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A woman lonely and troubled


A woman lonely and troubled

“Win the right to see Me. Let this secret longing be your constant thought. I say ‘secret’ because it is still feeble. Ask Me to make it grow in you, so that it may be light and warmth to those who come near you; and they too will understand that I am the End. The End of every beginning day. “And when at last you close your eyes, hope that they open only to see Me, your very gentle, your most loving Savior.”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3522-3526).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

Many people see doubt as a lack of faith.  Or they allow doubt to grow without seeking a deeper understanding of what they are doubting.  I do believe that having just an intellectual understanding of Christianity is not enough to keep anyone on the path for long.  The Christian path, or faith, is about the passionate love that God has for all of us.  A fire more powerful than all the suns.  This can only be understood if, over time, the pilgrim experiences something of this love.  It talks a lot of cultural-deprogramming to arrive there…..a journey that takes a lifetime. 

One of the painful aspects of living in this world, is that there is so much ‘hiddenness’.  Christ in others has to be believed, acted upon, and then over time, one begins to experience the reality of “God with us”.  Flowing from the deepening awareness of Christ Jesus presence in those we meet.  Our loved ones, friends, strangers, and yes, even in our enemies.  It is not an easy journey, for trust is hard, it is for me. 

Working in the retreat house can be an eye-opener when dealing with the many guests that come through here.  Many come here because they need a quiet place to simply rest in the Lord’s presence.  Men and women of all faiths or none come here.  It is an honor meeting them. 

There are those who come here that becomes problematic.  As a retreat house, we are here to try to give an environment that is safe, and free, of unwanted interference from others.   There is a minuscule number that comes here who arrive for another reason.  A place where they are accepted and were they will be allowed to do whatever they want.  They are for the most part good people, who don’t fit in anywhere because of some mental issue.  They are often unaware of their condition, or simply deny it.  They will not take any form of medication for their condition.  Which is understandable.  The side effects can be profound for some.  So in dealing with them, it can cause distress from both sides.  It weighs heavy on me.

Recently, we had a woman come in who fits the above category.   The last time she was here, she did pretty well and so I allowed her to come again for three days.  I was worried but asked her to please not approach/corner others.  It turned out that she could not do that.  So I was going to talk to her the next morning and see if I could get her to understand that she could not bother the guests who are here for healing themselves and many need silence for that.  In any case, she did not have the right to corner others and tell them her life’s story. 

I guess it was about an hour after I went to bed that I received a knock on my door.  The neighbor of the woman I am writing about asked to see me.  When I left my room, we went to the dining area and she told me that she was freaking out over the woman.  She would not leave her alone and talked for over an hour about things that scared her.  She was afraid to sleep in the next room.  Luckily we had an extra room available and I put her in there.

As I was trying to go back to sleep, I felt a deep sorrow over the fact that I had to asked her to leave.  She was a lonely woman, with really no one to confide in.  Her family had to back off from her because she literally drove them crazy.  So the next morning I talked to her and said that she had to leave.  She was taken aback by it.  We talked for a short time and I asked her if she was on any kinds of meds.  She said no.  She seemed to have no idea that she has some mental issues that were keeping her isolated from others.  Her approaching others was one way, she wanted to talk, but not listen. 

She left about an hour later and it really caused me some inner pain.  I had to ask her to leave, but this is one part of the job that I hate.  My heart goes out to so many people who need help, and can’t get it, or don’t want it.  She does live in a house in a small town not far from here, but she will often just take off and not show back up months later.  So again, that family has really had to back off.  Hopefully one day, they will be able to help her.

There are situations that are simply impossible to navigate.—Br.MD


Chad, a prisoner I am writing to



Chad, a prisoner I am writing to


Life in a prison is intense, amplified, and I believe that the struggle for those who seek an inner relationship with God is also more intense. If only for the reason that they cannot get away from others. They can go into their cell, in some prisons, yet the noise can be overwhelming, I am told. There is violence, stabbings, and lockdowns. In the winter, from what I have learned, they keep the place cold, and one prisoner I write to says they allow no jackets. Though I am not sure that is the same in all prisons. Each has their own rules, which are very strict.

It is true that many have little use for those in prison. Though it is often because of a certain stereotype that may be unconscious. As well, I guess, that there are many in prison who do fit the most damming descriptions of that stereotype. Yet as is often the case, many do not fit that at all. Some are chronic offenders, even then, not all are dangerous, they just have some serious impulse issues, and perhaps because of that, they do need to be locked up. However, in writing inmates, many will cause the negative picture of prisoners to lessen a bit when their humanity is experienced.

I am writing a fellow named Chad. Another prisoner, with whom I have been writing for quite a while, gave him my address, with my permission. Chad, let me know right off that he did not want anything from me. No money, not even stamps, etc. He just wanted someone to write to. He comes across as someone who is very intelligent but has some serious emotional problems that he is dealing with. I guess his shame over his past, is the greatest obstacle for him. From the little that he has told me, he has had a very troubled background. Yet he admits that it is not an excuse for his past life. He feels a great deal of shame for the pain he has caused his parents. He told me that he is not a victim, he is responsible.

From my own inner experience, I understand how deep wounds can go. I do believe that most of us have them, mostly hidden from sight, but if anyone is trying to become a decent human being, they become aware of a downward pull that exists in their souls. There are many ways to self-destruct, not all of them obvious to others, or perhaps even to those who are living a life that is leading to their disintegration. Our ways of dealing with pain, well my ways, are for the most part not healthy, and in some ways of dealing with life, they can be life-threatening. Food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, overwork, seeking power over others are the false gods often followed. My main struggle, I guess is with food. I eat to ground myself, or so I think, but it never works. So the constant disappoint has helped me to resist this tendency enough to not actually be a threat to my life, at least in the short run.

Chad has his own demons, and he is fighting them there at this time. Because of the intensity of living in a lockdown, the struggle is not something he can escape into. He has to face the issues, or become worse, and may even die. It is a tough place to be. Yet, is it not the situation for most humans?

Religion can be screwy, like anything else in life. Many people do not have the time, nor the inclination to seek time to study the depths of their faith, in order to outgrow the simplistic fundamentalism that often gives answer that are band-aids, and do not help in dealing with the deeper issues that have to be faced, experienced, and not rejected, or made into something demonic.

Chad shared with me his struggle to hope and to trust in God. He is used to the opposite in his life. Here is what I shared with him. It is not hard, I am simply going by my own experience with my own journey towards God, and to grow in love and trust. There is no easy path to that.

“Thank you Chad for your open, honest, and down to earth letter. Each person is unique in their walk with the Lord. So it is good not to compare yourself with others, or what they say about their love of God, etc. However, to learn from others is something different entirely. Your struggle is understandable, but just get through each day, and at least once a day, stop what you are doing, and stand before God, and make an act of trust in His love for you. You can do that first thing in the morning, or before you sleep, or do it both times. When you feel overwhelmed, chaotic, do it then, just pause and raise your heart in trust to the Lord. It does not matter what you feel, or your emotional state, but to say you trust God, comes from a place deeper, from that seed planted by God’s grace in you. God is always ‘Yes”. While we, because of our past and along with how we were beaten down by life, as well as our actions, and yes our many faults, and failures…can lead us to having a hard time understanding that. Just pray every day, don’t worry about how you feel. Yes, acknowledge your feelings and emotions, but they are not an obstacle to your loving God. When you fail, continue. It is in our failures that we grow in trust because we know that we are received by a loving, compassionate, infinite Father. What keeps our love alive is our seeing to understand that love. That is what you are trying to do at this time, to understand why God can love you.”

To embrace who we are, and to face our past, and how it affects our present is not easy. It is not about self-pity, or even giving into shame, but a simple ‘yes’ to what we have done, before the “YES” of God. The journey towards trust in God is not about denial, but a radical acceptance of who we are, and our need for grace, mercy, and compassion.

While all of us are unique, yet there is a commonality of experience that unites. I also shared this:

“I have had many struggles in my life. When young I went through what you are going through, (most struggle with their own inner pain) you will grow beyond that. Just remember that the Holy Spirit prays in you, even when you do not know how to pray, the Holy Spirit groans within you in your prayers and longing for God’s love. You are doing better than you think. Just continue each day to deepen your trust in God’s love for you. It is a slow journey, so do not look for a quick fix, in this world. For most of us, it is a slow journey, just keep making the next step. Do not fear the suffering that is part of life. Learn to pray with it, not to seek escape through what we call ‘sin’. The way to joy and healing is to simply embrace who you are in the presence of God’s love. Unite yourself to Christ Jesus, who lives in your heart, and feels what you feel, you are not alone. That is the true test of faith, to believe that.”

Not sure how long he has left in prison. He talks about getting out and going to live with his parents until he can get back on his feet. Many prisoners greatest fear is coming back in. I learn a lot from writing prisoners, both the good areas of their lives, as well as their bad. I do no pry, but they share with me more often than not what they have done. My only concern is that they learn to live in society, stay away from what drew them into crime before they went into prison. Only one prisoner is older, in his late 50’s, who was a career criminal. He is now ill, and will soon be released, he is worried, but he told me, that this last stint in prison has made him face his own rage and anger and to deal with it. If he can learn to control it in prison, I think he may have a chance when he gets out.

Our past has a hold on us, yet we are not defined by it. What defines us is our choices, those choices that come from deep within, are what leads to healing.--Br.MD



The human journey



The Human Journey
(life needs to be lived, though it is not always understood)

I remember when I was very young, that there were days when I felt very old.  Even then, I felt a certain type of inner fatigue….why does life have to be so hard I would intuit, if not actually think it out.  Of course, life was not always hard when young, but it was the times of struggle, and fear, that made the biggest splash in my small pond. 

I used to like to sit and listen to adults talk.  Not sure why that was so, but they were more interesting than children my age.  Did not understand everything, but one thing that stood out was how often disappointment, failure, and sorrow took up a lot of time, aside from the gossip I guess.  I would sit there and wonder, why do adults suffer so much?  I understood suffering, anyone who has been on this planet for any length of time, knows that.  Even someone five, or six, years old.  It is not the whole story, but I have known no one who has not been through ‘something’ that leaves a lasting impression.  Adults, for me as a child, were another life form entirely.  I guess I never thought I would ever become one, but I did…..it is still a shock. 

I did not like being a young child.  I found it scary for some reason.  I remember being picked up and placed here and there, which I did not like.  Being afraid at night, and unable to get out of my crib, or seeing strange dark objects in the corner of my room.  Yes, I had a good imagination.  Still do, though now life is not so scary, at least the way it was when I was young, very young.  Children are much more aware than many adults believe.  Those who remember ‘way back’ into their life, say even in their crib, or two years old, understand this.  We can see, hear, and interpret life around us, often in ways that are more ominous than they really were.

In a house in Steelville, Mo., there was a narrow walkway outside our front door.  It seemed a long run to me, but of course it was not.  However, that small space scared me, and I would crawl, and stumble, and sort of run through it.  I would plunge out of the front door and land on my knees….still have the small scars that show it.  I was terrified of that small space, an empty space, a safe space, yet I was terrified.  I remember many years later, when I was in my early 30’s, telling my mother about it.  She was amazed that I never told her and wondered why I was always skinning my knees.  It never occurred to me to tell anyone.  It was just life, which was the way things were.  I had no way to judge what was good or bad, life was life. 

I have very few nightmares now, perhaps one a year if that.  I think the reason is that I reached my limit at about the time I reached 10 years of age.  I used to have nightmares every night, and I guess I knew I was dreaming.  I could feel my eyelids trying to open. It would start with a green fog slowly flowing into the dark forest that I found myself in.  It was a gravel path I was standing on, and it was cold and clammy.  There was also music, which made the whole dream worse.  It was like movies that I saw when older that were scary movies.  Then the zombies would come, people who would shuffle trying to get me.  I would try to run, but the gravel path was really difficult to navigate, and my legs were heavy and hard to move.  I was never caught, and when I found someone who I thought would help me, they would simply laugh at me.  Funny thing, I was never afraid to go to sleep, nor did these nightmares follow me throughout the day.  Then when I was ten, they stopped.  I do think the nightmares came from a time in my life when I was two.  I guess I outgrew the fears that plagued me, or they lessened enough to end the need to dream them.

There were also many good times when young.  There was laughter, peace, a feeling of being safe, good meals, happy holidays, and my parents were always around.  My dad worked long hours in the gas station in East St. Louis, my older brother Skip helped out.  We always had a place to live, and we never went hungry.  So in many ways, my life as a child was peaceful and happy.  It was my own inner life that caused me so much trouble. 

I do not think that my childhood fears are unusual.  Children feel everything too the depths of their being, it is later I guess, that I learned to repress.  I would have this long hallway in my mind, and I would get something unpleasant and simply put in a room and lock the door.  I guess I have been trying to unlock those doors ever since.  I think I may be about halfway through that long hallway.  So if I live to be 140 years of age, I may get to the last door.

Now I am at the opposite end of my life.  Soon to be 70, I find myself happier and at peace.  I did not like being young, but I do like getting older.  Not that it is easy of course.  Not sure any time of life is easy for us here in this world of constant change, at any stage.  The fragility of getting older is, of course, different than when I was very young.  I can think about it, perhaps understand the process a little better, and even find meaning in it.  When young I think it was about clinging to life, learning, and simply taking the next step.  Now I guess it is about letting go and finding a certain peace and joy in that.  I can see the end, more or less.  I am aware of the light more than when young, but how close it is, that day when the light becomes the most real ‘thing’ in the world; not sure.  It is close, but by that I mean, it could be 20 years in the future or more.   I could live that long.  However, since the last 30 years have passed so fast, I am sure that the next will speed up even more. 

My faith is different than when young.  I do not feel I have to convince anyone of my faith in Jesus Christ.  If someone attacks me for being Catholic, I just smile and tell them that I do not argue over faith issues anymore.  I see how hard it is for me to change and grow, to become a more loving person, so it is not all that hard to make jumps for others.  My only business is to seek to love others more.  Now that keeps me busy.  I still fail more than I succeed, yet one step at a time O Lord.

I am thankful for many things.  I can now make friends, in the past, it was difficult for me.  I was always on my own, I took care of myself, did not feel the need for anyone.  It was of course based on fear.  Now that I now that I am anxious more than angry, it helps me to be more open to a ‘few’ very close friends.  Yet I also have friends that are not close in that way, but I love them very much.  So yes for me, getting older is much better than being very young. 

Fragility is something that those who live to be ‘older’ learn.  We have to let go of long-standing ways of doing things.  I can’t run upstairs anymore, nor can I lift heavy objects, because of my back.  I no longer have the energy to easily do what I could when young.  My mind gets befuddled more than when young, and I need to spend more time alone, though I always needed lots of it.  Fatigue is now my constant companion.  I see how I fail more than I get it right, but have learned after many dark times, to understand that God’s ‘YES’ is always that, it is never ‘no’.  That can come from me…I still wrestle with God.

I am not in control, never way actually.  I am not perfect, I believe I sort of knew that when young.  I certainly have less answers than when young, and am happy about that.   Even though my faith in God’s love deepens, I understand less about how he works…..that helps me to lessen my childish judgments about others.  That is a burden that I am glad is getting lighter. 

God is faithful, I am not really, yet because of that, because of his constant fidelity, I find myself becoming the sort of person that I actually like.  I know my gifts, well some of them.  Since they are gifts, I am thankful, but the credit goes to God’s grace, my DNA, my education and the influence of my family on me.  So I have a lot to be thankful for.  Yes, life is hard but is taking us somewhere. 

Not all agree with me, but that is ok….from birth till death, we all walk the same road.  So let us try to love, listen, and support each other.  To speak truth gently, and to become more like the God who is kind to the thankful as well as the unthankful.  I find myself it both camps, yet experience God’s kindness, compassion, and mercy. –Br.MD





How are we to live?



How are we to live?

What is really important in our lives?  When I look inward, when praying, or just thinking, I see a lot of real issues, some of them quite painful, but in the long run, they are smoke and ashes.  Sometimes I worry about how I am going to die.  Or fret, that I sense that my aging process, is like a snowball rolling downhill, it gets bigger and it will only stop when it hits something.  Or will just run out of momentum, and become still.  I am not always worried about my death.  However, I do believe that we have ‘weather’ within, and some days I can be very philosophical about life, death, suffering, and whatever serious human issues is presented to me.  Then on other days, I can be a quite the ninny about it all.  So I try not to take my good/bad (inner) weather too seriously, it will always move on. 

Yet, how am I to live?  When I die, and my body planted, a symbol of the sum total of my life, what is it that will go with me?  I do believe that life will either hone us or wreck us.  I also believe that we all have a place of freedom to stand from.  It might be a small place in the beginning, and we may only have the desire to be freer, more loving, and more available to others, though still bound by habit.   Yet every small choice made in freedom, and not some form of compulsion, or being pushed by society into a certain mold, only increases our captivity to make deeper choices that are rooted in freedom.   It is then that we become childlike, or we mature into our true nature. 

Sometimes we have to pretend to be loving, or kind, or just, while wanting to do the opposite.  Yet in this ‘pretending’, we are really drawing from a deeper source (grace), a harder choice, and not the easier choice of just going along.  The more we learn to make truly free choices, the less burdened we will be by others, and by our society.   We can discover the wisdom of letting go of the compulsion to control those around us.  To control another is probably the furthest thing from actually being loving that we can get. 

Parenthood is different, since good parents are teaching their children simply how not to make fools of themselves at meals, not to pee in public, to act with respect, and hopefully, to act from a deep sense of what is good, and just, and yet loving.  Hopefully by the time they reach adulthood.  Besides, parental love is always moving towards separation from their children.  Hopefully, a friendship which deepens between parents and children, which moves towards deeper communication between equals.

The greatest spiritual gift is ‘love’.  And for good reason.  When I am laid to rest, when my body returns to dust, what is left is what I have become, what I am truly am, what my (free) choices made me into.  Will I be more deeply human as Jesus was, or will I become something less than human, a monster, actually, as CS Lewis talk about?

So how should I live?  Well to do the next loving thing, which is harder than it looks.  That is why I often fail.  Yet God is also the most loving ‘thing’, so there is always hope, mercy, and the courage to take the next step until I can step no more.

Pray for me, as I pray for you, for we all journey together. –Br.MD


Many roads to the one gate
“I have another temple—your soul in a state of grace: a state of Me-in-you, since
grace is your Christ. Who can ever know the joy it gives Me to be loved there, even if the love is feeble.
Do you know what it is to feel at home in a soul? To be the one waited for, the most loved, the most understood,
the head of the household even though I am so ready to fulfill the desires of this one who lives for Me alone.

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3535-3538).
 Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
I have the honor occasionally to hear the 5th step from men in recovery.  It is difficult for them since they have to go over those parts of their lives that need healing, as well as seeking to make amends to those that they hurt.  The healthier we become, the more we are able to look inward and begin the journey of self-discovery.  That is what humility is.  To be able to see without fear, or too much anxiety, what is not perfect, wounded, and even aspects that could be called evil that we discover.

I was listening to one man giving his 5th step.  It was powerful, and it took a great deal of courage for the man to spend over an hour going over his life at the level of insight he achieved.  He was brought up Anglican but now follows a Buddhist path, along with his wife.  She became a Buddhist when she was a young girl growing up in Canada.  He told me how the meditation is helpful to him.   I have studied Buddhism, though I am far from an expert, and there is much that can recommend some of its practices for everyone.  It can give good insight into how the mind works, and how we can get trapped in an often self-created quagmire, haunted by strong desires, antipathies, a longing for revenge, and hatred of self, etc.  Mindfulness in our prayers and our silent mediations is helpful for everyone.  Repression, pretending that this inner swamp is not there only leads to more trouble.  True humility is impossible without self-knowledge.

I also told him that I was impressed by the Buddha’s compassion for all sentient beings, and felt that his arriving at that point, shows that he was open to grace.  I then asked him if he understands his childhood faith.  He responded in a negative manner.  So I recommend that he spend some time in learning what his faith tradition taught and had to offer.  There is more there than he might not now understand.  I did agree that I believe that God works through other religions, and Buddhism is an example, though it is not ‘Theistic’.   

As we talked I said that what Jesus reveals, as the incarnation of God, a special revelation, shows us something that other religions do not have.  Though again, there is much good in them, and I believe shows the Holy Spirit at work in all hearts.  I brought up the word “Agape”, which is a special kind of love that Jesus revealed through his teaching, as well as how he lived, and how he died.  He forgave all, for Agape never stops loving, all other loves will end. 

He had a daughter, and I told him that loving parents love for their children, is most likely the closest we can come to understand God’s love that was revealed through Jesus.  The parable of the Prodigal Son, for instance, brings this out.   For it shows the patient, compassionate, love of the Father for his wayward son, to an infinite degree. 

In our everyday lives, we hear about love in our music, literature and yes in our different faith paths.  However, in the Christian path, God became man and revealed a love so deep and profound that it had to be revealed.  God is love, which is His nature, love, all-enfolding, and compassion for all.  Yet we can say ‘no’ to such a reality.   It is best not to try to figure out how that is done by others, but to focus on the reality that our hearts desire to love more than anything, but there is the mystery that could lead us to freely reject it.

So to love God just a little is still an opening for God grace to begin its work.  God is not proud since pride is based on some underlying falsehood.  No God is the servant of all.  A paradox, making no sense really, but at the Last Supper, Jesus showed how the love of the Father works, by washing the feet of his disciples, even Judas.  Also by the healing of Malchus, one of the men who came to arrest him, when Peter cut off his ear, in the garden of Gethsemane.  Most importantly by how he promised the ‘good thief’, that he would be with him in paradise, because he asked for love/grace/mercy, to enter into his heart.  We are all called to open our hearts and to allow grace to do its work. 

We should not fear other faith paths, but learn to see Christ Jesus in all, and how following one's conscience, to seek, will lead to the embrace of the ‘Infinite’, the ‘Other’, as manifested in Christ Jesus, when that reality is revealed.

If others do not see Christ in us, if we are hostile, or angry, or demeaning in our approach to others who differ from us, it would be better to not say or do anything.  I do believe that ‘Theist’, can show the world a certain type of arrogance that is almost demonic and does great harm.  There is a reason why St. Paul asked us to pray for the greatest spiritual gift, which is love.  Which he wrote about so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13.  We always have good reasons for whatever we do, hence our ability to forget that love is actually the greatest gift and replace it with false zeal.

One last thought.  It is important for all, no matter what their faith traditions is, to be firmly grounded in their own faith before exploring others.  We can always reach out to others, listen, and accept them.  However, we have nothing to offer if we do not understand our own faith tradition. Br.MD

In suffering, we discover our unity
March 29—After Communion. “Say, ‘Holy Father, I offer You Jesus living in my life and dying in my death.
And I offer You the heart of Jesus in each one of my heartbeats.’ ”
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 693-695).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
The Christian path is one of love and service towards others.  To belong to the Body of Christ is to invite suffering into our lives, because of the unity of hearts, united in the total human, loving heart, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  His passion continues in the suffering of humanity.

Perhaps during this time of deep suffering in the church, many are learning of the truth of our union with the Crucified and Risen Lord.  The pain that I feel, and I believe many, many, others, who are in the church are also experiencing, is so vast that it can’t be pinpointed to any one place.  It seems universal, making my body, and my blood, feel toxic, because of the deep suffering of so many who have been deserted, overlooked, and abused by those who were called to be both shepherds, and servant, to those in their charge.  Instead, they were simply used, bullied, and cast aside, as if they were ‘it’s’ instead of human beings made in the image and likeness of God.  Who can understand the pain, and sorrow, that is now welling up in so many hearts?  Both those in the church, and those worldwide who are witnessing this tragedy.

Yes, it is everywhere, sexual abuse and exploitation, but for a man of God, to abuse his power, so as to degrade others, is of a special nature, and needs to be brought to the light for healing, and yes, justice.  Those abused become abusers (some of them), so the number grows with each generation, it is truly a cancer in the Body of Christ, and in our societies through the world.  So we suffer with Christ Jesus, perhaps for the first time understanding our unity with Him. 

Anger is an appropriate response, but rage is not.  Now is the time to seek to follow the lead of our master, and savior, and to not seek revenge, or to turn on those who disagree with how this tragedy is to be dealt with.  Now is the time to seek the Mind of Christ in our pain, and confusion, and yes, anger, and shame. 

To lash out, or to become bitter, is to allow evil to win over our hearts.  It is only by embracing Christ Jesus at this time, fully, without reserve, which we can get through this without deep harm to our minds and souls and others.  Trust has been taken away, it has to be rebuilt.  Perhaps the structure of the Church needs to be reconstructed into an organization, which actually seeks to serve the people of God, instead of using them.

We need to gather around those bishops, and priest, who are true to their calling and to pray for those who struggle and fail.  Even if some need to be defrocked, and even to go to prison.  We need to pray, even in the midst of anger, rage, and the desire to lash out to hurt someone.  This is the death to self that Christ Jesus is calling each of us too.
I am not a peaceful man if left to myself.  Yet Christ Jesus is calling me to become gentle in spirit, to forgo violence in thought, word, and deed.  I find myself at war within my soul, yet I feel the grace of Jesus leading me forward, uniting my heart to all of those who struggle with the desire to lash out.  It is now that we need to show the world there is a better way by drawing closer together and showing the power of the love and grace of our Lord.  Jesus loved his enemies and forgave all on the cross.  May we also allow Our Lord to incarnate into our hearts so as to allow His healing to flow through us to others.—Br.MD

To rekindle our ‘Child-Soul’
April 15—I was listening to some children playing. “I love children. It is I who gave them all these delicate thoughts and feelings: complete trust, docility, a thirst for Jesus, candor and purity, absolute surrender and the forthright glance. You must keep the same sentiments with you right through life. For they come from Me and I so love to find them again in you when you are grown up. So find your child-soul again and give it to Me.”
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 912-915).
 Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
When I was very young, 23 to be exact, I was driving into Atlanta for a Doctor’s Appointment.  In 1972, Atlanta was not really that big of a city, so the traffic was no way near as bad as it is today.  It was a Monday, and I was not in a pleasant mood.  No reason, just in a bad mood.  As I was driving along settling into my being irritated by everything, a car passed me by.  In it, standing next to her mother, who was going at quite a clip, was a small child.  A boy, and as I looked over, he smiled and gave me an enthusiastic wave.  It was so unexpected, that it sent a feeling of love through me that dissipated my bad mood.  Such is the power of a child who is still open, loving, and in a way showing us something of the childlike nature of Our Lord.  For Jesus was open, tender, unafraid of pain, and overcoming bitterness and the temptation to withdraw.  The child if it survived it’s mom’s driving, would be around 50 at this time.  I would think, no matter how he turned out, that inner child-soul is still there.   I do believe that for most of us, one of our purposes in life is to either retain that child-like soul or to recover it as we make our way through life.  One way is to play.  I do not think we are ever too old to play.

Br. Cassian, before he entered was a teacher of small children.  I have no doubt he was very good at it, since I see how he relates to those with whom he comes in contact within our retreat house.  He draws people out, makes people laugh, listens intently, and can look into people’s hearts.  He is a very playful, intelligent, and mature man.

We have a bulletin board in one of the hallways in our bottom floor.  It was used for years by Br. Alan, for our newspaper.  He would cut it up and place it along the very large board so that more than one member of the community could read.  It was sort of a gathering place, but over the years was used less than before.  Br. Alan is now retired from that duty, so the board, until recently was left empty.  A space begging to be used.  Br. Cassin found a good use for it. 

He placed words on the board, many words that could be placed in sentences.  So for a while, some of us would play with words.  I loved making up silly sentences, with no meaning at all.  For instance:
“Dance, eat, moon and sun, emptiness and fullness”.
Another monk would post a sentence, under my words:
“You speak fluff words”
Just a play on words, but I found it freeing, fun, and a sort of dance with the others who would play along.  We also had magnets which would be used to make up patterns, which I found really interesting.  For I believe, words and the designs were not as random as might be thought, but also just play.

Then one day, Br. Cassian put up some colored tile.  In the past, I used to play with cord and makeup wall hangings from many different colors moving them around in patterns that would just create themselves.  I also did some three-dimensional hangings, start with one cord and building off of that.  An outer and an inner layer.  I just moved colors around as I was led to, and again, was surprised by some of the images that came out of that. 

I was discussing my compulsion to make everything symmetrical, everything had to be balanced with its twin side.  He said, ‘You know Mark, asymmetrical also has its beauty”.   So I am trying that.  It is kind of difficult, so I have to in some small way force myself to not make both sides the same.  I find it freeing on a deeper level, perhaps because it is expanding my ability to play.  Such simple tools, colored tiles, or words arranged in an order not so adult or linear.

I am not a rational thinker, so perhaps that is why I like balance in the world outside my often inner chaotic, overly colorful world.  Yet it is freeing to bring both outer and inner worlds together in such a manner because it is played after all.

I could not let go of my ‘over-thinking’ self when trying to ‘play’ sports.  Which made it into something I hated, it was work, because I could not let go and ‘just do it’, as they say.  Then I discovered that I could replace sports with dance, and could when dancing, not think at all, but let the rhythm take over and carry me to some pretty ecstatic places.   Just movement, play, jumping up, and down, to the beat, and just being.  I can do that when I write for some reason, since I just sit and let it happen, sort of like making my rope hangings and just allowing some inner ‘child’ to lead me.  Play heals I believe.  Work also has its place, an important one, and I guess can be played as well, but not spontaneous. 

I still overthink, but in writing, it seems to flow like a river, and I don’t have to work at it, and in that I find healing, and perhaps even though I often overdue the struggle aspect of life, it is still playing and I find a release when writing, but also sending, they seem to go together.  One day I may not need to write.  I am both glad that would happen, and also sad if it actually did.  I am a mess, no wonder I overwrite.

Yet I do want to dance with words, with my work, and my prayer and my ongoing wrestling with God, which is a dance as well.
Towards the inner child
So, Lord, I dance and you lead,
I fight you and you wound me deeper,
I limp when I dance but you also heal,
round and round we go,
one day I will stop fighting
and my wounds with finally be healed
because then my child-soul will be truly alive.—Br.MD

Love your enemies. Really!?!

When we get it, we lose it,
gods can be messy beings,
just us in bigger form,
best to let it go and love the mystery.
When I read the Scriptures, both the Old and the New Testament, I have more in common with what is going on in the time before Christ.  When I read the words of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount, and on the Plain, I will often feel lost.  I read it, ponder it, pray about it, yet I know that I still don’t get it, or to put it in a better way, my heart is too small to absorb the living waters. 

Love your enemies. Really!?!  Do good, to those who abuse me, steal from me!  All righty then!  Now when I read about David, Saul, Moses, who were men of God….I get them.  I can see myself like Moses, killing someone and burying the body in the sand.  Or David, in a fit of lust, getting rid of the husband, if I had the power, so I could ‘own’ the wife…….thank God I do not have that kind of power.  Or Moses, doubting God’s Word.  My heart is like theirs, and they were men of God, much more so than I am, or perhaps ever will be.  Or Saul, knowing better than God, what is the best thing to do.

I get Jonah, who became angry because God did not destroy thousands of men, women, and children, for his entertainment, as he watched from a safe distance, waiting for God to do what he (Jonah), would do, kill them, damn them, tortured them.  Yet, God said, how can I desire the death of those who do not know their right hand, from their left?   They are just like me, these people of Nineveh, I am often confused and in a fog, wandering through a life that often makes no sense to me.  Reacting, not responding, and being asleep.

To love my neighbor as myself.  Not sure I love myself.  Yet I am commanded to do so.  How does that happen?  The self-love that Jesus talks about, that leads to the love of others, is not something I have seen in many Christians, let alone in myself.   I pray for this kind of love, and I believe that each day grace is bringing me closer to that reality…..until then, I stumble along, in hope, and the desire to be free of myself. 

Christians (well me) can be racist, abusers, adulterers, cheats, murderers, corrupt, blind to their own faults, and yet get prissy when they hear about the ‘sin’ of someone else, who does not sin in the way they do.  I find it easy to get angry over people who are weak in areas that I am not, but easy on those who are like me……though one can always be a hypocrite, and pretend to be upset.  Yes, we are a mess, but a mess, a chaotic mess, loved by God.  Now that is the mystery.

We are loved, no matter what, everyone, without exception.  When talking about being ‘lost’, we each have our own ideas about that.  The more lost, as long as it is someone else, the better, for that way I can be special!  Well, what if every human being is special, and loved by God the way we are or hope to be.  How do we process that?  How do we get our hearts to expand, to become more human, and to not fear the pain that comes with being vulnerable, the way Christ Jesus was, and still is.

I guess the answer is……we wait.  We pray, we hope, and we love anyway, even if we don’t always feel it, we can at least begin to understand that the person before us, the messy, smelly, obnoxious, or the beautiful, rich intelligent, funny, human, shows us, Christ Jesus. 
Really!  Yes really!!

So where am I?  Still trying to get it, pray about it, get up when I fall, and just live the day, and not worry about the morrow.  I do believe that we are all in the palm of God’s hands, no matter what many in my faith try to tell me otherwise.  Jesus is a true revelation of God’s Infinite love, and it will always be that, no matter how many walls we try to put up around this truth, or like Jonah, on some level, really want to be entertained by the death and destruction of those ‘hated’ by God.  The problem is, no one is hated by God, but only loved……now what do we do with that?  Still working on that, but grace works deeper and in secret, in that is our hope, the unrelenting love of God as shown us in Christ Jesus.

Well, it gives me hope for myself and in that for everyone.  Get through the day, or this moment, seeking to do the most loving thing to what is before me.  If that is sought, well ones inner life will slowly fall into place, because the seeking after love, is a response to graces inviatation.—Br.MD



How do I say it, do it, and am I doing it right?
A retreatant came up to me yesterday and thanked me for giving him a rosary last year, while on retreat.  He still has it and showed it to me.  He wanted to ask me if he was saying the rosary correctly.  So I asked him how he said it, and he explained it to me.  So after he explained how he said it, I said, yes, sounds like you got it.  Then I added, there is no wrong way to say the rosary, each person will say it in their own unique way.  For instance, I said, that he does not have to say the whole rosary, but try to say a decade slowly with intention. The rosary is learned by simply praying it.  Like learning a new dance, it takes time and practice.  Then when learned, it is simple, easy, and a great aid for concentration.

I have been saying the rosary since I was a child.  It has always appealed to me and I have found it a great aid in prayer, for it keeps me focused.  Not sure if I have ADD (yes another label), but I am not one who can sit for long periods of time without my mind starting to wander all over the planet, the universe, then back again, and worrying about this, or that, or fuming over some past event that happen a zillion years ago.  Yes, my unconscious is very active and I can be swallowed up in it if not careful.  So the holding onto a bead can do wonders for me.  It grounds me, reminds me of this moment, and then the next moment, as I slowly say the prayers.  It can become automatic, mindless, which is not good, so I try to keep it conscious of what I am doing, but in a gentle way. 

The prayers of the rosary are for the universal salvation of all.  We pray for that intention because each of us has the ability to choose to reject the Infinite Love that pursues us.  So when praying the rosary, it is, in reality, a prayer for all.  The Our Father, nor the Hail Mary, or the Glory Be, has a ‘me’, nor ‘I’, in it.  It is for all, without distinction to race, gender, or religion.  “Give us this day our daily bread”, means more than just food, but also the grace that brings the soul to life, feeds it, heals it, and brings it home. 

There is also a small prayer that is said between decades.  It is another prayer for the salvation of the world.  Here is the prayer: 

“Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, saves us from the fires of Hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy”.

I have noticed that people who pray from the heart, no matter their faith path, who ponder what the words actually mean, tend to end up understanding the unity that they have with all of humanity, as well as with all of creation.  For in the ‘Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  That Word is Jesus Christ…..the Infinite made flesh.  Since Jesus has said that He is found in the least (which could change day by day, or hourly), brings out that underlying intimacy we have with all, as manifested in Jesus Christ.  I am the ‘least’ for some, so they are called to discover Christ Jesus in me, and yes, to love me, even if they have to grit their teeth at times when praying for that grace.  In prayer, when asking the Father to forgive us, we learn that we also have to learn to forgive, to be open even when it is a struggle.

The rosary for many, and not just Catholics (For I have met many non-Catholic’s who say the rosary, often not telling anyone about it from their own church),  Is a powerful way to center, to focus, and  to pray in a way that keeps one grounded in this world, while at the same time, learning to pray for all. 

When we love another, we love ourselves, and in that, we love Christ Jesus.  When we hurt another, in any way, the converse is true, and we also, without knowing it, carry the pain that we cause another.  That is why hatred, and revenge, while understandable, only lead to deeper pain for the one who rains down human justice on another…..which is revenge.  Man’s justice is not God’s justice. 

It is only in opening up our hearts to grace, that we learn this lesson of our unity with all, and that healing can only come from each of us, shared with all those around us.  If we keep our hearts closed, then we increase our pain, and the pain of others, for we are made in the image and likeness of God, to deny that, or to bury that truth, is a hell of our own making. 

Prayer is a joy, but itis also work, struggle, and a seeking to bring to the center of our lives something other than our own narrow, often wounded perceptions of God, and others.  This can only be understood by those who pray, or if not, who on some level respond to God’s grace, which works in secret.  We are made for love, we are love. It is fear, and sin, that keeps it locked away screaming to be let out.

The rosary is just one form of prayer, it is not for everyone.  However, I believe that for most people, there is a way to pray that suits them, and it will lead them deeper into the mystery of God, who loves all, in spite of what others will tell me.  My, how we love to damn others to eternal pain!

If your mind is like a hyper, drunken, monkey, going crazy in a banana tree…..then the use of beads may be helpful. –Br.MD

You can’t stop it, so get over it, live your life

I do not mind aging for myself,
(though in my friends, well I do not like it,
they're getting older)
in any case, it cannot be stopped,
little bits here and there reduced or lost,
and body parts once taken for granted
have to be attended to because of pain,
energy levels lower and by 3 PM,
well, let us say, I do get by,

I read and doze off, then read again,
my eyes work better on some mornings than others,
quite a litany, so common, those lucky enough
who have moved on into the elderly world,
know what I am talking about living so long.

I enjoy small things more than when younger,
forced to be mindful of how I walk or climb up stairs,
actually not a bad development, living in that moment,
I treasure this life now more than when young,
for I can see the exit, though I hope
it is still down the way before I have to get off.

Brakes cannot be applied on my journey,
being a pilgrim has its good points,
but one has to keep moving,
our ride, mother time, makes sure of that.

Here, in this world, I can choose for the most part
on how to select, what to do, how to react,
or to love in the midst of outer chaos
mixed with on certain days, inner anxiety,
about the sky falling, the floor opening up,
yet both never happen, so that helps to remember.

Faith is an art I believe, a way of saying yes,
without demanding some sort of the impossible,
some absolute proof or another,
this is a life of unknowing when it comes
to the more important questions,
yet faith is a key that keeps the soul and heart open.

I fail often in all the same ways, but I hope,
and am always beginning again a million times,
yet I feel God’s 7 X 70 mercy always,
and I hope with grace to share it with others,
by allowing grace to expand my heart,
which is still stone like in some ways,
but I can feel the chisel of grace,
so hope is always there, as well as
my final stop which is approaching at ever faster speeds,
so I love each day more than when younger,
and am just fine and would not want to be younger.
And I am grateful that I can I can simply be a pilgrim—Br.MD

Taking our faith for granted


The emptiness of My churches apart from the hours of the liturgical offices is an indictment, first of all, of My priests, and then, of My faithful. My Eucharistic presence meets with coldness, with indifference, and with a chilling ingratitude, even on the part of My priests and of consecrated souls. They fail to recognize in the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist the pearl of great price, the treasure once

hidden in the field but now offered freely to all who would partake of its inexhaustible riches.1 I am left alone in a world
A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart--
The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Kindle Locations 3984-3988). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.


I have learned that one’s faith is important, not to be taken for granted.  We live in a world, at least in the 1st world, where faith is mocked and those who believe are seen as weak, irrational, and filled with the fear of facing reality.  It is of course nonsense, but we all have prejudicial ideas about others who believe in a different way.  It is built into our DNA I believe. Christians can be just as ‘silly’ as some atheist, or other Non-Catholic Christians, who actually hate the church I belong to, the Catholic Church.

In the Catholic Church, as well as all of the older branches of Christianity, place a great deal of importance on the Eucharist, at least it is in our theology books, and often by the writings of our mystics, and doctors of the church.  Yet, in reality, more often than not, this sacrament, is not really thought about much by Catholic’s in general.  It is a great gift, the Eucharist, yet often downplayed because it is taken for granted.

My mother was not a Catholic.  One day when I was a teenager, she said something to me.  “If I really believed that Jesus is present in His full divinity in the Eucharist, I would spend every free moment in one of your churches.  Yet she continued, they are empty, except when some sort of liturgical service is going on, even then, most seemed bored or distracted”.  My mother, I believe, was a mystic, and took the life of the spirit seriously, just not Christians for the most part.

The Eucharist points to the deep love and intimacy that Christ Jesus wishes for all of mankind, without regard to one’s past. For we are shown the depth of the mercy of God when we read about how he suffered, yet forgave all.  Yet, faith is necessary for most of us, for me for sure, and it is not always easy.  There are some who have had experiences so great, that faith is not really needed since they have seen.  Yet, subjective experiences cannot be proven, except by the one who has them.

The Eucharist is a healing sacrament, and the deeper one's feelings of inner fragmentation, and alienation from God, and others, the more profoundly important it is for them to seek Christ Jesus in this sacrament if they are Catholic. 

I have learned to respect all faiths, for those on any path towards God, are seekers, and seekers rejoice when the truth is found out.  I do know that many mock my faith, and have only contempt for me because of that.  So what?  Those who have faith, need to study what they believe and seek to go deeper into the reality of the call of grace, that is offered to all.  It is free of charge, all one needs is to seek the Lord, or to seek the truth, and grace will do the rest.  All that is needed is a small flame of love, it will increase by the love of God that rushes in when we call on his name.  Those who seek, even if at the very beginning, love God to their full capacity, which increases for eternity, a journey that never ends.  We are filled and arrive, and are empty and just beginning our journey, all at the same time.  Love is never old, nor can it be taken for granted once this love is tasted, it increases our thirst for God, and slowly we grow. 

There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, except our own will.  Once we understand that we do choose, it can give us great freedom and a feeling of dignity.  God’s love only wishes us to become freer and filled with trust.  We are called to incarnate Christ Jesus in this life, we are all called to become food for others, to allow our hearts to grow, and not to fear the suffering that comes with loving others.  In the meantime, those who are on the path towards God can forget that we are never to judge the worth of another human being but to pray for all.  Actions can be judged, and perhaps wrongdoers have to be dealt with, but their true worth is not for us to weigh, not even our own.—Br.MD



A Friend's Story, on how She learned that She is Never Alone
The exercise of faith increases faith. The exercise of confidence causes confidence to grow. One who approaches My tabernacle in faith is giving evidence of a complete reliance on My merciful love. The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is My Heart, open to receive those who will respond to My timeless invitation: “Come unto Me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is sweet, and My burden light.”1
 Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Hear--
The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Kindle Locations 3966-3971).
Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.
 I sometimes visit a blog that is titled ‘The Friendly Atheist’.  On one of my forays into his domain, I saw an advertisement for a T-Shirt, which had this quote:  “Will Convert for Evidence”.  It made me wonder, what evidence would actually convince anyone who was opposed to the belief in God, or the Infinite?  I would think that there would be none.  The scientific method does have its limitations.  Not everything can be proven by lab testing. 

So unbelief, is probably like faith, in the sense that it is a choice that is made over and over again…..well until I guess some deeply felt personal experience will convince some.  However, that would not be evidence for anyone else. 

To embrace faith need not be mindless conformity to a set world view.  Nor does it have to be based on ignorance, or fear of opposing views…..like the ideas presented by the ‘Friendly Atheist’.  I am comfortable living in a world where faith has to be developed in order to deepen one's relationship with God.  It is a choice, just as unbelief is a choice, both are made without ‘evidence’ according to the scientific method.

To approach God with trust (A choice, and often a difficult one), does draw one into the depths of God’s loving relationship with us.  A letting go of the fear of being ‘taken in’ also has to be put in its proper place.  A lack of trust in others will make it impossible to develop deep friendships or even pleasant encounters with others. Everyone is untrustworthy and needs to be kept at a distance.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Trust of any kind can be scary since it makes the heart vulnerable to being seen and then rejected. 

Personal experiences are important.  One day I was talking to a friend, who is a very loving woman, who has a deep, loving, relationship with God.  She is intelligent and not given over to fanciful speculations.  She is single, and alone in the world.  She has few family members and they are not that close.  She related to me an experience she had when she had to go to the Emergency Room.  She was there alone, everyone else had some family member with them, but she was alone, and it made her very sad, and a little scared.  She does have some serious health conditions and is well known in that particular Emergency Room.  She was released around 2 AM in the morning.  As she was checked out, she felt forlorn, since she had to go back to her apartment, where she lived without a roommate.  When she got out to the front entrance, she found a rainstorm, and she did not have an umbrella.  So she walked as fast as she could towards her car, in the heavy rainfall.  After she got in the car, she started praying, and complaining to the Lord, about lonely she was.   When she was starting up the car, she noticed something very odd.  Even though it was pouring down rain, and she walked through it, she found herself completely dry!  When she told me, I responded, “well I guess the Lord wanted to let you know that you were not alone”.  For her, it was strong evidence that my statement was right.

In Catholic churches, we have the Eucharist, which is the actual presence of Christ Jesus under the sacramental appearance of Bread and Wine.  To approach this reality in trust, can cause a deep change in one’s heart, a loosening of the knots that can seem like a permanent part of one’s life.  To understand the reality of that love, can only come about by faith, and deep trust.  A death to fear and a simple looking to the Lord. 

Sometimes, a guest at our retreat house, will approach me, and ask me about their experiences in front of our tabernacle.  Many are not Catholic, some are not Christian, and some are even somewhat agnostic in their ideas about God.  Yet they come and tell me what they have experienced.  Some experiences are rather astounding, then some are very simple, but direct in how the retreatant is affected.  So I tell them about the presence of Christ Jesus in the Eucharist.  Jesus is there for everyone, be they Catholic, Non-Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, New Ager, or those who struggle with faith, and yes, those who have none.  Those who come here are seekers, and Jesus promised that those who seek shall find.  Jesus is only concerned with the heart.  Some of these people become Catholic, others do not, but they are changed by their experience, and many become regular visitors here in our church, and on our grounds. 

One woman related to me, how both she and her husband were atheists.  Her husband died, and for some reason that she did not understand, she started coming out to our grounds.  She did not go into the church, nor did she visit our retreat house, or talk to anyone.  She would come every night and simply sit down by our lake.   Then she told me, that one evening as she was sitting there, enjoying the peace, and quiet, the ducks, and geese, she suddenly found that she believed in God.  She did not ask for faith, it was not an emotional need, yet there it was, she was given the gift of faith, and she ran with it. She became a Catholic, though no one pressured her.  It was pure grace, for God sees all hearts.  We are all pursued by God’s love. –Br.MD


Prodigal son
(The world our heart dwells in)

So the “Prodigal son” is by himself, alone, bereft of friends, hungry and literally living in a pig-sty.  Who knows how long he has been away from his family and probably never thought about them, or when he did, it was perhaps in mockery and disdain.  Being thoughtless, he used his money to buy friends and indulged in pleasures that would keep him from thinking any deeper than where the next party or pleasure will come from.  It most likely was a whirl of mindless activity and fun.  That is how he ended up where he was.  Not poor, but in degradation. 

Being forced to reflect on his predicament, he started thinking differently about his Father.  Perhaps not in a loving way, but beginning to understand that he could influence him, or manipulate him into allowing him to come home.  He had a script, a good one, which would forestall any indignation his father would have.  He would simply admit that he was a bad son, and he only deserved to become his slave.  So by disarming his father by admitting guilt, he would at least have a place to live, food to eat and his living quarters would be a step up from where he was.  So in fact, he just needed a place to crash for a more or less length of time.  Since he had such a callow/narcissistic heart, he perhaps thought that all men and women were like him.  We can only live in the world that our heart dwells in.

His father, of course, did not play along; in fact, he would have been unable to.  His heart was in a very different place.  A place where his selfish son would not yet be able to understand if in fact he ever would as he aged.  So let us go into the prodigal son’s mind and what would we see as he makes his journey home?  I guess the first thing would be the ‘fear’ of his father’s justified anger, something he could not evade, his responsibility for his actions, which in fact could have led to his death.  By asking for his inheritance he, in reality, told his father that he wished him gone, dead, no more, out of his life and world.  So it was quite the deed.  So if he was fearful of anger, as would be expected, we can imagine that on his long journey back home he had his story well planned out and his play acting honed to a fine point. 

Of course what happened was something else entirely.  Something so unexpected that I have no doubt the son was rendered speechless by what he would consider an unforeseen turn of events.  Yet for the father, he was merely responding out of his true center; that of a loving concerned father for the welfare of his son.  No doubt the father understood his son, his lack of love, or his inability to feel real sorrow, yet he burst upon him, embraced him, killed the fatted calf and had a feast in his honor.  In other words, the father made a complete fool of himself.  

Yet, there was someone to be feared.  It was the other son.  Who was also young, inexperienced and perhaps jealous of his brother even before he left home.  The second thing the son should have feared was the place his own heart dwelt in.  For no matter how much the father loved him, forgave him, embraced him, killed the fatted calf for him, put fine robes on him and a ring….even after all that…. if his heart was not touched, or changed, for all practical purposes he was still in the pig-sty.  For we can only live where our heart dwells….It is our world, our reality, our heaven or hell.  Only by understanding the father’s love would the son’s heart be able to change.  For love is a call into a bigger world, outside the confines of a barricaded heart.   

What happened in the end?  Did the brothers reconcile?  Did the younger son grow to understand the fathers love and to respond to it?  Or did the brothers grow in their alienation from one another. Did the younger son after a time of rest, yet again, take ‘advantage’ of his father’s compassion and ask for more money?  Perhaps he went out and died in a ditch somewhere.  None of that, however, changes the love the father had for his sons, no matter the outcome.  Love is a gift, a grace, if it is not embraced, accepted, then that choice not to open one's heart, is to dwell in hell.  So what is to be feared?  The father’s love, always open, ready to embrace the beloved?  Well no.  The elder brother, who is not much different than his younger brother?  Well yes, he should be feared.  What is to be most feared however is the younger son’s unresponsive heart, which is what is to be feared.  God is greater than our hearts, yet if we ‘choose’ to keep it closed…..well yes that is to be feared. 

For the most loving of Father’s will say in the end to us all “My son, my beloved daughter, your will, be done”.  Our freedom is our greatest gift, it gives us dignity, but it is a fearful thing indeed—Br.MD

What we long for, we also fear
I live in the Sacrament of My love as I live in heaven, in a ceaseless state of intercession for all who believe in Me and come to Me with the weight of life’s burdens and sorrows. There is nothing that I will not do for the soul who approaches Me with confidence.
A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart--
The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Kindle Locations 3959-3961). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition. In a truly loving relationship, be it in marriage, or between friends, it is enriched when one is open and honest about his or her life’s journey, struggles, hopes, and failures.  In doing so, the receiver is encouraged to respond also in trust and intimacy.  This cannot be done unless vulnerability and what that means is embraced.  Relationships cannot grow if this depth of openness is lacking.  There are many levels in relationships.  People can have a deep affection for another, but still not have a friendship of any real depth. Which is also something good in itself.  Close acquaintances can also draw us outside of ourselves, and teach us to love, and trust, even if it is not as deep as it is with friendship.   Real friendship is rare, and is probably one of the greatest gifts in this life.  Yet it is not always easy to make that step. 

Christ Jesus, is open, and honest, with mankind, in his desire to bring us to the Father, and to have a loving, trusting, relationship, with us.  He tells us not to fear.  Yet when reading the New Testament, this reality is often forgotten, overlooked, or downplayed because it is very difficult to understand such a love….even though I believe it is the deepest longing of the human heart. 

Sin is an act of self-destruction, of becoming isolated, trapped, chained, and locked away in a self-imposed prison.  This can be seen in the more obvious forms of addiction.  It is ‘sin’ because it is an attempt to escape from life, but what one gets is only deeper pain and suffering.  Hatred and contempt of others is often an attempt to not see the ‘enemies’ humanity, for when we actually see those around us as truly human, with deep interiors lives, many find it hard to actually box them in.  Jesus could love all, because he saw deeply into others, and because of his deep empathy, probably suffered greatly for that…..yet he did seek to escape the reality of the hidden interiority of all that he met. 

We are also sinned against.  We can be chained by the wounds that we received from our parents, siblings, and friends, and yes enemies, that makes it very hard to believe in any kind of mercy, kindness, in our fellow human beings, or in fact that trust is even possible……sin brings forth bitter fruit.

Fear protects us, but we outgrow the need of fear, but often do not know it.  The deep desire to be loved, is also the desire to be ‘seen’ in our totality, and loved, because the One who gazes on our soul knows and understands everything. There is no prerequisite to explain, but there is a need to have an open heart.  Sometimes we can’t explain the ‘whys’ in our life, but we can expose our hearts in a trust, and let the light in so as to see everything.  It is there already, the illumination, but unless we trust, we can be blind to that reality.

Humans understand punishment, judgment, rage, and rejection, all too well.  So when we think of God, we want something we understand. So God becomes like us, just bigger, meaner, crueler, and unforgiving.  Better to worship Zeus in a rage (this we can understand) than a God of Love, which is way beyond our comprehension.  For love can’t be controlled, it is like a raging river seeking entrance into our hearts, seeking to wash away all that impedes that love. 

If only many Christians would stop being so violently judgmental, something we are told not to do, perhaps then our faith would not be so hated and reviled.  Jesus calls us all to conversion, to turn away from a life that only leads to eternal isolation from all that we truly long for.  When we judge in a way that Jesus told us not to, it only pushes people further away.

I am grateful that God’s grace is always at work, and so even though we may fail in many ways, we still pray for all.  In saying the Our Father, slowly, with attention, we can come to the realization that we are in fact praying for everyone, not just those whom we think are like us, or believe like us, but truly everyone.  In that, many deep wounds are healed, for mercy goes both ways.  In forgiving, we are forgiven.  In showing compassion, we also experience compassion flowing back to us.—Br.MD 


When life feels cold and dark and I am naked and shivering within
(When I am afraid, I put my trust in you)---Psalm

Sometimes I feel fear.  It is when I become strongly aware of the suffering that goes on around me.  On how common it is to have sick friends, people I love who are dying and my own aging as well.  It is as if everything I tell myself about my faith and hope drops away and I am left shivering in a cold dark place.  I do not like it ‘here’, but I also know that it is just like every ‘place’ my inner- self -finds itself at.  It says nothing about the truth of my faith, for if God’s ‘Yes’ in Jesus is true then there is nothing that can separate me from the love of Christ Jesus.  All inner states pass.  The warm ones, the happy ones, the sad and horrible ones and the ones that can show me how much of life is ‘cold’ and ‘dark’.  Yet it passes like a storm on the sea….it is when I forget that I can flounder.  When I remember the love and mercy of the Lord, I get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus Christ who beckons me not to fear.  He has overcome the world, the flesh and the devil…..in Him is my trust and hope and my fear drops away, or if not, I do not ‘fear’ my fear.--Br.MD

God’s kindness?
February 12—Nantes. 5:35 AM The Way of the Cross.
 “As you meditate on the Stations of the Cross, look at My eyes and see in them nothing
but the utmost kindness and love in the midst of the torture.”
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 679-681).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
There is very little that I understand.  The older I get the more I am aware of this reality.  So if I live to be 99 and in good mental health, I will finally come to the conclusion that I really know nothing at all.  Yet, my faith still grows.

I have yet to meet anyone who is not weighed down by problems, sufferings, chaos, and fear.  That is of course not the whole picture.  For in most lives, there is also joy, happiness, peace, and contentment.  Though suffering can drain all life out of us.  When confronted with extreme suffering in others, I understand that I will not be able to give insight, but I can be with them, for I suffer as well.  I have my share of wounds, fear, anger, and yes, self-hatred that flares up from time to time.  Yet, I, we, are commanded to love ourselves, so as to be able to love others. 

I have given up arguing about religion and politics.  Opinions become dogma when two people start to argue over their different takes on life.  A waste of time.  I am like them of course, I have strong beliefs, but as I age, I have come to a certain peace that I could be wrong, as wrong as the people I have listened to, and not agreed with.  Perhaps we are all wrong in most important conclusions.  Or one’s take on things, on life, may work for a while, and then need to be changed, when outgrown. 

I am not a man, or that type of Christian, who thinks that all religions not of my tradition are ‘wrong’, or ‘demonic’.  I have read too many scriptures from other faithpaths, and their mystics, and just relating with ordinary people, who follow a different path, to see in a powerful way, the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  The most unloving thing we can do is to judge another person because of their faith path, and then play God and condemn them.  It is amazing how unkind we Christian often are, sadistic as well, when judging, something we are told not to do. 

If we do not show the kindness of JesusChrist, and his compassion, then all else is a waste of time.  The human heart, each heart, is seen only by God.  Why, I can’t see my own heart.  Or the little I do see, what is revealed, is a deep need for inner healing, of self, so that I can show the compassion and love of Christ Jesus to others. 

“God with us”, is not just some abstract, theological theory, but is shown in Jesus Christ, how true that is.  Christians are called to incarnate Jesus in the world.  When we fail, then our faith becomes a cruel caricature.  It is hard to understand the love ofJesus, when He forgave all on the cross.  It is only when we give over to the Father our resentments and leave our enemies in his loving hands, that we can find freedom.  To pray for an enemy, becomes an enemy no more. 
Our call

To show compassion when there is none,
mercy to all even in the midst of injustice,
to heal in places where there are only wounds,
to fight bitterness and despair with the shield of faith,
to seek to become vessels of God’s freely given grace,
to let it flow from our hearts into those who hate and revile us.
To see Christ Jesus in the rich and powerful and the weak and outcast,
to allow the Heart of the Father to become one with ours.

Absurd too many, true. Yet is how we relate to each other now,
with our wars, division, and, ism’s, any less so?—Br.MD

I can’t leave my pets behind!
A couple of days before Florence came to shore, I called an old family friend, (an adopted aunt), who was very close to my mother.  She is now 85 years old, and from what she tells me, is in great health.  She lives in Myrtle Beach and I was worried about her.  I asked her if she was going to evacuate as was recommended by the authorities.  She lives close to the water, so my concern was pretty high.  She said, “no, I have too many pets and can’t leave them, Debbie is staying with me”.  Debbie being her daughter. 

This caused me some anxiety and I tried to convince her to leave.  However, she was sure that they would get through alright.  They live in a two story home, so she felt that would be able to survive any flooding.  My first impulse was to down play the safety of her pets, that she and her daughter were more important.  Yet, I held my tongue.  This is a woman who is always bringing in strays, and for years she took care of a family of raccoons.  When they were young, they lost their parents, and she fed the three baby raccoons every night.  Years later, the old raccoons, along with their children, and grandchildren, would come every night to feast on macaroni and cheese.  Also, animals love her back, even those she does not take care of.  So I was not going there. 

I can’t say I have ever bounded deeply with any pet that I had in the past.  Perhaps it is because being in a large family, the dogs belonged to everyone.  We had a German-Shepherd, named Bullet (while living in East St. Louis in the 50’s), who I loved very much, but again, he did not pick anyone out to love more than the others.  He would protect us no matter who we were, a good dog for a large family.  Blitz was a great pet, a boxer, intelligent and loyal, again, not overly attached.    When blitz died in 1976 I believe, my mother never got over it, and never had another dog. 

So I sort of understood my adopted aunt’s choice to stay behind.  She loves people as well and has many friends.  She was a very good friend to my mother.

Not sure one can have a close relationship with a reptile.  I am sure that those who love them, will say yes to that questions, and say that there is more to them than meets the eye.  I do think, that they should be listened to.  For lately I find myself becoming attached to the box turtle in our garden.  An odd development for me.

I have written about our box turtle in our inner garden here at the Monastery.  A new development has begun to occur with the turtle.  A couple of monks have started feeding it when it shows up every few days.  Now, it goes to one place and waits until we get out of Mass and walk through the inner garden, waiting for its treat.  One day I got a piece of banana and took it out to him.  He was sitting there and when he saw me coming and perhaps got a look at the banana, he actually started running (well a turtle run) towards me.  I find myself becoming attached to this little critter, after what I perceived as some sort of personal contact.  I find it strange.  I guess it is the response, it jolted me into thinking that there may be more to these creatures than I thought, that again, true reptile lovers try to tell us.

I often wonder what goes on in the heads of my evolutionary brothers and sister.  Whatever it is, it is a life, a real existence filled with danger, pain, joy and with the turtle, bananas, and apples, and peaches!  Our cloister garden is big enough that he can find a good place to hibernate for the winter.  As well as getting enough to eat.  We don’t feed him that much.   He has been with us for a few years now.  Many tend to say that reptiles, animals, and insects are not as intelligent as we are.  Well, I guess there is some truth in that statement... there is another way to look at it.  The Box Turtle, for instance, is perfect, has what it takes to survive and as long as it is not in danger, or hungry, it is probably happier that I will ever be......not that I would trade places with it of course.....but there you have it.—Br.MD

PS  My adopted aunt and her daughter got through all right.  Some flooding.

Fear of just ‘being’
When you come to pray, it is not so much the words that matter; it is your loving attention to My presence that consoles My Heart. Give Me your attention, and I will work the wonders of My merciful love in your soul. Hold yourself facing Me. Abide in My presence gently, without forcing yourself to produce thoughts, feelings, or sensations. None of these things is necessary to a prayer that pleases Me and gives Me the freedom to act in a soul. All that is necessary is faith, and with faith, hope, and with hope, the love that binds the soul to Me and makes union with Me a reality.
A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart
--The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Kindle Locations 3720-3725).
Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.
I often wonder just ‘what’, and ‘who’, I am.  I can experience myself as being made of many pieces, which are part of a puzzle that seems to have an almost infinite number of parts that do not always fit.  I experience them as inner conflict.  Or aspects of myself that seem foreign to me because I have trouble accepting them.  Inner voices, or images, that insist on floating to the surface, floating in full view on top of my inner ocean, often called the unconscious.  I am thankful that I am not aware of all the different ‘people’ that I am, who seek an audience, who want to be heard, and at times can become quite vocal. 

Yet there is a unifying factor that I also experience.  It is my simple self-awareness that does not need thought to be aware.  It is an emotional awareness, not intellectual.  It is an awareness of pain and suffering, or being filled with joy or awe, or with a deep, ‘paradoxical feeling’, of nothingness where it is felt deeply, at the same time, it is not anything at all. How do these pieces come together, how to keep them from becoming even more alien to my conscious mind, and could actually expand further into some sort of inner void that is the opposite of being truly alive.  When I allow these inner fragments to come to center stage something in me goes to sleep and I lose my place, I lose touch with the world around me, which can lead to isolation and alienation from self and others.  I am awake but actually dreaming.

In the ‘void’, when I sit and just ‘be’, or if I focus on some prayer in order to be grounded, and open, to the ‘Infinite’, revealed in Christ Jesus, as compassionate love for all… If I can let go of the fear of whatever comes before my inner gaze. I find that the parts come closer together, bringing me nearer to one day actually seeing this puzzle that I call my inner life, but a puzzle that I can observe, not be a part of, yet… it is me as well.

It is love of self, as commanded by Jesus Christ that allows this to happen.  Self-hatred will only scatter the fragments of my inner life further apart, or to look at it another way, be buried so deep in my inner ‘void’, or ‘ocean’, that they may never surface again.  Which gives them more power, since they will try to manifest themselves to me so as to be healed, dealt with, and in reality, disciplined. 

To gently be with the Lord in the midst of some inner storm or another, with one, or many voices seeking my attention, it allows me to observe and to not be absorbed by them, and to make them into some sort of ‘truth’.  No matter my experience, it is seen by the Father, taken up and loved and in that there is healing. 

Those who do not believe will tell me that I am living in a fantasy world, that this Infinite love that I seek is an illusion, based on the fear of reality.  I always wonder how they know that, can say that with such confidence.  With more confidence than I have actually about my own faith.  For faith, is something that is believed by one’s inner experiences, and the testimonies of others, as stated in the Scriptures.  We either say yes to that, or not.  We give our acceptance, or not.   It could be turned around as well. If God exists, they are the ones cut off from reality and living out a fantasy.  However, we live in a world of ‘not knowing’, I am fine with that. 

Arguing about such things is a waste of time.  I seek to deepen my trust and faith in my Lord.  To learn, slowly, over time, that no matter what I am going through, I need not fear the loving gaze of the Eternal Father, and in that is healing.  It helps to keep in check the tendency to make myself ‘god’, though it is a ‘god’ that can do nothing, since it is based on a lie. 

Jesus said ‘fear is useless, what is needed is trust’ is a hard lesson to learn…..still doing that.  We cling to fear, to our ideas of God that feed that fear, because we understand a God that needs to be feared, sort of like Zeus on a bad day.  We can placate what we fear since it is just a projection of ourselves.  To actually believe in Infinite Love, a love way beyond anything we can understand calls for a death to servile fear of God, as well as a tendency to pass on this ‘meme’ to others.  Love liberates, a love based on the Will of God. 

How would that look?  Well just think, what if everyone in the United States, decided to live out the Ten Commandments, for just a week, as well as to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously?  These are based on loving others, not using them, or stereotyping them.  Not stealing from others, not cheating on one’s spouse, to keep one day Holy so that we can rest, and reconnect, with the Infinite.  What if?  Well, it won’t happen.  Yet each of us can decide to do that, to be open to the loving presence of God and the grace that is always flowing towards us.  When that happens, we find that we have a different sort of freedom.  The freedom to not allow the hate and spite of others to change us, to control us.  We have the freedom to pray for those who hate us, and in that the poison of violence is not passed on to others.  Finally, we learn to love ourselves….perhaps the hardest lesson to learn.—Br.MD

Facing our inner chaos with faith
When all seems confused and inconsistent, then you must turn to Me with an even greater confidence, for I remain all wisdom, all love, all mercy, and nothing escapes My providence. Have no fear, for I remain constant even when you are inconstant.1 I am strong when you are but weakness. I am holiness itself when everything in you seeks compromise
A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart
--The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Kindle Locations 3710-3713).
 Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.
The path, our journey, our pilgrimage, is never an easy one.  Our faith can play an important role in our lives.  We will mature in our faith, or we will stay childish in our perceptions of God.  Our faith will be like an outer garment that we can take off at any time, or it will become our flesh, our bone, allowing us to face our fears and not be swept away by the often unforeseen torrents that can bring chaos, pain, and loss into our lives.  Each human being has to go through many trails in their lives, face many fears, and suffer loss, pain, and often loneliness.  When we try to escape these realities, we bring on more suffering than before.  Quite a conundrum. 

Until we face life and embrace all that entails, we will stay childish in how we navigate ourselves through life.  To become childlike in our response to life, we have to take responsibility for ourselves, be honest about our failures, and understand our need of grace to move forward.  We need to throw off our protective coverings and be transparent.  An often long and difficult journey.  Blame has to be let go of, as well as shame, as we stand naked, before the loving, compassionate, gaze of God. 

We always have a choice.

People tell me, “I try to be trustful of God”.  So I respond, “don’t try, do it”.  The desire to trust, is the beginning of the journey of letting go of narcissistic self-concern.  We can’t dance looking at our feet.  The dance with life, with God, starts when we look beyond in the midst of our inner storms, our pain, and chaos.  We learn that we are accompanied by Infinite Love, though hidden.  For we must choose, not be coerced, to respond a certain way.  Faith in God is not a call to some sort of magic kingdom, but a vocation to embrace the deep mystery and messiness of life and the dysfunction of others, as well as a humble, radical, self-acceptance.   In the midst of all that we go through, Christ Jesus, is one with us.

I get very anxious at times, but I experience it as anger.  I want to reach out, and force what is going on around me to be a certain way.  Anger, is the energy that could allow that foolish endeavor to be acted out.  Yet when I say “I am anxious”, my anger lessens, and I have to deal with the real problem.  My fear that everything is falling apart and the floor opening up and swallowing me and everything else into an eternal void.  So at bottom, my deepest fear is of death.  By that, I mean death not only of my body, but of change, chaos, and the destruction of my inner fantasies, on how the world should work, how God should serve my needs etc.  Fear of failure, and the shame, that can go with that. 

In all this ‘mess’, I am called to be aware of it, but there is something in me, that is truly ‘me’, that can look up, make an act of faith, and abandon myself into the loving arms of my creator.  For some, this is a fantasy, or even crazy.  Yet my experience says otherwise, as well as the experience of many others.  Not only Christians but people who seek God from all paths.  For all who seek the truth, have found it, and will find it at ever deeper levels…..because God is faithful, even if it goes along roads that I don’t understand, or like, and may even get angry over. 
Our lives are paradoxical.  The more we cling, it slips through our fingers, like trying to hold on to sand.  When we face our fears of loss, death, loneliness, we find that there is a spring of living water that begins to flow.  When we let go of control or our feeble attempt at it, we find something much deeper.   What is that you may ask?  Well, seek and you shall find–Br.MD

Prayer and the Expanding Heart
The human heart is very complex, often fearful, and quick to withdraw, placing up barriers to keep others out.  It is a form of both protection and death since it can become a self-made prison.   Some people need to be kept at a distance for many reasons, not all of them bad, but so dysfunctional that they only have their own pain to give.  At the beginning of one’s journey towards becoming more loving, which could be many years, discernment is needed.  For compulsion, and the desire to save and control, even if unconscious, can cause a great deal of havoc. 

The Christian Path is a demanding one.  We are called to actually ‘incarnate’ Christ Jesus into the world.  To allow His very life to become one with our own life, so as to make us deeply loving human beings.  It is a slow process for most of us, and like me, I believe, we are always at the beginning of the journey.  The Sermon on the Mount, and on the Plain, show us something of the mercy, and compassion, of God, and how we are to grow into that.  It is not done by an act of the will, or even by a desire to ‘do it’, but by the slow process of graces indwelling. 

Prayer is how this growth happens.  Prayer deepens as we make room for it in our daily lives.  At first, it may be a few minutes a day, offered up in the morning, say just 10 minutes.  That is a mustard seed of faith, and if this discipline is done faithfully, just ten minutes, growth in love of God and the desire to pray more happens because of grace.  That small territory given over to God, slowly expands, until one day, one finds that prayer is like breathing, we do it and we sense change that comes from a place beyond ourselves. Yet so intimate that it is one with our souls, closer than our souls.  Something always there, but we were unaware until we began the journey of faith, prayer, and hope.  It is love that feeds this inner life. 

As prayer deepens, the realization of our unity with all other humans becomes more conscious.  This happens because we begin to understand and experience what Jesus taught when he gave his Sermon on the Mount, as well as on the Plain.  “For God allows the rain to fall on the thankful and unthankful alike”.   All are encased in God’s love, and as we grow in our understanding our oneness with others in Christ Jesus (because he is one with all), we sense a need to be with them in prayer.  As we struggle with our own desire to grow into loving beings and to allow God’s grace to transform us, so we begin to have compassion, and love for all, because of the Love of God that is increasing in us.  We begin to understand the hundredfold.  We over time, learn to forgive, to understand and to have compassion.  Even in the midst of emotional turmoil which is simply part of human life.  We no longer give power to others to keep us enchained in relationships based on resentment, hatred, and being powerless in forgiveness.  For in allowing grace to heal our hearts, and to trust in God’s love for us, and others, we get the gift of universal love for all. 

In saying the Rosary, in going deeper into the life of Christ Jesus, this also helps to bring forth the unity that I have with others.  For the Our Father, and the Hail Mary is a prayer that is Universal, for all.  The Glory Be, is also praising God with my brothers and sister all over the world. 

One reason I believe that many Christians fear a deep relationship with Christ Jesus, is because they are fearful of letting go of their narrow approach on how God works in the world…..which is a deep mystery, that we can grow in understanding slowly.  I also do not believe that the scriptures are for Christians to line up quotes to pound each other, as well as to superficially judge others who seek God in other religious paths.  It is good to study other faith paths, but before that, it is also important to be deeply rooted in one’s own tradition.  We all need a place to stand from, and having a deep life of prayer will only strengthen those roots.  We worship a God of Infinite love as shown us in the New Testament, especially in the stories that Jesus told.  They are there for us to ponder and study, not to just read, and pass on to something else.  The word of God is a vehicle of the Holy Spirit to heal our narrow, idolatrous ideas of God, which only add to the pain of the world.

So if anyone wants to grow in compassion and love of others, then pray deeply, open one’s heart and allow grace to do its work.—Br.MD

The deep joy of writing prisoners and what I have learned
Loneliness is a form of invisibility
that only heals when one is truly seen,
to the depths, deeper than one is aware of,
and yet……loved.—Br.Md
I have mentioned before how I got involved with writing prisoners, well, by accident.  A much as I love to write, I have never before I started writing prisoners really wrote letters at all.  It simply started one day when a monk asked me if I would like to write a convict, about four years ago (still writing him by the way), even though I did not want to.  As my correspondence deepened with this prisoner, I found changes also going on in my own life.  Still not sure what that is, but it seems to complete me for some reason.  I learn a great deal from them.  Those I write, are not con-men.  I have had some start writing me, but when they found out how little I could do for them, they stopped. 

The struggle in prison is intense, but also on some level, simple.  Good, and evil, are clearly defined, so it helps them to stay on track.  Though it takes a great deal of fortitude for them to do so.    Since it is simpler to discern, they do not have the luxury to lie to themselves.  If they are struggling with anger, they know that the outcome is bad there and that unless they take responsibility and not blame others, they will only cycle downwards as time goes on.  So, yes, it is a life or death battle, and it makes them aware of their need for grace, prayer, and if Catholic, for the sacraments.

Some admit that being in prison has probably saved them, not only in this life but in the life to come.  They know now that their choices create them, and choices without grace, or a good conscience, lead only to deeper pain and darkness.  They are very honest, they have to be, and there is little room for prevacation.  So for those on the journey towards God, it can actually be accelerated.  They also know that unless they become disciplined in their walk with the Lord, they will only fall prey to their impulse control issues, which they know is very serious.

They often have to deal with some serious issues in their lives.  One prisoner I am writing is really going through a rough time.  It is, of course, being part of the prison system, which is way overloaded.  Also, he is in prison for good reason, and he knows this as well.  Yet that does not diminish his suffering.  He has been in and out of prison for half of his life, but this time around he is taking responsibility for what he has done, does not blame anyone and has the humility to trust in God’s love and mercy for him.  He is being deported and having trouble finding a home.  It is for something he did in his home country when he was a teenager.  He is in his early 60’s at this time.  It is weighing on him, and so I responded by the quote below.  He feels rootless and very frustrated and being detained until he finds a country that will take him. When very young, his Father was killed by terrorists, and he joined the IRA.  So having that on his record, even though he was only in for a short time is getting him kicked out of the United States, even though he is a citizen.  He lied when he was sworn in as a citizen about his past.  He has been in the country for over 30 years.

  From my letter to Johnathan:

 Johnathan, You are a true pilgrim my friend.  You are in a position to understand the state of all humanity.  For in fact, how many feel at home where they are?  Our hearts are deep, we are profoundly interior beings, and that is what pushes us to seek God, for no matter where we are, or how much we have, there will always be that loneliness that I believe only the love of God can fill.  Here is a quote from the book “In Sinu Jesu” that seems to strike at the heart of the matter:
I am left alone in a world where so many lament their loneliness. If only souls would come to Me and would tarry in My presence, they would discover a love that fills the heart so completely that it dispels every loneliness and becomes wondrously fruitful in the lives of those who accept it.
A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart--The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Kindle Locations 3988-3990). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.      

Many people think that God is unimportant, yet we are made for a deep loving relationship with God.  No matter where you are Jonathan, no matter how you feel, no matter how deep the loneliness you are experiencing, God is there living it with you, because you are unique to him and are loved.  Nothing can change that.  Yet we are called to live with the struggle every day.  You have grown a lot in prison, from what I have gleaned from your letters, perhaps would not have happened outside in the so-called ‘real world’.  Each human being is an entire universe to God, so deepen your faith, and embrace your life, no matter how hard it is, your situation.  And pray for the millions all over the world who are experiencing what you are now, they are your tribe, and as a Christian, being a member of the priesthood of the faithful, you are called to minister by prayer to all of these people.  None of us goes home alone my dear friend, but we carry many with us, through our actions, as well as through prayer.  Let no one dissuade you from that reality.  Never doubt your experience of God.  You are in the desert, but you are being led.  Just pray every day for deeper faith and love, both are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in doing that, your heart will become more human, compassionate and loving. When I am in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I remember you and all those I write in a special way.  I do believe that those in prison are deeply loved by Christ Jesus, and he identifies with all of you.  Many do not know this, or believe it, or want it, yet God’s love is like a rushing waterfall, it never stops nor gives up. 

End of quote
I have no idea how this will turn out.  If he can’t find a home, he may be detained by the ICE for many years, so a very painful situation.

Some prisoners are forgotten by their families and perhaps for good reason because of their past, and what they did to their loved ones.  Yet, they have changed, converted, and are trying to find a new life for themselves.  It is an uphill battle, one that they may have to climb without support from their families. 
One prisoner, Jim, is trying to deal with his past, and trying to trust in the mercy of God.  These memories are very painful for him, and so I shared something that I experienced that very morning during my morning meditation.

From my letter to Jim: 

Jim, This morning during my meditation, my past came up, and my past wrongdoings.  This happens from time to time.  I embraced it, though it was not comfortable.  It is God’s love that brings this up for deeper healing.  It is important to look to the Lord and not you yourself when this happens.  God’s love is healing, and it will slowly deepen your faith.  The word ‘shallow’ is not a good way to look upon your conversion, but you are growing every day.  Your capacity to love God is also growing.  No matter your stage, you are responding to grace the best way you know how.  It is all gift, all you need do is to look to the Lord and not to yourself.  You could be overcompensating, but so what, it is simply a stage you are going through, the point is to keep on opening your heart every day to the influence of the Holy Spirit, who prays within you, since as St. Paul states, we do not know how to pray ourselves, so the Spirit, groans within us.
End of quote

I see myself in these prisoners, my own ability to do actions that could put me in prison if I did not have control on my impulses.  Anger is the biggest culprit for many who are in prison and acting before thinking.  They are learning that prayer allows them to stop and take responsibility for how they interact in these dangerous situations, and not simply react.  They cease being victims. 

So writing these men is humbling, and I get much more out of what I learn from them than what I can share, I believe.  I try to make them aware of how much God loves them and is working through them to reach others. No soul is beyond help, redemption, a new beginning, even at the end of life, for God sees the flame that is there, and will ignite it in purifying fire.--Br.MD

Which Cross will you carry?
“The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self;
there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain”
― Padre Pio
People often balk when they read comments like the above; or when Jesus talks about dying to self and taking up one's cross in order to follow him in life.  What is often forgotten is that anything we give our hearts and mind to, demands the same thing.  People give up everything for their careers.  They lose their family, their health and peace of mind in order to get to the top of their field.  Or if they give themselves over to some form of addiction, that does demand everything, body, mind, soul, and health.  We give our hearts to something.  We all have a pearl of great price that we will give everything up for.  Many of the things we can ‘worship’ will, in the end, drain us and leave us with nothing.  That is because they cannot touch that deep longing that drives us all towards some good than in the end can lead to death. 
So yes, to follow Jesus also demands everything.  Yet in following him, he gives us new life. When we die to ourselves his love brings us deeper into true being.  Jesus is not a false god, which gives promises that can’t be kept.  The Spirit of God works in all hearts who seek truth.  It is a mistake many Christians make, when they limit the work of God’s grace to a particular understanding of scripture.  God’s work in the world, in the hearts of all is something we are not meant to understand.  We are however called to live out our faith in Christ Jesus and to proclaim it in a gentle manner.  For all who seek will find and all who knock the door will be open. 

Padre Pio is a great Catholic saint, and tomorrow we celebrate his feast day.  He gave his life for others. He spent his days hearing confessions and leading many to a deeper love of Christ Jesus and he spoke the truth about the cost.  So in the end, we choose what is most important to us, if we don’t choose, well that will also demand everything as well.  We are not meant to stagnate, but to dive into the living waters that Christ promises us. 

Take up your cross….that’s right.  Which one do you want to carry?  A cross that will grind you down and eventually take everything and in the end leaving you empty and bereft of hope, or the Cross of Christ which also demands everything but gives deeper life and healing.—Br.MD

The tragedy and beauty of our lives
Such a difference in those I meet Lord, some tall, others skinny, and short and fat,
with burdens hidden from others, and deep wounds that not seen, yet bleed,
it is a wonder that we even begin a new day, up in the morning doing the same
routine, over, and over, and over again.  Fatigue and lack of sleep, too much noise,
and frantic movement, loud music, and horns, sirens, and planes, TV and Radio, news
promoting fear and Lord, how it works……so much fear in the world.  Without a center
to stand from, to take root in, our inner lives become more scattered, losing focus, we then
we seek release through drugs, sex, food, work, power, and perhaps for the lucky ones,
too much sleep. 

However, there is also love, and commitment, caring, and compassion, helping others,
and growing in love, and trust in you, my Lord.  We dance, and we sing, we write poetry,
and create beautiful pictures, which brings joy to many.  Good parents who love their children. 
Children who overcome their past, helping others who cannot, yet still seek to heal,
and help, feed, and simply talk to.  Yes, so much good, yet often overlooked, and
not celebrated and encouraged more often than not. 

No one owns you my Lord, neither believer nor unbeliever, can say much that is true
about you.  We seek to make you ‘not there’, or if ‘there’, a pet that we can own, and control, yet you
just smile, and perhaps laugh at our foolishness.  Jesus shows us Your heart Abba, one of love
that is so far beyond our human ability that we constantly seek to make you like ourselves,
a being angry, seeking revenge, punishment, without seeing deeply into each soul,
so we make you into a mockery, making others shake their heads in wonder.

You tell us not to judge a human being as hopeless, or lost, or evil, or foolish, yet it seems
a hard habit to break…..yet 70 X 7 times a day you forgive, all we need do is to open our minds,
and hearts, to your unfathomable mercy, and love. 
Mercy is a flame that brings all to light, that burns away all dross
that keeps us from our destiny with you. 
How you pursue us O Father, Jesus shows how much you do love us……
you save us from ourselves, from our inner hell, seeking only to
heal and bring us home……making our hearts too long for such a reality, that is shown us
in Jesus Christ, prodding us to seek deeper, our souls thirsty, and restless for your love.—Br.MD

“Where your treasure is there also will your heart be”

People in general, unless they have some sort of personality disorder, give the impression of wanting to be more truly human.  We admire those who display compassion and empathy, especially when it is directed towards us and we enjoy being around them.  We ponder concepts like ‘justice’ and ‘mercy’, though they are not easily achieved.  Injustice and the seeking of revenge appear to be the stronger force, but that is because when acted out it is like the flash of a grease fire.  Powerful and hard to put out but often over quickly.  Then, of course, there is the aftermath to deal with.  It is the aftermath where compassion, mercy and empathy come into play.  In the midst of the fire, both the best and worst can be seen clearly in how people react to an extreme situation.

When young most of us start off with a full chessboard, for life can be looked upon as a game, a war of sorts, where we play with what we got.  When young we pretty much have a full board.  We have all of our pawns, two bishops, two knights, two castles, a queen and a king; each of us being the king.  They say youth is wasted on the young.  I don’t agree with that.  They need all the strength they can muster to make a good go of life.  Life is serious business; we have to deal with what comes at us, as well as what is within us.  How we fight, or relate, to what we experience and meet on the way is very important.  Not everyone survives the younger years.  War, drugs and alcohol, accidents and disease, take many before they live too long.  Some lose all their pawns at an early age.  Others may lose some important pieces very early on but as long as the queen is in place and a few other pieces, life can move forward.  There is always hope.

The battle I believe is not so much with what is ‘outside’. We battle with our past and how it dictates to us how we actually deal with life on a regular basis.  What we call ‘sins’ are often a way of dealing with the stress and pain of our everyday lives.  If we seek to escape pain by avoiding it, it will only increase and our ability to deal with it will lessen.  For we grow and mature by not running away from what pains us, but facing it, taking responsibility and not allowing ourselves to becoming victims, or taking our inner turmoil out on others.  I believe that the world around us, our cultures, both good and bad that is within them, the order and chaos, the love and the hatred and the indifference, are a reflection of our inner lives.  We form the world around us. 

Not everyone experiences life as a battle, a chess game.  It works for me because of my own particular inner constellation.  As I get older my chess pieces are pretty battered up. The ones still left of course, but overall, slowly, as the years pass by, I am finding more peace and contentment…..amid the chaos.  I doubt that I am alone in this.  One of the fruits of sharing is that the commonality of experience is learned……this revelation saves from the curse of ‘terminal uniqueness’.  If you want to meet a boring person or one who drains you of energy, they usually suffer from this affliction. 

I still have a bishop, two knights, though both castles are now gone.  I have half of my pawns and of course the queen.  So I am still pretty strong, though now, not as cocky as when I was young and ‘in control’.  The inner pieces of my fragmented psyche are starting to come together because of the place that I have learned to stand from.  I am not sure where that place is all of the time, but the reality of the ‘Presence” grows, even as I age and my body and even my brain seem to be changing…..not always for the best.  Yet that inner core seems to be growing, even if my body and mind and how I relate to the world around me are changing at an ever rapid rate.  People have faith, if they live long enough, and live out from that center, they have experiences that point to an open-ended relationship with something so vast and loving, that the mind can’t even begin to explain it. It simply grows into an ‘unknowing-knowing’.  There is a reason that when people come back from having an NDE that they can’t find the words to explain their experience.  Skeptic’s can mock all they want, but when they have their experience, many become quiet and more reflective.  I believe that like St. Paul, each of us will have the ‘Damascus experience’ just as he did.  I have had more than one.  Some have their experience early in life, others much later. 

I love God, I trust in God, I hope in God, and each day I fail, but I am buoyed by ‘Grace”, something that will not allow me to sink into the inner chaos that I have the misfortune of being too keenly aware of.  Peter got out of the boat and as long as he looked to the Lord he was ok, it was when he looked at his feet that he sank.  In Him, we live and move and have our being.  I also experience my connection with everyone at ever deeper levels.  That when I pray or breathe, I have all with me, past, present, and future.  I know it sounds crazy, but we really are one in Christ.  I also understand that this grace cannot be boxed in by any group.  I sense the reality of God’s spirit all the time when I met people who are seeking to become more loving, giving and compassionate.  That search is a sure sign of God’s grace……as a Christian I don’t of any other words to use.—Br.MD 


Being conned, what to do?
October 4—“Above all, confidence! When you have an anxiety and you can do nothing about it, just think, ‘He will straighten that out for me’—and go back into the peace within Me.”
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 630-632).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
I received a letter from one of the prisoners that I am corresponding with.  I will call him Jason.  He is 55 years old, and in jail for three different felonies.  Parole violation, possession of narcotics, as well as having a concealed weapon, and he was also under the influence of alcohol.  At this time he is in a program, in jail, trying to help him deal with his two addictions.  He is part of the opioid epidemic and where I live, we are now in an area rife with drug problems. 

I first meet Jason on the afternoon of Fr. Anthony’s funeral.  I was walking out by the front entrance of our retreat house when he drove up and started talking to me.  He told me that he knew Fr. Anthony, and that he helped him out quite a bit.  I took the bait and asked him how.  He said that Fr. Anthony would give him gas money, to be able to get to the pain clinic that he went too.  He told me that he had serious back pain.  So I helped him out with gas money.  After that, he started dropping in unexpected wanting more money for different needs.  I guess I helped him out three times before I begin to see that he was a con artist and simply lying to me.  I have come to the conclusion that he did not know Fr. Anthony, but saw the time of the funeral in the local newspaper. 

So on one occasion he came out and wanted to talk.  I told him that I could no longer help him with any money.  This did not deter him.  He told me that he simply wanted to talk and pray with me.  He also said that the other times he came out.  So went into the room used for that purpose.   He started talking, and after about 15 minutes he stating relating to me how he needed someone to help him with his phone, it was disconnected.  I did not respond, so he talked about something else, then asked if I knew anyone who could help him.  So I responded that I could not help him with the phone and I needed to do some work, and ended the conversation.  So he left.  I guess he came out a couple of more times, just dropping in, saying he wanted to talk and pray….but it was a ploy to try to get money out of me.  So I finally told him not to come back, not to call, that I could not help him anymore.

About three months later I got a letter from him.  He was in prison.  He did not tell me all of the charges, I found the reasons for his arrest, on the internet database for prisoners.  He told me that they were going to send him to a rehab facility.   He wanted my phone number, so he could call me.  So when I sent him my first letter, I let him know that if he wanted to write me, I was fine with that, but I would not send him my phone number. 

He then wanted me to come to his graduation and drive him home when he was released.  Yet he has no home.  So I had to write back and tell him that I could not do that, he needed family and friends to be there for him.  I also told him that he could not stay in our retreat house until he got his addiction problems under control.  I have learned that I can’t let people who are in Jason’s condition into the retreat house, they try to con people out of money, and will steal if they can.  One couple, that I made the mistake of letting them stay here for a few days, caused a lot of chaos, they were stealing everything in sight.  After I called the police, they went to jail for a while because of their stealing from the other guest.  It only happened once, but that is enough. So in his last letter, he started pushing hard to come and stay in our retreat house.  After I told him in three previous letters that that was impossible.  I tried to be gentle in my earlier letters, about how he could not stay here, nor could he depend on me to help him anymore. 

So in my last letter, I was not harsh, but I guess you could say I was hard.  I did not know what else to do, since he was pushing me, trying to manipulate me into allowing him to come and live at our retreat house.  Since he had no car, nor driver’s license, from my past experience with him, he would expect me to drive him everywhere, perhaps even to his meetings.  He will have to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. 

I started the letter off with this statement:
“Jason, it will be to your benefit to not look upon the Monastery as a place to come at this time.  I know you are trying, but again, at this time of your life, the last thing you need is a place that is quiet, without any distractions.  Connect with the AA community, do the program, and stop trying to find people who will take care of you.  Don’t forget, your whole relationship with the Monastery was a place to come out and get money.  I know now, that you probably used the money for drugs etc.  In the past I allowed two people to stay here who had your problems.  I regretted it.  They stole from us and tried to con people out of money.  I had to call the police and both of them went to prison for the thefts.  So, yes, I do not trust you enough to allow you to stay in our retreat house.  I think you need to understand that if you are having trouble finding people to help you, you need to ask yourself…why”
For some reason, I wanted him to understand why I could not let him stay.  When he writes, he does not seem to consider that his lying has any repercussion on his life or relationships.  He seems shocked when I simply will not do what he wants, or give him what he needs. 

I knew from my past experiences with him, and how he responded to my earlier letters, that he would not really take what I wrote seriously.  So I added another paragraph to impart to him how serious I am:
“So please, when you get out, do not come back to the retreat house.  If you do, I will call the police and have you taken off of our property, which is private property. I know this sounds extreme, but like I said, I can only help so many people, so many times, and you are way beyond the limit.  If you wish to simply come out to the grounds to pray, that is ok.  However, if I get any complaints that you are bothering people, I will again, call
the police, and have you removed.  ”.
I really hated writing that, but if I did not, he would still believe that he could simply come out and try to wear me down.  Believe it or not, I am concerned for him, but really can’t do much, but speak the truth as I see it.  Even if he does not take any of it too heart.

I do think in life there are situations that are in reality impossible.  All I can do is to work on having healthy boundaries.   I am still learning how to deal with these situations, and I know I do make mistakes in both directions.  I am not really sure I made the right choice here, but I have found that ‘gut’ is usually on target, more than the heart is.  I do believe that there is hope for him and that my continuing to let him manipulate me, would, in the long run, be more harmful to him.  In the short run I can help someone once or twice, but after that, I simply tell them that we are not an agency.  There are of course a couple of exceptions.  For I do believe that most people have those that they help over a long period of time because they feel that they simply should.  So my gut tells me that as well.  These people do not take advantage, but allow me to help in my own small ways.  That is the difference. 

My heart gets heavy, and at times anxious, over these matters and I try to not allow bitterness to rise up.  Even those who con, and lie, are seeking to get by, but are doing it in a self-destructive way.  They often end up alone, the position Jason is finding himself in.  He has used up his friends, and his family keeps him at a distance.  Yes, it is sad, but I have learned that I can’t change anyone, nor can I live their life for them, nor become their caregiver.  If I tried, I would burn out, become angry and bitter, and end up not being able to help anyone.  One day, I will no longer be guest-master here.  I will simply be a monk in the Monastery with other duties, and be free of this balancing act.—Br.MD