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Living out of our true image and likeness

Living out of our true image and likeness

“Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father,
walks at our side. He frees us from anonymity, from a life of
emptiness and selfishness, and brings us to the school
of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition
and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace.
That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace
which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need
as our brothers and sisters.”--Pope Francis

One day a woman asked me why she was always so happy when she helped someone, anyone, even in small matters. So we talked about being made in the image and likeness of God. If God is truly love that means that he is an infinite fountain of giving. When we minister to others out of love we become part of that loving stream, we are living out of our deepest selves; hence we become happier. That is true even when our reaching out to others encountering them in their everyday live can be frustrating and very arduous. We are often happy and don’t know it, until what we take for granted is lost.

Self-seeking if it is extreme leads to grasping and isolation from others. The fruit of this is manipulation, the reducing of others and all of reality into a project of some sort for ones benefit; which in fact never works for long. It is a foretaste of hell, a place of complete separation from others and God that is embraced out of freedom.

To love and help others is like a flower opening up to the Sun, for it is grace that invites us to be aware of the needs of those around us and to help as much as we are able. If we cannot help in a material way, we can help by listening and supporting anyway we can.

Many downplay prayer. Yet in prayer we truly open ourselves to grace and draw close in union with God. In prayer we embrace all as we are slowly healed from self-absorption that leads to separation from others. We learn over time that our being the center is nothing but a powerful illusion. There is only one center. That center is the true north for all men and woman which is the will of God… wherein we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love God with our whole being. In that we find our true selves, which is much greater than the self-absorbed, fearful and anxious driven soul seeking to be its own axis and god.—Br.MD

Holy Week for Christians is unique to each​

Holy Week for Christians is unique to each

Holy Week for Christians is unique to each

Holy Week for Christians is unique to each. For some it is a week wherein they renew their faith and try to understand the mystery of Christ on a deeper level. For others, Holy Week is a time of distress; as if a heavy weight has been placed over their shoulders and all they can do is get through the week. I fall into the second category and I think it is due to the fact that I know, I will never understand this mystery of Christ death. Perhaps it shows how goodness is often met in this world. There is a type of defenselessness in goodness, and the deeper the goodness goes the easier for it to be hunted down and destroyed. There is a freedom that comes with having a loving heart and that freedom allows love to flourish. A loving heart is not free to hurt, kill, slander or abuse, or if it does, then it is lessened by that.

A wounded and bitter heart also has a certain freedom, possibly the opposite of the loving heart….I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle. It is the inner conflict that can cause so much pain, since there is no place for rest. Those who give in to hate are free in a way, though I believe it is one that leads to a dark inner cell. There is a type of integration that is experienced when someone gives themselves over to their fears, desires, hatreds and rages.

It may be harder to grow towards a loving heart, for I believe it is a conscious and not an instinctive decision. I believe that we are called to love and that struggle, at least for me has been going on all my life. I don’t want to be defenseless, so I continue to be in conflict, when it comes to my allowing grace to work deeper in my fearful, wounded and often angry heart.



Before his entrance into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday,
Jesus 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 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 (had) no defense. –Br.MD
Holy Week for Christians is unique to each

Palm Sunday/The Rising of Lazarus





Palm Sunday/The Rising of Lazarus from the dead


On Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, there was a lot of excitement about him.  He was known in the area as a miracle worker, a healer, and for many, the coming Messiah who would usher in a new era for the Jewish Nation.  He had a lot of opposition by the powers that be, and looked upon as a threat to the survival of the nation.  Then there was the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead!  In midst of that excitement was a mixture of awe, fear, and even dread.  For the news was spreading among the populace about the raising of Lazarus from the dead!

When thinking about the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead, it would be good to go back and try to see what happened.  Just think for a moment, about being at the death bed of a loved one, and the family is there around the body waiting for the hearse to come and to pick up the ‘remains’.  It takes a few hours, so the family moves into the living room to wait, sitting, morose, for some, being in shock for others, too numb to feel, or cry or speak.  Some weeping, and even wailing.  So the wait is a form of ‘hell’.  Sitting, knowing in the next room is a corpse, getting cold, and rigor mortis soon to set in. Horrible, yes, but known, and understood.  Actually very ordinary, for we will each one day be the corpse in the other room. 

So just imagine a so-called holy man walks in, goes into the bedroom, and everyone wondering what is happening, and he walks out with the loved one, alive, healthy, and back to life, better than before death.  What would happen?  It would be a break with reality as we know it, so I would imagine there would be some fear, even horror, and perhaps some would run out of the house screaming, because the dead do not come back to life…..or do they in some instances, rare, like with Lazarus and the Widow of the city of Nain and her son.  This kind of disruption is a wound, that cannot be healed…..yet wondrous just the same. 

Jesus loved Lazarus very much, and I would think that his family, and friends, at the onset of his illness, would naturally think that Jesus would come and heal him once he found out.  For after all he fed the 5,000, raised from the dead the son of the widow of Nain, as well as the daughter of the leader of a Synagogue. People Jesus did not know personally, so yes, he would come.

Jesus did not come.  He waited three days before going, knowing that by then his beloved friend would be dead.  So when he arrived, he stayed away from the gathering, and when Martha came to him, she remonstrated with him that he was not there to heal her brother and his friend.  I would think there would have been some anger, as well as a sense of betrayal, in the heart of both Martha, and Mary.  For her, at the moment, her brother was gone forever, already in the tomb four days, his body already beginning to rot…….there was only loss, sorrow, and yes, anger, at Jesus for not being there. 

When he came to Mary, she also complained to him about his not being there to heal her brother.  Jesus told her to have faith.  The people always wondered about his not being there.  For he healed others, why not Lazarus.  Now it was too late.  I am sure that some of the Jews there did not believe in an afterlife, being part of the more conservative branch of Judaism, the Sadducees.  The Old Testament does not give a whole lot of hope for the afterlife, though by Jesus’s time, the belief in an afterlife was strongly held by most of the Jews at that time.

So when Jesus asked that he be shown the grave, they thought he wanted to go there to mourn like everyone else.  Which is true in part, for while there “Jesus Wept”.  “See how he loved him” the people said. 

So when he asked that the stone be rolled away, I would think that a collective gasp went up.  As he was told:  “Master he has been dead for four days, there will be stench”.   Nonetheless, they rolled back the stone.  So when Jesus called Lazarus forth, and he shuffled out in his grave wrappings, I am not sure that people yelled Alleluia, and danced.  I would think that there was a bone chilling fear that was felt, even by his sisters.  If I was there, I would think my heart would have skipped a beat, perhaps some fainted, others screamed and ran away……four days dead, wrapped in his shroud like a mummy, with spices, and he shuffles out!  Really!  Yes, Really!

So Jesus told them to unbind him, to set him free.  I often wonder how the relationship with his sisters developed after this event.  I wonder as well how happy Lazarus was to be brought back, since one day he would have to die all over again.  Yet it was for the Glory of God, that people could witnessed this, even if it did cause suffering, fear and awe.  Later after the shocked wore off, the joy of reunion as well.  Yet, to be touched by God comes with a price.  To be lifted out of this world that we call ‘real’, into something else, is not always pleasant, or even wanted. 

Jesus knows what is in the hearts of men and women, so he had to hold himself back somewhat.  People wanted to be surprised, to be shown miracles, to be lifted up out of the ordinary, even if there was also some inner conflict over this.  So yes, I am sure there was some fear, but also the hope that Jesus would usher in a new kingdom for the Jewish people, that their enemies would be crushed, destroyed, and they would again rule. 

We have assumptions about life that are unspoken, and when we are disappointed, we can turn on the one who is the cause of the disenchantment.  So Jesus knows all of us, our limitation, as well as what is vicious in us, in our lack of ability to truly love beyond personal need, and instinct, yet he continued anyway,  knowing that the very people cheering him, that many of them, perhaps the majority, would be screaming for his death in a few days.  Yes his love goes way beyond our ability to love, hence his ability to show mercy, empathy, and compassion, on us all. 

God, seems determined on disappointing us in our expectations’ that are self-centered, tribal, and fed by the desire for power, or simply personal gain, or the desire to escape suffering.  In other words in our limited ability to see into the deeper reason behind it all. We are incapable of seeing beyond our own subjective understanding of the nature of reality.   Yet our faith, deeply lived, and understood is a light along our path.—Br.MD



Mercy Given

Mercy Given

To receive mercy is pure gift,
no one can demand this healing balm,
justice for-gone to touch a suffering soul,
whose heart is hard from sin’s scalding wound,

Pain received, and then shared, is sins legacy,
others paying for the guilt of another,
poisonous fruit, is evil’s gift,
endless cycles of suffering, absurdity, and death.

7 times 70 is God’s code for mercy,
no end, infinite in scope,
to embrace ones pain and to not scapegoat
is the road to mercy and healing.

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”
Is the death poem of Jesus,
a heart true, seeking to make ours like his own.—Br.MD


Beyond comprehension

  1. image.png.bd1350a7452ad9512e5d9b8f9715df7d.png
    Beyond comprehension

    Since we have a finite mind, and God is Infinite,
    all of our thoughts on God are wrong”.
    (A statement by Br. Cassian said with kindly humor)

    “And it will always be like that, My poor little girl. The weakness of your nature causes you to fall, and it’s the humble effort you make to get up and go on, the effort to please Me that charms your beloved. And this is a joy, a joy for God. Isn’t that strange? Later on you will see. Later on you will understand.
    “Believe in that ‘later on.’ ”

    Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 2358-2361).
    Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

    I will never get it. On the Christian path I have found that when seeking a deeper understanding of the great revelation of Jesus Christ, one of the biggest obstacles I can encounter is to think I ‘have it’. That I understand the reality of God’s mercy. For when that happens I find myself starting to not only judge myself, harshly, but to also judge others in the same vein. I believe this harshness is a form of self-pity, with deep roots in pride, which is the opposite of humility, or self-knowledge.

    If only I could be ‘perfect’, ‘loving’, ‘forgiving’, and ‘compassionate’ as was/is Our Lord. When I set myself up in trying to do it, I fall short more than seven times a day. I can get despondent, overwhelmed, scrupulous, and the prone to give up.

    However, after 70 years of life, I am slowly coming to understand the paradox of the path, any path, that seeks, truly seeks God. I can only learn by failure, over, and over again, getting up more times than I count, and in that somewhat harsh reality, come to some peace. For it is true that the mercy of God, the love of God, is like the sun, or the rain, which falls on both the thankful and the unthankful, both on those who love God and those who do not. Love cannot be earned, yet it can be embraced and in that, God’s mercy, which is really his justice, can do its work.

    St. Paul talks about the word of God being like a two edge sword that cuts down to the bone and marrow of our souls. It reveals in a seeming merciless way, all that we are, and also all that we are capable of. I am called to embrace this mercy of God’s healing fire in order to be healed, it is the only way. There is no cheap grace as Bonhoeffer would say. Yet it is free for all of that.

    The more deeply I allow God’s love into my heart, the deeper the joy, as well as the suffering, that comes from self-knowledge. When I can love ourselves in Christ Jesus, when I experience His mercy, and understand what this means, and what it cost Our Lord, it is then that my hearts break, and I become ever more truly human, and slowly, through mercies grace, we allow Christ Jesus to ever more fully incarnate in me.

    Prayer is not about just asking, or certainly not about manipulating God, but about seeing God’s grace, and mercy, in the most unlikely places. My failures, some serious, when I look back, through God’s mercy and love for me, only led me to seek deeper communion with such a lover of my soul. It is only a small jump to understand that God’s love is the same for all, and understanding that, changes my understanding of prayer, as well as my place in the Body of Christ Jesus, which embraces all.

    So I pray for all, knowing that God sees all, and is most fully found by me in those that I would normally not love, or like, or respect, or understand. The Christian path is about bringing Christ Jesus to others through my simple living in their presence, as well as allowing Christ Jesus to minister to me through others. I can place no limits on the work of God in the world, for I have no doubt that all of my ideas are limited, shallow, and mostly wrong. This keeps me hopeful, open, and trusting in God’s love for me and for all that is without depth or height, but beyond anything I can understand even a little…….I am happy about that, for our journey is an eternal one of growing ever deeper into this mystery. No matter how deeply we dive into this Infinite Ocean of love, we will always be at the beginning, the joy will only increase for eternity.

    Lord, allow me to see
    Lord, help me to understand
    how little I really do comprehend,
    permit me to see You in those I meet,
    to be gentle, compassionate,
    and to speak truth in love,
    and allow me to let
    others speak truth to me as well—Br.MD

    About Author







Before his entrance into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday,
Jesus 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 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 (had) no defense.—Br.MD


The Lady with Purple Hair



The Lady with Purple Hair

She stood in the middle of the parking lot,
thin, wearing a white sweater, with purple hair,
she looked lost, standing there reading from a piece of paper.

She was in my way, standing in the middle of the entrance
of a row, to the parking lot;
because of how she looked, I did not want to draw attention
to myself…so I managed to get by her.

I parked, she “The lady” was slowly meandering
across the parking spaces,
not paying the slightest attention to the traffic.

When someone/anyone
steps over the invisible line known as ‘normal’,
I notice, and do not know how to respond,
so a wide berth is made around them.

I want to help, but how?
She is just standing there,
…yes…but in the middle of a busy parking lot.

Was she in danger? 
Well, it did not seem so,
cars, of course, could hit her.

Should I call the police?
Well no, she was not bothering anyone directly.
Just minding her own business
smack-dab in a busy parking lot.

So perhaps I am wrong in my assessment,
yes, most likely I am mistaken.

So many small peeks into a life on the surface,
which is true, but how she dressed and acted,
did speak volumes.

Who she really is,
the deep mystery of her life,
is known only to God.

I am 70 years old
and there is still so much about ‘me’,
I don’t know or understand.

It helps me not to forget that.

I am truly only known by God,
all I can do is to live each day
as it comes, dealing with what comes up,
in the most loving way possible

Not as easy as it sounds.—Br.MD




Hate is the very breath of hell



Hate is the very breath of hell

September 12—Holy Hour. “Don’t you think that if you were to spend this entire hour of adoration repeating the words, ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ you would not be wasting your time? For My will is all love. It is out of love that you ask Me for it, and when the sum of all the love on earth is greater than the sum of hate, that will be a step forward. Hate is not from heaven. Hate is the very breath of hell.

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 2365-2368).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

Hatred is a void that is always hungry, grasping, seeking, but in a way that leads to a cold isolation that can become an eternal prison.  True hatred reduces everything/everyone/God, to an enemy that must be destroyed or enslaved.  It causes the heart to let go of its true humanity, which can only be fulfilled in deepening ones capacity to love, not in reducing it. 

The will of Christ Jesus, a revelation of the Father, is ‘all love’, openness, compassion, mercy and understanding.  The love of God sees into the depths of each soul, it is the domain of God only, this inner life of each human being.  Hatred wishes to deny that, to reduce all that is not ‘it’, to not having the right to exist at all, but an obstacle to the desire to rule over all, or to destroy all. 

Since at the center of hatred there is only blind hunger for what it cannot have, it will eventually feed off of itself, desiring nothing else.  Such is the tragedy of hell.

Each day we choose our road.  Yes, this freedom, which grows and expands every day is our glory as well as a heavy burden.  Yet, we are ‘seen’ truly by God, in that is our hope, for there is always mercy, and a return to the path that leads to life……as long as there is life, it is never too late to begin again, and again, and again.—Br.MD




I will never fully understand God’s grace


“When you say to Me, ‘Beloved Jesus I give you my entire life,’ do you realize that at the same time I’ve given you more, since even what you are giving Me is what I’ve given you? Admit that everything you have comes from Me. It’s all a gift from Me, not to display My power, not chosen at random, but by My most attentive love—chosen especially for you, My children—for your path in life, in order to help you to reach the goal that is yours. Bossis, Gabrielle.


 He and I (Kindle Locations 2321-2324).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.


I have come to the conclusion that I will never understand God’s grace.  For it is given in such abundance to all who seek, that it can be overlooked, or not taken seriously.  There is much in life that does not make sense.  There is much tragedy in life, and we are asked to traverse a path that is often chaotic, filled with pain, loss, and confusion, and yes, terrible injustice.  The death process, is in itself, as part of the human journey, a source of fear and anxiety.

Yet, “God-With-Us” travels with us, is incarnate in each human being, undergoing the whole drama of each life.  God’s love does not allow withdrawal from experiencing the human journey, nor can God hate, or have contempt for anyone.  Our Father’s love is based on total freedom, for God is love.  It is not something understandable, but as I get older I have at times experienced it…..it is like nothing else. 

Because of God’s love, He sees into our hearts deeply, knowing that there are those who ‘freely’ reject that grace and love.  How that happens I do not know.  I think this final rejection of God’s mercy, and love, as shown in Christ Jesus, happens in a place that is very seldom seen by any one human being. 

I can see only the surface of my own inner world, yet God sees me to my depths, and in that I am hopeful.  Freedom is a small seed, and as we move ever deeper into our life’s journey, that seed will grow either towards life or death.  God’s love and mercy is not in question, it is our (my) love and openness to God that is the problem.  In the end, when I stand before Jesus, the judgment will be the Trinity accepting my choice, either for or against a loving relationship with the Infinite…..true justice is unknown in this world, but before God, all is known and accepted by both parties.  No one is forced away from God, we choose in the depths of our hearts.

How that happens I have no idea.  Yet I pray for the salvation of all, and mostly for mine, for as the saying goes:  “One day at a time sweet Jesus, one day at a time”.  To sin is to do the unloving action, which flows from our thoughts, which are often based on fear, anxiety, as well as a heavy load of pain.  It is grace that calls us to have faith and hope and gives us the power to love in ways that without this grace, we would find impossible. It is a life long journey, or as St. Paul describes it, a race.—Br.MD





The weight can be heavy, for some too heavy

As I was driving one fine Georgia day,
the sun was out, a bit chilly,
yes, a wonderful day.

Coming from the airport,
I approached my exit on I-75,
a place where I would give money
to whoever was there.

Most of the time there is no one,
but I always get something ready if there is,
something I do because to pass someone in need
throughout the many stop signs in the city
would harm me I believe,
shutting my hear further which is already so guarded.

So I made a little prayer as I was turning into the off-ramp,

“Lord, will you be there this fine day,
hiding within one of your children,
often one who is overlooked, or looked down upon?”

As I was moving towards the stop sign,
I saw something I never saw before in that place,
so far from the city.

A man was there in a wheelchair,
around 60 I would think,
he had no legs, both cut off at the knee,
he was just sitting there, waiting, hoping.

I was next to him and stopped for the light,
rolled down my window and gave him a little extra,
he cried when he saw what I gave him
(which was not much just a little more than usual)

I was sort of shocked to see him there,
and I asked him if he had a place to live,
he said yes…..I believed him.

I only had a short time and the light changed,
and I left, but he still remains with me.

We all carry more than we think,
no event is forgotten, no human being met
can be unconnected with.

The weight can be heavy, for some too heavy,
to see so much suffering everywhere
and not feel its pull,
nor the helpless emotions that come with that,
then some anger that can go nowhere,
so all that can be done is perhaps one act of kindness,
or for some, they come into our lives
and we know that we must help them
for the long haul.

Lord, help me not to be afraid of the pain that flows up,
nor the understanding that sometimes I am powerless
to save, or change anyone, yet I can do what I can,
and not label, nor pity, nor kill, my own humanity
to escape such a dilemma.—Br.MD 



Be aware!







Be aware!
(Br. Cassian)

Chapter talk I gave on   2/24/19


Bernard had it in his heart the need to be constant in following his vocation, so that he constantly said in his heart, and even often on his lips, “Bernard, Bernard.  What have you come for? “William of St. Thierry


Over the years, retreat masters, abbots, and those who I went to for spiritual-direction, would often bring up this question:  “What have you come for.”  This quote has been used so often that it can become a mere cliché, yet, clichés are often used because they do in fact carry a deep truth. 

Over the years, that question takes on more urgency for me.  People will often ask me what I do here, so I tell them, about being ‘guest-master’, or in the past, that I worked in our infirmary, or even earlier on, the bakery.  Our jobs can take up a great deal of our time, but I did not come here for any of the above reasons. 

I can say to people that I came here to lead a life of prayer, yet it can roll off of my lips all too easily.  Living it is another questions. For me at least, it has been a slow journey to gradually being brought to my true-north, though I am not quite there yet. 

The time we spend with another person, or at some tasks, often flows from the love we have for our friends, as well as the tasks we give ourselves to.  The fruit of our giving ourselves to others, or to service of the community can bring positive results that are experienced on a daily basis.  Hence, you could say, although good, they can also be a hindrance.  For our relationship with God, and our prayer life, are often rooted in a life of discipline. 

There have been periods in my monastic life that this ‘fear of nothingness’ grabbed me by the neck and shook me violently.  I felt bereft, empty, abandoned by God, yet by God’s gentle grace I was slowly brought back to begin again, my calling.  The times of wandering blind in the desert is also an important aspect of the journey towards God.  The deeper we enter into our journey the joys we once experienced seeking escape, will become empty, nothing.  So peace can only be found by taking root in our relationship with Christ Jesus.  All else fades away and dies. 

Love is proven over time.  With friends, because relationships grow through crisis, since in order for people to grow closer, a purification has to take place. So our relationship with God is really not that different….we are called to become other orientated.   People who are truly self-centered are incapable of deep friendship, since it entails sacrifice, and at times pain.

You could say that in living out our relationship with God, our spiritual lives follow the same path as our human relationships, but on a deeper level.  We are often coaxed along early on in our journey towards God, but just like the people of Israel, we are led into the desert.   It can be a long journey, or a short one, it depends on our response to grace, our trust in God’s love for us, and a holy stubbornness that will not allow despair to take root.  There are other factors of course.  Our past has a profound effect on us, which needs to be healed, often through our deep suffering.  It often takes a long time for inner healing to take place, as well as growth in freedom, a freedom that does not fear the pain involved in all healing. 

I have found that the more I move away from ‘the reason why I came’, the more I suffer without joy or hope.  When I get off the path, I wander like demons do in vast arid places looking for something to quench my thirst.  The living water flows upward from the depths of our souls when we deepen our love and trust in the Infinite revealed to us as ‘Agape’. 

One reason I do not mind aging, is that the question (What am I here for?) becomes more central to my life.  At 70, with the knowledge of how fast time goes by, and with the loss of three siblings in the past few years, drives home the reality of how short and precious our lives are.  If the reason for our being here is lost, I do believe that it is a great tragedy both for the individual as well as for the community.   

Each of us has a few friends who know of our struggles, so some of you know how slow the journey has been for me, and for what reasons.  It has taken me many years to come to the understanding that I don’t have to understand ‘why’ I am the way I am.  However, I am called to live through it every day in a deepening love and trust in God.  I went on retreat to try to face one of my greatest obstacles to my monastic life.  It is my fear of ‘nothingness’. The experience that one is living in a void, a numb place.  It is there to protect me from the inner journey towards a deeper trust and love of God. For my ego will cling to what is known, no matter how painful, or self-destructive, it can be.  When it hits, I am often helpless.  Yet over time, slowly, with God’s grace, this is lessening.  So on retreat, by myself this month, in a quiet, large house, I had to deal with that without seeking distraction.  It was fruitful, but also difficult.  For a few days before my retreat was to start, I felt some anxiety about going, and there was a fear of failure…..yet failure is also part of the journey. 

So hopefully, for the last 15 or 20 years of my life, I may commence on a true beginning, seeking to live out the question:  “What am I here for”.   Or as Br. Cassian said, “Be aware”. –Br.Md



Walking on the waves



Walking on the waves


Oh Lord,
I dive into mercy,
my sins, wounds, and raging emotions
burned away by your loving gaze.

I look to you, Lord,
walking on the water
in my inner storm,
I look to you upon the waves
taking one step at a time,

And when I forget and wander,

Or allow fear to wound me yet again,
so I begin to sink beneath the waves,
it is then that you reach out and bring me up,
embracing me in my messiness,
loving me into beginning again…

How loving you are towards all.—MD








A place of beautiful, wounded, raw humanity

I feel at home at the veteran’s hospital in Atlanta,
a place for men and women who have seen much,
who carry their burdens for all to see,
not in shame, but just their lives.

Many are old like me, some very young,
so much for war and its fruits,
wounded men and women, many adrift,
they wear their hats stating which service they served in,
with pride, not shame, even if bitter and angry
over how their lives turned out.

The hallways are full of this teeming slice of humanity,
and I am one of them, I look the part,
with my long white (sort of) beard,
a bit overweight, and perhaps look broken as well.

I love the chapel there, while sitting,
people come in, and out, to pray,
or weep, Muslims as well,
I love to watch them pray to Allah,
which means God….we are one in God,
man makes the division as we do in the world,
wars, and borders, and hatred,

It is an addiction I believe, our going to war,
“my God is bigger and truer than your God”

God weeps, I have no doubt.

I was sitting having coffee one morning,
my brother in for an appointment,
so just waiting, sitting, and writing,
next to me were four men sitting talking, very loud,
three older men, one very young man,
they were trying to help him get used to the VA,
they joked with him, he would laugh,
nervous, but thankful for the attention,
I found it touching, but not uncommon,
that such a simple kindness was being shown.

It is not easy at the VA, lots of people,
many suffering from PTSD, hard to deal with,
but those who work there are kind to them,
I have seen it many times,

Those who work there, I believe have a calling,
they make it easier for everyone because of their
patience and tolerance.

However, in the main cafeteria the coffee sucks,
it is like water, luckily they have a Starbucks there,
who wants weak coffee!!!!

Not me, nope, like it bitter and strong, like to have my head
spin a bit--BrMD


Blessed are the merciful


Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.


The Beatitude I want to speak on is the one that speaks of mercy.   Or about the merciful. 
However, I want to start off with this quote from Matt:  7:1-5

Judging Others

7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

I would say the being ‘blind’, “spiritually blind”, is a difficult obstacle to overcome.  It is based on the fact that most of the time, I would say, that the default mode of thinking is based on self-centeredness.  Which is understandable.  Each of us here experiences themselves as being center stage, the rest orbiting around at a distance, some at a great distance. . Some closer, others further away.  Again those closest to us may be in that exalted position for many reasons.  We simply like them, or they think the way we do, so we feel comfortable around them, and are not challenged.  Of course, I am speaking more for myself than for anyone else, so if this shoe does not fit you…..well never-mind.

If this self-centered way of living is not dealt with, if the illusion is not seen for what it is, then life can become quite interesting.  People are mirrors that reflect back on us.  For we, for the most part, can only weigh in on others by something that is within us as well.  What we see and judge in others can lead to rejection, even hatred.  Judgment can be weighted out from a safe distance…….the one judging is exempt. 

I have fallen into this way of thinking more often than I would like to say, and when I do, any concept of mercy is forgotten.  For in order to show mercy, there has to be some depth of self-understanding or self-knowledge.  Yes, I am judging myself, just don’t know it. 

One way to see this more easily is to take the beatitude “Blessed are the Merciful” and to try to live it, say, for a week, to keep mercy at the forefront of one’s mind.  To become mindful, or aware.  This will create some deep inner tension for some, for others, it may lead to a great deal of conflict.  To decide to live out a beatitude forces self-knowledge to develop. 

As people are encountered, we may become aware of how often we do make judgments about those in our lives, that in reality say more about us than about them. 

When Jesus talks about taking out the log in one’s eye, he is talking about finding a new way to experience life, to change one’s vision, to go deeper in, and see how we all are in need of mercy.  So, yes, we are called upon to understand our own need of mercy, a gift that God bestows on us because he can truly see who we are, without any obstacles. 

If we do not have the humility to deepen our self-knowledge, then the darkness will grow, and we will find ourselves at odds with more people.  We need others to carry our own dark shadow so that we do not have to deal with it.

When we truly become merciful, we no longer have the luxury to label, judge, and lessen, or even destroy the humanity of another (in our own mind) so that we do not have to deal with their raw humanity.  Being merciful towards others, in actuality, leads us to face our own need for mercy and healing.  We no longer need to judge or to gossip about others so that we come out looking good.  We slowly become aware of our own deep unconscious, and from that, from the struggle that flows from that experience, leads to understanding and compassion for our brothers and sisters. 

Jesus was merciful because he truly ‘saw’ those around him.  They did not need to carry anything for him, he saw truly.  We are called to see truly as well and in that, we find healing for ourselves, as well as for those we come in contact with and even more deeply, with our family and friends. 

To allow our own hearts and souls to be healed so that we can live out the beatitudes in our lives, will truly make us the salt of the earth.   It is a struggle, this death to self, with many failures, but when we fail, it only deepens our self-knowledge and our understanding of our need for mercy, which allows us to pass it on.—Br.MD


My brothers and sisters



My brothers and sisters

Oh Lord, I pray for those like me,
whose inner life is chaotic,
filled with images of conflict and strife,
yet who seek to love in spite of this inner war.

My community is with the broken,
not among the strong and virtuous,
for gifts are just that,
a given….grace to share with others,

perhaps my wounds and struggles,
for me and as well as for all of us
are for others as well,
for Lord, it is our wounds you carry,
our burdens you embrace,
should we not do the same for others as well.

Col 1:24 who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting
of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church:


The inner life





The inner life

When thinking about the inner life, the vibrant pulsating world that we all have that is hidden from others, the picture that comes to mind is one of a very large jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces scattered around, and the main focus of that inner world is to try to put the pieces back together again.

Fragmentation is a good word to use, when thinking about this reality, different aspects of the inner man, some parts at war with others, some aspects desiring death, and others life. This can cause the experience to arise where each person can become an enigma to themselves, and this is what jump starts the journey for many, the simple trying to understand what this inner complexity points towards.—Br.MD


Expansion of Heart


Expansion of Heart

February 25, 2019 Monthly Message to Marija: Dear children! Today, I am calling you to a new life.
It is not important how old you are, open your heart to Jesus who will transform you in this time of
like nature, you will be born into a new life in God’s love, and you will open your heart to Heaven and the things of Heaven.
I am still with you, because God permitted me out of love for you. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

Before God, the Eternal, we are all very, very, young.  We are at the beginning of an eternal journey into the Heart of God.  So each moment is a time of new beginnings, a time to grow in trust, and a letting go of servile fear.  Today, today, respond to God’s Infinite Love.  Today, begin to love those around you.  Today learn to love yourself, so that you may love others, truly.  Judging others is a waste of time, and it wounds the soul, injecting the heart with bitterness, and contempt, for others. 

We are called to love and forgive, our enemies for a reason, we are all in need of mercy.  We see in others what we are blind to in ourselves, and in that, we judge ourselves harshly with our words….to know oneself, and one’s need for mercy, allows us to see others with a merciful heart, for we are all brothers and sisters, children of one ABBA.

We can stay enclosed in our fearful, finite heart, or we can open up our hearts to eternal expansion, diving deeper into the mystery of the Infinite, shown to us by Jesus, as ABBA. –Br.MD


Our greatest prison



Our greatest prison

Alfredo Bencomo, is a family brother here at the Monastery.  He has a prison ministry, he goes in and gives talks in the local jail once a week.  He wanted me to write something for the prisoners to read, about not coming back after they are released.  He tells them, “Returning to prison is not an option”.  He seems to have a real gift with prisoners, they respond to him.  The fact that he looks like a bouncer has nothing to do with it ( I think).  Here is the piece I wrote for him--Br. Mark


It is normal for most people to feel closed in by life.  This can happen for many reasons.  It is prison-like and can deplete the one experiencing it of hope, joy, and even love.  It can isolate.  Sometimes, this sense of being locked up can be traced back to oneself, not always, but sometimes.  The only way to find out how one is causing some of their serious troubles is to take stock of oneself, which is not always easy.  We all have blind spots in our souls, which are obvious to others, but hidden so deeply, that the one carrying them simply can’t see.  However, suffering can be a wakeup call that can help the one suffering to seek deeper understanding. 

Being in an actual prison, I have no doubt, is very intense, since one is with many others with deep issues that put them there in the first place.  So prisons are places where the worst possible scenarios can be played out.  Violence, sexual assault, drugs, and murder, are not unusual in many prisons.  An endless cycle of suffering, blaming and striking out.  

From my experience in writing prisoners, there are quite a few who do take responsibility for the reasons they are incarcerated and are doing something about it,  In order that they will not go out, and then repeat the same mistakes and wind up where they started.  Even those who are in for life, who seek change, live better lives and are respected by many who are there. 

Humility is a necessary component for growth since humility is open to learning about one’s soul, its wounds, need for grace, and seeks to make amends if possible.  So cycles can be broken.  In prison, paradoxically, one can find inner freedom that was unknown while out in the so-called ‘real-world’. 

The default position for mankind is to consider oneself the center of the universe.  The more that is believed the more difficult life is and as the list of enemies grows so does the chance of having a violent end.  When there is an awakening when it is understood that one has a soul and that they are children of God, the default position of self-centerless can change to other-centerless towards God.  This allows the life of God to grow, and in that reality, there is healing, and one is no longer the center of the universe, or less so.  Self-knowledge also leads to compassion for others, since we can’t put on others our own hidden faults and yes, evil tendencies.  We learn to actually see others on ever deeper levels, a lifetime journey.

So being in an actual prison can save one’s life and yes one’s immortal soul.  It can be a grace from God, a wake-up call to conversion.  If one is a Christian it can lead to a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus, who reveals God’s love as “Agape”, a love like no other.  Infinite, always yes, a love that pursues each human being, because each is precious to our loving God.

Those of other religions also grow towards God as revealed to them by their traditions.   It is also a good time to learn from others who believe differently, to see how grace works in their lives, and even pray with them.  There is one God, who is well beyond any ideas we may have of the nature of the Infinite One.  Yet in the Christian faith, is also revealed as Father.

In prison, each day can be a day where greater inner freedom is achieved.  There are many choices that have to be made, either towards becoming more loving or to move towards self-centeredness that is destructive.—Br.MD


Prayer for the dead


Prayer for the dead
(community day of remembrance)

Lord, today we pray for those who have gone before us,
those we know and those we do not, our Christians brothers and sisters,
and all those who have died seeking love, truth, and justice in this world. 
For those who have loved truly, yet need further mercy,
and healing, such is the work of your grace.

Each moment is yours, as is each soul,
all are known and loved by you, such is your heart,
eternal, and infinite in love
and compassion for all….beyond
understanding, who can grasp it.

So, Lord, we place all before you, their lives,
their sufferings, their losses, sins, and virtues,
for all is seen by your loving gaze.

All that is their workmanship will be evident because the Day
will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work.
If what he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss.
He himself will be saved, but only as if through the flames.
(1 Corinthians 3:14)

These flames are your mercy, how deep it cuts, bringing out
all that needs healing and mercy, self-knowledge is a painful journey,
yet necessary for our union with your Infinite purity and love.

Teach us all to have compassion
as well on the living, deepen our understanding
 of the struggle we all have, and the weight of what that implies….
.give us all empathy for one another, and leave off judgment,
for only you can judge truly, for you see all and understand all……
human vision is limited and in judging, we wound our souls deeply,
 for only you are the true judge.

So we pray for all, no one left out since all souls
are each loved uniquely by you. Amen—Br. MD




“Depart from me for I am a sinful man”


This a beautiful homily that the Abbot (Dom Augustine) gave this last Sunday  This is a beautiful take on Lk: 5:1-11
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time      February 5  2019            Lk 5: 1-11

In today’s gospel we have the powerful scene of Peter on his knees saying: “Depart from me for I am a sinful man”. I ponder it first thinking of what Jesus did not say explicitly or implicitly: He did not say to Peter you really are not. Don’t be hard on yourself you need to get therapy first. Don’t get scrupulous on me Peter. Forget about it Peter. No, he said something more powerful, beautiful, and healing. Be not afraid. Of course you are a sinner. It’s your existential condition. But I am with you. I take you with me with all your sins. I will never leave you even if you ask me. This condition of yours is not an impediment to my love and involvement with you. I will heal you of your sin. Do not be afraid of your past. And this experience you have of me will give you the desire and confidence of drawing all others to myself as well. Peter represents all of us. Everyone of us here. Jesus responds to us as he does to Peter.

Just last week we read the story of the exorcism at the Genasenes. Here the town’s people begged Jesus to leave them after the incident of the exorcism.  In this case, Jesus did leave. He did not tell them not to be Afraid. What could be the difference? Lack of acknowledgement of one’s brokenness, one’s own woundedness, one’s own sin. Upsetting the order of things too much.

Jesus asks the disciple to put out into the deep. He asks all of us to do so. To stay away from the shallow waters of superficiality. The superficiality we can often see in the world, in secularized society. Do we have to keep up with the keep up with the Kardensians. There is a distinction of having the need to be lighthearted, to enjoy for example a world series victory after 108 yrs (yet even there is something deeply symbolic as we see hope and perseverance leading ultimately to final victory) vs the superficiality which gives not much attention to the Transcendent and Eternal. That there even is a Transcendent and Eternal. But that this Eternal and Transcendent is ultimately Benign. Be not afraid.  This Transcendent and eternal has become incarnate. Benignity, in the fullest, deepest, most beautiful sense is now incarnated. As a Person. And alongside this be not afraid to go into the deep into the woundedness that exists not only in our own hearts but the hearts of so many who suffer, struggle and are alienated in our society. Those who are even alienated from God.  To know too, underneath it all, there is always real drama of redemption happening in our world. We have to go out into the deep to sense this. What is happening in Venezuela I believe is an example of a drama between good and evil—not just ideology.  We are called to go out especially as monks to enter into these deep waters. It is not mean to be morose. The faith, hope, love which Jesus promises us gives us the levity of heart alongside the seriousness of heart we need.

The only way to go out into the deep is with Jesus. The only way not to be afraid.  We can not be unafraid unless we have Jesus with us. Jesus knows we will be afraid. But we need to listen to his words as he tells us now not to be afraid. Not that we will not have fears, but to remind ourselves, when we are afraid, of what Jesus tells us.  Do not go away from me Lord, help not to be afraid even though I am a sinner.  



Dealing with the crisis in the Church


Dealing with the crisis in the Church

“In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.” St. Boniface’s

There is no way to try to tone down the scandal that people are dealing with in the Catholic Church today. Many just leave, I think that is a mistake. Others who stay in the church are trying to find out how to regain some trust in their leaders.

There are many articles on line that deal with this issue and each is useful. However, the betrayal of our leaders in how they dealt with the abuse issues is a wound that will take a long time to heal. There is a saying, perspective is everything, so this is mine.

I do not base my faith on how others behave and live out their faith. That would include our leaders in the church. There will always be failure in how our leaders fulfill their mission. Just as there is failure in the lives of the faithful as well. It is just that the abuse scandal, because it comes such a high level, that the ripple effect is so great.

Our faith does not rest on our leaders, but in the promise of Jesus Christ that the gates of hell will not be victorious over the church. That can be a source of strength for all of us. To take root in Jesus Christ and his promises.

Anger is often an appropriate response when injustice is done. However, it is important to not allow that anger to become an injustice. We are the church, we need to fight for that. One way of doing that is to take deeper root in our faith tradition and to ask the Holy Spirit for the wisdom to pass through this time of deep suffering for all of us.

We need to draw close to Jesus in times like these. We are called to move forward in trust and not to run away from the reality of ‘sin’ and yes ‘betrayal’ that happens in the church. The only way to off-set this tragedy is to face our anger and rage, not to run from it, but bring it in prayer. For it is in times like these that we are called upon to live out the councils of the Sermon on the Mount. Forgiveness can only be given after we allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to heal us and to also bring out compassion for the victims, as well as to pray for those men who have caused so much harm. Those who have abused, and actually worse, those who have covered it up.

I refuse to give power to those who fail to affect my faith in Jesus Christ. To leave the church in anger does no one any good, but in fact can be harmful to those who leave, especially if they were devout and lived out their faith, fully.

Where is our focus? When we look to Jesus, we can walk through the storm, if we look away we can sink beneath the waves. The journey is difficult and the sense of betrayal can be very deep, but to stay on course is what we are called to do and at the same time to demand that those who covered up the scandal, and those who harmed the young be brought to justice….without becoming bitter, or filled with hate. We are called to pray for all, that includes those who abuse, for many of them were also abused when young, it is a cycle that can only be stopped by mercy, compassion, and deep prayer.

Bitterness and rage are not gifts of the Holy Spirit. We need to understand that we lay men and women are also priests, just not sacramental. Our prayers are needed, we can be a force of healing for all. The blessed Mother tells to pray, pray, pray, for a reason.—Br.MD


What is our life?



What is our life?

I wonder why we tend to cling,
impossible though it is to hold on
to so many ‘things’ in our lives.

Clinging will destroy a friendship,
or even marriage if it is too needy,
children also grow away from their parents,
painful as that must be,
yet parents if they don’t let go
stall another kind of relationship,
a deeper one, between equals,
though being a father and mother
seems to be an endless job,
it just changes.

Aging is feared,
a waste of time, for tick tock!

We can’t cling to the day, minute nor the hour,
so fast is the tempo of our lives,
even if we sit, and do nothing,
 tick tock!

Even faith, if clung to, becomes rigid,
bitter even, because faith also grows,
matures, and changes in its perceptions.

If we don’t go deeper in and higher up,
we stay in the same land, imprisoned,
while others pass us by.

We seek happiness,
yet often don’t know we have it
till someone, or something is lost.

Yet one step at a time,
we make our pilgrimage,
trusting in God to bring us home,
or if many do  not,
we pray that all will
compete the journey.—Br.MD

“Have you noticed how often the work of the humble has to be done again? Put all your heart into it, knowing that you please Me. And since you want to live for Me, since you want to see everything in relation to Me, and pattern your life after Me, then consider how short the time is that remains for you on earth. You can give Me glory
in that time. Give it to Me unstintingly.”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 2235-2238). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.




A Muslim couple



A Muslim couple
(between a rock and a hard place)

(This was written in January 2016)

As a retreat/guest master here I get to meet some very interesting people. People come here who have no specific beliefs. We get Buddhist, Hindus, New Age, and Christians of just about every denomination, and atheists, and agnostics... Not many Muslims come through here, or if they do, they may not identify themselves as such.

About a year ago we got an email from a very nice couple, Muslim, who wanted to come for retreat and wanting to talk to one of the monks. I responded to them and invited them to stay in our retreat house. They were both professionals, one an Engineer and the other a Doctor. I was looking forward to the encounter.

When they checked in I happened to be in the front office. They were an attractive couple in their 50’s, open and eager to experience what it would be like to be in a Catholic Monastery. They attended all of our services and fit in well.

The next day, after Vespers we met. They did not want to talk about being Muslim but wanted to talk about their spiritual journey towards God. Both had a deep love of God and a longing to move deeper into the mystery, and they told me that they found their faith fulfilling, and help in seeking an ever deeper relationship with the Infinite. There was however a longing in the woman’s eyes that spoke volumes to me. They conveyed the message, ‘please see us as fellow seekers and not terrorist’. We never brought up ISIS, nor the horrors that were going on the world at this time. There was no need, the couple and I knew that this really could not be solved by our talking about it. They were professionals, living in the United States, who considered themselves good citizens and wanted to be treated like anyone else. It was easy to do with this couple. Love and compassion seemed too radiated out of them. Everyone of good will is an exception to any kind of negative stereotype.

They belonged to a group that was trying to reach out to others and to dialogue. Rumi was a good point of reference for me since I love his poetry. His language on getting drunk on God, by using a bar analogy, the longing to letting go of pretense, of fear, and to dance widely in the love of God….to become free as a child once again, in trust, is something that I can resonate to.

I felt a connection with them and can say that I truly felt deeply their desire to be seen, heard and listened to. I also felt sad as well, for I knew that they and many Muslims like them, were being dragged along by the tide of terror going on in the world today. ISIS being the elephant in the room we did not talk about. So I also worried about them. Fear can make decent people do terrible things, and if fear grows about the threat of ISIS, I worry about Muslims who have nothing to do with that, could be hurt or even killed. I don’t think we should underestimate that actually happening. It is actually, here and there, but not widespread as of yet.

Religion deals with mystery, when it becomes an ideology, a closed system of laws and control it is then that it becomes fascist.

(Simple Definition of fascism: a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government. A very harsh control or authority.)

ISIS I guess is a prime example of that reality, when politics and religion marry. The temptation to the Will-To-Power is simply too great. In the past my own faith had to deal with this. Religious leaders are really just politicians, interested in their own power base, and the all else become secondary when religion and the state become one and the same.

I have no answers to this dilemma and hope and pray that moderate Muslims can find some way to distance themselves from ISIS and their ilk. Some are beginning to, but to be silent can be read into by many as acquiescence. If it is true that, then I guess we are all in trouble and the war will only get worse.

Meeting with the couple was helpful, however, and I hope that Christians and Muslims will meet and talk and even pray together. God is God, no one owns God, the Infinite. God is not an object that we possess. Also, the roots of Islam go back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so yes, though many will disagree, both Muslims and Christians, we do worship the same God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What we think about God, or feel about this reality, says something about us more than God. It is like relating to other people, we have ideas about them that also reflect back on us. Yet all those ‘others’ exist apart from our ideas and projections. We are at war with radical Islam, not with Muslims who simply want to live in peace with their neighbors.

We must not underestimate how tribal and primitive and fearful we can become. All through history we have reacted with brutality continuing the cycle of violent behavior. Often this reaction is indiscriminate. If we must fight radical Islam, let’s not bring all Muslims into this war. If we do, we will only make things worse and radicalize more Muslims, who will then through their actions, radicalize more non-Muslims.

It is love, mercy, compassion and empathy that can untie the Gordian knot, freeing us from the eternal turning of the wheel that leads to only more pain, suffering, violence and death.—Br.MD



My Friend Janet


My Friend Janet

Be ever ready to help others right to the very limit of your strength. You remember with what love I gave myself. In My public life, in the midst of so many people all crowding around through self-interest. Seldom did I meet with love. They came to Me through selfishness, yet My tenderness reached out to each one of them. Imitate Me. Don’t bargain with Me.

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 1822-1824). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

I do believe that there are people who come into our lives that we are actually supposed to take care of.  Then there are those who pass through, and perhaps, are helped a few times.  Janet (not her real name), I believe is someone I am supposed to help, and because of that, she helps me as well.

She has some emotional issues and has medicine to help with that.  She is a deeply anxious person, and because she lives on the edge, on disability, she often worries about rent, food, and who is going to help her when she gets ill.  Even when these needs are taken care of, and she does have people to help her, she still worries excessively.  However, she also has an inner strength that I admire very much.  She enjoys what she has, and I am glad that I am one person who can make some sort of difference in her life.  She is a grace for me. 

She can drive me a little crazy at times, but she does not process the way I do, and I have come to appreciate that, and let her do what she needs to do to work out her problems. 

I have to laugh about how many messages she will leave me on my phone.  Because she has reversed her days and nights, she tends to call at 1 AM or so.  On my phone, I have set her calls on silent.  When she does call, she will leave up to 8 messages, each pretty much a repeat….don't forget she is a very anxious individual.    As I age and have come to see how anxiety affects me, so I have some understanding of what compels her to repeat herself, because she does have a serious anxiety disorder.   So one evening, as we were talking on the phone, I asked her to please let me know if she needs anything in her first three messages because I could not promise her that I would listen to all eight or more voicemails.   I usually do listen, however.   Being an intelligent woman, she also has a sense of humor, and she laughed and said she would.  I don’t do that much for her, but once a month I pick up some items from the pharmacy, like facial tissues, paper towels, and some over the counter medication.  Oh, yes, she loves chicken, so I will get her some fried chicken.   I do not do her shopping for food etc.  Another friend of Alice arranged for a C N A to come in twice a week to help her out with her needs. 

She stays in a small motel room.  She has been at this motel for around 12 years, and that small room is now her home, and she would not want to be anywhere else.  Though I do know she is lonely and she can’t get out to eat or get her hair done unless someone drives her.  I try to take her out to eat a couple of times a year, and she always enjoys that.  She does get out a few times a month because she has some good friends who help to take care of her needs. 

I do worry about her, she is almost 80 and has some health problems that are developing.  She is terrified about being ‘placed’ in some nursing home, but I fear one day she will have an emergency, and will not be able to return to her motel room.  Hopefully, if that happens, it may be a good thing, since the nursing home staff will be able to get her back on a normal schedule.  Then she may find that she will receive lots of visitors, for she is well liked.  You would not meet a more open, talkative, loving person, than Janet.  

I remember about 10 years ago I drove her to Walmart.  Now from my past experiences, I know that when she shops, she also talks to everyone she meets in the shopping aisles, and will ask them their opinion on what she should buy, even though she knows exactly what she wants.  I have also noticed that people warm up to her, actually loving her attention.  So she could take a very long time doing shopping.  That day I only had a few hours so I told her, in a very stern voice (though I was kind of laughing inside), that if she was not outside waiting for me in two hours, she would have to get a cab back to her motel.  So I drove off, did what I had to do for the community, and came back.  She was there!   She later told a friend of mine that she was terrified that I would actually leave her there stranded if she was not finished.  I laughed, but told Janet later, that whenever I drop her off, she really needs to understand that my time is limited, but I would never abandon her.  Now, I have just one trip to make, a quick one, and she has others to help her with her shopping.  Her C N A does most of it for her.   She can’t walk very well, she has some hip problems.  It did take a while to get our boundaries straightened out…..it is always a learning process.

I have come to love Janet, even though on some level, I am only as good as my last favor to her.  That is ok, her heart is good, and she is just in survival mode, so I understand that.  Luckily over the last couple of years, her support system is much better than it was in the past.  God is good, and she gets what she needs, and those who help her get to see her humor, love of life, and her desire to stay as independent as she can. 

I am not sure which one of us will go first.  If she does, I will miss her I know that.  I am also grateful that I can do my little bit to help her….even if from time to time she does drive me crazy…..one day she left me 12 messages.

Hidden Ways

Lord, you show yourself in hidden ways,
each of us is your presence in the world,
so give me a heart to see your face,
in those you send to me to journey with,

(knowing that I as well need those to journey with me),

for you heal through our hands,
and love with our hearts.—Br.MD


Anxiety and Morning Coffee




Anxiety and Morning Coffee

I love coffee.  I enjoy the ritual of preparing it.  Three scoops for a full pot, allowing the water to run, then getting that first taste of the bitter brew.  Yes, I love the bitter taste of coffee.  I guess I simply taught myself to enjoy dark, and bitter.  It is a familiar place, a comfortable one, a good start for any day. 

As I age, I begin to notice that in the morning, even though I wake up rather quickly, there has always been a form of ‘suffering’ associated with it.   Yes a dramatic word, but I do not have another word for it.  It is low key, deep, and it is apparent when I wake up.  Coffee, the making of it, the aroma, and the bitterness seems to get me out of that space.  When young it was not so strong this underlying anxiety, so I could ignore it, but now it is something that I face every morning, though it is really not all that much of a bother.  Just a part of my life.

Like when I take an evening walk, I find it very soothing, comforting, and it makes it easier for me to awaken my mind a bit since in the evening I like most people, become very tired.  Even then, there are evenings when I am tired, but find that I do not want to go to sleep, sort of like the feeling right after I wake up.  I guess this is a common human experience, sort of like the commonness of grass, except this is my blade of grass. 

I am happy that I can now say that I do have some anxiety, it helps me to put my anger issues into perspective as well.  It is about learning that I can’t control much, but I can deal with how I interact with a world that can be a bit chaotic and very unpredictable. 

I have come to believe that these experiences have a common thread associated with it.  In some sense, both have to do with sleep.  I am a very light sleeper, and I seem to dream right after I close my eyes.  For instances, I can be reading in my room, say around 3 PM, then fall asleep for a few minutes, no more than five, yet when I wake up, it is in the middle of a dream.  This is not uncommon in the population, but the majority of people seem to start dreaming further into their sleep cycle.  I wonder if this has a little something to do with my morning’s feeling somewhat dark, empty, and the underlying anxiety. 

I do know that when I get my coffee after I wake up, and walk out the front door of the retreat house, it always brings up a feeling of hope and even joy.  On some mornings it is hot, and there is life all around me.  Snails on the walkway, and the wall that keeps me from plunging over into the parking lot covered with many of these little, humble, creatures.  Which by the way, are beautiful and elegant.  Sometimes, I hear a lone bird calling out, or crickets seeking a mate, a lot of crickets.  Cicada’s once in a while with their ear-piercing call will also greet me.  Palmetto bugs as well.  As long as stay outside they are good, but one step inside, well it does not end well.

 Rain, and wind, I find it all soothing and delightful.  I love to breathe in the cold air.  I get a great deal of pleasure from listening to rain, both the gentle music of the falling raindrops as they hit the pavement or the leaves on the bushes and trees, that surround me. As well as the hard pounding heavy metal kind of storm, with high winds, and lightning and thunder.  One morning as I was sipping my coffee, a very loud thunderclap boomed just above the Monastery.  I jumped and spilled my coffee…..I laughed, a good way to start any day, with a laugh.

As long as I center myself on what is important at that time of the day, the anxiety soon dissipates, if I do not, it can linger, and become ‘The Noon-Day-Devil’, an experience of inner wandering, discontent, and a feeling that I am slowly dissipating into the wind.  There are days when I seem to prefer that, being a hungry ghost, instead of being rooted in what is loving and eternal, beckoning me to respond. 

To respond, to give time, to let go of what is really not that important, can for me, be difficult.  I am not always sure why, but at bottom, one thing I do fear is love, as well as desire it.  Yet love that is real, demands everything.  Sometimes I put in my heels and act like a child holding it’s breathe…..fruitless I know, yet still something I do. 

Perhaps I need to experience the ‘hell’ of my own inner emptiness if left to myself over and over again until I learn what I am made for.  It is my own fear that keeps me from letting go and holding on to what is not only harmful but in the end useless.—Br.MD