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talking to myself

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personal stuff

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What is our life?



What is our life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




A Muslim couple



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

(This was written in January 2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



My Friend Janet


My Friend Janet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hidden Ways

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

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

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


Anxiety and Morning Coffee




Anxiety and Morning Coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

People know when they are loved.  The more deeply we love, the deeper we are able to see others without judging, but only loving.  God sees all of us deeply, completely, so his mercy and compassion are total.  That is why we are told never to judge the worth of another human being…..we can’t, we do not see deeply enough.  Yet the more we allow Christ to love in us, the deeper we will see into the heart, of those around us.  Why?  Because prayer leads to self-knowledge, which brings us to our need for grace, and our knowledge that without grace, we would be consumed by our inner chaos.
The Lord is at work in your life in a powerful way Evan, so even if from time to time, you might lose a battle (as we all do), the war will be won by the grace of Jesus Christ.  Continue to deepen your love of the sacraments, for they are true avenues of grace.  Don’t worry if non-Catholics don’t understand.  It takes Catholics many years to come to a deep love and appreciation of the sacraments.  People of all faith paths will talk to me about how the Eucharist affects them, even if they do not understand.  I try to explain the presence of Christ in a special way in the bread kept in our tabernacles.  This does bring some into the church.  Even those who don’t, still spend time in our church just being in the presence of Christ Jesus in our Eucharist. 
I will close with a quote from the book “He and I’. 

June 23—Holy Hour. “You and I. Together we make only one. “It is time to see Me in a new light—the powerful light of reality. “Even when you are doing the most ordinary things I am with you, because while I am the greatest, I am also the humblest, and nothing is ever deadly dull to Me. What is most obscure and despised only attracts Me more. So don’t be afraid that I’ll leave you at certain moments, for I love you all the time. Tell Me that at last you do believe in the faithful company of My love. Keep strengthening your belief by the little words of your heart; they are like the wood that you throw on the fire. And I quicken. “You realize now, don’t you, that without Me, your End, your life is empty. So meet Me more often. Enter more joyfully into your Savior-God. Oh, if only you could remain there forever! This solitude of ours is such wealth that even the angels envy it—they who have never received Holy Communion. Your entire being is saturated with Me. Consecrate yourself in your heart’s outpouring and I’ll bind you the more closely to Me—even to unity. “Why shouldn’t you come to Me as gaily as you go to meet a very dear friend?” June 28—From the
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3891-3896). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
If you do not feel called to write prisoners, please pray for them.  Many are actually afraid that when they get out they will fall back into old habits.  Many know that they have deep issues that they will have to continue to work on when they are released.  Yet, many are successful and their faith is a big help for them when they get out.  Faith for some is considered as a copout and weak, I disagree, it gives us deep roots and a way to face reality without seeking to escape, or self-medicate.—Br.MD

What lies beneath
March 20—Holy Hour. “You are worried about the passage from this life to the next? But since it is the greatest proof of love that you can give Me, be glad. Offer your death to Me now with complete detachment, ready even for heroism. Say, ‘Even if I didn’t have to suffer death, I would choose it in order to be more one with Him.’ And in this way you will give Me the greatest glory a creature can give his Creator. Oh, precious death of the saints that echoes even in the heavenly courts of the Father’s Home!
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 2842-2846).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition
Tony, a good friend of mine of many years, called me on my phone and asked me in a very quiet tone to come up to where my brother (David) was staying.  I could tell by the sound of his voice that there was something wrong, so I rushed upstairs to see what was going on.  I found my brother sitting on a couch in the hallway of our retreat house, gasping for air.  My first thought was that he was having a heart attack.  I called 911 at once, and they were there within 10 minutes, since it could have been a life, or death, situation.  Well, it was not his heart, but his condition was serious and they had to intubate him, so that his body could rest.  To say the least, this was not a pleasant experience for me, but thank God my brother was sedated for the procedure, and now, has no memory of it at all. 
The ICU at Rockdale Hospital is well run, and the care given, is very good.  Since I was not sure that my brother would make it or not, I stayed the night in the ICU.  David’s children were notified and they were all coming the next day.  His daughter Sarah, was in Mexico, on vocation.   His oldest son, Darshan, was a pilot and was in Brazil, and Mark, the youngest boy, who just had his first child, hurried to come up.  He has great children, all of them intelligent, independent and have a good relationship with David.  I was also able to talk to Sherry, his wife for 12 years. 
There was one other person in the waiting room with me, a middle age woman.  We talked a bit, but then she went to lie down on a couch, and went to sleep.  I read for a while, but fatigue got the best of me.  So I got a cushion from a chair, put up my hood, from my hoddie, and laid down on my back.  When I did that, as I tried to quiet my mind and pray, I became aware of a deep chasm of fear, a dark place, which seemed to have no destination, but just more darkness, nothingness, fear and pain.  This dread sometimes overtakes me.  When working in the Infirmary here at the Monastery, it would sometimes come when I was sitting with a dying member of my community.  So this is not something new, but I went with it, observing where it would take me. 
It led me to a place of ‘terror’.  Where all of life seemed to lead only to ‘this place’, a place where everything was reduced to absolute ‘nothingness’.  It was like a bottomless ocean, black, hungry, and never satisfied, it always wanted more life to swallow up.  As I sank deeper, I begin to pray, and to make a choice, to trust in the process of life, and not to give in to believing that absurdity had the last say on what human life is all about. 
I went back to seeing my brother confused, afraid, and in pain, and then I saw the face of Christ Jesus, being with my brother, suffering with him, accompanying him.  This did not make me feel better, but made me aware of the intimacy that God has with us.  We all will suffer, we will all die, some of us in ways that will be truly terrible, others it will be fast, yet, it seems that death has the finale answer.  I can understand why many people believe this to be true.  Also why they may think that my faith is a way to avoid that awful truth.  I thought about my brother, whom I love very much, dying.  Then I thought about Sissy, Skip, and Jane, my siblings, who have died over the last four years……this truth had to be embraced.  Yet despair does not have to be the outcome.  Faith does not take away from the seeming meaninglessness of life, nor does it lessen suffering, but the Christian message is that God is truly with us on all levels.  God’s intimacy closer to us than our very breathe. 
In that dark inner ocean, there was a small light that appeared in the depths, I could barely see it, but that is what faith is about.  To seek the light, choose to believe, and to open ones heart to paradox.  If I live long enough, I will have to say goodbye to my six living siblings, or I could be next.  It does not matter, whatever happens, I will have to go through it.  My own death, or the death of my beloved brothers and sisters.  Yet faith gives me hope, hope leads to deeper love, and charity is the fruit of such endeavors.
I have friends without faith of any sort.  They, like everyone else, have to find ways to deal with it.  it is important to be honest in our search, and not to be lazy , but to face life, for no matter my faith, life can still ‘suck’,  on a very deep level.  Yet it is also wondrous, for here we choose to love, to forgive, to get up, and yes, to allow faith to take deep root.  It is all grace. I pray for all of my loved ones, knowing that the love that I have experienced from God, is the same, but unique, for everyone.  Such is the Christian message, that God really is love, and seeks us all, up to the last minute of our lives.
One reason I believe I choose ‘hope’, is I have come to the conclusion, at least for me, that to give in to a sort of ‘nihilism’ is something easy to do, it is just the way I am.  I do think that is why as a very young child, I would panic over the thought of a lake, or cliff, which led to an abyss, without a bottom. I would go into a sort of shock over such a thought.  When I was 7, my parents took us to one of the cave-tours when we lived near St. Louis.  When we came to an inner lake that had lights in it that seemed to led to a bottomless, cold, pit, I went into a panic, and my parents had to take me out.  —Br.MD
“Do not speak ill of the paradox, passion of thought: the thinker without paradox is like the lover without passion, a great mediocrity” Soeren Kierkegaard....

Learning to live with uncertainty and loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first step
O will of the Omnipotent God, You are my delight,
You are my joy. Whatever the hand of my Lord holds out to me
I will accept with gladness, submission and love. (Sr. Faustina’s diary 1004)
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:30
We can be blinded by immediate satisfaction. We look for release, an escape from pain, but only find more when we act in ways that are against what we are called to do. Addictions are a way to deal with pain. Yet all that is accomplished is another problem that must be addressed and our burden becomes heavier. Sin is an attempt to find a way to escape from life as it is. But in the end, we get double from what we are trying to escape.
Love of self that the Lord commands us to do is the first step, but an often difficult one to take. For to love ourselves means that we have acquired some degree of self-knowledge that alerts us to our need for God’s grace, mercy, and love, which points us to the path that leads to hope and joy. The Will-Of-God seeks our good and our healing.
Sin only imprisons us deeper into cycles of pain and despair. Hate leads to hate, violence leads to more violence, war to more war. Pleasure, in the end, disappoints when used to medicate ourselves against the unrelenting struggle that we all face in this world. Grace is the living water that gives us the strength to not sink but to slowly make our way home.
In Advent we are invited to ponder our longing for freedom, our hope, and as well, to deepen our faith in Jesus Christ who became one with us and carries our burdens with us--Br.MD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A unique love
My Heart has a particular love for you, a love that My Father destined for you alone and for no other from all eternity. How it grieves My Heart when the unique love I offer a soul is spurned, or ignored, or regarded with indifference! I tell you this so that you may make reparation to My Heart by accepting the love I have for you and by living in My friendship. Receive My gifts, My kindnesses, My attention, My mercies for the sake of those who refuse what I so desire to give them. Do this especially for My priests, your brothers.
A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart--The Journal of a Priest at Prayer
(Kindle Locations 600-604). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.
The human heart is made in the image of God’s heart, as revealed in Jesus Christ.  However, the love of God cannot be reduced to human love.  We can love a few uniquely, and love ‘all’ in a general way.  We can have good will towards all, yet this is not loving in the way that Our Lord loves.  It is perhaps beyond understanding, though because we love, we can grow in our experience of God’s love for us, and by that, expand it to everyone. 

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

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

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

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

The love of God is what the human heart seeks.  In order to deepen that love, that relationship, then the affectionate exchange of love, will cause inner healing, which comes with a certain level of pain.  Not from the love of God, but from our own souls, allowing our inner wounds to be healed by the fire of Infinite Love. 
Once it is known
Lord, once your love is experienced,
nothing remains the same,
our journey can be rough,
but your love is sure,
no demon within or without
has power over us,
though we experience our wounds deeply,
 your love sees all,
 loves all within,
so ‘Soul of our Soul’,
teach us to wait, to pray,
to be patient, and to, yes,
love all that we meet
with your deep penetrating love.—Br.MD

“This is how much I love you….At that moment my life changed.”
I felt the urge to look up in the sky and suddenly or felt like … a stroke of love, which took me straight to the heart, in a very strong way. According to my watch, this experience lasted only three seconds, but it was very, very powerful. At that precise
moment I felt that God was speaking to me and he was telling me: ” This is how much I love each of you, all over the world “.--María Vallejo-Nágera
People will often say that they believe that “God is Love”.  Of course, the love of God is a central theme in the Christian faith.  A love, shown to us in Jesus Christ.  The parable of the ‘Prodigal Son”, brings this clearly too light.  However, to say “God is Love”, can become a cliché, or understood in such a way that it is not much use at all.  For a revelation shows something that has always been, but yet unknown, until brought too light. 

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

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

Once God’s love is experienced deeply, freely, it is then that the understanding of what it means when Jesus tells us “Not to Judge” becomes central to one’s life.  For each human, is beloved of God.  AsMariafoundout, when God’s grace touched her heart.  I do believe that each human will experience this, it is called “a Damascus event”, where for a longer or shorter time, the reality of God becomes manifest, as well as God’s love, which unlike any other.  Because God’s love for all is infinite, I believe that everyone will have this sooner or later in life, perhaps only at the time of death. –Br.MD
In Medjugorje, God told me: “This is how much I love you….At that moment my life changed.
Below is a simple account of Maria’s experienced:
Translated by Google Translate. Published originally at La Luce Di Maria
In Medjugorje God told me: “This is how much I love you” and at that moment, there in that remote place of Bosnia, my life has changed. María Vallejo-Nágera , Spanish writer, recounted her moving experience in Medjugorje: “I would like to tell you this little story of my life, which changed completely when I went to the village called Medjugorje for the first time”.
The trip to Medjugorje, organized by friends.
It was 1999 and she lived in London, with her three children. It was called Catholic, but “however I did not realize what God was, I did not have faith, I did not want to talk about God, I was not interested in either the Church or  God”. Then, the trip to Medjugorje, organized by some of his friends, changed things.
“The first day was really boring for me, I did not understand a word, nor what happened, I did not believe that Our Lady appeared to those six young people, I did not even behave during the Mass , I had found one in English in the morning, but I had done nothing but take pictures all the time, without listening to a word of what the priest or celebration said. “
On leaving the Mass, María Vallejo-Nágera headed for the hall where the visionaries held talks. “We walked near the confessionals and at the same time on my right was the outer wall of the church of San Giacomo. I was surrounded by my friends and I was joking with them.
I felt the urge to look up in the sky and suddenly or felt like … a stroke of love, which took me straight to the heart, in a very strong way. According to my watch, this experience lasted only three seconds , but it was very, very powerful. At that precise moment I felt that God was speaking to me and he was telling me: ” This is how much I love each of you, all over the world “.
I also felt a kind of shock of fear, of pain, because at that precise moment I realized that I had been really bad towards my affections, towards faith and God “. Since then, María Vallejo-Nágera has begun to go to Mass every day, to go to confession, to feed on the Eucharist, as she had never done before. And it has changed, as he says, also his way of writing.
Antonella Sanicanti

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

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

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

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

Our true nature
September 11—At the grotto. “Break free of yourself. Take note as to whether even here, you are acting for Me or for you. Cease to exist in your own eyes and focus everything on Me. First and foremost your thoughts, since your actions depend on them. At noon couldn’t you take stock of your inner life in such a way as to tighten the bonds between us? I call you so often. Call Me, so that you may come; it’s not I who fail to come. Ask My mother for the grace to live like her, in our company which is more real than all the visible world. “Enter, enter into Me. What really counts is the life of your soul, you understand? Everything should be subservient to it. And the center of it should be I, your Christ. All things uplifted to Me, everything for Me, since we are one as I and My Father are one. Didn’t I give the example? “Oh, My little girl “Oh, My little girl, in this hallowed grotto, give yourself wholly and for always.” . . .
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 2991-2999).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
Narcissism, on any level, is based on a lie.  It is not something that is expressed on a conscious level, but, is lived out to a greater or lesser degree in our interaction with those we meet.  I can only be truly aware of my own ‘consciousness’, and with that comes the ‘illusion’ that the whole universe revolves around me.  Of course, this can be insulting to other ‘consciousness’s’ who again, to a greater or lesser degree, live under the same illusion.  I certainly do it, and when it is in full force, I can, in reality, be like a 3-year-old, who desperately wants to get my way, or I will pout, cry, stamp my feet, and who knows, maybe even hold my breath until I turn blue.

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

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

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

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

The man who was freed of a heavy burden
“Believe in the matchless beauty of a humble soul that shows Me its wounds and hopes in Me alone.
I clothe it with My merits. How could I ever do otherwise?”
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3582-3583).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
One of the most natural things for men, and women, to do, is to without even knowing it is happening, is to hide from themselves.  I guess I know this because I do it myself.  It is ‘normal’, though not healthy to do so.  There is so much in each human being, a whole world, a universe of personal experiences, and as well, how these events were experienced, and interpreted, when very young.  Our path, began when we woke up to the suffering in the world around us, as well as within ourselves, the first time we experienced pain, abandonment, or some form of physical, or sexual abuse. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Two Sides of Silence
Before embarking on some sort of journey, be it going to another destination, or planning a vacation etc., there can be the tendency to romanticize the process. Anticipation is often different than the actual experience.
When pondering the need for silence, it can be one-sided when it is simply being thought about or when reading from a particular author. The thought of silence can be soothing, peaceful and even healing. The desire for some peace in our lives at all levels can make silence seem like the medication that we need….which is true. However, like all the infatuations that draw us, the true test of the power and healing of silence comes when the romantic illusion drops away.
One woman who was here on retreat asked to speak with me. The first thing she told me was that the silence was deafening to her and she was surprised by that. She expected inner peace, instead, she found herself wanting to run away from the very thing that she came here to our retreat house seeking. The silence was both calling her and repelling her at the same time. I was impressed at her insight into her situation.
Yes, silence is peaceful, soothing, calming and healing. It allows us to let go and to be present to the moment. It roots us in the ‘now’ and when that is happening we are not fretting over the past or obsessing over our fears and anxieties about the future….we become simple awareness. Each person is unique how he or she will experience silence and I would think that one’s faith path will have some influence on how we deal with stillness. For there is also another silent presence there with us, beyond us, nameless, and if we are patient, we find loving. This can be a shock since suddenly the reality of what we call ‘God’ is a deeply felt reality.
However, that is only the beginning.
For there is often a long road to travel when a soul takes this journey into silence seriously. It is when we live intensely an interior life that we come to understand why Jesus commanded us to love ourselves.
We seek to hear the gentle voice of the Spirit when we pursue inner silence. We find that this is a true reality. Another fact we soon find out is that there are other voices that seek our attention as well. Many of them are not peaceful at all, but demanding, petulant, angry and can seem obsessive.
In reality, the silence just makes us aware of them, for they have always been there.
Much of the businesses of our lives is often an unconscious desire to escape these voices. Which is an illusion and often leads to obsessive behaviors and addictions that drive us. People often don’t know why they do certain things in their lives that are self-destructive and only bring chaos into their lives.
The fear of suffering is one of the greatest obstacles in living a deep interior life. For in our prayer life and meditations and silence we will find much that is disturbing and emotionally painful. Our addictions and obsession are a vain attempt to medicate these inner wounds, but they only give superficial relief and actually make things worse.
It is in sitting, or when we walk slowly and seek silence, that we find that these inner storms will not actually harm us, but in staying with the inner tempests we find — to use a Scriptural analogy — that Jesus was in the boat with us on the raging sea sleeping; but he is there all the same. We get through it, come out on the other side and in that we find that we have a sense of being home, or of the actual presence of the living waters in our heart.
This is a process that most of us have to go through over and over again. Yet even in our failures, our hearts remain open and slowly we find ourselves being lead and cajoled into deeper trust. We find that our path is really pathless but we still take the next step. This is the gift of silence, not a drug to sooth us, but a strong medicine to allow us to embrace the process that is our lives.
Waiting on the Lord can seem soul-numbing at times, but stay with it, be at peace and do not seek to escape the inner thirst and hunger that tortures the human heart until it is touched by God. It is then that we understand what our thirst and hunger are about. We seek to be seen, understood and loved. In silence we learn to simply allow that to happen, that is all grace.
All we need do is trust — which is in itself a choice that can transform us. For in choosing trust, we say no to the many other voices within that seek to keep us from experiencing that reality. Childish voices that seek to protect us, but in reality, they keep us from becoming truly childlike and trusting in the Lord of life and love.--Br.MD
What do I really believe?
“Death is nothing else but going home to God,
the bond of love will be unbroken for all eternity.” – Mother Teresa
Many people believe that faith is some form of absolute assurance. I do not believe that. From my own limited experience, there will always be room for some doubt. I think that is healthy and when ‘doubt’ is rejected and pushed underground it can manifest itself in other ways. Being overly defensive as opposed to simply sharing one's faith and viewpoint is one such way. Or extreme rigidity to keep a sense of ‘personal infallibility’ intact is also a common way of dealing with wanting the impossible; that is having absolute assurance. This goes for both believers as well as for those who don’t have a faith of any kind. There seems a need to be ‘right’ in opposition to others.

My faith, which I am deeply rooted in, does not spare me from the deep questions of life. Nor does it surround me with a warm blanket of some better life after this one. No, it tells me that in the midst of this life, with all of its chaos, pain, and deep absurdity…is where my salvation, my deeper true eternal life is. As St. Paul says: “We are God’s work of art”. Sounds good, until you see what an artist has to do in order to create a work of art. In some forms of art, the process can be dirty, messy, and chaotic,…yet, in the end, a work of beauty is produced. Faith in God is not about pretending to have cookie cutter answers, though many try it for a while.
One day I was giving a talk, as I was speaking the thought came to me; “do I really believe in what I am saying”. It was an uncomfortable moment, but in the end, I said ‘yes’, I do believe it. Yet I felt buffeted by this question. Faith is lived, not spoken of. Anyone can talk, write and share deeply, but to live it, well that comes from one's ‘inner guts’. I also believe it takes a type of stubbornness to keep searching, seeking and not being afraid of one's ‘inner agnostic’.
Some people tell me that belief in God is a form of mental illness. I always find that entertaining since it so self-serving to make that kind of observation. As if that is some form of deep truth. What constitutes mental illness is really a cultural construct. A person who is a hapless victim of true mental illness is someone who is outside the broad spectrum of human activity that is considered ‘normal’. I guess in an atheistic state, it is understandable for the government to say that religious believers, are mentally ill, yet are they in fact? The atheists I know are no more normal than the believers I am friends with. For an atheist to say a believer is mentally ill has no basis in reality. Granted mentally ill people who are religious will still be mentally ill, the same goes for an atheist as well. Because they act out in ways that go beyond what is considered ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’.
Who is touch with reality? Perhaps none of us are no matter what we say we believe. I can say we are each in touch with a small slice of reality and as we grow hopefully our connection will deepen. I can say this. If God exists then believers are closer to the true nature of reality than an atheist. The opposite can be true as well. The problem is that that question will never be answered in a reductionist manner There are rational reasons to believe in an infinite intelligence. It is also rational to believe that such and Intelligence will seek to reveal itself…Which for me is Jesus Christ. Just because someone is an unbeliever and disagrees with me is not a test for mental competency, unless maybe I lived in China or some other atheistic run Government. Or if believe that I can fly and walk through walls no matter how many times I fail to accomplish that deed.
Mother Teresa was a woman of deep faith, however, she often felt alone, in darkness, yet her faith endured. Below is a quote from her that shows this in a profound manner. She was a woman grounded in the reality of faith as well as showing her deep love and trust in her Lord. She is praying from a place of deep suffering, yet she embraces it. I believe that it is grace that draws this prayer from her deepest self. Many people understand Mother Teresa and where she is coming from. Others have to make their own decisions on how to interpret her. I do so from my Catholic Tradition where the “Dark Night of the Soul” is something that we will all have go through if we want to become God’s true work of art. The ‘death to self’ is an act of pure grace yet we have to give our ‘yes’.--Br.MD
Jesus, hear my prayer. If this pleases you, if my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation gives you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus do with me as you wish, as long as you wish, without a single glance at my feelings and pain. I am your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of your heart. Don’t mind my feelings; don’t mind even my pain, if my suffering separation from you brings others to you, and in their love and company you find joy and pleasure.
My Jesus I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer not only now, but through all eternity if this was possible. Your happiness is all that I want. For the rest, please do not take the trouble even if you see me faint with pain. All of this is my will. I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. Don’t allow me to do you wrong in any way. Take from me the power of hurting you … I am ready to wait for you through all eternity.”
—Mother Teresa of Calcutta in a letter to Jesus, from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

Accosted in the name of truth
A week ago, right after community Mass, I had a run-in with one of our guests. Nice young man, very conservative, devout and thinking about entering the priesthood. He was upset over how we relate to certain types of guests who stay in our retreat house. He was forceful, perhaps angry and seemed to be demanding that I respond in a very specific way. Which of course I could not do, for what he was demanding from me was unreasonable, though in his own mind, of course not so at all; for as the saying goes, perspective is everything. As he was talking ‘at’ me, another guest came up and started to yell at both of us about the incident the young man was speaking to me about. So I calmed him down and asked him to please go and have some breakfast and I would see him a little later.
Our conversation continued for a bit after that. I could tell that the young man did not agree with me, yet to his credit, he offered to go and apologies. I dissuaded him of that and told him that I would relay his apology for him. I understand young people wanting structures that are strong and secure which give direction. My generation did a lot towards the modern trend of tearing down without replacing it with anything substantial. For we wanted to get rid perhaps of too much structure, so yes I understand, though at times I find it unsettling how strong that desire is for rigid structures that in the end actually do more harm than perhaps structures that are not so binding. I have found the only way to deal with it is to respect their position but not allow them to unknowingly do harm to others who come here for rest, healing and silence so that they can seek to deepen their conscious connection with God. While I am not a liberal, I can’t say I am a conservative either, I try to be faithful to my faith tradition and scripture which forms my conscience.
Monasteries are places where many come for healing or quiet and rest. They come here more often than not to simply not be ‘looked at’ in a certain way, to not be judged by others. As I looked at this young man I could see a person who truly was trying to do the right thing, but perhaps went about it in the wrong way. As we talked I told him that his approach was helpful to no one and that the man he ‘accosted’ was emotionally unstable, who was trying to find some order in his life and what he did was uncalled for and to please not do anything like that again.
The man who was confronted came to me and said that his retreat was ruined and he was going to leave. So I asked him why he would allow someone else to do that to him. Cool -down I offered, wait, go for a walk and then make up your mind. He did try to stay, but he left before noon.
The young man was in goodwill, but it is easy to forget that to be a follower of Christ is to try to ‘see’ others in such a way that as little harm as possible is done to another. I have more hope for the young man than for the older man who was perhaps ‘damaged’ some more by the untimely confrontation. He is trying to stay above water and when that is forgotten we can without meaning to, with the best of intentions, plant seeds of destruction, or add water to a seed that has already taken deep root.
It is hard to see the fragility of others
though the lens of fear.

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

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

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

If we are truly moving towards ‘the encounter’ with the Lord, should not this give our lives depth and purpose that goes way beyond what our culture wants from us? Should we not seek to become what we desire most… which I believe is love. Jesus says that if you love me you will keep my commandments which are rooted in the reality of love for others. To truly see others with the eyes of Christ is to understand the meaning of our lives, which is much different than what is expected of us by our society today. Love of a different nature from what is presented to us in art, movies, and literature and yes by magazines and television.
O Lord come and teach us what is true,
what we are made for in the depths of our hearts,
to seek to become ‘You’ beloved so as to touch others,
to become vessels of grace for your children,
filling us with your Spirit.--Br.MD

A pleasant memory of my childhood in Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange thoughts
For the last three months or so I have been having a strange kind of headache.  It is a pressure felt right at the top of my head.  Sometimes there is a little pain around the edges, still on the top but a little further off from the pressure point.  In years past, in that same area, I would also get a quick pain, it felt like someone had put an ice pick through my skull, and then it would pass.  Now, this seems to have moved on to something different.  Because of this, I tend to think whatever it is, is not serious, just another ‘bother', of which seem to pile up as I get older. 
I was going to just wait and see (as stupid as that sounds, or is), but Rose would not let that happen.  So I called the VA at the East Point clinic in South Atlanta and got an appointment.  So I went, saw the Doctor, who is very good, I have no complaints with the VA, the one here in Atlanta is truly wonderful, at least my experience.  When I go I just make sure have lots of reading material, so no matter how long the wait, it goes pretty quickly.
The visit went well, I passed the different test, but even then the doctor wants me to have a CT scan of my pointed little head.  It is truly a strange place to be, waiting for an appointment to see if there is indeed a serious problem.  Even if I am almost sure there isn't one, it can lead to thoughts mostly never entertained.
What if?  Could this be the time when the doctor has to set me down and give the bad news?  "You have only so long to live, we can try this or that, in the end you may live 5 years, if you don't try anything kind of treatment, well you could die in 3 years."  Yes, a strange place to be.  But not uncommon, for in the end most of us will sicken of something that will lead to our death.
I look at things differently at least for now; not in the sense that I ‘know' that I will die soon, but that one day a visit will most likely be the way that my curtain of denial will be ripped away and I will really have to face the reality of my temporality.  What then?  How will I react?  My scenarios tend to be of the sort that makes my ego preen itself......I can be such a silly rabbit at times.
I think when that moment comes; it will be one of deep fear and denial at least at first.  I will, of course, hear the words, but the truth of them may take some time to sink in.  What then?  I would think that it is a lonely land to be in, knowing that this world will soon be over, and the reality of one's doubts will raise to the surface.  Faith and doubt dance together, which one will lead, the other follow?  Being a man of faith, I hope it will be faith that does the leading, but who knows?  Perhaps my relationship with doubt will have to deepen, be faced and accepted, but then, will I doubt my doubt?  I think for many, that is what faith is, doubting doubt, for it can be easier not to believe than to hope for what one cannot see.  Perhaps all of our belief systems are based on faith.  For the belief that science is the only way to find the truth, is not something that can be proven.  Science is about the world of objects, the depth of the heart, our deep inner longings, well that is for other avenues of knowledge; perhaps more important than science. 
It seems we can't get away from questioning, seeking, no matter where we are on life's journey.  That is what perhaps we are all made for.  I may doubt at times, but if I were an atheist, I think my doubts would be a lot more vehement than they are now for me as one who seeks the eternal, and often feel myself really being the one perused.   So many paradoxes on the path, incidents to ponder, that make atheism seem like a possibility, but one that is unlikely, at least for me.
Proofs of God, in the end, are personal, not scientific, for God is not an object among other objects, hence the impossibility of proving anything about its existence or non-existence.  For some atheism makes the most sense and I say, good for them.  We each must take a stand and move forward living lives flowing from our beliefs.  Though failure is also part of the journey, everyone's; at least from my experience.  To date, I have seen no exceptions. So when hypocrisy is flung at me, I say "yes, of course, I fail, I am a sinner, and so my being a hypocrite at times should not surprise anyone, least of all me".  Or when others fall, well, as the saying goes:  "there but for the grace of God go I"; is something well worth pondering--BrMD

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

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

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

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

I am sitting here
waiting for movement
praying for quiet,

believing, praising.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playing with magnetic tiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Healing, pain, purgation
Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That He can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with Him and can stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.--Pope Benedict XVI
Pain comes from the soul.  Often we are wounded by others, and then, we can be the one who injuries.  We build off of our pain, and then, we seek to share it.  Or we can try to escape our inner discomfort, and wounds, by seeking out pleasure, or power, or oblivion, to hide from it.  To no avail.  Our pain only increases. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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