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talking to myself

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markdohle

When Heart Speaks to Heart

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In Sinu Jesu
(When Heart Speaks to Heart)
Angelico Press

In Christianity, the central core is the revelation that ‘The Infinite’, the ‘Wholly Other’; ‘That which cannot be named’; is revealed to us as a deeply personal loving God, In Jesus Christ.  Many prefer Deism, an impersonal force who made the Universe, then left it alone.  A relationship does not enter into the equation, nor any concept of love, obedience and humble service to the creator.

Christians often forget the depth of God’s love as presented to us in Jesus Christ.  He told his Apostles, and tells us today, “That to see me, is to see the Father”.  It is a hard reality to grasp.  It is for me.  All the years as a monk I have struggled with this central mystery of Christ Jesus’s revelation of the Father’s love for each of us.  It is because my heart is protected.  I fear the pain that love brings, yet I seek to dive more deeply into it.  So there is an inner contradiction that I experience that can only be healed by the grace of the Father’s burning love.   There is a standing invitation to allow ourselves to be drawn into the eternal dance of the ‘Holy Trinity’, which will never be withdrawn from God’s side.

The paradox to this is that in order to fully allow God’s love to embrace me, I have to grow in the understanding of my inner-self and the often not so beautiful aspect of that.  I can be fearful, that leads to anger, which at bottom, anxiety is feeding it all.  I am 69 years old and at this stage of my life, finally starting to open up and to trust in God love for me.  It has taken many self-inflicted wounds, the experiencing of my own self-hatred, and alienation, that has slowly healed me. 

For in my darkest hour, when filled with my own misery and isolation, the light of God’s love has always broken through.  I have accepted the fact that I am pursued by God, and that God will never let me go.  Yet I am free and have had to make a choice to trust even when drowning in my own misery.  For it is all lies, that I am beyond help, or healing, or mercy.  We are all vessels of God’s love and each of us is called to allow Christ Jesus to incarnate in each of us.  Our capacity to receive God’s love grows as we continue to grow in love and trust.  When I pray I now feel my connection to every human being who are on their journey towards healing and deeper intimacy with God, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. 

In the book “In Sinu Jesu”, Jesus speaks to a Benedictine Monk of his love for each of us, and in a special way, for priest, and how that love is manifested in his abiding presence in the Holy Eucharist.  As a Catholic, I can take the reality of Christ Jesus’s Eucharistic presence for granted.  This book can open up anyone’s heart to the infinite depth of God’s love for each of us, without exception. 

Karl Rahner stated that ‘private revelations’, are given to the church at different points in time because it is needed.  It is not a new revelation but stated in terms that can be understood by people in certain eras.  Today, love has seemed to have grown cold, or colder. So we need to be reminded of the Fathers infinite love for each of us. 

On Tuesday, January 26th, 20 10 (pg. 139) Jesus relayed this message to the Benedictine monk:

“Do you not see how much I have been calling you to trust in me?  Trust is the key that opens all the treasures of My merciful and infinitely loving Heart.  I am touched by a single act of trust in My merciful love more than by a multitude of good works.  The soul who trusts in Me allows Me to work freely in her life.  The soul who trust Me, by that very fact removes the obstacles of pride and self-determination that impede My freedom of action.  There is nothing I will not do for the soul who abandons herself to me in a simple act of trust”. 

Either ‘fear’ or ‘trust’ is growing in the soul.  The more we love, fear will lessen.  The opposite is also true.  The more we believe ‘fear’, then ‘trust’ will weaken.  Fear is a form of self-absorption, trust is letting go of being overly concerned about one’s self and seeking to grow deeper in intimacy with the beloved.   

As Christian we are called to be lovers, to show forth Christ infinite love for all.  When that is forgotten, then fear, and anxiety, and anger will come to the fore. That is how we protect ourselves from others, we place barriers.  It is only by the healing of our inner defenses, which we receive through Jesus Christ, that we can let go of fear. It is not something we can do on our own, yet we can make a free choice to trust and in that God’s healing love will flow through us.

There is nothing that can stop God loving us, yet we can choose to turn our backs on that reality.  Each day is a new beginning.  Each moment even.  For no matter where we find ourselves, there is always a way out through the merciful love of Christ Jesus.  We stop being victims and can step forward in hope and faith and love. –Br.MD

 

 

markdohle

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis Part 2

2nd talk


So the second part of the Prayer of St. Francis is the fruit of working through the first part.  The necessity of self-knowledge and an ever-deepening trust in God’s mercy.  This allows us to listen so that we truly become instruments of peace in God’s hands. 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

I believe that the story of the Samaritan woman at the well shows how Jesus lived out the second section of the prayer of St. Francis.  Below is something I wrote about this beautiful story.

++++++++++

To be seen

The more the life of Jesus is contemplated, I believe the broader our understanding of what it was about, deepens.  To enter into one of the stories and see how differently Jesus related to others can be an eye-opener.  The Samaritan woman for instance with whom Jesus talked to at the well.  It is known that the Jews and the Samaritans had little to do with each other, what is not often understood was the depth of animosity that was present between these two groups.  I would imagine that the Samaritan woman, because of her having lived with six men, was also looked down upon by her fellow Samaritans.  Plus she was a woman, and men did not talk to women in public.  So she was really at the bottom of the social ladder.  Yet Jesus talked to her, did not look down on her, nor did he condemn her in any way.  No, he conversed gently and truthfully, aware of what was within her.  When Jesus revealed to her about her lifestyle, I would think she felt at first exposed before this very strange man, who was treating her with a loving gentleness and respect that she was not used to.  The fact that she was ‘seen’ allowed her to be open and not become defensive; at least not in a way that kept her from hearing what Jesus had to say.  Jesus saw her heart, her pain, what she had to go through in her life and the isolation that she must have endured among her own people.  We can shield our hearts with walls of anger, we can appear that we are getting along; when at a deep level the isolation can be killing us.  Jesus called her out of isolation into a new life of openness.   Because of this, she was able to go into the city and proclaim what had happened to her.  I would think that at first the people would have been taken back by this ‘new’ woman, who was standing before them, unafraid of their contempt and was speaking in a way that intrigued many if not all of them.  Because someone saw her depths and accepted and loved her, it leads to a healing that freed her from a defensive posture of uncaring what others thought of her and allowed her to re-enter into the community.

If love is the greatest spiritual gift, then it would seem that if Christians want to be healers of hearts and souls, then we should pray for this gift, greater even than miracles, which can be flashy and then forgotten in time.  However, to experience being seen and loved by another, to understand that one's depths have been gazed upon and still loved, brings about the deepest of healing; for nothing needs to be hidden.  There is no one outside of God’s love because God sees the depths of the heart and loves what is seen.  It is true that Jesus got angry at some of the Jews of his time, but his anger was a tool to shake up those who thought themselves the top of the religious ladder.  Many of them did, after all, come to believe in Jesus; perhaps for the same reason, the Samaritan woman became a believer.  They understood that his anger was a form of teaching, trying to unmask what was keeping them isolated from others and unloving.   The easiest thing to do is to look down on others and show contempt, for in doing so it protects us from looking within our own hearts so that we can learn that what we condemn in others, is in reality self-hatred for ourselves. 

When we sin against others we push them deeper into isolation, despair and self-destructive actions.  To discourage another, to judge them unworthy of our love and acceptance, is damaging to them as well as our own souls and has repercussions that can affect many people.  The hearts and souls of all men and woman are naked before God. Not so for us, for we are opaque not only to ourselves but to each other as well.  Self-knowledge is a lifelong process, but it is impossible to see into the depths of another.  All we can do is to treat those around us with love and respect…. little actions, one at a time, day in and day out.  If enough Christians and just people, in general, did this, I would think the world would become a better place, not perfect, but perhaps a little gentler and a little more loving.  This simple agenda of treating those around as we would like to be treated is harder than it sounds and leads to a great deal of self-knowledge and humility. 

Some would say this is unrealistic, however the state of the world today would seem to indicate that a new way of relating is needed……perhaps we are all insane, doing the same destructive things over and over again without learning or even seeking to find new avenues in living out how we relate not only to our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances but strangers as well.—Br.MD

 

 

 

 





 

 

 

 

 

markdohle

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis Part 1

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

The human experience for everyone is a rough journey.  We can often hide from others what is going on inside of us; we can smile when in reality there is a war going on within.  We experience injustice, injury, doubt and yes despair.  We can also go through periods where we are filled with darkness and sadness.  In some instances, these inner variations can be a mystery to us.  So how can we be instruments of peace when there is often inner conflict and pain within? 

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love;”

How do we learn to sow love when in circumstances there are far from loving?  There are no easy answers to the many situations we find ourselves in.  Emotions can be strong, words flung out that wound; in the midst of this how can we be a loving presence in the world? 

Everyone desires peace.  Nations say they do, yet the world is a planet where war is commonplace.  Where everyday people are killed, tortured, falsely imprisoned and abused in many ways.  This only feeds into the ever-deepening hunger of hatred and the seeking after revenge.  Peace Indeed? 

It is all about relationships, which the Prayer of St. Francis brings out so poignantly with a deep undertow I believe of sorrow for the world.  Perhaps it is about our relationship with our selves first.  It is easy to forget that we are commanded to love ourselves.  It is not an invitation that we can turn down without any consequences.  How can we be instruments of peace if we are not at peace with ourselves?   How can we be an instrument of Christ Jesus if we do not allow his love and Holy Spirit into our hearts?  Self-contempt and hatred towards self is not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The greatest gift of the Spirit is expressed beautifully in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians chapter 13.


1 Corinthians 13:4-13

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

So before we can be true instruments of peace, we have to pray for the greatest of spiritual gifts, which is the only way we can be used by the Lord in a world filled with strife and pain, hatred and the seeking after revenge that masquerades as justice.  The anger of man does not express the justice of God.

Where there is injury, pardon;

To grow is self love takes a true death to self.  To grow in the freedom of the Children of God is not as easy as many would take it to be.  As our relationship with the Lord deepens, he knowing each of us will bring us to the gift of humility.  The deeper we are called to intimacy with Christ Jesus, the more he will show us the depths of our souls and what needs mercy as well as healing.  He allows us to see how we have hurt others, often in ignorance, yet the harm done.  He brings also to our awareness the times when we were cruel and malicious in our actions towards others.  The closer we come to the heart of Christ Jesus, and the experience of his love and tender mercy, the more profound will be our sorrow for the times when we were unloving, adding to the anger and pain in the world.  It is in this, this humble understanding of our own sins, as well as the lack of freedom we often have in our responses, that leads us to learn to forgive others, for when we grow in self-knowledge we begin to understand others more deeply.   We can no longer say: “How could he or she do that!”?  When we grow in self-knowledge we learn how others like us can do horrible acts without knowing what they are doing.  We learn compassion and empathy.  We may still struggle with anger and hurt, yet we have a way to end the cycle of pain and recrimination.

Where there is doubt, faith;

In God’s mercilessly mercy, our doubts will also be brought to the surface.  Not all people have doubts, but many do, perhaps the majority.  These can come from more than one source.  Pain and suffering is the most common I believe when dealing with doubt about God, his existence as well as his loving nature.  Doubt can also come when the reality of God’s love is starting to take root.  Is this possible (?) we may ask ourselves.  So yes doubt can be a companion for many through life.  It is when we do not fear this reality that we can be of help and support to those around us who are going through periods of doubt.  How this is dealt with is of utmost importance.  It can be a spur to deeper study and prayer as our understanding of God deepens and our idols fade, or it can lead to indifference and loss of faith.  When we understand this, we can be of help to those who are struggling with this reality and have no one to talk to.  As we learn that we do have the freedom of choice, so we can also lead others as well.

Where there is despair, hope;

The Lord will allow us to experience our own powerlessness.  We can experience this in our inability to pray, or if we do it seems like nothing but distractions with nothing going on.  Or through our failures in our ability to live out what we have promised to the Lord when we began our walk with Him; when being filled with consolation and fervor.  It is in our darkest moments when we are brought to the point of understanding the true meaning of trust.  What we feel, how we fail, our inner conflicts do not in any way affect the Lord's relationship with us.  We are called at this time to give our total trust in God’s merciful love and compassion.  For as it says in the 1st letter of John that “God is greater than our hearts”.  Or as Jesus said to Sr. Faustina:

"[Let] the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice..." (Diary, 1146)

So yes, the Lord in order for all of us to be present to others in their deep suffering will bring us through it as well so that we can grow in compassion, empathy, and love for others.  The more we understand our own need for God’s mercy, the less we will feel the need to judge….which s a terrible burden and harmful to our souls.

Where there is sadness, joy.

It is when we learn that even in the darkest moments of our lives that joy will return, in fact has always been there, for as our trust in the Lord deepens (a choice), so does the inner peace even in the mist of deep suffering.  We find that as the years go by and as we age when we look back on our lives we see that the Lord has always been there.  Even when our path seemed to be simply not there, when in the desert, yet we see that there was a movement that was led by God’s grace and often hidden presence.  In that we can be comfortable with others who are in deep sadness and will be able to be with them, support them without pious platitudes that can only make things worse.  We slowly learn not to fear the suffering that comes with being with others.  We learn that the deeper we love, the more we will suffer as Christ Jesus suffered, because as he was fully human, so heart slowly becomes human likes his.—Br.MD 

 

markdohle

Ann Sullivan, RIP

Ann Sullivan, RIP

I first met Ann Sullivan, in 1995, and hired her to work in our kitchen.  My first impression of her was mixed.  She gave off the impression of a woman who had been through a lot and had some rough edges.  Yet at the same time, she had a good sense of humor and had a streak of stubbornness, that I liked.  She worked in our kitchen and was a good worker and for the most part got along well with the others who work there as well.

One day her humor came out.  I walked in to see how things were going in the kitchen.  At that time Ann had a bad habit of waiting until the garbage pail was almost overflowing before emptying it.  So I asked her “Ann, would you please tell me, why you wait till the garbage pail gets so full, and heavy before you empty it?”  So she looked at me and gave me her beautiful smile and said:  “Because I am waiting for a big burly man to pick it up”.   I laughed and took it out to the back and put it in the container for the pig-man to come and get. 

One day a guest came and told me that last night, Ann, came out and told the guest that they had to do dishes, that she had too much to do.  So they all pitched in and helped and found it humorous.  Though I did talk to her about it.

She did have a temper, and I remember that it got pretty bad in the kitchen for a time.  She would bring her problems (like many do) and without knowing it, take out her frustration on whoever was close enough.  I knew that if she was acting this way, it was because she was carrying some heavy burden(s), and was just releasing tension.  So I talked to her and asked her to leave her troubles and problems at home.  If not I may have to let her go.  To her credit, she took it well, and things got better for a while.  I was very happy about that, for once you got to know Ann, she was very easy to love.  She had a good dose of humility, she could listen to others when they were honest with her.

One day I found out that she was not taking her medicine.  She had a bad heart, and it was important for her to be compliant.  At that time, I was working in the infirmary, so I was conscious of how important it was to be faithful in taking one’s prescribed medicine.  She fought me on it.  “The meds are too expensive, so I will wait until payday and see what happens”.  I let her know that we as a community don’t want her to do that, all she need do is to let me know and we will help her in getting her meds.  Like I said, she was a tad stubborn.  I lost that one.

She really loved her family and did everything she could for them.  She would bring one of her grand-daughters with her to work.  She was a nice little girl who took a liking to our Br. ET (his nickname), who is now deceased.  I once teased the granddaughter and said:  “You like ET more than me, I am very, very jealous”.  Ann roared over that and the granddaughter guessed that I was joking. 

Inside, Ann was a very devout woman, who loved God with her whole heart.  That is one reason she was able to get through life.  She was a brave woman and never backed down from her responsibilities.  One day she told me about an experience she had in our church.  She told me that she was kneeling on the steps that go up to our sanctuary.  She then fell asleep.  As she slept she had this dream, and she told me the dream with some wonder.  I filled me with wonder as well and I remember it after all these years.  “As I was kneeling in the church (in the dream) the most beautiful bluebird came and landed on my hand”.  I found the image striking since I have a special love of ‘bluebirds’.  When I see one they fill me with joy.  This dream also filled Ann with joy and told me something about her soul, her faith, and her love, that could be hidden from sight, until one got to know her. 

She had many friends and it is easy to see why.  She was herself at all times, and in that shines forth a childlike soul.  The last time I saw her, I guess it was a few months ago, she was very thin and was having some trouble breathing, so I knew that her time was short.  I was able to tell her that I loved her before she left. 

Ann will be missed because she was salt and pepper, with double salt in her personality.  She was brave, honest, and stubborn and could be cantankerous at times….but who isn’t.  She was a normal human being who not afraid to be herself, but at the same time, did respond when spoken to about it. 

Ann and I weren’t friends, but we both had affection for one another and will miss her smile and her down to earthiness. 

markdohle

Mercy Sunday

Mercy Sunday
(We are all held in the palm of God’s hand)


1488:  (You see, my child, what you are of yourself.  The cause of your falls is that you rely too much upon yourself and too little on me. 
But let this not sadden you so much.  You are dealing with the God of mercy, which your misery cannot exhaust. 
Remember, I did not allot only a certain number of pardons.).

(Diary of Sister Faustina, conversations with souls 1485-1489)
 

How deep is our capacity to receive mercy?  The same question can be said of one's capacity to receive love.  How does trust play into this?  All the above involve choice, so mercy and love, as well as trust, can be rejected by our choosing.  Many of our choices are made at a deep level and they can resemble mere reactions. For they are often unconscious…. in spite of that, the roots of how we relate to life, others, and ourselves, are chosen. Though when based on protection of self, these choices can be made without much effort and in that keep us chained to a life that is limited, fearful and filled with cycles of suffering that can only be ended by ‘a death to self’.  It can be a difficult process.

Trust and fear can’t co-exist; one or the other has to eventually die.  As trust grows, no matter how slowly, fear lessens its hold, though this healing process may take years to accomplish.  This is so because humans are finite beings, we have limitations and we can easily break trust with others.  For the one who breaks trust it may not always seem to be such a big matter, but to the one experiencing it, it may just be another cut into an already deep and festering wound.  We learn how painful this often shattering experience is when this happens to us in our lives

In the Christian path (the only one I can speak from), we are called to become ever more fully human, loving, trusting and open to God, life and the process that we all seem to be going through.  Christ forgave all on the cross, so that means each one of us.  So Christians grow as their faith deepens in trust of God’s love, compassion and mercy.  For we are seen and known, in ways that at this time we do not understand at this part of our journey, we are still pilgrims on the way. For God’s love is a mystery that I believe we will spend an eternity knowing, but never reaching the end of it.  We are finite beings with an infinite capacity to grow in love and understanding.  Because we are ‘seen’ in our totality, the often unconscious belief that we can hide from God is known to be an illusion, we then lose our fear of being ‘seen’ by God.  Healing comes from knowing that we are loved, embraced by the infinite and loved as we are and for what we are all called to be. 

So total trust is possible with God and in that the deepest longing of the human heart is accomplished, for love is always a grace, Infinite Love even more so.  We grace each other with friendship, with respect, with love; even though we may be imperfect at it….it is still something we bestow on one another.  God’s love is different only in the sense that he will never violate our trust, nor will he abandon us, but will pursue us always. 

To trust in this reality is a process that grows as we age and experience this reality in our lives.  As we die to a small world of fear and cynicism, we open up to the infinite possibilities that come to us through God’s freely given grace.  

A man asked me one day what is God’s love like.  The only thing that came to mind is the 13th chapter in Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.  This shows us what Christ Jesus is like in his full humanity and what though grace we are all called to as well.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13

 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.



 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

markdohle

A gentlewoman named Pam, her inner discovery

One of the perks of being retreat/guest master is that I get to meet so many wonderful, diverse, people.  One of these retreatants is a woman named Pam.  She is a very down to earth woman, who has a mature faith and has more than enough wisdom to share with others.  She is also deeply involved with helping those who are poor and on the fringe of society.  She is a little younger than me, but when she smiles, or laughs, she seems very young indeed. 

We met this morning for a talk.  She started by telling me that when she was here for our ‘Self--Confrontation’ retreat, it made her realize that she had some deep anger issues, and it was causing her some inner struggle and upheaval.  I understood about the inner struggle, and upheaval since that is an issue with me. Though as I age, it seems to be settling down, but far from being over.  The waves and undertow can still be powerful.

When we are hurt at a very young age, say before the age of reason, the anger can be primordial in nature.  It can be without a single target, but free-floating, and can be scary at first.  However, to be able to feel, to experience intense emotions like that, is not a sign of regression, but can be one of growth.  If not taken out on others, in other words, the shotgun effect wherein everyone gets blasted.

As we talked, I shared with her how important it is not to try to get rid of her anger, or to fight it, or to repress it again.  For once it is felt by the conscious mind, it is impossible to push it under…you can’t go back to blissful ignorance.  Repression can be needed for a period in one’s life, but once that need is gone, then other ways have to be found to deal with this reality, which is so common among men and women.  Self-knowledge may be the road to a more balanced life, but it is also a journey that is not always joyful, nor peaceful. 

There is a way to pray one's anger I related to her.  When it comes up, breath in deep, and open up your heart, to the loving gaze of God.  Too many people think that anger has to be rejected, fought, or demonized.  A mistake, for it will only get worse and our lives could become more chaotic.  It also leads to victimhood and making those around us the cause of our deep unrest and suffering. 

As a Christian, I related to Pam, how I make all those who struggle the way I do, part of my community, and so I use my energy, to pray for them, and to ask for the Lord to heal the wounds that bind us. 

I shared with Pam that I believe that those who go before us or helped by our own progress towards healing and in receiving and giving forgiveness.  For often, sin, and dysfunction, or passed on from generation to generation.  Pam did mention a beautiful dream where she saw her father sitting at a table with his head in his hands, looking very sad.  In the dream, she was 8 years old and walked over to her dad and patted him and said: “It is going to be all right”.  A friend told her that she was imparting grace to her father, showing mercy and in that healing would flow. 

I have often written on how humbling it is for me to see people who truly are rooted in Christ Jesus, and how that allows them to face life head-on.  Either sitting in the boat when the seas are rough, knowing that Jesus is with them.  Or, actually getting out of the boat and walking towards Jesus in the midst of great inner turmoil.  As long as they and I look to Jesus, we can weather any storm, if we start to sink, we call out and are lifted up.  Yet, the struggle is a powerful one, and it takes patient endurance to run that race.  Self-Love has to be consciously embraced, in order to do this I believe.  We are commanded to love ourselves because it is very difficult.

I mentioned to her that she is a good place and that all she need do is to go one day at a time and leave the healing up to the Lord.  Just listen, learn, pray, and yes, share with others.  We all need support and someone to listen to us. 

markdohle

A sweet lady who lives out of her car

On Monday morning, one of the monks came to notify me that last night he was approached by an older woman in our church.  She wanted to know if it was OK to sleep in her car, in our parking lot.  We do get a request like that a few times a year from people who simply want to stay in their car.  It is not something we like to give permission for because of legal considerations.   However, at times it does happen. 

When I returned from my trip with my brother for his VA appointment, I was told by Pattie that the lady was back and in the retreat house parking lot.  I thought I knew her because of the description given to me by the community member who met her.  The monk knew her family, but not her and knew that she had some mental health issues.  The family members all tried to help her, but in the end, it was too much.  So she has been homeless off and on for years.  She refuses help with her problem, she denies she has one. 

 I was not very happy with this development because dealing with certain people can be tricky.  I was in the retreat house office around 4 PM when I heard a car pull up and park right outside the office window.   When I looked out I could see that it was the person in question.  As I watched her, I prayed for the wisdom to be able to be used by the Lord in a way that would not cause the woman difficulty. 

I went to the church to prepare the books we use for vespers, in the section reserved for our guests.  I did the books and saw that the woman was in the church, seated up front.  The church was empty, so I took that as a good time to talk to her.  As I walked towards her, I remember her being here about a year ago.  I say down and reintroduced myself to her.  She was a very gentle looking woman, small, tired and anxious, and seemed to have lost some weight. 

I asked her a few pointed questions.  I let her know that we do not really like people sleeping in our parking lot.  I then asked her if she would like a room, which she readily said yes too.  I was relieved about that.  So I asked her to accompany me over to the retreat house so we could arrange a room for her.  At the time, we had room for another quest.  So I got her settled in and went over some things that need to be told to our guest.  I asked her not to impose herself on our guests since they are here for silence and prayer.  She agreed and said that is what she wanted as well.  I told her where I sleep in case she inadvertently locks herself out of her room.  Meals times etc.  I did not bring up anything about her mental health since she was in denial and would have only caused trouble. 

When she checked in I asked her to leave an emergency number and it was not negotiable, it was required of us by the fire, and police department, in case of some emergency.   I told her I would not use it, unless there was an emergency.

I feel strongly for people in her condition.  Her life must be a lonely one.  So I do not want to push her further into that corner.  As long as she respects certain boundaries she is welcome to come here from time to time.  If she breaks them, I will with some sorrow, ask her to leave.  She will be here until Friday and I will give her some money for food and gas and she will leave.  A beautiful child of God back out again in a world that cares little for her plight.  Yet I believe that she will always find those who will help in their own limited and little way. 

Her family is concerned and her son was notified that she was here.   In a way, if she were to have a psychotic break, I could call for help and maybe it would help her in the long run.  There is so little that can be done with this sort of issue.  Yes Christ comes to us in many guises in the people we met.  The human heart is a tabernacle where Christ Jesus dwells.  Knowing that allows me to be free in seeking to respond in a loving manner, but I have no freedom to write her off, show disdain or to simply ignore her.  I wish dealing with people with certain problems was easier, but it isn’t and my limitations sometimes cause frustration.  So I do what I can, as little as that it. 


markdohle

Another day at the VA with my brother
(a talk with the coffee lady)

Last week we left at 7 AM for the VA.  It took us almost two hours to get there, over an hour just to go 18 miles to the Interstate.  So this time we left at 6:30 and made it in 45 minutes.  I guess the wave of cars would start about 20 minutes later.  We were car surfing. 

We did the regular routine.  Checked in at the Surgical Clinic on the first floor.  When David went in for his blood pressure check I went over to the canteen for a bit.  It was not that crowded and I was able to find a table in one of the corners and read.  After about 45 minutes I went up to the second-floor waiting room to see if my brother was finished.  His medical procedure does not take much time.  When I got there, I found that they had not called him in.  So it was going to be a late day, they were behind.  So I told David that I would go down to the small chapel on the first floor and wait there for him.

It is a nice little chapel, used for Catholic services.  They have mass every Monday and on the First Friday of every month.  It was empty, quiet and comfortable.  So I sat down and just closed my eyes.  It was nice to be able to just breathe in and out and to allow the mind to rest…..well for a while at least.  When my thoughts started to wander, because I was sleepy, I decided to take out my beads and to slowly say them.  I guess I went in and out of sleep and prayer, for when I looked at my watch, about 40 minutes had passed.  Rosary beads are a great aid for prayer in just about any circumstance.  I closed my eyes again and started to slowly pray the Hail Mary and just focused on the beads as my fingers passed gently from one bead to another.  When my mind wanders, I like to think of each bead as a moment in my life and how important each moment is.  It keeps me grounded.   In prayer, I believe I need all the help I can get, for if I am fatigued, or emotionally upset, or just plain lazy, the beads give me a path of sorts to walk down.  I guess if I prayed only when I felt like it, or felt good enough to stand before God, I probably would pray very little.

Prayer allows a loving rapport with God to develop.  It is about a relationship, so it takes some work on my part to stay open.  While on the other hand, I understand that it is grace that beckons me to prayer.  Prayer is the oil of the soul, a healing ointment provided by the ongoing pursuit that God is in for all of us.  We are all loved.

David was able to be present for the Mass with me.  He came in just before it started.  As we were walking out of the VA I saw the ‘coffee lady’ who is there every day freely giving of herself to serve the veterans.   At this time, she was giving out socks.  We talked for a few moments, and again, I found her open heart, and desire to give of herself, a very down to earth metaphor of God’s love for us.  She is a servant of others, I suppose she would wash the feet of all of us if she had the chance.  We can find Christ under many guises, yes even in a woman, who serves coffee and hands out socks to hundreds of veterans.

So we go back next week, this time his appointment is later, so it will be easier getting in…..well hopefully.


markdohle

Easter Vigil Mass 2018

Easter Vigil Mass 2018

We have our Easter Vigil service at 4:30 AM.  When I got up and went outside, I was pleased to see a clear sky and of course a full moon.  My brother was there and said hi to me when I opened the door.  So we sat together for a few minutes.  I am thankful my brother his here, he is a gentle soul for the most part and gets along well with the guest and staff. 

Our monastic community has its Easter Vigil inside the enclosure (Monastery proper).  We have a beautiful enclosed inner garden and it is there that we have our service.  We have a mill-stone mounted on some rocks that serves as the place where we light the vigil fire, and is situated the center of the garden. 

After seeing my brother I went to the back of the church to greet and direct our guest when they arrive.  Many are old friends of the community and know where to go.  Others need some guidance.  We had about 100 guests this year.  Not bad for 4:30 AM. 

Community, or the concept of community, is far-reaching.  True, we have our Monastic community, but those who come here often are known and loved as friends.  Those who come for the first time are welcomed and we are glad to see them.  Some only come once, others begin a long relationship with the community.  It is an honor for me to know some of them.  Good people, God-centered people, who walk many different spiritual paths. Who struggle every day, and yes, often fail to live out the Gospel message, yet continue in spite of setbacks.  They often put me to shame in how they pray and live out their lives.   I often pray for humility.  So the Lord made sure I got lots of it by allowing me to see the beauty of those who come here.  For me to see how deep their faith is in the Lord, as well as their love for God, and others, spurs me on as well.

The fire was ignited at the beginning of the Easter Vigil. A bright warm burst of light that filled the dark cold night.  I guess this is one of my favorite’s moments of the year.  I never tire of this liturgical moment.  It takes me back to the beginning when the silent ‘big bang’ happened.  Let there be light…..and there was.   The ‘Word’ spoke and it happened.  It happens every second as we are upheld in existence by the ‘word’ of God, revealed in Christ Jesus. 

The Paschal Candle was lite.  It represents Christ Jesus as the light of the world.  We then had a procession around the Garden and had two stations that we stopped at.  At the first station, the Abbot (who represents Christ for the community) lit his candle.  Then we processed to the second station.  Then from the abbot’s candle, all other candles were lit.  As we entered the church following the Paschal candle, the light filled in the cold darkness.  “Christ our Light” at each stationed was intoned, and we responded, “thanks be to God!” 

Christ the heart of the world, the light of the world, seeking out each human heart.  Each human heart is a tabernacle wherein Christ Jesus dwells.   That is why each human person needs to be treated with reverence.  As humans, we have a dignity that sin and our own personal evil cannot erase.  We will not find peace, and love, and healing, until we understand the reason that Jesus commands us to love ourselves.  We are made in the image and likeness of God.  All of us, no exceptions.  This world is filled with darkness and suffering because we easily forget that reality. 

I talked to some of our guests after the service.  It was beautiful to share with them the faith that we profess.  Many who don’t believe, find faith incomprehensible, or they may even think believers are ‘mad’, or ‘mental’.  In reality, true faith grounds one in this life, leading us to face whatever comes, no matter how hard, or painful, with a deep inner joy.  Each day we each choose to deepen our relationship with God or not…..we have that freedom, for that is love, it never imposes but only invites.  That is what it means to be a pilgrim.  To walk our path with Christ Jesus, or to freely reject.  Who rejects I have no idea. My prayer is that all, in the end, will surrender to the Infinite Love of God.

markdohle

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday

Carved into rock the tomb stood waiting,
the body wrapped in linen tight
with spices;
according to Jewish law.

A stone rolled before the entrance,
within only darkness,
silence,
that only death can bring,
the interior cold
the body alone in its inner nothingness

The void,
the thing feared most,
to drop in
never to be seen again,
gone,
leaving only an interior emptiness
for those left behind.

In the beginning light,
heat death for the universe in the end;
so for the body,
what was once alive
now without heat only cold remaining,
lifeless.

All that we love ends,
our works,
art,
our loved ones,
friends,
civilizations,
brought to absurdity because of this,
the great crumbling,
entropy,
flowers of the field,
the whole universe slowly fading
into it’s ending,
length of time does not matter
for in the end nothing.

So within silence,
only cold and deep darkness for company,
it is just a tomb after all,
yet
a guard placed before its entrance,
which gives us pause
why a guard at the tomb(?),
perhaps,
just perhaps,
we need to wait in the silence and see.

 

markdohle

Nothingness/Void/Death
(Good Friday 2018)

I got up at my usual time this morning, made coffee, filled a cup and went outside to drink it.  The moon at this time is almost full, beautiful glow from its gentle light as well as a gentle breeze.  There is nothing that is for me more beautiful than a morning such as the one we had today. After my coffee, I went into the Church and as always on Good Friday, it is always a shock to enter without the Blessed Sacrament not being present.  Just an open tabernacle, showing only darkness inside, a deep, cold, lifeless darkness.  For what was once a place of light is now only a lightless nothingness. 

As I sat in the silence, I thought of the burden we all carry in the knowledge of our own deaths.  Even if not thought about at all, still on some level, we know that we have little time here and that our life moves swiftly to its conclusion. 

Death seems to have a bottomless stomach in swallowing up all that lives.  Jesus in pouring himself out entered into that darkness, gone, swallowed, and buried in a cold dark tomb.  Our church is a sepulcher without the Blessed Sacrament, just a hollowed out building resembling a soulless body of one who has died. 

In our Vigil service for Good Friday, we have a different monk read each psalm, and a priest to do the prayer after the reading.  Then the priest when he finishes his prayer, blows out one of seven candles.  The slow dimming of the light.  As I get older I see it as a metaphor of my own aging, my own movement towards darkness, death, the leaving of this world.  The psalms that the monks read are sad, filled with anguish, yet also hope in God’s presence through it all.  

God’s love, his tenting with us, also shares our pain, such is love.  They go together, a dance.  Not a pleasant one, who wants to suffer?  The only way to protect oneself from the pain of loving is to freeze the heart; killing it. Though emotional numbness is worse than feeling I believe. 

Jesus emptied himself when he gave his life.  He allowed humans to do their worst, yet he loved.  He was hated and spit upon; he still loved.  He was betrayed by one of his disciples, yet he still washed his feet, still full of mercy and compassion.  He was denied by Peter, yet he understood and embraced him, loved him back into this heart.  So it is with all of us.

Love is defenseless, for it cannot lash out at one who is loved totally and with complete abandon.  It is hard to fathom as well as to believe, yet I do believe. Hoping against hope as St. Paul states that such is God’s love.  Yes, Jesus was swallowed up into the nothingness, that cold void, which is always hungry, for it is essential emptiness.  Yet Christ’ light swallowed up death because of his love, his not giving into hatred or the desire for revenge. 

I still struggle with this revealed reality of God’s love as shown us in Christ Jesus.  One day, however, I believe that my heart and all of our hearts will be broken open by this love. Our walls will come tumbling down because when love comes and we are seen and feel loved by that which sees us, we will all crumble into the arms of an infinitely loving and compassionate God.  

Christians should live out this truth, pray for the ability to love, pray to be used by Christ Jesus, to make our hearts like unto his, to make our minds into his mind, to incarnate in us, so that we can love, heal, and embrace all whom we meet, not judging, but loving all into the kingdom. When we pray the Our Father, let us not forget that we are praying for all, none are left out. 

Life is hard, and then we die.  True, no doubt.  Yet to have the courage to look into the void and to affirm that Christ Jesus has been there and death, void/nothingness, has been swallowed up in victory, is not always easy.  At this time we see as through a veil, yet we go forward in hope and in that hope, we are able to embrace all that life can throw at us without giving in to bitterness or despair……for Christ Jesus has gone before us, is with us, closer to us than our skin, our thoughts.


 



markdohle

Self-Emptying Holy Thursday 2018

Self-Emptying
Holy Thursday 2018

Today, Holy Thursday, the Abbot washed the feet of all the members of the community after we had our Seder-Meal.  It is a powerful act and one that presents a way of service for all, not only for those who are leaders but also to the least of us.  We are all called to serve one another, to empty ourselves in the giving of ourselves. 

Jesus, in washing the feet of his disciples points to the reality of what Agape (Divine Love) means for us.  Jesus shows us that God serves us, washes our feet and this points to the reality of the Eucharist, Christ becomes our very sustenance.  Such a reality, which is presented by the Christian faith, is hard to take, even for believers.  The love of God is of a different order than human love.  However, human love at its purest can give us an inkling of this reality.

Power and control are human endeavors.  God’s love invites us to a deeply loving relationship and with that, to love others, as well as ourselves.  If we spent our time trying to do that, I wonder how different the world would be. 

It does not matter what state the world is in, or for that matter that perhaps most people can make no sense of what Jesus is trying to convey.  Not sure I get it either, or if I do, it is incomplete.  What is important is that I seek every day to love more and no matter what, to continue in faith on my journey.  Not looking to others, nor being shocked at failures, but to look to Jesus Christ the shepherd of my soul and yes because of Infinite Love, he also serves me. 

Do not judge,
but love and serve,
healing flows from compassion
anger from contempt.

 

markdohle

An old woman, a sign of grace

 An old woman at the VA who was a sign of grace for others

Walking down the hallways in the VA on a crowded day can be very interesting.  Like any crowd, there are lots of people, each dressed differently, some knowing where they are going, others confused and too proud to ask for directions.  Others aren’t shy about seeking information on how to get to some place or another.  There was a couple, perhaps in their 50’s trying to figure which direction to go in.  Each war arguing with each other, but there was no movement.  So I asked if they needed directions, but each looked at me and said no, they are alright.  As I walked away, they started arguing again……we can be funny at times.

On some mornings near the information booth at the VA, there is a woman who is giving out free coffee, a volunteer no doubt.  She seems to enjoy asking the men and women who pass by if they would want some coffee and perhaps a cookie or a donut.  She is very pleasant and I am sure that this little gesture could be helpful at relieving a certain level of stress…..others perhaps not.  In any case, she is always there simply wishing to give away something for free if one is tired or perhaps a little hungry.  Some are gruff with her, others nice when they refuse.  Some when they get the coffee complain that it is not hot enough etc.  She just smiles and wishes them a good day.  All she wants to do is give something away.  She is giving of her time, and perhaps it is out of love and compassion for the many veterans who have a heavy burden to carry, so she does not seem to mind if someone responds in a less than gracious manner.  For me, what she is doing is giving out grace’, she is noticing the men and women and some do receive it, others pass by without seeing and others can be a little nasty, though they are few I believe.  She seemed to understand it all and unruffled continued to show in her own small way a little concern for those who pass by. 

My brother had to go in today for his second treatment.  They were a little behind, but after he was checked in, an hour late, it went quickly after that.  On the way home, he needed to get a sandwich, so we stop at a hamburger place.  All the workers there were Mexican, and they seemed a happy lot, perhaps a family, I don’t know.  The lady who waited on me told me that my fish sandwich would take 5 minutes.   Well, it is a hamburger place, so I guess even though they have fish sandwiches they are not called for all that much.  So we sat down, my brother with his meal, and me with my drink and fries.  In about 5 minutes and 10 seconds, but hey who is counting, she called and said my sandwich was ready.  With it was a small order of french-fries, freely given, and I smiled and thanked her. She laughed, smiled and waved back at me…..she was a sign of grace as well.  She did one small gesture.  She knew I ate my french fries and out of the kindness of her heart, gave me another order to go with it.  I guess I could have said no thank you, but if I did, perhaps I would have been withholding a grace from her.  In any case, her gentle gesture made sure that I would not forget her. 

Little acts of being kind don’t take much energy, but if they become a habit they are ways of connecting with strangers that can plant a small seed that will bear fruit later.  We all liked to be seen and not just looked upon as just another veteran, or customer etc.  When we are noticed in little ways and we become aware on out how helpful and even healing that can be, we may start to pass on the favor. 

Life is often made up of little things, small gestures often not noticed, but they can be very important.  We can grow in our desire to deepen our connection with others, or we can seek to protect ourselves from being bothered.  The long-lasting effect can be enormous. 

Christ noticed little things when he walked the earth.  He noticed the widow putting in her last penny in the offering box.  He noticed the children and told the apostles not to hinder them.  He noticed the women with the issue of blood and turned and praised her for her courage and faith.  He noticed something in Matthew, a tax collector and called him.  Jesus noticed everything in a way that was filled with compassion for all of us.  Even when he comes over strong, he was trying to teach and not to simply beret.  Like when he called Peter ‘a Satan’ for trying to change his course…..it was all out of love. 

Like the women giving coffee at the VA, God is always asking us if we want ‘grace’, in its many forms.  What he offers is a deep loving relationship with us.  Love is the caffeine of the soul I believe.  I do think it is important to seek to notice how grace is given in so many ways.  Through others by their attention and kindness, by our family, because they know us and forgive us over and over again, and by our friends who seek us out even if we are imperfect and even annoying at times. 

Grace is not something hidden, it is in plain sight.  It is true, whatever we do to others and what others for us, it is really Jesus who receives, for in him we live and move and have our being. 

 

 

markdohle

The unexpected (Palm Sunday)

The unexpected
(Palm Sunday)

 

Just before Jesus entered Jerusalem that led to his death, he did one of his most powerful miracles that pointed to him as the author of life.  What he did, if I was there, would not have filled my heart with joy or wonder, but instead with stark, abject, fear.   To witness someone exiting a womb who was dead for four days, and tightly wrapped in a shroud, would not be something expected, or thought possible, hence the terror.  I also wonder how Martha, and Mary, related to Lazarus after that…..surely there was some distance between them that was not there before.  There was a price to be paid for what happened, a heavy price.  Yet, because it was performed by Jesus, it was necessary.  A forerunner of his own death, burial, and resurrection, though different than Lazarus since he had to die again, while Jesus overcame death once and for all.

Some would question, why would Jesus even let Lazarus die.  In fact, I am sure that Martha and Mary and many of the people who were mourning with her thought the same thing.  He could heal the blind and lepers, people he did not know personally.  Some he healed without even being asked, the widow from Nain for instance, whom he brought her son back to life.  What about Lazarus, his good friend?  Jesus did not even try to live up to others expectations, he had his own agenda.  One was apparently, to let Lazarus suffer and die, and to have his sister’s go through four days of gut-wrenching mourning even before Jesus arrived.  People expected Jesus to come at once to save his friend, surely not to bring him back from the dead after four days in the tomb. 

Everyone had ideas and expectations about Jesus.  Some thought he was the Messiah come to make Israel great again.  Wherein all of their enemies would be overthrown and like in the time of David, they would be the unique, free children of God.  It was a this world kingdom, and there are plenty of Old Testament readings that could be and were interpreted that way. 

The religious elite, many of them, though not all, thought of Jesus as a dangerous man, and no matter how many his signs and wonders, they were not moved to either wonder or belief, but only anger and rage and perhaps fear of the Romans who might look upon Jesus as a danger and cause mayhem for the nation.  Their expectation was also false about their plans to destroy his influence forever. 

Jesus was also a man who challenged those who needed to be shook up and was kind and compassionate to the downtrodden and outcaste.  There were many opinions about him, many expectations, from all parties including the Apostles…they were all wrong.    

James and John wanted to sit at his left and right hand.  They would have probably argued who would be at his right.  When they arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover, perhaps the expectation was that Jesus would come into his full glory….he did, it was just not as expected, not even close. 

So in our own lives, as we follow Jesus, or we are seekers, what we expect may not be what we experience, or even need.  We need to trust to go deeper into our journey through this life if it is rooted in seeking God’s love and will for us. 

 

Distress

Before his entrance into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday,
he told how deep his distress was to his followers,
for he knew that goodness often feeds the rage of those wounded,
his loving heart made him defenseless against such tumult.

So he entered, we cheered him, waving palms,
he smiled perhaps sadly and with compassion,
for he knows what is in the hearts of men;
the pain, anger, the desires that can drive us crazy
and the rage against God and existence itself,
so filled with pain and injustice.

How easy it is to turn, to embrace the freedom of rage;
to destroy what is good, most human, and to exalt in violence and injustice,
to be caught up in the mob that flows like a river with ease,
until it flows over that which is sought and hated, at least in the moment,
for often after the horror is over and done with,
we wake up as if in a dream, appalled at what was done.

The loving heart is a human heart; perhaps that is why it is feared,
for to understand the hell that is often our inner lives reality,
bears a heavy price to be borne. This reality was seen and understood
by the heart of Christ, wounded in love, for he has no defense.
 

 

markdohle

The meeting of a loving grandmother at the Veterans Hospital

Last week, I took my brother to the VA for a procedure.  The first of six, once a week.  The trip to the hospital was a slow one.  We left at 7 AM, instead of 6:30, and what a difference it was.  It took us almost two hours to get to the hospital, which is usually a 45-minute trip.  When we arrived, I was surprised to see that there was no line for Valet Parking, so we took it.  Normally I park a few miles away at a church and we take a bus in supplied by the VA. 

We went to the Surgical Clinic first and after my brother was checked in, we went upstairs to the waiting area.  It was crowded and seats were at a premium, so I told David that I was going to go to the canteen to get some coffee and read.  So I went downstairs and got me some coffee and a breakfast sandwich and looked for a place to sit.  As usual, it was crowded, a very lively place the VA canteen.  It was a nice day, so I went outside to sit and read and enjoy my coffee and sandwich.  It is a pleasant place, with tables with large umbrellas attached.  It is on the second floor of the VA.  As I entered the area, I thought it was empty, but I noticed a woman with what I wrongly assumed was her child at the further end.  They were looking down at the construction that was going on. 

So I found a place and sat down.  I did not expect her to talk to me, or even notice that I was there, but she came over and introduced herself as Sandy and her grandchild.  He was two years old and he came up and high fived me, which made me laugh. 

She was very pleasant and as we talked I found out that her son was there because he had cancer.  He was only 28 years old and was not handling it very well.  She explained that he was in Afghanistan, had PTSD and really did not need this added burden in his life.  He had a hard time being in a position of needing to be taken care of and also the possibility of even dying if the treatment did not take. 

I could see that he was 28, going on 50.  Having to deal with such a serious disease will transform one’s life and not always for the better.   She explained to me that he brought back some emotional issues from the war and that he also had trouble with a drinking problem.  So she had a lot to deal with as well.  She was very worried.  Her daughter-in-law came out about 30 minutes after I met the grandmother.  She was a very nice lady and I could see the strain on her face. 

I have this unconscious belief that young people don’t get sick, or should not.  I know this to be true because every time I meet a young person with a serious illness I will often get a jolt of surprise.  Of course, I know this to be untrue, yet it persists in my unconscious.  The younger years should be filled with hope, a career, a loving family etc., yet more often than not, this is not true.  We do live in a world where uncertainty is probably the most dependable aspect of our lives.  So I do not like to think about it.  Not to mention how brief our lives really are. 

Why me?  Is a refrain that is often stated by people who suddenly get sick, or have a loved one come down with a fatal illness, or some accident, or another.  It is easy to understand it happening to someone we don’t know, but it becomes very personal when it hits close to home, or right at our doorstep. 

In my conversation with the grandmother, the subject of faith came up.  She was a woman of deep faith, a Baptist she told me, and her grand-daughter was also a woman of faith.  Her son, not so much so.  His higher power was alcohol.  Which only fed his anger and kept him isolated from truly entering into a deeper relationship with his wife as well as with God. 

It was one of those human situations that more or less had to be lived with.  The young man will have to find a way to deal with his illness and hopefully, he will one day be cancer free.  Yet his anger, his drinking and perhaps his false idea on what it means to be a man will have to be dealt with.

Change is slow, so is a conversion in both directions.  We are all on the way, we are on the way to becoming more deeply human loving, or on the downward slope of becoming more angry, bitter and self-absorbed.  Not sure that is much else on that subject when you get down to the core reason for our lives. 

I do know that fear of suffering of any kind only leads to deeper pain and chaos in one’s life.  Drinking is one way to deal with life’s problems, as well as overwork, or the seeking after power over others, yet in the end, none of them help.  It is the turning away from one way of life to another that lead us in one direction or another. 

 

 

markdohle

Mantras

This is an essay written by Fr. James Behrens, a fellow monk here and a good friend.
and has a number of books published.  He has given me permission to share his writings.
I will be sharing more of his writings. 

Mantras

There are certain little mantras that I think to myself when a day’s
load seems too heavy to carry.  Of course I have always managed to get
through all my days, mantra or no mantra, but that thought does not
easily come to mind when a day arrives that seems to hold more than I
can handle.  One of my favorite mantras involves the male Emperor
Penguin.  He sits on a slowly maturing egg for two months while the
mother returns to the sea to feed.  He stays on the egg through all the
bitter cold and snow and wind that is an Antarctic winter. When the
mother returns, she takes over the nesting of the egg, which hatches
shortly after her arrival.  The father then heads out to sea to feed –
he has, all in all, fasted for one-hundred and twenty days since
courtship days and is understandably a bit hungry. So, that is my mantra
for endurance, for getting through a day.

 


I recently heard another one that I will use when tedium sets in.
A friend of mine raises chickens.  Recently he was telling me all about
them.  How he ordered them and how they arrived as chicks in a little
carton.  How he built a coop for them in his back yard.  He showed me a
picture of the coop and it looks like a Chicken Hilton – a nice little
two story structure.  He has studied a lot about the world of chickens –
what they eat, what they like, what they do not like.  And he has also
developed an interest in the many different kinds of chickens that peck
and strut in different parts of the globe.

 


He told me about the Austrolorp.  His eyes widened as he told me about
this particular chicken and my eyes widened too when he told me that it
is most famous among all its brother and sister chickens for laying the
most amount of eggs in a single year.  A new record was set when an
Austrolorp hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days. They are also known to be good
nest sitters and mothers.  Well, I would hope so, given that number of
eggs.  I hope that they are not, for the most part, hatch-able eggs.
365 chicks in one year would surely ruffle the feathers of the mother.
Indeed, she would fly the coop.

 


In any case, chicks or no chicks, the Austrolorp gives me pause to
ponder.  If my thinking is correct,
that record setting hen had but one
day off.  Not much time for a breather if you ask me.  I presume someone
picked up the new egg every day.  It would have been calamitous to leave
the hen sitting on a mountain of eggs.  The hen teaches me plenty about
learning to deal with routine,
the everyday, the inescapable pressures
inflicted by being a chicken or a human (or a penguin).  I tend to moan
and complain when some things come my way.  I have learned to avoid some
of them but there are others with which I must deal.  But a little
meditation or mantra on the Austrolorp chicken brings home to me the
sobering truth there are those among us who have no way of getting
around what comes their way – or in the chicken’s case, comes right out
of it.  And come it does, every day save one.  And I hope on that day
she catches up on a few things, like maybe reading some Chick Lit or, to
see how her distant relatives are doing, perhaps a good Penguin Classic.
God made the Austrolorp and the Emperor Penguin and blessed them with
patience and endurance galore.  And God made us humans and sends us
mantras to learn from the creatures in our midst whose ways may bind
them to a nest or a sheet of ice. Out of 
these places new life is born.
My little mantras can and do ease my life. They lighten my load –
offering a kind of new and fresh life.


--
James Stephen Behrens, O.C.S.O.
Monastery of the Holy Spirit

 

markdohle

Trauma in today’s world

Trauma in today’s world
(A Christian’s perspective)

A Lenten piece, written in 2015

When we see images of extreme violence on TV or on the internet, is it a form of trauma?  About a year ago someone shared a YouTube video on Facebook.  There was no warning about the nature of the clip and I right clicked it.  Within five seconds I saw a man’s throat cut all the way back to his neck bone, then he was thrown into a grave and still alive, gasping and twitching.  The men who did it calmly talked while he was bleeding out.  This happened within 30 seconds of my click.  I was so stunned that I could do nothing but watch it until the end. 

Then many watched an Iranian pilot being burned to death while he was trapped in a cage.  Most of us saw the pictures I am sure.  These images once seen can’t be forgotten by many if not most of us.  Seeing violence in a movie is ‘make believe’, it is nothing like watching the real thing.  I presume that is why I can’t watch movies about Viet Nam, not because I was there, but because it happened while I was in the Navy and I had two brothers over there.  I also know many who still suffer from the after-effects of that war. 

Then the news about FergusonMo, and other cases like it must take a toll on most of us.  How deep does it touch our souls?  When the latest news about the 21 men killed by ISIS, merely because they were Christian,  broke something in me, perhaps it is my heart, I have no idea.  It was not that something died, but something came alive and I am not sure what it is.  How is it that in the name of God, or some political ideology, or different shades of skin color, or even over sports, we can so easily kill one another?   As I say this I know full well that I am capable of the same things. 

What if those of us who live in Atlanta were subjected over the years, even if sporadic, to rockets being lobbed into the city from Augusta?   Or if from time to time suicide bombers were coming in and blowing up our buses.  Or what if atheist and believers starting killing each other on a more or less regular basis, or let's say Republicans and Democrats?  How would that affect the general population who were the victims of these assaults?  What would our children and teenagers be like?  I doubt they would be like they are now in the Atlanta area….they would act like children and teenagers but would be hardened, angry and fearful.  We already see this in certain areas of any town or city.  Places where violence over drugs, for instance, is common. How easy would it be for us to descend into violence towards one another if it went on for years or for generations? 

Each person on earth when they suffer, Christ suffers with them.  When we hate one another or kill, it is Christ that we also hate and kill.  I am not immune to being sucked into a mob mentality about the ‘enemy’.  I suppose we are all an ‘enemy’ to some other faction.  For me the only thing that keeps me from giving in to hatred is my clinging to Christ Jesus.  In prayer, I can stop, reflect, take stock and ask for a larger more expansive and compassionate heart…..for a heart that is still armored in many ways.

In Lent, we are called to not run from the intimacy that Christ is calling us to.  To embrace the disorderliness of life as well as our part in creating that messiness and suffering…It may be the only way to stop these cycles that seem to take us over in spite of our best intentions.  To become more human, less filled with fear and hate can be a long drawn out process…one that I am still on.  Many people are truly gentle. I am not like that at all. For like many men there is still a sword carrying, instinct driven man of fear that lives deep within me.  Though at my age I doubt I would be much of a fighter. 

So in the meantime, I pray and hope and wait.  Christ Jesus is God, the creator of the incredibly vast universe, omnipresent, and at work in ways that I don’t understand in the hearts of all men and women.  I believe that as Christians when we pray we should seek to become ever more conscious of our unity with all humanity and that in prayer we are really one with them because of Christ who identifies with the least, our enemies as well as with those we love.  My community when I pray is with those who struggle to deal with their inner chaos without fear, as well as those who have been swallowed up by it.  Christ Jesus is one with us. When we hate, kill, and torture or ignore another, it is Christ Jesus that we do these things too.

“Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.”   So easy to forget this saying of Christ... way too easy, at least for me, I am not speaking for everybody, for that is impossible, I believe there are those who get it, we call them saints.  I believe I have the honor of knowing a few of them.

markdohle

Bang, Bang, I shot the gun

Bang, Bang, I shot the gun

(I was five and he was six, and we used to play with sticks,
Bang, Bang, I shot the gun, Bang, Bang,
that Awful Sound, Bang, Bang, He hit the ground, Bang, Bang.)

---Sony and Cher

 

One of the retreatants came up to me on Tuesday evening to talk to me.  We are having a retreat that is really about aging, how to deal with it, what it means etc.  I will name this woman Edna.  She is a unique person and in a world where people are all more or less unique that says a lot about her; in a good way.  She shares her perspective on life with me that over the last few months I have found enriching and at times puzzling… which are both good.  Puzzling people often speak in ways that upset the wagon but does not cause it to roll over.  In other words she has a lot to teach me I believe. 

So she came to me and told me that my talk on aging was BS and that I need to talk more about feelings and not so much about philosophy etc.  I laughed when she told me and asked her what she meant.  So we talked for about 40 minutes and we struggled to understand each other.  She talked about experiencing life fully without all of the philosophical jargon etc.   So at the end of our talk and she went her way, I began to absorb what she was trying to share with me. 

The first thing that came to mind is that in order to truly embrace the moment, or the day, or whatever experience that is before us, takes a level of trust that I believe has to be consciously made.  Life can be very painful, hard to live, and people, well do I need to go into that?  We all live in a big, colorful, loud zoo I believe when it comes to human nature.  We have birds, and lions and bears, and snakes, and large bugs and all kinds of things in this zoo, and there are no cages, except those we put ourselves into I guess, and perhaps force those around us in as well.  Some are dangerous, many confused and just trying to get through the day, some are aware, others callous, etc.  The list is long and some of what I listed are of course in me as well, or the potential. 

Jesus talks about us becoming childlike.  Is he asking us to become something else, or is he telling us what we actually are….children?  When looking at the world around us it would seem that we are childish. Children playing a deadly game in a very large sandbox with no adults to monitor us…..perhaps there are yet no adults.  Or it may be that real adults are those who are actually childlike in the way that Christ was talking about and we ignore them when they speak….just as today we Christians probably ignore Jesus and what he said more consistently than actually following him.  I still don’t get it much of the time….unless it is an afterthought when I try to rethink some situation that I was not my best in. 

Edna herself has a transparent aspect to her personality that may put some people off, but many will find it a characteristic that draws them in, wanting to understand what she is trying to impart that flows from deep intuition I believe. 

I can be petulant, self-serving, judgmental, cruel, and violent and the list does not end there.  When I am in the grip of the above, am I being adult, mature, or simply a narcissistic child….perhaps that is why we do actually receive mercy because we really don’t know what we are doing.   We are living out the reality of the book called “The Lord of the Flies” in our newspapers every day.  There is just no ship with ‘adults’ that can come in and snap us out of our self-destructive childish behavior. 

To be truly childlike I believe takes faith and hope and trust, that our lives have meaning and that the deepest longings of our hearts are true and not magical thinking.   People rebel against religion because they become to all knowing, all wise, and close off reality into a little closet where no one can really breathe.  Secular philosophies are no better. They can give the impression that someone is putting a plastic bag over one's head and all that can be done is to struggle to take the next breath.  None of us are made for cages, we are meant to roam in wide open spaces, to search, seek and to find in the end.  I also believe that religious traditions are very important in giving us a vehicle to live out these questions without having to start all over every generation.  The problem is when traditions think they have arrived, when in fact they are still on the way as well….hopefully deepening their understanding of the words and actions of their founders. 

Little children play at war, BANG, BANG your dead.  Big children play real war and it is lived out on our TV’s every day with greater and greater detail.   The sandbox has knives in it, and guns and bombs…. OH MY!  So perhaps to become as little children the way Jesus was talking about is a paradox pin-pointing to the deepest maturity that is possible. 

So Edna has something to teach.  She is childlike, loving, living in a world with childish adults like me to deal with.  I hope that she stays in my life and continues to come out here to share with us, participating in our retreats asking questions that make us scratch our heads and go away and think.

We get more than we give our here that is for sure. 

 

Tall hair

Edna told me one day this experience she had,
she was working and a young boy came in,
she looked at Edna and said:


“Wow mom, that lady has tall hair”

She pointed to her head and laughed,
for she does have hair that goes up more than down,
and I laughed with her.

Carl Jung once said:

“Don’t trust anyone who has no sense of humor”.

 

markdohle

When do you stop helping someone?

How much should we help those who come for aid?  I believe that it is a serious consideration and each person has to figure that out for themselves.  One way to figure it out is to go the easy route.  Those in need are there because they are lazy, or, are addicted to either drink, or drugs, and helping them is, in reality, making them worse and codependent.  While I do believe that the concept of ‘codependence’ is a reality, yet I also accept as true that it is too easily brought out as an excuse not to help others.  This term is often thought of as a negative because being codependent can be based on compulsion or the mistaken idea that ‘I’ can save someone from themselves…..a grand illusion.  Yet, as Christians, we are called upon to see Christ Jesus in those who are in need.  Or perhaps to put it another way, to never forget the dignity of another human being.

I helped a man a few months ago over a period of time.  He was in need, no doubt about it.  He was disabled and lived in a motel.  I helped him for a while and was glad to do it.  Then little by little I came to understand that he was playing me in a big way, though I also understood that it was his way of surviving.  Then I found out that he was selling the food I brought him for drug money.  I was not surprised by this revelation but still saddened by it.  I could not blame him, he was in the middle of a big web of lies and deceit and I believe that this was his normal way of living, of surviving, etc.   Yet, could I continue to help him?  Since I am not a government agency but only represent the community that I live in, I had to break it off.  So I helped him one last time with his rent and said that I could not do it anymore.  It was a hard choice, but one I believe was for the best. 

Then a couple of months after I stopped helping him, he called me up and left a message.  He told me that he was in the hospital with a serious illness. When I saw who called, I was tempted not to respond, but my ‘gut’ said to do so.  So I went through the hospital operator, to actually see that he was in the hospital.  I do not regret that I called him back.  Even though I knew that I could not help him anymore.  At least in the way, I did in the past.

 He was in serious condition with more than one serious health issue.  He also had a bad staph infection and they were not sure that he could take an antibiotic for it because of his kidneys.  As he talked, I found that he might be in a good place compared to where he had been before.  He was hopefully going to be put into the system and being truly disabled, he may get some help that could actually assist him getting out of the corner he was backed into.  Partly his own fault, but also some things beyond his control.

As he talked, I knew that he was going to start asking me for help.  So I told him that I did not regret helping him in the past, even if a large part of it was based on lies.  Yet, because of the deceptions, there was no way that I could untangle truth from fiction on what he was telling me.  As we talked I related that when he sees the social worker, to be truthful about his needs and hopefully they would be able to place him in a permanent residence.  I have a feeling that it will be a nursing home.   He is only in his mid-fifties but looks much older.  He tried to deny that he needed to be ‘placed’, but I told him that he was totally dependent on others for his room and board and food (and as a byproduct his drugs) and I would imagine that he was running out of people who will help him because of his dishonesty in his dealings with them.  I did not want to be so blunt, but in my own poor way, trying to help him.

I can’t judge this poor man.  I think that if I was in his position I may be doing worse.  So I am in no place to make myself superior in any way.  I entered this monastery at an early age and I believe one reason was to fight my own little group of inner ‘demons’.  We all need places of healing.  In our marriages, hopefully, healing will come by the give and take that it calls for.  Or by our vocation in the workforce.  Or perhaps the extended family that many find as a true healing balm in their lives. Without that, there are other ways to ‘fix’ ourselves, or ‘medicate’ ourselves that only make things worse.  Perhaps my friend, if he can get in a stable environment, would be able to slowly to get his life back in some kind of order.  If he is placed in a residence close by, I will visit him perhaps on a monthly basis and be able to help him in a small way.  If not, if he goes back out, I will not be able to help him at all. 

False gods, like Jesus, demand everything.  The difference is that false gods take us for everything we have and only leave a ruin.  Jesus gives back life a hundredfold.  Hopefully, my friend will be able to see this and open up his heart to the healing that comes from God’s love and mercy.

 

 

 

 

markdohle

My sister Janie’s eulogy

 

My sister Janie’s eulogy

How do you measure a life?  By how much money they made?  Or how powerful they were?  History remembers the rich and powerful, but only their memory, death takes away all that is false from us leaving only the love that we carry with us.  I do believe that Janie had a lot of love in her and that is what went with her as she became face to face with God. 

Two years ago, when I was visiting family, I was able to spend a good amount of time with Janie.  It is funny when brothers and sister get together it is easy to revert to one’s youth.  So here was an old man, and an old woman, brother, and sister, acting like we were 13, watching movies, making fun of the plot, eating way too much, and oh boy Janie could cook.  She loved it and I love eating, so it was a great mix.  We watched the animated movie “Dominion’ I believe and I would yell out ‘Kevin! And she would laugh and yell back ‘banana’.   Silly of us, well yes, immature, you bet, but it was wonderful and I am thankful for that time. 

I was looking at an angel statue I have in my room.  It is composed of glass and very well made.  Sissy, who died in 2014, gave it to me in 2005.  As I was holding that statue, I felt like I just received it a few days ago.  That is how I experience time.  So I guess the separation that we all must go through when our loved ones die, is not really that long as we might think as long as we don’t focus on days, weeks, months and years, but just on today.  All days are experienced as ‘now’ when we live them.  So all other experiences can seem like only seconds away from events from the far, as well as, the recent past. 

Loss, is experienced uniquely by each of us, yet there is also a bridge that connects us, for sorrow, no matter how it is expressed, is a deep pain that stays with us for years, and well worth it.  For love, with all that goes with it, keeps us human and more than that, we become more human as we learn to love more and not to fear the pain that comes with it. 

It is the fire of love the cures the soul.  The deeper in we go, the more our hearts expand and we learn to embrace it even more.  To grow in love is a process, and I believe that it is grace at the bottom of it, when love pushes past what is expected and into something enduring and eventually embraces everyone.  Such is grace, working in secret, beyond our control, all we need do is to desire to take that next step.

I will miss Janie, just as I still miss Sissy and Skip, yet I pray for them, and I know that they pray for all of us as well.   I miss mom, and dad, my aunts, and uncles, in varying degrees.  For the closer we are to another, the more we feel their absence.  I do believe that our connectedness with others is something that we do not fully understand nor experience, but one day, we will, if our hearts are open, or are desiring of more love. 

For the heart to grow more human it must be broken, a hard fact of life.  For only in our battle with bitterness and despair can we finally find healing and trust.  Our inner lives cannot be figured out in rational terms alone, for there is much that is irrational about us. 

The feeling of loss for me is like being alone on a vast ocean, in the dark, with a storm coming, or in the midst of one.  Yet the craft is a study one, and at times it seems that Jesus is asleep at the helm, yet ever watchful.  All I need do, all we all need to do, is to learn to trust, sit, and hold on, and we will find ourselves ashore, sometimes in ways that we do not understand. 

Life is a rough journey for each of us and the loss of loved ones is perhaps one of the most painful, but if faith is true, then we can have hope that one day we will embrace again.

 

markdohle

One lone bullfrog

 

One lone bullfrog

During our half hour mediation this morning that our monastic community makes halfway through our Office of Vigils, I was making my way slowly around our inner cloister garden, which I guess is a form of walking meditation that I will often partake in.

 In the latter part of February here in the south, you can feel a taste of spring in the air.  A cool refreshing breeze, winter-like, yet also gentle, like the difference of the bravado of a young man and the more humble and hopefully gentle soul of an older gentleman.  I so love the early morning, before the cars begin to drive past our Monastery.  Though the sound of passing cars is really not that distracting for me.

Sometimes, very early in the morning, the silence is so deep that it seeps into my bones, bringing rest to and often weary soul, with a drunken monkey mind.  At other times, the silence brings out my own inner dance with my thoughts and emotions that make them louder and more demanding.  This morning, thank God, I was in a peaceful place, and the dance I was doing was a waltz, a gentle one and not a mosh pit.

We have a small fountain in our cloister garden that is very beautiful and we have plants and goldfish living below its waters.   I often forget that there is a bullfrog in residence as well, for during the day it is silent and for most of the winter, not a peep can be heard.  Some mornings, however, it gives off its sound, even in winter if it is warm enough… calling, calling, for someone to respond.  For the past few years, no one answers his forlorn call.  This morning as I listened I waited hoping for a response, but as has been usual lately, there is only a silent waiting, without end, so it seems for our lonely bullfrog.  Does our bullfrog know that it is waiting?  Yet how like me, for I often forget that I am waiting also, sometimes not sure what it is, but when I wait and am silent, often saying my beads slowly, I feel ‘something’, a gentle response that washes away my fatigue with myself and life, and makes me feel young again.   If I decide or am compelled not to wait, my fatigue only gets deeper making my soul brittle and desperate for rest.  The noon-day-devil only takes and gives nothing in return. 

The inner journey is a slow one, with many side steps and at times wrong paths are taken.  Yet like walking the labyrinth, we circle in and out, taking one-step-at-a-time, until finally after a long journey we do arrive at the center, that for which we are made. 

markdohle

Wrath, what is it?

Wrath, what is it?

Wrath is a scary word, and when used in relation to God it can be terrifying.  In the Old Testament, it is used quite a bit, along with severe punishments towards the people of Israel.  I have to be honest and say that apart from the psalms, I do not spend much time in the Old Testament; so much that I don’t understand, it being written from a cultural perspective that I have a hard time understanding.  God language can only come through the person or culture where they are in their development, so what comes out as inspired writing has to be looked at in its historical situation. 

Jesus used the ‘Father’ metaphor to tell us something deeply real about how God relates to us.  This relationship can seem to be far from how God and relationship were experienced and wrote about in the Old Testament.  So in the story of the ‘Prodigal Son’, where is the wrath of God?  How Jesus explains God’s relationship with us is said in images that seem to transcend culture, since Father’s, the good fathers is something understood and longed for, even if never experienced.

Let’s back up a bit and think about a mother and a father who truly love their child; not abusive and who do not wish to control their child.  They love their child as much as is possible for a human to love, possibly the closest thing to ‘unconditional love’ we can come to in this sphere.  So the daughter or son comes in and admits to the parents that he has fallen into a serious addiction, she is addicted to heroin.  How will the parents react?  Well with ‘wrath’, deep all-encompassing wrath.  What are they reacting to?  Is it a rejection of their daughter or son? Well of course not.  The wrath is directed towards the addiction, something in their child that is a threat, something that could consume their beautiful lovable child.  In fact, an entity that could turn their child into something else.  As time goes on, if the child refuses to change, or to even seek help to try to change, after a while the parents with great sorrow will have to let their child go.  If the addiction continues the child could become its actual addiction, what was truly human is now swallowed in a form of death.   Sadness is there, but the wrath towards the addiction will never go away. 

People often think of wrath, and sad to say rightly so, as something that is out of control, rage-filled and destructive.  Abusive people can be wrathful, hateful towards the person because the man or woman won’t be what they want them to be…..it is a will-to-power issue.  God is not into power, He is into love.  Did not Jesus wash the feet of the disciples?  That event says a lot, we need to ponder that more.  For he is a revelation of the Father love, towards all of us without exception; though we try mightily to exclude people, even other Christians who do not agree with us.  Often we fall prey to making God in our image and likeness.

So in the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’, where is God’s wrath?  Well, it is in the love of the Father’s response, the son has to choose how to react to that.  If he rejects it and wants only to live there as a servant, he will feel the Father’ embrace as something other than love, it could be smothering to the young man if he rejected the embrace…even painful.

We have great dignity and only the good Lord knows the depths of our hearts and what our final free choice will be.  It is on us, God’s love is free.  Like any true love, it is not forced.  If our free will were taken from us, we would cease to exist because all of our memories of choice would be erased.  The fear of the Lord is to fear to loose what is most dear, what we are made for, and that is love, union and the dance for eternity in the internal life of the Trinity. Hell is an eternal dance with ourselves and the love of God experienced as wrath because what was once human is now no more.

 

markdohle

A man who failed every Lenten Season

 

A man who failed every Lenten Season
(Saying the Chaplet of Mercy)

 

One day a few years ago, one of the retreatants here approached me and asked to see me.  He looked somewhat distraught.  As we sat down he told me how frustrated he was with himself over his weakness and inability to live out his resolution for Lent.  “I have never had a good Lent,” he told me.  I thought to myself, this might not be the best time to let him know that I am pretty much in the same boat as he is. 

As he talked, I began to see a pattern in his life.  He was just as demanding of others as he was with himself.  He had paid a high price for this tendency.  He had lost friendships, and his marriage was in trouble because his wife did not live up to her responsibilities as a wife.  At least according to him.  Everything about his marriage was about his wife, her problems and how she was responsible for the trouble they were having.  It never occurred to him seemingly that his wife was just burned out with all of his desire to correct and control her.

I was a bit befuddled by this time, how to bring these two together. 

So I brought up for his consideration that perhaps he treated his wife and was demanding towards her the way he was with himself, and just as unforgiving about it.  He seemed startled by this.  So I brought up what he said about his failures at keeping his Lenten resolve and his subsequent shame, and anger about it.  Perhaps he was failing at Lent because if he was ‘successful’ he would be even more insufferable to be around.   

“What? Was his response.  Perhaps I said, “You need to embrace the reality of failure in how you live out your faith.  To ‘miss, the mark’ is something experienced 7 times by the just man every day.  Yet we continue the journey, for in reality there is no such thing as a truly just man.  We can judge others harshly and most of the time we do not have the full story, hence the injunction not to judge.  In your critical stance towards your wife, you place her in a position that is both very frustrating but also impossible.  You demand from your wife, what you cannot do yourself.  Your failings are not leading you to self-knowledge, nor to a deeper trust in God’s mercy for you and not only you but all.  So, until you learn from what you struggle with and allow it to deepen your understanding of others, you will be stuck.”

He responded, “I still don’t see the connection”.  So I said:  “When we judge others, the reason it is so destructive is that we are also judging ourselves as well.  I am talking about judging the worth or soul of another human being.”  “How do I grow in understanding of what you are telling me”, he said. 

So we talked about the nature of mercy, towards others as well as towards ourselves.  Which flows from the mercy of God.  He was Catholic, so we talked about forms of prayer, or devotions, which might help him to deepen his understanding of having compassion and mercy towards himself and others.  So we talked about a Catholic devotion called “The Chaplet of Mercy”.  It is a simple prayer and if said in a prayerful manner, can lead to healing on a deep level.  In praying this chaplet with attention, what is happening is the one praying is placing before God all of mankind asking for mercy.  In doing this, they are binging before Christ Jesus, all who have hurt, betrayed, or abused them in any way.  It is asking for mercy for the one saying the chaplet and leaving no other human being out of this beautiful prayer lifting up humanity into the depths of God’s merciful love for all.   It is often said for the dying.

These are the three central prayers of the chaplet, said with rosary beads.

1.  Eternal Father, I offer unto you, the most precious body and blood, soul and divinity, of your beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and for those of the whole world. (Said on the Our Father bead)

2.  For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.  (Said on the Hail Mary beads)

3.  At the end of the chaplet this prayer is said three times:  Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world. 

Many people rush through prayers like this.  I guess it is ok, yet to say the prayers slowly and with focus, can lead one deeply into the very heart of the Trinity, who wills that all be saved.  We unite our will with the will of God when saying this prayer.  In saying the Chaplet slowly, it is not necessary to say the whole five decades, but to simply be present, relaxed, and to allow the feeling of the beads to keep one present to the moment.  Each person will say the chaplet differently in how the heart prays it, yet it is a beautiful healing prayer for all, and for those of us who struggle with forgiving others, this is a good prayer to bring us to the point where we put on the Mind and Heart of Christ Jesus. 


markdohle

Jim,a young man in a wheelchair

Jim, a young man in a wheelchair
(and trying not to blink)

 

 

As I was waking from the parking lot towards Grady Hospital, the day after Fr. Eduardo was brought in to the Trauma unit, I saw the usual diverse group of people going in and coming out.  Doctors, nurses, people who worked there and those coming in to see family members who were patients there. I also noticed a young man in a wheelchair trying to get to the front entrance.  You see, the whole main entrance of Grady is a ramp, no steps, just a steady incline into the building.  For someone in a wheelchair, it can be rough going if no one is with them. 

I watched him for a short time, making lots of short spurts up the incline but making very little headway.  He was a small man, probably weighing less than 110 pounds.  He was young, looked like he was around 25 years old at the top end, or perhaps just 19.  So I walked from the front, not wanting to scare him and asked if he wanted some help.  He looked up and said yes with some relief.  As we went up I found out his name was Jim.  He could not talk very well, so I had to listen intently in order to understand him.

When we entered the hospital, I said goodbye and walked over to the information desk.  Grady is very large and can be very confusing the first few times going there.  As I left the information desk, I again found Jim trying to make his way and helped him a little more.  He was getting off on the second floor and I was going up to the sixth to stay with Fr. Eduardo.  We shook hands and I wished him a good day and hoped that his visit with his doctor came out ok.

I guess we all need a push from time to time from strangers.  Grady is an immense place; for Jim, I guess it was experienced as twice as big and much more difficult to get around in than I did.  When I was young, I took my agility for granted.  The lightness of my body, the way I could move and stand on my hands and do power yoga was not a big deal.  Today, my body is not quite so lightsome, nor supple, but stiff and filled with the pains that come with aging.  Seeing Jim made me thankful for the body I have and that I can still get around……but please don’t ask me to climb more than three flights of stairs.  I tried it and it was slow going believe me.  First flight, no problem, second flight, a little more difficult, the third flight my legs hurt, I was having trouble breathing and I felt like I weighed four hundred pounds, won’t go into the fourth flight, not a pretty sight but no doubt an onlooker would find some comedy in it (I do).   

When young I would run up many flights of stairs without breaking a breath…..now I can barely breathe.  There is humor in all of this.  If I had to actually run anywhere, I would probably die laughing at myself…..it would be a ludicrous sight.  I am not one of those who age with grace.  Sometimes my back hurts, at other times it is my hip, then on certain days, it is my knees turn to let me know that they exist and I should pay attention to them.  I do, believe me, I do.  My knees can be very whinny.  Quite a trip the human aging process, no time to get bored. 

As I was leaving, I saw Jim again and I guess he was there all day.  I said goodbye to him and I kind of hoped I would see him the next day.  I did not, and hopefully, that means he was home safe. 

The shortness of our lives is a blessing, for if we had an infinite amount of time in this world, I wonder if we would actually do much at all?  Time is more precious than gold because we have so little of it.  I can think that ten years from now is a long way off, but then, well, ten years have passed.  As the saying goes: just don’t blink….but I always do, and find myself quite a bit further down the road.

Each of us has to try to make sense of life.  I have not come very far with that, but I am glad I am here, also glad that the trip goes by fast, even if at times I would like to apply the brakes a bit.  I have made peace with how ephemeral life is, and that brings to light how important it is to seek the one thing necessary.  I somehow feel that it is not about money, or power, or staying young looking.  Being a beautiful corpse is not what it is cracked up to be.  I want to look worn out and tired when I die…..no problem with that.  I am more than three quarters (If I am lucky) there already.

 

 

 

markdohle

 A day at the Trauma Unit at Grady Hospital
(Atlanta, Ga.)

Over the past year, I have gone to the Trauma Unity at Grady accompanying, once my brother, and twice, being with one of our monks.  The second time was last Monday.  A member of the community, Fr. Eduardo, had a very bad fall and was rushed by ambulance to Grady Hospital.  I arrived about one hour after the ambulance took him from the Monastery grounds. 

The Trauma unit at Grady is considered one of the best in the country.  They deal with a very wide assortment of men, women, and children, every hour of every day.  On my last trip, it was an eye opener at all that they do there.  Our neighbor, in the next room, was a young man who came in with a gunshot wound.  His family arrived and it was heart-wrenching to see what they were going through. 

One man, his uncle, who was raising him was fit to be tied over concern for his nephew.  He was angry, not at the hospital, but at his nephew for belonging to a gang and had to be restrained for a time so that he would not enter the room of the young man being cared for.  I could see his love, which was expressed in a wrathful way.  The Uncle hated what was happening to his nephew, he hated the gang influence, the guns, the violence, yet even in a wrathful mood, he was not rejecting his nephew, his wrath flowed from his love.  The young man, even after being shot, seemed oblivious to the pain that he was causing his family.  He looked to be about 14, so perhaps too young to be able to respond in a proper manner. 

His mother was there as well as some aunts.  The mother just sat there and was filled with sorrow over what happened, and after talking to the police, she got up and walked out.  The look she gave as she left, the tears, sorrow, and longing, for her son was palpable to me.  They were a close-knit family, besides themselves over the plight of this young man.  It seemed this was not his first trip to the unit.   At the same time, there was another young man across the room in another section who was shot in the neck.  Not sure they were connected. 

After the family left and the young man was taken either to surgery or to a room another incident happened that shook me up a bit. 

Fr. Eduardo and I were in a room that the whole front was clear plastic I would guess.  At first, I thought it was glass.  This is how I found out it was not.  There was, of course, a lot of noise in the unit, so I got up and closed the door which muted the noise well enough that I could easily read etc.  As I was reading, I looked up and saw a young man being seated in a chair about five feet from my door.  He seemed confused.  One of the nurses was talking to him taking some notes when suddenly, he leaped up and ran full speed right into the plastic closed door.  He bounced off and fell to the floor, and seemed to be unconscious for a short time.  However, thankfully, he got up and they sat him down again.  Then even though there were four people with him, he did it again. This time the speed was a bit less, but he bounced once again.  After this, they took him somewhere else.  I was very glad I had the door closed if not, he would have run right up against me and smashed me against the wall…..I guess they would have found a place for me there after that. 

Soon after that, they brought in a man on a stretcher and left him by the nursing station, again, right outside my room.  He just laid there, not moving, covered up to his shoulders with a sheet.  I asked the nurse about him and she told me his name and said that he came in there at least twice a week.  They knew him, and in a funny sort of way, treated him like family.  He would get drunk, and fall down and hit his head or something that, and they would bring him in.  Yes, a very colorful place, filled with humanity in all of its beauty, chaos, and tragedy. 

One of the nurses taking care of Fr. Eduardo, when I asked her how long she worked there, informed me that she was there for seven years.  The average stay is six months she said, it was too much for most who came to work there.  You can either take the stress or you can’t.  I would suppose that the nurses who were there for six months, still, it was good for their resume and no doubt it made them better nurses. 

The staff was competent, calm and unruffled even by the man running up against the glass.  One nurse even came in and said she was sorry about the incident.  I did ask if he was trying to attack me.  She smiled, and replied, “No, he was reacting to a reflection in the glass, he is confused and frightened and on drugs”.   She said this in a very kind and compassionate manner.   I got the impression that he was also someone who was there on a regular basis.

The hospital was full, with people with the flu, and rooms were given to them to avoid it spreading.  So, we spent most of the night in the unit.  They finally moved us up to a room that was turned into a ward.  There were about 10 beds there and two nurses and a CNA working there.  There was a partition between each bed.  This was the first time, I was told, that they had to make waiting rooms into wards because of the overflow. Well within living memory I would think.  It was like being in a time warp.  Perhaps from the 1930’s, except for the all the machines around Fr. Eduardo’s bed. 

It was a blessing that Fr. Eduardo did not have much pain.  So all in all things went smoothly.  He is home now, safe and we are glad to have him back.  I also have a deep respect for Grady Hospital, its staff, and especially for the Trauma unit personnel.   They are good people, seeking to lessen the appalling suffering in this world.  True, much of it is self-inflicted; yet, I guess we all need care from time to time from others who care, even if we have brought it on ourselves.  Others were there by the sudden turning of a dime, which can change everything from one blink to another, the majority there I believe, they all get the best care possible. 

Grady deserves its high praise for their Trauma unit.