Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happier and Holier New Year

Some of my friends don't see how they can have a happy new year with all the bad news about our country and our world.  Three of them told me that even before they get out of bed in the morning they listen to the news.  Well, stop doing that!  For a happier and holier new year, try less news, more prayer.

Friday, December 30, 2016

6 Snowy Days on this 6th Day of Christmas

I left to green grass and a frozen lake.  I returned to snow and a melted lake.
I've been away for a large family party and a 50th wedding anniversary.  Many warm memories and present joys.  Added to the wonderful Christmas Day celebration with my own immediate family, these Days of Christmas are overflowing with Gracious Love whom the season celebrates.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Green Christmas

When I walked this Christmas morning I was struck by how much of the lawns were still green.  The Lake is mostly frozen, but down in our cove (to the right of the picture) it has melted.  Sun came out bright and clear this afternoon.
Snow and Christmas so often go together in our part of the world, that it takes some deliberate effort this year to "think Christmas."  Outward signs have a huge impact on our interior life.  But as I walked I made myself think about Bethlehem and how Jesus was probably born in warm weather, if  shepherds had their sheep out in the fields.  A real place.  A real event.  Meaning takes over.
Love became flesh to wake the Divine within us.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ancient Christmas Card

At the time of sunrise
a ray grazes the notch on the left side
on Christmas Day.
A Feast-day of the Church,
the first season of the year.
The season of the Blessed Advent
of the Savior, Lord Christ.
Behold, he is born of Mary, a woman.

The writing in the picture is on a rock wall in  southwestern West Virginia.  Archeologist Robert Pyle has identified it as Celtic Ogam from 500-800 A.D.  The translation is by Barry Fell.  There are similar petroglyphs in the same area.  That Celts (Irish monks?) were here that early is astonishing. Even more astonishing is that they took the trouble to carve this Christmas message on rock, to share with the ages their faith in the Incarnation.
(The picture and the translation are from the cover of the March, 1983, issue of Wonderful West Virginia magazine.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tilting Planet

What a great treat for the winter solstice!  Just before the sun came up we had a gorgeous display.  As I walked, the sun came up.  It is so very far from where it comes up in the summer.  I got to thinking as I walked that the earth has tilted now as far from the sun as it will for a year.  Now it begins to tilt back towards the sun.  I felt my body tilting with the earth. 
I thought of an old saying, "If you're not as close to God as you used to be, guess who moved!"  Sometimes we think that God is distancing Godself from us, when it is really we who have tilted away from Love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Love Takes the Initiative

Love consists in this:
it is not we who loved God
but God loved us and sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away....
No one has ever seen God,
but as long as we love each other
God remains in us
and his love comes to its perfection in us.

I spent some time this morning in this chair in the wonderful sunshine reflecting on the First Letter of John, 4:7-12.  God always makes the first move.  When we let Gracious Love warm our hearts, we can be that Love for others.

Monday, December 19, 2016


I have never before been able to save impatience inside in the winter.  This plant was blooming profusely when I brought in the plants that I regularly keep inside, so I brought it in also.  It continues to be impatient.
Like children, as Christmas draws near, we become impatient for the Day to arrive.  Advent has been a time of waiting and hoping.  We are eager for the celebrations of Christmas to make us more aware of Love's continuing presence within us.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Roman Summary

All this is frozen now after the frigid temperatures yesterday and last night's 0 degrees.
The very beginning of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans (1:1-7) rewards meditation as we approach Christmas.  In one very long sentence Paul summarizes all that he intends to say to the church in Rome (whom he has never met) about his personal call to be one of the apostles and about the Good News that he preaches about Jesus "who was descended from David according to the flesh, who was designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead." 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Disorderly Inn

Early yesterday morning I was able to catch that great moon.
In her diary entry for December 26, 1976, Dorothy Day wrote:
"A snow storm is upon us, the house is crowded like the inn where Christ was born.  Besides our community of 40 there is a Italian mother and family of 6, not to speak of some unidentified ones who suddenly appeared....
We are not a community, a Christian or a religious community that is.  We are an inn by the side of the road.  We have no common sense."
Dorothy quotes St. Teresa of Avila, "Life is a night spent in a disorderly inn."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tempting God?

40 sea gulls huddled together in a patch of water surrounded by thin ice in front of my shore this morning.  They were striking in flight brightened by the sun against the blue sky, but I wasn't fast enough to get a picture of that.
I meditated on Isaiah 7:10-14 where Matthew got his quote about Emmanuel.  The king's enemies are closing in on him and he is thinking about allying himself with the Assyrians for protection.  Isaiah is trying to talk him out of that plan and suggests he ask God for a sign.  The king says he doesn't want to bother God with the matter, but what he's really saying is that his mind is made up. 
How often we do that!  We want to do something so much that we don't really want any advice or sign to the contrary, even God's opinion.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


This kind of startling beauty pulls us out of the ordinary and assures us that God is with us.  God is with Joseph in a dream to assure him that Mary's child is of the Holy Spirit.  His name will be Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Our Lady of the Roses

This is another name I have heard for Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The Lady told Juan Diego to take roses to the bishop to prove that the vision was real.  In a barren, rocky place he found roses fresh and lovely growing in a place where roses could not grow and blooming in a frosty month when roses do not bloom.  Our Lady arranged the roses in his cloak.  When he got to the bishop and released his cloak, the roses uncrushed and unwilted fell to the floor.  The bishop got to his knees.  On the rough cloak of the Indian Juan Diego was the image of the Mother of God.
By appearing like the Indians of Mexico Our Lady showed her concern and care for all Mexicans.  We honor her best by doing the same.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

St. Juan Diego

Returning Wednesday from a luncheon, as I drove up a short hill I was greeted by this glorious silver freeze with the afternoon sun blazing through the ice.
At the hill of Tepayac in Mexico on this date in 1531, Our Lady began a series of four apparitions to a native-Mexican Juan Diego. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Any Room in Your Heart?

This is the very old iron furnace in my hometown.  It goes back to the beginnings of the town when some iron ore was found in the area.  Several years ago someone got the bright idea of putting life size nativity figures in it.
When we were in Bethlehem we were shown the cave where tradition says Jesus was born.  Luke tells us that the child was laid in a feeding trough for animals because there was no room in the place where people stayed.  Luke emphasizes the poverty and homelessness of Jesus' beginnings.  In the rest of his Gospel he will stress how Jesus loves and cares for those pushed to the edges of society.  Jesus lives in us and wants to use us to reach out to the poor and the marginal of our own time. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Rejoice and Bloom

"It ain't much, but what there is is choice."  Those of a certain age might recognize that quote from a movie.  It is appropriate for my very small Christmas cactus, which maybe we could call an Advent cactus.  I like his color better than his two big brothers. 
Isaiah in a glorious expression of new life sings that the desert will rejoice and bloom with abundant flowers (35:1-10.)  I was lucky to be in a southwestern desert when the spring rains transformed the parched land with a carpet of lovely flowers.  No matter how parched we feel or our world seems, abundant new life is Christ's Advent promise.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Grateful Heart

I will make you a new heart,
breathe new spirit into you.
I will remove your heart of stone,
give you back a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Two years ago tonight I had my heart attack.  Thanks to God acting in many, many people, I survived.  My good neighbor who drove me to the hospital.  The doctors and nurses at the nearby hospital who worked hard to get me stable enough to send me to another hospital.  The excellent cardiologists and nurses at that hospital where I had triple bypass surgery.  The fine staff at the nearby sub-acute unit where I learned to walk.  The above view which played a large part in gentling me into full health.  Finally, my large family whose generous love and care had as much to do with my recovery as all of the above. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bare Beauty

Sometimes God doesn't seem to be around.  In the Bible we see that sometimes God seems to have abandoned Israel but always God's love and care win out.  This encourages us in our increasingly dark days of Advent to persevere in the hope that God is always lurking around, looking out for us.  St. Paul sort of sums up his difficult Letter to the Romans with this blessing:
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith,
  so that in the power of the Holy Spirit you may be rich in faith."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Beauty Will Save The World

Such beauty gentles our hearts and draws us into the embrace of Absolute Beauty.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hang in there!

We're still waiting, Love,
for that one transcendent
moment, waiting
for you to show us the magic, the secret, the reason
for hanging on.

I woke in the night and couldn't get back to sleep.  I sat in my chair and read some poetry from the large, fine anthology, The Poet's Quest for God, edited by Oliver Brennan and Tom Swift.  I fell asleep repeating the lines above from the end of Kim Goldberg's poem, "Possessed."

(The camera is facing the eastern sky made pink by the setting sun.  The gold in the window and    through the trees is from the setting sun in the western sky behind the camera.)

Friday, November 25, 2016


God will end conflict between nations
and settle disputes between peoples.
They will hammer swords to plows
and spears to pruning knives.
Nations will not take up arms,
will no longer train for war.
             Isaiah 2:4
Is it too much to hope for?  Is it only a dream?  If we can see clearly how to solve a predicament, there is no need for hope.  An impossible dream?  Then we need hope. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

First Thanksgiving

After a winter of terrible hardship, only 50 of the original 101 English had survived.  In the spring the Indians taught them what  to plant.  The harvest of 1621 was very good.  The following is part of a letter that Edward Winslow sent to a "loving and old friend" in England on December 11, 1621:
After we got in our harvest, our governor sent four men bird-hunting so that we might in a special way rejoice together after we had gathered in the fruit of our labors.  The four of them in one day killed enough birds to serve the company almost a week.  At that time we had a parade and other recreations. 
Many of the Indians joined us, including their greatest king, Massasoyt, and some ninety others.  For three days we feasted and entertained them.  They went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and gave to our governor and the captain and others.  And, although it is not always so plentiful as it was at this time for us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from need, that we often wish that you could share our plenty.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Shops aren't the only ones who can't wait for Christmas! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Christ Is All

Before anything came to be, Christ was,
and the universe is held together by Christ.

Salvador Dali's large picture of the Last Supper has Jesus and the disciples in a more or less traditional pose around a long table.  Above them, however, is the Risen Christ, head, shoulders, and arms outstretched the length of the painting, as if embracing all.  I think of this all-embracing Christ when I read the hymn in the first chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians (1:12-20.)  Teilhard de Chardin found in this hymn his notion of Christ as the beginning and end of evolution, guiding its progress and enveloping the whole cosmos in the Divine.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Divine Glow

I was drawn to these grasses on one of my recent walks.  Risen sun low on the horizon lighting them from within.  Divinity shining through.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mercy Continues

Jesus doesn't want to stop showing mercy to the outsider and the marginal.  He lives in us and reaches out through us to love and care for those that our society pushes to the side, such as Blacks, Muslims, and Mexicans.
It helps to remember that Mexico used to include all the territory that is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Utah.  So Mexicans have been living in this land for centuries.  The first Muslims in America were slaves imported from Africa, but there were also free Muslims living here before the American Revolution.  The Black struggle for equality that began in earnest in the 1960's is far from over. 
Jesus in us intends to show his special concern for the outsider.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gospel of Mercy

The Gospel according to Luke is sometimes called "The Gospel of Mercy," because Luke highlights the actions and words of Jesus that show love for the poor and the outsiders and the marginal.
It is only in Luke's Gospel that we see Mary and Joseph homeless and our Savior laid in the feeding trough of animals.  Only Luke has the first announcement of the Messiah's birth made to poor shepherds, a group who lived on the margins of their society.
It is only Luke who gives us Jesus' parable of the father whose unconditional love makes his prodigal son welcome home.  And  the parable of the Good Samaritan who showed mercy to an enemy.
It is only in Luke that we meet  the despised tax collector Zachaeus and see Jesus love him and stay in his home.
Luke is the only Gospel writer who tells us that, even while himself suffering on the cross, Jesus showed mercy to a criminal, crucified beside him.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Today in Paradise

"Today you will be with me in Paradise."

These are the words of mercy that Jesus speaks to the criminal on the Cross (Luke 23:43.)  It's a perfect passage with which to finish the Year of Mercy proclaimed a year ago by Pope Francis.
That doesn't mean that we can stop being merciful now!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Every Which Way

Heaven is under our feet
as well as over our heads.
  --Henry David Thoreau

Friday, November 11, 2016

Right Here, Right Now

The metaphor of the other world as woven into and through this world can color our everyday life.  At unexpected times and in surprising places the other world leaks through. Every once in a while a person or a group of people shine with it.  Prayer and liturgy become an entry into this other world, but it's also here when we are not at prayer and not in church. Some movies and music and works of art carry us into this other world.  When we are frightened or worried or upset we can intentionally move into its calming peace. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fused Worlds

I've been toying with the metaphor of heaven as another dimension for many years.  I remember a good conversation about it with my mother, maybe 25 years ago.  Then more than ten years ago my thinking about the other world was much enriched by John O'Donohue in his valuable book, Anam Cara.  Here is an outstanding paragraph, minus the Irish words:
The eternal is not elsewhere; it is not distant.  There is nothing as near as the eternal.  This is captured in a lovely Celtic phrase, "The land of eternal youth is behind the house, a beautiful land fluent within itself."  The eternal world and the mortal world are not parallel, rather they are fused.  The beautiful Gaelic phrase, "woven into and through each other," captures this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Today's the November I remember.  Not the sun filled colors of the last few days, but a dreary drizzle, lowering sky, whipping wind, only the bravest leaves clinging to the trees.
I prayed for the more than three million Muslims who make their home in this once welcoming nation.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Duty of Delight

The flowers are for Dorothy Day's birthday (1897-1980.)  This double begonia didn't bloom until late summer. Since I brought it in from outside it has continued to look fresh.  I took this picture just a few days ago.
I've been reading Day's diaries.  One of my favorite entries is on February 24, 1961.
"Spanish motto on Pecos priest's house (on one of his plates): 'It is good to do nothing and rest afterwards.'  Some days are like that with me.  Today I thought of a title for my book, 'The Duty of Delight,' as a sequel to 'The Long Loneliness.'  I  was thinking how, as one gets older we are tempted to sadness, knowing life as it is here on earth, the suffering, the Cross.  And how we must overcome it daily, growing in love, and the joy which goes with loving." 

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Other World

There are times when the other world seems to shine right through this world.  With dead leaves piling up along the roadways and others still hanging on for dear life and their rust color bright in the setting sun, I think of the other world woven into and through this world.  I thought today that I had one foot in that other dimension.  At other times I seem to cross over entirely.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Love Is All

You are Love coming, going, remaining.

You are Love with Whom I love You.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Re-membering the Dead

Dusk has fallen once again,
and we are in the evening of the year.
In the thinning of the forests, in the lengthening of shadows,
our life is seen as fleeting, our end as drawing near.
Trees no longer set a limit to our vision,
while through bare and nervous branches
our gaze is lifted to the clouds.
The sky seems incredibly higher
and we appear as we truly are,
less than our imaginings, more the creature.
In this season of falling leaves, of coldness and of want,
we think of death.
In this season of harvest,
of gathering into barns or bundles to be burned,
we think of life to come.
                                             --Laurence Brett

Friday, October 28, 2016

I Voted

The most dangerous vote
is the vote not used.

Not to decide
is to decide.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Unearned Love

Jericho, about 11,000 years old, is one of the oldest cities in the world.  846 feet below sea level.  Although it has an annual rainfall of only 6.4 inches, a nearby spring produces 1,000 gallons of water per minute, making the area fertile for agriculture.  Its name probably means "fragrant."
Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, is very wealthy (Luke 19:1-10).  Jesus loves the little guy up in the tree and says,  "Zacchaeus, hurry down, for today I must stay at your house."  Zacchaeus is not just tickled.  Luke says that he is filled with joy and welcomes Jesus into his home.  The gracious love of Jesus touches the heart of this extremely unpopular rich man and transforms his life.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Only God

We cannot save ourselves,
cannot set things right with God;
the price is too high,
well beyond our means.
                        Psalm 49:7
   (1994 ICEL translation)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Catch 22

You could hang yourself on Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  As soon as you say, "I'm not like that Pharisee," you are like that Pharisee, judging yourself better than he.  It's more helpful to look deep in our own hearts and see how easy it is to slide from appreciating God's gifts to feeling vain about how wonderful we are.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) Jesus points out the folly of thinking that we can make ourselves good.  It's important to recognize the goodness in ourselves, but crucial to acknowledge that all of it comes from God.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Autumn's Glorious Changes

To live is to change,
and to be perfect in this world
is to have changed often.
(Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman)

A 50 year old trying to get by with the faith of a child is a spiritual cripple.  Even an 80 year old trying to get by on the faith of a 50 year old.  Change in our religious and spiritual life is crucial.  Autumn's glory assures us that change is beautiful.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Fat Lady is Jesus Christ

A family of brilliant children are on a weekly radio quiz show.  The oldest, Seymour, tells his sister Franny to polish her shoes beforehand.  She asks why since no one can see their shoes.  He tells her to polish her shoes "for the fat lady" sitting on her porch listening to their show.
Later Franny asks another brother, Zooey, who the "fat lady" is.  He answers, "There isn't anyone out there who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady.  There isn't anyone anywhere who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady.  And don't you know--listen to me now--don't you know who that Fat Lady really is?  It's Christ Himself." 
(from J.D. Salinger's Zooey)

Thursday, October 6, 2016


I took my boat over to the marina to be pulled today.  I took my time, remembering how much this Lake has meant to me since 1950, when my aunt and uncle bought their place here.  They let me spend most of the summer at their place before my last year in the seminary.  The memory of these gentle hills rising out of the water got me through that last year when I was so eager to get out and start working as a priest.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


This is the coast where our family vacationed in Oregon.  That's not our family.  The days were hot.  The water is very cold.  No one swims.  A few hardy folk put their feet in.  I felt sorry for little children who thought that going to the beach meant playing in the sand, not the ocean.  But the view is Beauty.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sunrise Welcome

As I started my walk this morning this was my greeting.  We were in Oregon visiting family.  This was my first morning walk since I got back.  Being in other beautiful places refreshes my appreciation of Beauty here.  Not the grandeur of the Oregon Coast, but Beauty still.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nostalgic Cruise

I wasn't sure I would have another day this season as beautiful and calm as this one, so I went for another solitary boat ride.  It proved better than I expected.  God showed up.  I became very nostalgic.  The memory of these little hills rising up out of the Lake got me through my last year in the seminary.  So many other fond memories of people and times kept coming up.  The sun finally coaxed me home.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Crime Story

A great blue heron tiptoeing along the shore takes a detour over our late summer makeshift walkway.
Jesus' story of the crafty manager apparently gave problems to the early church.  There are already a couple of interpretations even within gospel (Luke 16:8-13.)  Jesus praises the criminal manager, but what he applauds is not his crime but the consistency and initiative with which he takes care of himself and his future.  Jesus wants his disciples to show the same consistency and initiative in our relationship with God.  His story encourages us to use our minds and imaginations, indeed all our passion, to put the Divine at the center of our lives. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Using Money

One of several interpretations of the story of the crafty steward (Luke 16:1-13) says that, while wealth can seduce us away from God, it is possible to use it in a good way. We convert wealth into heavenly riches by sharing it with others, especially the needy.  Just as the steward made friends with the debtors by reducing their debt, Jesus tells us "use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into eternal dwellings."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Divine Hunter

Love is a hunter who keeps putting beauty in our way to catch our hearts.

Friday, September 9, 2016


This was one small impatience plant in the spring.  It can't wait to make even more flowers.
God is unearned Love, impatient Love, Love who is always making the first move, enticing us with Beauty.