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Showing content with the highest reputation since 08/22/2021 in Blog Entries

  1. 3 points
    In the past year I have ventured out and took a step in the direction of creative writing. Not everyone's cup of tea but oh well, it is uniquely me.
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    Aridity in our walk with God "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. (Hosea 2:14) The soul is made for the ‘Living Water’, that which allows our souls to flourish and grow. Yet the desert is also a reality that dwells within each of us. A place of dryness, thirst, listlessness, and a feeling of not knowing where one is moving towards, for in the desert there are no well-worn roads. It is there that we ‘wait on the Lord’ in faith. Where we seek the ‘Living Waters’ out of love and longing and not just simply to have our prayers heard, or to give us spiritual consolation; we learn that God gives and takes, draws close, and then pulls back…..yet that is an illusion. God is always yes, there is never change, for it is we who change, grow or pull back. In the desert we learn to trust; we also over a period of time learn that the living water is just below the surface nourishing us in all that we need. Our self-love and self-seeking die in the desert and what is left is our longing for the embrace of the living God.--Br.MD Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.| (Psalm 139:12)
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    Praying our Raw Humanity When you come into My presence, pour out your heart before Me: all that you suffer, all that you question, all that you fear, give all to Me. This you do already when you pray the psalms. It was through the psalms that I poured out My own Heart to My Father, and in the prayers of David and the holy ones of Israel, My Father heard My voice and inclined to listen to the prayer of My Heart. A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart--The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (p. 253). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition. ++++++++++ I have been praying the Psalms for 50 years now. They cover every aspect of life. They are not just feel-good prayers, or positive thinking, but deal with the messiness of what it means to be human. Prayers that come from the heart are not ‘nice’ and ‘mild-mannered’, but often express deep concerns in emotional terms. It shows that the author of the Psalms was truly himself and all that implies before the Lord. In the Psalms, there is also praise and joy expressed. Then times of inner darkness are also stated in truly humble terms. Confession of sins, and failures, also openly expressed before the Lord. True prayer comes from a place of childlike trust, even if expressed in terms that are angry or even enraged. For to be truly oneself takes a great deal of trust. There is nothing we can express to God that will offend or surprise since all is known, understood by Infinity mercy-Br.MD
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    I See All Circumstances I do not judge you harshly, any more than the shepherd judges harshly the sheep that, in its stupidity, separated itself from the flock and lost its way. I see all the circumstances that come between Me and your desire to be with Me.I harbour no resentment in My Sacred Heart, nor do I hold a grudge against those who, because of human weakness, or ill health, or fatigue, find it difficult to honour their promise to abide in My presence often and even daily. A Benedictine Monk. In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart --The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (p. 251). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition. ++++++++++ Whenever the subject of judging comes up people are very quick to defend this deeply disturbing sin, and fault, that many have. I place myself in this category. Often it is a vehicle for misplaced anger to be used under the guise of helping others by speaking the truth in anger, or from a stance of self-righteousness. I find it much easier to judge others instead of looking into my own inner struggles and failures. For the just man falls seven times a day, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. (Proverbs 24:16). The problem is when I judge harshly, or in an unloving manner, do I rise from it, or justify myself in piety that keeps me from seeing my own failures that need healing. To be wicked is to make my brothers and sister ‘other’ than me, and in that I place myself above them, looking down upon them. When in fact, I am no better, or even worse, because I have become blind to my own transgressions. I can come up with many excuses for my behaviors, but fail to do that for others who do the same things. I place myself outside of the healing grace of Our Lord when I find myself in this state. It is a call to conversion. If ignored can lead to deep alienation from myself, others, and in the end God. The Lord is gentle towards all because he sees all the circumstances of our lives. He also understands our ‘lack-of-freedom’, and how it is a long process to grow into the freedom of the sons/daughters of God. We grow when we understand how we fail, and at times how actually sinful it really is. Although more often than not it is because of my own weakness and lack of understanding. The more opaque I am to myself, the more I see it in others. I have learned that if I am harsh towards someone, and condemning, I need to look within…..it can be very humbling to do so. I have nothing to fear from the Lord unless it is the fear that one day I could grow into a person who cares naught for God, or others, or in fact, for myself as well. By understanding the Lord’s compassion and mercy towards me, it will slowly over time thaw out my often steely, rocklike heart. It is still ongoing after all of these years. The Lord I patient with me and works through my many walls that seem to erect themselves on their own. So why should I not have mercy and compassion on others? Self-love can be the hardest. To love, as Jesus as wants me to love myself, is a bit different than what is normally thought of what self-love is by the world. Jesus shows us the way. By spending time with the Lord in prayer, my heart is slowly healed over the stretch of my life. So the struggle to love and forgive and to be compassionate, and the failures that go with that, are ways to lead us deeper into trust. Just keep going, develop a holy stubbornness to not allow one’s lack of inner freedom, and tendency to be unloving to stop us, for it is grace that heals. Jesus Christ love for us is what brings us all home…..just trust, take the next step-Br.MD
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    There is neither pure light nor pure darkness that we may wander. The balance between worlds is our buoy. Our ability to hold firm the center is the gauge of our scramble. Should we lose sight and fall we will feel the pull of the waters. But we were destined to breathe and not drown. The light will rise and fall on our island, a daily cleanse and fresh garment for every branch. And we are the Suns of the world, Pushing the petal that spins morning and night on pirouetting mansions. Shadows teeter the wheel fleeing the shape of our sharpening dance.
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    The woman who did not love God (Written September 15, 2015) "I don’t love God" the woman informed me. "All my life I have suffered, been abused, abandoned and now the only love of my life is gone". She started to cry and then looked at me and said “why me?”, then she became so quiet that it worried me. “Why are you here” I responded. “If you are seeking an easy answer I can’t give it to you. Just because I am a monk I don’t have some sort of elevated answer to the awful tragedies that people go through. I have not met anyone who has been spared the vagaries of life; it seems that everything turns on a dime”. I then decided to say something to her, though it was an act of faith to do so. So I said that “in the Christian faith, the term ‘Christ with us”, or that “God tabernacles with us” is a way of seeking to understand this crazy world we live in. Also “Christ died for us”. I asked her if she ever spent much time pondering the life and death of Jesus. She told me that she is not that religious. So I responded: “In the Christian faith, God is not outside somewhere watching us, no, he is within, and when you read about his sufferings and death it can help you understand your own life and sufferings. It is not a fix, this understanding, but it can give a place for you to stand from”. “God suffers with me?” she asked with some awe. “Christ took up your life and death, the life and death of your loved ones, experienced it and brings it into his resurrection”. “I don’t understand” she replied. “I don’t’ either,” I said, “however to ponder upon this mystery has a way of leading to some sort of peace with the way life is. For one thing, I have come to recognize. We comprehend fear, punishment, and betrayal, and being abandoned. What is more difficult to grasp is infinite love as it is shown in Christ Jesus. In seeking to understand this love, your own love of Christ Jesus will deepen, and while your pain will not go away, and even your anger, something else will be there, the seed of grace and the working of the Holy Spirit in your life. I held my breath after saying this, but it seemed to help her in some way. She sat for a minute or two, silent, but this time it was a different sort f silence. She looked up, thanked me, and left.-Br.MD
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    An interesting encounter (Written in September 2014) Working in a retreat house that is in close proximity to a large city has it benefits as well as challenges. People come here for spiritual rest and renewal and from time to time there are those who arrive who are looking for a safe place. For the former group, we are set up to help, for the latter, it can be a little more difficult. Early last week I was on my way to the front office. It was just before 7 AM and I was trying to get something done before Lauds and Mass. When I got to the office entrance I heard the front door open and looked around the corner. A man was coming into the retreat house with a large dog. It looked like it had lab and perhaps a boxer in its bloodline. It was an older dog and the man I knew from his previous stays here. I did not want a large dog in our retreat house and told the man (let's call him Ralph) that he could not bring the dog inside. He became agitated and loudly told me that the dog was dying and needed help. Apart from being perhaps 12 years old and a bit overweight, the dog seemed to be fine. So I repeated my request and he said “OK, OK!”, and walked out. As he was going out the door I asked if I could get the dog some water…..he said no it was fine! I was a little concerned for Ralph, so I went back into the dining area, checked the coffee, and came back to see how he was doing. He was sitting by the front door, the dog lying near him apparently at peace. So I went out and talked with Ralph for a bit. He told me that what happened to him would be in the newspapers, someone tried to kill him and he thought the dog was dying because it was poisoned. He also told me that the police had a tracking device connected to his car and they knew where he was. He seemed out of touch with reality and I became concerned about him. So I got some water for the dog and invited him inside so we could talk. I got him some coffee and we sat near the front door so he could observe his dog. For a while, his speech became more erratic and paranoid. Then he suddenly said, “well maybe the man was not trying to kill me”. It was then that I asked if he had someone I could call to try to get him some assistance. He gave me a number of a man who rented to him and who was also a friend. So I went outside and called him. Luckily his phone was on and I was able to converse with him. He related to me that Ralph’s brother just died and that it brought him into the state he is in now. I then asked him if he was on any psychotropic meds and he told me that he was but had quit taking them since his brother died. The part about the man trying to kill him was not true, but he did have an altercation with a neighbor that he was having issues with that became virulent; so much so that he fled. Though his life was not threatened and he needed to come back home as soon as possible if he could drive himself. I was not sure that he could, he was so distraught. I went back in and asked him why he quit taking his meds. It was then that he started to cry and took my hand in his and brought his forehead down to it. I really did not know how to respond, so I just put my other hand on the top of his head and silently prayed for this poor man in so much distress. After a short while, he sat up and told me about his brother, who was a marine, who had died of cancer and he was having trouble handling it. So I just let him talk for a while. Afterward, I brought up how important it was for him to stay on his meds. I let him know that I was on the verge of calling for help soon after he arrived since he seemed to be psychotic and was worried about his safety. It was only when he told me that maybe his neighbor did not try to kill him that I pulled back from that decision. To my surprise, he listened and told me that yes he needed to stay on them. He did not want to go to a psychiatric hospital again. He told me that he could not drive and would I please call his friend to come and pick him up. By the time his friend came, he seemed better. Since he was off his meds for about six weeks I asked Ralph’s friend to please call his psychiatrist and let him know how long he has been off his meds. The dose may need to be changed to a lesser strength for a while. He said he would. He was a good friend I could tell by the patient and compassionate way he talked to Ralph. So they left and I hope things will be ok for him. Mental illness is such a bane on mankind and I know even with meds the suffering of being cut off from others can be intense. So I hope to see him again here on retreat and being ‘normal’ enough to be able to connect here on a different level with others here. So yes, anyone who works with the public can tell you it can get interesting as well as anxiety-provoking to deal with certain levels of society. I am glad Ralph came here and that is some little way I could help. It is not always so. Sometimes outside authorities have to be called in order to help and protect some of those who come here seeking refuge and help.-Br.MD
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    Forgiveness: Finding freedom of heart There is a saying that is often used about the need for the military. It goes like this; “freedom isn’t free”. This concept can be used for many areas of our lives if we wish to un-clutter both our outer and inner selves. Many people struggle with discipline, I know that I do, yet without it, freedom is not possible. The freedom to do whatever we want at any time is in reality the exact opposite of true freedom. When you look at someone playing the piano at a concert or hear a singer doing an aria at an opera, who lifts up your spirits, it looks easy, and perhaps for them it is, but only after years of disciplined practice and putting up with the everyday rehearsals and going over the singing and playing over and over again. One singer told me that she had to practice many hours every day, if not, her performance would quickly become mediocre. In other words, there is never a time when focus, practice, and restraint are not needed. The same goes for seeking to grow in inner freedom. While grace, or gift, is always operative, still in order to acquire inner freedom a specific focus is needed. Those on a deeply committed spiritual path know this. They know of the struggle, the failures, and the intense discipline needed to continue on their pathway. I find it amazing that people look upon faith journeys as something for the weak. Finding freedom of heart is a long journey that in reality never ends in this life. We can never stop being pilgrims, for time is unrelenting in its progression. To struggle with forgiveness is one such inner journey that takes focus, holy-stubbornness, humility, and the ability to trust no matter how intense the inner turmoil is. To not forgive gives power to the one who needs forgiveness. The inner ‘antagonist’ is given more power the actual person, may not even want. Even if they do enjoy their power and control… to not forgive, is to allow their influence to continue leading the one suffering down the road to inner fragmentation. To forgive, to make it conscious is only the beginning of the journey. Our emotions do not always follow our intention. That is why discipline and gentle perseverance is needed. It can be helpful to also realize that there are people who carry each one of us in their inner world from wounds that we have placed on them. Some of our offenses towards others may have been malicious. If that is so, we need to make amends. Other offenses may be unintended. Understanding that can help us to move towards forgiveness with a ‘little’ less struggle, those who have done grievous things to us. The deeper we understand ourselves and what we are capable of and what we have actually done to others, can be a very big help in letting go of what others have done to us. Love of self, the forgiveness of self, or to put it another way, to accept forgiveness, is the key to being able to unlock the chains that bind us to one another in a dance of pain, destruction, and inner fragmentation.-Br.MD
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    It is difficult to exist If we do not face our fears and develop inner strength, then our weakness will take over; we will respond with implosion or explosion. It becomes part of the ongoing destructive situation. It is difficult to exist, to stand out, and to be self-aware. Within our inner world, the more we are aware of it, can cause anxiety and lead to self-loathing. True humility shines a light on the problem in our lives. Strange to say it seldom scopes out those around us but sends its penetrating ray into the heart of the one seeking to live a more deeply human life. Knowing that we are loved by God, who sees all, can help us to embrace what we find within ourselves and seek inner healing and not take it out on others. True prayer can lead to sanity.-Br.MD
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    Struggling with Inner Barriers A few years ago, my good friend Gail, as she was walking in the woods near where our green cemetery is, found a stone in the form of a heart. It was large covering much of the palm of my hand when held. She wanted me to have it. I have it on my prayer altar in my room. I found it intriguing because it for me, represents my own inner journey to overcome the stoniness of my own heart. I have found that there are barriers that have been set up in my soul that I can’t climb over. So over the years, as these barriers become ever more apparent, so does the inner pain of seeing how imprisoned I still am by inner forces that still have a grip on me. While I do have some insight into this inner dilemma, it is not some sort of key that can unlock this issue. Many people live from their hearts. They experience deep warmth when they pray to God, and it shows in how they relate to others. That is not the case for me. In spite of my desires, there seems to be an inner war within my soul that I have to endure, offer up, and just be patient with. For me, as I age, there is a wound that has slowly healed over the years, yet it still lingers. Sometimes it seems to be a weight that I can feel, at others a ‘sort’ of pain that will sometimes become less when I pray. This lack of ability to love God does not frustrate me anymore as it did when I was young, but I long for the freedom that will one day be mine. Perhaps only at death will God be able to accomplish the final healing for me. I have been waiting for almost 73 years, so what is the few years I have left are not that long of a wait. The Lord during my life has touched me more than once, in such a way that I did actually experience a deep sense of peace and love, and yes warmth, that has kept me on the path. It was a grace, a foretaste, and I have to wait, pray, and just be in the Lord's presence until that state becomes permanent. I believe that each of us is ‘everyman’. By that, I mean that we all have more or less the same spiritual struggles, but experienced in different ways according to the wounds we have experienced when very young. This inner longing for union with God is universal, though it may manifest in ways that work against actually achieving this often unconscious desire. Yet grace is always at work, and in this is my hope. I am not sure what or where I live from anymore, but my trust in God’s love for me is growing, and that is enough for me. Struggle, pain, frustration are part of life, just as much as joy, love, and communion are as well. Though I am getting weary, well having a 73-year-old body can do that I guess. The ’70s are turning out to be very interesting. Never a dull moment. The learning to let go seems to be more and more important for me, what else can I do? I still do not regret getting older, even if everything hurts on some days, and when I kneel down, not sure I will be able to get up. So far so good. Though I do not kneel that much anymore. I am happy, content, even with the above frustrations because my hope is in God’s love for me, not so much my love for God. We are all carried by the Lord, we are children before God’s eyes, after all, even if I can be very immature, grace is at work.-Br.MD
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    The Path of Celibacy and Marriage (We all carry the monk archetype in our souls) What does it mean to be alone before God? The human situation I believe is one of deep aloneness. Perhaps one of the reasons that solitude is avoided is because this self-evident truth has to be faced. Even if one is a strong introvert, solitude may be difficult. For being alone, one can still fill one’s life with projects, many of them good, helpful to others, and life-affirming for the one involved in them. Yet, there always comes a time when we experience our inner-alienation not only from others but from ourselves as well. Being alone, the inner silence can be very loud and frightening. Over time as our experience of solitude deepens, the pleasures we experienced by our activities become bleached of their content and we are left with an inner void. We can find no place to put our heads. This often drives people deeper into seeking the Lord. For in the desert there is more life than many may believe. For others, it can lead to dissipation, which only worsens the condition. Many of our sins, addictions, and relationships come from this experience of our human situation. Where nothing on this earth can fulfill the desires of the human heart. Being ‘alone before God’ demands that we stop running from these inner experiences and let go of fear. In order to do this, takes faith. When we face our inner existential situation in faith, you could say that we slowly learn to get out of the boat as Peter did and walk over the stormy seas. It must be done. The 12 step is a good illustration of this. A conscious choice is needed in order to do this. We do not fall into trust. No matter our makeup, be we highly extroverted, or deeply introverted, our restlessness, and the destructive ways that we seek to self-medicate ourselves, has to be faced. It is our relationship with God that can help us to make this inner journey. We are all inward creatures. Our inner lives are deep and it is from that place that we interpret the world around us. If we do not ‘deal’ with our inner lives, then ‘it’ will deal with us. We are often driven by unconscious forces that can wreak havoc in our lives. We can only embrace our inner aloneness when we learn that we can always choose to open up our hearts to consciously allow God’s gaze to look into our depths. In order to do this, we have to trust in God’s love for us, and swim upstream, which can be exhausting. Most of our battles are with ourselves. Many of our outer altercations flow from our projecting our inner chaos and pain onto the community, or certain individuals, or even whole groups. The very human tendency to stereotype shows us this in the daily news. This kind of altercation is worthless and leads nowhere. This is the place where gossip often finds its beginning. Gossip, detraction, is so common, that the serious nature of this ‘sin’ is often overlooked and not even considered. Yet to gossip drains love from the heart and soul. It also leads others down that same path. As long as gossip is a habit in our lives, it will be very difficult to grow in the love of God and others. In fact, the opposite can happen without one even knowing that one is poisoning one’s soul. In marriage, the wedding vows point to a steep path of inner transformation that is lived out in the sacrificial aspect of being wed, as well as raising children, and dealing with other family members. It is an often painful crucible that has to be traversed before inner peace can be found. This is done through prayer, study, growing in humility, which is the fruit of self-knowledge. I have talked with many couples, and many of them have told me that marriage does not take away from that deep sense of being alone. They have found that living out their faith at its deepest levels is the only way to healing and overcoming the fear of being unaccompanied. As they both mature, they find that their hearts also expand outward to others. Marriages from my experience from listening to the life experiences of men and women who have been married for many years come about when the man and wife have a listening heart for one another and are quick to forgive. Being celibate is not about letting go of relationships with others, but in how we can over time realize that we as celibates can only truly love others by living out our vocation from the heart. The 'One', for us is God, and from that, we learn to experience that ‘One’ in those we see. This will lead to the ability to love many people on a deep level, but not putting them in the place of being our central defining relationship. In a marriage that is appropriate, for it leads to growth in giving, and showing mercy and forgiveness of one’s partner and children that opens up the heart to others. In living in a cloistered environment, this is lived out differently than those who live a more active life in the world. Nevertheless, the goal is the same. When seeking the goal of our vocation, we understand that our primary relationship is with the Infinite. As Christian monks, it is centered on the revelation of the Father through Jesus Christ. Until it becomes Trinitarian. We then consciously enter deeply into the dance of the Trinity. A lived experience, not just a dry theological concept. In the depth of our souls, we are all alone before God, as well as being connected with all. Though that connection for many can only be experienced after growing into the understanding that our aloneness and embracing it and letting go of fear, is the path that we are all called to follow. It is a true death to self. Those who are single, are also called to live out their faith in celibacy. Perhaps this group has a more difficult vocation. Often living without community and support from others. They need our support and prayers. All humans will one day have to experience this death to self. If not during life then at the time of death, or in the process of dying, when they are in the no-man’s land between life and death. We will all experience death alone, yet at the same time being deeply connected to the Infinite. Each human being has the ‘monk archetype’ branded into their souls, for we are all pursued by God. We are made for deep union with the Infinite, and our heart's longing will not be fulfilled until that is learned. When that is grasped through experience, then deep connections are experienced and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human begins. Slowly Christ Jesus becomes the very life of our bodies and souls. The seed dies and new life unfolds…..grace is the gardener poured out on all who seek and those who as well, do not. We will each one day have to respond one way or another. There is no way to get around it. Yet each life is unique, there are no molds for the inner journey that each of us has to make. When that journey is chosen, from the very start we are loving God fully according to our capacity. The capacity grows for eternity. It starts in time but has no ending in our eternal journey into the mystery of the Infinite.Br.MD
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    Photo of Br. Justin OCSO September Retreat House Newsletter
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    A woman on Meth (Written Sept 2017) On Tuesday of this week, one of the brothers mentioned to me that there was a woman out front who seemed to be in distress. He told me that she was sitting in one of the red chairs at the end of the walkway in front of the retreat house. I looked out the front door and saw the woman sitting there, leaning over, and looking dejected. So I walked over to her. As I approached I could see that she seemed to be on a drug of some sort. So I went up and sat down next to her and asked her how she was doing. When she looked up at me I could see that she could be quite attractive when not in the place that she was at now. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying and she seemed to be shaky. I gently asked her what she was on. She seemed to cringe when I asked her. So I quickly added that I was not there to judge her, but to see if she needed help. She told me that she took some Meth three hours earlier. What caused her to “go back to it”, was a breakup with a boyfriend, or someone she thought was her boyfriend. She was living with four other people, who were also on drugs. I asked her if she drove to get here. She answered in the affirmative. Even as I was talking to her, her mood seemed to deteriorate and she became more frantic. As we talked I surmised that she came here for help, medical help, to deal with her addiction. I asked her if she wanted to go somewhere where she would get help to dry out and get sober. She said yes. So I asked her if it was ok to call the police so that they could come out and get her help. She could not drive in the condition and she could not stay in our retreat house because we were having a full house. In any case, I would not be able to do so. In the past addicts end up stealing, so I did not want to put any retreatants through that again. She agreed that calling the police would be to her best interest. I called 911 and they sent out a police officer to talk to her. The police officer asked her to go back to her car and he will meet her there. She was parked in the parking lot near our bakery. So she went off and he drove around. I hope she can get the help she needs. I have learned not to carry others' pain, for it does me no good nor does it do anything for the one being carried. I did feel a burden for her however and continued to pray for her throughout the day. I doubt I will ever forget her. Addictions of any kind are destructive, though it will vary on what the addiction is. Some are very common and do not cause the havoc that the major addictions do….addiction to meth for instance. Any kind of self-medication is a way to escape from the pain from the problems of life. In doing so, we forestall growth and actually cause ourselves more pain. Or that is my own experience. As John of the Cross said (a Paraphrase) a bird held by a thread or a heavy chain is still bound and cannot fly.-Br.MD
  15. 1 point
    To See Things in a Calmer Vein You can pretty much find anything you want on the internet, on YouTube especially, that one can find all kinds of ‘experts’ giving their take on just about any subject. With Covid it is no different. Way too much information, it is becoming a true tower of Babel. A good catchword today is ‘confirmation Bias’, something that I know I do suffer from. I got the vaccine because I thought it will protect me, but most importantly others as well. Being part of a community the last thing I would want to do is to infect anyone else. So if those who say that taking the vaccine will eventually kill me, well I still did my best. All any of us can do is to look into our hearts, get information, and go with it. Growing up in Panama, you get used to having ‘shots’ to protect you from Yellow Fever, Malaria, and Typhoid fever, and Lord knows what else. Then there is the Polio Vaccine that I can remember getting when it first came out, I was in the first grade. They are all helpful. With Covid, there is a lot of controversies. I have friends who will not get the vaccine. They are not belligerent, when they go out they wear masks and believe that the pandemic is real and dangerous. I respect them, even if I do not agree. They are thoughtful and caring people. There are others who take a different approach, and I really do not know what to make of them. Some of us are wrong in what we are doing. It could be me, or my friends who refuse the vaccine. It is best not to argue, and perhaps not even discuss the subject. For today there are so many touchy subjects that really should be avoided since a calm dialog can often be difficult, if not impossible. I have a doctor friend in New Orleans. He told me that the hospitals are full of Covid patients, most of them unvaccinated and it is frustrating for those who take care of them. Many of them die, and it is not a pleasant way to leave this world. It saddens me that there is so much suffering at this time, and we need to draw together, not fight. The loss of human life is tragic, since each death affects many people who love them. I feel that Covid is closing in. The community has lost a few friends. Two Doctors among them, who were very close to many of the monks in the community. Good, caring doctors. Yes it was Covid. We are hearing of our friends who are losing relatives to covid. Again most of them were unvaccinated. There are of course breakthrough cases where death happens. Yes, being vaccinated is not absolute when it comes to Covid. If it were to get into our community, with a high portion of elderly, me being one of them, I have no doubt our numbers could lessen even with the vaccines, but I still feel that we have more protection with the vaccine, and if we get sick our chances of survival are higher. Some people can’t get vaccinated. Caregivers of elderly family members fear getting vaccinated because they are fearful that if they get sick, who will take care of their elderly loved ones? A very painful, fearful position to be in. I have no idea what I am saying. However, knowing that people chose one road or another, often after deep thought, does help me to see things in a calmer vein. Knowing that saves me a lot of aggravation. Really, do we need more of that, aggravation? It is becoming a national pastime. It is the caregivers that I worry about, the burden they are carrying in those areas where the pandemic surge is high must be overwhelming. They need our prayers and support. No one of us knows where this is going, so deepen your spiritual life, and get the strength to get through this in a loving compassionate manner. We are all suffering, let’s not add to the load. I am working on that, not always successful, be still working on it.-Br.MD
  16. 1 point
    Eye to Eye with a Spider (Remember some other critters ) I was on duty in our Infirmary from the 3:30-7:00 AM shift. It has its busy moments but there are stretches where I can sit down and do some reading. It was about 6 AM when I got my book and started to read. I was going along happily when suddenly I saw in front of my right eye a small, round, blurry ‘something’ slowly moving down. I have never had this happen before, and so I just watched to see what would happen. The object was turning slowly in circles, and then suddenly stopped! It kind of froze I believe. As I moved back a few inches I could see that it was a very tiny spider. I believe that when it turned around it saw my eye, which is about five times bigger than it was, and froze in a futile attempt not to be seen. I would think it would have found it terrifying. No need to worry little spider, I don’t eat insects, at least not on purpose. So I reached up and found the web string and carried the little guy over to a safe corner, hoping it would find a nice place to hunt. I don’t mind ‘critters’ in the house, since every building has it own ecosystem and these spiders keep other little ‘thingies’ under control. The only exception are Palmetto bugs…….they be dead if I see one. Though I do make an apology as I annihilated them, thinking, they really should stay outside! When I was a novice, way back in the early ’70s, we got some rolls of plastic to place on the ground to keep the weeds from growing. As we were unrolling the plastic, we found some worms living in the plastic and there were some holes as if they were eating it. So I got the three of them and put them in a big bottle with some plastic and they lived that way for quite a long time. I could not understand how they could do that. I made the mistake of putting in some water for them, but it seemed that they did not get along with water and it killed them. I did not feel too good about that. Who knows how long they would have lived. My pet snails are doing well. They keep the plant jars clean, and their droppings are really good for the plants. Once in a while, I will put in some lettuce, or perhaps a dead leaf. After a few days, they eat it up. Snails are very graceful and beautiful to watch when they move from stem to stem. One day I may get one of the many scorpions that live out here. They are not dangerous for I have been stung by them a few times, not even a wasp sting. I will just be careful if I do get one or a dozen that they do not get out. Not sure some of the brothers would appreciate that. I did have a baby snapping turtle for a few months, again in the early '70s. It started growing very fast. Whenever I entered my room it would try to climb out of the bowl and get to me. I thought it was affection, then realized it was trying to get to me to ‘eat’ me. So I thought it might be good to take it down to our lake and let it go. Br. Tom, of fond memory, had a fit when he found out. “They can get up to 50 lbs.! We don’t need anymore in the lake. So I told him to go and get it, it should not be too hard to find…….his response was not very nice. Later we laughed about it. When I get very old, if I live that long, I will find out soon enough, if I do, I will perhaps relive my childhood and begin to have a zoo of sorts in my room. Snakes, and turtles, and spiders O my!—Br.MD
  17. 1 point
    Remembrance of the dead (and other things…of course) There are many things about the Catholic faith that trouble many Protestants. We have devotion to the saints, and especially towards the Blessed Mother. We ask them to accompany us in our lives to pray for us and with us to bring us into deeper union with the Holy Trinity, with Christ Jesus. We understand that there is only one ‘Body-Of-Christ’ and in that Body, includes all who have died in the love of God. For Catholics this is obvious, for those other Christians it can seem bizarre, pagan, something to be avoided at all cost. While many non-Catholics understand the Catholic’s church understanding of our relationship with those who have died, there are many more that do not, cannot and for some, simply will not. I think that is OK. I think I have hit my head against a brick wall enough in my life. When you hit your head against a brick wall, the only thing that changes is the injured, bloody, skinned forehead but the wall is the same once the blood is washed off. Once a month our community has a day on which we remember and pray for those who have gone before us. Not just for members of our community, but for all who have died. Many believe that after death, we are in union with God. Well, I guess you can say we are always in union with God, for in Him we live and move and have our being. Yet there may be no personal relationship on any one person’s part. Or a relationship that is held back by life’s pounding and when we sin in response to the harshness of life, we wound our souls further. The ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ is part of the healing process. It is a time either in this life or in the next where the soul becomes passive in the sense that God is allowed to continue his redemptive will for the soul. Which is to heal all that keeps this union with God at bay, for there comes a time when the soul must be cleansed by the Fire of the Holy Spirit, where all that is dross is burned away in the passionate love that is manifested in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is pure grace. So today we join our prayers with our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and pray for all who have gone before us. I have met many non-Catholics from all denominations who also pray for those who have passed on. Many have come to this on their own, for it makes sense to them. So we pray together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Some non-Catholics believe that if you are Catholic, well, there will be a surprise after death…..we will all go to hell. They get insulted if you call them a brother or sister in Christ, yet as far as I am concerned, they are my brothers and sisters in the Lord, no matter what they think. To be fair, we do have some Catholics who think this about all non-Catholics that they are going to be the ones to be surprised. Yes, they go to hell. It can be really silly…..perhaps we are more childish than childlike. It is amazing how strong beliefs can make us really ‘stoopid’. By that I mean we force our minds to smother and become hateful, mean, cruel, and even sadistic in the name of religion. Jesus did smile and laugh, he also wept. I wonder what he is doing with all the silly nonsense that goes on between, different Christians. Of course, politics makes us just as ‘stoopid’ I believe. Hmmm lets me see, sports may do that at times. How else would middle-aged overweight men paint their bodies with war paint and dance half-naked in front of millions of people on TV….though this kind of ‘stoopid’ is really benign as long as they don’t try to kill people on the opposing team's side. This does happen in other parts of the world. Yeah, we really need to pray for one another….I am the one first in line for that need of prayer. I can go crazy over a little league game, though I doubt I will ever put war paint over my body and dance in front of millions of people. That would scare the little ones for sure.-Br.MD
  18. 1 point
    The agitated retreatant who was ready to ‘SNAP! (Written August 2015) It was about a year and a half ago that a woman about my age wanted to talk with me. One important lesson I have learned when dealing with the public is that while there is a solidarity that links us, there are also unique depths that only God sees. She seemed calm when she came in and sat down. That is until she started to speak to me, and then it was non-stop for about 30 minutes. She went from one point to another in rapid succession, with no central subject matter. So I listened and tried to gather some of the threads that she was speaking about. As she talked I got the impression that she was suffering from overload. She talked about being sick of listening to the speakers giving the retreat, sick of books, of tapes, just tired, tired, tired. She was moving in every which direction in her chair but the longer I listened, the calmer she became. Until finally she just ceased talking and looked at me in anticipation. Not sure what she wanted, but I only said one thing. “You know you don’t have to go to the talks”. She seemed surprised at that. So I continued: “You don’t have to read so many books, nor listen to tapes, etc. Just settle down while you are here, sit, walk, or do nothing at all, let things settle”. She smiled at me, thanked me, and left. She came back two days later on a Friday morning; she had been a retreatant here for five days. She seemed calmer and thanked me for giving her permission to not attend the retreats but to just relax and pray without any other outside interference. I understood her agitation. When I get overloaded I tend to ‘mind-race’, jumping here and there when I speak, while thinking I am easy to follow. Many people, I am one of them, have outgoing personalities, but in fact need large amounts of time to recharge. This beautiful soul was one of those people. When people can’t recharge, be by themselves, and just think, or walk, or write or pray; if they can’t find time, then they will stretch like a rubber band and one day, ‘SNAP!!!’ Each personality is unique, yet also the same in many ways. Knowing one's limitations is helpful. To know one's need to attend to the inner life is most important, and if one has faith, developing insight and understanding of one's faith and tradition is even more essential. We live in a culture that seems to want us to run around all day, then at night watch lots of TV, or got out and build up more stress in forms of entertainment that can be mind-numbing Entertainment is good, but as a way of life, it is not helpful and only adds to one's problems. We all need to take root, settle down from time to time and allow the Spirit to speak to us in very faint whispers. If not, well we can get caught up in a lifestyle that really takes us nowhere, ages us faster than we need to and plays havoc on aspects of our lives that are really much more important.-Br.MD