Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Of Miracles and Mercies

I just got back from the backwoods of Maine bunking with my sister Victoria and brother Keith, the former driving in from Michigan and the latter living near my other brother, Willie, whose wife is in the final states of Stage IV lung cancer. I was blessed to be able to spend more than a week with my sister-in-law and brother in her last days. She was still clinging to life when I left, and I was so happy to have been able to see her while she was still alive. We had time to talk, including about the big issues of life, and, more important, we had time to pray together. There is something very powerful about sharing end-of-life prayers with someone.

Among the other things I did to help was notice that my brother, whose job ends in a couple of weeks, was low on food. So, my other brother and I went to the grocery store to see if we could stock his larder for a little bit so that he would not have to worry about shopping or finding money for food for a while, to make life more convenient and financially easier. We planned on getting as many canned goods as we could: fruits, vegetables, meats, soups, juices, complete meals. We also picked up boxes of cereal. I figured I still had a couple hundred dollars on my maxed-out-from-travel credit cards, and the full grocery cart should have cost us that amount. We had piled in enough food to keep Willie fed through Christmas, based on his analysis. The total grocery bill, amazingly, was $102. Every single thing we put our hand on was on sale! God is good like that, you know. The little miracles are often every bit as exciting as the big ones.

And that little miracle led to a small tender mercy: it gave me $50 for a Subway gift card so that he does not have to return home and cook meals these last few days he has left with his wife.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Away Longer

My Syrian friends gave me two weeks of rest and relaxation, much needed and much enjoyed. Now, they are on their way back to Scotland where they have acquired some work and probably won't return to Syria until and unless life calms down. Well, maybe they will visit friends and family during the less troubled moments...much prayer needed for them and all Syria.

As for me, after one day back to work and, seemingly, life going back to normal, things took a not-unexpected twist. My sister-in-law who has been suffering from Stage IV lung cancer was hospitalized and then immediately hospicized for a pulmonary embolism. My brother called and said that if I wanted to see her while she was still alive, I should come back home immediately, which is what I am doing. That is easier said than done. I come from rural Maine farm country where there is no public transportation, so the trip will be an all-day one from San Francisco to Boston by plane, followed by a bus trip to New Hampshire, where my brother can pick me up in his car and take me the final hour's drive home. Once a travel agent told me "you can't there from here," so since then I have been my own travel agent on trips home. I do know how to get there from here. It just takes a lot of time and a lot of conveyances.

I am hoping that I will be able to share some of her final hours with my sister-in-law and then help my brother post-funeral with whatever I can help. Being the oldest of the eight of us, I find that there is always something with which I can help and for which I am wanted.

Rural Maine is not entirely on the Internet grid yet, so please bear with me as a remain silent probably until nearly the end of October. When I am back, you all will know. There will be a post, the first in a long time!

Prayers for you all in my absence, and please pray for those in my life who need God's solace.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Taking a Break

I will be taking a break from blogging for the next 2 1/2 weeks (until October 5). I have friends arriving tonight from faraway Syria, and I really need to be able to spend undiluted time with them. They will not be here for long. So, while I regret not being able to post the Monday Morning Meditation (the other posts are of lesser importance), I know that you will be able to scroll down to the last MMM and click on Fr. Austin's link and have a nice cup of Monday morning coffee and reflection with him.

And I wish to all of you who stop by in the interim a blessed day, week, month. Thank you for dropping in and being a part of my life.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Priests in Need

Only a few years ago, I never dreamt that I would posting a blog note like this one: among the homeless and hungry are priests. With the growing bandwagon of individuals bringing accusations of misconduct against priests, many fine priests are now being flasely accused by those who see the opportunity for some very fine ill-gotten gains. In fact, an investigation into the situation in California indicates that approximately half of all allegations are false. When allegations are made, most priests find themselves immediately without a job, without an income, often without a vehicle, and, sadly, often without the support of their diocese. Sometimes the trials drag on for months, if not years, before the priest is cleared, and the priest can end up both during the process and even afterward on the street, hungry and homeless.

We had two priests in our parish, both proved innocent (seems to be against the law of the land that one has to prove innocence rather than an accuser having to prove guilt) who went through this difficult period. One ended up with no food at all at one point. Our parish helped, but not all parishes are wiling or able to do so.

One organization, Opus Bono Sacerdotti, helps priests in these circumstances. Currently, though, more than 1000 priests have turned to Opus Bono for assistance, and there is not enough money to go around. I learned this weekend that a new supplicant, Fr. Francis, has just been released from the hospital and has no food or medication. This is just one example of many. If you can help Fr. Francis or any other priest or contribute even a few dollars on a monthly basis to this good cause, please visit the Opus Bono website. You will find more information there about what Opus Bono does and a mechanism for donating. Similarly, if you know of a priest in desperate straits, please refer him to Opus Bono. They turn no one away and provide help with food, shelter, and, in extreme cases, safety.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Discernment and Obedience

I do my utmost to live in obedience if I am able to discern God’s will. Sometimes the discernment is hard. Other times the obedience is hard. Most recently, it is the latter. I am being offered the one job (a promotion to my boss's position) that I have always coveted, and I don’t believe that God wants me in that job. I have worked hard at discernment, and what I have discerned is that God would have me walk away from this job. I get lots of encouragement to take it, but I have reason to believe that these compliments are simply compliments and that I would be listening to the Evil One, should I take them for more than that and go ahead and accept the job. God put me in the job I currently have, and there are some indications that He wants me to remain in it. One of the hardest things I have ever done is say “no” to that position, but I did it two weeks ago, and I stood by that “no” when people came to me with temptations to take it.

So, whew!, matter over, right? Nope. I was at an office party today, and up came a senior official, asking me why I had turned down and then tried to talk me into changing my mind, saying I was the right person for the job. He pushed aside all my "logical" arguments. Of course, God has to consider me the right person for the job, but I can only say that to some people. Others simply do not "get it" when I give this reason. Sigh!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Quickie: Publisher Looking for Spiritual Books

Truly just a quickie. For anyone with a well-written manuscript, MSI Press is looking for writers of spiritual books to expand its spiritual line. The orientation is primarily Catholic, mystical or  Franciscan bent, and good writing is really a prerequisite; most MSI Press, if you check at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, are 5-star (or at least 4.5-star) books. The press is a small, traditional press with close relationships with its authors and provides much personal help and "education" to new authors, including a monthly newsletter that provides updated information on what the press is doing to market books and how authors can help those efforts and become better known, but it accepts fewer than 10% of manuscripts submitted. Still, you have lost nothing more than some time to submit a query by email. You can submit the query to The press website has a form that can be used, but it is not necessary. If you have access to Writer's Market, there is a little more information there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Hermit

The following story was shared with me by a friend. He has no idea of the author, but I tracked it down to Zadig by Voltaire, a book I read in college French classes and so, therefore, the story, reworked in the version sent by my friend, sounded familiar. For me, everything was predictable from about halfway through, and the story message was evident. Not so for my friend, perhaps because his life has been more complicated than mine. I am curious about your reactions to it.

In the reign of King Moabdar there lived at Babylon a young man named Zadig. He was handsome, rich, and naturally good-hearted; and at the moment when the story opens, he was travelling on foot to see the world, and to learn philosophy and wisdom. But, hitherto, he had encountered so much misery, and endured so many terrible disasters, that he had become tempted to rebel against the will of Heaven, and to believe that the Providence which rules the world neglects the good, and lets the evil prosper. In this unhappy spirit he was one day walking on the banks of the Euphrates, when he chanced to meet a venerable hermit, whose snowy beard descended to his girdle, and who carried in his hand a scroll which he was reading with attention. Zadig stopped, and made him a low bow. The hermit returned the salutation with an air so kindly, and so noble, that Zadig felt a curiosity to speak to him. He inquired what scroll was that which he was reading.

“It is the Book of Destiny," replied the hermit, “would you like to read it?"

He handed it to Zadig; but the latter, though he new a dozen languages, could not understand a word of it. His curiosity increased.

“You appear to be in trouble," said the kindly hermit.

“Alas!” said Zadig, "I have cause to be so."

“If you will allow me," said the hermit, "I will accompany you. Perhaps I may be useful to you. I am sometimes able to console the sorrowful." 
Zadig felt a deep respect for the appearance, the white beard, and the mysterious scroll of the old hermit, and perceived that his conversation was that of a superior mind. The old man spoke of destiny, of justice, of morality, of the chief good of life, of human frailty, of virtue and of vice, with so much power and eloquence that Zadig felt himself attracted by a kind of charm, and besought the hermit not to leave him until they should return to Babylon.
”I ask you the same favor," said the hermit. "Promise me that, whatever I may do, you will keep me company for several days."
 Zadig gave the promise; and they set forth together.
That night the travelers arrived at a grand mansion. The hermit begged for food and lodging for himself and his companion. The porter, who might have been mistaken for a prince, ushered them in with a contemptuous air of welcome. The chief servant showed them the magnificent apartments; and they were then admitted to the bottom of the table, where the master of the mansion did not condescend to cast a glance at them. They were, however, served with delicacies in profusion, and after dinner washed their hands in a golden basin set with emeralds and rubies. They were then conducted for the night into a beautiful apartment; and the next morning, before they left the castle, a servant brought them each a piece of gold.
“The master of the house," said Zadig, as they went their way, "appears to be a generous man, although a trifle haughty. He practices a noble hospitality." As he spoke, he perceived that a kind of large pouch which the hermit carried appeared singularly distended; within it was the golden basin, set with precious stones, which the old man had purloined. Zadig was amazed; but he said nothing.
 At noon the hermit stopped before a little house, in which lived a wealthy miser, and once more asked for hospitality. An old valet in a shabby coat received them very rudely, showed them into the stable, and set before them a few rotten olives, some mouldy bread, and beer which had turned sour. The hermit ate and drank with as much content as he had shown the night before; then, addressing the old valet, who had kept his eye upon them to make sure that they stole nothing, he gave him the two gold pieces which they had received that morning, and thanked him for his kind attention. "Be so good,” he added, “as to let me see your master."
The astonished valet showed them in.
"Most mighty signor," said the hermit, "I can only render you my humble thanks for the noble manner in which you have received us. I beseech you to accept this golden basin as a token of my gratitude."
The miser almost fell backwards with amazement. The hermit, without waiting for him to recover, set off with speed, with his companion.
“Holy Father," said Zadig, "what does all this mean? You seem to me to resemble other men in nothing. You steal a golden basin set with jewels from a signor who receives you with magnificence, and you give it to curmudgeon who treats you with indignity.
“My son," replied the hermit, "this mighty lord, who only welcomes travelers through vanity, and to display his riches, will henceforth grow wiser, while the miser will be taught to practice hospitality. Be amazed at nothing, and follow me."
Zadig knew not whether he was dealing with the most foolish or the wisest of all men. But the hermit spoke with such ascendency that Zadig, who besides was fettered by his promise, had no choice except to follow him.
That night they came to an agreeable house, of simple aspect, and showing signs of neither prodigality nor avarice. The owner was a philosopher, who had left the world, and who studied peacefully the rules of virtue and of wisdom, and who yet was happy and contented. He had built this calm retreat to please himself, and he received the strangers in it with a frankness which displayed no sign of ostentation. He conducted them himself to a comfortable chamber, where he made them rest awhile; then he returned to lead them to a dainty little supper. During their conversation they agreed that the affairs of this world are not always regulated by the opinions of the wisest of men. But the hermit still maintained that the ways of Providence are wrapped in mystery, and that men do wrong to pass their judgment on a universe of which they only see the smallest part. Zadig wondered how a person who committed such mad acts could reason so correctly.
At length, after a conversation as agreeable as instructive, the host conducted the two travelers to their apartment, and thanked heaven for sending him two visitors so wise and virtuous. He offered them some money, but so frankly that they could not feel offended. The old man declined, and desired to say farewell, as he intended to depart for Babylon at break of a day. They therefore parted on the warmest terms, and Zadig, above all, was filled with kindly feelings towards so amiable a man.
When the hermit and himself were in their chamber, they spent some time in praises of their host. At break of day the old man woke his comrade.
"We must be going," he remarked. "But while everyone is still asleep, I wish to leave this worthy man a pledge of my esteem." With these words, he took a torch and set the house on fire.
Zadig burst forth into cries of horror and would have stopped the frightful act. But the hermit, by superior strength, drew him away. The house was in a blaze; and the old man, who was now a good way off with his companion, looked back calmly at the burning pile.
"Heaven be praised!" he cried. "Our kind host’s house is destroyed from top to bottom!"
At these words Zadig knew not whether he should burst out laughing, call the reverend father an old rascal, knock him down, or run away. But he did none of these things. Still subdued by the superior manner of the hermit, he followed him against his will to their next lodging.
This was the dwelling of a good and charitable widow, who had a nephew of fourteen, her only hope and joy. She did her best to use the travelers well; and the next morning she bade her nephew guide them safely past a certain bridge, which, having recently been broken, had become dangerous to cross over. The youth, eager to oblige them, led the way.
“Come,” said the hermit, when they were half across the bridge, "I must show my gratitude towards your aunt;” as he spoke he seized the young man by the hair and threw him into the river. The youth fell, reappeared for an instant on the surface, and then was swallowed by the torrent.
“Oh, monster!” exclaimed Zadig, "oh, most detestable of men!”
“You promised me more patience," interrupted the old man. “Listen! Beneath the ruins of that house which Providence saw fit to set on fire, the owner will discover an enormous treasure; while this young man, whose existence Providence cut short, would have killed his aunt within a year, and you yourself in two."
“Who told you so, barbarian?" cried Zadig, "and even if you read the issue in your Book of Destiny, who gave you power to drown a youth who never injured you?”
While he spoke, he saw that the old man had a beard no longer, and that his face had become fair and young; his hermit's dress had disappeared: four white wings covered his majestic form, and shone with dazzling lustre.
“Angel of heaven!" cried Zadig, "you are then descended from the skies to teach an erring mortal to submit to the eternal laws?"
“Men,” replied the angel Jezrael, "judge all things without knowledge; and you, of all men, most deserved to be enlightened. The world imagines that the youth who has just perished fell by chance into the water, and that by a like chance the rich man's house was set on fire. But there is no such thing as chance; all is trial, or punishment, or foresight. Feeble mortal, cease to argue and rebel against what you ought to adore!”
As he spoke these words the angel took his flight to heaven. And Zadig fell upon his knees. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Non-event. Really!

Probably the most important event to occur this past week was a non-event that took place yesterday. I always (well, almost always) attend Mass at the little chapel near my office on Wednesday and Friday noons, the only times that daily Mass is offered. Yesterday, however, as sometimes happens, I had a meeting at 11:00. I hoped that I would be able to make it out in time for Mass, and I even announced at the beginning of the meeting that I needed to leave at 11:45. However, since the meeting was a briefing for me about an upcoming project in which I need to be involved, there was no way I could simply duck out at the appointed time. As it turned out, the meeting did not end until 12:15.

Disappointed, I returned to my office and rummaged around for something that would serve as lunch. Just at that moment, one of the employees from another division who usually attends that same Mass and whom I rarely see otherwise came into my office and asked to talk. He has not been at Mass for a couple of months, and that is what he wanted to talk about, how he is going through a down period, a dry period, a questioning period.

We talked for more than half an hour. These are topics that are routine in my life -- the same questions that come up in catechism classes, at prayer groups, in email conversations, and in spiritual discussions with friends. I have a somewhat different view of some of the trials of life, perhaps because I have been through so many and such difficult ones, perhaps because I am a converted Catholic, perhaps because my conversations with God have taken me in a slightly different direction -- perhaps because of all of these things or because of none of them. Anyway, most people with whom I get into such conversations believe that God is testing them. I don't see it that way. Why would God test people? Why would God need to give a test to someone to find out his or her tolerance level, survival skills, depth of faith, or the like? God knows that already. It seems like a waste of time to me. I think that God is rather trusting people -- trusting them to accept Divine help and support, to accept challenges and difficulties and not blame, to grow/increase and not decrease, to come closer to God by sharing just a small sip from "the cup" or carrying just a sliver of "the cross." I thank God for entrusting me with the trials that get sent my way; they have been the most meaningful part of my life.

Perhaps I was meant to miss Mass today so that I could share something more intimate with that colleague. I hope, if nothing else, I was able to hold the cup a little steadier for him and provide a little bit of additional lift to the cross he is carrying. Although I never made it to Mass for a blessing from the priest, a sacred moment was sent to me, a blessing from God. So, I now have more to thank God for!

(Also posted on 100th Lamb.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Of Temptation and Arrogance

I am always among the first to enter an aircraft—if I am running on time, that is. That is because I travel so much that I have become a
frequent-frequent flyer. Therefore, in returning from Prague a couple of weeks ago, I sank into my seat on the Lufthansa Frankfort-San Francisco flight many more minutes before anyone else in the
economy plus cabin. Often, I receive a complimentary upgrade to business class or first class, but that did not happen this time. So, I entered with all the business class and first class passengers but trekked down into the main cabin. 

As I arranged my pillow, blanket, sweater, books, computer, and purse—certainly not the way St. Francis would have traveled (I have to work on austerity a bit more), I noticed the individual television on the seat back in front of me but found no headset in the pocket. Looking down the row, I noticed that all four other seats did have headsets, and no one was on board yet.

I was quite tempted to grab the headset in the seat pocket beside me. That person would never know that s/he initially did have a headset and I did not. What would it matter really? So, I removed the headset.

Then that little “do-the-right-thing” spirit  slapped my hand, and I put the headset back. Why did I deserve that headset more than the passenger who would be sitting in that seat? Probably there were spares somewhere, and I could ask the stewardess for one. However, I have been on a few flights with no spare headsets. So, once again I eyed that other pocket. By now, all the seats in the row, except for
the one beside me, had been claimed. I decided to read the email on my Blackberry (this was definitely not a Franciscan journey) to divert my attention from that headset that now seemed to be calling my name.

After another ten minutes or so, the stewardess came by to close the already stuffed overhead bin, and I asked if she happened to have a spare headset she could bring me when convenient. She wasn’t sure but would look. It took some time before she reappeared, but she had indeed found a headset.

A few minutes later, the rest of the passengers had loaded, and the doors were ready to be closed. Two friends, obviously traveling together, chatted animatedly as they arranged their bags. One was across the aisle from me (19B) and one in the seat immediately in front of me (19C). Clearly, once everyone sat down and the plane started moving, I would be separating them. I asked the lady in front of me (18C) if she wanted 19C so she could talk to her friend. She jumped at the opportunity, thanking me heartily, and we both quickly settled into our new seats. The young man beside me (18D) showed me his electronic toys, and the plane was ready to depart. We began rolling down the runway.

At that point, I noticed two things: (1) the young man beside was mildly ill (Just a cold, hopefully. Where were my Airborne tablets when I needed them? Oh, right, I had stopped taking them a couple of years ago because their heavy salt content sent my blood pressure soaring.), and (2) the passenger in 19D never had shown up. I could have had an empty seat beside me and an easy, roomy flight. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished! Nonetheless, there was something about foiling Temptation that left me with a good feeling that a filled seat beside could not spoil. Besides, why did I deserve an easy, roomy flight more than the person from 18C? 

And so started the next round of reflective ruminations—ten hours of them, punctuated with eating,
drinking, computering, reading, and, oh, yes, movie watching.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


A week ago Wednesday, I had a 9:00-12:00 meeting at headquarters that I hoped would not last all the way until noon, since noon is the time of Mass at the little chapel near my office, about twenty minutes from headquarters. I squirmed as one hour turned into two. After all, I don't sit still readily, so these three-hour meetings, of which I have had many recently, are killers. Then, two hours rolled over into the start of the third hour. 11:00, 11:10, 11:15 ticked by. It seemed like all we were doing at that point was wrapping up AND wrapping up AND wrapping up. Of course, I could not sneak out of the meeting. I was supposed to be leading it! However, I was working together with our Human Resources folks, and, of course, I could not ride ramshod over their input. So, we continued to wrap up. 11:20, 11: 25. At that point, I just assumed I would not make Mass and starting to plan on lunch over the noon hour, followed, sigh!, by another 3-hour meeting from 1:00 - 4:00.

Right before 11:30, though, we finished our work. Yes! Not only would I be able to catch Mass, but I would be able to do a quick drive-through McDonald's to pick up lunch. Yippee! It was going to be a better day than I had imagined.

So, I headed to my nearby car, hopped in, and took off. As I came to the intersection by McDonald's, there was a man holding a sign, asking for help. Oh, oh! I knew I had no cash in my wallet. So, I looked around the car. Nothing laying around there, either -- not even the spare McDonald's gift card that I usually keep on hand. I did not remember giving out the last one, but apparently I had. Hm...

Talking myself into thinking that I had no way to help (which, of course, I did; I could have invited the man into McDonald's and paid with a credit card, which is how I planned to pay for  my own meal), I drove into line at the drive-through, ordered, and started to drive away when I noticed the man was still there. Now, I seemed to have a dilemma, and I was aware that I did have options: (1) give the man my lunch (but he probably would not like it -- I never get anything except meat on my hamburger -- no fixings and no dressings -- and that would not be very filling for him); (2) go to Mass and ignore the man; (3) go back and get a gift card (probably would take too long, having to wait through line and all); or (4) invite the man in and blow off Mass.

Mass or man? The verse where we are told that what we do "for the least" among us is what we do for Jesus kept coming to mind. Was I being given some direction? I took a step back and looked at the real choices: (1) do something for myself -- going to Mass was at some level for me, to allow me the opportunity to worship, to continue to develop my relationship with God, or (2) do something for God -- feed one of His children. Seeing it in that light made everything clear. So much for Mass, I thought, and headed toward the man. When I reached him, I explained that I had no cash on me but would be happy to take him inside and buy him a meal. He responded that he was not really hungry at the moment but that he would love to be able to eat later and would appreciate a gift card. OK, that would be option #3.

I headed back to McDonald's, parked, and walked inside. Amazingly, there was no one in line. I quickly purchased a gift card, returned to the car, and handed it to the man.

Happy that I had done what seemed to be the right thing but somewhat saddened at the loss of opportunity to attend Mass ("daily" Mass is offered only twice a week at this chapel, and it is the only church near where I work), I headed back to my office. As I drove, I noticed the time: 11:48. Not quite enough time to make it all the way back, or was it? As I came to the intersection where I needed to go straight to the chapel or make a left to my office, I looked at the clock in the car: 11:58. How could that be? It was like time had stood still for for a few minutes. Since the intersection is only a minute or two from the chapel, I drove straight, arriving at the chapel exactly at noon.

Sometimes discernment comes slowly, but when it is right, it is obvious. And, often, I have found, when right, it gets rewarded. After all, I got both options: helping a child of God (something for God) and attending Mass (something for me). Lunch never tasted so good!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Take Him Home"

I picked up Doah, my mentally challenged youngest son, at his group home yesterday evening for the Easter vigil at Old Mission Church here in San Ignatio. It is always a beautiful service with the lighting of the paschal candle from the fire pit by the garden and then the lighting of everyone's candles from the paschal candle. It is an evening of hope and expectation, a movement from dark into light. So much symbolism in one Mass!

Doah looked forward to it because his friend, Bennie, would be there. Bennie is one of my friends who has adopted a mentor/father attitude toward Doah, always ready to talk to him, taking him fishing, and hanging out with him at times. Doah adores Bennie and loves sitting with him at the mission. Doah could hardly wait for the evening to arrive.

So, decked out appropriately, Doah and I arrived promptly at the mission at the starting hour. The church was quite filled, but Doah easily found Bennie and slipped in beside him. Then we all exited for the beginning of the Mass around the fire pit. After our candles were lit, we paraded back inside and listened to the opening music and readings.

As I sat, listening and enjoying this once-a-year-only Mass, Doah slid into the pew beside me. His eyes were watery.

"Mom," he said, "I can't stay. I am allergic to the church."

We had experienced this before. The mission is 200+ years old, and Doah is allergic to mold. There are times that it seems that mold must be getting into the air. At the end of a week that had seen some rain in our normally near-drought, could-easily-become-desert area it was not surprising that perhaps more mold than usual was breaking out into the air.

"Shh," I told Doah. "Wait a few minutes and see if it the problem passes. Don't rub your eyes; just wait and see if they clear up." I did not have much hope that he would get better, but it was worth a little wait, anyway, or so I thought.

No sooner had Doah disappeared toward the front of the church -- I was farther back -- to rejoin Bennie than I heard that Voice I have come to trust and obey say, "Take him home."

When Doah popped up beside me just a few minutes later, still with red, watery eyes, and complained that he was not getting any better, I did as I had been told. I took him home.

Once we were in the outside cooler air, Doah's eyes cleared up. I could have called Donnie to pick us up, but the night was clear, cool (but not cold), and just the right place to spend some time walking together with Doah in the presence of God. (One immediately feels God's presence anywhere in San Ignatio.) And so Doah and I walked all the way home, about a mile or less (never have measured the distance from our home on the hill to the mission in the valley), mostly in silence, mostly in worship, our own little worship service.

How kind is God, I thought! He gave us an alternative way of spending Easter vigil and one in which we were as close to Him as we would have been had we stayed for the entire Mass. Clearly, worship is not about ritual, it is about relationship. And that was made clear in the words, "Take him home." Taking Doah home was not about walking away from God but rather about walking with God. It was a very good Easter vigil yesterday after all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Be Not Afraid

After I had settled into my plane seat and opened a book (Ascent of Mount Carmel, which I have read before but could read many times more) for my trip from San Angelo to Dallas, an angel-like apparition of bright and gold filaments suddenly stood in front of me. The apparition spoke three curious words: “Be not afraid” and dissipated. How strange, I thought, and looked around to see if anyone else was reacting to this image. Apparently not. All the other passengers were busy reading, putting their bags away, and the like. Since this was the first time I have had a locution in a public place, I had (and still have) no idea how to interpret what happened. How could I alone have seen and heard this being so clearly?

For the life of me, I had no idea why I would be told not to be afraid. I fly nearly every week, and I have never experienced any fear of flying even when small problems have occurred before or during flight.  The thought that maybe something was going to happen to this particular plane, even that perhaps we passengers might be going to die, flashed into, through, and out of my conscious mind. Then, I dismissed the event as an unexplained (and unexplainable) curiosity and settled into my seat with my book.

Partway through the short flight, bolts of lightning splayed outside the windows on both sides of the plane. We were caught in a thunderstorm, the likes of which only Texans know. Apparently taken by surprise, the pilot seemed to lose control of our small plane as we pitched from side to side and up and down for a few minutes. Passengers gasped. Clearly, some were quite frightened. The voice of my traveling companion sounded strained when he conveyed his concern about the lightning that continued to light up our evening flight.

We were on a downward path by that time, on the way to landing at the Dallas airport. Dark cumulus clouds surrounded the plane and haphazardly tossed lightning bolts into the atmosphere, some of them coming close enough to the plane that their wake jerked us in a direction other than the one in which the pilot was headed. We had quite a pile of them to plough through.

“Well,” I told my traveling companion, “the only way down is through these clouds, so there are probably not many choices that the pilot has. Besides, we are in a small plane, and buffeting is usually more exciting in a puddle-jumper.”

I was not concerned. I had been told not to fear, the reason for which had now elucidated itself. Clearly, all would be well. And it was.

With such things—visions, which I get rarely, and locutions, with which I have been blessed (or cursed) somewhat more commonly—I am always uncertain in my interpretation, even more so since reading St. John of the Cross’s warning to be cautious in interpretation of visions and locutions for not all come from God and even in the case of those that do, the linear, logical interpretation of immediate access to human beings is far more limited than God’s view and even perhaps intent:
“To try to limit them [sayings and revelations] to what we can understand concerning them and to what our sense can grasp is like attempting to grasp the air and some particle on it that the hand touches. The air disappears, and nothing remains.”
I seem to have reached a stage in my spiritual development in which I can comfortably pay them less heed (unless they involve a tasking). I look forward to the day when, having matured spiritually into an adult, I can “put away childish things,” to use St. Paul’s metaphor, and understand what God would have me know, learn, and/or do without the need to use the physical senses necessary for visions and locutions.

For now, though, I do not have the foggiest idea why I was told not to be afraid for I do not think I would have been afraid, anyway. Still, maybe I have one foot still dragging through the stage where I find it comforting to receive evidence that God is taking care of me. One day perhaps both feet will be planted on higher ground. For now, I just say thank you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Getting It Right

At our weekly Bible study group this week, our leader was absent because she had to attend a PTA meeting for her child. We had as a substitute an expert, Jack, who had taught the course before (in fact, his wife wrote the course) but lives at a great distance. Apparently, our leader will be absent next week as well. As we were finishing up the session, Jack looked at me and said, "You're an experienced leader at work; you could lead this group next week because it really is too far for me to come again."

Oh, my! I am still learning. After all, I converted to Catholicism rather recently. This will be the blind leading the blind, I am afraid, but Jack was confident and handed me his notes for next week (those will help). Well, I do know a lot about shared governance, servant leadership, mentoring, coaching, and facilitated teaching, so I guess/assume/hope that I will be able to count on the aggregate knowledge of those present to create a mathemagenic session next week. (I am also counting on Sr. M, who was absent this week, to be present next week and help. She is a faithful presence at our Bible Study meetings and our prayer group meetings, and I have learned much from her.)

After the Bible Study meeting, one of the members of the group who also attends the weekly prayer group meeting, which I lead (long story of how the most unlikely person -- me -- got involved in doing that), started asking me a number of questions about contemplative prayer. She had been reading my book, A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God, and what she read made her yearn for deeper contemplation. While I have had wonderful experiences with contemplative prayer, there is only one person -- a priest -- within driving distance who teaches the Jesus prayer or any other kind contemplation. So, what I know has mostly from from God. Following some urging from my friend, I agreed that we could use our next movie night -- once a month we watch a movie as part of our prayer group activities -- to watch a video on contemplative prayer. I don't know what I will be able to say myself on the topic. I can do little more than share experience, and that makes me a little concerned/nervous.

So, when I arrived home, I sent up a prayer: "I need a lot of guidance here, Lord. You've put some precious people in my hands."

Immediately came a correction: "In My hands."

Of course, I am at best only the conduit. How easy it is to forget! I am sure now that both sessions will go precisely the way God wants.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2012!

Wishing one and all a blessed 2012, which has dawned bright and sunny here in San Ignatio. Along with it has arrived my first decision of the new year: whether or not to take revenge on Donnie.

As usual, Donnie and I had made plans to welcome in the new year with a mini-party. Some champagne. A few snacks. And Doah.

As usual, I feel asleep and became nigh onto comatose around 10:30. Doah lasted another hour, then toddled off to bed, emerging, according to Donnie, around 12:30 in the morning, like a groundhog on Feb. 2, saw his shadow, and scurried back to the bedroom.

As for me, I never did wake up. Donnie, ever the photographer -- and, in this case, as is typical of our New Year's eve celebrations, the lone celebrant -- took a picture of me zonked out on the couch and pasted it on Facebook. Of course, that brought it a lot of comments!

Now, he is sleeping in after all his heavy partying, and I am wide awake, greeting the sunny day and new year. Doah is dancing about, demanding breakfast, and I am ever so tempted to take a picture of Donnie, zonked out in bed, and paste it on Facebook!

Happy days and interesting decisions, my friends, I wish you in 2012!

(note: image from -- it stunned me; hope you like it)