Thursday, December 15, 2011


Like transparent pearls
along dark branches,
the winter rain
to bare limbs,
denuded of leaves,
but dressed this morning
with tiny baubles
nature's own ornaments
temporary holiday hints
on a rainy day
out of season.

How I love winter now!
My own season,
dusk arriving
sometimes before dinner,
cozy around me
like extra bedding
in the morning -
of my life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Capstone of Holiness

Father Alexander is leaving us.  A famous Oxford-educated scholar and Eastern Orthodox monk, he has had a profound effect on me.  In the form of one of his writings: Liturgy and Mysticism. And in his very Presence. Both together actually. For his writing is of a piece with his Personal Presence.

Archimandrite Alexander Golitzin
He'll leave his Presence with us. And I think every Vespers, every Liturgy will bear a trace of this man, whose Humility is the most powerful image that will always stay with me. This scruffy monk, sitting alone (in prayer) in the back of our very modest worship space. Or serving. For when he moves, he moves as a servant. And he takes the tasks of a servant. Carrying the cross or the censor. Lighting lamps. Setting out bread and wine on the small table for after communion. His sonorous voice praying the words as he serves communicants: The servant of God …. receives the Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. He has a way of saying that which is so prayerful. Slowly. Meaning each word. Like a Mantra. Like the Jesus Prayer. 

He's going to be consecrated Bishop.  I am very moved by that.  By the thought of this Servant Bishop. 

When I first met him, I already knew him. Was already grateful to him. For his own words had already sunk deep into my heart. Reading his Liturgy and Mysticism had shown me how personal spiritual growth went hand in hand with the Liturgy. Were one and the same. The inner and the outer of a piece. Like the key to a puzzle in my heart.

Maybe you know what a capstone (or keystone) is:

It's the stone at the top of an arch. You erect the two sides of the arch until they almost meet. And then, in the middle, you place a stone whose weight bears down on both sides at once – joining them and making your arch sturdy. So it can't collapse.

Father Alexander, I feel sure, would not want me writing laudatory things about him. Yet I am lauding his lowliness. Not the worldly fame I'm sure he has.

Humility is surely the capstone of the spiritual life. And humility is the characteristic, I think, that most describes Fr. Alexander – soon to be known by a new name as Bishop.   

Taste and See:                                       

Addendum (5/6/2012):

Here is Archimandrite Alexander, reflecting on his consecration as Bishop and confirming so well what's already been said in this blog:
... when standing before the holy altar at the anaphora, the bishop images forth the one and unique High Priest, Christ, Who acts through His celebrant. 
... while it is true that our Lord Jesus is true God and true King, it is also true that He did not come to us, His creatures, with the pomp and splendor of the King, attended by the legions of heaven, but rather in humility He emptied Himself and was found in the likeness of a servant. 
They are very different images, the first set revelatory of the splendor of heaven, and the second of the humility, long-suffering, and charity of our Lord’s life and ministry. My first conclusion is that I must keep this difference firmly in mind throughout my life as bishop, by which I mean the glory of the liturgical iconography should have no place in my office and day-to-day demeanor. My actions, my patterns of speech, my service in short, is to be determined by the example given us by God the Word Himself.”
The capstone of holiness indeed!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nothingness ... Transcended

Alan sent me this lovely haunting photo.  It speaks to me of so much.

Spare a Prayer ~ for Alan.

A long time ago, when I was teaching young children, there was a workshop which included the task of deciding what to put on one's tombstone.  Now, actually I don't want a tombstone.  I don't feel a need to live on that way.  I would be content to fade into obscurity.

Till that day,  I really hadn't done much thinking about my own death.  Though I've always liked what I came up with:  She lived nowhere.

I like the word-play in nowhere.  There's no where (as in the Son of Man had "no place" to lay his head ) and now here (which I think of as living in the present moment).  I saw the shifting meanings at once.   That was part of the appeal.

It's fascinating what emerges unbidden from the unconscious.

Alan thought I'd like this photo.   I do!   How wonderful that he caught this moment.   In time.  And out of time. 

Choices are like mirrors.   They hint at what we stand for.   And what we yearn for.   Who we are and who we might become.

Nonsense: The Meaning of Life in Three Acts

This post has been moved ... to here.   It really fits better as humor.   With a meaning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How many times can a heart break?

When it comes to forgiveness, we are told to forgive 70 x 7. It's a number lost in translation.
But how many times will our hearts be broken? How many times can a heart bear breaking? Do I even need to put up one link? Do I need to append a bibliography of sadism, sexual abuse, misuse of power, cover-ups, denial, pretense of piety by predators? Castigate me if you will, but I simply cannot bear to do so! Already this blog has more than enough posts recounting my own prior efforts to understand, put into prose or verse, the suffering I've sought to heal, lift up, to bear, transcend.

My heart is breaking yet again. Yet again this stormy morning - for young men abused in Tanzania and in Britain and in Kansas (City) – where “somewhere over the rainbow” never came.

My heart is breaking because I cannot even mention these latest horrors (or the church) in my own home.  For I live in a household with elderly Mr. TheraP whose physical abuse by two priests in a small European village, over 60 years ago, leaves him still so emotionally raw, so troubled at each further revelation, he cannot hear more, strives to avoid.   It's the under-reporting, not just the reporting.  Self-censorship.  For how many times can a broken heart break?

My heart is breaking because of all the stories and the people I've tried to help over the years. Those abused by priests, by therapists, by parents, siblings, neighbors, school crossing-guards. Children turned into prostitutes or photo shoots by parents, by any predator who got ahold of them. Ferried around at night to God knows where for the child knew not. Ferried in trunks of cars. Left in corners awaiting the unknown. Mentally trying to escape into other selves, feeling themselves shrinking into nothingness, disappearing into walls or objects.

My heart is breaking because of adults preyed upon by clergy. By the fall-out for parishioners when they learn the trusted pastor has harmed someone – and it might have been them. When that means their child who needed guidance has been “guided” by a predator. When all harmed feel doubly harmed when a legal process seeks to lay bare the life and soul of anyone whose heart has already been broken too many times.

My heart is breaking at the failure of shepherds. The self-protection of partners in power, Ecclesiastical Bullies. At the failure of law enforcement, of legislatures, of nations torturing their own citizens.

Dear God, has it no end? T.S. Eliot said it better than I: “Where is the end of it, the soundless wailing...?”

My heart is breaking because these tortured souls' unbearable emotions end up exposing even their therapists to a kind of torture, a mental suffering, vicariously traumatizing even the strongest, most caring among us. Yes, we willingly undergo something like a crucifixion on their behalf. And the Love of God pours through our suffering hearts. Hopefully into theirs. Into their broken hearts devoid of trust. Even for those who suffer on their behalf.

Dear God, the ground of our beseeching is breaking beneath us. As we pray from a place of utter extremity.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

One Foot - Stuck in the Muck

I wrote this elsewhere a bit over a year ago....

When I was a kid in the '50's - yes, I'm dating myself - all kids had real rubber boots for rainy days.  The kind of boots that fit over your shoes.  Boots that had to be strong enough to weather your walk to school - which, in our case, was a bit longer than a mile.  Catholics had to walk.  Public schoolers got bussed!

I remember one day, walking home, having to cross what seemed like a field of mud.  Probably it wasn't that big, but neither was I And one foot got stuck!  One boot rather.  I couldn't pull my foot out without also pulling the shoe.  But to do that would have meant having to put that foot - plus shoe - smack into the same mud.  Not a workable solution.  Not if I wanted to wear that shoe tomorrow. 

Plus, once one boot is stuck, it's so easy to get the other one stuck too.  Now, to be honest, I am truly not certain how this story ended.  I just recall the dilemma of being maybe 8 years old.  Learning what I'm just now telling you.  With one foot stuck in the muck, trying to pull it out, trying to figure out what to do.  I suspect I learned not to take a short-cut, not if it meant crossing a muddy field, cuz Catholics had to walk...

Or I thought I'd learned that.

But just yesterday I realized that even though I have "left" the Catholic Church with one foot, I am still stuck in Catholic Church muck with the trailing foot.  Thankfully, I didn't just leave - without first finding an island of sanity and spiritual sustenance (a church "for all people").  So at least I'm not stuck in mud with both feet!  Nevertheless the catholic muck seems to have such a hold over this one foot, like the boot like I had as a child (I think it was a red boot).  A foot which is very stuck.  Because there is just so much muck.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person, who has left what we were taught in childhood was the Church - only to find in this current crisis which is shaking the RCC to its very foundations, a big ache in one's heart, a breaking heart really, for all the innocent victims, all the other good people who are collateral damage to a hierarchy more bent on self-protection than vigilance to protect the innocent.  The reason I'm pretty sure is that right here at TPM some people have admitted as much.  And many who profess no adherence to any church are suddenly admitting they are upset at what's going on in "their" church.  It actually reminds me of people I've known who don't believe in god - till they find themselves in a jam, needing to pray hard!  This situation is the opposite, of course, or maybe not.

Maybe the concern of people like myself, who no longer identify as catholic, for the church of their youth or their schooling, has to do with a genuine desire to see a wayward institution find its way home - to the values they were taught, values they still believe in.  Values they feel are too often missing in today's world.  Values they need to see in people - leaders, especially.

So if some wonder how come I'm stuck in the RC muck, it's not because I'm sitting at home full of personal rage - just looking for a target, and having found one, continuing to rage and rage.  It's because I believe this institution, the Roman Catholic Church, is part of something larger and is failing to live up to its high calling.  And I'm just counting all the ways....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Holy Mystery: In Search of Us

One thing I have learned through experience:

There moves a loving presence,

Holy Mystery,
 Glow of Love, 

Compassionate Heart of the Cosmos, 

 in search of us.

The simple message of Christ:  "Come to Me."  Runs through all creation.  Is written in the stars.  Inscribed in our own hearts. 

It is the heart of every prayer.  Spoken or Unspoken.  Of every spiritual path authentically sought or followed.  Inspired sacred words and books reach out

This Love-Search, whose compassion is so far beyond our comprehension, so near and humble as to beg and bid us welcome - if we only grant a moment's pure attention - has no boundaries.   No deserving.  No evasion can outrun it.  No sin outwit it.

Doesn't matter whether you agree with me or not.  For like water seeping into every crevice, this message invades each cell, runs through every vein, tingles every neuron.  Nudges us at every moment.

Rejoice!  Or weep.  Fall on your knees.  Or hold out hands of supplication.

"Come to Me."

Learn humility.  Learn compassion.   Pass it on.