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A prisoner’s powerful dream

A prisoner’s powerful dream

I have been writing Joseph, for just over a year and it has been a very fruitful exchange between us.  Like many prisoners, he has found the Lord while being incarcerated and takes advantage of all that his faith has to offer.  He also helps the other prisoners there with him.  I am able to send him a package, via his sister, 4 times a year, food items and things like socks, slippers etc..  He tells me how much pleasure it gives him to share what he has with others.  He also helps others to grow in understanding of their faith; for instances, he leads a Confirmation group.  He will most likely never get out of prison, he has been in for over 20 years now and could be there for another 30 or 40 years.  He is I believe 50 years old and in good health. 

He shared a dream with me that was a powerful one for him.  In the dream, he was sitting at a table, in his prison visiting area, and Pope Francis was telling him that he needs to absolve everyone, to forgive everyone.  So Joseph told him that he was not a priest and could not absolve in confession.  Pope Francis just smiled at him and said to absolve everyone and then the dream was over.  He asked me what I thought about it.  Below is my take on the dream, which I thought was pretty straightforward.  However, it is just my own thoughts on it.

(Quote): Thank you for sharing your dream with me.  It seemed to be a powerful one and probably is telling you to understand more deeply what it means to belong to a priestly people, as is stated in 1 Peter 2: 4-5, 9-10.  As Christians, we are called to allow Christ to grow in us so that he can use us.  He does this by allowing our hearts to grow in charity and love for all.  So in prison, you are asked to love and to especially forgive those who hurt or annoy you there and perhaps to teach this to others.   It is part of healing, and the Lord will use you and all those there who will allow Jesus to fill them with his Holy Spirit and the gifts that flow from that.  We each have gifts, all important, and are called to use them to build up others.  I hope you have written the dream down and go back to it from time to time.  Of course, in the end, only you can really say what the dream means, but Pope Francis is big on the priesthood of the faithful.  (Unquote)

I do believe that Joseph is very far along in his life of the Spirit.  He is in a place where he can’t slack off, for he is surrounded on all sides by some pretty hard cases.  Men who have been in and out of jail all of their lives.  Some of them no doubt incapable of feeling sorrow or compassion for others.  So it is there that he is called to be a witness to what the life of the Spirit does for him.  I believe that his service to others is an example that touches some of the other men there with him.  There is a small community of others that he prays with, some Catholics others from different faiths.   So each day he runs the race, for if he stops, he could slip back into a life that leads nowhere but downward.

I have a deep sense that God works on those in prison more directly when they seek Him because of the overall situation than perhaps for most who are not in prison.  I believe that goes for those of other religions as well.  For to seek God is in a way to find him, for those who seek want truth, not something that will make them comfortable, but seeking the grace to become more loving human beings, just as Christ Jesus was. 

Some prisoners feel that they want to live in a Monastery.  However, I told Joseph that I believe he does better there than if he were in the Monastery with me.  Both have similarities, but aspects also exist that are dissimilar.  In prison, he is truly seeking to grow and the environment keeps him on a path towards deep inner healing and protection from ‘impulse control’ that some prisoners tell me about.  He is in for doing something on an impulse, without thinking and in a fog….and someone died.  For which he is deeply sorry. 

I would not wish anyone in prison, however, I also believe as St. Paul said, that for those who love God, all things work out for the good.  Even for those in prison who have done great evil.  As a Christian, I believe we are all priest, and in our prayer, we unite our prayer and sufferings to those of Jesus Christ.

Any of us could end up in prison, all it takes is one misstep, one moment when an impulse takes over and then someone is hurt or killed, or we get in a car and drive when we shouldn’t, and we can end up in the same place with Joseph.  Many in prison are not career criminals, but still in for the long haul for what they have done.  Joseph knows he is getting justice, but he is seeking mercy from God and in that, he is called to show mercy to others………we all are I believe. 


A woman who really tried my patience

A woman who really tried my patience

I love to get up early in the morning.  I do not say very early because that is a term that will mean different times according to one’s life situation.  So when I get up at 2:30, it is not that early, since the wake-up bell goes off at 3:45.  The reason I am saying that, is because, it also applies to getting to bed at a decent hour.  So for me, 8 PM is more like midnight, I guess. 

Last night I was finishing up some work in the retreat house office when I heard a tapping on the retreat house door, gently tapping, tapping, over and over again.  I got up and there was a woman in her early sixties seeking entrance.  I opened the door for her and she explained to me that she was left off here by a friend earlier that day, but she lost her friends card and did not have her phone number.

I really tried not to give her the “Lady you need to plan things better” look. Not sure I succeeded.  I did feel my eye brow go up…it is always my left one, which seems to be something I can’t control in some situations.  So she came in an sat down and we talked a bit.  As we talked I had to monitor my wanting to box her in as ditzy, even though I knew this ‘feeling’ I had about her, was nonsense. 

So we talked for about 20 minutes, and my eyebrow (proud to say) did not go up even once.  Once I got to understand her life situation, I came to understand that because of what she is going through, she was simply tired, scattered, and she came out for the day to find some peace.  Which she told me she did, she had a good day here.  She used to come here as a child with her parents.  In fact,  I was here when she came  for the last time in 1973, the year she graduated from high school.

She did find the card after an extensive search. You know how woman put, well, just about everything into their purses.  She called her friend and then she went out to wait for her to arrive by our old bookstore. 

As I was getting ready for bed, I went over how ‘harshly’ I judged her at first, because just like her I was tired and perhaps not my best self at the time.  As I age I am becoming more aware of this tendency in me that I guess was hidden from my inner eye when younger.  Or perhaps I am getting more sensitive to my own insensitivity. 

She really is struggling, weary, and perhaps in a cyclical situation that will take years to work out.  The more I talked to her, the more I liked her.  A woman carrying a burden that when I did not see or understand and judged her harshly, it was automatic.  I am not surprised by this in me, for there are also other aspects of my inner life that I am becoming more aware of….self-knowledge is a b****.  

If I truly want to do the ‘loving thing’, then I have to let go of the freedom/compulsion to put others over and away from me, as if I was somehow superior to them.  When I fact, I have lost all kinds of things, not planned well and have inconvenienced others, who were very kind to me, in spite of it.  I can conveniently forget many things about my life, or play them down when it suits me.

I often wonder when I stand before the Lord and have my life review (per the NDE), I have no doubt I will have to face many instances when I was too hard on others, judging them, and perhaps not even knowing I have done so.  Hopefully, this needed lesson will brand my heart and soul at a deeper level than in the past. 

She was my teacher for a short time and I am glad that I met her.  Little acts of kindness are important, just as little acts of discarding another leaves a mark as well. Both on the one receiving, as well as the one who dishes it out.  In any case, she is coming back to make a retreat and we will talk some then. 

Working in the retreat house is interesting, that is for sure.

Just a woman

When she came in she was a bother,
until I got a small glance into her soul,
her burden carried, yet she smiled,
and thankful for what little I did,
well, it was nothing at all,

How is it Lord my eyes can be so blind,
not to see your heart one with hers,
her smile, yours Jesus,
and her pain you carry as well.



Overloaded and tired

Overloaded and tired
(100 anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun)

My heart, and soul,
mind, and body,
are overloaded with and from violence,
guns, blood, and simple craziness.
yet it will not stop
for violence snowballs
has been from time immemorial,
and we get better at it,
with clubs, then swords and arrows,
guns, bombs, and nuclear explosions.

Yes, my heart when I look within,
or when ‘something’ breaks through
forcing me to see and experience,
I see a mirror image of the outer world.

Perhaps we are all savages and saints,
the easier road is to be filled with hatred,
contempt and to do something about it.

Our choices define us.

It doesn’t work our warlike nature,
for we are not contained in our wrath,
it can be like the sun plummeting to earth
as at Fatima on Oct 13th, 1917.

Perhaps prayer and grace is our only hope,
for nothing else seems to work.


So where is our hope?


So where is our hope?

You do not comprehend pain.  You do not comprehend that through the love of God you need to accept pain and endure it.  Every human being will experience it to a lesser or greater measure.  But with peace in the soul and in a state of grace, hope exists: this is My Son, God, born of God.

A small section of Our Lady of Medjugorje’s message 2 Sept, 2017

As a species, we need to ask “why”?  It starts when we are very young and the questioning can only get more intense as we age and hopefully mature.   The most important questions are not ones we can answer, but those where our questioning seems to be always at the same place; we never get the response we are asking for, there is no closure on that level.  When talking about suffering, the questioning can become bitter leading to despair.  Many can lose their faith over this seeking to understand our lives and what people have to go through. 

The quote above will anger some and help others.  Still, some readers will simply be mystified.  There are moments in my life where I experience each of the above.  For there seems to be, way too much suffering this world.  As humans we mull over the past, fear the future and often find the ‘now’ something, as it says above, to endure. 

There are philosophies that seek to help find answers.  When a thinker comes to the conclusion that because of suffering there cannot be a God or any kind of reason for our existence, is one way to take care of the problem.  It is simply the way things are and any answer that we come up with that is different from one of atheism, is based on fantasy, a way to handle life and its absurdities.  We live, have life experiences, and then we die…..that’s it.  I could live with that. However, as absurd as the idea of God can be, and the thought of a loving God even more absurd, yet is atheism any less absurd?  For me, it is more absurd.  It seems that we are always at a crossroads being asked to choose which way we will go.

Because I believe in a Universe that is filled with intelligence and information (the laws that run the universe), as well as great beauty, it points to a ‘being’ that is in reality ‘unrestricted thinking’, or infinite mind (the Mind-of-Christ).  So if this is true then God will reveal himself to a creation that he found to be good and loves.  I believe Jesus Christ is that revelation.

We treated that revelation (Jesus Christ), that same way that we abuse each other.  He was hounded, betrayed, lied about (fake news), mocked, beaten, imprisoned, tortured and then put to death in a most painful manner.   What happened to him was common as mud in his time, and not much different now.  Yet there was a difference.

On the Cross, he forgave all, in his sufferings, He united himself to all of humanity, and when he died in such a horrible manner, we died with him.  He died a total loser, his enemies smug in their victory, which is what always happens in this world.  The good are trampled, enslaved and killed, with no justice. 

So where is our hope?  Well this loser, this outcaste, this lover of mankind who was betrayed, arose on the third day and begin the transformation of the world.  So in our sufferings, we find our hope in Christ Jesus.  I believe that all seekers of truth will one day bend their knee in great joy to this truth that is mocked by most today. 

The mystery of Christ Jesus and what he did is not something that can find complete closure, sort of the like the problem with suffering and pain.  Yet those who ponder this great deed and pray about it, will find that slowly it comes more clear, yet it is always just out of reach…..so we continue the journey of growing in faith even in the midst of great suffering, pain, chaos, and loss. 

We are called to pray, to love and to unite ourselves to Christ so that by grace we participate in his sufferings and resurrection, for we are the Body of Christ, and all of us or priest, partaking in his salvific will.

In that is our hope, not is some magical thinking about God, for no one believes in “The Magic Man in the Sky”, but we seek to be transformed by grace into Jesus Christ. 


Upon the Cross, you felt our fear,
you saw the void and fell back
asking that it be taken away,
yet you drank that chalice of suffering to it's dregs
and in you your failure you overcame.

For you arose and we rise with you




To bring our head above water and breathe

To bring our head above water and breathe deeply

All you need do is get through the day and trust. It sounds easy, but no it is not.
To choose, always take thought and dedication, as well as the faith to always begin again.
When the sky darkens and the heart seems to grow cold, that is when we are called to bring our head above the water and breathe deeply.

The inner path is not glamorous, nor about 'experience'
no matter how profound, but about simple practice,
prayer and meditation in obscurity.


The weight of suffering and injustice

The weight of suffering and injustice

I meet men and women here in the retreat house from time to time whose connection with the suffering of others is extreme and very hard to bear.  They seem to be plugged into the pain of the world and it causes them a great deal of inner distress.  When they speak to me about this, I feel powerless and it makes me understand how little I can actually do for others, but just listen.  Faith does not take away from the realities of life, but can perhaps give courage not to succumb to bitterness and despair. 

One man was so torn up over the problem of suffering and why God did not intervene more in protecting us from the tragedies of life,  that all I could say, was that “mankind has not figured this out no matter how much this has been studied, thought about and prayed over, I doubt that you will either.  There are issues in this life we have to live with, the tension that comes from believing in a loving God, in an often unloving world filled with cruelty, greed, and injustice.  Not to mention the suffering often caused by nature and disease”.  I said this not to really do anything for the poor man, but to let him know that I don’t have an answer that will satisfy his rational mind.

I told one guest that it is important to make an act of trust in God.  She reacted in an angry manner and told me that was impossible.  So I said, well as long as you tell yourself that, it will be.  The Christian faith can give a hold on this problem, but not one that figures it all out.  When Christ suffered and died, he was filled with fear and anguish and with deep sorrow over the betrayal and abandonment of his followers.  Yet he went through it.  On the Cross, he recited Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

    by night, but I find no rest.

It starts off as an appeal to a God ‘is’ silent.  I do think that this is the experience of all of mankind on a personal level for each, at least once in their lives.  When ill, dying, or going through deep pain on a physical, emotional and spiritual level, this is often the unconscious prayer expressed in many ways.  I believe that Christ carried all of the angst of mankind on the cross.  The nature of love is to share the suffering of the beloved.  So to say that God is Love is not some sentimental nonsense, but a love stronger than death, pain, despair, and abandonment seemingly by God.  Yet Psalm 22 ends in hope.  So trust in the midst of deep suffering and even in the midst of darkness is possible, it is an assent of the will, the heart will follow. 

People who are affected by the suffering of the world need our support and prayers and deep patience.  In fact, I would think most of us feel that way more than we let on.  In prayer, we can get an insight, but it is of a different nature than a philosophical or scientific approach. 

Being childlike is not an easy road to walk down because bitterness, anger, and fear can eat away at our trust in life’s process.  It is easier to allow the darkness to swallow us than to die to self and trust in the love and light of God’s love.  Perhaps when Paul stated that he taught “Christ Crucified” is his way of expressing that reality of “God with us”.


We will not always understand,
all we can do is to take one step at a time,
each day a new beginning even when weighed down
by injustice, pain, and fear.

To trust is an act of the will,
from a deep place often hidden until pain comes
and we are brought to a place of choice,
a death to self that is truly filled with anguish,
but in the end, will lead to joy. 


So we must all pray for one another,

So we must all pray for one another,
support each other, and never give up. 

“Dear children! I am calling you to be generous in renunciation, fasting, and prayer for all those who are in temptation and are your brothers and sisters. In a special way, I am imploring you to pray for priests and for all the consecrated, that they may love Jesus still more fervently; that the Holy Spirit may fill their hearts with joy; that they may witness Heaven and Heavenly mysteries. Many souls are in sin because there are not those who sacrifice themselves and pray for their conversion. I am with you and am |
praying that your hearts may be filled with joy. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

Medjugorje September 25, 2017, Monthly Message


I don’t always live up to my vocation.  There are times (like now) when praying is a struggle, when I want to run; from what I do not know, but I find it hard to read or to stay awake when I sit down to do Lectio or pray.  Even saying the Rosary, which is probably my favorite way to pray is not available to me.  So all I can do is to lift up my heart in silence to the Lord.  I so want to control my inner life, but it will not happen.  As I age I have found that it is my dark times that I seem to grow, but the fruit of such growth only comes after many years when I become aware of it.  Such is the work of grace.  In the desert, there is no path, just one foot in front of the other, and learning to be content with that.

We are all tempted, there is no escape from this reality.  The moment we turn our innermost selfs towards God we open up areas of our lives that we must choose what to do with its contents.  We are called to grow in freedom. The freedom to love and serve and to the inner spaciousness that allows us to seek God even when our energy is low and our hearts seem to be cold.  We are called to love God for Himself, yet I still love God for what I can get, I am not yet weaned.  So the times of darkness and dryness and even of failure are needed to learn of our dependence on grace, as well as to grow in trust of God’s mercy.

So we must all pray for one another, support each other, and never give up—Br.MD


For those who have gone before us

For those who have gone before us
(Catholic prayer for the Dead)

Lord each day comes and goes in a blink of the eye,
yet the journey can seem so long and tiring,
even days when there is ‘nothing’ can wear one down,
and we can be lulled to a form of sleep,
going through the motions forgetting our depth of soul.

Or seeking out endless entertainment to keep the void hidden deep,
though it seems of a frantic nature when I lose my way,
forgetting that this life is a place of journeying and not one of rest,
the hills and valleys, the dark and light and yes the grey as well,
are part of the patchwork of life.

In death, we come face to face with who we are,
with what we have done, and the pain and joy caused,
and since it is truth, there is no excuse for any of us.

What is your mercy Lord?
Yes, your forgiveness is freely given, it is a seed,
taking root in our souls leading us to understand its cost,
the deeper in the more we see and embrace your healing love,
so yes, this state of your loving gaze is painful
for truth must be told and experienced by all who pass
though that door we call death.

It is all grace Lord,
this life and our struggles, and even our failures,
if we continue our journey towards your love and will,
stretching our hearts to their breaking point
and yet demanding more of us over and over again.

Face to face with our truth, yet sustained by your love,
we continue our journey even after death,
for the grace of purification is truly your most costly,
drawing those open to your love to be brought deeper in
and higher up into your infinite loving embrace.

Our pain comes from us, what we do to ourselves,
and what others commit to wound our souls,
there is give and take in this life,
but in the place of purification, there is only receiving
without excuses or the escape of entertainment,
lulling us to sleep.

So, Lord, we pray for all of our beloved dead
who rest in your love while being healed and restored,
that soon the healing fire of your love
will become the cooling embrace of union.



To withstand my inner storms

To withstand my inner storms
of self-righteous indignation
(my secret place)

Yelling at someone is useless
or pointing fingers the same,
endless squabbles leading to violence
with words that cut deeply
or physical wounds from someone striking out,
blaming others without looking within,
seeing in a mirror darkly,
not understanding the endless web
of further fragmentation and isolation.

The only true bridge is not some sentiment,
or passing emotion or even deep feeling,
but love, because we are commanded to.

We love by loving,
taking root through prayer,
seeking the living water for sustenance,
allowing those who seek love
to withstand their inner storms
of self-righteous indignation
and the seeking to make the world
in their own image and likeness.

Sin is real, tragic and destructive
to all of us.

Personal sin is lived out on a cultural level
taken as normal until it becomes personal
impacting our lives.

Then ‘sin’ becomes all too concrete
weighing the soul down in the dance
of recrimination and victimhood.

Perhaps hell is the endless dance,
the Gordian knot only untied
by, yes, love,
because we are commanded to.

Our souls are dying of thirst for the living waters,
yet we continue to bury it deeply
for fear of the pain in facing this human reality.



Paradoxes and Communion

Paradoxes and Communion

It is all one, our relationships.  With God, others, and of course ourselves.  In community how that is worked out is unique to each individual.  What we bring to community, whatever our gifts, are used to build up community.  We are called to step out and to develop them to the best of our ability.  Some people are good at administration, others are insightful about how relationship within the community work, often on an unconscious level.  Some are very goal oriented and their service to the community can never be overestimated.  There are those who teach and healers as well.  No one has every gift.  So in community our gifts can build up, but they can also keep us from entering deeply into relationship with all members.  Humility can only be deepened when the realization comes to the fore on how gifts are truly given, all we can do is to receive them and develop them.  If this is forgotten then actual deep communion with others, self, and God, are curtailed and in extreme cases, severed.

In the garden of life, we plant seeds, others water, but it is God who brings all to fruition.  When this is forgotten then there is strife and a struggle for dominance and control.  This can be seen in I would say in all communities through gossip and what the Rule of Benedict calls murmuring.  These situations often have their start in gifts that we bring to community. 

Self-importance and the feelings of superiority can be present without actually being named.  However these can keep us isolated from the community, this can set the victim of such a painful situation in a place of deepening frustration and even anger that they are not listened to, or obeyed. 

The remedy for this or one of them that the Lord uses is an experience that allows self-knowledge to grow.  This comes about through our weaknesses, or as St. Paul would say “our thorn in the side”.  We fall, or cause division in the community and are brought to task.  This experience, which is an invitation from the Lord as well as the community to deeper communion can be embraced though often with difficulty or rejected and there will be a hardening of one’s position.   Which can be stated this way.  This is from my own experience with my own struggle with my own community in my interior. 

“I know what is best.  My way of thinking is the only way to do things.  My insights are more on point than others.  I just want everything to go my way”.

I actually said that one time when I was 15 when my mother, in frustration, asked me what I wanted.  I so I answered with the cunning/simplicity of a young teenager:  “Mom, it is simple.  I just want everything to go my way”.  So the above attitude comes from a place of immaturity.  From a lack of ability to see oneself, or to actually see one's community as the road towards deeper conversion.  Not a project to control. 

Without self-knowledge, real communion is not possible with anyone.  True growth in this area is slow.  Which is the normal path most of us follow.  A slow, often painful process of purgation towards deeper union.  Purgation is not about punishment, but there is pain that flows from one’s own inner wounds and insecurities. 

Growth in humility takes the battle away from those around us, to its rightful place, a battle within our own hearts.  That is why we make promises to live out ‘Conversion of Manner’, it is a daily struggle towards growth in love and compassion for those around us.  It also brings us to the point where we can understand that there are other ways of doing things, of understanding how things work.  We can either learn from one another, which deepens community, or we can fight, murmur, and slowly grow rigid and unyielding. 


Communion/ Overcoming Self-Alienation


Communion/ Overcoming Self-Alienation
 (A Talk Given to lay Cistercians (9/16/17)

There is a saying, which is true, that anyone can be lonely in a crowded room.  In fact being in the midst of a large group of people can make the feeling of isolation and aloneness more distressing.  So within a community, even if one has been a member for many years, this can also be felt on a deep level.  It is part of the human condition, this frustration of seeking communion with others and being thwarted or misunderstood.  From my experience, I have not met anyone who is exempt from this experience.  Common as it is, this experience never goes away.  Alienation from others can be rooted in some sort of mental issue that is hard or even impossible to deal with.  For others, it is based on psychological issues that simply won’t be addressed for many understandable reasons.  The healthier the community the greater the challenges for people who fall into this category. 

People who are loving, caring and honest, can be the very thing that will eject those who are weighted down with dysfunction in how they relate to others.  Or if the community is unhealthy, dysfunctional people will often end up running things to the determent of others.  It is a difficult human issue that will constantly challenge all who seek to grow in love and communion with others.  We are each unique and because of that, in spite of ourselves, we can also be a source division within the community itself.  Difficulties in communication is often a major source of tension within communities. 

A strong leader, not a bossy one, or one who wishes to force everyone into compliance.  Bossy people are actually the opposite of leading a community deeper into communion.  What is good for the military, may not work with other groups, especially those who have spiritual growth as its central mission.  Even in the military, those officers who treat their men with respect, even if strict, garner a deep loyalty. 

A leader, who sees his or her desire to facilitate growth and health in the community as central, are asked to take on a great burden.  A challenge that can only be effectively carried out if there is deep humility, caring, and love, as well as the ability to deal with deep emotional conflict that comes from carrying out one’s duties.  While leaders need self-care, it can’t come at the expense of the community.  Leaders are there to make hard choices, ones that will make them face their own fear of ‘not being liked’, or ‘understood’. 

We are relational beings, everything we do is based on that reality.   Not just with our fellow human beings, but with the world in all of its entirety.  More than most think, we do ‘feel’, even if we on an intellectual level deny it, that the whole of creation revolves around us.  The deeper that often unconscious belief, the more problems we will have with others, who will on a different level believe the same thing.  Below is what I would call the unconscious stream of thought that I have to deal with.  I know it is active when I become angry, or want to unjustly criticize those who do other than what I want or desire.  This is a serious obstacle to communion. 

What can I get from my relationship with the community?  Will I find what I am looking for?  I want people who will help me, make me feel good and give me a feeling of belonging.  I want perfect people, not real people.  I want things to run smoothly.  I do not want to be bothered with ‘idiots’ (i.e. those who do not agree with me).  I want the community to run for my benefit, if not, I will leave or try to force things the way I want.  I will gossip, put down, and criticize, so as to keep the spotlight off of me and on others.  On those especially who are healthier than me and who will challenge me in ways that I don’t want to be challenged.  I do not want to be brought to task, but that is what I desire for others!  I want justice to be imposed on those around me, but for myself, I desire to be listened to and understood.

Our relationship with others, how we react to them can be an indicator on how we communicate with ourselves on a deep unconscious level and ultimately with God.  Again, we are relational beings.  We can’t love others if we don’t love ourselves as commanded by Jesus.  Our so-called love of God can be kept at a childish level, not a childlike one, which will keep us from experiencing deeper communion and union with God as well as with others. 

Much of this is caused by a fear of suffering and of actually experiencing reality on a deeper, freer, level.  Purgation is about seeing ourselves in the truth and light of God’s love.  The pain the flows from this experience, this journey towards a deeper love and trust in God, comes from ourselves, not from God.  Healing always involves suffering because of what must be faced consciously.  Until we do this, the war will take place with those around us, with those in our families and within the communities, we are affiliated with.  In this case, being part of the Lay Cistercian movement. 

Purgation is about expansion, if not punishment.  It is about healing not inflicting pain.  No one can be forced to change, or grow.  Yet each can be encouraged.  Communion with God, self, and others, is a choice based on trust.  On being able to make that leap of faith that we are beloved of God, made in God image and likeness.  All that keeps us away from living out that image is ‘sin’.  Either personal or being a victim of our past (being sinned against) that keeps us chained into cycles of pain and self-loathing and hatred of others. 

We are all moving towards the experience of finally understanding the depth and width and height of God’s love for each of us.  We are called, all of us, through our communion with God, to be light for one another, not sources of pain or of sin.  Sin is a form of self-medication that only makes things worse in the end.  It is a rejection of life, of truth, of faith and trust.  We are either growing daily towards a life of self-centeredness, which is false, or towards a life that is focused on the love of God and others.  We find communion with each other and with God by becoming vessels of grace, freely given, not something to be earned.  In that, we pass on the grace of love and healing to others.  God helps the community grow and heal through our gifts we are given and called to develop.  God reaches each of us on a deep level through our weaknesses and sins, for in that we learn to trust God and to show the same compassion and love for others.  We are called to be channels of God’s love and grace in the world and most importantly for the communities we are affiliated with.



The fear of suffering

The fear of suffering

My God, although my sufferings are great and protracted, I accept them from Your hands as magnificent gifts.  I accept them all, even the ones that other souls have refused to accept.  You can come to me with everything, my Jesus; I will refuse You nothing.  I ask You for only one thing:  give me the strength to endure them and grant that they may be meritorious.  Here is my whole being; do with me as You please—Faustina’s Diary 795

I find saints hard to understand on an emotional level.  They have a knack for shining a light into the heart of our lives in ways that are uncomfortable; at least for me.  Joy, pleasure, and happiness, are not problems.  We experience them, some think about them and are even thankful.  Usually, however, good days are enjoyed, not thought about.  We are soothed by effortless enjoyment and there is often very little need to think about it.

The saints, from all faith paths, know that the central challenge of life is how we deal with others when things do not go our way.  Or when life is a burden and wearisome, or filled with ill health and physical pain. It is then that our faith is challenged and we are very aware of ourselves; there is no lulling ourselves to sleep.  I do believe that Sr. Faustina did not enjoy her suffering for she prayed for the strength to endure it.  Yet because of her faith, she understood on a deep level what St. Paul talked about how our sorrows make up for the sufferings lacking in Christ Jesus. 

Suffering is so much a part of our lives, I can’t imagine what it would be like without it.  St. John Paul ll, stated, that suffering is an integral part of being human.  Something everyone knows but can lead to seeking to find the impossible, which is a way to escape suffering on all levels. 

I can say one thing for sure:   ‘Sex, drugs and rock and roll” is not the answer.  Neither is power, or wealth, nor having everything go our way.  Being spoiled would to be like living in a boat on a sea that has no waves, or wind, or clouds or storms.  Just flatness.  Which is paradoxically, one of the greatest sources of suffering for mankind.  The play “Waiting for Godot” covers that pretty much.

As a Christian, my union with Christ Jesus is deeply intimate.  Or let us say, Christians, are aware of God’s intimacy with them in a special way.  Other faith paths have other ways of dealing with suffering that can lead to deep compassion and holiness.  However, Christianity, with its understanding of ‘Agape’ shows something unique.  The term “God with us”, covers it I believe.  Christ Jesus suffers in all, that is the nature of ‘Agape’, of any love actually that is not based on some form of control or a need so deep the so called ‘beloved’ is just an object to be used to fill in some inner void.  God’s love, “Agape”, flows not from need, but from an infinite fullness that overflows towards all of creation, and especially towards those capable of having a loving, conscious, relationship.

To embrace suffering (not enjoy), to unite oneself to Christ Jesus, truly leads one to experience, if not to understand, what Christ meant when he said “His burden is light”.   It is love that makes the difference.  Suffering often forces us inward in ways that are unhealthy and destructive.  To unite oneself with Christ, is to allow suffering to make ones heart open to all others who suffer as well, and to see Christ Jesus in them.


Within the human heart,
with all of its intricate workings,

God truly tabernacles,
his love embraces all
and suffers with all,
for that is what
“God with us”



A woman on Meth

A woman on Meth

On Tuesday of this week, one of the brothers mentioned to me that there was a woman out front who seemed to be in distress. He told me that she was sitting in one of the red chairs at the end of the walkway in front of the retreat house. I looked out the front door and saw the woman sitting there, leaning over, and looking dejected. So I walked over to her. As I approached I could see that she seemed to be on a drug of some sort. So I went up and sat down next to her and asked her how she was doing. When she looked up at me I could see that she could be quite attractive when not in the place that she was at now. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying and she seemed to be shaky. I gently asked her what she was on. She seemed to cringe when I asked her. So I quickly added that I was not there to judge her, but to see if she needed help. She told me that she took some Meth three hours earlier. What caused her to “go back to it”, was a break up with a boyfriend, or someone she thought was her boyfriend. She was living with four other people, who were also on drugs.

I asked her if she drove to get here. She answered in the affirmative. Even as I was talking to her, her mood seemed to deteriorate and she became more frantic. As we talked I surmised that she came here for help, medical help, to deal with her addiction. I asked her if she wanted to go somewhere where she would get help to dry out and get sober. She said yes. So I asked her if it was ok to call the police so that they could come out and get her help. She could not drive in the condition and she could not stay in our retreat house because we were having a full house. In any case, I would not be able to do so. In the past addicts end up stealing, so I did not want to put any retreatants through that again. She agreed that calling the police would be to her best interest.

I called 911 and they sent out a police officer to talk to her. The police officer asked her to go back to her car and he will meet her there. She was parked in the parking lot near our bakery. So she went off and he drove around. I hope she can get the help she needs.

I have learned not to carry others pain, for it does me no good nor does it do anything for the one being carried. I did feel a burden for her however and continued to pray for her throughout the day. I doubt I will ever forget her.

Addictions of any kind are destructive, though it will vary on what the addiction is. Some are very common and do not cause the havoc that the major addictions do….addiction to meth for instance. Any kind of self-medication is a way to escape from the pain from the problems of life. In doing so, we forestall growth and actually cause ourselves more pain. Or that is my own experience. As John of the Cross said (a Paraphrase) a bird held by a thread or a heavy chain is still bound and cannot fly.




A funny dream and a Moth on a window pane

A funny dream and a Moth on a window pane

I got up at my usual time.  I was having a funny dream just before I woke up.  In the dream, I was the reader at the second half of Vigils (2nd Nocturne). The first reading is always from the Scriptures, the second reading is from for the most part a writer who has moved on.  There were a few retreatants in the choir stalls set up for them.  I could not make head or tails of the reading, then I realized that I was looking at the back of the page, so I smiled and turned the page over.  Well, the whole article was hand written, looked like mine, but actually worse, if that were possible.  Each paragraph was written in a different script.  I thought it was funny that I could l not read it, but time was moving on and I did not know what to do.  I was not anxious but amused.  In the retreat guest section, there were men in white, so I thought they were Dominicans.  There was a flash of light for a second around them that blinded me, but it cleared up quickly.  By then it was way past the time when Vigils should have been over, and I thought what is going on?  Then in the back of the church, I saw a throng of people coming into the church, a happy group and they started running towards the front of the church, around us and seemingly, very happy.  I thought, what is going on.  Then my alarm when off, which I was kind of sad about, wanted to get to the end of the dream.  Well, I dream every night, so it was not so much.  I don’t pay much attention to my dreams unless it is one that seems to have some sort of lesson or message for me.  I think one message in this dream if there was one, is to lighten up already. I guess some of my breakthroughs, as it is with many people, happen through dreams. 

So I got up, got dressed, washed my face in cold water and went out to make coffee.  I love the early morning hours, they are quiet and my mind, which tends to become more cluttered as the day goes on, was, well, empty.  In fact, my Lectio went smoothly and my meditation was easy to go into.   Some mornings when I try Lectio, or to meditate, I feel like my mind is like a car with the steering not quite working.  I weave in and out, but eventually settle in.  Sometimes all I do is weave around, bring myself back, and then weave again.  Is it any wonder that I am so tired much of the time?  All that weaving! 

I usually have a large cup of coffee about 20 minutes before Vigils and drink it outside.  I love it outside in the morning and just sip and if there is a chorus of insects I like to listen to it.  Occasionally there is a bull frog, a frustrated frog I believe, because it never seems to get an answer from any other frog.   I think it makes up for its frustration by eating more than its share of insects, for lately, the mosquitoes have been less in the morning.  Some mornings the song of a mocking bird that sometimes is there jumps from one song to another, sort of like my mind jumping around from one thought to another when I become tired late in the day.

So I made my way up the stairs and as I was, I prayed to God that as I age I will be patient with my body that does not work the way it used to.  I used to be able to run up the stairs two at a time, now just taking one step at a time can be a chore for my knees.  I think it is funny, me being old, or getting there at a very fast clip.  Sort of like a roller coaster without breaks…..but loving the trip anyway. 

As I got to the stop of the stairs I saw a moth resting on our window from the outside.  I went up and touched the window pane where it rested and it flew off and came back.  The second time I touched the windowpane, it stayed, I guess it knew that I could not reach it, eat it, or whatever happens to most of these beautiful creatures.  So I have a few minutes and I stopped and looked at it.  Keep my finger on its place on the window and just thought about it.  Insects are pests for the most part, for how dare they invade our space.  As well as I am sure we are monsters to them, killing them by the millions or billions every day.  Yet they are winning I believe.  Population control is not an issue with them.

I thought I would love to get inside its head to experience reality as it does.  It is alive and conscious in some way and probably loves its life.  Yet, if it was on my side of the windowpane I had the power to take away its life, its only life, without any qualm whatsoever.  Yet when I stopped and really looked at it, sort of touched it without it getting spooked, I am not sure I could kill it if I had the chance.  I guess I saw it as an induvial (as crazy as that sounds).  One small life, then it is gone.  Really not much different than me.

I would guess for a moth, its lifespan that seems so short to me, is a full life for it.  In the end, it all goes so fast it is a wonder we can really get as much as we do, done.  I felt for a short time, that this moth was a gateway into the Mind-Of-God.  As a believer and as a Christian, the love of God shown through Jesus Christ is something unknown before his incarnation.  We call it ‘Agape’.  A love that is not needed, it is just love, infinite, eternal, always yes, and who created a universe that is good and holy.  Does that include that moth?  Well yes.  Perhaps we are the only creatures that have a relationship, a conscious one, with God, yet that moth, is known by God and dare I say, loved?   Yes, I dare. 

Jesus is the doorway into a vast infinite world of ‘love’.  Of a  kind that is, in reality, unknown to us on earth.   Yet we are called to grow in our capacity to one day be able to experience it ever more fully.  To see God in this life is to die, perhaps that is the same thing as saying, to experience the full force of God’s love in this life would be too much.  Our capacity is not yet there.  Perhaps that is what purgatory is, this painful growth into being able to absorb God’s love fully.  I have no idea what that is like.  Yet, like the moth seeking that light on the other side of the glass, so it is with humans, we seek the light and we thirst for it, we want to be seen in all of our nakedness and to be loved.  Agape does that, for it is simply love. 




A dark, hungry, angry energy Leviathan


(The deep swimmer)

It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
 and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.—Job 41:31

The human unconscious, or, our inner world, is deep and there is much that swims below the surface.  Beautiful energies, healing desires and the seeking after love, justice, beauty, and peace with all.  Then, even deeper in, because we either repress them or, they hide our darker aspects that need to be encountered on our inner journey.  Perhaps not to encounter them makes them more dangerous.

I am well acquainted with Leviathan, a dark, hungry, angry and hateful energy that swims deep in my unconscious.  It is primordial, powerful and I believe is hooked in some way to the demonic world, though not evil in itself.  It feeds and gets strength when I take my eyes off what my life is about.  It rises from the depths and grabs me and drags me under until I come up gasping for breath.   It is irrational, infantile, raging and very unintelligent.  It seeks to lash out to protect itself, or to flee. It feeds off fear and as I age I have learned from my own deep anxieties that are mostly hidden from view.  Well, that is, until something triggers it.  It can be blinding for a short time, but when I come to myself I can come up for breath.  I am more or less used to this happening and know its sudden appearance is out of my control.  However, it is never pleasant and always painful.  I experience the energy as broken glass in my chest and heart area moving counter clock wise.  It is grinding and unrelenting.

My first urge is to seek to run from it, get restless and busy.  Yet it seldom helps at all, in fact, it gets worse.  I suppose I am slower than most people in learning how to deal with such experiences, yet as the years go by, the mercy of God has led me to not be as restless or as busy as I once was.  I can even settle down and pray through it, or with it, or whatever.  Though I am not always successful.

Yesterday, Leviathan came up suddenly and bit into me and dragged me deep into my own inner hell like, unconscious, or a part of it.  A small part I believe, yet when experiencing it, it seems very large.  I want to either fight, lash out or run like hell for the nearest exit…..yet there is no exit, how can I run from myself.  Before I went to bed I was able to start breathing and to center myself and even pray.  I was able to go to sleep but woke up 90 minutes early.  Leviathan was hungry and looking for a snack and my mind started churning out anxious fantasies to feed it. 

So I found myself in a boat, on a roaring sea just trying to hold on.  I was starting to get very impatient with myself and this experience when I looked up and saw Jesus sitting there.  I guess I was in a half dream state where it is easy to enter a place that is in-between.  So he was sitting in the boat just looking at me.  He was gentle, his eyes compassionate and he reached out his hand to me.  At first, I did not respond, but then I reached out and clasped his hand.  He said only one small sentence:  “Mark I am with you”.  I moved in and sat next to him and he put his arms around my shoulder and we looked out at the waves and leviathan swimming around and around.  He did not say anything, we just sat in silence and the grinding in my chest and heart area stopped and I felt leviathan getting smaller and diving back into the deep, waiting for the next time I guess.  I then decided to get up, make coffee and do my Lectio.

Each time I go through this, I have to relearn trust and to not fear this experience.  It is something I can’t figure out and like many, I have to find a way to deal with this inner demonic aspect of my unconscious.  I do know one thing, it does lead me to make renewed acts of trust in God’s love and presence in my soul and I believe each time I do experience some sort of deep healing.  I just wish it was not so slow going. 

As I was walking around our cloister garden this AM during the meditation period between Nocturnes at Vigils, as I was slowly saying my Rosary, I begin to understand that each human being is in a boat over a seemingly boundless inner ocean (the unconscious) just trying not to be thrown overboard.  Perhaps faith allows many of us to stay centered in the midst of being plummeted by the many sufferings that well up in our inner lives. 



The deep swimmer

How deep Leviathan hides,
bidding his time until it is right
to climb up into the light
and seek to ravage and feast
on my “whatever” struggles there,
fear/anxiety its food,
yet to sit in faith in the Presence of Divinity
staying in the center of the whirlwind,
sends it off to slumber in the deep
perhaps its dreams a little less tortured.



Vulnerability/self protection

Vulnerability, the courage to drop self-protection

Love calls us to face life fully, to embrace both the pain and the joy.  Sin is when we try to escape this vulnerability
to existence and seek to protect ourselves.  This can be manifested in many ways.
 Our addictions, the walls we build to keep others at bay, the suppression of our emotions and
feelings etc.     I can say that I have learned this from experience and the healing that leads
to a deeper ability to embrace life is a lifelong process for most, well it is true for me.


When speaking of being ‘vulnerable’, there is a feeling of danger present.  To be ‘open’ is to be unprotected.  The gates are wide and with that, a feeling of being exposed.  Vulnerability also brings out thoughts of being weak, needy and perhaps naïve.  When we talk about trusting relationships with others, the negative connotations of being ‘open’ can easily happen….hence the struggle most have with being open and trusting with others.  It is wise to choose with discernment persons that one wants to share deeply with.  It is easy, and often by accident, that trust is broken, or simple ignorance of the importance over what is perceived as a betrayal.  Once trust is destroyed, it is hard to build trust back up, even if the one betrayed understands.  Once trust is gone, even if a warm relationship survives, the depth is gone, the gates are closed and who was once a friend, now becomes a loved acquaintance.  This experience will more often than not affect others relationships as well.  We can become more circumspect in what we share.  A wise choice much of the time, but can be a real loss with certain people that we are drawn to trust, but may be too fearful to be ourselves with them.

To simply love another human being will make us vulnerable to suffering according to the depth of that love.  The love of parents for instance for their children.  The better and more loving the parent, the deeper the suffering that goes with it, as well as with joy.  When we become friends with someone, we each give ourselves over into the hands of the one we trust.  It is a relinquishing of safety and giving the other a certain power over us, it goes both ways.  Good friends can hurt us deeply, those we just know, much less so.  Children can hurt their parents on an even deeper level.  Love and friendship in some sense make us powerless, naked and exposed to the one we hold dear, in friendship, marriage or with a family member who love one another. 

There are many paradoxes associated with being open and venerable with others.   We allow our friends to respect us, to love us, to show us our giftedness and beauty.  Gifts that may be hard to accept, but as trust grows, so the ability to accept the gifts that our friends and loved ones can offer us.  Again, it is a two-way street.  If a relationship is a one-way street, it is not really a connection between two people. 

However, loving relationship will bring to light the dangers that we ourselves may bring into the relationship.  Our past in so many ways haunts us and can limit our perceptions of those who come into our lives, even those we seek to be close to.  Our unconscious fears if left hidden can undermine what we consciously desire.  By meditating over our past history, we can hopefully see cycles that recur and cause chaos in our lives and relationships.  Then we can find ways to deal with our fear and anxieties we may have with others.  This is important because unless we take responsibility for the outcome of our friendships, we are doomed to relive the same outcomes or to withdraw permanently into ourselves.—Br.MD



Healthy faith
(Ideological and fundamentalist ways of thinking die)
I received an email from someone I do not know.  She was the recipient of one of my post, via a second party.  She asked me a few questions about my faith.  Below is my poor way of expressing a small part of my own journey.  Most of my writing is stream of consciousness stuff, so it is a bit of a ramble.  I am not an organized thinker, more intuitive I believe, so my writing is a way for me to actually see what I know, or feel, or am thinking about.
Dear Joan,
About a year ago I was reading a book on religion (sorry to say I have forgotten the name of the book) and this statement jumped out at me.  This is a paraphrase of course:  “Religions survive because the words of its founder can never be fully understood, they never become an ideology. Ideologies are closed systems and are too rigid to survive for long; they become brittle and collapse”.    In other words fundamentalisms of any sort whether it is secular or religious, are doomed to die eventually.  It is the pondering of the deep questions that keep the faiths alive.  As a Christians, I can say that I have spent years pondering the mysteries of my faith and have yet reached the place where I can say “I know and understand”.  No, faith is the goad that keeps me digging, praying and pondering the mystery of the incarnation and what it means.  Intuitive understanding is good, but actually putting this into words can be difficult.
We are made in the image and likeness of God.  If anyone believes that, that alone can lead to a lifetime of pondering what this actually means.  What are our deepest longings and how do we live them out, I guess is a good place to start.  Without being sentimental, I can say that at least for me; that deepest longing is to learn to love and to be able to accept love in return.  Our songs and literature speak of it as well as do an artist of any stripe.  There is, of course, instinctive love, based on need, but we can also go beyond that.  A good parent loves the child enough to let it mature and grow more separate, which I am sure can be both and joyous and painful experience.  When meditating on the reality of true human love and its cost and rewards, I think tells us something about that mystery that we are made in the image of.  I remember once when I was about 12, I became very sick, with a high fever and could not eat or drink much.  All my mom could do is to give me aspirin, and when the fever broke, change my bed since it was soaked.  I do not remember much about this time, but I do remember the concern and pain in my mother’s eyes.  I got the feeling that she would have taken my place in a heartbeat.  I got better of course and life moved on. 
The more we love, the deeper our compassion and empathy (that flows from experience and self-knowledge), the more we are capable of feeling not only joy but also suffering.  Love makes us vulnerable and open to full life.  The problem with human love is that it can often be portrayed at its worst and not its best.  Being human, I believe we are broken is some way, that leaves us always looking for a deeper experience of love, though we may seek it out in many ways that are harmful to all involved. 
Love calls us to face life fully, to embrace both the pain and the joy.  Sin is when we try to escape this vulnerability that is part of our existence and seek to protect ourselves.  This can be manifested in many ways.  Our addictions, the walls we build to keep others at bay, the suppression of our emotions and feelings etc.     I can say that I have learned this from experience and the healing that leads to a deeper ability to embrace life is a lifelong process for most, well it is true for me.
What does it mean when we say “That God is love”?   When you insert onto this phrase that God’s love is infinite, well that adds a whole dimension that is beyond human understanding and in fact can be quite frightening.  Human love with all of its ups and downs and failures can be understood…. infinite love (?), well no.  It is not human love, but something much more, and this love as is shown in the Christian path, seeks us out in a way that is passionate and at times can seem unmerciful. 
Revelation, which I believe Jesus is that a revelation of the Father’s love for each of us, is something simply revealed, but not something new.  This reality has always been at work in our world and as time goes on, we are slowly learning at ever deeper levels what this means.  I doubt we will ever fully understand.  Each Christian is called to live out this mystery and to deepen one's understanding of what it means. 
Jesus used human metaphors to help us understand the Father’s love.  For instance the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son”, is something that can be understood at ever deeper levels, the more it is prayed over.  Infinite love overturns all of our thoughts about love in general and God’s love in particular.  We will always on some level be idol worshippers, and we are called to allow each of these idols to fall by the wayside as we become closer to this mystery, which is based on developing a loving and trusting attitude….which by the way is a conscious choice.  Like Jesus in Gethsemane, when he said:  “Father let this cup pass by me…… (here is the clincher)…..yet not my will, but your holy will, be done”….each of us will also have our Gethsemane experience, perhaps more than one, in which we will ask to be delivered and for the most part we will not be.  It is difficult to embrace life when we suffer, but that is what we are called to do.  Jesus knew that the Father was with him, suffering with him, just as God journeys with us and experiences our lives fully; such is the love that pursues us.
Sebastian Moore wrote a book titled “The Crucified Christ is no stranger”.  In this book, he made this statement:  “When we see Christ on the cross, we are looking at our own souls”.  When we love, we see the beloved fully, be it a husband or wife, or a child, or a dear friend.  When we love in this way, I believe we are actually living out that image of God.  With God, each of us is the beloved, the only one; we are not looked upon as being simply a member of a group, race or species.  No, we are each uniquely loved in an infinite manner.  This is hard to believe and understand I know, in fact when this mystery draws close, is when I am tempted to doubt.  I choose to move forward in trust. 
We are called to be fully human.  I believe that Jesus shows us what that means.  Of course, it means a death to a way of life that is more instinctive than human.  On the cross, when he was near death after he cried out to the Father in seeming despair, he said this:  “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.  Yes, we are called to let go of all that causes pain and separation in the world.  If we were truly human, living out of our highest ideals, or perhaps the Sermon on the Mount, I think the world would be quite a different place.  Do I live this out, well no, I still struggle and hopefully with God’s grace, I am becoming, a little bit more human, every day. 
Christ Jesus identifies with each of us.  “Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me”….is something real.  It shows the immanence of God.  We are all sacred. When we fail to see that, then we sin, because we use one another more often than we would like to believe.



Panama, rain, fun, mud, and a special walk

Panama, rain, fun, mud, and a special walk home

Before we moved to Panama in 1958, I am not sure I had any strong feelings about rain.  I most likely looked at it as interfering with my being outdoors and playing, roughhousing etc.    I can say that I have always disliked snow, or perhaps hated it.  I liked it for a short time, then I believe it caused me to become depressed, or perhaps that is too strong a word, drained might be a better expression  Then we moved to Panama.  My dislike of snow still continues, but my relationship with rain, I am happy to say, changed and to this day I like rainy days more than sunny ones.

I found that when it rained in Panama, it was an invitation for me to go crazy, wild, run around in circles, get muddy and roll around in the grass, or mud, whichever was closest.  Blitz, our dog, a boxer who we adopted when I was a junior in high school, got it and we would often just act like brothers having fun.

In Ft. Gulick, I guess the movie theater was about a mile and a half from our home in Gulick Heights.  I like going to the movies by myself and loved the walk home at night.  I would think with a shiver of delight (12 years old boys are crazy that way) if I would be eaten on the way home by some sort of panther.  I doubt panther's want to have much to do with humans.  We probably smell funny to them anyway.  I guess over the years until I got my driver’s license, I will surmise I made that walk at least twice a month in the dark.  I would like to share one evening walk when I was 12, and it was a cloudy, windy, raining, cat’s, and dog’s kind of night.  Just like in the movies.

It was a long movie, don’t remember what it was.  I think I went to the movies more for the large buttered popcorn and the M @ M’s, I mixed in with it and of course a large Coke. A true delicacy for a growing young man.  As I left the movie theater, I was delighted to hear loud thunder in the distance but could tell that it was coming our way.  It was still dry, but the air had that negative-ozone smell to it that I find so energizing.  It was during summer vacation, a Thursday night, around 10:30, so the traffic was just about zero.  I guess I got about a quarter of a mile into my walk home, right around the street where the PX was when there
was this very bright lighting and a crack so loud that I ducked…..as if that was helpful.  I remember making an exclamation that I won’t repeat there.  Then I started laughing and jumping up and down.  Unbecoming of a 12-year-old, but it was just me and God, so who cares. 

A strong breeze came through which was welcomed, then a few drops of rain, then a few more, suddenly it was like someone turned over a bucket of cold water on me.  My first impulse was to run for cover.  There was a bus stop just a few feet away….but I thought, I am already soaked, so might as well enjoy it.  So I started walking on the sidewalk, then I got off of the sidewalk and started splashing in the puddles that quickly formed.  Then, I started running and sliding on the grass and rolling around.   After about ten minutes I stopped playing because I had to get my breath and started walking again.  After a few minutes, a Military Police car stopped and asked if I needed a ride.  I said no thank you and the MP asked me if I was sure about that, for it was late.  I guess it was 11 PM.  I said, no thanks again, and he shrugged and drove off.  He was probably relieved, I was like a sponge, dripping wet.

When I got around to the commissary I sat down
on the bus stop there and just enjoyed the rain and the wind.  I was a little cold, but I will take that over hot any day.   A dog came over and put his head on my knee and I petted it for a few minutes, even though it shook itself in front of me and covered me over with water and some mud….I laughed about it.  After a few minutes of petting the dog and becoming great friends, I got up to continue the last leg of my journey home.  As I was walking I decided to walk down the center of the highway.  The rain was still coming and the water on the pavement was running fast.  So I decided to lie down in the middle of the street and just let the water run over me.  The dog was still with me and at first started to whine because it may have thought I was hurt.  I petted it and it lay down with me with his/her head on my stomach.  I closed my eyes and then suddenly a bright light was in my eyes.  The MP was coming back and pulled around me asking me “What the *&#&^* I was doing.  Very unprofessional I thought.  I responded that I was enjoying the weather.  He laughed but said I really need to get off the road and walk home.  So I got up and continued my journey.

For the rest of the way the dog and I played around a bit but as we approached Gulick Heights he turned around and started back to his home.  I walked up the hill and finally got to building 522 my home.  We had the whole first floor because we were such a large family.  Two apartments made into one.  The Crouch family lived there before we did and we still keep in touch with them, mostly on Facebook.  I find it really cool that we still in touch.  Mrs. Crouch and my mother were great friends and even though I never got in contact with the kids after they moved to the other side of the Canal Zone, well I saw Alice in 1971, there is still a connection, at least for me.

I stood under the house and found that I was getting really cold.  I also knew that I had to wring out my clothes before I went upstairs.  So I did that and walked into our living room.  My mom and dad were still up and when I walked in they both gave me a funny look and then started laughing.  What have you been doing, son, my dad asked.  Oh, I replied, just having fun and enjoying the rain.

I took a shower and dried off.  One of the great pleasures of life, after having fun in the rain, is to experience dryness.  I went to bed and slept like a baby.  So yes, to this day I still love rain, cloudy skies, fog, thunder, and lightning.  Best of all, however, is the feeling that comes before a rain, when the air is filled with the smell of coming joy, and I feel energized in ways the sun can never do for me. 

Loving rain is a very good attribute to develop.  I remember one of the monks who I took care of, who had my name.  He was Mark 1 and I was, you got it, Mark 2.  When I first started taking care of him, he told me one day when it was raining, that he loved watching the weather.  So I took him down to our cloister garden and we sat and simply watched, enjoying the weather and each other’s company. 


A place of rest

If there is a place of rest when we first go home, Lord,
I want a place with low lying clouds,
dark and swirling, round and round,
with the smell that comes before it pours
that makes me want to laugh, dance and cry,
for this has always made me a little child for a time which
is the true lightness of being filled with joy.----Br.MD



Trust God Clean House Help Others

A way of life
A friend of mine on Facebook, a beautiful soul, as well as a regular retreatant here, sent me a plaque which I liked at once and found it cheerful and encouraging. It is very colorful and has a very wise message said in very simple language.
Trust God
Clean House
Help Others
I hung it up just behind our serving line so it could be enjoyed by all who pass through. You could say it a philosophy of life that looks simple and probably is, but may take some discipline to live it. The simplest spirituality is the hardest. It strips away a lot of useless baggage that can only murk up being in the moment.
Trusting God sounds pious and easy, but in reality, it is not. For trust is not an emotion, which comes and goes. Nor a feeling which can be confused with emotions but comes from a deeper place in the soul I believe. To feel like one is worthless and of little worth is not an emotion, it is a feeling. Powerful emotions explode on the scene when reacting to feeling worthless and going into a rage or a tantrum of some sort. So to trust God in all of the vicissitudes of life takes courage. Trusting in God, for it to be real has to come from a place of faith and accepting simply that one is made in the image and likeness of God. This comes from a Holy-Stubbornness that will wrestle with one’s twisted, immature ideas of God. Some fear is needed to protect us. Holy Stubbornness is needed to keep us kick boxing our twisted ideas about divinity that leads into neurotic fear. Religion is often at fault, as well as people either not willing, or not able, to trust their intuition when it comes to their faith. Being immature in one’s faith is not being childlike, actually quite the opposite.
Cleaning House is an interesting term. Taking care of one's surroundings, and helping others to care for theirs, if they can’t, is a form of service that is often overlooked today. We are stewards and we live in a world where people go through life leaving chaos and simple messiness behind them. By that, I am speaking mostly on how personal interactions with others comes about and often leads to unnecessary tension and fighting.
Helping others of course if not based on true love and concern can become, to use an overused word and concept, co-dependent. We do not help others if all we are doing is being compulsive about it, fearing that if we say no, we will not be liked, or a good person, etc. Helping others is not about being ‘nice’, but about being loving, truthful, gentle but salted with firmness as well.
My brother who is
a Angilcan/Epispocal priest like to put it this way:
Love God
Help people

Loss and anger and life

Loss and anger and life is not a maze but a labyrinth
(The more useless skin we shed, the freer we become)

I find myself very angry with John, a good friend who died unexpectedly and I believe uselessly. I believe that I barely see it, or feel it, yet I experience its power deep within. Like a deep wound covered over by a lot of scabs. A painful image, yet one that shows that deep pain can be there, doing its work, without me being all that aware of it. Perhaps the anger that I feel, is something I have for all those who have died whom I loved. My friend Donna Janzar for instances. She died of cancer, I loved her and now she is gone. I think it is the anger and sorrow of a 2-year-old. Who lived in a world for a short time (though a year’s time for a two-year old is very long indeed) where I was abandoned (or felt that I was). Just dropped off in a home that was really not too friendly, it was a dark place for me. Yet it was the nature of life for a two-year old, and I adapted, watched, did not trust and ignored my parents when they came for a visit, for they were going to leave again.

At two I woke up and was sort of like an adult, yet without the ability to reason, though my intuition became my way of seeing and understanding my surroundings, rightly or wrongly. I hated where I was but did not know I hated it. I was fearful, but thought, it just life, and could not name it. I was like a feral cat inside, I believe, but adapted outside to my surroundings. My rage even then was hidden because I intuited that everyone was way too big for me to be able to do anything about my situation.
Put here, placed there, told what to eat etc. I never liked being young and only started being happy as I aged. So the older I get, the happier I get. Yet that two-year-old is still there, watching, waiting and very angry. I have found my peace with him, for he is me still, though not in charge, thank God. What is good for a two-year-old, is not in any way good or healthy for a man almost 69 years of age.

(Though as I aged I understood that my perceptions were wrong. My parents did not abandon me, what they did was necessary and when the year was over they were always there for me. Yet a wound is a wound and takes time to heal. The fact that we became a family again lessened the effect of my ‘so called’ abandonment. )

When a child and all the way through High School, I was often intrigued on how my brothers could have friends, how people stuck to them, while with me it never happened. It was not like I wanted friends, did not feel the need, yet I wondered how it worked. I did have a few that I guess I loved and were friends with, though I did not know it. I think I did not pick up clues when young, clueless I was. Happy to say, I got back in touch with all of them when the internet became common. The fact that I remembered those I cared for in High School shows that I, in fact, had friends but did not know it.

There are a lot of bits and pieces ‘of’ me that are becoming quieter as they draw closer together. Though the process is still a long way off where they will all come together. My faith I believe is allowing this to happen. My anger, and fears, and wounds, so deep that I barely feel them, are not my enemies but are actually seeking my attention by being a vexation. Some of these aspects of myself were needed when very young to protect me and warn me and keep me safe…..now they are still trying to protect me in ways that I don’t need.

So I am still on the way, and the Lord is patient with me. Calling me, giving me strength when needed and allowing me to experience my own inner chaos so that I can understand that there is a great deal about me that I do not really now about. I see the tip of a very large iceberg. Yet the load is getting lighter, though not at the speed I would like. I limp when I would want to run, fall when I want to be victorious, and finding out that my unconscious can be in charge more often that I would like to really consider, but have to. Such is the reality of pain, the goad that pushes forward.

I think most people feel different and unique and yes neither seen nor understood. Perhaps it is the most common feeling that we as a species have. I believe that these feelings are true, though they point to the uniqueness of each of us. The most common thing about being human is that deep within we are unique and that is what helps us to interpret reality, for good or ill. Once that is understood, we can reintegrate once again with all the other ‘weird’ people. Once that is understood, it is found out that there are no weird people, just those who are different and gifted in other ways.

For myself, I have come to the realization that life is not a maze but rather a labyrinth. Many turns, that seem to take me from the center, but if I continue on the journey in trust, in spite of the many voices that seek to keep me ‘safe’, I will arrive at the center. It is despair and cynicism that make a turn of the labyrinth into a wall and life can seem like a maze, because then all one can do is run in circles. Suffering is the shedding process, fear of suffering only leads to deeper suffering and chaos. During the twist and turns of life, we are never alone, faith helps us to keep the light in front of us even when it seems absent, or so bright that we only see darkness.



Lettuce in my teeth and Nuggets of gold

Lettuce in my teeth and Nuggets of gold

Gail, is a good friend, who is on a journey that we are all on.  She is just more aware of it than most I believe.  We were talking when she was here this week about something that she wrote.  She is a very good writer, insightful and in reality has a positive attitude towards life, though, like most of us on our inner journey, she may trip over a nugget of gold that may seem otherwise. 

I won’t quote her because I believe it is very personal, but her experience is archetypical.  It was a small quote but it contained a lot.  It did not say who she was, but it was something that got her attention.  Self-knowledge and the grace that it has its roots in is not always pleasant.  Why is that?  Because it can upset the ego in such a way that it may feel unsure of itself.  Sort of like you are out all day, thinking you have presented yourself well to others, then come home and find that you have a piece of lettuce in your front teeth and everyone you talked to that day did not bother to say anything.  It can be funny, or something that upsets, it depends on one’s perspective.

Nuggets of self-knowledge are like that.  We can learn something about ourselves through prayer, or writing, or something someone says about us, and then shock comes to the surface and it becomes bigger than it actually is.  If shared with a friend, this terrible self-revelation, they may smile and say “Oh I have known that about you for years.”  So then the thought comes up:  “Really!”  Yet the friend thinks nothing of it.  Sort of like finding out that others have seen lettuce in your front teeth all day and did not bother to say anything about it. 

The deeper we go in, the more fragments we will find.  For instance, the compulsive side of our gifts.  We can one day find out that what was thought to be selfless may, in fact, have a certain level of self-serving to it….or a lot.  The sure path to humility is a revelation that hits hard and suddenly, but again is taken in stride.  Once we understand that pure motives are most likely impossible, it is then we can let go of being overly preoccupied with ourselves and seek to allow graces healing to go deeper into our souls. 

Each person, if listened to deeply, is soon known to be a deep, complex, contradictory mystery filled with beauty and yes other things not so beautiful.  Sort of like beauty and the beast.  I believe that we each are on a road of self-discovery, which is what humility is all about.  The ability to see into ourselves and to embrace it and not allow it to dominate our focus is the key that will allow us to continue.



Stay out of your way

If you want to trip;
just look at your feet,
think about walking
clumsy you will become,
as self-knowledge comes up
just make it part of your dance,
don’t get in your own way.





A young woman nearing burnout


A young woman nearing burnout

Burnout is an ugly term.  It brings out images for me of a gutted blackened structure that is about to collapse in on itself.  Or perhaps an emptiness where all light is hidden beneath a pall of ash black smoke.  When I was in the Navy, we had an exercise in survival during a shipboard fire.  In one of these, we were given a gas mask to wear and told to enter a room.  There were about 30 of us.  The doors were closed and then the place was filled with smoke, so black that you could not see your hands in front of us.  Then we were told to take off our mask and to leave the room.  It was not a pleasant experience and many of us had to fight off panic since we had no sense of direction, but at least in that instance, we were safe and got out.  I remember the relief of being able to breathe in clean air and the panic going away.  The trouble with burn out is that there can seem to be no way out.

A few months back we had a retreatant here.  She was a young woman who looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties.  She was pleasant, quiet and kept to herself.  She did not attend any of our services, which is what many retreatants do.  She spent her time either in her room or walking around outside in the beautiful spring weather.

On the day that she checked out, it was on a Sunday and she was the last to leave, so we talked a bit.  She told me about her life, well about her struggles with her internship.  She was in mental health and carried a very heavy case load.  She had been doing it for a couple of years and still had a year to go.  She seemed very fragile to me as we talked and I got the impression that she was drowning.  She told me that she spent much of the weekend sleeping and felt better because of it.  However, she went on, she felt empty and had to force herself to go to work every day and to deal with all the mental patients she had to see.  I understood her because I worked in our infirmary for many years and remembered how difficult the last year was for me.  I felt empty, a bit lost at times and had to really work at being present to those that I was taking care of.  It got worse for me when our Infirmary finally started to have fewer monks needing care.  The World-War-2 generation, for the most part, had passed on.   So when things slowed down my fatigue and yes burnout came to the fore.

I asked her how she brought her faith into her studies and internship.  She responded that she was so busy that she had little time for anything else.  I shared that when I was taking care of the elderly monks and with their deaths, it was my faith that gave me the energy and to continue in my work.  I also said that when I allowed myself to drift, it was then that I started to feel drained, empty and so tired that I could not really sleep.  Prayer, I told her, being in silence before the Lord helped because the Lord responds to us and comes to us to the degree that we let him.  I also learned of my powerlessness to change anyone, but in doing that it seemed to lighten the load, it took away responsibilities that I was placing on myself that I had no right to do.

She responded by asking me how could she do that?  Start off small I responded, give to the Lord ten minutes in the morning.  Pray the best way you can, sit in silence and read scripture.  It does not matter if you feel that you are doing anything worthwhile, or if the time you spent was successful; it is about you giving time to the Lord despite the distractions, being tired etc.  Just do it, be open and trusting.  In that way, the Lord will slowly expand your ability to receive his grace and healing.  This also leads you to learn to listen in other areas of your life as well.  Being a care giver has its dangers and burn out, and even suicide are two of them.  She then told me that they had two interns kill themselves in one year.   I responded.  When we forget that we have a soul, we allow it to starve for what it was made for.  A loving trusting relationship with God.  If we do not have that, then our job, or money, or success will become a god for us and in the end, leave us with nothing.  For grace and healing come from opening up our heart, mind, and soul to grace. If you remember that it will make things easier for you, though the profession you have chosen will challenge you to deal directly with your own compulsion to help others.  In all of our gifts, there is both a healthy aspect to it as well as unhealthy and even destructive tendencies that can take over. 

I shared the importance of the Eucharist because she was Catholic.  I gave her a book on the Jewish roots of the Eucharist by Scott Hahn, and she was very pleased to receive it. 

“Don’t take your faith for granted I told her.  Study and seek to deepen your relationship with God and you will find that your ability to help others, to be with them in their suffering will grow without being caught up in thinking you have some power all you own to heal and save.  God heals and saves, he uses our gifts to accomplish that.  Though he will heal you through your weaknesses.  He will slowly show you how to let go of burdens that you do not need to carry”.

As she left I thought of the many people in this world who give themselves for others.  It is often a thankless job, but they continue in it.  God’s grace works in our souls in so many hidden and wondrous ways, who can know them, or number them?  One grace I received is embracing that fact that as I age, stress will affect me differently than when younger.  She is still very young, I am old, and we each have to find a way to the Lord to continue to use us that is appropriate to our time of life. 

To receive

Each is given gifts in which to serve,
some to heal, others to encourage,
some given the gift to accept all they meet,
some pray more and others study,
and some don’t know what their gifts are at all.

There are those with many talents,
others may only have one,
yet each called to serve and restore others,
for within each heart dwells the Lord of light
seeking to use each of us as a soothing balm
for others.  For when even speaking truth
if done in love and not anger
plants seeds that will bring forth a hundred fold. 


A beautiful encounter

A beautiful encounter

This evening after compline (our 7:30 prayer), I was going around making sure everything was locked up.  Over the years we have had to become conscious of our security.  When I went out to the back porch that is right outside of our ‘talking dining room’ I saw a young lady there.  I asked her to lock the door when she finished her reading; but she came right in.  The day ends very early here, so by 8 PM most of the guest have called it a day.  Many get up for our 4 AM office.

She was 29 I believe and radiant, gentle, and I could tell a loving soul.  So we talked a bit.  She was a psychotherapist by trade; which did not surprise me.  During our short conversation t I found out she was a 7th day Adventist.  I was a little surprised, but not greatly so, that she would come to a Catholic Monastery.  She smiled and said that some of her friends are very ‘staunch’ in their beliefs, but she was taught to be open to others.  Which shows, her being here and her open loving presence.

My sister was a 7th day and I have studied their faith a bit.  It is not very friendly towards the Catholic faith, at least as far as the founder goes and I guess with much of those who follow this path.  My sister was a deeply loving woman who spent much of her life taking care of the elderly and dying.  She was a joy to be around and to say she was very energetic is an understatement.  She has three lovely children.  She died a few years back and I still miss her. 

When meeting with people, no matter their faith path, or lack thereof, some are easier to talk to, others, better to stay away from them.  This young woman was a seeker after truth.  When Jesus said that those who seek, find, I believe he was talking about being childlike in our pursuit after what is true, good, and holy.  Seekers will always be happy when they find out the truth, for they are seeking.  When that seeking stops, then entrenchment happens and many problems flow from that. 

I believe that the Christian faith is very young, that we are only at the beginning of our understanding about the message and love that Jesus has brought into the world.  The fact that there are so many divisions and conflicts in the Body of Christ, hatred even, and condemnation, of any who disagree, point to being still being bound by what St. Paul called ‘sarx’, or the flesh.  We are still primitive, tribal and can be easily be swallowed up by fear of the other which shows itself in anger and defensiveness.  Christians stereotype just as much as anyone else, and have the same pre-judgements about others races, countries and religions and those who have none.  It is normal, yet I believe that Christ is calling us all to something more.    There are some exceptions, people who get it, but sad to say I still struggle with this aspect of the flesh that keeps walls up between me and others and because of that, with God as well.

Who can understand Jesus?  His Message?  It is the struggle to grow in understanding that keeps the Christian path alive.  The problem with certain types of fundamentalism is that it becomes an ideology, which will one day die of suffocation.  Some liberals (so called) are pretty much the same.   Once we believe that we have found truth in a rigid way we become entrenched, defensive and fearful of anything that will destroy the idol or god that we worship, or political, or social, model that we believe in.  So, yes we are still very young I believe.

It was a joy meeting this young woman and hope to see her back here in the future.  It is the Holy Spirit that compels us to search and to seek wisdom.  As well as to grow in trust of God and in the knowledge of his love for all.  Many Christians seem to delight in trying to prove otherwise.  We do not know the heart of any other human being.  Our own heart is a mystery to each of us as well, so better not to judge ourselves or others.  God is infinite compassion, I am nowhere near that, how could I be?  I see little when it comes to others.   God is Love.  The more I ponder on that, the deeper the mystery.  Yet in meeting this young girl, I got a little glimpse into that love.  She was a window for me, and icon, for did not Jesus tells us that he identifies with all, to the least, to our enemies and we are called to seek to see the way he does, to put on the Mind-Of-Christ.  So why should I be surprised that I see Christ Jesus so clearly in a sister of the faith?

My myopia

O Lord how tired I get
of myself and my fears,
of my tendency without thinking
to judge and forget who I see
before me in all their humanity,
for you dwell in each heart
and each of us is called to see that reality
and to draw out that flame
to deeper love and beauty.




When identity is torn away

When identity is torn away

One of the prisoners I am writing, his name is Sean, an Irish citizen, who grew up when the violence was at its height.  His life has been rough, his father who was in the IRA was killed in a terrorist attack and he lost other friends to this civil war in his part of Ireland.  Because of his background, to say he has anger issues is an understatement and one of the reasons he is in Jail.  Though there are other reasons as well.  He will soon be getting out of prison, and forced back to his home country, because of his involvement with the IRA when very young.  Which causes him some anxiety because he has enemies back home.  Though it has been over 30 years since he came to the United States. 

When I first started writing to him, he was seeking to find ways in dealing with his anger/rage issues.  Being in prison because of the overall population, there is a lot to make one angry and he was smart enough to know that it would only take him further on down the descending spiral he has been traveling for years; albeit, unknowingly.   Being sent to prison was a knock on his head and it woke him up.  It has been rough, but he has made a lot of progress in dealing with his impulse control when it comes to anger.  

When he first starting writing me, he confessed that what he wanted was some help in dealing with this monkey on his back (anger).  I think most people are well acquainted with anger, a large group has to deal with it on a daily basis, and a smaller group knows that it could lead to inheriting the whirlwind if they don’t do something about it.  I, like Sean, belong in the latter group.  I was concerned for him because of the living conditions in prison.  Here is a man, who admits why he is in prison, knows he deserves to be there, yet has to come to enough self-knowledge to know that unless he finds a better way, he will have a bad end, or spend many more years in prison if he gives vent to his rage. 

I was honest about my own struggles and concern about him and would do what I could (though not much) to help him.  He admitted that he is a fighter, good at it, but now sees that it is a waste of time.  He sees how his fellow inmates who don’t try to control their anger only make their lives worse and even get years added on to their sentence if they harm, or sad to say, kill, another inmate. 

He was serious about his spiritual life, knowing that it is a lifeline for him and that his faith would help him to navigate his own inner landscape.  A place he was not really aware of before he landed in prison. 

In his second letter to me, he told me that he was trying to pray for his ‘enemies’ who are there in prison with him and that it helped.  Yet he still had falls and that scared him.  So we talked about being in touch with his moods, knowing when to pull back if need be and to not allow others to draw him in.  Here is something I wrote in the second letter I sent him:

“You are dealing well with your anger, and yes, praying for you enemies is a deeply healing prayer, for it is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Yes, forgiveness is hard, but as you are doing, you seek through self-knowledge to understand others who have wronged you.  We all have a past, we all need mercy and forgiveness…..we receive mercy and then pass it on to others, if not face to face, then through prayer.  Be patient, one day at a time, and allow the Lord to heal you according to his own timetable”.

So over the two and half years, I have been writing him I have seen progress, suffering, struggle, failure and yes a growing trust in God.  While at the same time his life has not gotten easier.  He is just not controlled by his anger anymore, it no longer grabs him by his neck and shakes him senseless.  He is having serious health issues and now worried about getting his meds when he goes back to Ireland.  He is seeing an Irish social worker who will most likely be able to help him in that regard.  He is having another problem, he does not have a birth-certificate.  Which has led him to learn something about himself that he did not know before….which has him reeling.  His identity has been torn away from him, for what he thought for 50 some years about himself, is now seen as a lie.

He found out that he is adopted.  So now he thinks that he was simply dumped somewhere by a mother who did not want him.  His true father wanted nothing to do with his real mom, so she was left bereft and alone. He wrote me:  “I have no idea who I am, my whole life has been a lie”.  So, yes, another milestone for him to face, but I believe he will.  Below is my response, which I know was not sufficient in any way to alleviate his suffering.  

Well, you have had quite a journey haven’t you last the few weeks?  Learning about one’s past can be a shock, especially the news that you became privy to.  I can see your confusion over ‘who you are’, yet, you are still Sean.  I have no doubt that your mother loved you, but in 1965, in Ireland, the pressure must have been too great for her to withstand.  Usually, mothers mourn their children when they had to give them up for adoption.  It was actually the fault of your father, though I would imagine that the situation was trying for both of them.  Your father as he aged may have come to the realization of what he did and came to regret it as well.  The situation of you ‘being given away’ says nothing about you, you are yourself, a man who is seeking God, trying to grow as a human being and wanting to move on in life after you are released from prison’. 

Your true identity is in God, you are a child of God, loved in an infinite manner; cherished.  Everything else is secondary.  Your adopted parents are your real mom and dad, they raised you, probably went through a great deal to see that you were taken care of.  Like you said, your step-mom sent you to America because she thought it would be better for you….I am sure it was a sacrifice for her….because you were worth it.  Keep your perspective grounded, this will only be a big problem if you let it.  After saying that, I know it will be a struggle for you, but be rooted in your faith and in your relationship with Christ.  Pray for your biological parents and forgive them…..even if it may be difficult for you”.

I would say he is being pounded, but that is the nature of our lives in this world.  He is facing this without seeking to blame anyone, or really to allow himself to become a victim.  Our faith in God’s love for us precludes that over the long haul.  My roots of anger go way back.  Things happen, a very young child sees it one way, and those who brought about the experience see it in another.  Yet the seed is there and needs to be dealt with.  I do believe that God uses all of us to work for the kingdom by our gifts, but truly reaches us through our weaknesses, or as St. Paul would say:  “The thorn in his side”. 

Our past does have a hold on us, but it does not define us.  Who is Sean, who am I, who are you, dear reader?  What we truly believe will lead us to one conclusion or another.  Do we believe what others tell us about ourselves?  People who are wounded and filled with their anger and pain, or do we believe what Christ Jesus tells us and shows us by his life.  Or any religious tradition for that manner. 

One morning I was in between waking and sleeping and had a quick dream (?) where I was in a beautiful garden, surrounded by very beautiful flowers, mostly white.  Some of the plants were flourishing, others struggling, yet all alive.  So I asked the Lord or prayed to the Lord.  “Lord, each and every flower is known by you and loved, and I believe you will bring true life to all”.  For each human being is known truly only by God, and who am I to limit his mercy, love, and compassion toward each human being.

I do know that when younger if I would have let my anger consume me, I would not be here now.  Though even if I was a 69-year-old man who was filled with fear, anger, and hatred, there would still be hope, for God knows me to my deepest depth, he sees what is hidden from myself and would call me in love and hope to trust. 

We can judge actions, but not people.  We can be overwhelmed and do things that are truly horrible and evil.  Sean did some horrible things, he is now sorry for it and is slowly growing in his trust in God’s love for him and learning where his true identity is. 

I am amazed at the courage of people, and the struggle many go through to grow in their humanity.  It is an honor to know this man, and please pray for him and all men and women prisoners and those who work in prison.  I have talked with those who work in the system and they tell me of their own struggles and how their faith keeps them from actually becoming like the worst of those they have to take care of.  Prayer, grace and taking responsibility for themselves keeps them on the straight path. 






50th High School reunion

50th High School reunion
When I received my yearbook in 1967, I remembered looking at a picture of the first Cristobal High School class. I was amazed to see that my class was the 50th to graduate. I then thought about the age of that first class of graduates and realized that they were very, very, old, older than my parents. They would be I said to myself, 68 or 69. I of course never thought that 50 years later, being that same age, and how different that reality would look to me. When not looking in a mirror or at a doctor’s office, I sort of feel like I am 18, my maturity level more like 14, on a good day.
I should not have blinked.
Donna Janzar was a classmate I was lucky enough to get to know again. We became good friends. Or, should I say our friendship continued where it left off. Her husband Stan was a really great guy. The few times she was able to stop off I loved seeing them interact with each other, a very good, loving marriage. We used to talk a lot when in High School. After I finished my paper route in Fr. Gulick, we would often just stand and talk for hours. Good conversation can take those involved outside of time, so that two or three hours seems like, well, nothing at all. She was a good friend and I loved her dearly. I missed her when she left Panama in 65, so getting to spend time with her was a true joy. I am still sad over her death of course, but I would not change anything, she was a good soul who loved helping and encouraging others. She helped and encouraged me in my compulsion to write.
You never forget those you became good friends with in High School. Dennis Forsgren, Nan Bell or two of the Canal Zone kids in my class that I remember the most and am still very fond of them. I am happy to say I got back in touch with both of them. I was not good at making friends when a teenager, nor was I looking for it in reality. Yet when someone without their even knowing it broke through my unconscious defenses it was a true blessing. Because of that, I have always believed that friendship is one of the most important experiences in life. To have a good friend is a priceless gift. For no one owes anyone else friendship, it is grace in action. What I find beautiful is the depth of the friendship I experience when reading about my classmates and how hard they worked to get the class together. How after all these years they are still so deeply connected.
I remember in 1999 when I was first starting to learn the computer, I recollect with humor how kind Nan Bell was to me. I was learning to use messenger and we talked about it over the phone and I voicing my frustration because I could not find the file. She started laughing reliving with me her own experience in learning the different aspects of using the computer. Jack Sanders, who will not remember this, helped me out in showing me how to correct some of the mistakes I was making and also explained to me some of the slang, like “LOL”, I had no idea what that meant.
I did not know many of my classmates, but after I graduated I was amazed at the connection that I felt on a deep level. I guess you cannot help but feel connected when the whole Atlantic area was so small and everyone’s name was known. One name that stayed with me. Connie Fowler, she lived in Gulick Heights and she stopped by for a short visit on her way to the class reunion. I was delighted to see her. Like Donna Janzar she left Panama in 65 (I believe) so I felt a deep connection with her. It was a short visit, but I learned a lot about her. She does love the class that is for sure. I hope to see her again.
I am also thankful for connecting with a classmate I did not know in High School: Lenny Huff, a great guy.
I like getting older, for some that may seem strange, yet life seems to get richer as my future is becoming less than my past. I have medical problems, I can’t run up the stairs and my lungs could be better, but I laugh at myself when I look in the mirror and see my dad looking back at me. There are losses, in my family, I have lost two siblings, yet that is life, we age, move one and then really move on. I sometimes think of the song: “Row, row, row, your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream”. I am beginning to understand that. You can’t stop a stream from flowing, nor time from moving us all forward. I hope that all of my classmates keep their humor and trust in life’s process no matter if Rapids have to be gone through and from time to time a waterfall gone over. In the end, we all get through it.