Monday, April 13, 2015


We are in Easter Time, Paschal Time, and will be for some time to come. We are being immersed ever deeper into The Mystery of the wonder-full, awe-full events that took place 2,000 years ago. As we are drawn into the mystery of the Gospel narratives, we are led to the following understanding. The events we read about, though occurring many years ago, are be lived out by you and I, today. As it was with the historical Jesus, Who became The Risen Christ, so, it is with us who bear the name Christian. To help us with this mystery, we must grasp, understand the following; in the spiritual life there is no time, there is no space. God, in spite of our greatest efforts, cannot be controlled, defined, or confined, to anything we may feel, think or say. We can and do, pay lip service to the fact that, "God's ways are not our ways , and His thoughts are not our thoughts." Let's be very honest here, when it comes down to the real nitty, gritty, we want it our way. How often is God told to hit the road in time of pain-full struggle? When things do not happen the way we expect them to happen, there is a serious, volcanic spiritual eruption. A lot of people in our lives are affected, not for the good, when we do not get our way and our expectations are not met. I have to keep before me, it is right in front of me as I do the dishes, "Expectations are planned resentments." I am not always happy to be reminded of that reality. Even though I repeat it again, and again, I still am blindsided. Joe then, is not a very happy camper. The only thing that I can say is, I am now more ready to laugh at myself than I have ever been. I love the following; "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." I have kept God in great humor over these many years. The Gospel narratives reveal to us how "anxious, shocked, distressed and distraught” the followers of Jesus were, on that first Easter morning. On Friday, their world, as they understood it, had been turned upside down. He, Whom they had followed, and had great expectations of, was not only dead, but His body was not in the tomb. Then, they are told He has risen from the dead, and has even appeared to some the people they knew. What was this all about? It is too much to grasp, to understand. They are afraid confused, bothered, and bewildered. They seem to be, "sheep without a shepherd." With the death of Jesus, who is there now to feed, nourish, guide, and direct them? They are now faced with the feelings of being lost and so alone. As it was with those early followers of Jesus, so it with us today, when we are forced, by life, to encounter death, loss. When they are at their lowest, The Risen Christ appears. Even though He is risen, He has His wounds to show them. The Risen one carries the wounds of His crucifixion. We must always keep that reality ever before us. The Risen one is also, The Wounded one. So, too with each one of us. When we are wounded, not if we are wounded, and in time experience healing and new life, (our personal death, and resurrection) we must always remember the soul in NEVER cured, it is cared for. When we stop doing the caring, then we will revert back into the experience of the crucifixion. We can compound our mistake, by looking for some poor scapegoat to blame. When we get into the 'blaming game" we are on a slippery slope leading to even more serious pain and sorrow. Now we are going to alienate others, when it is the strength of others, the community, we need. We as human beings will belong to the community of "wounded-wounders”, or belong to the community of wounded-healers." That is a prerequisite for belonging to a Christian community, which is a community of wounded-healers. We are following in the footsteps of our Wounded Good Shepherd. As we immerse ourselves in the Gospel accounts of that First Day of a new creation, what a shepherd He shows Himself to be. He is out and about offering reassurance to those who were disturbed, disillusioned and disheartened. He was seeking out and searching out those who seemed to be the most lost. We have the example of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He was seeking out Mary in The Garden. Then there was Thomas. He was the disbelieving, unbelieving one, not the doubting one. I believe that in calling him, "doubting Thomas" we give doubting a bad name. Thomas was in real bad shape. He was not with the community. He chose to grieve alone, in private he was doing his grieving. How destructive that was and as it was so it is for us today. Even though we want to grieve alone, it is destructive. Look how unfeeling he had become. Look what he wanted to do to Jesus? Read again what he demanded happen in order for him to believe in the Risen Christ. Was that the request of a compassionate follower or who was in the throes of grieving a loss? With the help of Megan McKenna we will delve deeper in the suffering Thomas, and his presence within you and I today.


Friday, April 3, 2015

The Paschal Mystery....

There are books that you read. Then there are books that you read and read and read seemingly always for the first time..For me, such a book is “The Holy Longing" by Fr. Roland Rolheiser. I find myself going back to reread that which I have previously read. The result is, I always begin to question my memory. In the rereading there will always be some word, or phrase that will pop up and strike me right between the eyes. I have to ask the question, "where have you come from and where were you hiding the last time I was here?” Of course I get no answers, I just continue to talk and question myself. The following is an example of that which always carries new insights, leading to a new way of experiencing and celebrating life. I can honestly say it has lead to a new and deeper connection with the Eucharistic Celebration. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated from a completely different place with the following understanding ..."The Paschal Mystery... is a process of transformation within which we are given new life and a new spirit. It begins with suffering and death, moves on to the reception of new life, spends some time grieving the old and adjusting to the new, and finally, only after the old life has been truly let go of, is a new spirit given for the life we are already living...We can see that there are five clear, distinct moments within the paschal cycle...Each of these is part of a single process, an organic one, and each needs to be understood in relationship to the others to make sense of the Paschal Mystery. Each part is one process of transformation of dying and letting go so as to receive new life and new spirit." (To save space I am combining two diagrams in to one.) 1. Good Friday - "the loss of life--real death" For us ,today, this means we are required to, "name your deaths."  2. Easter Sunday..."the reception of new life ."  For us today we are required to, "claim your births." 3. The Forty Days. "A time of readjusting to the new and for grieving the old." We are required to "Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality."  4.Ascension..." Letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling. "We are  NOT to cling to the old, let it ascend and give you it's blessing" (All this results in...)  5. Pentecost... "the reception of a new spirit for the new life that one is already living." Our part..."Accept the spirit of the new life that you are in fact living." ( He then goes on to add.)  "This cycle is not something that we must undergo just once, at the moment of our deaths, when we lose our earthly lives as we know them." (Oh how I wish that were true. Sadly no. He goes on to remind us. "It is rather something we must undergo DAILY, in every aspect of our lives." Christ spoke of many deaths, of daily deaths, and of many risings and various pentecosts. The Paschal Mystery is the secret to life. Ultimately our happiness depends upon properly undergoing it. Now here is some more food for transformative reflection: ..."regarding two kinds of death. There is terminal death, and there is paschal death. Terminal death is a death that ends life and ends possibilities. Paschal death, like terminal death, is real. However, paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life. The image of the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying so as to produce new life is an image of paschal death." Ever since I first read that book, it has made it somewhat easier to journey with individuals and families that have encountered loss. Loss comes to each and every human being in many and varied ways. Each loss is unique. Unique to the person, the family, community, nation and the family of nations. We are all affected by each loss, to a greater and lesser degree. We have a common bond as we all participate in the human race. As we go so does the future of our world. We may use every excuse and rational, but there is no denying that truth. If we all lived our lives out of that truth what a different world we would have. The seed has been sown, in the darkness of the tomb. Because new life burst forth from the womb of the tomb, (The Risen Christ), so we now await a new heaven and a new earth that is slowly and inexorable appearing. It cannot be stopped. There is no power greater than God's power. If there was then that power would be God. What we do is install the so called "powerful one" as god. We may go so far as to worship that it's altar. That altar is constructed by the forces of power, property, and prestige. How easily we get seduced into worshipping at that altar and seldom, if ever, at the altar of The Living & True GOD. When these gods of illusion disappear, as they surely will, all is not lost. This loss is in reality a death, a paschal death, though we do not yet know that. God does not depend on our knowledge. The loss of power, any power is a death. The loss of property and prestige is also a death, that must be grieved for. In healthy grieving, we will be lead to the understanding of The Paschal Mystery hidden deep within all that has happened, and is happening. (Our God is smooth.) This so called we are experiencing is Not an ending, this is a beginning. Do we believe it? A question we have to answer again, and again, until our terminal death. To sum up ,when I am challenged to enter into despair and begin to see life through the lenses of terminal death, let the above diagram challenge my "stinking thinking." Let me have the honesty to admit that when I choose to dwell the place of despair and negativity I am choosing to live life grounded in a lie. I am not living out the truth and the freedom of the Paschal Mystery. That is our decision not anyone else's. A decision we make, consciously or subconsciously each and every moment we are given to live. Therein lies the difference between living and existing.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Job must have been having a real bad day when he said the following,
Is not man’s life on earth drudgery?
Are not his days those of a hireling?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
A hireling who waits for his wages.

“So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed….I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter that the weaver’s shuttle; they come to and end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” Job 7: 1-4, 6-7.

In expressing his frustration with his life, we are provided with a great opportunity to reflect on the frustrations of our daily living. We, however, have something that Job  DID NOT have, that is the insights that are ours because of the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord, and Savior, Jesus The Christ. Because of the gift of faith in our Baptism, we are gifted with a different set of lenses. We are, by grace, able to go beyond the seemingly hopelessness of any given moment in life to that which lies beyond. The spiritual life is ever and always seeing with “the x-ray eye of faith.” Because of this great gift we are able, if however, we so choose, we are empowered to the see beyond the seen, the unseen. In this Great Unseen, lies the great hope we are all so desperately needing.

We, however, must make a choice. We must get into action so that God can join us in that reality, and become the source of power in our powerlessness. There is a great temptation when we are immersed in the sufferings of life to get into the attitude of, “poor me.” We take up our position on the “pity pot” of toxic shame. It takes real grace, real effort to arise from being mired in shame, to the live life and live it to the fullest. As you know, toxic shame takes away your five rights. These rights are essential for a happy, joy-full, empowering life. When we have been shamed, we lose first of all, the right to love. We lose the right to be the beloved. Being the beloved is ours because of our God’s love for us, not our love for God. It is the one gift we have to claim again, and again, in each and every moment we are given to live. If we do not have the lens of being the beloved, we will of necessity end up just like Job. That is the choice you and I get to make. This choice is NOT made once a day, a week, or a lifetime. No, this choice is made, following the advice of Henri Nouwen, every moment of every day. This is in direct opposition of what another has shockingly written when he writes: “We abort our souls a THOUSAND times a day.” We shudder when we are faced with that reality, yet it is the unfortunate truth. A truth we must have, if we are to have a healthy spirit life. There is nothing more essential claiming you are the beloved. You do NOT, and cannot earn this blessing. We cannot do anything to deserve this priceless gift. It is a great blow to our egos when we accept the fact that we cannot qualify for this inestimable gift. It is free. It is grace.

The other gift we have to claim, because it has been taken away from us, is our right to belong. When we are on the “pity pot”, in toxic shame, we isolate. We cut ourselves off. It takes real effort to claim we all belong to an imperfect human family. The fact we are human, is a fact we grow in acceptance with, and in time, become reconciled with. This is a long, long process. This requires a source of unconditional, unlimited, and unrestricted love. Without this source we cannot, by ourselves, live the life of the beloved. We are social animals. We are, of our essential nature orientated to social living. The Creator Father, lives The Son, and Holy Spirit within the community, we name The Holy Trinity. The original Holy Family. God does live in community so are we are called to community, social living as well. In Them, we live and move and have our being. As it was, so it is, and ever shall be.

The next right that must be reclaimed is your right to worthwhileness. I love that commercial that says, “It is expensive, but I am worth it.” When we are shamed we seldom, if ever, place ourselves as the priority when it come to healthy love and healthy living. Boy, I wish I had a penny, yes just a penny, for all the times I have had to remind those I have journeyed with of the Commandment that the rabbi Jesus taught His followers: “You shall love your neighbor, as yourself.” So very few, when they approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation, examine themselves on that basic commandment. The present Bishop from Green Bay has said that “a healthy love of God, and a healthy love of another, BEGINS with a healthy love of self.” We will never be healthy spiritually until we live our lives in the reality of a love that is “patient and kind.” A love that takes no offense, and is not resent-full.” That is the lens through which our Gracious Prodigal God sees us. Any distortion, and there has been so much distortion that vision must of necessity be fought. There are consequences to fighting this distortion. Look at how much flak Pope Francis is taking from some “good” people within the church. We must always remember that it was “the good people” of Jesus’ time that conspired to kill Him. History has a way of repeating itself. In so far as, we are seeing ourselves through the lens of God’s love will we live lives free of toxic shame. We will be able to live in the reality of being, perfectly imperfect, human beings. We will spend our whole lives wrestling with that reality. We do, however, have The Sacrament of Reconciliation to strengthen us for the struggle. A Sacrament that is so misused, because it is so misunderstood. It is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, not, obliteration. To make the spiritual journey even more challenging, reconciliation is a process that takes place under grace. My mother taught me a long time ago, “the mills of God grind very slow, but they grind ever true.” That slow working of God’s grace does not, and never has sat well with this Irishman. When we claim our God given worthwhileness we will live out our daily lives as survivors, and not as victims. We, then, remove all those who do not respect, and reverence us. We are to set boundaries with those who would use and abuse us. That is why; we have been endowed by our Creator God, with the gift of anger, so that our boundaries will be defended, from the constant attack from those who have no boundaries. This is the battle that must be fought on a regular basis. As long as we live within the bonds of family life healthy boundaries will ALWAYS be tested.

The last right to be claimed is the right to have fun. “St.Irenaeus,” The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” There must be some place where the joy of living must be experienced. The Pope has come out against “sour pusses.” Followers of The Good News must let all know that we have a God with a sense of humor, a living God that is reflected in the joy of fun we are having. We are not called to live the life of Job; we are called, chosen to be sacraments of the risen life. A life that comes to us, through slow transformation of our pain.               

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Christmas Letter

Dear Friends,


            With this letter comes my most heartfelt greetings for a Season filled with mystery, awe, and wonder. As we are drawn, again, into a newer and deeper understanding of The Mystery of The incarnation may Its reality lead you into a deeper reverence for the mystery of who you are, who you have been called to be, and Who IS doing this calling. This call is announced to us through the sacrament, that is, everyday living. That is why I hope and pray this greeting finds you celebrating life in the place you are at, in what you are doing, and most of all in the mystery of your becoming. In this way of living, The Mystery of The Incarnation is ever new. In the newness of your living, God becomes ever new. So through the words, work, and wonder of your life may the gifts of peace, joy and love come to a world that is aching for those gifts. These gifts can and do become real through the reality of our Incarnational living.

           This is the reason why we are in the midst of a season that is filled with a sense of preparation and expectation. We are making ready of gifts and blessings, which in reality are symbols of The Gift coming to us in each and every sacramental moment we are given to celebrate. Some gifts are recognized right away. For other gifts, time is required for us to come to and understanding and the acceptance of their hidden giftedness. “By reason of creation, and still more by reason of The Incarnation, there is nothing profane for her/him who knows how to see” (Chardin).  So we are given the Season of Advent to awaken anew our sense of the sacredness of all of creation. The Season of Advent is just a stepping stone to the main event. The main event we are being directed toward is The Feast of The Epiphany. Pope Francis is an epiphany man. He is asking us to leave behind our narrow focus so we can embrace and be embraced by that which is so great it is The Infinite. The message of The Epiphany, is God has come for all people, not those whom we think are the favored few. That is why when we stop at Christmas we never get to the essence of the message. We are so much the poorer, and as a consequence all of creation suffers. Sad to say I did not have that understanding leaving the seminary, or in my early years of ministry. Over the years there has been an evolution. This has come from a deepening of faith, which comes to one through the mystery of suffering. I now believe what St. Augustine said so many years ago, “Faith leads to understanding,” not understanding leads to faith. That journey of faith is like driving along that awe-full Oregon coast line. I love to drive from Brookings to Myers Beach. The views are breathtaking, but not always, some days you have coastal fog. Then you will drive from one fog bank to another, and then to another. In between there can be bright sunshine. As you drive in the sunshine you think you are free of the fog, when almost immediately here comes another fog bank. That sums up the faith journey in a nut shell. There is no certainty, only the uncertainty of the dark night which leads to constant change. The older I get the more I fight change. (One never wins that battle. There is however a slow surrender.) Yet change is now the only certainty. It is only through lots, and lots of grace the eyes the heart, and the door of the soul are opened and an ever new reality is revealed. This revelation takes place over time. I am not and never have been too accepting of this slow process. I am Irish, duh!!!. We are not a patient people. I want everything and I want it yesterday. I have what you may call a microwave mentality. Even the microwave is not fast enough. It bugs me that I have to wait 3-4 minutes for my egg beaters to cook in the morning. I am now more accepting of the word of Metz, “We are born human and spend our whole life discovering what human means.”

                             I was forced to journey deeper into what it means to be powerless. This summer I had five visits to the hospital. Two were to the emergency room. What an experience. One visit was on a Friday night. I now have an even deeper appreciation for all those who work in the medical field, and I mean all. No wonder there are the great promises in Matt 25. I almost lost my voice. It was down to a whisper. The blessing that has come from that is no more long sermons. The voice will not hold up. I had a number of health challenges which kept me grounded until the end of July. For this reason my travels were not as long as usual. I spent all my time in the High Rockies. It was there I began to breathe right again, and my voice returned. Not to where it was, but good enough. I am able to hike in South Mountain again, and am building up my endurance. The long hikes are a thing of the past as well.

                As I look back I am so very, very grateful for your presence in my life. Some of the old friends have passed on leaving an emptiness, but feelings of gratitude bubble up. There are so many that have shown love and acceptance which has enabled me to embrace a God of love, mercy, and acceptance. Continue that wonder-full, awe-full ministry. Always remember wherever you are, there is God, and His Church. So many are no longer coming to church. Then you bring the church to them. You do not preach, but let your actions be your gospel for all to see and read. That great saying “Preach the Gospel where ever you go, and when NECESSARY use words.” Our Pope Francis has spoken volumes not by what he has said , but, by his actions. What a great model The Holy Spirit has blessed us with. He sure has rattled a few cages, and has let the captives go free. Let us never try to re-cage those who have been freed to be who they really are in God's love. My parting gift, paraphrasing Robbie Burns: “Would that God the gift to give you, to yourself as God sees you.”

                                   Blessings then for a continuous discovery of the birthing that is ever and always an essential part of an authentic human life. A life has the divine perfectly hidden within, and at the same time perfectly reveals Him whose divinity dwells in the depths of each and every human being. May The Mystery of The Incarnation vivify your life, so you become more and more the living sacrament of Him Who came to dwell in us through us and among us. Reverence the mystery of who you are. In this way you will have life and have it to the fullest.  

Blessings to and on all,
Grandpa Joe


You will all be remembered at the 9:00am and 11:00am Masses on Christmas Day.  I will have the privilege of celebrating with the community of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Tempe.      

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The... challenge......for lenses.....

Advent 2014, never before, never again, is coming to us, here and now, with an eternal newness. A newness that always challenges us to put on a new set of lenses so we will have the faith and courage to let go of the certainty and the security of the past. For what purpose? So we can free ourselves to be lost in The Mystery that is "ever ancient and ever new." A mystery we are celebrating, anew, this Advent season, but the question has to be asked are we ready for the newness? There is an eternal newness to our living God. As we participate in this newness there must be a newness that is revealed in us and through us, for others. What we are given is never for ourselves. (St. Paul)This newness is presented in the every ordinary, yet, ever new moment, we are given to live. It is in the living of each moment that the living God, of Jesus the Christ comes to us and through us to all of creation. This is The Great Advent which is forever happening, in the sacrament of eternal now. The coming, this advent of God which is a moment to moment reality, is the mystery we spend four weeks reflecting on each and every year. The purpose of this reflective time is to a deeper our faith in the newness of our God. Because of the newness of our God there must be a newness within each one of us, since in Him/Her "we live and move and have our being." How exciting, how challenging that reality is??? Are we ready to embrace the challenge, of leaving behind comfort and certainty so as to journey into the great unknown of faith?

“We are driven blindly along a path we have never seen or heard of, unable to venture any other. Divine action never follows the same course; it always traces out new paths. Those whom it leads NEVER know where they are going; they will not find the way through or by their own searching. Divine action for ever opens the way which we are compelled to take." J-P De Caussade. My ego wants no part of this insecurity and uncertainty. My ego wants the security of certainty, and when that certainty disappears, which it will; there is serious fear-filled panic. On the other hand, my spirit wants to fly free into the unknown. To be blown this way and that way by the breath of The Creative Spirit of Love. The Holy Spirit is the creative power of our God, creating and recreating us ever anew. The Creator God is forever molding us and shaping us into the person we are meant to be, not the person we want, or wish to be. The Model we are modeled after is coming to dwell among us. He is coming to be enfleshed within our flesh, which is The Mystery of the Incarnation. Through this mystery we are provided with a living, and so an ever evolving model to follow. We cannot enter a newness of life being modeled after some dead inanimate object. When we make this error we pay a terrible price. Our Eternal, Living God comes to live among us so as to lead us to live lives way beyond anything our imagination could ever imagine. Lives that are only possible through the action of Grace. Grace, we know, is the love of God in action. That action is always within the reality of the here and now. Once we go outside the reality of the here and now God cannot reach us. We are not disposing ourselves for the only encounter that really matters. For that we are responsible, the gift of free will can be such a blessing, but it also can be such a curse. All gifts follow the same pattern.

This Spirit, then, blows where It wills, and in the way of its own choosing. Darn it. This Spirit cannot be programmed to fit our little narrow agenda. This requires of us a constant state of awareness and alertness to the battle that, of necessity, will, and does, ensue. It is happening right now in the depths of who we are. It is a moment to moment struggle which results in the old passes away, to give way to the birthing of the new. This too, in time, will lead to a newness which we must make room for. So, in every life is sown the seeds of death, in every death there is in potency, the reality of new life. This new life will be nourished into the fullness of life through the miracle of grace, not by anything we may say or do. I am beginning to appreciate more and more the words of St. John of The Cross, “We journey to Him we do not know, a path we do not know.” Our journey, in faith, is then a journey into the darkness of insecurity, and uncertainty. A journey that somehow is guided and guarded by a power beyond our understanding and comprehension. A book, I find both challenging, and unsettling, is 'The Sacrament of the Present Moment" by Jean-Pierre De Caussade. Writing about this journey into the darkness of faith he has this to say “Those who find themselves this way are often afraid, like the prophet, to follow it afraid of running into danger when walking through that darkness. Have no fear faithful souls! That is where your path lies, the way along which your God is guiding you. THERE IS NOTHING SAFER OR SURER THAN THE DARK NIGHT OF FAITH. Following in any way when faith is so obscure and darkness obliterates everything and the path can no longer be discerned, for a path cannot be lost which does not exist. But the soul cries out: "Every moment I seem to be falling down a precipice. I know I am surrendering myself to God that I can achieve nothing unless I cease to act on the strength of my own virtue.....I cannot see that it is guiding me in the right direction, but I cannot prevent myself from believing that it is"...The state of pure faith is the state of pure suffering. All is dark, all is pain.... The more pitfalls there are, the more darkness, danger, mortification, dryness, fear, privation, trouble, anguish, despair, persecution, suffering, and desolation there is on our way, the more our faith and trust will be strengthened...We will forget the way and all its twists and turns, we will forget ourselves and totally surrender to the wisdom, the mercy, and the power of our guide.

This Guide is coming to us, disguised as a helpless, vulnerable baby. We are on an endless searching journey. A mysterious journey that will take us beyond that which is seen into the realm of mystery and the unseen. This Advent let us look beyond the familiar so as to get in touch with the great unseen. This unseen is our deepest and most sacred reality. Let us take the familiar characters of the Gospel story, and see where each makes a dwelling place within us. As you place the figures of your crib scene, search your inner space for the place where they are now dwelling. They are patiently waiting, and have been waiting in your depths, so as to be discovered and become living realities. In this way you as individual, couples, families, will have the lived experience of what it means to be, the living continuation of The Mystery of The Incarnation.