, I am thankful, but the credit goes to God’s grace, my DNA, my education and the influence of my family on me.  So I have a lot to be thankful for.  Yes, life is hard but is taking us somewhere. 

Not all agree with me, but that is ok….from birth till death, we all walk the same road.  So let us try to love, listen, and support each other.  To speak truth gently, and to become more like the God who is kind to the thankful as well as the unthankful.  I find myself it both camps, yet experience God’s kindness, compassion, and mercy. –Br.MD


 

 

 

markdohle

Chad, a prisoner I am writing to

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Chad, a prisoner I am writing to

 

Life in a prison is intense, amplified, and I believe that the struggle for those who seek an inner relationship with God is also more intense. If only for the reason that they cannot get away from others. They can go into their cell, in some prisons, yet the noise can be overwhelming, I am told. There is violence, stabbings, and lockdowns. In the winter, from what I have learned, they keep the place cold, and one prisoner I write to says they allow no jackets. Though I am not sure that is the same in all prisons. Each has their own rules, which are very strict.

It is true that many have little use for those in prison. Though it is often because of a certain stereotype that may be unconscious. As well, I guess, that there are many in prison who do fit the most damming descriptions of that stereotype. Yet as is often the case, many do not fit that at all. Some are chronic offenders, even then, not all are dangerous, they just have some serious impulse issues, and perhaps because of that, they do need to be locked up. However, in writing inmates, many will cause the negative picture of prisoners to lessen a bit when their humanity is experienced.

I am writing a fellow named Chad. Another prisoner, with whom I have been writing for quite a while, gave him my address, with my permission. Chad, let me know right off that he did not want anything from me. No money, not even stamps, etc. He just wanted someone to write to. He comes across as someone who is very intelligent but has some serious emotional problems that he is dealing with. I guess his shame over his past, is the greatest obstacle for him. From the little that he has told me, he has had a very troubled background. Yet he admits that it is not an excuse for his past life. He feels a great deal of shame for the pain he has caused his parents. He told me that he is not a victim, he is responsible.

From my own inner experience, I understand how deep wounds can go. I do believe that most of us have them, mostly hidden from sight, but if anyone is trying to become a decent human being, they become aware of a downward pull that exists in their souls. There are many ways to self-destruct, not all of them obvious to others, or perhaps even to those who are living a life that is leading to their disintegration. Our ways of dealing with pain, well my ways, are for the most part not healthy, and in some ways of dealing with life, they can be life-threatening. Food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, overwork, seeking power over others are the false gods often followed. My main struggle, I guess is with food. I eat to ground myself, or so I think, but it never works. So the constant disappoint has helped me to resist this tendency enough to not actually be a threat to my life, at least in the short run.

Chad has his own demons, and he is fighting them there at this time. Because of the intensity of living in a lockdown, the struggle is not something he can escape into. He has to face the issues, or become worse, and may even die. It is a tough place to be. Yet, is it not the situation for most humans?

Religion can be screwy, like anything else in life. Many people do not have the time, nor the inclination to seek time to study the depths of their faith, in order to outgrow the simplistic fundamentalism that often gives answer that are band-aids, and do not help in dealing with the deeper issues that have to be faced, experienced, and not rejected, or made into something demonic.

Chad shared with me his struggle to hope and to trust in God. He is used to the opposite in his life. Here is what I shared with him. It is not hard, I am simply going by my own experience with my own journey towards God, and to grow in love and trust. There is no easy path to that.

“Thank you Chad for your open, honest, and down to earth letter. Each person is unique in their walk with the Lord. So it is good not to compare yourself with others, or what they say about their love of God, etc. However, to learn from others is something different entirely. Your struggle is understandable, but just get through each day, and at least once a day, stop what you are doing, and stand before God, and make an act of trust in His love for you. You can do that first thing in the morning, or before you sleep, or do it both times. When you feel overwhelmed, chaotic, do it then, just pause and raise your heart in trust to the Lord. It does not matter what you feel, or your emotional state, but to say you trust God, comes from a place deeper, from that seed planted by God’s grace in you. God is always ‘Yes”. While we, because of our past and along with how we were beaten down by life, as well as our actions, and yes our many faults, and failures…can lead us to having a hard time understanding that. Just pray every day, don’t worry about how you feel. Yes, acknowledge your feelings and emotions, but they are not an obstacle to your loving God. When you fail, continue. It is in our failures that we grow in trust because we know that we are received by a loving, compassionate, infinite Father. What keeps our love alive is our seeing to understand that love. That is what you are trying to do at this time, to understand why God can love you.”

To embrace who we are, and to face our past, and how it affects our present is not easy. It is not about self-pity, or even giving into shame, but a simple ‘yes’ to what we have done, before the “YES” of God. The journey towards trust in God is not about denial, but a radical acceptance of who we are, and our need for grace, mercy, and compassion.

While all of us are unique, yet there is a commonality of experience that unites. I also shared this:

“I have had many struggles in my life. When young I went through what you are going through, (most struggle with their own inner pain) you will grow beyond that. Just remember that the Holy Spirit prays in you, even when you do not know how to pray, the Holy Spirit groans within you in your prayers and longing for God’s love. You are doing better than you think. Just continue each day to deepen your trust in God’s love for you. It is a slow journey, so do not look for a quick fix, in this world. For most of us, it is a slow journey, just keep making the next step. Do not fear the suffering that is part of life. Learn to pray with it, not to seek escape through what we call ‘sin’. The way to joy and healing is to simply embrace who you are in the presence of God’s love. Unite yourself to Christ Jesus, who lives in your heart, and feels what you feel, you are not alone. That is the true test of faith, to believe that.”

Not sure how long he has left in prison. He talks about getting out and going to live with his parents until he can get back on his feet. Many prisoners greatest fear is coming back in. I learn a lot from writing prisoners, both the good areas of their lives, as well as their bad. I do no pry, but they share with me more often than not what they have done. My only concern is that they learn to live in society, stay away from what drew them into crime before they went into prison. Only one prisoner is older, in his late 50’s, who was a career criminal. He is now ill, and will soon be released, he is worried, but he told me, that this last stint in prison has made him face his own rage and anger and to deal with it. If he can learn to control it in prison, I think he may have a chance when he gets out.

Our past has a hold on us, yet we are not defined by it. What defines us is our choices, those choices that come from deep within, are what leads to healing.--Br.MD

 

markdohle

How are we to live?

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How are we to live?

What is really important in our lives?  When I look inward, when praying, or just thinking, I see a lot of real issues, some of them quite painful, but in the long run, they are smoke and ashes.  Sometimes I worry about how I am going to die.  Or fret, that I sense that my aging process, is like a snowball rolling downhill, it gets bigger and it will only stop when it hits something.  Or will just run out of momentum, and become still.  I am not always worried about my death.  However, I do believe that we have ‘weather’ within, and some days I can be very philosophical about life, death, suffering, and whatever serious human issues is presented to me.  Then on other days, I can be a quite the ninny about it all.  So I try not to take my good/bad (inner) weather too seriously, it will always move on. 

Yet, how am I to live?  When I die, and my body planted, a symbol of the sum total of my life, what is it that will go with me?  I do believe that life will either hone us or wreck us.  I also believe that we all have a place of freedom to stand from.  It might be a small place in the beginning, and we may only have the desire to be freer, more loving, and more available to others, though still bound by habit.   Yet every small choice made in freedom, and not some form of compulsion, or being pushed by society into a certain mold, only increases our captivity to make deeper choices that are rooted in freedom.   It is then that we become childlike, or we mature into our true nature. 

Sometimes we have to pretend to be loving, or kind, or just, while wanting to do the opposite.  Yet in this ‘pretending’, we are really drawing from a deeper source (grace), a harder choice, and not the easier choice of just going along.  The more we learn to make truly free choices, the less burdened we will be by others, and by our society.   We can discover the wisdom of letting go of the compulsion to control those around us.  To control another is probably the furthest thing from actually being loving that we can get. 

Parenthood is different, since good parents are teaching their children simply how not to make fools of themselves at meals, not to pee in public, to act with respect, and hopefully, to act from a deep sense of what is good, and just, and yet loving.  Hopefully by the time they reach adulthood.  Besides, parental love is always moving towards separation from their children.  Hopefully, a friendship which deepens between parents and children, which moves towards deeper communication between equals.

The greatest spiritual gift is ‘love’.  And for good reason.  When I am laid to rest, when my body returns to dust, what is left is what I have become, what I am truly am, what my (free) choices made me into.  Will I be more deeply human as Jesus was, or will I become something less than human, a monster, actually, as CS Lewis talk about?

So how should I live?  Well to do the next loving thing, which is harder than it looks.  That is why I often fail.  Yet God is also the most loving ‘thing’, so there is always hope, mercy, and the courage to take the next step until I can step no more.

Pray for me, as I pray for you, for we all journey together. –Br.MD

markdohle

Many roads to the one gate

 

 

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Many roads to the one gate

“I have another temple—your soul in a state of grace: a state of Me-in-you, since
grace is your Christ. Who can ever know the joy it gives Me to be loved there, even if the love is feeble.
Do you know what it is to feel at home in a soul? To be the one waited for, the most loved, the most understood,
the head of the household even though I am so ready to fulfill the desires of this one who lives for Me alone.

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3535-3538).
 Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

 

I have the honor occasionally to hear the 5th step from men in recovery.  It is difficult for them since they have to go over those parts of their lives that need healing, as well as seeking to make amends to those that they hurt.  The healthier we become, the more we are able to look inward and begin the journey of self-discovery.  That is what humility is.  To be able to see without fear, or too much anxiety, what is not perfect, wounded, and even aspects that could be called evil that we discover.

I was listening to one man giving his 5th step.  It was powerful, and it took a great deal of courage for the man to spend over an hour going over his life at the level of insight he achieved.  He was brought up Anglican but now follows a Buddhist path, along with his wife.  She became a Buddhist when she was a young girl growing up in Canada.  He told me how the meditation is helpful to him.   I have studied Buddhism, though I am far from an expert, and there is much that can recommend some of its practices for everyone.  It can give good insight into how the mind works, and how we can get trapped in an often self-created quagmire, haunted by strong desires, antipathies, a longing for revenge, and hatred of self, etc.  Mindfulness in our prayers and our silent mediations is helpful for everyone.  Repression, pretending that this inner swamp is not there only leads to more trouble.  True humility is impossible without self-knowledge.

I also told him that I was impressed by the Buddha’s compassion for all sentient beings, and felt that his arriving at that point, shows that he was open to grace.  I then asked him if he understands his childhood faith.  He responded in a negative manner.  So I recommend that he spend some time in learning what his faith tradition taught and had to offer.  There is more there than he might not now understand.  I did agree that I believe that God works through other religions, and Buddhism is an example, though it is not ‘Theistic’.   

As we talked I said that what Jesus reveals, as the incarnation of God, a special revelation, shows us something that other religions do not have.  Though again, there is much good in them, and I believe shows the Holy Spirit at work in all hearts.  I brought up the word “Agape”, which is a special kind of love that Jesus revealed through his teaching, as well as how he lived, and how he died.  He forgave all, for Agape never stops loving, all other loves will end. 

He had a daughter, and I told him that loving parents love for their children, is most likely the closest we can come to understand God’s love that was revealed through Jesus.  The parable of the Prodigal Son, for instance, brings this out.   For it shows the patient, compassionate, love of the Father for his wayward son, to an infinite degree. 

In our everyday lives, we hear about love in our music, literature and yes in our different faith paths.  However, in the Christian path, God became man and revealed a love so deep and profound that it had to be revealed.  God is love, which is His nature, love, all-enfolding, and compassion for all.  Yet we can say ‘no’ to such a reality.   It is best not to try to figure out how that is done by others, but to focus on the reality that our hearts desire to love more than anything, but there is the mystery that could lead us to freely reject it.

So to love God just a little is still an opening for God grace to begin its work.  God is not proud since pride is based on some underlying falsehood.  No God is the servant of all.  A paradox, making no sense really, but at the Last Supper, Jesus showed how the love of the Father works, by washing the feet of his disciples, even Judas.  Also by the healing of Malchus, one of the men who came to arrest him, when Peter cut off his ear, in the garden of Gethsemane.  Most importantly by how he promised the ‘good thief’, that he would be with him in paradise, because he asked for love/grace/mercy, to enter into his heart.  We are all called to open our hearts and to allow grace to do its work. 

We should not fear other faith paths, but learn to see Christ Jesus in all, and how following one's conscience, to seek, will lead to the embrace of the ‘Infinite’, the ‘Other’, as manifested in Christ Jesus, when that reality is revealed.

If others do not see Christ in us, if we are hostile, or angry, or demeaning in our approach to others who differ from us, it would be better to not say or do anything.  I do believe that ‘Theist’, can show the world a certain type of arrogance that is almost demonic and does great harm.  There is a reason why St. Paul asked us to pray for the greatest spiritual gift, which is love.  Which he wrote about so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13.  We always have good reasons for whatever we do, hence our ability to forget that love is actually the greatest gift and replace it with false zeal.

One last thought.  It is important for all, no matter what their faith traditions is, to be firmly grounded in their own faith before exploring others.  We can always reach out to others, listen, and accept them.  However, we have nothing to offer if we do not understand our own faith tradition. Br.MD

 

markdohle

God's Kindness?

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God’s kindness?

 

February 12—Nantes. 5:35 AM The Way of the Cross.
 “As you meditate on the Stations of the Cross, look at My eyes and see in them nothing
but the utmost kindness and love in the midst of the torture.”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 679-681).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

There is very little that I understand.  The older I get the more I am aware of this reality.  So if I live to be 99 and in good mental health, I will finally come to the conclusion that I really know nothing at all.  Yet, my faith still grows.

I have yet to meet anyone who is not weighed down by problems, sufferings, chaos, and fear.  That is of course not the whole picture.  For in most lives, there is also joy, happiness, peace, and contentment.  Though suffering can drain all life out of us.  When confronted with extreme suffering in others, I understand that I will not be able to give insight, but I can be with them, for I suffer as well.  I have my share of wounds, fear, anger, and yes, self-hatred that flares up from time to time.  Yet, I, we, are commanded to love ourselves, so as to be able to love others. 

I have given up arguing about religion and politics.  Opinions become dogma when two people start to argue over their different takes on life.  A waste of time.  I am like them of course, I have strong beliefs, but as I age, I have come to a certain peace that I could be wrong, as wrong as the people I have listened to, and not agreed with.  Perhaps we are all wrong in most important conclusions.  Or one’s take on things, on life, may work for a while, and then need to be changed, when outgrown. 

I am not a man, or that type of Christian, who thinks that all religions not of my tradition are ‘wrong’, or ‘demonic’.  I have read too many scriptures from other faith
paths, and their mystics, and just relating with ordinary people, who follow a different path, to see in a powerful way, the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  The most unloving thing we can do is to judge another person because of their faith path, and then play God and condemn them.  It is amazing how unkind we Christian often are, sadistic as well, when judging, something we are told not to do. 

If we do not show the kindness of Jesus
Christ, and his compassion, then all else is a waste of time.  The human heart, each heart, is seen only by God.  Why, I can’t see my own heart.  Or the little I do see, what is revealed, is a deep need for inner healing, of self, so that I can show the compassion and love of Christ Jesus to others. 

“God with us”, is not just some abstract, theological theory, but is shown in Jesus Christ, how true that is.  Christians are called to incarnate Jesus in the world.  When we fail, then our faith becomes a cruel caricature.  It is hard to understand the love of
Jesus, when He forgave all on the cross.  It is only when we give over to the Father our resentments and leave our enemies in his loving hands, that we can find freedom.  To pray for an enemy, becomes an enemy no more. 

 

Our call

To show compassion when there is none,
mercy to all even in the midst of injustice,
to heal in places where there are only wounds,
to fight bitterness and despair with the shield of faith,
to seek to become vessels of God’s freely given grace,
to let it flow from our hearts into those who hate and revile us.
To see Christ Jesus in the rich and powerful and the weak and outcast,
to allow the Heart of the Father to become one with ours.

Absurd too many, true. Yet is how we relate to each other now,
with our wars, division, and, ism’s, any less so?—Br.MD

 

 

 

 

 

 

markdohle

In suffering, we discover our unity

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In suffering, we discover our unity

March 29—After Communion. “Say, ‘Holy Father, I offer You Jesus living in my life and dying in my death.
And I offer You the heart of Jesus in each one of my heartbeats.’ ”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 693-695).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

The Christian path is one of love and service towards others.  To belong to the Body of Christ is to invite suffering into our lives, because of the unity of hearts, united in the total human, loving heart, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  His passion continues in the suffering of humanity.

Perhaps during this time of deep suffering in the church, many are learning of the truth of our union with the Crucified and Risen Lord.  The pain that I feel, and I believe many, many, others, who are in the church are also experiencing, is so vast that it can’t be pinpointed to any one place.  It seems universal, making my body, and my blood, feel toxic, because of the deep suffering of so many who have been deserted, overlooked, and abused by those who were called to be both shepherds, and servant, to those in their charge.  Instead, they were simply used, bullied, and cast aside, as if they were ‘it’s’ instead of human beings made in the image and likeness of God.  Who can understand the pain, and sorrow, that is now welling up in so many hearts?  Both those in the church, and those worldwide who are witnessing this tragedy.

Yes, it is everywhere, sexual abuse and exploitation, but for a man of God, to abuse his power, so as to degrade others, is of a special nature, and needs to be brought to the light for healing, and yes, justice.  Those abused become abusers (some of them), so the number grows with each generation, it is truly a cancer in the Body of Christ, and in our societies through the world.  So we suffer with Christ Jesus, perhaps for the first time understanding our unity with Him. 

Anger is an appropriate response, but rage is not.  Now is the time to seek to follow the lead of our master, and savior, and to not seek revenge, or to turn on those who disagree with how this tragedy is to be dealt with.  Now is the time to seek the Mind of Christ in our pain, and confusion, and yes, anger, and shame. 

To lash out, or to become bitter, is to allow evil to win over our hearts.  It is only by embracing Christ Jesus at this time, fully, without reserve, which we can get through this without deep harm to our minds and souls and others.  Trust has been taken away, it has to be rebuilt.  Perhaps the structure of the Church needs to be reconstructed into an organization, which actually seeks to serve the people of God, instead of using them.

We need to gather around those bishops, and priest, who are true to their calling and to pray for those who struggle and fail.  Even if some need to be defrocked, and even to go to prison.  We need to pray, even in the midst of anger, rage, and the desire to lash out to hurt someone.  This is the death to self that Christ Jesus is calling each of us too.

 

I am not a peaceful man if left to myself.  Yet Christ Jesus is calling me to become gentle in spirit, to forgo violence in thought, word, and deed.  I find myself at war within my soul, yet I feel the grace of Jesus leading me forward, uniting my heart to all of those who struggle with the desire to lash out.  It is now that we need to show the world there is a better way by drawing closer together and showing the power of the love and grace of our Lord.  Jesus loved his enemies and forgave all on the cross.  May we also allow Our Lord to incarnate into our hearts so as to allow His healing to flow through us to others.—Br.MD

 

markdohle

I can’t leave my pets behind!

 

 

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I can’t leave my pets behind!

A couple of days before Florence came to shore, I called an old family friend, (an adopted aunt), who was very close to my mother.  She is now 85 years old, and from what she tells me, is in great health.  She lives in Myrtle Beach and I was worried about her.  I asked her if she was going to evacuate as was recommended by the authorities.  She lives close to the water, so my concern was pretty high.  She said, “no, I have too many pets and can’t leave them, Debbie is staying with me”.  Debbie being her daughter. 

This caused me some anxiety and I tried to convince her to leave.  However, she was sure that they would get through alright.  They live in a two story home, so she felt that would be able to survive any flooding.  My first impulse was to down play the safety of her pets, that she and her daughter were more important.  Yet, I held my tongue.  This is a woman who is always bringing in strays, and for years she took care of a family of raccoons.  When they were young, they lost their parents, and she fed the three baby raccoons every night.  Years later, the old raccoons, along with their children, and grandchildren, would come every night to feast on macaroni and cheese.  Also, animals love her back, even those she does not take care of.  So I was not going there. 

I can’t say I have ever bounded deeply with any pet that I had in the past.  Perhaps it is because being in a large family, the dogs belonged to everyone.  We had a German-Shepherd, named Bullet (while living in East St. Louis in the 50’s), who I loved very much, but again, he did not pick anyone out to love more than the others.  He would protect us no matter who we were, a good dog for a large family.  Blitz was a great pet, a boxer, intelligent and loyal, again, not overly attached.    When blitz died in 1976 I believe, my mother never got over it, and never had another dog. 

So I sort of understood my adopted aunt’s choice to stay behind.  She loves people as well and has many friends.  She was a very good friend to my mother.

Not sure one can have a close relationship with a reptile.  I am sure that those who love them, will say yes to that questions, and say that there is more to them than meets the eye.  I do think, that they should be listened to.  For lately I find myself becoming attached to the box turtle in our garden.  An odd development for me.

I have written about our box turtle in our inner garden here at the Monastery.  A new development has begun to occur with the turtle.  A couple of monks have started feeding it when it shows up every few days.  Now, it goes to one place and waits until we get out of Mass and walk through the inner garden, waiting for its treat.  One day I got a piece of banana and took it out to him.  He was sitting there and when he saw me coming and perhaps got a look at the banana, he actually started running (well a turtle run) towards me.  I find myself becoming attached to this little critter, after what I perceived as some sort of personal contact.  I find it strange.  I guess it is the response, it jolted me into thinking that there may be more to these creatures than I thought, that again, true reptile lovers try to tell us.

I often wonder what goes on in the heads of my evolutionary brothers and sister.  Whatever it is, it is a life, a real existence filled with danger, pain, joy and with the turtle, bananas, and apples, and peaches!  Our cloister garden is big enough that he can find a good place to hibernate for the winter.  As well as getting enough to eat.  We don’t feed him that much.   He has been with us for a few years now.  Many tend to say that reptiles, animals, and insects are not as intelligent as we are.  Well, I guess there is some truth in that statement... there is another way to look at it.  The Box Turtle, for instance, is perfect, has what it takes to survive and as long as it is not in danger, or hungry, it is probably happier that I will ever be......not that I would trade places with it of course.....but there you have it.—Br.MD


PS  My adopted aunt and her daughter got through all right.  Some flooding.

 

 

markdohle

To rekindle our ‘Child-Soul’

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To rekindle our ‘Child-Soul’

 

April 15—I was listening to some children playing. “I love children. It is I who gave them all these delicate thoughts and feelings: complete trust, docility, a thirst for Jesus, candor and purity, absolute surrender and the forthright glance. You must keep the same sentiments with you right through life. For they come from Me and I so love to find them again in you when you are grown up. So find your child-soul again and give it to Me.”

 

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 912-915).
 Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

 

When I was very young, 23 to be exact, I was driving into Atlanta for a Doctor’s Appointment.  In 1972, Atlanta was not really that big of a city, so the traffic was no way near as bad as it is today.  It was a Monday, and I was not in a pleasant mood.  No reason, just in a bad mood.  As I was driving along settling into my being irritated by everything, a car passed me by.  In it, standing next to her mother, who was going at quite a clip, was a small child.  A boy, and as I looked over, he smiled and gave me an enthusiastic wave.  It was so unexpected, that it sent a feeling of love through me that dissipated my bad mood.  Such is the power of a child who is still open, loving, and in a way showing us something of the childlike nature of Our Lord.  For Jesus was open, tender, unafraid of pain, and overcoming bitterness and the temptation to withdraw.  The child if it survived it’s mom’s driving, would be around 50 at this time.  I would think, no matter how he turned out, that inner child-soul is still there.   I do believe that for most of us, one of our purposes in life is to either retain that child-like soul or to recover it as we make our way through life.  One way is to play.  I do not think we are ever too old to play.

Br. Cassian, before he entered was a teacher of small children.  I have no doubt he was very good at it, since I see how he relates to those with whom he comes in contact within our retreat house.  He draws people out, makes people laugh, listens intently, and can look into people’s hearts.  He is a very playful, intelligent, and mature man.

We have a bulletin board in one of the hallways in our bottom floor.  It was used for years by Br. Alan, for our newspaper.  He would cut it up and place it along the very large board so that more than one member of the community could read.  It was sort of a gathering place, but over the years was used less than before.  Br. Alan is now retired from that duty, so the board, until recently was left empty.  A space begging to be used.  Br. Cassin found a good use for it. 

He placed words on the board, many words that could be placed in sentences.  So for a while, some of us would play with words.  I loved making up silly sentences, with no meaning at all.  For instance:

 

“Dance, eat, moon and sun, emptiness and fullness”.

 

Another monk would post a sentence, under my words:

 

“You speak fluff words”

 

Just a play on words, but I found it freeing, fun, and a sort of dance with the others who would play along.  We also had magnets which would be used to make up patterns, which I found really interesting.  For I believe, words and the designs were not as random as might be thought, but also just play.

Then one day, Br. Cassian put up some colored tile.  In the past, I used to play with cord and makeup wall hangings from many different colors moving them around in patterns that would just create themselves.  I also did some three-dimensional hangings, start with one cord and building off of that.  An outer and an inner layer.  I just moved colors around as I was led to, and again, was surprised by some of the images that came out of that. 

I was discussing my compulsion to make everything symmetrical, everything had to be balanced with its twin side.  He said, ‘You know Mark, asymmetrical also has its beauty”.   So I am trying that.  It is kind of difficult, so I have to in some small way force myself to not make both sides the same.  I find it freeing on a deeper level, perhaps because it is expanding my ability to play.  Such simple tools, colored tiles, or words arranged in an order not so adult or linear.

I am not a rational thinker, so perhaps that is why I like balance in the world outside my often inner chaotic, overly colorful world.  Yet it is freeing to bring both outer and inner worlds together in such a manner because it is played after all.

I could not let go of my ‘over-thinking’ self when trying to ‘play’ sports.  Which made it into something I hated, it was work, because I could not let go and ‘just do it’, as they say.  Then I discovered that I could replace sports with dance, and could when dancing, not think at all, but let the rhythm take over and carry me to some pretty ecstatic places.   Just movement, play, jumping up, and down, to the beat, and just being.  I can do that when I write for some reason, since I just sit and let it happen, sort of like making my rope hangings and just allowing some inner ‘child’ to lead me.  Play heals I believe.  Work also has its place, an important one, and I guess can be played as well, but not spontaneous. 

I still overthink, but in writing, it seems to flow like a river, and I don’t have to work at it, and in that I find healing, and perhaps even though I often overdue the struggle aspect of life, it is still playing and I find a release when writing, but also sending, they seem to go together.  One day I may not need to write.  I am both glad that would happen, and also sad if it actually did.  I am a mess, no wonder I overwrite.

Yet I do want to dance with words, with my work, and my prayer and my ongoing wrestling with God, which is a dance as well.

 

Towards the inner child

 

So, Lord, I dance and you lead,
I fight you and you wound me deeper,
I limp when I dance but you also heal,
round and round we go,
one day I will stop fighting
and my wounds with finally be healed
because then my child-soul will be truly alive.—Br.MD

 

markdohle

Fear of just ‘being’

 

 

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Fear of just ‘being’

 

When you come to pray, it is not so much the words that matter; it is your loving attention to My presence that consoles My Heart. Give Me your attention, and I will work the wonders of My merciful love in your soul. Hold yourself facing Me. Abide in My presence gently, without forcing yourself to produce thoughts, feelings, or sensations. None of these things is necessary to a prayer that pleases Me and gives Me the freedom to act in a soul. All that is necessary is faith, and with faith, hope, and with hope, the love that binds the soul to Me and makes union with Me a reality.

A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart
--The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Kindle Locations 3720-3725).
Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.

I often wonder just ‘what’, and ‘who’, I am.  I can experience myself as being made of many pieces, which are part of a puzzle that seems to have an almost infinite number of parts that do not always fit.  I experience them as inner conflict.  Or aspects of myself that seem foreign to me because I have trouble accepting them.  Inner voices, or images, that insist on floating to the surface, floating in full view on top of my inner ocean, often called the unconscious.  I am thankful that I am not aware of all the different ‘people’ that I am, who seek an audience, who want to be heard, and at times can become quite vocal. 

Yet there is a unifying factor that I also experience.  It is my simple self-awareness that does not need thought to be aware.  It is an emotional awareness, not intellectual.  It is an awareness of pain and suffering, or being filled with joy or awe, or with a deep, ‘paradoxical feeling’, of nothingness where it is felt deeply, at the same time, it is not anything at all. How do these pieces come together, how to keep them from becoming even more alien to my conscious mind, and could actually expand further into some sort of inner void that is the opposite of being truly alive.  When I allow these inner fragments to come to center stage something in me goes to sleep and I lose my place, I lose touch with the world around me, which can lead to isolation and alienation from self and others.  I am awake but actually dreaming.

In the ‘void’, when I sit and just ‘be’, or if I focus on some prayer in order to be grounded, and open, to the ‘Infinite’, revealed in Christ Jesus, as compassionate love for all… If I can let go of the fear of whatever comes before my inner gaze. I find that the parts come closer together, bringing me nearer to one day actually seeing this puzzle that I call my inner life, but a puzzle that I can observe, not be a part of, yet… it is me as well.

It is love of self, as commanded by Jesus Christ that allows this to happen.  Self-hatred will only scatter the fragments of my inner life further apart, or to look at it another way, be buried so deep in my inner ‘void’, or ‘ocean’, that they may never surface again.  Which gives them more power, since they will try to manifest themselves to me so as to be healed, dealt with, and in reality, disciplined. 

To gently be with the Lord in the midst of some inner storm or another, with one, or many voices seeking my attention, it allows me to observe and to not be absorbed by them, and to make them into some sort of ‘truth’.  No matter my experience, it is seen by the Father, taken up and loved and in that there is healing. 

Those who do not believe will tell me that I am living in a fantasy world, that this Infinite love that I seek is an illusion, based on the fear of reality.  I always wonder how they know that, can say that with such confidence.  With more confidence than I have actually about my own faith.  For faith, is something that is believed by one’s inner experiences, and the testimonies of others, as stated in the Scriptures.  We either say yes to that, or not.  We give our acceptance, or not.   It could be turned around as well. If God exists, they are the ones cut off from reality and living out a fantasy.  However, we live in a world of ‘not knowing’, I am fine with that. 

Arguing about such things is a waste of time.  I seek to deepen my trust and faith in my Lord.  To learn, slowly, over time, that no matter what I am going through, I need not fear the loving gaze of the Eternal Father, and in that is healing.  It helps to keep in check the tendency to make myself ‘god’, though it is a ‘god’ that can do nothing, since it is based on a lie. 

Jesus said ‘fear is useless, what is needed is trust’ is a hard lesson to learn…..still doing that.  We cling to fear, to our ideas of God that feed that fear, because we understand a God that needs to be feared, sort of like Zeus on a bad day.  We can placate what we fear since it is just a projection of ourselves.  To actually believe in Infinite Love, a love way beyond anything we can understand calls for a death to servile fear of God, as well as a tendency to pass on this ‘meme’ to others.  Love liberates, a love based on the Will of God. 

How would that look?  Well just think, what if everyone in the United States, decided to live out the Ten Commandments, for just a week, as well as to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously?  These are based on loving others, not using them, or stereotyping them.  Not stealing from others, not cheating on one’s spouse, to keep one day Holy so that we can rest, and reconnect, with the Infinite.  What if?  Well, it won’t happen.  Yet each of us can decide to do that, to be open to the loving presence of God and the grace that is always flowing towards us.  When that happens, we find that we have a different sort of freedom.  The freedom to not allow the hate and spite of others to change us, to control us.  We have the freedom to pray for those who hate us, and in that the poison of violence is not passed on to others.  Finally, we learn to love ourselves….perhaps the hardest lesson to learn.—Br.MD

 

markdohle

Facing our inner chaos with faith

 

 

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Facing our inner chaos with faith

 

When all seems confused and inconsistent, then you must turn to Me with an even greater confidence, for I remain all wisdom, all love, all mercy, and nothing escapes My providence. Have no fear, for I remain constant even when you are inconstant.1 I am strong when you are but weakness. I am holiness itself when everything in you seeks compromise

 

A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart
--The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Kindle Locations 3710-3713).
 Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.

 

The path, our journey, our pilgrimage, is never an easy one.  Our faith can play an important role in our lives.  We will mature in our faith, or we will stay childish in our perceptions of God.  Our faith will be like an outer garment that we can take off at any time, or it will become our flesh, our bone, allowing us to face our fears and not be swept away by the often unforeseen torrents that can bring chaos, pain, and loss into our lives.  Each human being has to go through many trails in their lives, face many fears, and suffer loss, pain, and often loneliness.  When we try to escape these realities, we bring on more suffering than before.  Quite a conundrum. 

Until we face life and embrace all that entails, we will stay childish in how we navigate ourselves through life.  To become childlike in our response to life, we have to take responsibility for ourselves, be honest about our failures, and understand our need of grace to move forward.  We need to throw off our protective coverings and be transparent.  An often long and difficult journey.  Blame has to be let go of, as well as shame, as we stand naked, before the loving, compassionate, gaze of God. 

We always have a choice.

People tell me, “I try to be trustful of God”.  So I respond, “don’t try, do it”.  The desire to trust, is the beginning of the journey of letting go of narcissistic self-concern.  We can’t dance looking at our feet.  The dance with life, with God, starts when we look beyond in the midst of our inner storms, our pain, and chaos.  We learn that we are accompanied by Infinite Love, though hidden.  For we must choose, not be coerced, to respond a certain way.  Faith in God is not a call to some sort of magic kingdom, but a vocation to embrace the deep mystery and messiness of life and the dysfunction of others, as well as a humble, radical, self-acceptance.   In the midst of all that we go through, Christ Jesus, is one with us.

I get very anxious at times, but I experience it as anger.  I want to reach out, and force what is going on around me to be a certain way.  Anger, is the energy that could allow that foolish endeavor to be acted out.  Yet when I say “I am anxious”, my anger lessens, and I have to deal with the real problem.  My fear that everything is falling apart and the floor opening up and swallowing me and everything else into an eternal void.  So at bottom, my deepest fear is of death.  By that, I mean death not only of my body, but of change, chaos, and the destruction of my inner fantasies, on how the world should work, how God should serve my needs etc.  Fear of failure, and the shame, that can go with that. 

In all this ‘mess’, I am called to be aware of it, but there is something in me, that is truly ‘me’, that can look up, make an act of faith, and abandon myself into the loving arms of my creator.  For some, this is a fantasy, or even crazy.  Yet my experience says otherwise, as well as the experience of many others.  Not only Christians but people who seek God from all paths.  For all who seek the truth, have found it, and will find it at ever deeper levels…..because God is faithful, even if it goes along roads that I don’t understand, or like, and may even get angry over. 

 

Our lives are paradoxical.  The more we cling, it slips through our fingers, like trying to hold on to sand.  When we face our fears of loss, death, loneliness, we find that there is a spring of living water that begins to flow.  When we let go of control or our feeble attempt at it, we find something much deeper.   What is that you may ask?  Well, seek and you shall find–Br.MD
 

 

markdohle

Love your enemies...Really!?!

 

 

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Love your enemies. Really!?!

When we get it, we lose it,
gods can be messy beings,
just us in bigger form,
best to let it go and love the mystery.

 

When I read the Scriptures, both the Old and the New Testament, I have more in common with what is going on in the time before Christ.  When I read the words of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount, and on the Plain, I will often feel lost.  I read it, ponder it, pray about it, yet I know that I still don’t get it, or to put it in a better way, my heart is too small to absorb the living waters. 

Love your enemies. Really!?!  Do good, to those who abuse me, steal from me!  All righty then!  Now when I read about David, Saul, Moses, who were men of God….I get them.  I can see myself like Moses, killing someone and burying the body in the sand.  Or David, in a fit of lust, getting rid of the husband, if I had the power, so I could ‘own’ the wife…….thank God I do not have that kind of power.  Or Moses, doubting God’s Word.  My heart is like theirs, and they were men of God, much more so than I am, or perhaps ever will be.  Or Saul, knowing better than God, what is the best thing to do.

I get Jonah, who became angry because God did not destroy thousands of men, women, and children, for his entertainment, as he watched from a safe distance, waiting for God to do what he (Jonah), would do, kill them, damn them, tortured them.  Yet, God said, how can I desire the death of those who do not know their right hand, from their left?   They are just like me, these people of Nineveh, I am often confused and in a fog, wandering through a life that often makes no sense to me.  Reacting, not responding, and being asleep.

To love my neighbor as myself.  Not sure I love myself.  Yet I am commanded to do so.  How does that happen?  The self-love that Jesus talks about, that leads to the love of others, is not something I have seen in many Christians, let alone in myself.   I pray for this kind of love, and I believe that each day grace is bringing me closer to that reality…..until then, I stumble along, in hope, and the desire to be free of myself. 

Christians (well me) can be racist, abusers, adulterers, cheats, murderers, corrupt, blind to their own faults, and yet get prissy when they hear about the ‘sin’ of someone else, who does not sin in the way they do.  I find it easy to get angry over people who are weak in areas that I am not, but easy on those who are like me……though one can always be a hypocrite, and pretend to be upset.  Yes, we are a mess, but a mess, a chaotic mess, loved by God.  Now that is the mystery.

We are loved, no matter what, everyone, without exception.  When talking about being ‘lost’, we each have our own ideas about that.  The more lost, as long as it is someone else, the better, for that way I can be special!  Well, what if every human being is special, and loved by God the way we are or hope to be.  How do we process that?  How do we get our hearts to expand, to become more human, and to not fear the pain that comes with being vulnerable, the way Christ Jesus was, and still is.

I guess the answer is……we wait.  We pray, we hope, and we love anyway, even if we don’t always feel it, we can at least begin to understand that the person before us, the messy, smelly, obnoxious, or the beautiful, rich intelligent, funny, human, shows us, Christ Jesus. 

 

Really!  Yes really!!

So where am I?  Still trying to get it, pray about it, get up when I fall, and just live the day, and not worry about the morrow.  I do believe that we are all in the palm of God’s hands, no matter what many in my faith try to tell me otherwise.  Jesus is a true revelation of God’s Infinite love, and it will always be that, no matter how many walls we try to put up around this truth, or like Jonah, on some level, really want to be entertained by the death and destruction of those ‘hated’ by God.  The problem is, no one is hated by God, but only loved……now what do we do with that?  Still working on that, but grace works deeper and in secret, in that is our hope, the unrelenting love of God as shown us in Christ Jesus.

Well, it gives me hope for myself and in that for everyone.  Get through the day, or this moment, seeking to do the most loving thing to what is before me.  If that is sought, well ones inner life will slowly fall into place, because the seeking after love, is a response to graces inviatation.—Br.MD