The following is my Christmas letter that I would like to share with you. I hope it gives you a little glimpse into my very small world. A world that seems to shrink with the passing of each day. Then on the other hand, life has opened new vistas as well. Some seem attractive, while others offer nothing but the challenge of uncertainty. To embrace the journey of faith as a journey into darkness is not always appealing. It is so much easier to journey with a certain sense of security. The security that dark faith offers is not what my ego wants. Joe wants the security of certainty. That is not what the spiritual journey is about, so I have to continue, darn it, to learn acceptance on an ever deepening level. Thank God, I do not have to like any part of this process. I find as I keep fighting it with some degree of honesty, things seem to work out for the best. I seem to get what I need, definitely NOT what I want. As I look back, it appears to me that My God does not want me to be too comfortable. Some day we will have a chat about that. I just pray that that chat will take place in the distant future.
Dear friends,I, again, take this opportunity to extend my sincerest good wishes for this Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, Season. May this time be Kairos time for you and your loved ones. May each moment be filled with every grace and blessing necessary for you to come to an ever deeper appreciation of the reality that you are, the beloved of your gracious God. At this eventide of my life, I have finally come to this realization, namely, there is no greater gift you can bestow on yourself other than you are, beloved. Being the beloved means one is loved without condition, restriction or reservation. This gift of being the beloved, cannot be earned, deserved or qualified for. It is, like all the essentials of life, a pure gift. Acceptance of the gift is another thing. There is a lot of real hard work to be done in order to distance ourselves from that old mind set, that somehow we have to be worthy of the gift of grace. It has been so ingrained in us that when we hear Our Pope reiterate this fact he is, somehow, a little off. This is too good to be true, right? We have such a long way to go to be converted to the real good news of the Gospel. The Good news of the Gospel always has had its opponents. So it is today.
I get really sad when I see/read those published accounts of the conscious effort on the part of some to speak out against this great prophet of our age, Pope Francis. Then in reality, if he was opposed then he would not be an authentic profit. I hope, and pray you will become familiar with "The Good News of The Gospel." You can Google it, as I have. Use it, as I do have to, in moments of challenge, and discouragement. We all have, and do fall short of the ideal. We all sin and are sinners. In the admission of that fact we join real good company, Pope Francis. At the very beginning he was asked the question "Who are you?" and he answered "A sinner." All us sinners have a Supreme Shepherd who embodies Our Eternal Good Shepherd. This new vision of the Church being a "poor church for the poor" changes everything. I just love the following quote: "I prefer a church that is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security." He wants the church to be like a hospital after a battle. I think we all can relate to that. He also sees The Eucharist as NOT being an award for being good. Eucharist is for us who are weak and wounded and in need of The Medicine Of Mercy incarnated in Jesus, Who became The Christ of God. That happened as the result of His crucifixion. Where He has gone, there we are, or supposed to be, right behind without footsteps in His sandal prints.
As you can see I seem to be revitalizes by this great gift of The Holy Spirit. This then is the second time I have seen the result of This Mysterious Guiding Power we have. The first was the election of, soon to be Saint, John XXX 23Rd. He really crossed up the power brokers who wanted just a "care-taker" Pope. Yep!! He took real good care of the people (who are the church) to the chagrin of the those who thought they could program the Holy Spirit. One of my fondest memories of "The God Of Surprises." I have other encounters with that Same God and the resulting surprises I am being reconciled with. Reconciliation is a process, and I do not have to like it. All I can hope for, and so pray for is acceptance.
I had a great 50th Anniversary trip. Drove over 10,000 miles, and walked or hiked another 300-400 miles. God caught in those fires in Montana, and neighboring states. There was a wonder-full, awe-full storm on the Oregon-Washington coast. Pinetop, Durango, Aspen, Vail, The Breck, (Breckenridge), Estes Park, Cody, Casper, West Yellowstone, Whitefish, Bellingham, Vancouver City and Island, Washington State, Northern California coast, Cambria, the grand metropolis of Barstow, and home. Before I left, the book "Soul Searching" was accepted and published by Tau Publishing. All proceeds will go to scholarships for kids who do the most with the least. Also those who work to prevent bullying will be recognized. The orphanage in Haiti has also been included . It is available on Amazon for those outside the valley. I still am on Facebook and have found it as a great way to follow up with those who wish to and with whom I journey with. While I am typing this, 3 messages came through that need a response. I still write the blog, "Ashling on Earth." I was shocked to see it is listed among "the best blogs written by a priest in The U.S.A. The .com, web page has photos from my trips Theses photos appear also in the book. The blog has almost 53,000 hits, and the web about 3500 in 6 months. When I returned and called the office for the mass schedule I was told there was another priest appointed so I was not needed. So there has been that surprise to deal with. Thank God Fr. Bob continued to welcome me at St. Ben's and St. John Bosco school. Fr. John at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel has been great. I really enjoy the school masses. The choir is wonder-full. I still am privileged to be a companion with many on their life's journey.
I am sincerely so very, grateful to all those of you who have remained faithful over these many years, and those who have begun a connection. It is great to know one is not forgotten. So often it is "out of sight, out of mind."
You will have a remembrance in the Masses on the 24th & 25th. The two Christmas Eve masses are children masses. The 4 pm at O.L.M.C. in Tempe, and the 6 at St. Ben's. I also have noon mass at St. Margaret's in Tempe. I just found out that I will have the team mass for Kansas State on the 24th.
I honestly do not know when this will reach you. My life is at times discombobulated, to say the least. I still manage to hike/walk 4-6 hours a week, so I can keep the old body in somewhat healthy shape. The mind, well that is another story. Maybe some week's blog?
In closing, I hope and pray that you will always look inside to slowly discover that uniqueness which is the source peace, joy, and love. Rest in that uniqueness and you will find that you rest in the Presence of a love that is both your origin and destiny. I parrot the request of our Pope, please pray for me. May The Good & Gracious God bless you.