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talking to myself

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markdohle

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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 

 

markdohle

Be aware!

 

 

 

 

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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

 

markdohle

Walking on the waves

 

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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

 

 

 

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markdohle

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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
 

markdohle

Blessed are the merciful

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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

markdohle

My brothers and sisters

 

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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:

markdohle

The inner life

 

 

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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

markdohle

Expansion of Heart

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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
grace
and,
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

markdohle

Our greatest prison

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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

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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

markdohle

Prayer for the dead

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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

markdohle

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“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.  

 

markdohle

Dealing with the crisis in the Church

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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

markdohle

What is our life?

 

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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.





 

 

markdohle

A Muslim couple

 

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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

 

markdohle

My Friend Janet

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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



markdohle

Anxiety and Morning Coffee

 

 

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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


 

 

markdohle

Evan.a prisoner I am writiing

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Evan, a prisoner I am writing to

 

Many in prison really do have a profound conversion while incarcerated.  There are some who have doubts about this, as if when one goes to prison they become something other than human.  That is the danger of stereotyping.  I have never met another human being who fits into any narrow stereotype.  All one needs to do is to listen.  The same goes for prisoners.  Those who are seeking a deeper connection with God, also desire to have someone that they can relate to outside of prison.  I have found it humbling to write such men, and have come to have a deep respect for them.  True, a few I had to stop writing because they were ‘cons’, but from my experience, as a monk, this is not by any means the majority.  

For many prisoners, being in a confined environment leads to a deeper interior freedom and saves them from being pulled into the more destructive aspects of prison life.  Evan is one of these men.  He is highly intelligent and is truly seeking to develop a deep, enduring relationship with Christ Jesus.  Through personal experience, many prisoners learn that the joy they receive from seeking a deeper loving relationship with God, far outweighs the escapes they sought after in their past. 

Prisoners will often ask me about how they should relate to others from different faith traditions, or to those who are Christian, but rabidly anti-Catholic.  Below is something I wrote to Evan about that.  I have also written about how to relate with men who follow a non-Christian path.  One thing I have shared with them is that any true seeker after the truth is a friend, not an enemy.  Seekers truly want truth, so it is good to listen to those on another path, and good for them to listen to us.  A deeply prayerful Muslim can be a support of any Christian, as long as they do not seek to change one another……an impossible task and only leads to isolation. 

Below is part of a letter that I wrote to him.  Again, I am only sharing this to not only encourage others to write prisoners if they feel a pull in that direction, because they are human, lonely, and need someone to encourage them.  Yes, one must use discernment, for some men in prison, can fall more-or-less into the stereotypical thinking about how prisoners are.  Stereotypes are based on some truth, but does not ever apply to everyone, not even to the worst of them on all levels.  Each human being has their history, and it can be very difficult to break away from. 

 


Evan,

About relationships with others on the faith level.  When I am with other Christians from other faith traditions, I focus on what we have in common, which is, of course, our trustful, loving, relationship with Jesus Christ.  When I have to deal with Christians who are rabidly anti-Catholic, I simply refuse to argue, and ask them to study on their own what the Catholic Church really teaches……I also tell them, not to convert them, but to give them insight into what the Catholic faith is all about.  If they refuse, I let it go, and simply love them.  Arguing does no good.

For those who are not anti-Catholic, I accept that we share the same faith in Jesus Christ, and that is enough to develop a deep spiritual relationship.   I also know that many have been hurt by those who were supposed to lead them deeper into the mystery of their faith.  That goes for both Catholic, as well as Protestant.   Yet, they follow Jesus. 

I will often tell those who have ‘issues’ with their faith tradition because of the weakness of our human nature, to really study what their faith tradition has to offer and then make a decision.  Why should any of us allow the failures of others to dictate our faith?  What also helps me is knowing that I can’t change anyone, nor can anyone change me, but we all influence each other deeply, if often on an unconscious level.  I do know, that each human is deeply loved by the Lord, no matter their path, for he bore upon himself all of our sufferings, and yes, sins.  Such a love is beyond comprehension, we can get into trouble when we forget that. 

When you are in prayer, it is then that you are most in touch with those who are there with you.  As you deepen your relationship with Christ Jesus, allowing his grace to heal and transform you, your love of those around you will grow, and yes, your heart will suffer for them.  This is all a part of God’s plan for each of us, to see the suffering Christ Jesus in those around us, for he lives in each of us.  The more deeply we understand that the more he can ‘incarnate’ in us, leading us often to help others, even when we are unaware. 

People know when they are loved.  The more deeply we love, the deeper we are able to see others without judging, but only loving.  God sees all of us deeply, completely, so his mercy and compassion are total.  That is why we are told never to judge the worth of another human being…..we can’t, we do not see deeply enough.  Yet the more we allow Christ to love in us, the deeper we will see into the heart, of those around us.  Why?  Because prayer leads to self-knowledge, which brings us to our need for grace, and our knowledge that without grace, we would be consumed by our inner chaos.

 

The Lord is at work in your life in a powerful way Evan, so even if from time to time, you might lose a battle (as we all do), the war will be won by the grace of Jesus Christ.  Continue to deepen your love of the sacraments, for they are true avenues of grace.  Don’t worry if non-Catholics don’t understand.  It takes Catholics many years to come to a deep love and appreciation of the sacraments.  People of all faith paths will talk to me about how the Eucharist affects them, even if they do not understand.  I try to explain the presence of Christ in a special way in the bread kept in our tabernacles.  This does bring some into the church.  Even those who don’t, still spend time in our church just being in the presence of Christ Jesus in our Eucharist. 

 

I will close with a quote from the book “He and I’. 

 


June 23—Holy Hour. “You and I. Together we make only one. “It is time to see Me in a new light—the powerful light of reality. “Even when you are doing the most ordinary things I am with you, because while I am the greatest, I am also the humblest, and nothing is ever deadly dull to Me. What is most obscure and despised only attracts Me more. So don’t be afraid that I’ll leave you at certain moments, for I love you all the time. Tell Me that at last you do believe in the faithful company of My love. Keep strengthening your belief by the little words of your heart; they are like the wood that you throw on the fire. And I quicken. “You realize now, don’t you, that without Me, your End, your life is empty. So meet Me more often. Enter more joyfully into your Savior-God. Oh, if only you could remain there forever! This solitude of ours is such wealth that even the angels envy it—they who have never received Holy Communion. Your entire being is saturated with Me. Consecrate yourself in your heart’s outpouring and I’ll bind you the more closely to Me—even to unity. “Why shouldn’t you come to Me as gaily as you go to meet a very dear friend?” June 28—From the

 

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3891-3896). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
 

 

If you do not feel called to write prisoners, please pray for them.  Many are actually afraid that when they get out they will fall back into old habits.  Many know that they have deep issues that they will have to continue to work on when they are released.  Yet, many are successful and their faith is a big help for them when they get out.  Faith for some is considered as a copout and weak, I disagree, it gives us deep roots and a way to face reality without seeking to escape, or self-medicate.—Br.MD

 

markdohle

The Two Sides of Silence

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The Two Sides of Silence

Before embarking on some sort of journey, be it going to another destination, or planning a vacation etc., there can be the tendency to romanticize the process. Anticipation is often different than the actual experience.

When pondering the need for silence, it can be one-sided when it is simply being thought about or when reading from a particular author. The thought of silence can be soothing, peaceful and even healing. The desire for some peace in our lives at all levels can make silence seem like the medication that we need….which is true. However, like all the infatuations that draw us, the true test of the power and healing of silence comes when the romantic illusion drops away.

One woman who was here on retreat asked to speak with me. The first thing she told me was that the silence was deafening to her and she was surprised by that. She expected inner peace, instead, she found herself wanting to run away from the very thing that she came here to our retreat house seeking. The silence was both calling her and repelling her at the same time. I was impressed at her insight into her situation.

Yes, silence is peaceful, soothing, calming and healing. It allows us to let go and to be present to the moment. It roots us in the ‘now’ and when that is happening we are not fretting over the past or obsessing over our fears and anxieties about the future….we become simple awareness. Each person is unique how he or she will experience silence and I would think that one’s faith path will have some influence on how we deal with stillness. For there is also another silent presence there with us, beyond us, nameless, and if we are patient, we find loving. This can be a shock since suddenly the reality of what we call ‘God’ is a deeply felt reality.

However, that is only the beginning.

For there is often a long road to travel when a soul takes this journey into silence seriously. It is when we live intensely an interior life that we come to understand why Jesus commanded us to love ourselves.

We seek to hear the gentle voice of the Spirit when we pursue inner silence. We find that this is a true reality. Another fact we soon find out is that there are other voices that seek our attention as well. Many of them are not peaceful at all, but demanding, petulant, angry and can seem obsessive.

In reality, the silence just makes us aware of them, for they have always been there.

Much of the businesses of our lives is often an unconscious desire to escape these voices. Which is an illusion and often leads to obsessive behaviors and addictions that drive us. People often don’t know why they do certain things in their lives that are self-destructive and only bring chaos into their lives.

The fear of suffering is one of the greatest obstacles in living a deep interior life. For in our prayer life and meditations and silence we will find much that is disturbing and emotionally painful. Our addictions and obsession are a vain attempt to medicate these inner wounds, but they only give superficial relief and actually make things worse.

It is in sitting, or when we walk slowly and seek silence, that we find that these inner storms will not actually harm us, but in staying with the inner tempests we find — to use a Scriptural analogy — that Jesus was in the boat with us on the raging sea sleeping; but he is there all the same. We get through it, come out on the other side and in that we find that we have a sense of being home, or of the actual presence of the living waters in our heart.

This is a process that most of us have to go through over and over again. Yet even in our failures, our hearts remain open and slowly we find ourselves being lead and cajoled into deeper trust. We find that our path is really pathless but we still take the next step. This is the gift of silence, not a drug to sooth us, but a strong medicine to allow us to embrace the process that is our lives.

Waiting on the Lord can seem soul-numbing at times, but stay with it, be at peace and do not seek to escape the inner thirst and hunger that tortures the human heart until it is touched by God. It is then that we understand what our thirst and hunger are about. We seek to be seen, understood and loved. In silence we learn to simply allow that to happen, that is all grace.

All we need do is trust — which is in itself a choice that can transform us. For in choosing trust, we say no to the many other voices within that seek to keep us from experiencing that reality. Childish voices that seek to protect us, but in reality, they keep us from becoming truly childlike and trusting in the Lord of life and love.--Br.MD

 

 

markdohle

What lies beneath

 

 

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What lies beneath

March 20—Holy Hour. “You are worried about the passage from this life to the next? But since it is the greatest proof of love that you can give Me, be glad. Offer your death to Me now with complete detachment, ready even for heroism. Say, ‘Even if I didn’t have to suffer death, I would choose it in order to be more one with Him.’ And in this way you will give Me the greatest glory a creature can give his Creator. Oh, precious death of the saints that echoes even in the heavenly courts of the Father’s Home!

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 2842-2846).

Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition

Tony, a good friend of mine of many years, called me on my phone and asked me in a very quiet tone to come up to where my brother (David) was staying.  I could tell by the sound of his voice that there was something wrong, so I rushed upstairs to see what was going on.  I found my brother sitting on a couch in the hallway of our retreat house, gasping for air.  My first thought was that he was having a heart attack.  I called 911 at once, and they were there within 10 minutes, since it could have been a life, or death, situation.  Well, it was not his heart, but his condition was serious and they had to intubate him, so that his body could rest.  To say the least, this was not a pleasant experience for me, but thank God my brother was sedated for the procedure, and now, has no memory of it at all. 

The ICU at Rockdale Hospital is well run, and the care given, is very good.  Since I was not sure that my brother would make it or not, I stayed the night in the ICU.  David’s children were notified and they were all coming the next day.  His daughter Sarah, was in Mexico, on vocation.   His oldest son, Darshan, was a pilot and was in Brazil, and Mark, the youngest boy, who just had his first child, hurried to come up.  He has great children, all of them intelligent, independent and have a good relationship with David.  I was also able to talk to Sherry, his wife for 12 years. 

There was one other person in the waiting room with me, a middle age woman.  We talked a bit, but then she went to lie down on a couch, and went to sleep.  I read for a while, but fatigue got the best of me.  So I got a cushion from a chair, put up my hood, from my hoddie, and laid down on my back.  When I did that, as I tried to quiet my mind and pray, I became aware of a deep chasm of fear, a dark place, which seemed to have no destination, but just more darkness, nothingness, fear and pain.  This dread sometimes overtakes me.  When working in the Infirmary here at the Monastery, it would sometimes come when I was sitting with a dying member of my community.  So this is not something new, but I went with it, observing where it would take me. 

It led me to a place of ‘terror’.  Where all of life seemed to lead only to ‘this place’, a place where everything was reduced to absolute ‘nothingness’.  It was like a bottomless ocean, black, hungry, and never satisfied, it always wanted more life to swallow up.  As I sank deeper, I begin to pray, and to make a choice, to trust in the process of life, and not to give in to believing that absurdity had the last say on what human life is all about. 

I went back to seeing my brother confused, afraid, and in pain, and then I saw the face of Christ Jesus, being with my brother, suffering with him, accompanying him.  This did not make me feel better, but made me aware of the intimacy that God has with us.  We all will suffer, we will all die, some of us in ways that will be truly terrible, others it will be fast, yet, it seems that death has the finale answer.  I can understand why many people believe this to be true.  Also why they may think that my faith is a way to avoid that awful truth.  I thought about my brother, whom I love very much, dying.  Then I thought about Sissy, Skip, and Jane, my siblings, who have died over the last four years……this truth had to be embraced.  Yet despair does not have to be the outcome.  Faith does not take away from the seeming meaninglessness of life, nor does it lessen suffering, but the Christian message is that God is truly with us on all levels.  God’s intimacy closer to us than our very breathe. 

In that dark inner ocean, there was a small light that appeared in the depths, I could barely see it, but that is what faith is about.  To seek the light, choose to believe, and to open ones heart to paradox.  If I live long enough, I will have to say goodbye to my six living siblings, or I could be next.  It does not matter, whatever happens, I will have to go through it.  My own death, or the death of my beloved brothers and sisters.  Yet faith gives me hope, hope leads to deeper love, and charity is the fruit of such endeavors.

I have friends without faith of any sort.  They, like everyone else, have to find ways to deal with it.  it is important to be honest in our search, and not to be lazy , but to face life, for no matter my faith, life can still ‘suck’,  on a very deep level.  Yet it is also wondrous, for here we choose to love, to forgive, to get up, and yes, to allow faith to take deep root.  It is all grace. I pray for all of my loved ones, knowing that the love that I have experienced from God, is the same, but unique, for everyone.  Such is the Christian message, that God really is love, and seeks us all, up to the last minute of our lives.

One reason I believe I choose ‘hope’, is I have come to the conclusion, at least for me, that to give in to a sort of ‘nihilism’ is something easy to do, it is just the way I am.  I do think that is why as a very young child, I would panic over the thought of a lake, or cliff, which led to an abyss, without a bottom. I would go into a sort of shock over such a thought.  When I was 7, my parents took us to one of the cave-tours when we lived near St. Louis.  When we came to an inner lake that had lights in it that seemed to led to a bottomless, cold, pit, I went into a panic, and my parents had to take me out.  —Br.MD

 

“Do not speak ill of the paradox, passion of thought: the thinker without paradox is like the lover without passion, a great mediocrity” Soeren Kierkegaard....

 

markdohle

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Learning to live with uncertainty and loss

Being young is truly wonderful.  When I think of my youth, I often experience ‘that person’ as almost a stranger, yet someone I of course know.  I also feel young inside, but there is a difference.  I have learned, more or less, to deal with loss. 

Many people learn about loss early in life.  Starting in early childhood, though perhaps the majority don’t start this process until much later, if they are lucky.  We are always letting go, though when younger it is apparent that most of letting go is a gateway into something larger.  The first day of school, for instance, can be quite scary.   I remember the day I started the first grade at “Good Shepherd”.  I did not want to go, leaving the safety of home, but even though I never really liked school, it was overall a life-affirming experience. 

The same goes for other stages in life.  Then after a certain age, it becomes apparent that there begins the process of diminishment.  The loss of strength, agility, and even sharpness of mind, once taken for granted is now lessening.  In this, it can be harder to find a gateway into something larger.  It is often a difficult journey, but there are also many positive developments.  Inner freedom can begin to expand. Which can in fact, besides the bother with all the goes with being older, can actually be one of the best times of one’s life. 

I do think it is important to think deeply about the human journey.  If not, we may fall into the trap of letting others think for us.  Now everyone is unique, so how we seek to deepen our understanding of what our lives are about will vary greatly. 

Dealing with time can also be a very interesting part of our pilgrimage.  I am now 70, not young, and so I can see the end racing towards me.  Even if I live to be 90, it is just a blink.  In fact, as I look back on my life, from very early childhood, until now, it is a ‘blink’.  Almost dreamlike, or perhaps it is, though of a different nature of the dreaming that happens when we sleep.  Yet when we sleep, the world we find ourselves in, for that short time, is the real world.  Makes one wonder about life, death, and what it is all about. 

My faith, as a Christian, gives me a perspective on life that will be different from say an atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Pagan.  Yet we are all travelers on the same road, leading to the same destination.  From my own personal experience as a man who seeks God on the Christian path, I have come to understand that the love I experience from God, is the same love that embraces all seekers.  I do not believe that I am to use scriptures to judge others, or to build up walls to protect me from different belief systems.  To seek is to find. 

Below is a quote from one of my favorite books, titled “He and I”.  I do believe it brings out the central reality of God’s love for us, in language that can be understood.  The only problem is that the message is so positive, so loving, that it can raise doubts.  It does in me, but doubt is part of life, and it only deepens my desire to seek and to understand.  I do believe that each human, is the one sheep, that he seeks while leaving the 99, as is so beautifully stated in the parable of the Good Shepherd. 


January 19—(With tender intimacy.) “When the moment of death comes for My friends, you believe, don’t you, that I come gently, with all the delicate touches that you know, to take their souls into My kingdom? You would do the same if you were taking someone into one of your beautiful homes. You would want to feel the joy of their surprise, wouldn’t you? Then I, God, who love more and own more, how could I fail to be interested in the passing of My friends from time? “Nothing that you may possibly have imagined of the love of My heart comes anywhere near the reality. Remember that I wanted your joy so much that I came down to earth to know suffering. And when I see you suffer, and suffer for Me, I gather each of your sufferings with great love, as though yours were greater than Mine, and had a value that My heart would like to make infinite. And this is why, when you allow Me to do so, I merge your life with Mine.”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3149-3156).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

No one is outside of God’s love, which is the message of Christianity.  Though many Christians will disagree with me.  Also being Catholic does not help matters for more than a few.  When I read the scriptures, it is for me to take to heart, and not to look at others in such a way that I compare myself to them.  I am called to conversion, to deeper love, to opening my heart to the love of Jesus Christ, so that I can love others…….I am not called to judge, condemn, but to only love, and pray, and to speak with love and respect if others inquire of my faith.  It is a terrible burden to judge others, it wounds the soul on a very deep level.  It can poison the heart.

Life is short, full of paradox, joy, love, and yes, of pain as well.  However, if I seek to grow in my relationship with Christ, that journey will be intense, and I will not have the time to judge others, but to only pray for them……yes even my enemies. 

As I age, so do my brothers and sister.  I have lost three in the last few years and almost lost another this week.  However, he is on the mend, and it helps me to not take for granted, my family, or friends, or those I simply meet on the way. 

True I fail, but I simply get up and take the next step.  The journey for all of us is hard, let us grow in empathy and compassion for one another.  God is love, those who love, live in God and God in them. –Br.MD

 

markdohle

What do I really believe?

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What do I really believe?

“Death is nothing else but going home to God,
the bond of love will be unbroken for all eternity.” – Mother Teresa

Many people believe that faith is some form of absolute assurance. I do not believe that. From my own limited experience, there will always be room for some doubt. I think that is healthy and when ‘doubt’ is rejected and pushed underground it can manifest itself in other ways. Being overly defensive as opposed to simply sharing one's faith and viewpoint is one such way. Or extreme rigidity to keep a sense of ‘personal infallibility’ intact is also a common way of dealing with wanting the impossible; that is having absolute assurance. This goes for both believers as well as for those who don’t have a faith of any kind. There seems a need to be ‘right’ in opposition to others.

My faith, which I am deeply rooted in, does not spare me from the deep questions of life. Nor does it surround me with a warm blanket of some better life after this one. No, it tells me that in the midst of this life, with all of its chaos, pain, and deep absurdity…is where my salvation, my deeper true eternal life is. As St. Paul says: “We are God’s work of art”. Sounds good, until you see what an artist has to do in order to create a work of art. In some forms of art, the process can be dirty, messy, and chaotic,…yet, in the end, a work of beauty is produced. Faith in God is not about pretending to have cookie cutter answers, though many try it for a while.

One day I was giving a talk, as I was speaking the thought came to me; “do I really believe in what I am saying”. It was an uncomfortable moment, but in the end, I said ‘yes’, I do believe it. Yet I felt buffeted by this question. Faith is lived, not spoken of. Anyone can talk, write and share deeply, but to live it, well that comes from one's ‘inner guts’. I also believe it takes a type of stubbornness to keep searching, seeking and not being afraid of one's ‘inner agnostic’.

Some people tell me that belief in God is a form of mental illness. I always find that entertaining since it so self-serving to make that kind of observation. As if that is some form of deep truth. What constitutes mental illness is really a cultural construct. A person who is a hapless victim of true mental illness is someone who is outside the broad spectrum of human activity that is considered ‘normal’. I guess in an atheistic state, it is understandable for the government to say that religious believers, are mentally ill, yet are they in fact? The atheists I know are no more normal than the believers I am friends with. For an atheist to say a believer is mentally ill has no basis in reality. Granted mentally ill people who are religious will still be mentally ill, the same goes for an atheist as well. Because they act out in ways that go beyond what is considered ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’.

Who is touch with reality? Perhaps none of us are no matter what we say we believe. I can say we are each in touch with a small slice of reality and as we grow hopefully our connection will deepen. I can say this. If God exists then believers are closer to the true nature of reality than an atheist. The opposite can be true as well. The problem is that that question will never be answered in a reductionist manner There are rational reasons to believe in an infinite intelligence. It is also rational to believe that such and Intelligence will seek to reveal itself…Which for me is Jesus Christ. Just because someone is an unbeliever and disagrees with me is not a test for mental competency, unless maybe I lived in China or some other atheistic run Government. Or if believe that I can fly and walk through walls no matter how many times I fail to accomplish that deed.

Mother Teresa was a woman of deep faith, however, she often felt alone, in darkness, yet her faith endured. Below is a quote from her that shows this in a profound manner. She was a woman grounded in the reality of faith as well as showing her deep love and trust in her Lord. She is praying from a place of deep suffering, yet she embraces it. I believe that it is grace that draws this prayer from her deepest self. Many people understand Mother Teresa and where she is coming from. Others have to make their own decisions on how to interpret her. I do so from my Catholic Tradition where the “Dark Night of the Soul” is something that we will all have go through if we want to become God’s true work of art. The ‘death to self’ is an act of pure grace yet we have to give our ‘yes’.--Br.MD

++++++++++

Jesus, hear my prayer. If this pleases you, if my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation gives you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus do with me as you wish, as long as you wish, without a single glance at my feelings and pain. I am your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of your heart. Don’t mind my feelings; don’t mind even my pain, if my suffering separation from you brings others to you, and in their love and company you find joy and pleasure.

My Jesus I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer not only now, but through all eternity if this was possible. Your happiness is all that I want. For the rest, please do not take the trouble even if you see me faint with pain. All of this is my will. I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. Don’t allow me to do you wrong in any way. Take from me the power of hurting you … I am ready to wait for you through all eternity.”
—Mother Teresa of Calcutta in a letter to Jesus, from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

markdohle

Accosted in the name of truth

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Accosted in the name of truth

A week ago, right after community Mass, I had a run-in with one of our guests. Nice young man, very conservative, devout and thinking about entering the priesthood. He was upset over how we relate to certain types of guests who stay in our retreat house. He was forceful, perhaps angry and seemed to be demanding that I respond in a very specific way. Which of course I could not do, for what he was demanding from me was unreasonable, though in his own mind, of course not so at all; for as the saying goes, perspective is everything. As he was talking ‘at’ me, another guest came up and started to yell at both of us about the incident the young man was speaking to me about. So I calmed him down and asked him to please go and have some breakfast and I would see him a little later.

Our conversation continued for a bit after that. I could tell that the young man did not agree with me, yet to his credit, he offered to go and apologies. I dissuaded him of that and told him that I would relay his apology for him. I understand young people wanting structures that are strong and secure which give direction. My generation did a lot towards the modern trend of tearing down without replacing it with anything substantial. For we wanted to get rid perhaps of too much structure, so yes I understand, though at times I find it unsettling how strong that desire is for rigid structures that in the end actually do more harm than perhaps structures that are not so binding. I have found the only way to deal with it is to respect their position but not allow them to unknowingly do harm to others who come here for rest, healing and silence so that they can seek to deepen their conscious connection with God. While I am not a liberal, I can’t say I am a conservative either, I try to be faithful to my faith tradition and scripture which forms my conscience.

Monasteries are places where many come for healing or quiet and rest. They come here more often than not to simply not be ‘looked at’ in a certain way, to not be judged by others. As I looked at this young man I could see a person who truly was trying to do the right thing, but perhaps went about it in the wrong way. As we talked I told him that his approach was helpful to no one and that the man he ‘accosted’ was emotionally unstable, who was trying to find some order in his life and what he did was uncalled for and to please not do anything like that again.

The man who was confronted came to me and said that his retreat was ruined and he was going to leave. So I asked him why he would allow someone else to do that to him. Cool -down I offered, wait, go for a walk and then make up your mind. He did try to stay, but he left before noon.

The young man was in goodwill, but it is easy to forget that to be a follower of Christ is to try to ‘see’ others in such a way that as little harm as possible is done to another. I have more hope for the young man than for the older man who was perhaps ‘damaged’ some more by the untimely confrontation. He is trying to stay above water and when that is forgotten we can without meaning to, with the best of intentions, plant seeds of destruction, or add water to a seed that has already taken deep root.

It is hard to see the fragility of others
though the lens of fear.

markdohle

Christmas 1953

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Christmas 1953
 
I have a lot of memories of Christmas, mostly positive and happy ones. My parents seemed to make it a priority that the children had a good Christmas no matter what they had to do to accomplish it, well within legal means of course. In 1953 when I was five we moved into a small farmhouse near a town called Desoto, I guess it was about 50 miles or so from St. Louis. We lived in the house for a few years and it had a few acres of land, some of it used for farming; something my mother loved to do. Nothing big but enough to keep us in garden delights for much of the year, something at the time that I did not really appreciate, being a kid and all. The house seemed big at the time but now that I look back it was quite small, at least for a family our size; at that time there were 8 of us with 3 more to come in the next few years. The house had a laundry room when you came in and it was also used to hang raincoats and winter items etc. Connected to it was the only bathroom with a shower; next came the kitchen, then mom and dad’s bedroom, followed by another room with 4 sets of bunk beds that all the children shared. Changes were made later but that was pretty much what we had. Also near the house was a small barn that we later used as a chicken coop. My parents would buy 200 chicks at a time and grow them for our food. I suppose we had chicken three or four times a week and to this day I still love chicken. I never seem to get tired of the foods I had as a child.
 
Well, Christmas was coming and you all know how exciting that is for children still young enough to still believe in Santa Claus. At that time dad owned a gas station in East St Louis so he was gone much of the time. He had to put in 12 hour working days to make enough money to make ends meet. So mom was pretty much alone to deal with 8 active children. She did a great job in taking care of us, she always seemed to be in good humor and very patient; well at least most of the time. I remember that Dad took three days off that Christmas and it was wonderful to have him home for such a long period of time. We went out into the small woods we had and got ourselves a really big tree¦ and I am not saying this because it was big in relation to me, no it was big in comparison to the room that the tree was put it. I remember that Dad had to cut off some of the top, so that it would be able to stand upright, now that was big; probably the biggest we ever had.
 
It took us a day to decorate the tree and we had a great deal of fun doing it. Mom and Dad laughed a lot, we played Christmas music and had cookies and milk. After the tree was done we shut off all the lights in the house and waited until dad lit up the tree.
 
To this day the glow of Christmas lights in a dark room brings me back to that moment when the peaceful glow of the lights filled the room. We just sat in silence for quite a while and then we all laughed and cleaned up the room.
 
Christmas Eve came around and Mom and Dad got us to bed early. It seemed, believe it or not, that we all went to sleep pretty fast, which is quite a feat when you have a house full of kids excited about Santa coming. Well perhaps not really, they kept us pretty busy all day, and we played games in the evening. Then they read us stories and then plopped us into bed. Pretty smart, keep the kids busy all day, no naps and they will fall asleep in no time.
 
I guess I woke up after midnight since the whole house was silent. I sat up in bed and looked at the beautiful tree with all the lights and felt a great deal of peace come over me. Then I noticed the gifts, they were stacked halfway up the tree, wrapped in colorful wraps and arranged in the best possible way. I was stunned and just sat there and remained very still, inside my soul a great silence descended and seemed to embrace me. I did not want to wake anyone I just wanted the moment to last forever but of course, it did not. I put my head back on the pillow and fell right back to sleep. Now that I think about it I think that was my real Christmas present that year; the beauty of that moment and the peace that it conveyed to me.
 
To this day I don’t know how my parents pulled off that Christmas and I never asked since I did not want the magic of the experience taken away from me. That memory is an anchor of sorts for me, for along with other special moments from my childhood, these experiences which were few, far outweigh any of the other memories that were painful or fearful. Perhaps I was on some level really understanding that what I experienced at that moment was the manifestation of my parents love and the lengths they would go to show it. Also perhaps I was learning something about the love of God as well.--Br.MD
 
markdohle

Advent/Christmas, waiting for the encounter

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Advent, waiting for the encounter
 

Advent/Christmas is an invitation “to sobriety, to not be dominated by the things of this world, Pope Francis said Nov. 27 in St. Peter's Square. “If, on the contrary, we are conditioned and overpowered by them, it is not possible to perceive that which is much more important: our final encounter with the Lord."—Pope Francis

Is death truly the end as many believe? Or is it an encounter with what the human heart longs for from its deepest center? Is all of our seeking to escape from the prison of ourselves in frantic activity or the acquiring of things and people, a way to keep us from truly understanding the purpose of our lives? What is it we thirst most for? Is it not to be ‘seen’ fully beyond words and understood without the need to explain or defend ourselves?

In society, we are told what the purpose of life is. We can be reduced to being consumers, belonging to some statistical group and then manipulated, or to some political or special interest group and herded along by those who seek to shepherd us along a certain path. In other words, we become ‘thing’, or an ‘object’, the antithesis to the very thing we desire. Things and objects are used, placed and then discarded when finished with
.

If we are truly moving towards ‘the encounter’ with the Lord, should not this give our lives depth and purpose that goes way beyond what our culture wants from us? Should we not seek to become what we desire most… which I believe is love. Jesus says that if you love me you will keep my commandments which are rooted in the reality of love for others. To truly see others with the eyes of Christ is to understand the meaning of our lives, which is much different than what is expected of us by our society today. Love of a different nature from what is presented to us in art, movies, and literature and yes by magazines and television.
 

O Lord come and teach us what is true,
what we are made for in the depths of our hearts,
to seek to become ‘You’ beloved so as to touch others,
to become vessels of grace for your children,

filling us with your Spirit.--Br.MD
markdohle

The first step

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The first step

O will of the Omnipotent God, You are my delight,
You are my joy. Whatever the hand of my Lord holds out to me
I will accept with gladness, submission
and love. (Sr. Faustina’s diary 1004)

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:30

We can be blinded by immediate satisfaction. We look for release, an escape from pain, but only find more when we act in ways that are against what we are called to do. Addictions are a way to deal with pain. Yet all that is accomplished is another problem that must be addressed and our burden becomes heavier. Sin is an attempt to find a way to escape from life as it is. But in the end, we get double from what we are trying to escape.

Love of self that the Lord commands us to do is the first step, but an often difficult one to take. For to love ourselves means that we have acquired some degree of self-knowledge that alerts us to our need for God’s grace, mercy, and love, which points us to the path that leads to hope and joy. The Will-Of-God seeks our good and our healing.

Sin only imprisons us deeper into cycles of pain and despair. Hate leads to hate, violence leads to more violence, war to more war. Pleasure, in the end, disappoints when used to medicate ourselves against the unrelenting struggle that we all face in this world. Grace is the living water that gives us the strength to not sink but to slowly make our way home.

In Advent we are invited to ponder our longing for freedom, our hope, and as well, to deepen our faith in Jesus Christ who became one with us and carries our burdens with us--Br.MD.