Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blessings.....Three Gifts...

Now that I travel on real long trips, I have to do a great deal of reading, and research. I will first come up with the general direction of where I would like to go. Taking into account the information gathered, I will then get down to the specifics of the proposed journey. This year I even bought a book on the great Northwest, and promptly left home,..without it. Oh, these senior moments !!!!!. Then on the other hand am I not blessed to have lived long enough to have what is necessary to get away with that..."another senior moment"! When I was younger and asked for a room key, to replace the one I lost, or left in the room, I got dirty looks. Now, thank
the good Lord, I get knowing smiles, or in some cases sympathetic words. Being a part time senile senior sure makes life, to say the least, exciting and never dull. Sorry, I digress.

When I get to a specific stop, I immediately head for the Visitor's Center. Some centers are wonderful in the way you are treated. There is a great sense of hospitality and welcome. You are given the impression they are excited to see you, and are anxious to help make your stay enjoyable. I find myself looking forward to my stay with an added excitement. That is not true in every case though. Other centers lack that intangible. You come away with the feeling that the particular person, who was there to help you, sees life as a deep burden. To add to their burden, is your presence and questions. Is not that the same feeling one gets, as one seeks information and direction from many church offices.

Those helpful individuals at the Visitor’s Center are more than happy to share their experience of an encounter in a particular place. They will share the last time they saw a wolf, bear, elk, moose, and where the encounter happened. They will share with you their experience of a hike. They have tips on where to go, and what to expect. I always want to know if there are switchbacks. From that encounter I always leave with a greater sense of excitement and confidence. So when I look at hiking this way, I can say, my spiritual journey, is a hike. Just as I have to my reading and research for my intended hike, so must I do for my spiritual journey. I will have to listen to the experiences of those who have made the journey before me, so I will be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. I will read the books written by those who have gone before in which the beauty, and the trials of the trail are described. Reading and research can only do so much, it is only in the lived moment , in the existential moment, does The Mystery of the time, place, and space really reach us. We are so often stopped in our tracts, and are able to join with St.Peter in saying: "How good it is that we are here".

One of my favorite guides for my everyday hike is, Fr Ronald Rolheiser. I have just acquired his book "Against An Infinite Horizon", I see this book as a source of knowledge, leading to a deeper understanding of the hike, I am called to make every day, along the trail shrouded in the mist of mystery. I was delighted to read the following, and I use it to further develop what was introduced last week. Last week, I made a real big mistake. In speaking about mutual blessings I left out the blessings that couples who are in a relationship need to bestow on one another. That was a real big mistake, and I am sorry. I honestly believe that the mutual blessing of those in relationship will bring an ever deepening sense of serenity, peace, joy and love. How can this happen, you may well say?

Here is what Fr. Ronald has to say:"...To bless someone is to speak well of them. But this implies a special form of "speaking well". To bless someone is, through some word, gesture, or ritual, to make that person aware of three things:
(1) the goodness of the original creation where, after making the earth and humans, God said that it was "good, very good";
(2) that God experiences the same delight and pleasure in him or her that God experienced with Jesus at His baptism when he said " This is my beloved child in whom I take delight”, and
(3) that we, who are giving the blessing, recognize that goodness and take delight in that person."

What a gift our God has given to us. We can bless and in that blessing we speak a deeper truth. What is stopping us from filling up in each person’s life, that for which we ache, and search for. To be blessed, to know we are the Beloved. "To be unblessed is to be bleeding in a very deep place" (Fr, Ronald) We can really make a difference in the lives of those whom our God places in our life so we can be to them, His instrument of blessing. What faith our God has in us, mortal humans, in whom is hidden, MYSTERY.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blessed and Blessings....

When there is an ending in your life, there is always a new beginning for you and I. A new set of lenses are now ours because of the of the loss. I have always believed that death leads us to question the authenticity of our own existence. It makes us question that which is of real lasting value. Loss makes us reflect on the value of what cannot be seen, but only felt. Loss and feelings are a tough mix. We do not always allow ourselves the gift of grieving the loss. We never, then come to be blessed by all that we have been blessed with, because of the time spent with that which has now a new, and transformed existence. We are in the need of lenses which enables us, upon reflection, to become more and more aware of all the blessings which are now our because of the life that has now supposedly ended. Life as we now know it has no beginning, and no end.

We have come from the Eternal Life Community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We share that eternal life, and love always and everywhere. We need people in our lives that are constant reminders of who we are as the beloved. The following is from Henri Nowen's book "Life of the Beloved" and I, find it so appropriate at this time.

"Let me first tell you what I mean by the word "blessing" In Latin, to bless is "benedicere". The word 'benediction' that is used in many churches means literally: speaking (dictio) well (bene) or saying good things of someone. That speaks to me. I need to hear good things said of me, and I know how much you have the same need. Nowadays, we often say: "We have to affirm each other". Without affirmation, it is hard to live well. To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer. It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone's talents or
good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light. To give a blessing is to, say "yes" to a person's "Belovedness". And more than that: To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks. There is a lot of mutual admiration in this world, as there is a lot of mutual condemnation. A blessing goes beyond the distinction between admiration and condemnation, between virtues or vices, between good deeds or evil deeds. A blessing touches the original touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness......"

The blessing that we give to each other are expressions of the blessing that rests on us from all of eternity. It is the deepest affirmation of our true self. It is not enough to be chosen. We also need an ongoing blessing that allows to hear in an ever-new way we belong to a loving God who will never leave us alone, but will remind us always that we are guided by love on every step of our lives.....

The movement of God's Spirit is very gentle very soft --- and hidden. I does not seek attention. But that movement is also very persistent, strong and deep. It changes our hearts radically."

When was the last time you reflected on those who have blessed you?

When was the last time you blessed your children?

I can hear some say, "It is not a blessing I want to give that kid", he is that same baby you got up to feed in the middle of the night. Were you not blessed by those moments of mystery, when life’s nourishment flowed from you, to the newest manifestation on the Divine Presence? What has happened in the meantime? No matter what has happened in the family dynamic, that child is still, and will ever be the Beloved of our common Source of Being. It again goes back to the lenses we are looking through.

Have you ever asked for your child's blessing?

I wonder what would that do to the relationship? It would be a moment, of Mystery, being present, and wonder felt. Each person has the God given power to bless . In the Summer time of some laughter, peace, and quiet, why not add to these good feelings. Why not make prayers of shared blessing
an important, no, an essential part of the life you share with those God has chosen to journey with.. You are beloved, they share the same belovedness , why not celebrate, on a regular basis that which you have most in common? Let us celebrate what we have in common, rather that wasting time wishing and wanting for what is not there. God is not present in the wishing and wanting, God is only present in the realty of the, HERE and Now.

As I look back on my life, I am caught up in gratitude for all those people, places, and events, who have been a source of blessing for me. I encourage you to do the same. As you come to accept the blessings received, with that comes the belief, "how blessed I am". Now share that blessedness with those your God places in your life, and the process begins all over again. What great faith and trust our God has in us? Then on the other hand, what are we to expect from The Beloved of that self same God.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Truthful Prophet.....Tribute to Dolly Echeverria

Many years ago we were told in college there was no church like the American church when it came to care, concern, commitment, and support. Sitting in my desk and hearing that, a light came on. That light has, to be honest, dimmed a little from time to time. Those words, said with such conviction has been always a beacon of hope, over these many years. The American church, has been lucky, can we say- blessed, to have people such as Dolly Echeverria..... The Faith Community of St. Andrew the Apostle, has been birthed, nourished, strengthened, and led to a growing maturity, by her tenacity and good-will. We were never warned, in our formation, about women like Dolly. We were on the other hand, warned about women, the opposite of Dolly. Strong women, which are women with strong voices, were not part of our training. Strong women were not a very visible presence with the Catholic Church in Ireland. In our history, we did have strong presences like St Brigit of Kildare. Some go so far as to say, she was a bishop, ordained, of course, by mistake.

In 1963, I was introduced, right away, to the power of an organized woman, with the ability to lead - Margaret King, may she rest in peace, was an executive with a very large company. I was given the responsibility for, what in those days was called, C.C.D.. I cannot remember how she came to volunteer, but I know she stepped forward, and was the parish blessed. Margaret showed how a person was able to take the skills of the workplace and use them for the betterment of the church. Dolly did the same. She demanded, from those who were in leadership roles in the faith community, the same standard of excellence she demanded of herself.

Today I am convinced every priest is in the need of a Dolly in his life, to keep him grounded, and connected. Grounded in his faith, and intimately connected with reality. We, as priests, can become very isolated. We are known then to be a sacristy priest. People such as Dolly blew that out of the water, as far as I was concerned. Whenever she began a sentence with the word “Joe”, I knew I was in for a “realty check”. I was going to get that reality check, whether I liked it or not. To be honest, there were times I received an ear full, of what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. No gossip…. just the facts.

Was I always happy about what Dolly had to say ? Of course not. My big fat Irish ego, did not take too kindly to the truth. You know what they say, “the truth will set you free, but first it will tee you off". When I had some alone time and was given the opportunity to reflect on what was said, I was faced with the question of “why was I angry?”. What was the perceived threat to my control? What was the fear that I had to face ? What was risk involved in, not only thinking about a new way of being, and doing in the church, but actually going ahead and taking the required action.

Someone has written, “There are many qualities that make a great leader. But having strong beliefs, being to able to stick with them through
popular and unpopular times, is the characteristic of a great leader."

Dolly led by example. No one was asked to do anything, that was not backed by her wisdom, and self sacrificing dedication. What is that old saying, "A woman is like a tea bag, you do not know her strength, until she is in hot water”. Dolly you were a strong dose of tea, brewed in the hot desert sun. You gave strength, and nourishment to so many. You were a voice for the voiceless. You were a beacon of strength for the powerless. You were a challenge to those who would use power for self gain. You held ALL leadership responsible to Gospel values - "When shall we see the like again."

There is that Jewish saying, " God cannot be everywhere, so that is why He created mothers". Mothers reveal to us an ever present love. They shepherd us, so we can come to the belief in that the Good Shepherd never leaves any one of His flock untended. A mother's love , commitment, and unswerving loyalty, makes it possible for us to believe in the unconditioned, unlimited, and unrestricted love of a God we cannot feel, hear, taste, or touch. He is after all, Spirit. He has however entered into the human condition. He has freely chosen the fully human person, however, to be his revelation.

St. Irenaeus wrote, "The glory of God is the human person fully alive." What an alive woman she was. Authentic human beings like Dolly make God look real good.

"There is in every true woman’s heart, a spark of Heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity." Washington Irving

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Freedom.....Is not Free

This weekend our thoughts are directed towards freedom and independence. We are reminded of all those who risked a limited freedom, so that we can live out our lives in real freedom. Those who have gone before, risked and sacrificed that which was nearest and dearest. We today can enjoy the presence of our nearest and dearest in comfort and security. Freedom is not free, we have been so often told. It comes at a price. We thank those who have paid the price. I really don’t feel those two little words "Thank You" can in any way fill up what was taken away in the hell, that is war. “Thank you" will never take the place of missing limbs, wrecked loves, lives, and homes. Can "Thank You" restore the mind shattered by the sounds of battle? How about the minds that have gone to war, and cannot even understand the words, "I Love You". Will those two words be enough for the family and dear ones, who now have to adjust to the many unseen and unrecognized domestic challenges. There is a debt that cannot be paid in monetary terms. We have to pray, that in the realm of the spirit peace, comfort and joy, may come to all those endure the rigors of war.

We are all seeking and searching for freedom, a freedom that will last. I came across the following, written by Thomas Merton: “New Seeds of Contemplation"

"In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your peace of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadow of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities, and there is no joy in things that do not exist.

As soon as you begin to take yourself seriously and imagine that your virtues are important because they are yours, you become a prisoner of your own vanity, and your best works will blind and deceive you. Then, in order to defend yourself, you will begin to see the sins and faults everywhere in the action of all other men. And, the more unreasonable importance you attach to yourself and to your works, the more you will tend to build up your idea of yourself by condemning other people.

Sometimes virtuous men are bitter and unhappy, because they have unconsciously come to believe that all their happiness depends on they being more virtuous than others."

One does not have look very far in today's world to see anger, fear, quick judgment, denial of who really is my brother, and the outright rejection of Matt 25. The following is really challenging, and will upset rigid thought, and settled judgments. That is why religiosity is so easy, and spirituality is such a challenge. Starting from the moment we read this, if each of us make a solemn pledge to live by these principles, would we ever go to war again. I am not just speaking of countries going to war. I am speaking of the wars that we enter into in our own hearts, souls and minds . I am referring to the family wars, parish wars, and all those wars we enter into because we do not, or choose not make the following a litmus test for the journey, as the contemporary Christ.

"If a man has to be pleasing to me, comforting, reassuring, before I can love him, then I cannot truly love him. Not that we cannot console or reassure! But if I demand first to be reassured, I will never dare to begin loving. If a man has to be a Jew or a Christian before I can love him, then I cannot love him. If he has to black or white before I can love him, then I cannot love him. If he has to belong to my political party or social group before I can love him, if he has to wear any kind of uniform, then my love is no longer love, because it is not free: it is dictated by something outside of itself. It is dominated by an appetite other than love. I love not the person but his classification, and in that event I love him not as a person but as a thing. In this way I remain at the mercy of forces outside myself, and those who seem to be neighbors are indeed strangers; for I am, first of all, a stranger to myself.” Season of Celebration, Thomas Merton.

With real freedom comes real responsibility. How responsible am i going to be in the use of my freedom? Will it be used to give life, as I love as Christ loved? Will I use my freedom to be a " death dealer," as I live my live in cruel and harsh judgments, devoid of mercy and compassion. We are all called to live in the freedom of us being beloved daughters and sons. Not to live in fear, as slaves, but in the freedom of being spiritual beings having a human experience.

Aye!! There is the rub!

So then, this prepares us to reflect more deeply on the opening prayer of this weekend's celebration;

"Father, in the rising of your son, death gives birth to new life. The sufferings He endured restored hope to a fallen world. Let sin never ensnare us with empty promises of passing joy. Make us one with you always, so that our joy may be holy, and our love may give life."