Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Homeless Muse

I have been busy in the usual ways. Work, family, holidays. Keeping up with prayer and church, but not having much time for writing. I do not regret the lack of time. It is simply a fact of life.

Now that I have time to write, I realize that time is not what was lacking, but action. Christian action. Helping others. Over the past few days I made some efforts to help others, a homeless man, a woman who clearly needed some assistance, serving at church, donating to a child-relief program in the Philippines. Doing these things served to lift me out of my train of thought - mere thought - and place me in terms of action.

Action. Writing is action, I realize. It is not merely putting thoughts into words. I am better able to write now, not because I have time, but because I am in an active frame of mind. I was passive - waiting for opportunities to help, waiting for time to write - then I became active. So now I write.

Who do I thank for this? I thank the Lord, who always has my back. And I thank, in particular, Paulie, the homeless man I assisted. Well, Paulie, wherever you are, we said we would pray for each other. I hope that my prayers for you have been as effective as yours were for me!

That the prayers of a homeless person would be heard should not surprise us, even as we are accustomed to take pity on those who live without creature comforts. Spending time with people in need, I am not so quick to assume that the line between us is perfectly defined. I know the benefit that I receive from helping others, and I am aware of the blessing a person confers on me by allowing me to help them.

Perhaps this matrix applies to writing. The act of writing is, to my mind, a broadcasting of intentions, hopefully good ones. Those intentions are perceived by others, who in turn are (again, hopefully) strengthened in their own work. In all of this, there is prayer. Contemplative prayer in the mental work of arriving at the right words to suit the occasion, and dynamic prayer in publishing one's work, or reading the work of others.

I will write as others write, as others compose music, paint pictures, arrange flowers. We are, in action, the visible manifestation of what God has intended for us as a means of broadcasting our intentions. We live and love; work and play. Some make art, some make friends. There is a greater equality to our lives than we can ever comprehend. To say that we are brothers and sisters in Christ seems to me not to quite capture the magnificent implications of universal equality.

I say I helped Paulie; I know he helped me. But can I encompass in mind and heart that we are one?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Catechumen no more

It has been just over two years since I decided to join the Catholic church. I attended RCIA studied and attended RCIA classes. I attended Mass and joined in the service at my church. I took my initiation further and, last year, read the entire bible and catechism. I read through the entire bible again this year along with my Dad. I have done little other reading than prayer books. All this time, I have been studying and thinking and living my life as a Catholic.

Now, as I concluded the second round of bible readings, I feel like I have finally completed my studies. I actually was not aware that I had not completed anything. I have been in full communion since Easter Vigil, 2012. But I reflect that in the early days of the church, catechumens often underwent a period of two or more years before being accepted into the church.

Well, perhaps, because I have focused on this aspect of my life so intently, I now am capable of knowing that I belong. This belonging resides first and foremost in being confident in the Lord as my model. And I am confident in what I must do. And that is to love God as I am loved and to love and serve my neighbors as God commands me to do. 

Pretty simple, right? But confidence means that I trust myself to do the right thing. I don't merely preach it or criticize others. I don't need to, and I don't want to. Part of this belonging depends, I think, on having set certain priorities straight, including getting back to volunteer work for the homeless. Besides what I might do for myself and my own relationship with God, there is no greater need or call, in my mind, than attending to the needs of others.

Again, pretty simple. But it has been a lot of work to get to the point where one's heart can confidently, knowingly, reside in these activities, without anxiety, or second-guessing.

In short, I have no particular ambitions, except to live wisely, kindly, and well, and to do good. However or in whatever ways my weaknesses lead me astray, I know what lies at the center of my life. That, in itself, appears to me as a kind of living testimony to the named and the unnamed, the perfect and the fluid.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prayer/Obsession/Prayer

I only just wrote, obliquely, it is true, on aspects of poetry writing in a blog titled form/obsession/form. This then is a companion piece, or a reverse parody, where the ensuing article is more genuine than its sponsor.

I find this sort of reverse relationship - a kind of hermetical child-is-father-to-the-man - operating with increasing frequency. At 54 years of age, I may be tending toward more and more fluid considerations  or comprehensions of time. Faith is a great denominator for the numerators of our time. We do not say yes or no, said St. Paul. We say yes. That makes sense to me now, having entered the Church.

But, prayer. Ah, I have written on repetition in prayer once and will not do it again. I am not running for office. I am not selling anything. These words are the product of time & inclination, and are in large part owing to a patient wife who allows me time to trundle myself off to a local establishment for the relative peace & quiet of a jukebox the better to dwell in and relate such thoughts as occur to me.

But prayer & obsession.... There is a loaded pairing. As a writer, I am given over to working in a particular form. As a Catholic, I have experienced prayer in repetition and in devotion; prayer to God, often in singular form, and more often in forms of prayer, the Rosary being an obvious example.

Are such practices "obsessive." It is a fair question, but one that from a Catholic perspective is impossible to comprehend or respond to. I use the word "impossible" to a point. We are instructed by the Lord to pray "constantly." Now, you can say that means "pray a lot" or "keep God in mind" or some variation, but either way, right there we can see a kind of mandate to obsess, if by obsess we mean one-mindedness.

But, what other life is available to the Christian? To cut to the chase: am I obsessed by the Lord? Well, if you mean, do I hold the entire world and it's effects as nothing compared to my love of the Lord and my trust in his promise, yes. Do you think that Catholic prayers are "obsessive" because they are routine, dutiful, and unvarying? Again: guilty! Of course they are. How else should we express our love? By waiting until we "feel" it.

Well, maybe I am Catholic because I don't have to wait until I "feel" like praying to pray. I pray because I believe in it. We pray the Rosary, the daily Mass intentions, the Divine Office, Novenas, etc., etc., not as obsessions, but because that is part of our life on earth as Catholics. That is part of our devotion. A necessary part.

I will say this. At 54 years old, I have never felt as balanced, personally, as having joined the Catholic church and adopting a consistent routine of prayer. Now, I have to say, I am not as perfectly regular, day to day, as some. But I consider that a kind of privilege, not a blight on my "record."

I hope I am alert. If that is obsessed, count me in.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Of Pope Francis, of Words, of Love

You have this opportunity, this moment.

What was that?

It was a moment, a unit of time that is not, strictly speaking, a unit. An opening. A point. A juncture. You have that.

What for?

I can't tell you, as I do not know. I know less than you do what any moment or juncture is for, or what it means. If lips are meant for kissing, moments are made for doubt.

What is this moment?

Well, for one thing, I want to talk about Pope Francis, who is getting a lot of people excited because of the positive messages he is putting out in the media. But now I will skip a whole lot of background and context.

I do not not want anyone to forget that the "great man" syndrome is always and forever alive. There is no great man. There is God, the Father, and his only son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, There is the Holy Spirit, who communicates to us the wishes, the will, the words of the Lord.

We are well advised to be skeptical of the "great man." We should be careful not to succumb to any man, no matter how perfect appear his intent. There is nothing about Pope Francis that is new, or notable, except insofar as God speaks through him.

I am a Catholic. I love Pope Francis. I loved Pope Benedict. I love you, I hope....I hope I can love as our Lord has commanded me to love. I aspire to love; even as I love, I hope that my love is as true, as certain, as perfect, as we are assured is the love of the Lord.

I would rather that any one person reserve judgment than that anyone "believe" in the Pope. Heaven and the world - this physical world - is alive at this very moment with the intentions of the Saints. We are surrounded and embroiled in their acts and prayers. Of this I have no doubts. We might aspire to this world. God willing by his infinite mercy, we might act thus: to help.

This is the world to which Pope Francis speaks. Make no mistake. His statements, such as are related by the media, are an enactment of a species of conviction that goes far beyond mere choice. It is as if a river were to speak to the purpose of water. I say, as a fellow Catholic, a brother, that the Lord is all, the Alpha and Omega. Pope Francis will speak to the world and its people as one who is of this world, indeed, or so his words might appear. But, do not fool yourself into thinking that the world is the subject of his encounter or address. Oh no. Not by a long shot.

This world, this occurrence, has no language and no address. Trees that drop their dead and dying leaves have a stronger purchase on the claims of immortality than do the worrying precepts of humanity.

We will most certainly die. We most certainly can be saved.

Understand this, and all that any man or woman declared to be great should shudder into perfect focus: a thing, such as one might perceive and name or slip into one's pocket.

 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mix and Merry, for Mary

You wake, you pick up a book, and the world seems divided into either shiftless transpositions or sedimentary endorsements. You snooze. You wake again, the world a-cry. You figuratively leap to your feet. You practically stand at attention. Garments leap to cling. The surrounding forest is bubbling with anxious conversation. But you, you are like stone. Not quite like stone, but you are quite set on what's next.

Woe to the placater, the converser, the settler of 1's and 2's.

For every dollar spent, a sigh; for every sigh, two dollars spent. For every day a kind of song - an anthem - even if we haven't time to put a name to it. Ah, what was it they used to say. They used to say what made heads nod and we got on with our day's work. Then personal television. See, it is easy to complain and hard not to. Ah, how easy that and so strange this.

I enjoy anecdotes and mythologies, such as how the flower came to be. A king of long ago found himself languishing for lack of a companion and so he invited the daughter of a launch-cart salesman to banquet. Suffering for lack of words, he conceived, in a manner of speaking, an interlude of physical respite, which has come down to us by the name of "flower." Imagine if you took the caloric sum of all botanical activities related to this same endeavor and were somehow able to apply it to a Ferris wheel open to one and all young ladies. Well, I for one am of the opinion that young ladies, and even those who are you might say not so young, all things considered, will save us all.

And that is just one reason why I love Mary, mother of our Lord.

The end.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Open and a Portland Bus

The point or premise of this blog is to promote a notion of open Catholicism. And yet I have to admit that I find myself arguing less for openness and reporting more on experience from, I hope, an open Catholic perspective. But is my perspective all that different? Well, no.

At some point, or over a period of time, I made I think a healthy move away from believing that I know anything to where I watch and listen. I have surrendered a lot in the way of determination. There is little any one can do to make me believe they are "wrong." Wrong? Who's wrong? Harm comes from harm. Ignorance the same. The forces of good are plenty. The world turns.

And yet, I believe in this project.

Writing is conversation where one's best self assumes a position of dialogue with complete, eternal strangers. Well, this is my perspective. I cannot assume that the conversation is alive, as no one responds to me. Understand, I like this just fine. A word goes out. A sentence, a poem, a paragraph, an essay, etc. To be read is to be understood, if we are willing to allow that any reader's experience - even where they click and backup - is valid. Valid, True. What are these words?

I age, I age. I blog here and on iPage. How do I know myself? I am I suppose what I do now and what I have done. I imagine the same is true of others, though I am more hopeful for what they might do, while in wonderment of who they are. Would you like to know what I will do one my next day of from work? I will fulfill an ambition I have held in my heart from two years or more. That is, to take the bus to a transfer point and take a another bus, and another, and another, all being unplanned and uncharted, to see parts of Portland I have never seen with people I have never met.

All quite spontaneous. All very bland.

Writing now, sounds a bit like heaven, doesn't it? I can't wait. No, actually, I can.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What is Prayer - what is Language?

We pray. Daily, hourly, weekly. Perhaps when we "feel" like it, perhaps following a routine. Perhaps we pray even as we say I love you to family, or when we pay taxes. I don't know. I am not the arbiter of prayer.

I have not been assigned a station to administer to and watch over people's prayer habits. No one comes up to me and says, "Pat. My praying. Is it going okay?" No, I do not have this task before me, where I can know, assess, and adjudicate in the matter of peoples' prayer.

You should not be surprised to know how little is under my purveyance or control. Almost all the issues I deal with are pretty ordinary - work matters, family concerns, etc. In fact, I cannot surprise you with what I control. All I can do is say what I do. Really, that is all I can do. And even then, I am bound to color how I handle things.

So, I will say, I pray. I pray for three reasons. Because I want to pray. Because Jesus told us to. And because, well, I need to pray. I need help. I need to be understood: forgiven for my terrible failings, and supported in my hopes and ambitions (many of which of course are failings in themselves).

I do not know how not to pray, except I suppose if I were to forget to pray, but even that circumstance would likely be brought about by some kind of extreme emotional condition which, in itself, could serve as prayer. And death is certainly no barrier to prayer. Along with the Little Rose, I look forward to praying in heaven for all the sorts of things I pray for now. Family, my parish, and the souls in purgatory, especially.

I do not believe that there is any one life that is absent prayer.

I do not believe that anyone believes in prayer in the same way one might choose this or that philosophy or way of life.

I believe that prayer in an inherent practice. Not quite breathing - but perhaps, not quite critical thought. Ha. I believe prayer preceded the human condition and will supersede it.

What is language? It is what comes from prayer.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Change in the Heart of Faith

No one week is like another, least of all the last week.

I said to Father in confession this week, The devil is clever, and quick. You have to be like a tennis player, darting to return his shots. Father replied, wisely, Yes, but where does the tennis player return, but to the center, to be ready.

I think I am ready, but I have surrendered the center, or such as most people would recognize it as such. I feel attenuated. Stressed and beaten, or stressed and alive and fighting. Rarely do I feel relief, the kind of relief that allows one to say that everything is okay.

Can one dwell in this state? or, is that the goal of life, to feel content? Every best fiber of me says, No. There is no reason to feel content, or "okay." Not in this life. This lie is a trial. A place of purpose, of work and sorrow and joy and hope and defeat and testing and the occasional victory.

It's worth reflecting on the lives of the Saints - or perhaps simply famous intellectuals, politicians, etc. Offhand, I cannot recall anyone who is famous for feeling content. Quite the reverse!

I should be content to feel contentment where I can. God knows there are so many souls who never do! So, where do I feel this?

After every Mass.

After writing to the purpose of addressing my faith.

And here and there in my life. But, in many parts, I am unhappy. Ah. But even this seems to me, at my more lucid moments, to be to a purpose. I think I might explore dwelling in that state of mind as a kind of mechanism. But that is hard for me. I take my feelings seriously. I weep at Communion, I am stone-cold at personal displays, even to a purpose, as for art.

For art, but art for what? I ask that question not to question artists, but to question the world.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Busy at the Stations - a Practice of Place

I do not complain when I say I am busy. I do not say it is wrong, or that I wish it were otherwise. Oh, I imagine and plan little get-aways - a day off of work, a motorcycle trip - but 9 times out of 10 I follow the routine.

Do I work too hard? I certainly tell myself that I do! That, too - that exercise, or performance - is a kind of leave-taking. I wake up after a hard day ready for another, sometimes weirdly motivated.

Church activities and my faith-practice, including the several blogs I maintain, play a role in all this. But perhaps it is these activities that have led me to accept being busy, in the way I am, as my portion in life. Catholics have a handy device in hand, by which they can view their difficulties as their personal trial, their "cross to bear." Now anyone who reads the bible can draw the same inference, but Catholics, being encouraged to form a rather incredibly personal bond with the Lord, find special strength, I think, in this convention.

This bond, this identification with the Lord, this eagerness to share His burden, this ultimate devotion to follow his Way, led quite logically to the Sacraments (the Eucharist pops to mind, of course) and sacramentals, such as Stations of the Cross.

Practicing the Stations of the Cross (Click HERE for a nice explanation) has taught me to accept my life and to persevere more than any single other experience. I make it a point to walk the Stations once a month - once a week during Lent. There is no clearer, deeper, more wide-open text for describing one's life in the here and now than in entering the Lord's passion. Everything is here to see and be witness to - there are no secrets in this public display of mercy, humiliation, admonishment, suffering, death, release, and glory.

Analogous to Heraclitus' paradoxical river, I have never walked the Stations in the same way twice. Whatever my mood - expectant and aware, or tired and dutiful - the experience describes itself uniquely, whether in terms of the nature of the Passion, or in terms of one's own trials, or in combination. And, having performed the Stations - what, 2 or 3 dozen times now - I feel I have only scratched the surface of what I can learn and experience.

For example, yesterday I was struck by the groupings of the Stations in terms of clustered narratives, almost like Chapters, which one could look at individually for meaning and portent. The third, fourth, and fifth Stations, where our Lord meets his Blessed Mother, where Simon the Cyrene is pressed into service, and here Veronica wipes His face, are a compelling plaintive trilogy. I am always that I need to accept others' help here, as well as to be willing to step out of my life to do whatever I can to help others, even in an ostensibly "lost cause."

Then, after all this, He falls a second time, a chilling recollection of His purpose. Then, in the seventh Station, he admonishes the women of Israel. Now you might expect that a man who has fallen twice and been pitied on the way to being crucified might have had the starch taken out of him. But, as we all know, Jesus Christ was not merely a man. This Station and occurrence struck me yesterday more than it has before, and even now I am turning it over and over in my mind, letting it settle into me, seeking means of understanding and accommodation

So, I do not want to go through all the Stations here, except to point out how they function one against the other, or in unison, and that, taking all this very, very personally is a valuable practice. I can say for certain that the tendency to resent difficult days is being evenly, steadily, driven away from me. I am therefore more productive and I suppose happier. I hope I am a better friend for it, a better companion to those with whom I share this time, this bit of planet.

Would I do as well if I were to stay home and "rest"? I think not. I believe that certain kinds of doings in the midst of being busy are exactly what is required to relieve one's anxiety. To put a point on it, I believe that resentment is the real enemy, by which a person cuts themselves off from feelings of love.  This enemy, then, is not work. It is what we allow ourselves to make of our work. To call it ours; to call it our own; to take it inside of ourselves; to own it; to allow it to own us. This is the garden of resentment, paradise refused.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dream Site: Heaven, featuring God (duh), Angels like Trees, and an Awesome Cup

I attempted to post last week concerning a dream and its afterwards. Somehow I deleted the post and was unable to recover it. I was blown away somewhat, but not angry about it. I didn't have time to get mad at myself or, perhaps the emotional bandwidth.

At this juncture I can see that it is well that some time has passed, as I included a lot of detail that now seems not very important for the overall impact. The most peculiar aspect of the dream occurred afterwards, over a few hours, extending into the day. I'll explain.

In this dream, I fell violently ill and died, quite suddenly. My wife and son were there, and I slipped away as into a crevice, reaching out to them, and they toward me, as I disappeared from sight. I felt sorrow that I was unable to offer some words before dying, of solace, perhaps, or instructions, especially to my son.

There was a moment of silence and a clouded darkness, then I came to on a grassy lawn or expanse. I looked up and was handed a white cup, gilded with gold.

Right there, any Catholic will agree: this was a good dream. ;-)

I stood and saw the ground spreading out a fair distance. People walked along a sort of promenade. They were dressed - some in suits of a sort, some in robes. There were columns and arches, of white, here and there. And there several feet away was a long wooden table with people gathered, as at a banquet (or, a supper. A supper!). I rushed to the white-bearded person at the head of the table, threw my arms around him, and said "Father! Father, I love you!" The figure replied, "I love you too, Patrick."

He asked me, Do you understand where you are? I said, Yes, this is heaven.

I asked this figure, who I understood of course to be God, how my parents were, whether they had drawn closer to him. He said that they had. I was overjoyed in my dream, threw my arms around him again and said (get this), "Then it was worth it!" (Meaning, my death) I asked how my brother was, and he said, Not so good, he's depressed.

{Note that this rather freaked me out, so I called my brother [who's having a hard time], told him I loved him, and bought him a computer so that we can stay in touch, so, like. In retrospect of course it fascinated me that I did not ask about my wife and son. more on that later}

Other parts of the dream are lost to me, in large part. I believe I asked if I could pray for my brother, and God said, laughingly, Yes, of course. The exchanges were very much of the prototypical eager acolyte and the wise, indulgent master, no doubt. There was a bit more back-and-forth before I directed my attention elsewhere. Soon thereafter, I woke up.

Now, this was an amazing dream, and I was understandably impressed. Though I have to say I was not quite blown away. The dream did not have as intense a quality as others I have had. It did not seem directly critical. For one thing, the God figure reminded me of the actor Lorne Greene, of Bonanza fame. Though, now that I write this out, I feel like I am being unfair to the dream, to myself, and to the spirit that produced the dream. That in itself is pretty interesting.

I stayed awake and wondered about it. I thought about my wife and son. I thought about the people I would want to meet in Heaven. And, as I wondered these things, I found my mind returning to that scene as it carried out these desires.

I found myself walking to encounter, in particular, Simon Peter, the Blessed Virgin, Mary, and the Lord, Jesus Christ. These encounters occurred over a few hours. They lasted as I readied myself for work, walked to the bus, and rode downtown. It would occur to me to wonder something more, whereupon my mind would occupy the same space as it had in the dream, and the scene would carry out. So, the waking experience carried a presence similar to the immediacy of dream, which is remarkable and unique, in my experience, at least.

I recall only two excerpts though, both of which were critically important to me. Of my family, I was told, They are okay, which I took to mean that my wife and son, like my parents, had drawn closer to God. I believe I asked this of Simon Peter.

Then, this. Which I relish. I mean, it was just delightful. I asked the Lord, Jesus Christ, What happens to people who do not come here? (Meaning, heaven) He said something to this effect, laughingly (like his Dad, you might say), "I have no idea." I took this to mean that they simply disappear. At least, for the moment.

What a great dream. At some point during the day this window closed to me. It is closed to me now. I have no regret. In retrospect, I was and am not amazed by the dream. I tell myself, No kidding. I practice a belief that God, the Lord, and all the Saints and angels (oh, there were angels, by the way. Strange, distorted rather fierce-looking beings, but benevolent and in a certain respect almost like part of the landscape, like signposts. Or like trees in white twisted by the wind. It's hard to capture the sense) where all this is present, now, here, at this moment. Exactly now where I sit. Where you sit. Here.

But, you know, it's been a hard week since this dream. Among my thoughts was the concern that if I die and am concerned for my parents, who are both 83 years old now - well, if this was in part a  premonition, I will die quite soon, in maybe five years or so. My reaction to that is: fine. If that is God's will I am all for it. I believe this is the correct response. Still, seems a bit sad.

And, as I said, I contacted my brother and got some things going there. It should bear fruit, or maybe already has.

I have spent the past week in an state of accelerated understanding of my failures and non-presence. To live the truth that God is all is a pretty brutal refutation of everything else we hold dear. Much in the dream was a surprise but upon reflection bore out. Focusing on my parents only? Check the commandments. Got it. Thank you.

Life is hard, I know this. I am allowed dreams, insights. I write about them. I pray as I can and fail, constantly. We lift arms tangled with other arms. Our knowledge hardly qualifies as insight, however we strive. We fall, again and again. This is the Way. This is simply a form of the Way. There are many forms, dreams, and voices.

I only wish I could recall more about Mary or Simon Peter. I remember only impressions. Mary, that she was beautiful, sunlight from a rose. And Simon Peter was amused and kind.

What a dream. What a religion.

Can you believe that cup?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Our Way, Today

Futility. Day in and out. Nights sleeping, waking, worrying. No real rest. Dwelling in a body and of a spirit of futility, repeating itself, and futile.

Clawing our way toward Calvary. Make no mistake. This is our Cross. Our lives.

When I came into the Church, and since then, for a long time, I would wonder, Lord, I am so blessed, what is my burden? I see it now, by the grace of God, that our lives are a terrible burden. The dead ends and disappointments. The self-serving aspect of even our greatest victories. The fleeting aspect of friends' support.

The nature of politics. Victory turned to ashes. Righteous positioning become futile, wavering, imploding, dead. False hope. Phantom promises. Hypocrisy of self and others.

And age. Activity becomes a doubt and a burden. Reading, writing, art and music. The mind seems constantly lapsing, the mind distracted, the ear dull.

Ah. But so. Just so, I say this. I love the Lord.

This is your will. This is your will. Praise be to God. Take this from me, take away my Cross - then will I weep.

Never, ever, let me be released, and I will praise you all the more, to your purpose, and none other. No other purpose registers for me. None other is worth my love or care, or my joy.

My love for you has taught me everything I ever needed to know about the futility of my life. And for this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am never happier than when I have no other explanation for what I feel or say or do then when I can say to myself, such is the will of God. That is, when I am left with no other explanation. I mean, when there is no benefit to myself, no credit accorded to me.

How glad I am - how relieved! - in such times. Take this pain from me, and I will be truly hopeless. But how could you? Even at the point of death, I will praise you. I will praise you, for whom else should I praise?

I look forward to exactly that day, the hour, that moment when I am poised on the threshold. I will demand nothing but simply say, Here I am. Do with me as you will.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Big Day, Brother

I am gladder than glad. I spoke over the phone with my brother, Michael, who is undergoing a lot of change. Ah - such a good talk, straight forward and loving, but by no means over-loaded.

Details are of no account here. They are his and mine, together. But I can say I am happy. Things not yet done are in motion - connecting; connecting in a way that is something more than just checking in. Material conversation. Support, yes, on both ends.

Such a privilege.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Birth, Self, and the Force of the Old

I am too conscious, these last few days, of having died to myself. I say too conscious, because it is painful, depressing. It has led to conflict. It does not lead to a way out.

I say having died to myself, as I died to my former self at baptism.

So, when I take up an issue or desire or concern of my former self, it is almost like reaching into a grave, my own grave, to rifle through the belongings of a former life, to hold out some item for a keepsake, or to advance its worth.

What am I, that I should choose to be new, and yet hope that the past would be new too?

All is God's. All is the Lord's. This the contract to which I did not merely promise myself, but to which I signed my soul, and my life as I live it. This line of thought may sound strictly personal, but I promise that there is a strong formal element.

Writing poetry is a form of covenant, or so it strikes me. In our youth, we try our hand, we express ourselves - or we vehicularize our tendencies - in the form of poetry. Later, we may establish such work as we can take out into the world and champion.

Then, as we grow older, we find that the work and ourselves have become one and the same thing. The tendency to write is almost exactly identical to the writing. The tendency has become an iteration of "I."

Now, here is the strange part. Even as I have died to my former self, I have not died to poetry, or to the poems I wrote or who I had become having written those poems. Somehow, that element, perhaps a core element - who knows? - of myself carried over. Why is this?

My new self says, it is the will of God. My old self would have agreed, but I don't pay him much attention these days - or, at least shouldn't. My new life has not changed the color of my eyes, either, I suppose. Though they have always been more blue or gray, depending on light or context.

It would be interesting when one died to be presented with a vision of all the things one touched but never really understood. I imagine something like the closing scene in the first Indiana Jones movie. Crate after crate, piled high, aisle after aisle, some tired figure pushing on a trolley the Ark of the Covenant.

Monday, September 2, 2013

This Labor and Our Labor - Writing the Word

The "traffic" page shows that the websites are being visited, which is all I hope for, simply to confirm that what I write here is available. People no doubt back out the second they realize that this blog or the OpenCatholic website are NOT what they are looking for, or some may linger. I have no way of knowing short of responses. None to date. That's fine, of course. My posts are not, I think, strong on prompting an online conversation - I just don't write that way. I don't provide links, I don't rise other blogs or websites - I don't even provide a "favorites" links section, etc.

I see other pages that do all these things. A good example I saw recently was the page for the St. Joseph Oblates group, who have a shrine in Holy Cross, California (that's Santa Cruz, of course!) and I appreciated the links, etc. But anyone with an interest in links will find them elsewhere, I figure. A reader no doubt will see my website or blog having searched one or another term, and have at hand other results, and on and on.

While I am beholden and humbled by the glory of the Internet for these forms of communication, I cannot style myself for "maximum" reach. I recall a professor of mine, who advised that the task of poets was to be "interesting." No doubt, this is true of poets who hope for a career in writing, I suppose, but I fell my heart fall away from him at that point, as I was determined to be honest, first and foremost, whether or not anyone found my work "interesting."

I think my postings project something of this attitude - or, I hope they do! I hope they appear honest, I pray that they are!

But, what is honesty, to a follower of Christ? Beyond one's core belief statements, can I claim perfect honesty? Isn't almost anything I say, or write, or do, in some way tainted by the desire to be accepted, or recognized, as being "right"? For a person who believes and in fact celebrates on a daily basis that God only is the truth, it should be clear that any other effort is bound to be more or less diluted by self-interest.

Ah, but this is not to say that persons should not announce their desires! For it is in declaring ourselves - who we are and what we hope for - that we represent ourselves to our brothers and sisters. To stand before the community and state one's understandings - isn't this what St. Paul did? It is a fine thing, to say what you mean and mean what you say. It does not have to be in the form of a blatantly religious form of writing - in fact, it is better to be something quite else. One should speak plainly, from one's understanding, one's conscience. To endeavor to be understood.

But, again, one can be led astray even in one's desires for truth. Writing poetry - like painting or composing music - is notable in that the unconscious speaks, often serving to inform the conscious. The notion being that creation is a form of understanding and thought formation of itself. I suppose One sees that action in Scripture - in prophecy and figurative language. Our Lord himself spoke plainly of the purpose of parables in communicating to the general population what his disciples understood in more direct terms.

To return, again, to an earlier point, a Christian knows to trust in the Word. All else either points that way, or points elsewhere. I am someone who does not endorse a strict either/or premise for the value of the meaning behind words. I think that a lot of writing, while it may not point a finger directly at God, nonetheless maintains a kind of horizontal, or lateral position, like a person trying different doors for the one that opens. I see, in most writing, a noble search for the truth that fits that person's hopes and dreams. Behind that search is a soul, seeking. This too is noble. Very noble, indeed. And much to God's purpose and hope for us, that we seek Him, even as we despair of ever knowing Him.

One could do worse then bless those who write poetry. Or is my Irish showing?

;-)


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vision for Sight, Presence for Passing

What I see is not what I know, except for those things that anyone can see.

What I know is nothing that can be seen.

The Catholic life is rife with a profusion of spirits, angels and saints, and the Lord, eternal and yet present in the here and now, even within ourselves, as we await eternal life.

These postings attest to visions of saints, and mission. Last night, my wife (who is wonderful) asked if I had heard recently from St. Petronius. I replied, no. No, I have had no specific communications or visions in the past few months, this is true. I said, I take that as a sign that I have been granted what I needed. And, perhaps, that I am doing okay with what I have been given.

I thank the Lord, of course, and also my church, especially our priest, Father Petrus, and our pastoral minister, Janis Roise, for giving me the opportunity to participate and serve, reading at service, leading the rosary, for being present in the life of a Christian. I feel radically connected to the Lord. Regular prayer helps too, and, obviously, Communion.

But I will say, that when the spirit is upon me, I feel that I sense and almost see spirits about me. Not for me personally, not inclined toward me in particular, but in the air, everywhere. Or, I know they are there, that God is with us, that the Blessed Virgin is at hand for our intentions.

What I see is the life of a world, blessed, coming and going, passing, succeeding other versions of itself, giving birth to new incarnations. My vision though is something more certain. It is sight from out of consciousness.

The only limiter in perception is me, the state of my soul, or my capabilities, as proscribed by the Lord. My human vision is not merely what an optical instrument might record in this place and time. It is attuned by an awareness of realities that supports the here and now.

I wonder, is this statement unique only to a Catholic, or religious sensibility?

I think perhaps not. We are all, as we should be willing to concede, pre-loaded, to see what we are prepared to see - or at least, one might say it this way, to acknowledge what we are trained to see. That is, we are capable of putting words only to that to which such words as we have at hand apply.

Then there is the much-lauded practice of seeing what is there, apart from one's preconceptions. Many people would say that this approach is concretely anti-religious. I disagree. What I know to see does not occur to me as a preconception. In fact, there is no reason any Catholic should see anything different from what a non-Catholic sees.

But, in the matter of visions, of receipts, of love and constancy, we are slaves. I would know nothing, see and know nothing, without having consigned my life and all its facilities to one source, one creator of the here and now, the then and there.

This is a point of understanding, hard-earned, not of preconception.

Such being the case - the lens cover of self having been discarded - what's to wonder, that as I work or ride the bus, and yes, at church, I might occasionally perceive at the edge of my vision movement, a figure passing beyond cognitive range, like a physical emotion, like a present recollection, but responsive, alive.

What I see even in passing - the world as it is - is ever so much more alive to me, now, than before I came into the church. The world's passing, my own aging and passing, strikes me as cause for joy.

This is not the cause of sight, but of vision, being open to what is seen from the perspective of a self-aware being.

It should be obvious that I claim no credit. It should be clear, there is no credit to claim.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Forever is Now

Be Catholic. Be entirely Catholic, and find freedom.

Love God and be free to love our life, to serve others.

Love the Lord, Jesus Christ, and you will have an advocate for your life.

Love the Holy Spirit, the giver of Life, and you will be infused with the wisdom and strength you need to live your life and help others do the same.

As the sun and rain brings life to the world, so will love of God free you to live and love.

The Eucharist will strengthen and guide you. Prayer will bolster you and bring life to your dreams.

How close is God?

Now. Say, Lord I am yours.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Updates on the Here and Now, not to mention What's to Come

Briefly, the OpenCatholic website is setting up really well.

It's all content so far. No links. None. That is, I believe, kind of strange for a website. But I think it is a good way to set up - focusing on writing, original content. I have a home page that explains as much of the premise as I need to (I think), then a page that links this, the principle blog; then two "diary" blog pages for Prayer and Social Justice. I have set up the form of a Projects & Passions page, but I am undecided about what to put there or how to present it. Should I think in terms of "me" or what serves "OpenCatholic"?

Let's say, OpenCatholic. Okay, but it gets confusing! OpenCatholic is a personally derived mandate. It's "my" idea. So, let's say I put in references to projects or organizations in which I participate. But, do they all accord with the "OpenCatholic" project?

Ugh! Well, the joke's on me. I started this thing, and I need to figure it out.

Okay. Let's try these four.

  • Prayers on behalf of the souls in Purgatory. I have a strong inclination to support this act of faith.
  • Stations of the Cross. I feel a strong obligation to this form of devotion as well.
  • One's Parish. For me, this is St. Stephen, in Southeast Portland, Oregon. Again, I committed to supporting my parish and helping it to grow. This obligations includes evangelical efforts, to which I dedicate this blog and the OpenCatholic website, and other Parish-focused activities of course.
  • Helping the Poor. I have a couple organizations in mind. Sisters of the Road, and  Union Gospel Mission. Neither are "Catholic" in their point of origination, but both are, I strongly believe, representative of the best kind of help we can provide those who need our support.
Well, I will sit on these ideas for what to implement. Principally, I don't want to simply provide such information or links as reader can gather elsewhere.

I want OpenCatholic to be fresh, its focus on content that is alive to its mission.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Work that Works - and Immediate Grace

Being confirmed in the Catholic faith is a means of entering into an ongoing cornucopia of paradox of unseemly proportions. So, lately I have been working on the OpenCatholic website, linking it to this blog, and vice versa, all the while feeling overwhelmed with possibilities (what links? instruction? slide shows? a PopeCam [is there a PopeCam? - please], maybe a link to custom Holy Cards...etc., etc.)

That's the stuff of it, a natural modern noise, but the rub is the challenge of expressing what is utterly intimate without allowing it to be merely personal. The solution is to pray. Oh yes, every day. Pray like a wild man! That, and today I spent an hour or more with the Blessed Sacrament, after while - no surprise - I was able to make some clear choices, and actually made headway with all this design stuff. Ah, it's a relief, a blessing, simply to be able to put myself out there in the name of the Lord, in order to better fulfill my obligations and express my love.

Because of all this, I thought closely today on the rather astonishing fact that our Lord was crucified not alone - as we so often observe - but with two criminals, two mortals, who like us, on the one hand mocked the Lord, and, on the other - somehow immediately recognized him and was promptly guaranteed a place in heaven.

Imagine that! No baptism, no confirmation, no life of toil in the oaken pews - but simply his plea, Do not forget me. And...Bam! You're coming with me, pal.

{I'm sure everyone appreciates my careful attention to the exact word of scripture. Hey, it's the thought that counts, okay? And if you need the cite there're plenty of resources out there - and besides, you should know this by now! ;-)}

The more I read or think about or pray on the Bible, the more likely I see these people who are like you and me, and the graces conferred upon them, or the lessons they teach us. Ah! That we should, each one of us, prove as valuable to those who come after us!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

OpenCatholic - Website, News, Points of a Compass in the Path

Things are up in the air, being things, aloft. Actions aloft. Birds & butterflies painted with name and intention.

I am convinced to do and do more, and to do as I should do; moreover, to do as I believe should be done. Perhaps I trust the doing. That one should do? Yes. That what I do is right? No, but that I should do, yes.

I should ground this post. I will ground this post!

I have set up an OpenCatholic website. The doing is good. But the twin, or anterior effect is to see my religious experience playing out in the here and now under the umbrella of what I can say on behalf of forever. So, I am present, but hardly alone, even as the site, like this blog, should hardly make ripple in world of eternal truths.

Catholic. Being Catholic. I am an open Catholic; I am open about being Catholic. In the self-same breath, I believe that the Catholic mission is one of being open to all, Catholic or no - the universe of all humanity, past, present, and future - abiding by the tenets of Catholicism or not. All under the love and praise of God.

So, I am very happy. I am grateful to the Lord. I am delighted to have this strange opportunity to write and play out whatever you might call this work, this mission - it's purpose and point. I can hardly suggest goals or outcomes independent of, well - independent at all! We do nothing if only we can point the way of the Lord. To feel yourself in that...work, gesture, dance, cataclysm...is a great gift.

We offer ourselves to the Lord at every Mass. We do so in the act of contrition, in the offerings, in the prayers of intention, in the Eucharist. This gets to be a habit, and it is a healthful habit. To say, I am here and I am yours. I am entirely yours, Lord.

For my part, such repetitions serve to make everything plain and clear. There are no lingering doubts or regrets with having made oneself fully culpable and available for the work of the moment.

So, the blog, the website. I hope to help to freshen the mission. I hope it's fun and rich. I hope all kinds of things, all the while praising God and asking for his forgiveness.

OpenCatholic. The term makes perfect sense to me. What would one exclude?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Paul - a Voice for All

It strikes me that every day holds the possibility of a catechism in the Way, seemingly ground up, where one's faith is re-tuned in an aspect of the Word, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

While yesterday was somewhat bleak - I was feeling exhausted, is all - this morning I made a point of praying the Divine Office, which included Paul's admonition in 2 Corinthians, that Strength is made perfect in weakness. This was of course the Lord's directions to Paul as he struggled with the "thorns in his flesh." Which is to say, that Paul had been given what he needed to fight the good fight.

I have thought of this notion of sufficiency, if I may call it that, many, many times, with reference to the visions I have been granted, knowing somehow that the Lord was giving me only what I needed to do what he wanted me to do. The rest is up to me. I hardly need to point out, yet again, that any vision or message from God is just an incredible blessing - given our faith and the Eucharist, who could want for more?

And yet, every day, like the creation in Genesis, is a day made new by the Lord. And miracles - the Word - surrounds us, if only we open our eyes and let our hearts read the message. If the Lord provides...extracurricular (!) instruction...it is to direct us to specific works and mission.

I posted on Facebook that Paul's statements could be the anthem of our time. So many individuals and groups are struggling to be heard and understood; wile so many other individuals and groups appear dedicated to pursing personal, self-serving agendas. For the former, Paul's statement is a call to arms (in my view) - an incitement we have seen borne out in history as the underrepresented, the oppressed, rise despite their weakness in the world to make themselves known and to change the world. Was not Jesus' mission one of representing the poor, the sick, the oppressed?

And for the powerful, Paul's statement is an admonition, that one must, MUST be humble in one's power. That such graces are the gift of the Lord and should be made to serve all mankind. Especially those who have no voice, or power. Our Lord was quite clear n this point, I need hardly point out.

Have no doubt. Make no mistake. The Lord will bless, and test. The tests may be active pain or mere vacancy, a feeling of desertion. This is not to say that all pain is "the will of God." That is a regrettable (if, in some cases, quite understandable!) misunderstanding and misapplication, which I will address at some point. But I will say this, that the Lord and his powers, the Angels and Saints, including especially the Blessed Mother, Mary, surround us night and day. God is as close to us as our merest interior voice will allow. His capacities are infinite, immediate, and perfect.

They are yours, my friends, to call to. Any time it occurs to you to do so.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A brief note on the Way

A note to suggest that living in the Light of Christ is something more challenging than knowing what to do, or what comes next. As you dwell with your name, in your skin, living alongside the Lord as your brother places you at risk. There is less of sublime reflection, I think, than a kind of parallel exposure. The scriptural basis for this observation is to note that nowhere does the Lord or his disciples say, "Golly, you won't believe what I just heard!"

No, the word of God is received as apparent, if almost always slightly wonderful. There would be little point or principle in being, let's say, shocked by such truths or directions as originate from our one and only true, unremitting self.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Offering Easy - Summer and Doubt - Clear the Mind

I would like to write a story. A fascinating, thrilling, brilliant story. One that would propel me from obscurity to fame. This is not a unique desire. It is one I have had many times, one that many writers have. And in my case, I know that it is nothing more than a sign of self-doubt.

A sign, a signal, to stop and doubt one's doubt, or to take things slowly. To breathe.

I would like to know my past and future the way I have at times known the moment of the present, as I might again. This too is a signal of self-doubt, against which, one must act to confess that doubt.

There is no formula for working one's way out of self-doubt. I think I mind it less now, having become a Catholic, as I tend to see these times as a kind of trial, a "cross to bear"' as the expression goes, as it has gone on for centuries now, even in the vernacular.

It would be interesting to read a history of Catholic persons' common usage of terms over the centuries. I can say, based on my so-far scanty reading, that many usages have been in place for a long time. It is strange to read a journal or biography from centuries ago where the writer expresses him-or-herself in prayers that we employ now, or to see the same self-concerns.

And, so, one is sometimes jostled out of self-doubt feeling informed and, well, slightly embarrassed. After all, look at my advantages. Who am I to complain?

But, I trust my active heart (i.e. conscience), which is where meaningful work occurs. If I am sad or doubtful, it means something. And I cannot afford to neglect that doubt.

So, I do not doubt in a strict comparative - though I do doubt whether I have anything to offer - but I tend to vacate myself and simply doubt as one who has lost themselves to themselves. Not always a bad thing!

Catholic. That word carries a lot of connotations. One of which, to the purpose of this posting, is a dedication to prayer, to different kinds of prayer. The Protestant and Fundamentalist churches have been known to take Catholics to task for "formulaic" prayer. That is, praying by rote, not from the heart. This is a formless, weightless criticism. Any Christian of non-Christian is capable of prayer, in word or deed, that is as intense or real or legitimate as the need or desire occasions, and to criticize that based on a person's affiliation is, I think it fair to say, ludicrous, or an exhibition, and not to the point.

Catholics, like others, pray as they need to pray. The literal difference is that Catholics recognize the efficacy of "sacramental" prayers. The Rosary being a prime example. By use of the word "efficacy" I mean to indicate that those prayers work. One can pray and get exactly what one asks for. I have done so and am merely one among billions.

And yet, I doubt myself! It really is comical, isn't it. The co-habitation of these facts leads me to this definition of life. Life is that occasion where utterly contradictory facts occupy the same place, in the same time, under the guise of salient forms.

I have a sudden impression of St. Paul clucking his tongue and shaking his head. He is the Patron Saint of writers, by the way. An intimidating thought!

Well, my friend, this is all a kind of work. In large part, to clear one's mind.

Another effect of having become Catholic, I see each day as a creation, a point of beginning that ends with sleep. So the concerns and doubts, and too the celebrations, end with that day.

To "clear the mind" means to do what must be done, what is "right and just." For that day. For me, this can be accomplished through writing poetry, or a blog (such as this one), or through celebrating Mass. It is sometimes done through political means, offering echoings of justice. It is only rarely accomplished merely through prayer. No, prayer is a call for help to clear one's mind through one or another of these vehicles of...accomplishment.

Ah. It is complicated. These are the inner workings. Catholics are exhorted to read about the Saints, to study the Bible. And we do, because it makes sense to do so, and it helps. It helps in the matter of endurance, sticking with the truth, even when you don't "feel it."

No wonder then that the Lord advised his disciples to pray constantly. That, my friends, was nothing other than a kind, practical suggestion. You can ask anyone who has done so. One might include, to "act with justice" constantly. Surely the Lord would not object to this addendum.

I am almost done with this day - to the sudden impression of St. Paul faintly smiling. And, if this is mere projection, one might suggest, is it so slight as to be disregarded entirely? I am among men and women, alone and in pairs, old and young, writers and workers and poets who work. Are we so alone in noting our impressions as to doubt our own happiness or that of others?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Third Letter to Friends

You will at times feel nothing. I am quite sure that this is not your fault. After a while, it may occur to you to ask for something. This may not be your idea.

Empty, you will ask. Empty, you will be filled. Ah.

The obligations that accrue to one filled are few but I think definite. To be grateful, preferably quietly. To be kind to others, all others, all of whom, you can be sure, have known emptiness. Check.

There is nothing worse than emptiness, then feeling nothing, except feeling pain - but even that can be better than nothing. Talk, talk. The wind blows.

My Lord, you withdraw from me that I might recognize that I have somehow withdrawn from you. And so I empty myself - I have become somewhat accustomed to emptying - and I ask for relief, forgiveness, and you fill me once again. This is always a surprise to me.

You are fun this way, my Lord and Savior. This is how it is with you. I see that. I hope I do not over task you. I do not quite comprehend the alacrity and assurance with which you reward repentance. But, this is what you do. I know this, because I have the user manual, and I have experienced it.

I say these things in public. Not too ostentatiously, I hope. I do so, because I believe that you do not require that I not do so. Or, otherwise. I should do more.

Well, it should be a long summer. I hope to do more with less.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Letter to friends, 2

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death.

I put to one side argument, or proof. To another side, habit.

I form of habit a kind of parcel from which I stand apart. I observe. I consider. I unwrap this parcel, observe the contents, and wrap it up again.

I read and hear others who present this parcel as a thing complete, if of infinite meaning.

But I know meaning as I know my life in Jesus Christ not to be a thing, a parcel, to be observed, unwrapped, carried about, left here or there, protected, revealed or deferred.

Intercession, the category, the movement.
  • I am I as I am in the life of Jesus Christ.
  • I am I as I am a child of Mary, mother of God.
Perhaps, after all, it is too much to ask that the world speak to Mary, except that it can never be too much to say, Mary, pray for us.
  • Why is that so simple?
  • Why does it feel right to say, Mary pray for us?
My friends, pray the Rosary, by all means. I have not read a lesson or direction on the Rosary that I disagree with, or that is not, in my opinion, correct, noble, lovely, and true. I have the privilege of leading the Rosary every third Sunday at the Church I attend, and I can tell you that every single Hail Mary matters, and means something. I have found myself incapable of proceeding with the Hail, Holy Queen, for the emotions that overcome me.

This is not bragging. This is empirical fact, like being winded from a sprint.

So, yes, pray the Rosary. And more so, speak to Mary as you would to your mother. You do not have to be a signed and sealed Catholic to say, simply, Mary. Mary, mother of God, what should I do? Mary, help me. Mary, in the name of Jesus Christ, insert petition here.

What is religion? At its best, I believe that it is a practical outline of how to love God and obey his commandments, which are summed up (as Paul adjures) in the admonition to love each other as we do ourselves, where all worldly distinctions disappear and we are one in Jesus Christ.

Surely, under the watchful, caring, protective, ever-wakeful gaze of Mary, mother of God; surely, all are entitled to speak to Mary. Mary, mother to all, to all who would care to ask, if only casually, as an almost unconscious aside...

Mary, help me. In the name of God, help me.

Letter to Friends, 1

Galatians, 3:26-29

We can allow that the world has written our introductions and asks only that we speak the truth.

What is the truth? To do the will of God. What is the will of God? To do what is pleasing to God. What is pleasing to God? To love each other as God loves us.

Two men laid claim to the same house. I hewed those planks, said one. I hammered those hinges, said the other. Where upon, the door opened and a third man emerged, who said, Welcome to the house of God, and both men entered.
  • The fact of the Lord is not where one ends, but the very point where one's life begins.
  • Life has always begun at this very point, that Jesus is Lord.
  • One's life is in principal part a history or musical score describing a person's movements in relationship to this point.
There is little point in my saying, I love you, if I do not pray. For what is love unless I tell God?

How do I pray? I pray as you pray. I say, am alone.

The prayers we pray in common, they are like knocking on the door of the house of God. But once inside, speak to God. As you move about the house, from room to room, taking stock of its dimensions and furnishings, speak what is on your mind and in your heart. Anything other, or should you lose touch, you are outside the house again.
  • And so, turn. Knock once again, and you will enter.
  • Knock once more, and again, over and over.
  • As often as you fall away, you might rise again.
Turn, turn again, lest one be confirmed in having fallen away, by which you will form habits, such as pointing at the house, from outside the house, professing doubt, or claiming ownership. It is all the same thing. This is not prayer. While doubt can be noble, a sort of trace of the mind birthing the covenant soul - ownership is not the language of God. Perhaps you argue for ownership of the house, or you conceive that you are pleading for the house. But God does not need you to justify the house of God. God does not understand a person who says, I understand God.

You will enter the house of God when you say, I wish to enter the house of God. When you confess that it is the house of God, where one law serves for every law. By one law we abide in the house of God.
  • By virtue of the one utterance that is true, that we are one in the love of God.
  • By virtue of the one utterance that is true, that we are one in the life of Jesus Christ.
In this, I serve; in only this, do I serve. My life, my work, my family. In the Spirit, all men, women, and children are the Christ. I make no distinctions. I have not been tasked with distinction-making. I do not put aside my Cross to check identification papers, to ask how someone voted on this or that issue, to wonder at their personal history. I cannot express the words to doubt, except ironically, in a turn away from the true utterance which, by its locution, inevitably turns back to point at the house of God, to say...

My lord, forgive me, for I am a terrible sinner. Give me strength, to say, one, and forever...
  • I belong to God in the life of Jesus Christ.
  • Everything I do, do not do, write, do not write, or say must accord somehow with that simple, central premise.
  • My Lord. My life. Do with me what you will.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Purgatory: Place and Purpose


Lord, I am one among many, and I am not lost.

I start this posting with this prayer which only just now occurred to me, and which I hope applies to the moment.

For reasons and to the purpose of sights and scenes granted to me, I undertake to speak to the matter of Purgatory. To the matter, its being, its purpose, but always I hope first and foremost to the purpose of prayer for the souls in Purgatory. To their salvation, their reunion with God, their absolute resolution in the presence of God, the Father, our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, in the company of all the saints and angels, guided by the love, the perfect love, of our mother, the Blessed Virgin.

I must really sound like I know what I'm doing, so far! But there are a dozen or a thousand ways to address such a dyed-in-the-wool topic as Purgatory. I've seen the web sites and read a few tracts here and there. They are, all in all, fine publications. All to the purpose of prayer for the benefit of the repose of the departed. Briefly, the Catholic church holds that those in the faith who have not attained perfection (purity, or complete absolution) at death must undergo cleansing in Purgatory before they can enter the Kingdom of Heaven, before they can dwell for all time, immemorial in the present of the Lord.

The history of Catholic literature, including the lives of particular saints, is rich with insights that build upon scriptural references. I could go on. Many do, but I won't. No, it is not to my purpose to repeat what others have asserted, or to provide links, references, etc. Anyone can locate these. No, building on my previous post, of this date, I will allow as being sufficient to assert what I know in my life in Christ.

You will see a posting I made called "November Dream" in 2012, which revolved around a vision of Purgatory. My vision, which I ascribe to the Grace of God in deference to the favors of the Blessed Virgin, comprised a scene that differs from the "cleansing fire" described by others. But I have to say, that where it is asserted that Purgatory is "like unto a cleansing fire," it therefore states that is not a fire, but only "like unto" one. In the vision granted to me, Purgatory was more in the nature of a confluence of bodies awaiting release. And indeed, last night I was granted a supporting vision, of souls collected en masse, almost like the pistils of a flower, faces streaming into a collected, yearning pattern.

I saw corridors, walls, as of a subterranean palace. Why all this? Well, I have felt compelled to address the purpose of my mission in this life (as explicated in other postings). So yesterday (while on a run) I asked the Lord to grant me a vision to confirm my purpose in speaking for those who cannot speak well, or in praying for the souls of those in Purgatory.  And this was the clincher (Catholics will like this...), I concluded my prayer by saying, "Lord, I will not take your non-response as a denial (!) I bet he loved that.

God is with us, and we are in the Lord. If we all knew this, the world would transform.

To the purpose of the here and now, I believe that prayers for the souls in Purgatory suffice to release those souls, those individual souls, persons, like you and me, to the presence of God. I agree with the tenets and the writings of others that the souls of the departed are dependent on the prayers of the faithful. I do not believe that the departed are subject to fire, but to what is "like unto" a cleansing fire.

In my visions, or what has been granted to me, what is like unto a cleansing fire is separation from God. Imagine dying and being somehow conscious, or aware, or present in oneself and with others, waiting. Waiting for God. In limbo (as the Old Testament describes it). Imagine not being...complete, finished. I believe that this is the penultimate fate that waits us, all of us, perhaps "only" most of us! But that's enough for me to believe that prayers for those who, like us, are not pure (and who can say - who would dare to say - they are purely in God) should be a present and pressing concern.

I said "penultimate" because one who is on Christ is assured of gaining admittance. We have an ultimate reward. We know this from the Word.

And yet, of all the works available to us, even as we feed the hungry or administer to the needs of the oppressed, can we afford to put aside this incredible opportunity to free the souls of those in waiting so that they can enter Heaven? Do we understand what this means? Catholic literature is certain on the point that those whom one releases will pray for their benefactors - but, more than that - let me say, that as souls populate (or should I say "occupy") heaven, so will the earth and the universe, the reality of the here and now, the present and future historical occasion - so will this place and time be drawn toward the Kingdom, the Revelation of His Kingdom, when all souls in Christ will be drawn into the presence for all eternity.

I wrote in my previous posting of the melding of faith and the every day. Here and now, in this present time, let us pray for the souls in purgatory, especially those who are most forsaken, that we may effectively make paradise a reality. We vote on laws; we consider the environment; we school ourselves and our children.

We are assiduous in what we and others define as our ethical duties. I, for one, speaking only for myself (and as I wrote in the posting mentioned above) believe in choice and in life; I believe in freedom as the Lord has granted us freedom to choose what is right and just. I believe that God is the author of the universe, historically and in the here and now, into eternity, in the present and in future forms.

I have no choice therefore but to say, categorically, that Purgatory exists, is real, is formed within the greater purpose of God as a place and a purpose; that we, here and now, are granted this opportunity and Grace: to pray for the souls in Purgatory, as others will pray for us, for our souls when we have passed from this life. Yes, if you would believe in your own salvation, pray for others who, like yourself, believed in life, love, and ultimate peace. Pray as you would pray for yourself, with no thought of social or economic barriers - no barriers of place or time. Pray joyfully, and as if there were no choice. As if, both presently and ultimately, the fate of the living universe were in the balance.

This is complete love. Love given and taken, both in part and made whole, to say, Father in heaven, have mercy on the souls in Purgatory, especially those who are most forsaken. Amen.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Say, to Authority, in Love, Speak

Catholicism, or dare I say any religion, is not a matter of picking one’s spots. One does not simply choose this and that and let the rest subside; or, to put it another way, one commits to one’s religion if one is capable of committing to anything at all. Less than that, and we are searching,  a noble task, a necessary precursor to belief, of course, but neither praising utterly, nor asking for help, completely.

And, as one believes, one is in the midst of practice, its rituals, history, its ethical ramifications. I do not put aside the world to pray, attend Mass, or partake of the Host. I do all this in the middle of my life. The Lord made no distinction. Neither, upon pain of separation from He who is life, and His purpose, shall I.

An aspect of scripture in the New Testament that continually interests me is the assertion that Jesus taught as one with authority, not at the scribes taught, but as one with full knowledge of God, and with love. That notion puts me in mind of the manner of St. Paul, who also writes as one with authority, with love, in the name of Jesus Christ. What does this mean? Well, for now, or at this juncture, I say what I believe and know in the exact words that I choose to communicate, which is this: it means that one should write from one’s life in the full knowledge that one’s life is the Lord’s. What can I assert otherwise, in any part of my life, if I believe that I am in Christ, and that He is in me?

But, we are taken up with demonstrations of proof, from which we hope to derive authority. This is weak stuff, appealing to human terms of authority on matters pertaining to the Spirit. Certainly, we are all familiar with demonstrations of "authority" wherein one would be hard-pressed to detect the sort of perfect love shown by Jesus, time and time again; and certainly there are few if any human authorities who can make the same claims to knowledge of perfect love made by St. Paul. No, we settle - if that's the word - for proofs and arguments, such as might settle a court case, or put someone in their place. Weak stuff, indeed.

Rather than this, rather than "settling," we should say what we know, and everything we know or feel, in the confidence that we are in Christ. And - this is key - we should stop there. We who are saved...how can we fail to do otherwise? Well, to be fair, there are numerous factors governing other manners of speech. Our personal doubts and insecurities, the claims made upon our time, on our emotional and intellectual lives. And, there are the authorities of our Church – and Church, any religious practice, really – these educated, convincing, seemingly complete authorities. They are duty-bound, I suppose, to try and "convince" others of what they know by argument. This, they appear or pretend to imagine, is how one shows one's authority.

But, what is authority? God is the only true authority; and God is with us. He is in us and we are in Him. And we have the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us, to strengthen us, as He did the prophets of old. The authority to speak and speak confidently, and truly, is with you now.

But, as I said to start out, one cannot merely pick and choose. One’s life in faith, no matter how strong or notable or story-worthy, no matter how saintly, is itself undertaken and experienced in the midst of a life with a beginning and an end. The cloistered or ordained life is in part a response to this context, to choose to experience one’s faith apart from distractions, lures, etc. But even so, that does not remove oneself from historical or ethical contexts, it is only a particular form of response to context as perceived by oneself.
 
This is why I assert that I experience my faith and its practices in the midst of my life, not apart from it. If anything, I have seen my experience of the every day colored and changed by my religious practices. I am in Christ, and He is in me, at Mass, at work, as I write and as I sleep, in practice, in truth, in love. This is an incontrovertible article of faith. It goes beyond the nature of a mere fact, even as it is located in the here and now. It is a fact forever, for all time. It preceded me and it will outlive me in this mortal life. It is a truth, one that will come into full flower in the world to come.
 
And it is in full appreciation of this truth of one’s existence that one can, should, and perhaps must speak with authority and love. Not as one who merely studies and recites scripture, but as one who lives it. As did Jesus Christ, as did St. Paul, following the example of the Lord. In full knowledge of God and His love; and therefore, incontrovertibly, in and with love for all.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Love Complete, Conditioned Love

An odd experience of the Vigil Mass for Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ). I have never felt so disengaged. Or, at all disengaged, but tonight, I was. I spent about a half hour in the chapel beforehand, talking to the Lord, went for a walk thinking I might go home and return for Mass on Sunday; felt relief, then, seeing a couple parishioners, went back for Mass anyway.
 
I think I know what the deal is, based on this simple yet acute understanding. The Lord knows me, and I know him. I know his ways. In the process of joining with the church, I was granted several visions that showed me over a few months, in succession, my calling into the church; my ministry in the church; a vision of heaven; a vision of purgatory; the nature of Mary as the Church; and my death, or the flight of my soul. While I have been granted a couple insights since then (the Cross of the Lord on a mountaintop beset by heavy rains; the epiphany of forgiveness only by God the Father) I do not expect much more in the way of visions. For, you see, Lord, I read. I have made myself familiar with your...modus operendi. The Bible tells me as much, that you grant faith and insight and promise, then withdraw. It is our duty then to maintain our promise to you. To adore you. To pray. To live according to your laws and your example. Oh, yes. It is an old, old pattern, more reliable than any other that comes to mind, for by your grace it preceded the birth of the heavens and it will be invoked on the day of judgement, when the heaavens and earth pass away, and are made new.

And so, tonight, while the Spirit may have withdrawn from me, I am unshaken. Alerted, but unwavering. There is no power and no vacancy of power that will cause me to falter in my love of you. I am happy, overjoyed to be tested thus, for I know how you test those you love. That you should continue to show me favors, first by obvious gifts, then withdrawing them to test me (boy, am I Catholic, or what...) is something I can’t even begin to comprehend as being anything due any cause but that of a father’s love. My son, Jackson, holds the same favor with me, and I have told him as much.

That comparison draws a thought, that you seek to teach me something about love and duty. You see, Lord, I know you. I know that all that I am and have is yours, and that insofar as you are with me, you will prompt me, and provoke me. You challenge me. And this too is love. We are fond of the term “unconditional love.” What is that? Perhaps a better term is “complete love,” to describe a love that is unfailingly attentive to the whole person, in which both persons are present, awake, dutiful, responsive, alive.
 
And so I am present too, Lord, when you are silent. You can’t fool me. I know you are there. Even when I am not allowed the pleasure of feeling it, I know you are there.

 

Friday, May 24, 2013

A bit on Popes, Francis especially

It is pleasant and right I think to have a blog to God and such as are thoughts in his direction, given that one finds oneself to be in the nature of a "practicing" Christian, and are running other blogs, publishing online, etc. It is right in that one can write to this purpose unencumbered by audience or expectations. It is right, insofar as divulging oneself is right. I see no point in imagining otherwise.

These are heady times, with an outwardly non-conformist, anti-corporate Pope. It is mildly amusing to hear people wonder at the importance of the Pope. The clearest commentary I can give on this point is to suggest that one turn to the title pages of any Catholic Bible, where among this and that you will see a list of the Popes. The first Pope is a gentleman named Peter. That's Simon Peter, the fisherman, the first chosen disciple, the leader of the disciples, martyred in Rome. Hold in mind the Catholic's resolute belief in the practice of the laying on of hands to confer the Holy Spirit, and you have the succession of Popes until the present day. So, we take the Pope only as seriously as we take our Lord's instructions to Peter, that he lead his (the Lord's) flock. Guess how seriously we take that point of instruction. If you guessed, "very," you are right.

So, we Cathlics move with the Pope, we listen and love and pray and heed the Pope. Now, some of us (like me) are quite sure that we are free to disagree with the Pope. After all, the Pope may be chosen, but he is not the Lord. He is a human being, like myself, and he is not entirely free of human influence, in all its varied forms, like myself. So, when the Pope says something we consider contrary to our life in the spirit, we are not - or should not - be afraid to express it.

But  this posting is not a set-up to disagree with Pope Francis. Since the day of his election, I have held strong feelings that he might be special. Very special. It is not for me to say what that could mean, except to say that I hope it is so, for all our sakes.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Particular to Saints, perhaps Others

I would have liked to meet St. Stephen - or, Stephen, we will say, A deacon to the disciples. One of a few or many, perhaps. We do not know.

We know from Acts that Stephen was a deacon when the disciples of Christ were in Jerusalem, soon, or fairly soon, after the Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. According to the chronology of Acts, Stephen loudly proclaimed the Word - the Gospel - the person and trust of Jesus Christ - after the Disciples had been warned by the Jewish authorities to cease. For his efforts, Stephen was stoned. He dies and was thereby the first Christian Martyr.

St. Stephen was a punk, a trouble-maker, the kind of person who, when he feels it, says it, regardless of consequences. I feel it to be a grace that I belong to a church dedicated to St. Stephen, here in Portland. I really like St. Stephen.

I also like St. Joan of Arc. A lot. I carry a Holy Card for her in my wallet as a reminder of her, and to pray for intercession. Like St. Stephen, she was (according to accounts) a fearless believer, even unto death. If you can't admire such a woman as Joan of Arc, well, I can't help you.

Or, maybe I can.

If we can admire such women as Joan of Arc for their devotion, their sacrifice - the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our Lord - are we not obligated to consider all women in this light? It is critical to consider our obligations as we recognize and acknowledge such truths as a young woman dying for Christ. I don;t mean to consider women in merely an ideal light, but as with St. Stephen, to consider their lives and their sacrifices in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I trust in the heart and faith of any woman that she loves as I love, as our Lord loved.

I believe and support any woman in the choices she makes in her life to live life as it should be lived, with joy, freedom, love.

I  ask of God that I respect women and care for their needs as I do my own, all the while aware of my own ignorance and prejudice.

I love and admire St. Stephen, St. Joan of Arc. But it does not stop there, does it? No, my obligations do not cease with specific endorsement or care. Respect and love cannot cease with the individual. One is carried in one's heart beyond the individual to humanity as a whole. To love and respect St. Stephen, St. Joan of Arc, is to admit to care for anyone, all persons, who love God as they loved God. Man and Woman, then as now, the human heart - that willingness, the Spirit - to love without reserve.

Saints Joan of Arc, Stephen - the innumerable Spirits and Guardians who accompany us - who are we to draw lines or differentiate? As a man or a women feels, considers, decides, believes. How does God operate? We cannot know as does God, and so are called.

To believe, defend, even unto death.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Just and Kind, the Clouds and the Seas

Father Petrus' homily on Easter Sunday made the point that every act of kindness is a kind of Mass. I agree, and suggest that kind thoughts qualify as prayer. Certainly, we can be grateful for what we have not ruined, today. This seems to be a focus of current progressive ethics, and it is a good and just focus.

I have it in mind not to over-concern myself with how I am perceived by others. How I behave. My faith. How I write. How I publish/do not publish poems. As an exercise, I try and imagine how I might appear to others in light of how I tend to perceive others. Most days, I feel perfectly inadequate. I do not perceive others this way though; would I perceive myself this way, as inadequate, if I were someone else? I should allow myself to admit that I would not. I would see a man who is busily engaged at making the most of his life. Imperfect, to be sure, but fully engaged, yes.

I had the summary revelation that I cannot forgive myself anything, that only God can forgive, and so I have been making use of him that way. I have taken to this prayer: "God, forgive me; Holy Spirit, strengthen me; Lord Jesus Christ, do with me what you will." I can feel the effect in handing over what was never under my control to begin with, so the pleasure in in being somewhat less a fool. I wonder what other obnoxious habits I can dispense with?

Other thoughts. I am less anxious than ever about the Catholic Church in the world, even as I am alert and aware concerning crimes and travesties. Why is this? Perhaps my study, then knowledge of God as all-encompassing has matured somewhat into an understanding, such that it indeed encompasses all other understandings. This is the sort of thing one reads about, and It may be true. There are various factors, of that I am sure. Lent was difficult and strange. But I am not as personally, egotistically concerned by my failings, or others', as potential or perceived.

Where there is crime, I ask for and expect justice, including punishment, including mercy once punishment has been levied. I see no conflict between belief and disgust as each has its own place. Evil cannot inform good. Or, if God is for us (and in us and in each other) who (including ourselves) can be against us (or each other)? We practice to be good and can and should expect to pay for what is not good. We must not be silent on that point.

One year baptized and confirmed, a Catholic, I continue to be constantly surprised, delighted, and refreshed by my faith and its practices. Nothing amazes me as much as this sustained state of surprise. It is not something one could reasonably expect, is it? The Lord is kind, very kind to me, and often in startling, unexpected fashion. I am kept awake, alive. There is nothing routine about all this, except a healthy persistence in sensible practices.

And, I am never quite entirely alone, when I care to consider myself.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Now for Heaven

I have been more than busy and I have made a point (or it has happened) that I have been less regular in my practice this past week, and all things work together, and I have never seen the parts not add up to a whole, so I am led to this posting, to state, that I am almost always lost, and this is what I know at all times, and this is not new. And so I sometimes think I know more than I do, or other times feel less than what I would like. But I do not change so easily.

This is all mood and perception. I keep this is mind, that I am loved and forgiven as I love and forgive. I have more chances lately it seems (only seems, I am sure) to be simply kind or respectful, maybe just funny and easy, maybe making things less stressed. So, I'm saying that is a kind of devotion on days when I am too tired to actively practice prayer or Mass, etc., but a gift nonetheless. And, this is important. Exhausted, you want to find yourself returning to your practices as energy and time allow. That is, the world is always here, and when you reach out God is there.

I have been too tired, too stressed, too down on myself. Look at all that negative thinking. Well, it's not so easy getting out of it. I know all the "you're alright" talk. And it helps. God helps too. I can;t put a finger on it. But, it's as if the door is always open once I have the clarity to see it.

Anyway, I don't have a lot of suggestions or opinions I guess. Today, I needed to say goodbye thanks to the people I took motorcycle training with, just to say it, and everyone responded, and the instructors were so helpful and kind. I sometimes think that the only thing that separates this life, now, from heaven is our mortality, our weakness at the hands of the world and its demands. I mean specifically to remove blame from the equation. I mean to say, we are so very blessed, now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

To be Honest/Funny To Be

Honesty is funny. To be honest is not a condition as much as a position. I honestly pray the rosary 9 days out of 10; I honestly attend weekly Mass and Holy days; I honestly pray and I honestly believe what I say I believe.

I also honestly am disgusted by pedophilia. I am also honestly dedicated to women's rights. I honestly believe that anyone who has committed a crime against anyone should be prosecuted and made to pay for their crimes.

I, for one, am honestly ashamed of what I have done in my life to hurt those I love, to hamper their happiness, even while it does not rise to a crime. While I honestly am proud of what I have done to help those I love and those I merely encounter.

I honestly dedicate myself to do better to emulate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And I honestly love the Catholic Church. I am proud to be Christian, to be a Catholic, and I will honestly strive to be a better person in line with the teachings I have received, originating with the scripture.

Yes, honesty is funny. I never quite know what will happen next, being honest. I may be granted an insight. I may feel shame. I can only be open to whatever it might be. That is the mandate of honesty. It seems to me that the bible speaks to this, in that one is compelled to worship God and to love others as oneself. And, so, one should be honest. And I cannot feel the criticism of being naive, as our Lord and Savior insists that we believe purely, innocently, as do children.

At the insights I receive, I often laugh with surprise. At my shame I think, How funny that I have not realized this before.

Maybe you have had similar experiences.

Honesty is funny. I think it always has been funny and will continue to be so. This is what I think.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Touch of Merton, More of What I See


First, and quickly, Thomas Merton's Praying The Psalms is an excellent companion and makes perfect sense. I recommend it to anyone who is open to an intelligent and compassionate discussion of the subject.

If I had this book to write, I would want to go a step further away from the well-worn practice of employing the psalms for this or that situation as one perceives distress, etc. in one's own life. I find that the psalms have nothing to do with me as I understand myself in this world. Rather, and as Merton affirms, they make me better suited to love of God. And, one finds oneself at times in step with Jesus Christ, and with other believers, so that the great commandments of love are put into action. This seems to me to be all the purpose required for one's understanding and enjoyment and consolation, never mind this psalm for that personal affliction.

But, onto ostensibly more personal matters.

I am behind on writing about three visions. What other word? I close my eyes and pray and see things. So, visions.

I asked Mary for insight into who she is to us, and the lights behind my eyelids took the form of several pairs of perfectly formed female breasts. Well, there’s my religion, I thought. There’s the message. No ifs about it. Mother to us all. Got it. Thank you.

On another night, I prayed to know the Holy Spirit. I saw light take shape in a rapid succession of forms. Fire and faces. Shifting shapes. Some recognizable, others not. The overall sense was “organic” inasmuch as the shapes changed, or morphed. But then, there was scission. Difference. A kind of time blip of step, or distinction. One. One. One. Not many, but one. Then one. Then one. I may have seen two dozen or fifty forms. I tired before my eyes did, or what passed before my inner eye.

Just recently, and I forget the context or prayer, I saw the lid of a coffin, quilted, and a face escaping horizontally, skeletal (skullular {is that a word?}) trailing smoke or fire, or maybe it was just the trail of movement. I have wondered, was this an image of my death? If so, I will live to a distressingly old age. Lord, I’m not sure you are listening! The horizontal movement indicates as much – i.e., purgatorial, not heaven-ward.

How not. Ah, I am not a saint. I have thrown all my spiritual chips into loving God and doing everything I can to love others, but in fact I am a poor agent on my own behalf. I simply cannot rely on myself to know the best way to be merely me, or whatever part of me makes the letters appear like so, and so, on paper and computer screen. I ask myself, why am I confused where to write; what is my confusion? I circulate in public. I like the open-ended humanity, the music and the air of nothing being done of any particular worth. The meadow of the honest writer, perhaps – or this writer being honest, perhaps, with what he does.

So why does God allow me to see things? I don't know. How would I? One might as well ask, why does one exist in the first place. I do grateful. I don’t do doubt, except to wonder about myself and why I do what I do. After 54 years I have no perfect answers or absolute positions, excpet with respect to love of God and others. If anything, the answers are fewer and certainly less...hmmm, concrete. However, I can't allow myself to continue to apply this dis-knowledge to myself. I need to recognize who I am, what I need, and to act on my own behalf. If anything, this will help me to see more clearly others' needs, if not the will of God.

Thank you for reading.