Rolheiser, Ronald
842 Articles at Lifeissues.net

Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest, is the General Councillor for Canada for his order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He has offices in both Toronto and Rome. For most of the 26 years of his priesthood, he taught theology and philosophy at Newman Theological College in Edmonton, Alberta. He remains an adjunct faculty member at Seattle University. He has written many books, (won Catholic Book Award in 1996), is a regular columnist in a number of papers, and has articles published in Louvain Studies, Critic, America, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Spirituality and in various other popular magazines.

Areas of Specialty: Systematic Theology and Philosophy Areas of Concentration: Augustine, Mysticism (John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux) and Spirituality (contemporary spiritualities, contemporary questions: ecology, feminism, masculine spirituality, religion and culture) Graduate Education: University of San Francisco, USA and University of Louvain, Belgium.

Contact: info@ronrolheiser.com

Website:http://www.ronrolheiser.com

Articles

New! Language as Opening or Closing our Minds

We are losing the language of the soul and we are poorer for it.

Date posted: 2017-10-15

New! Health and Unhealthy Fear of God

As a theologian, priest, and preacher, I often get asked: "Why isn't the church preaching more fear of God anymore? Why aren't we preaching more about the dangers of going to hell? Why aren't we preaching more about God's anger and hellfire?"

Date posted: 2017-10-13

A Prayer for Stillness

Be still and know that I am God. Scripture assures us that if we are still we will come to know God, but arriving at stillness is easier said than done.

Date posted: 2017-09-30

God's Command to Kill the Canaanites

An alcoholic in recovery knows that he or she cannot have it both ways. The same is true in terms of sustaining ourselves in any life-giving commitment. New wine must be put into new wineskins and this demands some bitter renunciations.

Date posted: 2017-09-26

Stuck in Traffic

We ourselves have become so rigid, arrogant, and sure of ourselves that we can no longer respect those who think differently than we do.

Date posted: 2017-09-02

The Power of Ritual

Ritual practice keeps us doing what we should be doing (praying, working, being at table with our families, being polite) even when our feelings aren't always onside. We need to do certain things not because we always feel like doing them, but because it's right to do them.

Date posted: 2017-09-01

God Needs Better Press

The word "Protestant" is generally misunderstood. Martin Luther's protest that led to the Protestant reformation was not, in fact, a protest against the Roman Catholic Church; properly understood, it was a protest for God.

Date posted: 2017-08-30

Our Utmost in Dealing with our Faith

The complexity of adulthood inevitably puts to death the naivete of childhood. And this is true too of our faith. Not that faith is a naivete. It isn't. But our faith needs to be constantly reintegrated into our persons and matched up anew against our life's experience; otherwise we will find it at odds with our life. But genuine faith can stand up to every kind of experience, no matter its complexity.

Date posted: 2017-08-14

Suicide - Redeeming the Memory of a Loved One

Each year I write a column on suicide, hoping it might help produce more understanding around the issue and, in a small way perhaps, offer some consolation to those who have lost a loved one in this way.

Date posted: 2017-08-03

Angels and the City

As Christians, we believe that we're both body and soul, flesh and spirit, and that neither can be separated from the other. We're both mammal and angel, and in our search for life, meaning, happiness, and God, we should not forget that we are both. Our spirit is open to life only through our senses, and our senses provide depth and meaning only because they are animated by spirit.

Date posted: 2017-07-31

The Gospel Challenge to Enjoy our Live

Joy is an infallible indication of God's presence, just as the cross is an infallible indication of Christian discipleship. What a paradox! And Jesus is to blame.

Date posted: 2017-07-31

Understanding Grace more Deeply

The mark of genuine contrition is not a sense of guilt, but a sense of sorrow, of regret for having taken a wrong turn; just as the mark of living in grace is not a sense of our own worth but a sense of being accepted and loved despite our unworthiness. We are spiritually healthy when our lives are marked by honest confession and honest praise.

Date posted: 2017-07-15

Inchoate Desire

Sometimes while praying the Psalms, I'm caught looking quite uncomfortably into a mirror reflecting back to me my own seeming dishonesty.

Date posted: 2017-07-09

To Whom Can We Go?

"To whom else shall we go? You have the message of eternal life." Peter says these words to Jesus.

Date posted: 2017-07-07

The Seamless Garment

John of the Cross teaches that within spirituality and morality there are no exempt areas. Simply put, you cannot be a saint or a highly moral person if you allow yourself a moral exemption or two

Date posted: 2017-06-21

Being Good-Hearted is Not Enough

Charity is about being good-hearted, but justice is about something more.

Date posted: 2017-06-21

Christianity and Noon-Day Fatigue

There's a popular notion which suggests that it can be helpful to compare every century of Christianity's existence to one year of life. That would make Christianity twenty-one years old, a young twenty-one, grown-up enough to exhibit a basic maturity but still far from a finished product. How insightful is this notion?

Date posted: 2017-06-21

Going On, Ahead

"I go on ahead to prepare a place for you!" Jesus speaks those words to his disciples on the eve of his death as he sits at table with them and senses their sadness as they grapple with his dying, his going away. His words are meant to console them and give them the assurance that they aren't being abandoned. It's just that he is going on ahead to prepare a place for them to come and join him later.

Date posted: 2017-06-02

When does Faith Disappear?

It has been said that atheist is just another name for someone who cannot get metaphor. Perhaps that's too simple, but it does suggest that rejecting a set of theological propositions is not the same thing as losing one's faith.

Date posted: 2017-06-02

Coming Full Circle - From Story Books to Spirituality

During my undergraduate university years, literature was a major part of the curriculum and I learned then that literature wasn't just about stories, but also about social and religious commentary; as well as about form and beauty as ends in themselves.

Date posted: 2017-05-22

Despair as Weakness Rather than Sin

To believe and teach that God withholds mercy from those who are most broken in spirit betrays a profound misunderstanding of the nature and mercy of God who sends Jesus into the world, not for the healthy but for those who need a physician.

Date posted: 2017-05-21

An Extraordinary Book

This isn't a story that follows the classical genre for the lives of the saints, where form is often exaggerated to highlight essence and the result is an over-idealization that paints the saint into an icon.

Date posted: 2017-05-07

Becoming a Hole Beggar

With the exception of scripture and a few Christian mystics, Christian spirituality, up to now, has been weak in presenting us with a vision for our retirement years

Date posted: 2017-05-04

Five Hundred Years of Misunderstanding

The heart has its reasons, says Pascal, and sometimes those reasons have a long history.

Date posted: 2017-04-17

Doing Violence in God's Name

Blaise Pascal once wrote: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." How true! This has been going on since the beginning of time and is showing few signs of disappearing any time soon. We still do violence and evil and justify them in God's name.

Date posted: 2017-03-31

Our Shadow and our Self-Understanding

What is meant when certain schools of psychology today warn us about our "shadow"? What's our shadow?

Date posted: 2017-03-31

The Flavor of God's Energy

When we try to imagine the heart of reality, we might picture things this way: At the very center of everything there sit two thrones, on one sits a King and on the other sits a Queen, and from these two thrones issues forth all energy, all creativity, all power, all love, all nourishment, all joy, all playfulness, all humor, and all beauty.

Date posted: 2017-03-11

Of Winners and losers

Our society tends to divide us up into winners and losers. Sadly, we don't often reflect on how this affects our relationships with each other, nor on what it means for us as Christians.

Date posted: 2017-02-23

Welcoming the Stranger

In the Hebrew Scriptures, that part of the bible we call the Old Testament, we find a strong religious challenge to always welcome the stranger, the foreigner.

Date posted: 2017-02-23

Embittered Moralizing

One of the dangers inherent in trying to live out a life of Christian fidelity is that we are prone to become embittered moralizers, older brothers of the prodigal son, angry and jealous at God's over-generous mercy, bitter because persons who wander and stray can so easily access the heavenly banquet table

Date posted: 2017-02-11

Thou Shalt Not Kill!

Henri Nouwen once said that nobody is shot with a bullet who is not first shot with a word - and nobody is shot with a word who is not first shot with a thought.

Date posted: 2017-02-04

Other Sheep Not Of Our Flock

We tend to believe that "blood is thicker than water" and so we sometimes defend our own families, ethnic groups, countries, and churches, even when they do wrong things. What Jesus affirms is that "faith is thicker than blood" and, even more deeply, that faith is also thicker than denominational or religious affiliation.

Date posted: 2017-02-01

God's Power as Powerlessness

When we look at the struggles within our world and within our private lives, it often seems like divine power is forever being trumped by human power.

Date posted: 2017-01-29

What Makes for a Practising Christian?

People are treating their churches just like they treat their families. Isn’t that as it should be? Theologically the church is family – it’s not like family, it is family.

Date posted: 2017-01-29

The Storm on the Lake

The Synoptic gospels record the story of Jesus calming the waters during a storm on the lake.

Date posted: 2017-01-29

Acedia and Sabbath

Early Christian monks believed in something they called, Acedia. More colloquially, they called it, the Noonday Devil, a name that essentially describes the concept.

Date posted: 2017-01-29

Searching for the Right Fuel

Jesus lived a life of radical generosity and self-surrender, yet never fell into the kind of self-pity that emanates from the sense of having missed out on something.

Date posted: 2017-01-29

The Need to Admire

The incapacity to admire others doesn't just afflict journalists. It seems to be a universal disease today. Why? What's causing this? Why do others and the things around us never seem good enough, never seem worthy of admiration? Why do we always find fault in everyone and everything?

Date posted: 2017-01-18

Taking our Wounds to the Eucharist

Recently a man came to me, asking for help. He carried some deep wounds, not physical wounds, but emotional wounds to his soul.

Date posted: 2017-01-17

In Defense of Mystery

Never assume that religious language is anywhere near adequate; albeit it's useful. No theology, however good, gives you a picture of God. Good theology helps you know something that you can't think or picture. The heart knows things that the mind cannot picture and our experience is full of a richness for which we never find adequate words. Thank God for that. That's the heart of faith.

Date posted: 2017-01-17

The Loneliness of Leaving Home

Among the kinds of loneliness that afflict us, there's one we don't often recognize and deal with very well, the loneliness of moving on. There's a loneliness that comes with leaving home, with forever losing loved ones, loved places, and loved things.

Date posted: 2017-01-17

Orthodoxy, Sin, and Heresy

Does the Catholic Church really teach that missing mass is a mortal sin and that if you die in that state you will go to hell? No, that's not Catholic orthodoxy, though popular preaching and catechesis often suppose that it is, even as neither accepts the full consequences.

Date posted: 2017-01-17

The Death of Innocence

The common perception, especially among intellectuals, is that contemporary experience has brought about a collective loss of faith because faith is an ignorance that is cast out by a fuller experience. To believe in God is to be naive, however sincere.

Date posted: 2017-01-07

Carrying Our Cross

Among Jesus' many teachings we find this, rather harsh-sounding, invitation: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Date posted: 2017-01-07

To Wash Each Other's Feet

We wear more than physical clothing to cover our naked selves.

Date posted: 2017-01-07

Praying So As To See God's Glory Inside of Humanity

Familiarity breeds contempt. It also blocks the mystery of Christmas by breeding a view of the life that cannot see divinity within humanity.

Date posted: 2017-01-07

Honoring Life’s Complexity

Once, in a lecture, I made the point that Jesus shocked people equally in both his capacity to thoroughly enjoy his life and in his capacity to renounce it and give it up

Date posted: 2016-12-21

The Martyrdom of Inadequate Self-Expression

Art too has its martyrs and perhaps our greatest pain is that of inadequate self-expression. That’s an insight from Iris Murdoch and it holds true, I believe, for most everyone.

Date posted: 2016-12-14

Our Churches as Sanctuaries

Whenever we have been at our best, as Christians, we have opened our churches as sanctuaries to the poor and the endangered. We have a long, proud history wherein refugees, homeless persons, immigrants facing deportation, and others who are endangered, take shelter inside our churches. If we believe what Jesus tells us about the Last Judgment in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, this should serve us well when we stand before God at the end.

Date posted: 2016-12-11

The End of the World

People are forever predicting the end of the world. In Christian circles this is generally connected with speculation around the promise Jesus made at his ascension, namely, that he would be coming back, and soon, to bring history to its culmination and establish Gods eternal kingdom. There have been speculations about the end of the world ever since.

Date posted: 2016-11-29

The Dangers in being a Warrior Prophet

A prophet makes a vow of love, not of alienation. Daniel Berrigan wrote those words and they need to be highlighted today when a lot of very sincere, committed, religious people self-define as cultural warriors, as prophets at war with secular culture.

Date posted: 2016-11-22

Why Dark Nights of the Soul?

Atheism is a parasite that feeds on bad religion. Thats why, in the end, atheistic critics are our friends. They hold our feet to the fire.

Date posted: 2016-11-14

The Real Presence

When I was a graduate student in Belgium, I was privileged one day to sit in on a conference given by Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels. He was commenting on the Eucharist and our lack of understanding of it full richness when he highlighted this contrast: If you stood outside of a Roman Catholic church today as people were coming out of the church and asked them: "Was that a good Eucharist?", most everyone would answer on the basis of the homily and the music. If the homily was interesting and the music lively, most people would answer that it had been a good Eucharist. Now, he continued, if you had stood outside a Roman Catholic church sixty or seventy years ago and asked: "Was that a good mass today?" nobody would have even understood the question. They would have answered something to the effect of: "Aren7t they all the same!"

Date posted: 2016-11-07

Our Resistance to Love

There’s nothing simple about being a human being. We’re a mystery to ourselves and often our own worst enemies. Our inner complexity befuddles us and, not infrequently, stymies us. Nowhere is this truer than in our struggle with love and intimacy.

Date posted: 2016-10-31

Boredom – A Fault within Ourselves

Its ironic that we tend to wrestle with boredom and dullness when we are in the full bloom of our lives, healthy and working; whereas people like her, who have lost their health and are staring death in the face, often find the most ordinary experiences in life exhilarating.

Date posted: 2016-10-24

On not Cultivating Restlessness

Thirty-four years ago when I launched this column, I would never have said this: Restlessness is not something to be cultivated, no matter how romantic that might seem. Dont get Jesus confused with Hamlet, peace with disquiet, depth with dissatisfaction, or genuine happiness with the existential anxiety of the artist. Restlessness inside us doesnt need to be encouraged; it wreaks enough havoc all on its own.

Date posted: 2016-10-17

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer, as it is classically defined and popularly practiced, is subject today to considerable skepticism in a number of circles. For example, the method of prayer, commonly called Centering Prayer, popularized by persons like Thomas Keating, Basil Bennington, John Main, and Laurence Freeman is viewed with suspicion by many people who identify it with anything from New Age, to Buddhism, to Self-Seeking, to atheism.

Date posted: 2016-10-12

Software, Moral Formatting, and Living in Sin

Living in sin. Acts that are inherently disordered. Whats Catholic moral theology trying to say with this kind of concept when so many people today, including many Roman Catholics, find such concepts unintelligible and offensive?

Date posted: 2016-09-27

Feeding off Life’s Sacred fire

All energy comes from God and all energy is good, but it can be wickedly misused. Moreover, it’s ironic that the ones who seem to drink most deeply from the wellsprings of divine energy are, invariably, the best and the worst, the wise and the wicked, saints and sinners. These mainline the fire. The rest of us, living in the gap between saints and sinners, tend to struggle more to actually catch fire, to truly drink deeply from the wellsprings of divine energy.

Date posted: 2016-09-05

A Happy Death

In the Roman Catholic culture within which I grew up, we were taught to pray for a happy death. For many Catholics at the time, this was a standard petition within their daily prayer: I pray for a happy death.

Date posted: 2016-08-15

Our Fear of Hell

Hell is never a nasty surprise waiting for a basically happy person. Hell can only be the full-flowering of a pride and selfishness that have, through a long time, twisted a heart so thoroughly that it considers happiness as unhappiness and has an arrogant disdain for happy people. If you are essentially warm of heart this side of eternity, you need not fear that a nasty surprise awaits you on the other side because somewhere along the line, unknowingly, you missed the boat and your life went terribly wrong.

Date posted: 2016-08-03

Suicide and Mental Health

As young boy, I longed to be a professional athlete but I had to soon accept the unwelcome fact that I simply wasnt gifted with an athletes body. Speed, strength, coordination, instinct, vision, I got by in ordinary life with what I had been given of these, but I wasnt physically robust enough to be an athlete.

Date posted: 2016-07-25

Angels with Sickles and God's Fury

There’s a haunting text in the Book of Revelations where poetic image, for all its beauty, can be dangerously misleading. The author there writes: “So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth’s vintage. He threw it into the great winepress of God’s fury.” A fierce angel cleansing the world! God in a boiling anger! What’s to be understood by that?

Date posted: 2016-07-19

Our Deepest Insecurity

Why don't we live happier lives? Why are we forever caught up in frustrations, tensions, angers, and resentments?

Date posted: 2016-07-11

Struggling with Grandiosity

Several years ago, Robert L. Moore wrote a very significant book entitled, Facing the Dragon. The dragon that most threatens us, he believes, is the dragon of our own grandiosity, that sense inside us that has us believe that we are singularly special and destined for greatness. This condition besets us all. Simply put, each of us, all seven billion of us on this planet, cannot help but feel that we are the center of the universe. And, given that this is mostly unacknowledged and we are generally ill-equipped to deal with it, this makes for a scary situation. This isn’t a recipe for peace and harmony, but for jealousy and conflict.

Date posted: 2016-07-06

Us First!

“I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world.” Socrates wrote those words more than twenty-four hundred years ago. Today more than ever these are words which we would need to appropriate because, more and more, our world and we ourselves are sinking into some unhealthy forms of tribalism where we are concerned primarily with taking care of our own.

Date posted: 2016-06-29

Of Guns and Pacifism

The Gospels tell us that after King Herod died, an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, telling him: “Get up! Take the Child and His Mother and go to the land of Israel, for those seeking the Child’s life are now dead.” (Matthew 2, 19-20). The angel, it would seem, spoke prematurely, the Child, the Infant-Christ, was still in danger, is still in danger, is still mortally threatened, and is still being tracked down, right to this day.

Date posted: 2016-06-21

The Struggle to Love Our Neighbor

“The most damaging idolatry is not the golden calf but enmity against the other.” The renowned anthropologist, Rene Girard, wrote that and its truth is not easily admitted. Most of us like to believe that we are mature and big-hearted and that we do love our neighbors and are free of enmity towards others. But is this so?

Date posted: 2016-06-15

Sensitivity and Suffering

Daniel Berrigan, in one of his famous quips, once wrote: Before you get serious about Jesus, first consider carefully how good you are going to look on wood! In saying this, he was trying to highlight something thats often radically misunderstood from almost every side, namely, how and why authentic religion brings suffering into our lives.

Date posted: 2016-06-07

Ordinary Goodness and our Spiritual Journey

The spirituality writer, Tom Stella, tells a story about three monks at prayer in their monastery chapel. The first monk imagines himself being carried up to heaven by the angels. The second monk imagines himself already in heaven, chanting Gods praises with the angels and saints. The third monk cannot focus on any holy thoughts but can only think about the great hamburger he had eaten just before coming to chapel. That night, when the devil was filing his report for the day, he wrote: Today I tried to tempt three monks, but I only succeeded with two of them.

Date posted: 2016-05-31

Faith and Fear

A common soldier dies without fear, yet Jesus died afraid. Iris Murdoch wrote this and that truth can be somewhat disconcerting. Why? If someone dies with deep faith, shouldnt he or she die within a certain calm and trust drawn from that faith? Wouldnt the opposite seem more logical, that is, if someone dies without faith shouldnt he or she die with more fear? And perhaps the most confusing of all: Why did Jesus, the paragon of faith, die afraid, crying out in a pain that can seem like a loss of faith?

Date posted: 2016-05-24

Youth Today - Who are They Really?

seminarian I know recently went to a party on a Friday evening at a local university campus. The group was a crowd of young, college students and when he was introduced as a seminarian, as someone who was trying to become a priest and who had taken a vow of celibacy, the mention of celibacy evoked some giggles in the room, some banter, and a number of jokes about how much he must be missing out on in life. Poor, nave fellow! Initially, within this group of millenniums, his religious beliefs and what this had led to in his life was regarded as something between amusing and pitiful. But, before the evening was out, several young women had come, cried on his shoulder, and shared about their frustration with their boyfriends inability to commit fully to their relationship.

Date posted: 2016-05-16

Loyalty and Patriotism Revisited

In a recent article in America magazine, Grant Kaplan, commenting on the challenge of the resurrection, makes this comment: Unlike previous communities in which the bond among members forges itself through those it excludes and scapegoats, the gratuity of the resurrection allows for a community shaped by forgiven-forgivers.

Date posted: 2016-04-18

The Power of Prayer and Ritual inside our Helplessness

In the movie based upon Jane Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility, there’s a very poignant scene where one of her young heroines, suffering from acute pneumonia, is lying in bed hovering between life and death. A young man, very much in love with her, is pacing back and forth, highly agitated, frustrated by his helplessness to do anything of use, and literally jumping out of his skin. Unable to contain his agitation any longer, he goes to the girl’s mother and asks what he might do to be helpful. She replies that there’s nothing he can do, the situation is beyond them. Unable to live with that response her says to her: “Give me some task to do, or I shall go mad!”

Date posted: 2016-04-06

How the Soul Matures

In a deeply insightful book, The Grace of Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh shares insights she has gleaned as a health professional from being present to hundreds of people while they are dying. Among other things, she suggests that the dying process itself, in her words, is exquisitely calibrated to automatically produce union with Spirit. In essence, what she is saying is that what is experienced by someone in the final stages and moments of dying, particularly if the death is not a sudden one, is a purgation that naturally lessens the persons grip on the things of this world as well as on his or her own ego so as to be ready to enter into a new realm of life and meaning beyond our present realm of consciousness. The dying process itself, she submits, midwifes us into a wider, deeper life.

Date posted: 2016-03-11

God’s Inexhaustibility

Many of us, I am sure, have been inspired by the movie, Of Gods and Men, which tells the story of a group of Trappist monks who, after making a painful decision not to flee from the violence in Algeria in the 1990s, are eventually martyred by Islamic extremists in 1996. Recently, I was much inspired by reading the diaries of one of those monks, Christophe Lebreton. Published under the title, Born from the Gaze of God, The Tibhirine Journal of a Martyr Monk, his diaries chronicle the last three years of his life and give us an insight into his, and his communitys, decision to remain in Algeria in the face almost certain death.

Date posted: 2016-02-15

On Reading Difficult Passages in Scripture

A colleague of mine shares this story: Recently, after presiding a Eucharist, a woman from the congregation came up to him with this comment: What a horrible scripture reading today! If thats the kind of God were worshipping, then I dont want to go to heaven!

Date posted: 2016-02-09

On Bowing and Raising our Heads

A bowed head is a sign of humility and is understood, almost universally, as our proper spiritual posture. Spiritual writers have rarely questioned or felt the need to nuance the notion that spiritual health means a head bowed in humility. But is it really that simple?

Date posted: 2016-01-19

Forever being ahead of our Souls

We all need, regularly, to lay down our burdens for a minute so our souls can catch up with us.

Date posted: 2016-01-15

Only in Silence

The Belgian spiritual writer, Bieke Vandekerckhove, comes by her wisdom honestly. She didn’t learn what she shares from a book or even primarily from the good example of others. She learned what she shares through the crucible of a unique suffering, being hit at the tender age of nineteen with a terminal disease that promised not just an early death but also a complete breakdown and humiliation of her body enroute to that death.

Date posted: 2016-01-04

My Top Books for 2015

Taste, as St. Augustine said some 1700 years ago, is subjective. That should be acknowledged upfront whenever someone recommends a reading list. In my case, I need to state too that I'm not a full-time critic. It's not like I've read 200 books this past year and these rose to the top. I read when I can, follow book reviews, am fortunate enough to live with academic colleagues who tip each other off on good books, and I have friends who will occasionally tell me that a certain book "has to be read". From out of that, comes this list. These are the books that most touched me this past year.

Date posted: 2015-12-28

The Meaning of Christmas - Connecting the Dots between the Crib and the Cross

When the Gospel writers looked back at the birth of Jesus through the prism of the resurrection they saw in his birth already the pattern for both his active ministry and his death and resurrection: God comes into the world and some believe and accept him and others hate and reject him. For some, his person gives meaning, for others it causes confusion and anger.

Date posted: 2015-12-23

Sex and our Culture

No generation in history, I suspect, has ever experienced as much change as we have experienced in the past sixty years. That change is not just in the areas of science, technology, medicine, travel, and communications; it is especially in the area of our social infrastructure, of our communal ethos. And perhaps nowhere is this change more radical than in the area of how we understand sex. In the past seventy years we have witnessed three major, tectonic shifts in how we understand the place of sex in our lives.

Date posted: 2015-12-14

Sensitive to Community, Beyond Ourselves

Some years ago I was challenged by a Bishop regarding an article Id written. We were talking in his office and the tone eventually got a little testy: How can you write something like that? he asked. Because its true, was my blunt reply. He already knew it was true, but now, realizing that, he became more aware of his real agenda: Yes, I know its true, but that doesnt mean it should be said in that way in a Catholic newspaper like ours. This isnt a university classroom or the New York Times. Its a diocesan newspaper and thats not the best context within which to say something like that. It will confuse a lot of readers.

Date posted: 2015-12-07

Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters

This is not a good time to be a Muslim in the Western world. As the violence perpetrated by radical Islamic groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram becomes more and more prevalent, huge numbers of people are becoming paranoid about and even openly hostile towards the Islam religion, seeing all Muslims as a threat. Popular opinion more and more blames the Moslem religion itself for that violence, suggesting that there is something inherent in Islam itself thats responsible for this kind of violence. That equation needs to be challenged, both in the name of truth and in the name of whats best in us as Christians.

Date posted: 2015-11-25

Lacking the Self-Confidence for Greatness

We all have our own images of greatness as these pertain to virtue and saintliness. We picture, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi, kissing a leper; or Mother Theresa, publicly hugging a dying beggar; or John Paul II, standing before a crowd of millions and telling them how much he loves them; or Therese of Lisieux, telling a fellow community member who has been deliberately cruel to her how much she loves her; or even of the iconic, Veronica, in the crucifixion-scene, who amidst all the fear and brutality of the crucifixion rushes forward and wipes the face of Jesus.

Date posted: 2015-11-18

Faith, Doubt, Dark Nights, and Maturity

In one of his books on contemplative prayer, Thomas Keating shares with us a line that he occasionally uses in spiritual direction. People come to him, sharing how they used to have a warm and solid sense of God in their lives but now complain that all that warmth and confidence have disappeared and theyre left struggling with belief and struggling to pray as they used to. They feel a deep sense of loss and invariably this is their question: Whats wrong with me? Keatings answer: God is wrong with you!

Date posted: 2015-11-11

The Communion of Saints

At any given time most of the world believes that death isnt final, that some form of immortality exists. Most people believe that those who have died still exist in some state, in some modality, in some place, in some heaven or hell, however that might be conceived. In some conceptions, immortality is seen as a state wherein a person is still conscious and relational; while in other concepts, existence after death is understood as real but impersonal, like a drop of water that has flowed back into the oceans.

Date posted: 2015-11-04

The Stigma of Suicide

Recently I read, in succession, three books on suicide, each written by a mother who lost one of her children to suicide. All three books are powerful, mature, not given to false sentiment, and worth reading: Lois Severson, Healing the Wound from my Daughters Suicide, Grief Translated into Words, lost her daughter, Patty, to suicide; Gloria Hutchinson, Damage Done, Suicide of an Only Son, lost her son, David, to suicide; and Marjorie Antus, My Daughter, Her Suicide, and God, A Memoir of Hope, lost her daughter, Mary, to suicide. Patty and David were in their mid-twenties, Mary was still a teen.

Date posted: 2015-10-13

Innocence, Complexity, and Sanctity

When I was seemingly out of earshot, I heard the brides father say to someone: Im glad that Father has gone; now we can celebrate with some rock music!

Date posted: 2015-10-06

Caring for Our Soul

How do we lose our souls? What does it mean to lose your soul already in this world? What is a soul and how can it be lost?

Date posted: 2015-09-28

Things beyond our Imagination

Recently, at an academic dinner, I was sitting across the table from a nuclear scientist. At one point, I asked him this question: Do you believe that theres human life on other planets? His answer surprised me: As a scientist, no, I dont believe theres human life on another planet. Scientifically, the odds are strongly against it. But, as a Christian, I believe theres human life on other planets. Why? My logic is this: Why would God chose to have only one child?

Date posted: 2015-09-20

Our Overstimulated Grandiosity - and our Impoverished Symbols

There are now more than seven billion people on this earth and each one of us feels that he or she is the center of the universe. That accounts for most of the problems we have in the world, in our neighborhoods, and in our families.

Date posted: 2015-09-15

Human Nature - Is it Somehow all Wrong?

An American humorist was once asked what he loved most in life. This was his reply: I love women best; whiskey next; my neighbor a little; and God hardly at all!

Date posted: 2015-08-26

Political Correctness - Swallowing Hard

Just because something is politically-correct doesnt mean that it might not also be correct. Sometimes we have to swallow hard to accept truth.

Date posted: 2015-08-17

A Eucharistic Prayer over an Awakening World

On the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1923, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin found himself alone at sunrise in the Ordos desert in China, watching the sun spread its orange and red light across the horizon. He was deeply moved, humanly and religiously. What he most wanted to do in response was to celebrate mass, to somehow consecrate the whole world to God. But he had no altar, no bread, and no wine. So he resolved to make the world itself his altar and what was happening in the world the bread and the wine for his mass. Here, in paraphrase, is the prayer he prayed over the world, awakening to the sun that morning in China.


O God, since I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols and make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer to you all the labors and sufferings of the world.

Date posted: 2015-08-11

An Obituary for a Suicide

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That axiom still holds true for our understanding of suicide. Despite all the advances in our understanding, there are still a number of stigmas around suicide, one of which pertains to how we write the obituary of a loved one who dies in this way. In writing an obituary we still cannot bring ourselves to write the word, suicide: He died by his own hand. We still turn to euphemisms: He died expectantly. Her sudden death brings great sadness.

Date posted: 2015-08-04

Children of both Heaven and Earth

For everyone who is emotionally healthy and honest, there will be a life-long tension between the seductive attractions of this world and the lure of God. The earth, with its beauties, its pleasures, and its physicality can take our breath away and have us believe that this world is all there is, and that this world is all that needs to be. Who needs anything further? Isnt life here on earth enough? Besides, what proof is there for any reality and meaning beyond our lives here?

Date posted: 2015-07-28

The Healing Place of Silence

Sometimes silence does become a velvet thing that swells and settles, gathering every space into itself.

Date posted: 2015-07-21

Healing - A Theory

All of us live with some wounds, bad habits, addictions, and temperamental flaws that are so deeply engrained and long-standing that it seems like they are part of our genetic make-up. And so we tend to give into a certain quiet despair in terms of ever being healed of them.

Date posted: 2015-07-14

The Value and Power of Ritual

Today we no longer understand the value and power of ritual. This is more than an individual failing. Its the cultural air we breathe. In the words of Robert L. Moore, weve gone ritually tone-deaf. The effects of this can be seen everywhere.

Date posted: 2015-07-06

The God of our Desires

What lies deepest inside authentic faith is the truth that God is the object of all human desire, no matter how earthy and unholy that desire might seem at times.

Date posted: 2015-06-30

The Hero-Complex

Several years ago, the movie, Argo, won the Academy award as the best movie of the year. I enjoyed the movie in that it was a good drama, one that held its audience in proper suspense even as it provided some good humor and banter on the side. But I struggled with several aspects of the film. First, as a Canadian, I was somewhat offended by the way that the vital role that Canadians played in the escape of the USA hostages from Iran in 1979 was downplayed to the point of simply being written out of the story. The movie would have been more honest had it advertised itself as based on a true story rather than presenting itself as a true story.

Date posted: 2015-06-22

The Best One can do in the Circumstances

Recently I led a week-long retreat for some sixty people at a renewal center. Overall, it went very well, though ideally it could have gone better. It could have gone better if, previous to the retreat, I would have had more time to prepare and more time to rest so that I would have arrived at the retreat well-rested, fully-energetic, and able to give this group my total undivided attention for seven days.

Date posted: 2015-06-16

A Primal Understanding of the Eucharist

Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, tells this story of his first communion. He grew up in a Roman Catholic family in France and on the day of his first communion he said to his mother: I dont understand what Im doing. She answered simply: Its okay, you dont have to understand it now, later you will understand.

Date posted: 2015-06-10

The Deepest Secret inside Wisdom

Everyone longs to know something that’s secret, to know something that others don’t know, but that you know, and the knowledge of which gives you some insight and advantage over others who are outside the inner-circle of that secret. It has always been so. Historically this is called “Gnosticism”, which forever makes an appearance in one form or another.

Date posted: 2015-06-01

Contemporary Writers in Spirituality

Heres my list of spiritual writers who are highly influential today in the English-speaking world.

Date posted: 2015-05-19

Artificial Light

Whats the use of an old-fashioned, hand-held lantern? Well, its light can be quite useful when its pitch-dark, but it becomes superfluous and unnoticeable in the noonday sun. Still, this doesnt mean its light is bad, only that its weak.

Date posted: 2015-05-11

Evolution's Ultimate Wisdom

Evolution, Charles Darwin famously stated, works through the survival of the fittest. Christianity, on the other hand, is committed to the survival of the weakest. But how do we square our Christian ideal of making a preferential option for the weak with evolution?

Date posted: 2015-05-05

Praying for Those Not of This Fold - An Open Letter to Roman Catholic Bishops

I write to you as a loyal son of the Catholic Church, with a particular request: Could you make an addition to our present Eucharistic Prayers to include an explicit invocation for other Christian Churches and for those who lead them?

Date posted: 2015-04-28

Who am I to Judge?

Perhaps the single, most-often quoted line from Pope Francis is his response to a question he was asked vis--vis the morality of a gay marriage wherein the relationship exhibits faithful love. His, infamous-famous reply: Who am I to judge?

Date posted: 2015-04-20

Principles for Interfaith Dialogue and Interfaith Attitudes

We live inside a world and inside religions that are too-given to disrespect and violence. Virtually every newscast today documents the prevalence of disrespect and violence done in the name of religion, disrespect done for the sake of God (strange as that expression may seem). Invariably those acting in this way see their actions as sacral, justified by sacred cause.

Date posted: 2015-04-13

Where to Find Resurrection

Something there is that needs a crucifixion. Everything thats good eventually gets scapegoated and crucified. How? By that curious, perverse dictate somehow innate within human life that assures that theres always someone or something that cannot leave well enough alone, but, for reasons of its own, must hunt down and lash out at whats good. Whats good, whats of God, will always, at some point, be misunderstood, envied, hated, pursued, falsely-accused, and eventually nailed to some cross. Every body of Christ inevitably suffers the same fate as Jesus, death through misunderstanding, ignorance, and jealousy.

Date posted: 2015-04-06

The Passion of Jesus

As Christians, we believe that Jesus gave us both his life and his death. Too often, however, we do not distinguish between the two, though we should: Jesus gave his life for us in one way, through his activity; he gave his death for us in another way, through his passivity, his passion.

Date posted: 2015-03-30

Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Death

In our dying bodies we can give our loved ones something we cannot fully give them when we are healthy and active. Euthanasia is partially blind to the mystery of how love is given.

Date posted: 2015-03-22

Going to Heaven - By Good Luck or by God’s Grace?

As Christians, we believe that, as part of the Body of Christ, we have been given the power to forgive each others sins and that, because of that, indeed a mothers love can pull her child into heaven. Our love for each other is a powerful vehicle of grace, powerful enough to actually open the gates of heaven. As Gabriel Marcel once put it: To love someone is to, in effect, say: You at least will never die! Human love, even this side of eternity, has that kind of power. Thats also why we pray for loved ones who have died. Our love has the power to reach them, even there.

Date posted: 2015-03-09

Fear Masking Itself as Piety

It is easy to mistake piety for the genuine response that God wants of us, that is, to enter into a relationship of intimacy with Him and then try to help others have that same experience.

Date posted: 2015-03-03

God’s Pleasure in our Action

For the past six months, while undergoing treatment for cancer, I was working on a reduced schedule. The medical treatments, while somewhat debilitating , left me still enough health and energy to carry on the administrative duties in my present ministry, but they didn’t allow me any extra energy to teach classes or to offer any lectures, workshops, or retreats at outside venues, something I normally do. I joked with my family and friends that I was “under house arrest”; but I was so grateful for the energy that I still had that being unable to teach and give lectures was not deemed a sacrifice. I was focused on staying healthy, and the health that I was given was appreciated as a great grace.

Date posted: 2015-02-24

Christ and Nature

Numerous groups and individuals today are challenging us in regards to our relationship to mother-earth. From Green Peace, from various environmental groups, from various Christian and other religious groups, and from various individual voices, comes the challenge to be less-blind, less-unthinking, and less-reckless in terms of how we relate to the earth. Every day our newscasts point out how, without much in the way of serious reflection, we are polluting the planet, strip-mining its resources, creating mega-landfills, pouring carbon dangerously into the atmosphere, causing the disappearance of thousands of species, creating bad air and bad water, and thinning the ozone layer. And so the cry goes out: live more simply, use fewer resources, lessen your carbon footprint, and try to recycle whatever youve used as much as you can.

Date posted: 2015-02-17

Our Daydreams

A good part of our lives are taken up with daydreams, though few of us admit that and even fewer of us would own-up to the contents of those fantasies. Were ashamed to admit how much we escape into fantasy and were even more ashamed to reveal the content of those fantasies. But, whether we admit it or not, were all pathological daydreamers; except this isnt necessarily a pathology. Our hearts and minds, chronically frustrated by the limits of our lives, naturally seek solace in daydreaming. Its an almost irresistible temptation. Indeed the more sensitive you are, perhaps the stronger will be the propensity to escape into daydreams. Sensitivity triggers restlessness and restlessness doesnt easily find quiet inside ordinary life. Hence, the escape into daydreams.

Date posted: 2015-02-10

Our Eyes as Windows to our Souls

Most all of us worry about aging, especially in how it affects our bodies. We worry about wrinkles, bags under our eyes, middle-age fat, and losing hair where we want it only to find it on places where we dont want it. So every now and then, when we look in a mirror or see a recent photograph of ourselves, we are shocked at our own faces and bodies, almost not recognizing ourselves as we see an old face and old body where we are used to seeing a young one.

Date posted: 2015-02-03

The Positive Side of Melancholy

Normally none of us like feeling sad, heavy, or depressed. Generally we prefer sunshine to darkness, lightheartedness to melancholy. Thats why, most of the time, we do everything we can to distract ourselves from melancholy, to keep heaviness and sadness at bay. We tend to run from those feelings inside us that sadden or frighten us.

Date posted: 2015-01-28

Looking for the One God inside our Denominational and Faith Divisions

Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, was fond of sharing this story: He had a very close Muslim friend, Mohammed, and the two of them used to pray together, even as they remained aware of their differences, as Muslim and Christian. Aware too that certain schools of thought, both Muslim and Christian, warn against this type of prayer, fearing that the various faiths are not praying to the same God, the two of them didnt call their sessions together prayer. Rather they imagined themselves as digging a well together. One day Christian asked Mohammed: When we get to the bottom of our well, what will we find? Muslim water or Christian water? Mohammed, half-amused but still deadly serious, replied: Come on now, weve spent all this time walking together, and youre still asking me this question. You know well that at the bottom of that well, what well find is Gods water.

Date posted: 2015-01-19

The Importance of the Interior and Private

Our private, little moral concerns can look pretty petty when weighed against the problems of the world as a whole. Do we really believe that God cares much whether or not we say our morning prayers, gossip about a colleague, nurse a grudge or two, or are less than fully honest in our sexual lives? Does God really care about these things?

Date posted: 2015-01-14

Understanding and Appreciating our Differences

What if what separates us, what if what makes other persons, churches, and faiths seem foreign and strange is also a grace, a difference intended by God? Can we think of our differences, as we think of our unity, as a gift from God? Most religions, including Christianity, would answer affirmatively.

Date posted: 2015-01-06

My Top Ten Books for 2014

The pressures of work and ministry, unfortunately, limit the time I have available to read as widely as I would like. Still, addicted as I am to books and knowing that without the insight and stimulation that I draw from them I would forever stagnate spiritually and creatively, I scrupulously carve out some time most days to read. As well, given my ministry and personality, I like to read various genres of books: novels, biography, critical essays, and, not least, books on scripture, theology, and spirituality.

Date posted: 2015-01-01

Being Ready for Christmas

Many of us arrive at Christmas tired, running, distracted, and already fatigued with the lights, songs, and celebrations of Christmas. Advent is meant to be a time of preparation for Christmas; but for many of us it is not exactly a time for the kind of preparation that enables Christ be born more deeply in our lives.

Date posted: 2014-12-22

The Visitation - Revisited

We are all familiar with the biblical story of the Visitation. It happens at the beginning of Lukes Gospel. Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, both pregnant, meet. One is carrying Jesus and the other is carrying John the Baptist. And the Gospels want us to recognize that both these pregnancies are biologically impossible; one is a virginal conception and the other a conception that occurs far beyond someones childbearing years. So there is clearly something of the divine in each. In simple language, each woman is carrying a special gift from heaven and each is carrying a part of the divine promise that will one day establish Gods peace on this earth.

Date posted: 2014-12-16

Honoring Talent and Grace - Jean Beliveau RIP

For those of you who arent Canadian, perhaps this name might not mean much, but, this past week, Canada lost one of its great cultural icons, Jean Beliveau, a famed athlete. He died and all Canadians, including this Canadian in exile, mourn his passing.

Date posted: 2014-12-09

Self-Sacrifice and the Eucharist

In 1996, Muslim extremists martyred nearly an entire community of Trappist monks in Atlas, Algeria. Many of us, thanks to the movie, Of Gods and Men, are familiar with their story and are familiar too with the extraordinary faith and courage with which these monks, particularly their Abbott, Christian de Cherge, met their deaths. Indeed the last letters of Christian de Cherge reveal a faith and love that is truly extraordinary.

Date posted: 2014-12-02

Carrying our Cross

Among Jesus’ many teachings we find this, rather harsh-sounding, invitation: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. I suspect that each of us has a gut-sense of what this means and what it will cost us; but, I suspect too that many of us misunderstand that Jesus is asking here and struggle unhealthily with this invitation. What, concretely, does Jesus mean by this?

Date posted: 2014-11-04

Three Kinds of Spiritualities

All of us struggle, and we struggle in three ways. First, sometimes we struggle simply to maintain ourselves, to stay healthy and stable, to stay normal, to not fall apart, to not have our lives unravel into chaos and depression. It takes real effort just to maintain our ordinary health, stability, and happiness.

Date posted: 2014-10-28

The Goddess of Chastity

Ancient Greece expressed much of its psychological and spiritual wisdom inside their myths. They didnt intend these to be taken literally or as historical, but as metaphor and as an archetypal illustration of why life is as it is and how people engage life both generatively and destructively.

Date posted: 2014-10-20

The Unhappy Cost of Resentment

It’s not only love that makes the world go round. Resentment too is prominent in stirring the drink. In so many ways our world is drowning in resentment. Everywhere you look, it seems, someone is bitter about something and breathing out resentment. What is resentment? Why is this feeling so prevalent in our lives? How do we move beyond it?

Date posted: 2014-10-14

Sacred Permission to be Human and the Tools to Handle Frustration

Sometimes certain texts in the bible make you wonder: Is this really the word of God? Why is this text in scripture? Whats the lesson here? For example, we have verses in the Psalms, in passages that we pray liturgically, where we ask God to bash the heads of the children of our enemies against a rock. How does that invite us to love our enemies?

Date posted: 2014-10-06

Five People who Helped Give me some Self-Understanding

Some people talk about the five people they would like to meet in heaven. These are the five people who have helped me understand what it means to walk on this earth.

Date posted: 2014-09-30

On How We React to Criticism and Opposition

Have you ever noted how we spontaneously react to a perceived threat? Faced with a threat, our primal instincts tend to take over and we instantly freeze over and begin to shut all the doors opening to warmth, gentleness, and empathy inside us.

Date posted: 2014-09-16

Our Timidity in the Face of God’s Abundance

My youth had both its strengths and its weaknesses. I grew up on a farm in heart of the Canadian prairies, a second-generation immigrant. Our family was a large one and the small farm we lived on gave us enough to live on, though just enough. There were never any extras. We were never hungry or genuinely poor, but we lived in a conscriptive frugality. You were given what you needed, but rarely anything extra. You got just one portion of the main course at a meal and one dessert because these had to be measured out in a way that left enough for everyone. And I lived happily inside that, taking for granted that this was the way life was meant to be, assuming that all resources are limited and you shouldn’t ever be asking for or taking more than what’s necessary.

Date posted: 2014-09-09

May your Kingdom Come, But not Yet

A friend of mine likes to humor about his struggles in growing up. When I was in my twenties, he quips, I felt that by the time I was forty I would have grown-up enough to let go of my bad habits. But, when I turned forty, I gave myself an extra ten years, promising myself that by age fifty, I’d have conquered these habits. Well, now I’m my fifties and I’ve promised myself that by age sixty, I’ll be more mature and more-serious about the deeper things in life.

Date posted: 2014-08-31

Fearing Our Own Maturity

Our bodies and our souls each have their separate aging process, and they aren’t always in harmony. Thus, T.E. Laurence, in, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, makes this comment about someone: “He feared his maturity as it grew upon him, with its ripe thought and finished art, but which lacked the poetry of boyhood to make living a full end of life ... his rangeful, mortal soul was aging faster than his body, was going to die before it, like most of ours.”

Date posted: 2014-08-26

Walking on Water and Sinking Like a Stone

Faith isn’t something you ever simply achieve. It’s not something that you ever nail down as a fait accompli. Faith works this way: Some days you walk on water and other days you sink like a stone. Faith invariably gives way to doubt before it again recovers its confidence, then it loses it again.

Date posted: 2014-08-14

The Law of Karma

In 1991 Hollywood produced a comedy entitled, City Slickers, starring Billy Crystal. In a quirky way it was a wonderfully moral film, focusing on three, middle-aged men from New York City who were dealing with midlife crisis.

Date posted: 2014-08-05

Searching for the Right Fuel

Sometimes everything can seem right on the surface while, deep down, nothing is right at all. We see this, for example, in the famous parable in the gospels about the Prodigal Son and his Older Brother. By every outward appearance the Older Brother is doing everything right: Hes perfectly obedient to his father, is at home, and is doing everything his father asks of him. And, unlike his younger brother, hes not wasting his fathers property on prostitutes and partying. He seems a model of generosity and morality.

Date posted: 2014-07-30

Suicide - Reclaiming the Memory of our Loved One

Each year I write a column on suicide. Mostly I say the same thing over and over again, simply because it needs to be said. I dont claim any originality or special insight, I only write about suicide because there is such a desperate need for anyone to address the question. Moreover, in my case, as a Catholic priest and spiritual writer, I feel it important to offer something to try to help dispel the false perception which so many people, not least many inside the church itself, have of the churchs understanding of suicide. Simply put, Im no expert, not anyones savior, theres just so little out there.

Date posted: 2014-07-22

A Visit from the Goddess of Night

There are few more insightful studies into the spirituality of aging than the late James Hillmans book, The Force of Character. Ironically Hillman was more critical of Christian spirituality than sympathetic to it; yet his brilliant insights into natures design and intent offer perspectives on the spirituality of aging that often eclipse what is found in explicitly Christian writings.

Date posted: 2014-07-14

Disciples with many Faces

In a new book entitled, Jesus of Nazareth, famed German scripture-scholar, Gerhard Lohfink, describes how people in the gospels related to Jesus in different ways. Not everyone was an apostle, not everyone was a disciple, and not everyone who contributed to Jesus' cause even followed him. Different individuals had their own way of connecting to Jesus. Here's how he puts it:
"We may say that the gospels, especially Mark, are aware of a great variety of forms of participation in Jesus' cause. There were the Twelve. There was a broader circle of disciples. There were those who participated in Jesus' life. There were localized, resident adherents who made their houses available. There were people who helped in particular situations, if only by offering a cup of water. Finally, there were the beneficiaries who profited from Jesus' cause and for that reason did not speak against it."

Date posted: 2014-07-09

Robert Moore on Human Energy

Few thinkers have influenced me as profoundly as Robert L. Moore. Who is he? He’s a scholar who has spent almost 50 years studying human energy from the perspective of psychology, anthropology, and spirituality. Few scholars are his equal in linking human energy, even when it is raw and grandiose, to the image and likeness of God inside of us. He merits an audience.

Date posted: 2014-07-02

On Being Perpetually Distracted

Theres a story in the Hindu tradition that runs something like this: God and a man are walking down a road. The man asks God: What is the world like? God answers: Id like to tell you, but my throat is parched. I need a cup of cold water. If you can go and get me a cup of cold water, Ill tell you what the world is like. The man heads off to the nearest house to ask for a cup of cold water. He knocks on the door and it is opened by a beautiful young woman. He asks for a cup of cold water. She answers: I will gladly get it for you, but its just time for the noon meal, why dont you come in first and eat. He does.

Date posted: 2014-06-25

On Not being Stingy with God’s Mercy

George Eliot once wrote: “When death, the great reconciler, has come, it is never our tenderness that we repent of, but our severity.”

Date posted: 2014-06-17

The Regrets We Can Live With

In her recent book, The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd presents us with a deeply conflicted heroine, Sarah, a highly-sensitive woman who grows up the daughter of a slave-owner and a child of privilege. But Sarahs moral sensitivity soon trumps her sense of privilege and she makes a series of hard choices to distance herself from both slavery and privilege.

Date posted: 2014-06-11

Wearied in our Patience

Thirty years ago, before the airline hijackings of September 11, 2001, before the shoe-bomber and others like him, it was simpler to travel by air. You didnt need to take off your shoes to pass through security, you could carry liquids with you, laptops and other electronic devices, if you had any, did not have to be brought out of your carry-on bags, the door to the cockpit wasnt barricaded with steel, and there was much less paranoia in general about security. You even got to see the pilot occasionally.

Date posted: 2014-06-02

Our Gaze upon the City

Jesus, it seems, had mixed feelings towards the world. He loved the world, laid down his life for it, and challenged us to love the world, even as he criticized it harshly and stated clearly that it was opposed to him.

Date posted: 2014-05-28

Dag Hammarskjold on Sexuality and Desire

"The lusts of the flesh reveal the loneliness of the soul." Dag Hammarskjold, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, wrote those words and they highlight part of the deeper intentionality of sexual desire. And this insight was more than just a theoretical one for Hammarskjold. He knew loneliness and unfulfilled desire.

Date posted: 2014-05-21

Mother's Day

There’s an old adage that offers a wise counsel, even as it leaves us powerless to heed its advice: Pick your parents wisely!

Date posted: 2014-05-14

A Pilgrimage through Nature, Desire, and Soul

Nature, desire, and soul, we rarely integrate these well. Yet they are so inextricably linked that how we relate to one deeply colors the others; and, indeed, spirituality itself might be defined as what we each do in terms of integrating these three in our lives.

Date posted: 2014-05-07

Accepting Truth, Whatever its Cloak


When I was student in the seminary, I had two kinds of teachers: One kind, precisely because they were fiercely loyal to all that is Christian and Catholic, would have us read great secular thinkers but always with the intent of wanting to help show where these thinkers were wrong. Our intellectual task as a Catholic seminarian, they would tell us, is to be able to defend Catholicism against the kinds of criticisms found in the writings of these secular, sometimes, anti-Christian thinkers and to keep own faith and teaching free of their influence. The second set of professors approached things differently: They would have us read great secular thinkers, even if they were bitterly critical of Christianity and Catholicism, but with the intent of seeing what we could positively learn from them. These are great minds, they told us, and, whether sympathetic to Christianity or not, we have something to learn from them. Do not read uncritically, was their challenge, but still read with the intent of being instructed.

Date posted: 2014-04-28

God’s Quiet Presence in our Lives

Why doesn’t God show himself to us more directly and more powerfully so as to make faith easier? That’s a fair question for which, partly, there is no fully satisfying answer.

Date posted: 2014-04-21

The Transcript of our Trial

The biblical accounts of Jesus' passion and death focus very much on his trial, describing it in length and in detail.

Date posted: 2014-04-18

Groaning beyond Words - Our Deeper Way of Praying

What is this unconscious prayer? It is our deep innate desire, relentlessly on fire, forever somewhat frustrated, making itself felt through the groaning of our bodies and souls, silently begging the very energies of the universe, not least God Himself, to let it come to consummation.

Date posted: 2014-03-24

What Dark Nights do for Us

After Mother Theresa died, her diaries revealed something that shocked many people, namely, during the last sixty years of her life, from age 27 until she died at age 87, she struggled to imagine that God existed and had no affective experience of either the person or the existence of God. Yet, during all those years, everything in her life incarnated and radiated an exceptional, one-in-a-hundred-million, selflessness, altruism, and faith commitment.

Date posted: 2014-03-17

Facing our Maker

Some day you will have to face your Maker! Weve all heard that phrase. The hour will come when we will stand alone before God with no place to hide, no room to rationalize, and no excuses to offer for our weaknesses and sin. We will stand in a searing light, naked and exposed, and all we ever did, good and bad, will stand with us in that light. That prospect, however vaguely felt, makes for a dark corner in every persons mind.

Date posted: 2014-03-10

The Human Struggle with Sexual Energy

The church has always struggled with sex, but so have everyone else. There aren’t any cultures, religious or secular, pre-modern or modern, post-modern or post-religious, that exhibit a truly healthy sexual ethos. Every church and every culture struggles with integrating sexual energy, if not in its creed about sex, at least in the living out of that creed. Secular culture looks at the church and accuses it of being uptight and anti-erotic. Partly this true, but the church might well protest that much of its sexual reticence is rooted in the fact that it is one of the few voices still remaining who are challenging anyone towards sexual responsibility. As well, the church might also challenge any culture that claims to have found the key to healthy sexuality to step forward and show the evidence. No culture will take up that claim. Everyone is struggling.

Date posted: 2014-03-03

The Real Challenge in Creativity - To Enter the Song

There are three kinds of performers: The first, while singing a song or doing a dance, are making love to themselves. The second, while performing, are making love to the audience. The third, while on stage, are making love to the song, to the dance, to the drama itself.

Date posted: 2014-02-25

Religious Coinage

No one, be that an individual or an institution, controls access to God. Jesus makes this abundantly clear.
We see this, for example, in the story of Jesus cleansing the temple by overturning the money-tables. This incident is often used to justify anger and violence in Gods name. Invariably, when someone affirms that God is non-violent, he or she is met with the reaction: What about Jesus driving the money-changers out of the temple? What about Jesus losing his temper and displaying anger?

Date posted: 2014-02-16

Our Pagan Resistance to the Other World

Sometimes while presiding at the Eucharist or preaching, I scan the faces in the front pews. What do they reveal? A few are eager, attentive, focused on whats happening, but a goodly number of faces, particularly among the young, speak of boredom, of dram duty, and of a resignation that says: I have to be in the church just now, though I wish I was elsewhere. These reactions are, of course, understandable. Were human after all, flesh and blood, and when we try to focus on the world of spirit or on what relativizes flesh and blood, mortality and self-sacrifice, we can expect that most times the reality of this life will trump the promise of other world.

Date posted: 2014-02-09

Our Struggle for Empathy and Generativity

In our normal, daily lives we are invariably so self-preoccupied that we find it difficult to be able to accord others the same reality and value we give to ourselves. In brief, its difficult for us to live in true empathy because we are forever consumed with our own heartaches and headaches. From two famous intellectuals, one speaking philosophically and the other psychologically, we get that same insight.

Date posted: 2014-02-02

Holiness, Wholeness, and Depression

External appearances can easily fool us, and often do. That’s true in every area of human life, and religion is no exception.

Date posted: 2014-01-29

The Imperative for Wholeness inside Christ

For more than a thousand years, Christians have not had the joy of being one family around Christ. Although there were already tensions within the earliest Christian communities, it was not until the year 1054 that there was a formal split so as to, in effect, establish two formal Christian communities, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in the West. Then, with the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, there was a further split within the Western Church and Christianity fragmented still further. Today there are more than a hundred Christian denominations, many of them, sadly, not on friendly terms with each other.

Date posted: 2014-01-19

The Non-Violence of God

They called it human sacrifice; we call it capital punishment. In either case, someone dies because we feel that God needs and wants this death for some divine reason.

Date posted: 2014-01-13

On the Dangers of Defining Ourselves

Given the speed and change in our world today, the oceans of information being given us by the new technologies, the speed with which knowledge now passes through our lives, the increasing specialization and fragmentation inside higher education, and the ever-increasing complexity of our lives, you occasionally hear someone say, usually just after offering an opinion on something: But what do I know anyway? Good question: What do we know anyway?

Date posted: 2014-01-06

My Ten Favorite Books of 2013

De gustibus non est disputandum. That’s a famous line from St. Augustine wherein he suggests that taste is subjective and that what one person fancies might not be to another person’s liking. Under that canopy I would like to recommend the following books to you. Among the books that I read in 2013, these ten stayed with me in ways that the others didn’t. So, with no promises that your tastes will echo mine, here goes ...

Date posted: 2013-12-24

Christmas - Its Checkered Origins and its Checkered Sequence

The story of Jesus and the meaning of Christmas can only really be understood by looking at where Jesus came from, his family-tree, and by looking at how his story has continued in history.

Date posted: 2013-12-16

Staying Awake

Wake up! Wake up before death wakes you up. In a less dramatic expression thats a virtual leitmotif in the Gospels. Jesus is always telling us to wake up, to stay awake, to be vigilant, to be more alert to a deeper reality. Whats meant by that? How are we asleep to depth? How are we to wake up and stay awake?

Date posted: 2013-12-11

Every Tear Bring the Messiah Closer

Looking at religious history through the centuries, we cannot help but be struck by the fact that God seemingly takes his time in the face of our impatience. Our scriptures are often a record of frustrated desire, of non-fulfillment, and of human impatience. Its more the exception when God intervenes directly and decisively to resolve a particular human tension. We are always longing for a messiah to take away our pain and to avenge oppression, but mostly those prayers seem to fall on deaf ears.

Date posted: 2013-12-03

Misguided Loyalties

Anyone familiar with the life and writings of Simone Weil will, I am sure, agree that she was a woman of exceptional faith. She was also a woman with an unwavering commitment to the poor. But, and this may seem anomalous, she was also exceptional and unwavering in a certain resistance she had towards the institutional church. During her lifetime she longed for daily Eucharist, even as she resisted baptism and membership in the church. Why?

Date posted: 2013-11-27

Searching for a Word Filled with Reality

Faith is not something you achieve. If you try to nail it down, it gets up and walks away with the nail. Faith works this way: Some days you walk on water, other days you sink like a stone. You live with a deep secret, the poet Rumi says, that sometimes you know, and then not, and then know again. Sometimes you feel the real presence, and sometimes you feel the real absence. Why?

Date posted: 2013-11-17

Handling Resentment in our Lives

When astronauts journey into space their capsules are equipped with a machine that gets rid of the carbon monoxide they produce as they breathe. If that machine breaks down, they're in trouble, as was shown in the movie Apollo 13. Traveling inside a space capsule is possible only if there's a machine constantly getting rid of the carbon monoxide being produced.


That's also true for our human journey.

Date posted: 2013-11-11

Dying into Safe Hands

Its hard to say something consoling in the face of death, even when the person who died lived a full life and died in the best of circumstances. Its especially hard when the one whos died is a young person, still in need of nurturing and care in this life, and when that young person dies in less-than-ideal circumstances.

Date posted: 2013-11-05

The Single Life

The universe works in pairs. From the atoms to the human species, generativity is predicated on union with another. Happiness, it would seem, is also predicated on that. So where does that leave singles and celibates? How can they be normal, generative, and happy?

Date posted: 2013-10-28

The Academy and the Pew

There has always been an innate and healthy tension between theology and catechesis, between whats happening in theology departments in universities and the church pew. Theologians and bishops are often not each others favorite people. And thats understandable. Why?

Date posted: 2013-10-22

Saint or Sinner?

What are we ultimately, saints or sinners? Whats deepest inside us, goodness or selfishness? Or, are we dualists with two innate principles inside us, one good and one evil, in a perpetual dual with each other?

Date posted: 2013-10-14

In His Own Words

Many of us, I suspect, have heard snippets of an interview that Pope Francis did for a series of Jesuit publications, including the USA magazine, America, where, among other things, he suggested that we might be wise to not always emphasize the moral issues around abortion, gay marriage, and contraception in our conversations. Thats, of course, the phrase that most caught the attention of the media, but the whole interview is remarkable for its candor and includes a whole range of thoughts that help give us a sense of how Francis intends to color his papacy. Here are a few of his thoughts, in his own words.

Date posted: 2013-10-08

A Lesson from the Road

Several years ago, Hollywood produced a movie about the famous Camino walk in Spain. Entitled The Way, it chronicles the story of a father whose son was killed in an accident shortly after beginning this famous five-hundred mile pilgrimage. The father, played by Martin Sheen, had been largely estranged from his son, but when he goes to France (where the Camino begins) to collect the ashes of his dead son, he feels a compulsion to complete the walk for his son and sets out with his sons hiking equipment and backpack, carrying his ashes.

Date posted: 2013-10-01

On Not Faking Humility

The biblical invitation to not consider oneself better than others begs the question: Can someone who is living an essentially moral and generous life really believe that he or she is no better than someone who is uncaring, selfish, or even malicious in how he or she relates to God, others, and the world? Do we really believe that we are no better than others? Did Mother Theresa really believe in her heart that she was no better than anyone else? Could she really look at herself and say: Im just as great a sinner as there is on this planet? Or, did she, and must we, in the end, feign humility because we dont really believe that were no better than whats worst on this planet?

Date posted: 2013-09-24

Disappearing Roots

Home is where we start from. T.S. Eliot wrote that and it describes an experience that can be felt both as a freedom and as a heartache. I cite my own case:

Date posted: 2013-09-16

The Slow, Imperceptible March of Goodness

God writes straight with crooked lines. That axiom sounds clever, but is there real truth or depth to it? Can good ever really arise out of evil? Do love, truth, and justice ever work out through hatred, lies, and injustice? Do crooked lines really straighten?

Date posted: 2013-09-11

The Value of Atheists

In his monumental study of atheism, Michael Buckley suggests that atheism is invariably a parasite that feeds off bad religion. It feeds off bad religion, picks on bad religion, and picks apart bad religion.

Date posted: 2013-09-07

Have I Been Saved?

The famed and feisty psychologist, Fritz Pearls, was once asked by a well-meaning Christian if he was saved. He responded by saying, I am still trying to figure out how to be spent! His retort echoes a line from Theresa of Avila who states that once we reach the highest mansion of maturity we are left with only one question: How can I be helpful? Theyre right, and their insight is a needed challenge. We too easily and too frequently get the wrong focus apposite both Christian discipleship and human maturity.

Date posted: 2013-08-27

Rationalizing our Anger and Moral Indignations

This saying of Jesus is one of the most misunderstood teachings in all of scripture and, because of this, from the time of Jesus birth until this very day, we have been able to cloak a lot of our lack of charity, lack of respect, bitterness, and hatred inside the mantle of prophecy, claiming that the divisions we cause are the divisions to which Jesus is referring when he said he is bringing fire to the earth. But we are wrong. Why?

Date posted: 2013-08-19

Embittered Moralizing

In a masterful book on grace, Piet Fransen suggests that we can test how well we understand grace by gauging our reaction to this story:

Imagine a man who during his whole life is entirely careless about God and morality. Hes selfish, ignores the commandments, ignores all things religious, and is basically consumed with pursuing his own pleasure - wine, sex, and song. Then, just hours before his death, he repents of his irresponsibility, makes a sincere confession, receives the sacraments of the church, and dies inside that conversion.

Whats our spontaneous reaction to that story? Isnt it wonderful that he received the grace of conversion before he died? Or, more likely: The lucky beggar! He got away with it! He got to have all that pleasure and still gets to go to heaven!

Date posted: 2013-08-14

Our Need to Give to the Poor

We need to give to the poor, not because they need it, though they do, but because we need to do that in order to be healthy. Thats an axiom which is grounded in scripture where, time and again, we are taught that giving to the poor is something that we need to do for our own health.


Date posted: 2013-08-05

Struggling to Understand Suicide

Sadly, today, there are many deaths by suicide. Very few people have not been deeply affected by the suicide of a loved one. In the United States alone, there are more than thirty-three thousand suicides a year. That averages out to ninety such deaths per day, about three to four every hour.

Date posted: 2013-07-30

On Whining and Weeping

Sometimes our private tears are only that, private tears, tears which are ours alone and which dont resonate with the feelings of others but rather cause them an unhealthy discomfort. Why dont all of our tears draw empathy?

Date posted: 2013-07-22

Why Faith Feels Like Doubt and Darkness

We do have thoughts, images, and words about God and many of these are given to us in scripture. Whats to be made of our traditional biblical and theological images of God? Arent they accurate and adequate? In a word, no, they arent. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, the concepts and language about God that are given us in scripture and church tradition are simply words that we have permission to use without being struck dead for idolatry. We should never pretend they are accurate and adequate; scripture itself makes that clear. Not understanding this confuses our notion of faith and doubt.

Date posted: 2013-07-16

An Addiction to Comfort

Fifty years ago, Kay Cronin, wrote a book entitled, Cross in the Wilderness, chronicling how, in 1847, a small band of Oblate missionaries came from France to the American Pacific Northwest and, after some bitter setbacks in Washington State and Oregon, moved up the coast into Canada and helped found the Roman Catholic church in Vancouver and in significant parts of British Columbias mainland.

Date posted: 2013-07-08

Raissa and Jacques Maritain and the New Evangelization

We struggle today in our churches to offer...a vision, one that provides food for the heart and the head equally. We tend to sell off one for the other.

Date posted: 2013-07-01

Contemplative Sound Bytes

Recently I attended an Institute on contemplative awareness at which James Finley was the keynote-speaker. He brings some pedigree to the task. He has nearly forty years of experience as a therapist, is a much sought-after lecturer, has written extensively and deeply on the subject of contemplation, and, as a young man, for several years, had Thomas Merton as his spiritual director and mentor. He knows of what he speaks.

Date posted: 2013-06-25

Struggling for our Father’s Blessing

When I was in elementary school, we were made to memorize a number of poems by William Blake. We didnt understand them, but they had a wonderful jingle to them, were easy to commit to memory, and remain branded inside me to this day.
One of those was a piece entitled, Infant Sorrow:

Date posted: 2013-06-19

Andrew Greeley - RIP

As a young seminarian in the late 1960s, I was very taken by the writings of Andrew Greeley, a priest in Chicago, who was churning out books on popular spirituality. I found his approach wonderfully refreshing because, at least to my mind, he dealt with our perennial religious struggles in a way that was both more realistic and more hope-filled than most of the religious literature to which I had been exposed to until then. He was the spiritual bread I needed, and when I went on a retreat to prepare for final vows, I had a couple of his books in hand. He helped me make that decision.

Date posted: 2013-06-12

Always in a Hurry

Haste is our enemy. It puts us under stress, raises our blood pressure, makes us impatient, renders us more vulnerable to accidents and, most seriously of all, blinds us to the needs of others. Haste is normally not a virtue, irrespective of the goodness of the thing towards which we are hurrying.

Date posted: 2013-06-04

Ordinary Time

In a marvelous little book entitled, The Music of Silence, David Steindl-Rast highlights how each hour of the day has its own special light and its own particular mood and how we are more attentive to the present moment when we recognize and honor these special angels lurking inside each hour. Hes right. Every hour of the day and every season of the year have something special to give us, but often times we cannot make ourselves present to meet that gift.

Date posted: 2013-05-31

Our Fundamental Option

Several years ago, at a conference that I was attending the keynote speaker challenged his audience in this way: All of us, he pointed out, are members of various communities: we live in families, are part of church congregations, have colleagues with whom we work, have a circle of friends, and are part of a larger civic community. In every one of these there will come a time when we will get hurt, when we will not be honored, when we will be taken for granted, and treated unfairly. All of us will get hurt. That is a given. However, and this was his challenge, how we handle that hurt, with either bitterness or forgiveness, will color the rest of our lives and determine what kind of person we are going to be.

Date posted: 2013-05-21

The Wages of Celibacy

Recently an op-ed piece appeared in the New York Times by Frank Bruni, entitled, The Wages of Celibacy. The column, while provocative, is fair. Mostly he asks a lot of hard, necessary questions. Looking at the various sexual scandals that have plagued the Roman Catholic priesthood in the past number of years, Bruni suggests that it's time to re-examine celibacy with an honest and courageous eye and ask ourselves whether its downside outweighs its potential benefits.

Date posted: 2013-05-14

Boldness with God

Some years ago, a woman shared this story at a workshop. She had a six year-old son whom she had conscientiously schooled in prayer. Among other things, she made him kneel beside his bed every night and say aloud a number of prayers, ending with an invocation to bless mummy, daddy, grandma, and grandpa. One night, shortly after he had started school, she took him to his room to hear his prayers and to tuck him in for the night. But when it came time for him to kneel by his bedside and recite his prayers, he refused and crawled into bed instead. His mother asked him: Whats the matter? Dont you pray anymore? There was remarkable calm in his reply: No, he said, I dont pray anymore. The sister teaching us at school told us that we are not supposed to pray, she said that we are supposed to talk to God ... and tonight I am tired and have nothing to say!

Date posted: 2013-05-07

Guidelines for the Long Haul - Revisited

Twenty-five years ago, I wrote a column entitled, Guidelines for the Long Haul. Revisiting it recently, I was encouraged that my principles havent swayed during the past quarter-century, only taken on more nuance. I still recommend those same commandments, nostalgically revisited, somewhat redacted, but fully re-endorsed.

Date posted: 2013-04-30

A Call for Less Self-Protection

Today, among many of us church-goers, there is growing-propensity to self-protect rather than risk crucifixion for the world. We are well-intentioned in this, but, good intentions notwithstanding, our actions are the opposite of Jesus. He loved the world enough to let himself be crucified rather than self-protect.

Date posted: 2013-04-23

Stone Jars and Softer Containers

Embittered moralizing, no matter how valid the indignation enflaming it, takes many forms and is always recognizable in its lack of warmth and its inability to bless others.

Date posted: 2013-04-15

Struggling with Secularity

As an adult child of Rene Descartes, I breathe in secularity, a very mixed air, pure and polluted; and I find myself torn between hope and fear, comfortable but uneasy, defending secularity even as I am critical of it.


Date posted: 2013-04-09

Lucky Sevens

From the bible to casinos, seven is often considered to be a magical, perfect, and lucky number. Jesus told us to forgive those who hurt us seventy times seven times. Clearly he meant that to mean infinity. Genesis speaks of the seven days of creation, scripture speaks of seven archangels, and the Book of Revelation speaks of the Seven Seals of Revelation. The bible is saturated with the number seven. It would take several pages just to list the references.


Date posted: 2013-04-05

The Resurrection as Revealing God as Redeemer, not as Rescuer

Before you get serious about Jesus, first consider how good you are going to look on wood!

Date posted: 2013-03-26

Praying In a Crisis

How do we lift our darkest, most depressed, most lonely moments up to God? How can we pray when we are most deeply alone, helpless, and our whole world seems to be collapsing?

Date posted: 2013-03-19

The Major Imperatives within Mature Discipleship

In his autobiography, Morris West suggests that at a certain age our lives simplify and we need have only three phrases left in our spiritual vocabulary: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! He is right, if we understand fully what is implied in living out gratitude. Gratitude is the ultimate virtue, undergirding everything else, even love. It is synonymous with holiness.

Date posted: 2013-03-12

Honoring an Abundant and Prodigal God

Theres a disturbing trend within our churches today. Simply put, we are seeing the embrace of our churches become less-and-less inclusive. More-and-more, our churches are demanding a purity and exclusivity not demanded by Jesus in Gospels.

Date posted: 2013-03-05

Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety, like all tensions, eats at us at various levels. More superficially, we worry about many things. Deep down though we are anxious in a way that colors most everything we do. So much of what motivates and drives us is an unconscious attempt to free ourselves from anxiety. We are forever nursing the hope that we can free ourselves from anxiety through achievement, success, financial security, fame, leaving a mark, and through power and sex. We nurse the secret belief that if we have the right combination of these our lives we will have the substance we need to feel secure and non-anxious.

Date posted: 2013-02-26

Anxiety

A friend of mine likes to jokingly pretend hes the ultimate egoist and will occasionally crack this quip: Life is hard because I have to deal with the magnitude me! Ironically our ultimate struggle in life is exactly the opposite: We are forever dealing with the insubstantiality of me! We are forever fearful that we have no substance, nothing of lasting value, no immortality. We fear that we might ultimately disappear.

Date posted: 2013-02-18

What Does It Mean to Focus our Attention on God?

Some years ago, I was at a religious conference where one of the speakers, widely known and respected for her work among the poor, made this comment: “I’m not a theologian, so I don’t know how this plays out theologically; but here’s the base from which I’m operating: I work with the poor. Partly I do this out of my humanity, out of natural compassion; but ultimately my motivation is Christ. I work with the poor because I’m a Christian. However I can go for two or three years on the streets and never mention Christ’s name because I believe that God is mature enough that He doesn’t demand to always be the center of our conscious attention.”

Date posted: 2013-02-12

Prayer as Sanity and Balance

Our generative years are a marathon, not a sprint, and so it’s difficult to sustain graciousness, generosity, and patience through the tiredness, trials, and temptations that beset us through the years of our adult lives. All on our own, relying on willpower alone, we too often fatigue, get worn down, and compromise both our maturity and our discipleship. We need help from beyond, from somewhere even beyond the human supports that help bolster us. We need God’s help, strength from something beyond what’s human. We need prayer.

Date posted: 2013-02-04

Ecumenism - Our Neglected Mandate

While saying farewell the night before he died, Jesus told those with him that he “had other sheep that are not of this fold” and that those with him at that particular moment were not his only followers. Very importantly, he also said that he longed for unity with those others just as urgently and deeply as he longed for unity with those in the room with him.

Date posted: 2013-01-28

The Intelligence Inside of the Aging Process

What can God and nature have had in mind when they designed the aging process? Why is it that just when our mental prowess, our human maturity, and our emotional freedom are at their peak, the body begins to fall apart?


Date posted: 2013-01-21

The Ineffability of God

All of us, naturally, try to form some picture of God and try to imagine Gods existence. The problem when we try to do this is that we end up in one of two places, both not good.

Date posted: 2013-01-16

Prayer as keeping us Outside the Great March

In our more reflective moments we know how hard it is not to get caught up in ideology, hype, fad, group-think, and crowd-hysteria in a way that leaves us mindless. It’s hard to know what we really think and believe, as opposed to what the cultural circles we move within prescribe for us. It’s hard not to be caught up in the fashion of the moment.

Date posted: 2013-01-07

My Top Books for 2012

Concerning taste, there should be no disputes! St. Augustine wrote those words seventeen hundred years ago and their truth applies not just to taste in food, but also to taste in literature. Not everyones soul is fed in the same way and we eventually gravitate towards where we are fed. So I am not sure what books are best for you. I pick up a good number of books each year and tend to finish them, even if their subject matter doesnt always measure up to their attractive cover and title. Mostly though, they feed me. What a poor world we would be if we didnt have books! Among all the books that I picked up during 2012, which do I most recommend?

Date posted: 2012-12-31

In Safer Hand than Ours

One of my jobs as a priest is to preside and preach at funerals. Never an easy task. The deep truths of our faith which can be so consoling at other times often dont spin their magic when death is still raw. Later on they can do their work; but, at a funeral, the pain is often too all-absorbing for the words of faith to effectively break through and do much in the way of real consolation. Their full effect will take place in a way and in a time that respects the rhythm of human grief.

Date posted: 2012-12-18

King Herod and the Wise Men - A Christmas Challenge

Inside the great Christmas narrative there are multiple mini-narratives, each of which comes laden with its own archetypal symbols. One of these mini-narratives, rich in archetypal imagery, is the story King Herod and the wise men

Date posted: 2012-12-17

Marking an Anniversary

Sitting at a desk in Belgium in 1982, pecking away on a typewriter, I had no thoughts about longevity or world-readership. I was putting notes into milk-bottles and hoping somebody would find them. Thirty years later, now with a laptop instead of a typewriter, the effort and the dream remain the same.

Date posted: 2012-12-11

Honoring Life's Complexity

Great minds and great persons properly honor complexity. Nowhere is this clearer than in Jesus. He carried all truth, in all its complexity. Unfortunately, we, his followers, are not up to the master. Thats why there hundreds of different Christian denominations today. Thats also why there are liberals and conservatives both in our churches and our society. We find it easier to carry smaller pieces of the truth than to carry the tension of being loyal to its bigger picture.

Date posted: 2012-12-03

Working too hard

There are dangers in overwork, no matter how good the work and no matter how noble the motivation for doing it. Spiritual guides, beginning with Jesus, have always warned of the dangers of becoming too taken-up in our work. Many are the spouses in a marriage, many are the children in a family, many are the friends, and many are churches, who wish that someone they love and need more attention from was less busy.

Date posted: 2012-11-26

Some Light-hearted Thoughts on a Very Heavy Subject

Some years ago, a friend of mine was facing the birth of her first child. While happy that she was soon to be a mother, she openly confessed her fears about the actual birth-process, the pain, the dangers, the unknown. But she consoled herself with this thought: Hundreds of millions of women have done this and have somehow managed it. Surely, if so many women have done, and are doing, this - I too can manage it somehow. I sometimes take those words and apply them to the prospect of dying.

Date posted: 2012-11-20

Sexuality - Its Power and Purpose

We are all powerfully, incurably, and wonderfully sexed, this is part of a conspiracy between God and nature. Sexuality lies right next to our instinct for breathing and it is ever-present in our lives.

Date posted: 2012-11-12

Purgatory as Seeing Fully for the First Time

Imagine being born blind and living into adulthood without ever having seen light and color. Then, through some miraculous operation, doctors are able to give you sight. What would you feel immediately upon opening your eyes? Wonder? Bewilderment? Ecstasy? Pain? Some combination of all of these?

Date posted: 2012-11-05

Living With Less Fear

We live with too much fear of God. This has many faces, from the superstitious fear of the naive, to the legalistic fear of the over-scrupulous, to the intellectual fear of the very sophisticated. In the end, we all struggle to believe that God is the last person of whom we need to be afraid. But in our own ways, we all struggle with fear of God.

Date posted: 2012-10-30

Never Grow Weary

When I was a child in elementary school one of the stories assigned to us in our textbook for literature had that title and It told the story of a young boy who had fallen through the ice while skating and was left clinging, cold and alone, to the edge of the ice with no help in sight. As he hung on in this seemingly hopeless situation he was tempted many times to simply let go since no one was going to come along to rescue him. But he held on, despite all odds. Finally, when everything seemed beyond hope, he clung on one minute longer and after that extra minute help arrived. The story was simple and its moral was simple: This young boy lived because he had the courage and strength to hang on one minute longer. Rescue comes just after you have given up on it, so extend your courage and waiting one minute longer.

Date posted: 2012-10-21

Pride in Subtle Forms

One of the wonderful features of young children is their emotional honesty. They don’t hide their feeling or wants. They have no subtlety. When they want something they simply demand it. They holler. They cry. They snatch things from each other. And they aren’t ashamed of any of this. They offer no apologies for selfishness, no disguises.

Date posted: 2012-10-14

Tribalism and Fear - Unworthy of Christianity

In her most recent book, a series of essays entitled, When I was a Child I Read Books, Marilynne Robinson includes an essay called Wondrous Love. She begins the essay autobiographically, confessing her deep, long-standing, faith as a Christian and her ever-deepening wonder and awe at the mystery of God. She goes on to express some of her fears apposite to what is happening today in many of the churches and inside many of us, namely, new forms of tribalism and fear are reducing our wondrous God to a tribal deity and our own local Baal.

Date posted: 2012-10-09

Willpower Alone is Not Enough

John Shea once wrote a haunting poem about John the Baptist. The poem begins with the Baptist in prison, hearing the dancing above his head and knowing that this is soon to culminate in his being beheaded. Strangely, he’s not too upset. Herod is about to give Herodias’ daughter half his Kingdom and John feels that he might as well die in the bargain, given that he’s only half a man. Why does he feel only half a man? Because, as the poem puts it, he’s only a half-prophet who can only do a half-job.

Date posted: 2012-10-02

Laughter as Faith

In our novitiate, when I was a novice with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, our Assistant Novice Director, a sincere but overly-stern man, cautioned us about too much levity in our lives by telling us that there is no recorded incident in scripture of Jesus ever laughing. I was a pious novice but, even then, that didnt sit well with me. I combed the Gospels trying to prove him wrong, but found out that, technically, he is right. But is he?

Date posted: 2012-09-24

The Right Answer Alone is not Enough

Truth alone is not enough. It must be balanced off with the other transcendental properties of God: oneness, goodness, and beauty. That might sound abstract, but what it means concretely is that sometimes we can have all the right answers and still be wrong. How? If we are acting in truth how can we be wrong?

Date posted: 2012-09-19

The Three Levels of Christian Discipleship

Like Jesus, we too are meant to give our lives away in generosity and selflessness, but we are also meant to leave this planet in such a way that our diminishment and death is our final, and perhaps greatest, gift to the world. Needless to say thats not easy. Walking in discipleship behind the master will require that we too will eventually sweat blood and feel a stones throw from everybody. This struggle, to give our deaths away, as we once gave our lives away, constitutes Radical discipleship.

Date posted: 2012-09-09

Of Pharisees, Pots, Bronze Kettles, Liturgical Rubrics, Cups, and Cats

Several years ago, I was at church meeting where we were discussing liturgical rubrics. There was heated discussion over a number of issues: Should the congregation should be standing or kneeling during the Eucharistic prayer? What is the most reverent way to receive communion? Should lay persons be allowed to cleanse the chalice and cups after communion?

Date posted: 2012-09-07

Categorical Imperatives

There’s a well-known axiom that I will phrase more delicately than its usual expression. It goes this way: Every time you tell yourself that you should do something, you pay a bad price. The insinuation is that we are forever mistaking the voice of neurosis for the voice of conscience and putting ourselves under false obligations that rob us of both of freedom and maturity.

Date posted: 2012-08-26

Our Attitude Towards Wealth

This too must always be kept in mind as we view wealth, both our own and that of the very rich. What we have is not our own, it's given to us in trust. God is the sole owner of all that is and the world properly belongs to everyone. What we claim as our own, private property, is what has been given to us in trust, to steward for the good of everyone. It's not really ours.

Date posted: 2012-08-23

The Ultimate Answer to Violence

Last year a French movie was released entitled, Of Gods and Men that was described by the New York Times as perhaps the best movie on Christian commitment ever made.
Based on a true story it tells how, in 1996, an Islamic terrorist group kidnapped a small community of Trappist monks from their remote monastery in Northern Algeria, held them, and eventually killed them. But the movie is about something deeper than these bare facts. It focuses on how each of the monks, ordinary men with no ambitions for martyrdom, had to accept possible martyrdom. Each had his own struggle, and for several of them it was a mammoth one. The film climaxes with a Last Supper scene where the camera locks-in on the face of each monk. Each face manifests both joy and agony in that mans unconscious realization that he is soon to die and yet how, because of what he has already worked through and accepted within his soul, that death will be a triumph.

Date posted: 2012-08-13

In Paradox There Is Virtue

There are a number of old axioms that suggest that virtue and truth lie in the middle, between the two extremes. This was called the golden mean and expressed in phrases such as In medio stat virtus and Aurea mediocritas.

Date posted: 2012-08-05

A Lesson in Contingency

If only! How often we feel those bitter words of regret: If only! If only I had noticed earlier! If only I had been more attentive! If only I could see that person again, even for five minutes! If only I hadnt been there just then! If only the storm hadnt happened just as I was on the highway! If only I hadnt had that extra drink! If only I had left the party ten minutes earlier! If only!

Date posted: 2012-07-29

Patience With God

There’s an adage that says that an atheist is simply someone who cannot grasp metaphor. Thomas Halik, the Czech writer, would suggest rather that an atheist is someone who cannot be patient enough with God.

Date posted: 2012-07-22

Powerful Voices Within

Its not easy to discern the voice of truth among the many voices that beckon us. Indeed it is difficult even to discern when we are genuinely sincere: Who am I really? What is in my genuine best-interest? Among the many voices I hear which voice will ultimately bring me life? Which is the voice of God in my life?

Date posted: 2012-07-15

Our Misunderstandings About Suicide

Every year I write an article on suicide because so many people have to live with the pain of losing a loved one in this way. I rarely go for even a week without receiving a letter, an email, or a phone call from someone who has just lost a family member to suicide. In virtually every case, there is a corresponding sorrow that there really isn’t a lot of material out there, religious or secular, to help console those left bereaved. A friend of mine, who through some very dark years has had to work through the pain of losing her husband to suicide, plans one day to write a book to try to offer consolation to those left behind. There is a desperate need for just such a book.

Date posted: 2012-07-08

Longing For Solitude

Eight hundred years ago, the poet, Rumi wrote: What I want is to leap out of this personality and then sit apart from that leaping. Ive lived too long where I can be reached.

Date posted: 2012-07-01

The Mystically-Driven Life

Mysticism is an exotic word. Few of us connect mysticism with ordinary experience, especially with our own experience. Mysticism is generally seen as an exotic thing, a paranormal thing, a special kind of consciousness given only to the most elite within the spiritual life, something for spiritual athletes, or for the weird, visions and altered states of consciousness, snakes and ladders in the spiritual life.

Date posted: 2012-06-24

Fathers Day

Each year we celebrate Fathers Day, a day on which were asked to get in touch with the gratitude we should feel towards our own fathers. For some of us this is easy, we had good fathers; but for many its difficult: How do you feel gratitude if your father was someone who was mostly absent or abusive?

Date posted: 2012-06-17

Moving Beyond Bad Habits

We all have our faults, weaknesses, places where we short-circuit morally, dark spots, secret and not-so-secret addictions. When were honest, we know how universally true are St. Pauls words when he writes: The good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing that I do not want to do - that is what I do. None of us are whole, saints through and through. Theres always something we are struggling with: anger, bitterness, vengefulness, selfishness, laziness, or lack of self-control (major or minor) with sex, food, drink, or entertainment.

Date posted: 2012-06-10

There's always Something!

A friend of mine jokingly says that when she dies she wants this epitaph on her gravestone: There was always something!

Date posted: 2012-06-05

A Crack in our Pitcher

Theres a much quoted line from Leonard Cohen that suggests that the place where we are broken is also the place where our redemption starts: There is a crack in everything, thats how the light gets in.

Date posted: 2012-05-27

Sun, Storms, Wilderness, Deserts, and Spirituality

A number of years ago, accompanied by an excellent Jesuit director, I did a 30-day retreat using the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In the third week of that retreat there's a meditation on Jesus' agony in the garden. I did the meditation to the best of my abilities and met with my director to discuss the result. He wasn't satisfied and asked me to repeat the exercise. I did, reported back to him, and found him again dissatisfied. I was at a loss to grasp exactly what he wanted me to achieve through that meditation, though obviously I was missing something. He kept trying to explain to me that Ignatius had a concept wherein one was supposed to take the material of a meditation and "apply it to the senses" and I was somehow not getting that part.

Date posted: 2012-05-21

The New Evangelization

Recently a new expression has made its way into our theological and ecclesial vocabulary. There's a lot of talk today about the New Evangelization. Indeed the Pope has called for a Synod to meet this year for a month in Rome to try to articulate a vision and strategy for such an endeavor.

Date posted: 2012-05-14

The Power of Powerlessness

Imagine four persons in a room: The first is a powerful dictator who rules a country. His word commands armies and his shifting moods intimidate subordinates. He wields a brutal power. Next to him sits a gifted athlete at the peak of his physical prowess, a man whose quickness and strength have few equals. His skills are a graceful power for which he is much admired and envied. The third person is a rock star whose music and charisma can electrify an audience and fill a room with a soulful energy. Her face is on billboards and she is a household name. That’s still another kind of power. Finally, we have too in the room a newborn, a baby, lying in its crib, seemingly without any power or strength whatsoever, unable to even ask for what it needs. Which of these is ultimately the most powerful?

Date posted: 2012-05-07

An Earthy View of the Communion of Saints

Being alive in our memories is not a sufficient form of immortality and being alive in God’s memory can seem too abstract to bring much consolation. I don’t doubt that our loved ones are alive in God’s “consequent nature” or that they are alive inside the communion of saints, but I believe something more, based on how our memories of their unique color affects and nurtures us here on this side

Date posted: 2012-04-30

To Live in the Light

Several years ago, I was approached by man who asked me to be his spiritual director. He was in his mid-forties and almost everything about him radiated a certain health. As we sat down to talk, I mentioned that he seemed to be in a very good space. He smiled and replied that, yes, this was so, but it hadn't always been so. His happiness had its own history ... and its own pre-history. Here's how he told his story:

Date posted: 2012-04-23

The Ten Major Faith Struggles of our Age

Sometimes the simple act of naming something can be immensely helpful. Before we can put a name on something we stand more helpless before its effects, not really knowing what’s happening to us.

Date posted: 2012-04-16

Seeing Spring and Easter

In my mid-20s, I spent a year as a student at the University of San Francisco. I had just been ordained a priest and was finishing off a graduate degree in theology. Easter Sunday that year was a gorgeous, sunny, spring day, but it didn’t find me in a sunny mood. I was a long way from home, away from my family and my community, homesick, and alone. Virtually all the friends that I had developed during that year of studies, other graduate students in theology, were gone, celebrating Easter with their own families. I was homesick and alone and, beyond that, I nursed the usual heartaches and obsessions of the young and restless. My mood was far from spring and Easter.

Date posted: 2012-04-09

A Stone’s Throw Away From Everybody

Several years ago, I was visiting a man dying of cancer in a hospital room. He was dying well, though nobody dies easy. He felt a deep loneliness, even as he was surrounded by people who loved him deeply. Heres how he described it: I have a wonderful wife and children, and lots of family and friends. Someone is holding my hand almost every minute, but ... Im a stones throw away from everyone. Im dying and theyre not. Im inside of something into which they cant reach. Its awfully lonely, dying.

Date posted: 2012-04-02

Holy and Unholy Fear

Theres a lot of misunderstanding about fear inside of religious circles, especially around the Scriptural passage that says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Too often texts like these, as well as religion in general, have been used to instill an unhealthy fear inside of people in the name of God. We need to live in holy fear, but holy fear is a very particular kind of fear which should not be confused with fear as we normally understand it.

Date posted: 2012-04-01

Searching for God Among Many Voices

We are surrounded by many voices. There’s rarely a moment within our waking lives that someone or something isn’t calling out to us and, even in our sleep, dreams and nightmares ask for our attention. And each voice has its own particular cadence and message. Some voices invite us in, promising us life if we do this or that or buy a certain product or idea; others threaten us. Some voices beckon us towards hated, bitterness, and anger, while others challenge is towards love, graciousness, and forgiveness. Some voices tell us that they are playful and humorous, not to be taken seriously, even as others trumpet that they are urgent and weighty, the voice of non-negotiable truth, God’s voice.

Date posted: 2012-03-20

Sublimation and the Sublime

Celebration is a paradoxical thing, created by a dynamic interplay between anticipation and fulfillment, longing and inconsummation, the ordinary and the special, work and play. Life and love must be celebrated within a certain fast-feast rhythm. Seasons of play most profitably follow seasons of work, seasons of consummation are heightened by seasons of longing, and seasons of intimacy grow out of seasons of solitude. Presence depends upon absence, intimacy upon solitude, play upon work. Even God rested only after working for six days!

Date posted: 2012-03-12

Consecrated by Circumstance and Need

We can lose our freedom for different reasons and, sometimes, for the best of reasons.

Date posted: 2012-03-06

Porous and Buffered Personalities

It is only when we realize that we are not in control and that our lives and our safety are in the hands of a great and loving power beyond us that we will bend our knees in gratitude, both when we are joyous and when we are afraid.

Date posted: 2012-02-28

A Christian Attitude Regarding the Salvation of Non-Christians

As Christians we are asked to carry a very real tension in terms of how we understand the salvation of non-Christians because we have two seemingly conflicting teachings within our scriptures and our tradition.

Date posted: 2012-02-21

In Gratitude

As a columnist, Ive always harbored a certain paranoia about being overly-personal or exhibitionistic in my writing or in thinking that my own emotional ups and downs are of interest to others. Ive tried to respect that fear. Occasionally, however, circumstance dictates that I do write something more personal. This is such an occasion.

Date posted: 2012-02-14

On Mourning and Dancing

The struggle to find a way to express oneself freely and deeply and yet not cross the line into unhealthy exhibitionism is tough task for everyone. You see it done well in rare cases, Jesus and a number of great people like Mother Theresa. They can be great without being grandiose and can give public expression to what’s most intimate within them without making you cringe or feel uncomfortable or embarrassed for them. But that’s a rare talent; check out any dance floor.

Date posted: 2012-02-06

Other Sheep not of Our Flock

I will always be a Roman Catholic, just as I will always be a member of my biological family, the Rolheisers, and my religious community, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Ive been baptized into these families and baptism, as the old catechisms rightly teach, leaves an indelible mark on our souls. These will always be my families; but they may not be my only loyalty. I have other families too, not of these sheepfolds: non-Roman Catholics, non-Rolheisers, non-Oblates. And I dont love the Roman Catholic Church, my biological family, or the Oblates of Mary Immaculate any less because of this. Paradoxically, I love them more.

Date posted: 2012-01-30

Mosquito Bites

Dont let the mosquito bites within life blind you to the larger presence of grace! One of my favorite spiritual writers, David Steidl-Rast articulates this challenge very strongly, though he does it by emphasizing the positive. Heres an example from his writings: You think this is just another day in your life. Its not just another day; its the one day that is given to you today. Its given to you, its a gift. Its the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day of your life and very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.

Date posted: 2012-01-29

Chastity as Purity of Heart and Intention

To live a chaste life is not easy, not just for celibates, but for everyone. Even when our actions are all in line, it is still hard to live with a chaste heart, a chaste attitude, and chaste fantasies. Purity of heart and intention is very difficult.

Date posted: 2012-01-16

A Haunting Equation ...

The equation between suffering and value has a long-standing history within spirituality and has strongly influenced us both positively and negatively. It has also, I must confess, generally been my own equation.

Date posted: 2012-01-10

Books that Have Found Me in 2011

Since time is always at a premium, I try to be selective in what I read. As well, I like to keep my diet wide, reading novels, books on spirituality, theological treatises, biographies, and essays on psychological and anthropological issues.

Date posted: 2011-12-31

Praying so as to See God’s Glory Inside of Humanity

Familiarity breeds contempt. It also blocks the mystery of Christmas by breeding a view of the life that cannot see divinity within humanity.

Date posted: 2011-12-15

Prayer as Seeking God’s Guidance

Looking at the prayer of Moses, Jesus, Dorothy Day, and countless other women and men who have prayed for guidance from God, we see that their prayer, especially when they feel most alone and desperate, is marked by three things: honesty, directness, and humility. They lift their own minds and hearts to God, not someone elses. They share their aloneness and fears with shameless honestly. There is no pretense, no rationalization, no hiding of weaknesses. They pour out their fears, their inadequacy, their temptations, and their confusion as do children, begging for someones hand to help them.

Date posted: 2011-12-12

Praying so as not to Lose Heart

One of the reasons we need to pray is so that we don’t lose heart. We all do sometimes. We lose heart whenever frustration, tiredness, fear, and helplessness in the face of life’s humiliations conspire together to paralyze our energies, deaden our resiliency, drain our courage, and leave us feeling weak in depression.

Date posted: 2011-12-06

Prayer as Seeking Depth

In our more reflective moments we sense the importance of prayer; yet, we struggle to pray. Sustained, deep prayer doesn’t come easy for us. Why?

Date posted: 2011-11-29

Empathy for the World

Too often we and our churches tend to see the world precisely as a mess, as caught up in mindless trivialization, as self-indulgent, as narcissistic, as short-sighted, as no longer having values that demand self-sacrifice, of worshipping fame, of being addicted to material goods, and of being anti-church and anti-Christian. Indeed, it is common today in our churches to see the world as our enemy.

Date posted: 2011-11-22

Love Beyond Naiveté and Romance

Love each other as I have loved you! The tail-end of that sentence contains the challenge: Jesus doesn't say, love each other according to the spontaneous movements of your heart; nor, love each other as society defines love, but rather: Love each other as I have loved you!

Date posted: 2011-11-14

Loneliness - Its Ultimate Agony

When I was 22 years old, a seminarian, I was privileged to have a unique kind of desert experience. I sat with my siblings in a palliative care room for several weeks, watching my father die.

Date posted: 2011-11-07

Love, Faith, and Ritual

Its not easy to sustain love, at least not with constant emotional fervor. Misunderstandings, irritations, tiredness, jealousies, hurt, temperamental differences, the familiarity that breeds contempt, and simple boredom invariably chip away at our emotional and affective edges and, soon enough, fervor gives way to routine, the groove becomes the rut, and love seems to disappear.

Date posted: 2011-10-31

The Catholic Press Loses a Friend

No community should botch its deaths! Those are the words of the famed anthropologist, Mircea Eliade, and I use them here to introduce a tribute to Otto Herschan, a long-time Catholic publisher, who died on July 12 at the age of 84.

Date posted: 2011-10-24

God and Sex

Our world thinks it understands sex. It doesnt. Moreover it is beginning to ignore and even disdain how Christianity views sexuality.

Date posted: 2011-10-18

A Picture of Dorian Gray, and of our Culture

A new Hedonism-that is what our century wants! Oscar Wilde prophesized this nearly a century ago and, it would seem, that is precisely to where we have evolved in the Western world. Bodily appearance, looking good, having a trim, athletic body, being sexually attractive, remaining young, and being admired for your body is, for the majority of our culture, a huge, obsessive preoccupation. Most people in our culture, perhaps not in theory but certainly in our practical life-choices, would agree with Lord Henry when he says: The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible. Good looks tend to trump everything.

Date posted: 2011-10-11

The Preciousness and Joy of a Whole Number

Knowing that the ancients invested special meaning in certain numbers is critical to understanding a very challenging, and neglected, story in the Gospels, namely, the parable of the woman with the ten coins (Luke 15, 8-10). Without grasping the symbolism of the numbers, this parable loses its meaning.

Date posted: 2011-10-04

Unconscious Images that Deeply Influence Us

Among all the great stories in the world, the most common, best-known, and perennially intriguing, are those that deal with heroes and heroines. These are stories that describe someone, a man or a woman (though most often a man), who has to journey through danger, suffering, opposition, misunderstanding, and humiliation to achieve some noble goal.

Date posted: 2011-09-26

A Sufficient Creed

Faith and love are too easily identified with warm feelings, passion, fervor, affectivity, and romantic fire. And those feelings are part of the mystery, a part we are meant to embrace and enjoy. But, wonderful as these feelings can be, they are, as experience shows, fragile and ephemeral.

Date posted: 2011-09-25

Christ as Cosmic

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in one of his dialogues with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, was once asked: “What are you trying to do?” His answer was something to this effect: I’m trying to write a Christology that is large enough to include the full Christ because Christ isn’t just a divine savior sent to save people; Christ is also a structure within the physical universe, a path of salvation for the earth itself. What is meant by this? How is Christ a structure within physical creation?

Date posted: 2011-09-05

Feeding Off Lifes Sacred Fire

Sacred fire fuels all of life and infuses everyone, saint and sinner alike. And God has given us the freedom to use it as we choose, wisely or wickedly. We feed on sacred fire and we become a saint or a hedonist, a peacemaker or a warmonger.

Date posted: 2011-08-28

A Canopy Under Which to Pray

Do we ever really understand or master prayer? Yes and no. When we try to pray, sometimes we walk on water and sometimes we sink like a stone. Sometimes we have a deep sense of God’s reality and sometimes we can’t even imagine that God exists. Sometimes we have deep feelings about God’s goodness and love and sometimes we feel only boredom and distraction. Sometimes our eyes fill with tears and sometimes they wander furtively to our wrist-watches to see how much time we still need to spend in prayer. Sometimes we would like to stay in our prayer-place forever and sometimes we wonder we even showed up. Prayer has a huge ebb and flow.

Date posted: 2011-08-28

On Not Bracketing the Essentials during our Moral Battles

Today, both within society and the churches, we are finding it ever more difficult to resolve our differences because our conversations are shot-through with non-civility, name-calling, character-assassination, and disrespect.

Date posted: 2011-08-15

A Prophetic Mantra about the Poor

Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor! That’s a quote attributed to James Forbes, an interdenominational pastor in New York City, and it wonderfully captures something that the ancient prophets of Israel underlined many centuries ago.

Date posted: 2011-08-08

Of Nietzsche, Feuerbach, and Dark Nights of the Soul

Few people have ever written as penetrating a critique of faith and religion as have Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Feuerbach. “God is dead,” Nietzsche declared, “and we are his murderers!” And we murder God, he contends, in subtle ways to which we are entirely blind.

Date posted: 2011-08-02

Struggling to Understand Suicide

As human beings we are neither pure angels nor pure animals, but are always both body and soul, one psycho-somatic whole. And either part can break down.

Date posted: 2011-07-25

A New Challenge...

When I began writing this column, I shared that occasionally I would do a column that was more exclusively about my personal life. I have tried to limit myself in that and, in the 28 years I have been writing this column, have probably done less than ten pieces whose main focus was my own life. When I have done so, it was almost always to share with readers a major transition in my life.

Date posted: 2011-07-18

Things Hidden from the Learned and the Clever

I’ve lived and worked within academic circles for most of my adult life, studying in various universities, teaching within university circles, and having university professors as close friends and colleagues. What’s that world like? What kind of folks inhabit academic circles?

Date posted: 2011-07-11

The Internal Battle for our Souls

At any given moment, inside us, we are a mixture of light and darkness, sincerity and hypocrisy, selflessness and selfishness, virtue and vice, grace and sin, saint and sinner.

Date posted: 2011-07-04

Struggling with our Complexity

The great gift of Henri Nouwens writings is that they introduce us to the complexity of our own lives and then give us permission to understand that as normal. We arent necessarily over-greedy, over-sexed, or over-restless. We are just normal human beings, walking around inside of human skin. Thats what real life feels like! That is also a clear truth inside scripture and the gospels. The scriptures are filled with stories of persons finding God and helping bring about Gods kingdom, even as their own lives are often fraught with mess, confusion, frustration, betrayal, infidelity, and sin. There are no simple human beings, immune to the spiritual, psychological, sexual, and relational complexities that beset us all.

Date posted: 2011-06-20

Meaning and Happiness

Am I happy? Is my life a happy one? Am happy inside my marriage? Am I happy with my family? Am I happy in my job? Am I happy with my church? Am I happy inside my own skin? Are these good questions to ask ourselves? No. Theyre questions with which to torture ourselves.

Date posted: 2011-06-13

Listening to Christ’s Heartbeat

The last supper account in John’s gospel gives us a wonderful mystical image. The evangelist describes the beloved disciple as reclining on the breast of Jesus. What’s contained in this image?

Date posted: 2011-06-08

Simplifying our Spiritual Vocabulary

Somewhere near his 75th birthday, Morris West wrote a series of autobiographical essays entitled, A View from the Ridge. In the Prologue of that book he suggests that at age 75 you need to have only one word left in your spiritual vocabulary, gratitude, and that maturity is attained precisely at that moment when gratitude begins to drown out and cauterize the hurts in your life. As he describes it: Life has served me as it serves everyone, sometimes well and sometimes ill, but I have learned to be grateful for the gifts of it, for the love that began it and the other loves with which I have been so richly endowed.

Date posted: 2011-05-30

God and Violence

Walter Brueggemann once commented that God is in recovery from all the violence that has been attributed to him and done in his name. Its time that the churches entered the same recovery process.

Date posted: 2011-05-23

The Other Side of Orthodoxy

The German poet, Goethe, once wrote: The dangers of life are many, and safety is one of those dangers. This is true in our personal lives and it’s true in Christian orthodoxy. There is danger in bad dogma but there is equal danger in not radiating, with sufficient compassion and understanding, God’s universal will for the salvation of all peoples.

Date posted: 2011-05-16

Mothers’ Day

For many years, I’ve had a bias against Mothers’ Day. I’m not against the concept, it’s a private grudge. My own mother died 40 years ago and my ignoring of Mothers’ Day has been payback to the universe for that perceived injustice: Let the world celebrate, but count me out!

Date posted: 2011-05-09

The Gift that was Henri Nouwen

If you are occasionally tortured by your own complexity, even as your deepest desire is to will the one thing, perhaps you can find a mentor and a patron saint in Henri Nouwen. He calls us beyond ourselves, even as he respects how complex and difficult that journey is. He shows us how to move towards God, even as we are still torn by our own earthily attachments.

Date posted: 2011-05-02

The Resurrection as Vindicating Human Fidelity and God’s Silence

Theologians sometimes try to simply the meaning of the resurrection by packaging its essence into one sentence: In the resurrection, God vindicated Jesus, his life, his message, and his fidelity. What does that mean?

Date posted: 2011-04-25

The Passion of Jesus According to John

Each year on Good Friday the Passion of Jesus Christ according to John is read aloud in our churches. John’s Gospel, as we know, was written later than the other Gospels, perhaps some seventy years after Jesus died, and those years gave John plenty of time to reflect upon Jesus’ death and highlight a number of aspects that are not as evident in the other Gospels. What are those special aspects?

Date posted: 2011-04-18

The Unquiet Frontiers of our Lives

God may not always seem evident in our world, but in our deepest fears and hopes we still have his calling card.

Date posted: 2011-04-11

The Roots of Forgiveness

The deepest instinct inside each of us is the instinct to stay alive, to not petrify, to not unravel, to struggle against every obstacle so as to stay alive. Closely tied to that is a congenital pressure, at every level of body and soul, to give birth, to perpetuate our own seed, to leave behind some child thats ours, to create an artifact, to co-create something with God. That dual pressure ultimately undergirds most everything we do, inchoately coloring our every motivation and forming the deep context out of which we act. Its what invites us to virtue and tempts us to sin. The struggle to stay alive and to give birth is at the base of both our heroism and our infidelities.

Date posted: 2011-04-04

Loving our Enemies

I often wonder how Jesus did it. How did he retain peace of mind, warmth in his heart, graciousness in his speech, joy in his life, resiliency in his efforts, the capacity to be grateful, and a sense of humor in the face of misunderstanding, jealousy, hatred, and death threats?

Date posted: 2011-04-01

A Contemporary Apologetics

One of the reasons why we don’t often find a good Christian apologetics today is because so many of our best theologians write at such a level of academia that their thoughts are not really accessible to the ordinary person in the pews. Apologists like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton are rare. We have great thinkers in theology today, but unfortunately many of them cannot be profitably read outside of academic settings.



Date posted: 2011-03-22

Saved by One Man’s Sacrifice

We are saved by the death of Jesus! All Christians believe this. This is a central tenet within the Christian faith and the center of almost all Christian iconography. Jesus’ death on a cross changed history forever. Indeed, we measure time by it. The effect of his death so marked the world that, not long after he died, the world began to measure time by him. We are in the year 2011 since Jesus was born.

Date posted: 2011-03-14

On Blessed and Cursed Consciousness

There’s a Buddhist parable that runs something like this: One day as the Buddha was sitting under a tree, a young, trim soldier walked by, looked at the Buddha, noticed his weight and his fat, and said: “You look like a pig!” The Buddha looked up calmly at the soldier and said: “And you look like God!” Taken aback by the comment, the soldier asked the Buddha: “Why do you say that I look like God?” The Buddha replied: “Well, see you we don’t really see what’s outside of ourselves, we see what’s inside of us and project it out. I sit under this tree all day and I think about God, so that when I look out, that’s what I see. And you, you must be thinking about other things!”

Date posted: 2011-03-08

Following Jesus -According to the Letter or the Spirit?

I work and move within church circles and find that most of the people I meet there are honest, committed, and for the most part radiate their faith positively. Most church-goers arent hypocrites. What I do find disturbing within church circles though is that too many of us can be bitter, angry, mean-spirited, and judgmental, especially in terms of the very values that we hold most dear.

Date posted: 2011-03-01

Building an Ark

Are we really to believe that at a certain time in history the whole earth was flooded and that one man, Noah, had the foresight to build a boat on which he had placed a male and female of every living species on earth so as to save them from extinction? Clearly the story is not to be taken literally, as a concrete event in the history of this planet. Like a number of other biblical stories of the origins of history, it is not an historical video-tape of what happened but is rather a story of the human heart, a story which is truer than true in that it happens again and again inside of our lives. And how does it happen? What is the meaning of the story of Noah and the Ark?

Date posted: 2011-02-21

Straining for Sabbath amidst the Demands of Phones and Computers

Centuries ago, the mystic poet, Rumi, wrote: I have lived too long where I can be reached!" Haven't we all!

Date posted: 2011-02-14

Tormenting the Cat

Antoine Vergote, the famed Belgium psychologist, had a mantra which read: Excess is a substitute for genuine enjoyment. We go to excess in things because we can no longer enjoy them simply. Its when we no longer enjoy our food that we overeat; its when we no longer enjoy a drink that we drink to excess; its when we no longer enjoy a simple party that we let things get out of hand; its when we can no longer enjoy a simple game that we need extreme sports, and its when we no longer simply enjoy the taste of chocolate that we try to eat all the chocolate in the world. The same principle holds true, even more strongly, for the enjoyment of sex.

Date posted: 2011-02-07

Some Hymns for Justice

Sometimes it’s helpful to sing our truths, both so that rhyme and rhythm can etch the words more indelibly into our consciousness and that the chant itself can help increase our courage and resolve. Here are some justice hymns.

Date posted: 2011-01-31

Rolling the Dice on the Gospel

They hadn’t understood about the loaves! The Gospels use those words to describe the crowd that Jesus had miraculously fed with five barley loaves and two fish. They ate, but they didn’t understand. What didn’t they understand?

Date posted: 2011-01-24

The Asceticism of Pressure and Duty

Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, the pressures of life, those duties and demands that rob us of leisure and rest and time for formal prayer, are not necessarily a bad thing. There is a fasting and prayer too, by conscription.

Date posted: 2011-01-17

Children within our Care

Children are never really our own. They are given us, in trust, for a time, a short time in fact, during which we are asked to be their parents, their teachers, their mentors, their pastors, their uncles, their aunts, their guardians, but they are not, in the end, our children. Their lives belong to them, and to God. That’s both challenging and consoling to realize.

Date posted: 2011-01-10

Books That Have Crossed my Path in 2010

There’s some rhyme and reason to how I select my reading material. I check reviews, I try to be alert to what gets mentioned when friends and colleagues talk literature, and I deliberately set myself a diet that balances spiritual books, novels, intellectual essays, and select biographies. Nonetheless, invariably, some of the best books I read each year are stumbled upon by accident. I ascribe to the theory that the book you’re supposed to be reading at a given time finds you.

Date posted: 2010-12-29

The Rich Meaning of Christmas

What does Christmas mean? Christmas is like a perfectly-cut diamond twirling in the sun, giving off an array of sparkles. Here are just some of its meanings:

Date posted: 2010-12-16

No Room in the Inn

Scholars suggest that there is a deeper lesson in Jesus having to be born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn. What is being stressed is not so much lack of hospitality by an innkeeper, but rather the fact that Jesus was born outside of a city, outside of what is comfortable, outside of glamour and fame, outside of being recognized by the rich and the powerful, and beyond notice by the everyday world. Jesus was born in anonymity, poor, outside of all notice, except for family and God.

Date posted: 2010-12-13

Longing, Desire, and the Face of God

Some of us are obsessed with beauty, some of us are obsessed with finding a soulmate, some of us are obsessed with sex, some of us are obsessed with truth, some of us are obsessed with justice, and some of us are obsessed with the energy, color, and pleasures of this world. But very few of us are obsessed, or even much interested, in God who is the author of beauty, sexuality, intimacy, truth, justice, energy, color, and pleasure.

Date posted: 2010-12-06

Virgin Birth

Christian tradition has always emphasized that Jesus was born of a virgin.There is a moral challenge within this, something which invites imitation rather than admiration.

Date posted: 2010-11-29

Dealing with Loss, Grief, and Obsessions

The death of a loved one, or even just the pain of an unrequited obsession, can bring us to our knees, literally, and, as the author of Lamentations says, leave us with no other option than to “put our mouths to the dust, and wait!” Sometimes, for a period of time, the pain of loss is so deep and obsessive that no clinic, no therapy, and no religious word of comfort can do much for us.

Date posted: 2010-11-22

Atheism and Belief

God is ineffable. What that means is that God cannot be captured in our thoughts or pictured inside our imaginations. This truth is one of the first things that the church affirms in its understanding of God, defining as a dogma at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 that God is so metaphysically different from anything we can know or imagine that all of our concepts and language about God are always more inadequate than adequate. God can be known, but never imagined or captured in a thought.

Date posted: 2010-11-15

Seeking a Confessor

Perhaps more than anything else we are unconsciously seeking a confessor, someone before whom we can open our hearts, be completely transparent, pour out our confusion, and freely admit our sins. Inside our search for a soulmate is the search for a confessor.

Date posted: 2010-11-08

Subtle Forms of Idolatry

Every time we go to pray, go to minister, or go do to anything religious, it’s good to ask ourselves: Who and what, really, is this about?

Date posted: 2010-11-01

On Not Running with the Crowd

Beware of the energy that emanates from a crowd. Beware of the latest fad. Beware of hype of all kinds. Beware of the cheerleaders of both the liberals and the conservatives. Beware of any crowd who wants to stone someone to death in God’s name.

Date posted: 2010-10-25

Dealing with our “Cain-Complex”

All of us, unless we have been extraordinarily blessed and gifted, suffer from a “Cain-complex”. We have some of the jealousy and bitterness of Cain in our hearts and we have some blood on our hands. We too, like Cain, have already killed out of jealousy and bitterness.

Date posted: 2010-10-18

Maturity in Relationships and Prayer

Our sense of Gods existence is very much linked to fidelity to prayer. However, and this is the catch-22, it is hard to sustain a life of prayer precisely because our sense of God is often weak. Simply put, it is not easy to pray. We have easy words about prayer, but we struggle to sustain, long term, real prayer in our lives.

Date posted: 2010-10-11

Being Stretched by Great Writers

A mature faith is a tested faith and any set of moral principles worthy of our genuflection must not shy away from life’s real complexities. It is important that we be given solid roots and nurturing in the tenets of our faith and moral principles; but to come to maturity, we must also be stretched and made to walk through desert places which, especially at first, can seem chaotic, unsettling, and threatening. Paradoxically there is a nurturing in the unsettling. If our minds and hearts are open, we can find in those unsettling spaces some rich and important things that will widen and enrich us both in our humanity and in our faith and morals.

Date posted: 2010-10-04

Struggling to be inside the Present Moment

t seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness. But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to that day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us.

Date posted: 2010-09-27

Does God Have Favorites?

Does God love some people more than others? Does God have favorites? This is an old, disputed question with centuries of history: Is there a chosen race? Are some people predestined for heaven or hell? Does God love the poor more than the rich? Does God love sinners more than the righteous? Does God love virgins more than married persons? On the surface at least, it would seem that scripture suggests that God loves some people more than others. But is this true?

Date posted: 2010-09-19

How Large is your Heaven?

What ultimately characterizes a genuine faith and a big heart is not how pure our churches, doctrines, and morals might be, but how wide is the embrace of our hearts.

Date posted: 2010-09-12

The Lesson within Loneliness

The experience of intense loneliness is one of the privileged ways of finding the deep answer to our quest for identity and meaning. Because it destabilizes the ego and disorients us, loneliness puts us in touch with what lays below the ego, namely, the soul, our deepest self. The image and likeness of God lies in there, as do our most noble and divine energies. That’s the truth behind the belief that in loneliness there is depth.

Date posted: 2010-09-06

Piety and Propriety

For whatever reason, as churches and as individuals, we have been slow to take seriously Jesus’ warnings against displaying our piety in public. Yet Jesus is very clear, and very strong, in warning us not to do intimate private acts of prayer, devotion, and asceticism in public. Moreover, in this warning, he doesn’t distinguish as to whether these acts come from a sincere heart or a false one. Sincerity or insincerity is not the only issue that concerns him. Public display of piety, however sincere, is also the problem.

Date posted: 2010-09-03

Spirituality and the Seasons of our Lives

Our spiritual struggles change as we age and go through life. The struggles of youth are not necessarily the struggles of mid-life and beyond. Maturity is developmental. Different things are asked of us as we move through life. This is also true for spirituality and discipleship.

Date posted: 2010-08-24

Editing Your Own Life

In a new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller takes this concept and uses it to offer a wonderful challenge within which each of us is invited to edit our own life so as to make our story a better and more noble one.

Date posted: 2010-08-17

Ego, God, and Ministry

We live a Theo-Drama when we draw our energies from something beyond ourselves, from God. When we do this the highs and lows of our daily lives do not affect us so deeply and we are less prone to discouragement, anger, and depression because we are drawing meaning and energy from something beyond the fluctuations of our own egos.

Date posted: 2010-08-03

Love in a Time of Opposition

How do you stay positive, preach hope, and remain loving and big-hearted in the face of opposition, misunderstanding, hostility, and hatred? This is what Jesus did and that particular quality of his life and teaching constitutes perhaps the greatest personal and moral challenge to all of us who try to follow him. How do you remain loving in the face of hatred? How do you remain empathic in the face of misunderstanding? How do you continue to be warm and gracious in the face of hostility? How do you love your enemies when they want to kill you?

Date posted: 2010-07-27

The Triumph of Appearance

Focus on your image, because image is everything! Those words or at least words to that effect, were the caption of a famous ad several years ago. I remember being taken aback by its crass and shallow message, but not many people reacted, perhaps because the caption is so true to our time.

Date posted: 2010-07-19

The Sustaining Power of Ritual

Today we often crucify others and ourselves with the impossible notion that inside of our relationships, our families, our churches, and prayer lives we are meant to be alert, attentive, enthusiastic, and emotionally present all the time. We are never given permission to be distracted, bored, and anxious to move on to something else because we are weighed down with the pressures and tiredness of our own lives. We lay guilt on each other and on ourselves with these kinds of judgments: Sometimes you're too distracted and tired to really hear me! You're not really present to this meal! You're bored at church! You're anxious to get this over with! You don't love me like you did at first! You're heart isn't in this as it used to be!

Date posted: 2010-07-12

Fragments from some Prophetic Loaves and Fishe

Recently, I attended a series of lectures by Walter Brueggemann. He is widely respected for his biblical scholarship, he feeds crowds from some healthy baskets, but he is perhaps even more deeply regarded because of his concern for the poor and his challenge to us to reach out to them with justice and generosity. After he had fed us, the crowds, here are some of the fragments that were gathered up.

Date posted: 2010-07-05

Getting it down to the Essentials

There is only one ultimate imperative in life: Before we die, we need to forgive. We need to forgive those who hurt us, to forgive ourselves for not being any better than those who hurt us, to forgive life itself for some of the things that it dealt us, and, not least, to forgive God for the fact that life is unfair, so as not to die with a bitter and angry heart.

Date posted: 2010-06-29

Struggling with my Father’s Blessing

My father died when I was twenty-three, a seminarian, green, still learning about life. It’s hard to lose your father at any age and my grief was compounded by the fact that I had just begun to appreciate him.

Date posted: 2010-06-21

Discerning the Truth

When you are looking for stars by which to guide your life scan the heavens widely. Don’t lock-in on one narrow corner. There are many stars, each with its own particular expertise in giving off light.

Date posted: 2010-06-14

Touching our Loved Ones inside the Body of Christ

If someone whom you love strays from the church in terms of faith practice and morality, as long as you continue to love that person and hold him or her in love and forgiveness, he or she is touching the hem of Christs garment, is being held to the Body of Christ, and is being forgiven by God, irrespective of his or her official external relationship to the church. How?

Date posted: 2010-06-07

The Richness of the Mystery of God

How do we understand the trinity? We don’t! God, by definition, is ineffable, beyond conceptualization, beyond imagination, beyond language. The Christian belief that God is a trinity helps underscore how rich the mystery of God is and how our experience of God is always richer than our concepts and language about God.

Date posted: 2010-05-31

Deeper Language

In the end we are not fooled by each other. We hear beyond spoken words, bodily gestures, and beyond what we explicitly intend to say to each other. The heart reads the heart and the spirit recognizes itself wherever it sees itself as manifest. Thus many of us talk passionately about our love for the poor, but the poor do not hear us, understand us, or gather round us, even when our diction is perfect in their native tongue.

Date posted: 2010-05-27

Passion and Purity

The church doesn’t understand passion and the world doesn’t understand purity. That’s an axiom a friend of mine likes to use to explain why the moral landscape around sexuality is as it is, polarized, intransigent, and particularly ill-equipped to invite people to assess their sexual lives honestly.

Date posted: 2010-05-25

A Meta-Narrative of Consolation

We need to more deeply appropriate Jesus’ farewell gift to us: I leave you a peace that no one can take from you: Know that you are loved and held unconditionally.

Date posted: 2010-05-25

Living with our own Anger

“My name is Ron, and I’m an angry person. I rationalize this by telling myself and others that my anger is justified, that I’m like Jesus, kicking over the tables of the money-changers to cleanse God’s house. But I have come to realize that this is self-deception, simply a way rationalizing my own hurt. As I get older, I realize that I’m like the older brother of the prodigal son; I am standing outside the circle of warmth and community. But, the good news is that I’m in recovery.”

Date posted: 2010-05-03

Forgiving our Differences

God and nature, it would appear, do not believe in simplicity, uniformity, blandness, and sameness. We aren’t born into this world off conveyor-belts like cars coming off a factory line. The infinite combination of accidents, circumstance, chance, and providence that conspire to make up our specific and individual DNA is too complex to ever be calculated or even concretely imagined.

Date posted: 2010-04-26

Science and Religion ...

In certain circles it is believed that science trumps religion. The idea is simple and uncompromising: Religion cannot stand up to science. The hard facts of science ultimately render faith untenable. Coupled with this is the idea that faith and religion sustain themselves by naiveté and lack of courage, that is, if one ever looked at the hard facts with enough intellectual courage, he or she would be forced to admit that faith and religion go against the evidence of science.

Date posted: 2010-04-19

Living with Frustration and Tension

Our generation has some wonderful emotional and moral qualities, but patience, chastity, contentment with the limits of circumstance, and the capacity to nobly live out tension are not our strengths. The effects of this can be seen everywhere, not least inside of our struggle to be faithful to our relational commitments.

Date posted: 2010-04-12

The Resurrection of Jesus and Physical Creation

In the resurrection of Jesus the very atoms of the universe were rearranged. The laws of physics were somehow stunningly altered and because of that our planet now too has the possibility of eternal life.

Date posted: 2010-04-05

The Humiliation of Crucifixion

When Jesus sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and asked his Father to let the cup of suffering pass him by he wasn’t, for the most part, cringing before the prospect of brute physical suffering. He was cringing before the prospect of a very particular kind of suffering that is generally more feared than physical pain. When he asked God if it was really necessary to die in this way he was referring to more than death through capital punishment.

Date posted: 2010-03-29

Tortured Complexity

I was born into this world with a tortured complexity. For long time I have puzzled over the causes of my psychological anguish. Ruth Burrows, the renowned Carmelite writer, begins her autobiography with those words and, like the famous words with which St. Augustine opens his Confessions, they too set the tone for a very mature spiritual reflection.

Date posted: 2010-03-22

The Imperative for Ecumenism

Home is where we start from. T.S. Eliot wrote those words and they are true for all of us in terms of religion and our understanding of the particular denomination within which we were raised.

Date posted: 2010-03-15

On Being One with the Saints in Praising God

We are all familiar with a refrain that echoes through many of our Christian prayers and songs, an antiphon of hope addressed to God: Grant that we may be one with all the saints in singing your praises!

Date posted: 2010-03-08

Taking Pain to the Heart

It is only after the desert has done its work on us, says Trevor Herriot, that an angel can come and strengthen us. That is why it is better to feel our wounds than to understand them and why it is better to cry than to worry.

Date posted: 2010-03-01

Turning Inner Chaos into a Peaceful Garden

Almost all spiritualities have a special place for deserts, wilderness, and other such places where we are unprotected and in danger from untamed nature, wild beasts, and threatening spirits. This concept has deep roots inside both ancient religions and the human psyche itself.

Date posted: 2010-02-22

The Challenge of Accepting Pleasure without Guilt

Authentic religion brings us a double challenge: Be prepared to renounce life and be prepared to enjoy it!

Date posted: 2010-02-16

On Fasting and Praying in Secret

We need to take more seriously Jesus’ words that asceticism and private prayer are to be done “in secret”, behind closed doors, so that the face we show in public will radiate health, joy, calm, and love for the good things that God, whom prayer and asceticism brings us closer to, has made.

Date posted: 2010-02-08

An Open Letter to those who don’t go to Church

I don’t want to defend the church here, make some kind of apologetics for it, or argue against any of the reasons that people give for not coming to church. And I don’t want to try to show you reasons why, I think, it is important to go to church. This I not an apologetics, but a plea, an invitation:
Come back! Try us again! Or, if you have never belonged to the church, try us!

Date posted: 2010-02-01

Haiti and the Theodicy Question

Where is God in the countless tragedies that happen in our world? Where is God when bad things happen to good people? Where was God during the holocaust? These are timeless questions and, taken together, constitute what is often called the theodicy question, the question of God and human suffering.

Date posted: 2010-01-25

Of Elders, Character, Christ’s Passion, and Blessing

At a workshop several years ago, a woman shared this story: She was the mother of four children and, while they were all still young, at home, in school, her father, already a widower, suffered a stroke that left him severely debilitated. He has unable to take care of himself and needed assistance.

Date posted: 2010-01-18

Lessons from the Monastic Cell

We are all monks and it matters not whether we are in a monastery or are in the world as spouses, parents, friends, ministers in the church, teachers, doctors, nurses, laborers, artisans, social workers, bankers, economic advisors, salespersons, politicians, lawyers, mental health workers, contractors, or retirees. Each of us has our cell and that cell can teach us what we need to know.

Date posted: 2010-01-11

Living in the Face of Mortality

A number of years ago, one of my cousins died in an industrial accident. He had been helping load some railway cars at a grain terminal when a cable pulling the cars away snapped, sprung back with thousands of pounds of tension, and literally cut him in half. He died enroute to the hospital. He was young, in the prime of his life, and a talented athlete who enjoyed playing sports on a number of local teams.

Date posted: 2010-01-03

Good Books That Found Me This Year

An old adage says that the book you need to read finds you. I believe that, though obviously the book likes a little help from its reader who needs to be combing bookstores, listening to friends, and watching reviews. Then the right series of accidents can conspire to place that book in your hands. What books found me this year? Here are the ones that touched me most...

Date posted: 2009-12-31

Reasons to Celebrate Christmas

For many people the thought of Christmas brings fatigue. It’s not the religious aspect that causes the tiredness, but the overdrawn rituals that surround it: the overly decorated shops, the conscriptive shopping, the lights, the Santas, the Christmas trees, and the carols that begin to echo through our malls already in early November.

Date posted: 2009-12-21

Chastity and Christmas

Chastity needs to be properly understood. For too long we have had an overly-narrow and mostly false concept of chastity. Chastity is too commonly identified with sexual abstinence and sexuality is then seen as something that, in itself, militates against chastity and spirituality. But chastity is not the same thing as celibacy; indeed it is not even, first and foremost, a sexual concept. Someone can be chaste but not celibate, just as someone can be celibate but not chaste. My parents were not celibate, they gave birth to a large family, but they were wonderfully chaste persons. The reverse can also be true. Someone can be celibate but far from chaste.

Date posted: 2009-12-14

Joseph and Christmas

There are countless persons, basilicas, churches, shrines, seminaries, convents, and even towns and cities named after St. Joseph. My native country, Canada, has him as its patron. Who exactly is this Joseph?

Date posted: 2009-12-07

Prayer with an Infallible Guarantee

Sometimes we pray for something, pray for it in Jesus’ name, and our request isn’t granted. Sometimes we literally storm heaven with our prayers and heaven seems shut against them. Did Jesus make an idle promise when he assured us that God would give us anything we ask for, if we ask in his name?

Date posted: 2009-11-30

Respect for Each Other in a Polarized Community

We live today in a highly polarized world and within highly polarized churches. In this, we are not unique. A certain degree of polarization exists within every community and is normal and healthy. However the bitterness, mean-spirit, and lack of respect that characterizes much of our political, ecclesial, and moral discourse today is not normal and is far from healthy. And we shouldn’t delude ourselves in thinking that it is healthy or, worse yet, in the name of truth or justice or God, try to rationalize our lack of respect for those who think differently than we do. We aren’t holy warriors, just angry people with a highly selective compassion.

Date posted: 2009-11-16

A Mystical Image for Service

When Therese of Lisieux speaks of Christ here she is referring not just, nor even primarily, to the body of the historical Jesus, but to the body of Christ in this world. Christ is still suffering and blood is still flowing from his face and his hands in many parts of our world. One of our tasks as Christians, and simply as human beings, is to, metaphorically, notice that blood, gather it up, and properly honour it. The Christian task, always, is to stand at the foot of the cross and gather up its dew so that this preciousness is not lost.

Date posted: 2009-11-09

On Litmus Tests for Christian Discipleship

Christian discipleship is not just about our actions, it’s also about our hearts. The essence of Christian discipleship lies in putting on the heart of Christ. Proper morality, defense of truth, and life-giving church practices follow from that - and, when rooted in that, they become respectful, forgiving, and loving.

Date posted: 2009-11-05

The Joy of the Groove

We dont just nurture others and ourselves with freshness and novelty. These are perennially in short supply and generally not accessible. If we only talked with each other when we had something new or interesting to share there would be mostly silence around our tables. There would also be a lot less irony, humour, and wit in our conversations. We dont just nurture each other through novelty and by being interesting, we also, and importantly, nurture family life, our friendship circles, and our workplaces by working and reworking to death old stories, old jokes, and old anecdotes, until that repetition becomes it own story, its own humour, and its own anecdote.

Date posted: 2009-10-26

In Pursuit Of Innocence

Annie Dillard once wrote this about innocence: Innocence is not the prerogative of infants and puppies, and far less of mountains and fixed stars, which have no prerogatives at all. It is not lost to us; the world is a better place than that. Like any other of the spirit’s good gifts, it is there if you want it, free for the asking, as has been stressed by stronger words than mine. It is possible to pursue innocence as hounds pursue hares: single-mindedly, driven by a kind of love, crashing over creeks, keening and lost in fields and forests, circling, vaulting over hedges and hills, wide-eyed, giving loud tongue all unawares to the deepest, most incomprehensible longing, a root-flame in the heart, and that warbling chorus resounding back from the mountains.

Date posted: 2009-10-19

The Perils of Safety

The German poet, Goethe, once wrote: The dangers of life are many, and safety is one of those dangers. For some people perhaps the reverse warning might be more appropriate. But for those of us who were raised to be good and religious persons there is a disturbing truth in Goethe’s words.

Date posted: 2009-10-12

Private Integrity

What we do in private, in secret, has consequences that are not dependent upon whether or not our secret leaks out. The damage is the same. What we do in secret helps mold our persons and influences how we relate to others in much deeper ways than we suspect. There is no such a thing as a secret act. The most critical person of all always knows. We know. And we hate ourselves for it, hate ourselves for having to lie, and this colors how we relate in general.

Date posted: 2009-10-05

The Eucharist as a Celebration of Everyday Life

We sometimes forget that Jesus was born in a barn, not a church, and that the God of the Incarnation is as much about kitchen tables as ecclesial altars. God is as much domestic as monastic. This is important to keep in mind as we try to understand the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the body of Christ, a continuation of the Incarnation, and, like Jesus’ birth, is meant to bring the divine into concrete, everyday life.

Date posted: 2009-09-28

God Judges No One…

There’s a question about God’s goodness as old as religion itself: How can an all-good God send someone to hell for all eternity? How can God be all-merciful and all-loving if there is eternal punishment? It’s a false question. God doesn’t send anyone to hell and God doesn’t deal out eternal punishment. God offers us life and the choice is ours as to whether we accept that or not.

Date posted: 2009-09-21

The Abundance of God as an Invitation to Generosity

Scientists tell us that, every second, inside the sun the equivalent of 4 million elephants are being transformed into light, an irretrievable, one-time gift. The sun is giving itself away. If this generosity should halt, all energy would eventually lose its source and everything would die and become inert. We, and everything on our planet, live because of the generosity of the sun.

Date posted: 2009-09-14

Conservatives and Liberals - We Need Both

The tension that perennially exists between prescribed discipline and personal maturity, between the letter of the law and its spirit, between conservatives and liberals.

Date posted: 2009-09-07

Religious Language as Icon

We cheat ourselves of meaning whenever we treat scripture, the creeds, and the dogmas of our faith as simple statements of history, newspaper accounts in literal language. They have a historicity and they are true, but the language surrounding them is not the language of the daily newspaper. They are anchored in history and we risk our very lives on their truth, but they speak to us more as does an icon than as does yesterday’s newspaper. Their language is meant to be contemplated, knelt-before, and absorbed in the heart as we experience more and more of life’s mysteries.

Date posted: 2009-09-04

Love - Illusion and Reality

No matter how good someone is, eventually he or she will not be enough for us. A certain necessary disillusionment sets in and, with it, a certain disappointment and sadness. We discover that we have married a human person, not God. Only God is enough.

Date posted: 2009-08-25

Too-bruised to be touched - One of the causes of Suicide

Suicide, in most cases, is an illness not a sin. Nobody, who is healthy, willingly decides to commit suicide and burden his or her loved ones with that death any more than anyone willingly chooses to die of cancer and cause pain. The victim of suicide (in most cases) is a trapped person, caught up in a fiery, private chaos that has its roots both in his or her psyche and in his or her bio-chemistry. Suicide, in most cases, is a desperate attempt to end unendurable pain, akin to one throwing oneself off a high building because one’s clothing is on fire.

Date posted: 2009-08-17

Extraordinary Women, Extraordinary Stories

In her new book, Waking Up to This Day, Paula D’Arcy shares this story. A woman she knows lost a son in an accident. Some years later someone was commenting on how hard this must be for her, not to get to watch her son grow up and marry and not to ever get to hold her grandchildren. Her response: “I don’t think in those terms. The answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know what his life should have been. I realize today that his soul had its own journey and its own terms with life. This had nothing to do with me. But I got to participate for a while in the journey of that soul. For that I am unspeakably grateful.”

Date posted: 2009-08-10

The Eucharist as a call to Justice

To say that Eucharist calls us to justice and to social justice is not a statement that takes its origin in political correctness. It takes its origin in Jesus who, drawing upon the great prophets of old, assures us that the validity of all worship will ultimately be judged by how it affects widows, orphans, and strangers.

Date posted: 2009-08-01

What is the Essence of True Religion?

What defines true religion? What ultimately constitutes true worship? How do we know that we aren’t rationalizing our own selves and calling it religion? How do we know that we aren’t creating God in our own image and likeness and using religion for our own purposes?

Date posted: 2009-07-27

Sensitivity, Vulnerability, and Religion

If our following of Jesus is real, we will find ourselves sensitive and vulnerable in ways that leave us unable to protect ourselves from duties, involvements, and humiliations that we could formerly avoid. True religion leaves us anything but cool.

Date posted: 2009-07-19

A Particularly Joyous Wedding

Ten years ago, a young girl had her youth and dreams stolen from her by a brain tumor. There was pain, disappointment, depression, some bitterness, scant hope. Everyone seemed luckier than she did. That was then. Today, a radiant young woman, a gifted special-needs teacher, Katie Chamberlin-Malloy, is on her honeymoon, happy, wise, planning life, having learned at a young age what most of us will only learn when we die, namely, that ordinary life is best seen against a bigger horizon, that life is deeper and more joy filled when it isn’t taken for granted, and that love is more important even than health and life itself - and that all fairy tales do end in a wedding.

Date posted: 2009-07-13

Non-Discriminating Embrace that still Speaks its Truth

Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate. Jesus challenged us with those words and there is more in them than first meets the eye. How is God compassionate?

Date posted: 2009-07-06

When What is Precious is Taken from You

Perhaps the reality that is hardest of all to accept in life is the unalterable fact that everything that is precious to us will, in some way, eventually be taken away. Our kids grow up and leave home, friends move away, loved ones die, we lose our health, and eventually we die too. Moreover even what is precious to us in terms of our faith and values suffers in the same way: things change, thoughts and feelings shift, rock foundations that once anchored us unassailably give way, doubt creeps in, the bottom falls out, and we are left wondering what we really believe in and what really can be trusted.

Date posted: 2009-06-29

Our One Great Fidelity

In one of his sermons on the Eucharist, Ronald Knox, made this observation: Throughout two thousand years of history, Christians, both whole churches and individual believers, have consistently been able to ignore many of Jesus' key commandments and invitations. We have either been too weak to follow his counsels or we have rationalized them away in some way.


Date posted: 2009-06-22

Losing a Prophet

On the evening of May 18th, five priests driving north from Guatemala City for a community meeting were stopped by masked gunmen. After robbing the priests of their belongings, they opened fire, killing Fr. Lawrence (Lorenzo) Rosebaugh, an American priest, and seriously wounding Fr. Jean Claude Nowama, a Congolese priest.

Date posted: 2009-06-15

Priestly and Affective Prayer

Prayer is classically defined as lifting mind and heart to God. That’s a good definition, but it needs an important qualification. There are two essential kinds of prayer: Something we call liturgical prayer, the public prayer of the church, and something we call private or devotional prayer. Unfortunately we often confuse the two.

Date posted: 2009-06-08

Grass, Sky, Song - A Moral Voice

Good writing, like good art, is moral without being moralizing, expresses deep sentiment without being sentimental, challenges without inducing false guilt, and is mature without being cynical. No easy formula.

Date posted: 2009-06-01

Mystical Images for Our Religious Quest

There are few things as powerful as a poetic image. The nation with the best poets will ultimately triumph because poetry is more powerful than armies. An army can beat a nation into submission, but only a poetic image can change a people's vision.

Date posted: 2009-05-25

The Anatomy of Sacrifice

What do we mean when we say that we make a sacrifice? I have sacrificed my career for my children! I sacrifice a lot for my job! Love demands that we make many sacrifices! Sometimes we must sacrifice life itself for the sake of integrity! Christ sacrificed himself for our sins! The Eucharist is a sacrifice!

Date posted: 2009-05-18

Creativity as One Answer to Violence

In his novel, Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatje creates a character named Ananda. Ananda’s wife had been murdered in the civil war in Sri Lanka and Ananda is trying to save himself from insanity and suicide in the face of this. How does he retain his sanity? Through art, creativity, by creating something.

Date posted: 2009-05-11

There is a Season for Everything

In our discipleship, our spiritual journey, there is an important time to be conservative, just as there is an important time to be liberal. We are not meant to pick one of these over the other.

Date posted: 2009-05-05

Facing the Dragon - Confronting Grandiosity in our Lives

Every so often a book comes along that is truly important. I remember ten years ago reading Gil Bailie’s, Violence Unveiled, and sensing that this was a book of major significance. I had that same sense again recently reading Robert L. Moore’s, Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity. This is no ordinary book, to be read, enjoyed, and put away. It is a book to be studied many times over.

Date posted: 2009-04-27

The Major Points of Convergence within the Great Spiritual Traditions

When we look at all the major world religions we see that they are more similar than dissimilar in how understand the spiritual quest, the path of discipleship and holiness. When we look at Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Native religions, we can draw out these major points of convergence.

Date posted: 2009-04-20

Easter as Opening the Doors of Hell

There is a particular line in the Apostles’ Creed which is deeply rooted in the Gospels that does throw light, major light, on this issue. It’s the phrase: He descended to the dead. Or, in some versions: He descended into hell. What is contained in that phrase is, no doubt, the most consoling doctrine in all of religion, Christian or otherwise. What it tells us is that the way Jesus died and rose opened up the gates of death and of hell itself. What does that mean?

Date posted: 2009-04-13

Hatred and True Religion

There is a statement, generally attributed to G.K. Chesterton, which runs something like this: Catholicism is the most hated of all religions, that’s why I know that it’s the right one. That’s an intriguing comment, but it needs a lot of qualification.


Date posted: 2009-04-06

The Church’s Economic-Social Teachings

Most of us have been raised to believe that we have right to possess whatever comes to us honestly, either through our own work or through legitimate inheritance. No matter how large that wealth might be, it’s ours as long as we didn’t cheat anyone along the way. By and large, this belief has been enshrined in the laws of democratic countries and we generally believe that it is morally sanctioned by the Christianity.

Date posted: 2009-03-30

Spirituality and Sexuality

A common complaint about the classical Christian teachings on sexuality is that so many of these have been written by vowed celibates, unmarried priests and nuns who do not have sex. The complaint is not that these people (and I am one of them) teach something that is wrong but that, not being married, they invariably tend to over-idealize sex and encase it in unrealistic sacred romance.

Date posted: 2009-03-27

Congenital Jealousy and a Higher Invitation

All of you are loving each other and I may be left out! That feeling, that particular fear, according to Robert Moore, lies at the base of jealousy. That was the fear of Cain, the archetypal biblical character who was the first person to murder his brother out of jealousy. What prompted his jealousy? Whatever it is that lies inside this metaphor: God looked with favor upon Abel and his offering, but God did not look with favor upon Cain and his offering. For whatever reason, it seemed to Cain that everyone else was loving each other and he was left out!

Date posted: 2009-03-17

Wishful Drinking and Moral Resiliency

Daniel Berrigan once suggested, half-jokingly, that if Jesus came back today he would go into every psychologist's office in the Western World and, using the whips and cords he used on the money-changers in the temple, drive out both the doctors and their clients with the words: "Take up your couch and walk! I've given you skin, you don't need to be that sensitive!" That may be over-stated, but he has a point. Human beings are built to be resilient and resiliency is a moral obligation. We owe our resurrections to each other. Hence, I recommend a book to you.


Date posted: 2009-03-09

Our Struggle in Faith

At the heart of our faith lies the deep truth that we are unconditionally loved by God. We believe that God looks down on our lives and says: You are my beloved child, in you I take delight! We do not doubt that truth of that, we just find it impossible to believe.

Date posted: 2009-03-02

Entering Lent

Sometimes the etymology of a word can be helpful. Linguistically, lent is derived from an old English word meaning springtime. In Latin, lente means slowly. Etymologically then lent points to the coming of spring and it invites us to slow down our lives so as to be able to take stock of ourselves.

Date posted: 2009-02-24

Humility, Ego, and Greatness

For most of us, I suspect, the word ego has a negative connotation. To accuse someone of having a big ego is to accuse him of being overfull of himself, inflated, grandiose, and lacking in humility. We almost always oppose the words ego and humility. To have a big ego is to not be humble. But that can be simplistic and untrue.

Date posted: 2009-02-16

Fidelity - Our Greatest Gift to Others

We are all weak, wounded, sinful, and easily hurt. Inside of our marriages, families, churches, friendships, and places of work, we cannot promise that we won’t disappoint each other and, worse still, that we won’t hurt each other. But we can promise that we won’t walk away because of disappointment and hurt. That’s all we can promise - and that’s enough!

Date posted: 2009-02-09

The Healing Embrace of the Eucharist

Our generation, like every generation before it, senses its helplessness and intuits its need for a messiah from beyond. We cannot heal ourselves and we cannot find the key to overcome our wounds and divisions all on our own. So we must turn our helplessness into a Quaker-silence, a Eucharistic prayer, that asks God to come and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, namely, create community. And we must go to Eucharist for this same reason.

Date posted: 2009-02-02

Maturity - Being Cool or Being Vulnerable?

All of us struggle to project a certain image of ourselves. No matter the effort, no matter the hidden cost, when we walk into our place of work or into our circle of friends we want to project an image of calm, poise, and easy accomplishment; especially we never want to show signs of weakness, of being needy or lonely, of being ruffled and not perfectly in control.

Date posted: 2009-01-26

Carrying Our Solitude at a High Level

In an autobiographical novel, My First Loves, Czech writer, Ivan Klima, shares how as a young man he struggled with a particular ambivalence. At one level, he wanted to be as free as his friends to act out sexually, but another part of him made him reticent to do that. This left him with the question: Was his hesitancy rooted in an unhealthy timidity or in a noble desire, a desire to carry his solitude at a high level. In the end, he decided it was the latter.

Date posted: 2009-01-19

Our Struggle to Celebrate

What does it mean to celebrate something? To celebrate an occasion is to heighten it, share it, savor it, enlarge it. We also celebrate in order to link ourselves more fully to others, to be playful, to intensify a feeling, to bring ourselves to ecstasy, and, more commonly, just to rest and unwind. But because of our incapacity to enjoy something simply we often try to create that enjoyment through excess and seek the ecstasy of heightened self-awareness in the obliteration of our consciousness.

Date posted: 2009-01-12

Doing the Right Thing Because it is the Right Thing

Did you feed the hungry? Give drink to the thirsty? Invite in the stranger? Clothe the naked? Visit the sick and imprisoned? Because when you do these things to the hungry, to the thirsty, to strangers, to the sick, and to the imprisoned, you do them to God, and vice versa.

Date posted: 2009-01-05

What have you read lately that’s interesting?

Since my undergraduate years, I have always had a good novel within reach and this has been an important complement to my reading in theology and spirituality. There are certain insights into the soul that you only get from good literature. When I was doing my doctoral studies, I was lucky enough to sit in on some classes by Antoine Vergote, the renowned psychologist. Not infrequently, especially when we were examining particularly complex issues to do with obsessions, jealousy, and emotional depression, he would refer us to various novelists and their insights into these issues.

Date posted: 2008-12-23

Reflections on a New Year’s Eve

If you come to the end of a year and are still alive, then you haven’t had a bad year. If you are still within the family of faith, then you’ve had a good year, irrespective of personal sickness, economic misfortune, lost relationships, or any other tragedy. Moreover, if there’s gratitude in your heart and you can ask God for providence and protection for the coming year, you’ve entered that year on the right note. If you can follow this by expressing sincere love and best wishes for those around you (the words and embraces that say “Happy New Year”) well, that’s all a human being can do to welcome a new year properly.

Date posted: 2008-12-22

The God Who Is Revealed in Christmas

An infant lying in the straw in Bethlehem didnt outgun anyone. He just lay there, waiting for anyone, good or bad, to come to him, see his helplessness, feel a tug at his or her heart strings, and then gently try to coax a smile or a word out of him. Thats still how God meets us.

Date posted: 2008-12-15

The Checkered Origins of Grace

God writes straight with crooked lines. We know that expression, though we rarely apply it to sacred history or to the birth of Jesus. We should. The Christmas story is written with some pretty crooked lines.

Date posted: 2008-12-08

The Struggle with Terrorism

Hatred only dies when it is turned upon itself. We are right in trying to contain it, but eventually it can only be defeated from within. In the interim, we need better poetry.

Date posted: 2008-12-01

Longing, Desire, and the Face of God

At the center of our experience lies an incurable dis-ease, a disquiet, a restlessness, a loneliness, a longing, a yearning, a desire, an ache for something we can never quite name. For what are we longing? What would satisfy our restless energy?

Date posted: 2008-11-24

Ad Usam

A couple of stories that can help remind of something that deep down we already know but tend to forget, namely, that what ultimately undergirds all spirituality, all morality, and all authentic human relationship is the unalterable truth that everything comes to us as gift so that nothing can ever be owned as ours by right.

Date posted: 2008-11-17

Old and New Struggles with the Church

Statistics show that in the last fifty years there hasn’t been a huge drop-off in the number of people who say that they believe in God. Surprisingly too there hasn’t been a huge drop-off in the number of people who name a church or a denomination to which they claim to belong. The huge drop-off has come mostly in one area, actual church-going. People still believe in God and their churches even when they don’t often go to church. They haven’t left their churches; they just aren’t going to them. We aren’t so much post-Christian as we are post-ecclesial. The problem is not so much atheism or even religious affiliation, but participation in the church.

Date posted: 2008-11-10

Introverts and Extroverts and the Spiritual Journey

Nothing so much approximates the language of God as silence. So writes Meister Eckhard. Among other things this tells us that there is a certain inner work that we can only do by ourselves, alone, in silence. There is a certain depth and interiority that can only be had at a price, silence and solitude. Some things we can only learn alone.

Date posted: 2008-11-03

Dark Nights of Faith in our Lives

When the memoirs of Mother Theresa were published they revealed that for the last 50 years of her life she had struggled painfully to feel God's presence in her life. Her critics felt a certain glee: Underneath it all, they now believed, she was an agnostic, doubting the existence of God. Her devotees were confused: How could this happen to her? How could a woman of such exceptional generosity and seeming faith not be secure in her sense of God's existence and providence?

Date posted: 2008-10-26

Evangelizing the Religious Imagination

A novel is meant to be, first of all, a work of art. That is why it is always risky to try to use a novel to try to promote, however subtly, any political or religious idea. Apologetics, of any kind, usually does not make for good literature, irrespective of how good the cause might be.William Young, in a recent, best-selling novel, The Shack, (Windblown Media, Los Angeles, 2007) takes that risk.

Date posted: 2008-10-20

Beset By Weakness

John of the Cross, the great doctor of mysticism, uses the question - How vulnerable and weak are we? - as an important criterion to judge whether or not we are on the right path in following Christ.

Date posted: 2008-10-13

Reading the Signs of the Times

What Jesus had in mind was not that so much that we should try to attune ourselves intellectually to all the cultural, psychological, and religious trends of our time. To read the signs of the times, for Jesus, meant trying to read what is happening in our lives, communally and individually, in such a way as to discern the finger of God inside the outer movements of our lives.

Date posted: 2008-10-06

Struggling with our own Inadequacy

The older I get, the less confident, in some ways, I am becoming. I don’t always know whether I’m following Christ properly or even know exactly what it means to follow Christ, and so I stake my faith on an invitation that Jesus left us on the night before he died: To break bread and drink wine in his memory and to trust that this, if all else is uncertain, is what we should be doing while we wait for him to return.

Date posted: 2008-09-29

On the Shores of Babylon

Henri Nouwen once remarked that he found it curious that many of the people he knew who were very angry and bitter were people he had met in church circles and places of ministry. He is not alone in that. Many of us, I suspect, could say the same thing. We often find more anger and whining than joy within church circles because there we can justify anger and disappointment in the name of something sacred.


Date posted: 2008-09-22

The Problem of Suffering and Evil

How can there be an all-loving and an all-powerful God if there is so much suffering and evil in our world?

Date posted: 2008-09-18

The Struggle to Love

Gods love is sweet only to those who are already saints and to those who do not know what they are talking about. That is true not just of Gods love, but of all love.

Date posted: 2008-09-08

Honesty as Sobriety

Sobriety is ultimately not about alcohol or some drug. It's about honesty and transparency. And, like honesty and transparency, it is not all or nothing, but has degrees. We are all sober according to more or less, according to the degree that our lives are an open book with nothing hidden in the closet.

Date posted: 2008-09-01

The Gospel Unfolding in History

We didn't stop burning witches because we stopped reading scripture. We stopped burning witches because we kept on reading scripture.

Date posted: 2008-08-25

The Heart of a Child

Unless you change and become like little children you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. How can we do that? How do we unlearn sophistication, undo the fact that we are adults? What kind of recessive journey can revirginize a heart?

Date posted: 2008-08-18

On Cultivating or Not Cultivating Loneliness

Soren Kierkegaard remains a mentor to many people for a good reason. He touched the soul like a maestro picking up a violin and that master's touch comes not so much from his intelligence as from his sensitivity. And that sensitivity was carefully cultivated.

Date posted: 2008-08-11

Prophecy - Challenge and Comfort

What, beyond the challenges of truth and justice, should we be speaking to the world? Words of understanding, consolation, comfort. One the major tasks of the churches is to console the world, to comfort its people.

Date posted: 2008-08-04

The Pearl of Great Price and its Cost

Thoreau once said: "The youth gets together materials to build a bridge to the moon or perhaps a palace or a temple ... at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them." So too in love and life: The child sets out make love to the whole world and the adult eventually concludes to marry a single person, in essence, to build a woodshed. But it's only in that woodshed where life and love are real in this world.

Date posted: 2008-07-28

Our Misconceptions about Suicide

Sometimes things need to be said, and said, and said, until they don't need to be said any more. Margaret Atwood wrote that and its truth is the reason why, each year, I write a column on suicide. We still have too many misconceptions about suicide.

Date posted: 2008-07-20

Making Space for Sabbath in our Lives

Today we are considerably more casual and careless about observing the Sabbath and we are poorer, both religiously and humanly, because of this. Much of our tiredness and sense of being over-burdened comes from not having a regular Sabbath in our lives. With this in mind, allow me to offer my own hints for longevity, hints based largely upon a theology of observing the Sabbath.

Date posted: 2008-07-14

Bread and Wine

Bread and wine are ambiguous, both in life and in the Eucharist.

Date posted: 2008-07-07

Our Innate Pathological Complexity

In her novel, A Map of Glass, Canadian novelist, Jane Urquhart, tells the story of an aging woman who recalls how, as a little girl, she used to steal her father's stethoscope and play with it. Why?

Date posted: 2008-06-30

Some Guidelines for Service

To try to serve others is to be caught up in many tensions, some that beset from without and others that beset from within. How can we remain energized, effective, and true? Here are some guidelines for the long haul.

Date posted: 2008-06-23

Father's Day

What do you celebrate if you lost your father a long time ago?

Date posted: 2008-06-16

Chastity And the Enchantment of Life...

To be chaste is to experience people, things, places, entertainment, the phases of one’s life, life’s opportunities, and sex, in a way that does not violate them or ourselves. Chastity means to experience things reverently, so that the experience of them leaves both them and ourselves more, not less, integrated.

Date posted: 2008-06-09

Our Inner Garment

It is only if we realize this that our world can really change because it is only then that liberals and conservatives, pro-life and pro-choice, Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Arabs, Arabs and Christians, black people and white people, men and women, and people wounded in different ways can begin to stop demonizing each other, begin to reach across to each other, begin to feel sympathy for each other, and begin, together, to build for a common good beyond our wounds and differences.

Date posted: 2008-06-02

The Many Faces of the Eucharist

Christians argue a lot about the Eucharist. What does it mean? What should it be called? How often should it be celebrated? Who should be allowed to fully participate?

Date posted: 2008-05-26

A Saint and Compassion Fatigue...

Why do the poor need to forgive us? For what do we need to be forgiven? Shouldnt we feel good about serving others?

Date posted: 2008-05-19

The Secret of a Monks Cell

Monks have secrets worth knowing, though sometimes the value of a certain secret isnt immediately evident.

Date posted: 2008-05-12

The Mystery of Giving and Receiving Spirit

There is a presence that cannot be taken away, that does not suffer from this fragility, that is, the spirit that comes back to us whenever, because of the some inner dictates of love and life, our loved ones have to leave us or we have to leave our loved ones. A spirit returns and it is deep and permanent and leaves a warm, joyous, and real presence that nobody can ever take from us.

Date posted: 2008-05-05

Hatred and the Gospel

There is a certain proclivity within human nature to hate innocence and goodness. It is the saint who eventually is the scapegoat. It happened to Jesus. It happens to all goodness, by its stripes we are healed. Why?

Date posted: 2008-04-28

Mystic or Unbeliever

A generation ago, Karl Rahner made the statement that there would soon come a time when each of us will either be a mystic or a non-believer.

Date posted: 2008-04-21

The Kenotic and the Triumphant Christ

One of the deeper issues underlying the tension between liberals and conservatives in the church is the tension between the kenotic and the triumphant Christ, the tension between the Christ who empties himself to become a slave and the Christ who rises triumph over death and rules the world.

Date posted: 2008-04-15

A Spirituality of Martyrdom

Put simply, we either end up dying in selflessness on one hill or we end up full of ourselves and self-hatred on some other hill!

Date posted: 2008-03-31

Seeing the Resurrection

Christ is risen, though we might not see him! We don’t always notice spring. The miraculous doesn’t force itself on us. It’s there, there to be seen, but whether we see or not, and what precisely we do see, depends mainly upon what’s going on inside our own hearts.

Date posted: 2008-03-27

A Drama of the Heart - Jesus' Sacrifice

We have, I think, focused too much on the physical aspects of the crucifixion to the detriment of what was happening more deeply, underneath. Why do I say that? Because none of the gospels emphasize the physical sufferings, nor indeed, in the fears he expresses in conversations before his death, does Jesus. What the gospels and Jesus emphasize is his moral loneliness, the fact that he was alone, betrayed, humiliated, misunderstood, the object of jealousy and crowd hysteria, that he was a stone's throw away from everyone, that those who loved him were asleep to what was really happening, that he was unanimity-minus-one.

Date posted: 2008-03-17

Losing a Great One

Our faith community has lost a fine priest and dear friend. Last month, after a long battle with cancer, Joseph Champlin , died in Syracuse, New York. It is no exaggeration to say that he was one of the great pastoral theologians of our time.

Date posted: 2008-03-10

Inarticulate Loves

In the Foreword to The Black Prince, Iris Murdoch writes: “I have known, for long periods, the torture of a life without self-expression.” Nowhere is this torture more felt than when we stand before our loved ones.

Date posted: 2008-03-04

Of Artists, Freedom, Reticence, and Sanctity

Nobel Prize winning novelist, Doris Lessing, once suggested that George Eliot could have been a better writer if she hadn't been so moral. That highlights a painful and interesting paradox. Sometimes depth and sensitivity are in tension with creativity and freedom.

Date posted: 2008-02-28

The Nature of Faith

God made us in his image and likeness and we have never stopped returning the favor.

Date posted: 2008-02-20

Justice and Jesus

Jesus and justice - rarely do we bring them together as the gospels do.


Date posted: 2008-02-12

Images for Lent

What is the meaning of lent? Why do we set aside forty days each year to voluntarily give up some legitimate enjoyments so as to prepare for Easter? The need for lent is written right into our DNA. Perhaps a look at some of images for lent can help make this clearer.


Date posted: 2008-02-04

The Domestic and the Monastic

There are two kinds of monasteries and two kinds of monastic bells. Both are good, as long as they summon us beyond ourselves to the kind of fasting and prayer that makes us put others and God before ourselves.

Date posted: 2008-01-28

Blood and Water Poured Out!

Paradox is everywhere: Sometimes the things you think will make you happy end up saddening you and sometimes the very thing that breaks your heart is also the thing that opens it to warmth and gratitude.

Date posted: 2008-01-21

What if?

What if we were all able to stretch our hearts in new ways to be open to a God and a truth that is forever beyond us? What if we all took more seriously the fact that God is ineffable and all of our language about God is, in se, inadequate?

Date posted: 2008-01-14

Clapton, Blues and Conversion

I read those words in a catechism book when I was a little boy and knew, already then, that they contained a truth that perennially needs to be asserted in the face of human pride. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says something similar. At a certain time in your life, he says, you realize that you have only two choices: Genuflect before something greater than yourself or begin to self-destruct.

Eric Clapton, I think, would agree.

Date posted: 2008-01-07

Moral Progress and Regression

“We didn’t stop burning witches because we stopped reading scripture, we stopped burning witches because we kept on reading scripture.”

Date posted: 2007-12-31

An Invitation Inside of Christmas

Christmas is meant to bring us back to the crib so that our hearts can feel that freshness that wants to make us start living over again.


Date posted: 2007-12-17

Advent - A Time to Learn How to Wait

Carlo Carretto, the renowned spiritual writer, spent many years living alone as a hermit in the Sahara desert. He wrote a number of books from that place of solitude, including one entitled, Letters from the Desert. In that book, he has a message for those of us who live busy lives in the world. "What is God trying to say to us in our busy lives?" He suggests this: "Be patient! Learn to wait - for each other, for love, for happiness, for God!"

Date posted: 2007-12-11

Advent Longing

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once suggested that peace and justice will come to us when we reach a high enough psychic temperature so as to burn away the things that still hold us apart. In saying this, he was drawing upon a principle in chemistry: Sometimes two elements will simply lie side by side inside a test-tube and not unite until sufficient heat is applied so as to bring them to a high enough temperature where unity can take place.

Date posted: 2007-12-04

Different Kinds of Glory

We all nurse a secret dream of glory. We daydream that in some way we will stand out and be recognized. And so we fantasize about great achievements that will set us apart from others and make us famous. The daydreams vary but, inside them, always we are at the center - the most admired person in the room, the one scoring the winning goal, the ballerina star, the actor picking up the Academy award, the author writing the best-seller, the intellectual winning the Nobel prize, or even just the one in the circle who tells the best story.

Date posted: 2007-11-26

Marking an Anniversary

This week marks the 25th anniversary for this column. The Western Catholic Reporter, out of Edmonton, Alberta, published my first ever column on November 15, 1982. Glenn Argan was its editor then - and still is. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for giving me a chance to publish a column, long before the days of websites and blogs. Back then we wanted the hard feel of paper in our hands. There’s still something special to that feel.

Date posted: 2007-11-19

Finding the Strength to Reach Across Differences

We are rarely at our best. Too often what shows forth in our lives is not what's best in us: love, generosity, a big heart. More often than not, our lives radiate irritation, pettiness, and a small heart.

Date posted: 2007-11-15

Coping With Tragedy

Several years ago, late on a Sunday night, I received an email from one of my nephews. Three of his close friends had just been killed in a senseless automobile accident. He was beside himself with grief, and with questions: "Why?" "What does one say in a situation like this?" "What do you say to their families?"

Date posted: 2007-11-05

Turning Sixty...

So what have I learned?

Date posted: 2007-10-15

David and Goliath

When David reached into his shepherd's pouch and took out a slingshot and a pebble, you can be sure that this was not the first time he had done this. As a shepherd, in the fields by himself, he would have spent countless lonely hours practising with his slingshot, searching for just the right pebbles, and then palming those pebbles to know their exact feel, to give them the feel of his hand, to really make them his own. When he walked out to face Goliath his weapons may have looked pathetic in comparison to his opponent’s steel and iron, but he knew their exact feel, they were an extension of himself. And in that is the lesson.

Date posted: 2007-10-08

Mother Theresa's Faith

How can faith feel like doubt? How can God's deeper presence feel like God's non-existence? And, perhaps more importantly, why? Why would faith work like this?

Date posted: 2007-09-10

A Conspiracy Against Interiority

Our culture is a powerful narcotic, for good and for bad.

Date posted: 2007-09-04

The Silence of Life

Meister Eckhard once suggested that nothing so much resembles the language of God as does silence. It's a language we need to practice.

Date posted: 2007-08-27

Our Unfinished Symphony

In this life there is no such a thing as a clear-cut, pure joy! I want to reiterate those words, coined by Henri Nouwen, in the light of some criticisms that I received to a recent column which quoted Anita Brookner saying that, in marriage, the first duty of each partner is to "console the other for the fact that we cannot not disappoint each other."

Date posted: 2007-08-20

Understanding Suicide

Canadian poet, Margaret Atwood, says that it is not enough to say
certain things just once. Some things need to be said, and said,
until they don’t need to be said again.

Date posted: 2007-08-13

Songs of Innocence and Experience

When I was 17 years old and a novice in our Oblate noviciate, while horsing around in a lake with my fellow novices one afternoon, I almost drowned. I had already gone down twice and was unable to call for help. Only luck and the perceptiveness of a fellow novice prevented my death.

Date posted: 2007-08-06

Wrestling with God

In the end, our real struggle is with God.

Date posted: 2007-07-30

Everyday Life as Sacrament

For Christians, ultimately the whole world is holy and everything in it, especially the physical, is potential material for sacrament.

Date posted: 2007-07-22

Accepting Disappointment in Love

In many of her novels, Anita Brookner, almost as a signature to her work, will make this comment: The first task of a couple in marriage is to console each other for the fact that they cannot not disappoint each other. That's an important insight. Why?

Date posted: 2007-07-17

Our Three Temptations

Cosmologists today tell us that the universe has no single center. Its center is everywhere, every place, every planet, every city, every species, and every person. But we already know this.

Date posted: 2007-07-09

Soul-Chained to Things Beyond Us

What haunts us from beyond is also what drives us beyond simple, animal, satisfaction and opens us to other worlds.

Date posted: 2007-07-02

Sustaining a Prayer Life

The problem we have in sustaining prayer, they say, is often grounded in the false notion that prayer needs to be interesting, exciting, intense, and full of energy all the time. But that is impossible, nothing is meant to be exciting all the time, including prayer and church services, and nobody has the energy to always be alert, attentive, intense, and actively engaged all the time.

Date posted: 2007-06-25

Don't Worship Your Emotions

Love calls us to more, and in order to get to that higher level, we must stop worshipping our emotions.

Date posted: 2007-06-18

Celebrating Life Inside the Communion of Saints

Basically all of us, either at some inchoate place in our hearts or at some more explicit place in our faith, believe in the communion of saints, namely, that our loved ones who have died are still in relationship to us and that this relationship continues to change and grow even after we are separated by death. And, given the truth of that, we realized too that, at a time, a further kind of letting go was being asked of us. What is meant by this?

Date posted: 2007-06-11

Liberals and Conservatives

Sadly, mostly liberals and conservatives fight each other when in fact they badly need each other. Both carry important truths and our culture and our churches would be far healthier if would accept that.

Date posted: 2007-06-06

A Higher Court of Things

Perhaps more than anything else, moral issues are what divide us. Sincere people, who can agree on almost everything else, often find themselves painfully divided other over issues such as abortion, gay marriage, just war, capital punishment, immigration, and economic justice.

Date posted: 2007-05-28

Measuring Ourselves in Love

When I was younger, I was pretty confident that I knew what love meant. After all, we all experience love in some way, being in love, loving someone, being loved by someone. Virtually everyone has known the love of somebody, a friend, a family member, an acquaintance.

Date posted: 2007-05-21

Painful Goodbyes and the Ascension

Why is it better sometimes that we go away?

Date posted: 2007-05-14

Moral Loneliness

Moral loneliness is what we experience when we ache for a soulmate.

Date posted: 2007-05-07

God's Voice As Invitation

Where does God speak in our world? How does God speak?

Date posted: 2007-04-30

Commandments for Daily Life

In the United States there is an ongoing debate about the value or non-value of posting the Ten Commandments in certain public places. Proponents argue that, as a culture founded on Judeao-Christianity, we owe it to ourselves and our children to post publicly our essential moral code. Opponents argue that this isn't fair to other religions and, beyond that, we would serve ourselves better by posting the Beatitudes, the real challenge that awaits us beyond the Ten Commandments.

Date posted: 2007-04-23

Einstein on God and Religion

A recent issue of TIME magazine carried a series of excerpts from the diaries of Albert Einstein that give us an insight into how he felt about God and religion. There is a lot of disagreement as to whether he was an atheist or a believer. These excerpts let him speak for himself. Personally, I find his insights healthy and refreshing - and a valuable apologetic for belief in God.

Date posted: 2007-04-16

The Resurrection

Classical writers in all religious traditions tell us that there is a secret to growth, namely, when we reach a certain point, we must let grace do the work. It isn't that we cease making an effort, it's just that we need to let our efforts be augmented by something beyond us.

Date posted: 2007-04-09

The Cross of Jesus

Among all the religious symbols in the world none is more universal than the cross.

Date posted: 2007-04-02

Overcoming Hypersensitivity

How can we let go of our hypersensitivity? A priest that I know once gave me this advice: Whenever you feel stung and hurt, pull away, sit in prayer, and stay there until the pain softens enough so that you can face others with warmth again.

Date posted: 2007-03-26

Brilliant, Grumpy Old Men

James Hillman and Kurt Vonnegut, a couple of grumpy, brilliant old men who do what Elders are supposed to do, dispense wisdom to the young!

Date posted: 2007-03-19

Besotted by Celebrity

We are besotted by celebrity. For most of us, the rich and famous take on a god-like status and our own lives seem small, empty, and hardly worth living in comparison to what we imagine theirs to be.

Date posted: 2007-03-12

Praying When We Don't Feel Like It

No matter the headache or the heartache, we only need to lift it up to God.

Date posted: 2007-03-05

The World As a Phone Booth

Phone-booths were invented for a good reason, as were living rooms, offices, bedrooms, parks, living rooms, restaurants, dining rooms, theatres, and churches. We sit in public places today and we over-hear conversations that have to do with business, family life, intimacy, and trivia which propriety and manners suggest would be better conducted precisely inside of offices, living rooms, bedrooms, and parks - or at least in the relative privacy of a phone-booth.

Date posted: 2007-02-26

Moral Intelligence

There are different ways of being intelligent, of being awake. Not everyone is bright in the same way.

Date posted: 2007-02-19

The Therapy of a Public Life

Thirty years ago, Philip Rieff wrote a book entitled, The Triumph of the Therapeutic. In essence, he argued that today, in the Western world, so many people need psychological therapy mainly because our family structure has grown weak and many community structures have broken down. In societies where there are still strong families and strong communities, he contends, there is little need for private therapy; people can more easily work out their problems inside of family and community. Conversely, where family and community are weak, we are very much left on our own to deal with our own problems, and a therapist, rather than a family, has to help us.

Date posted: 2007-02-12

The Ninety-Nine and the One

So why do I write the way I do? Why, as my critics put it, "the invariable bent toward the secular"?

Date posted: 2007-02-05

The Language of Silence

What language will we speak in heaven? We don't know, but we have some inkling of it in the deep experiences of intimacy we have on earth.

Date posted: 2007-01-29

The Miracle of Existence

While doing my doctoral thesis, I had the privilege of having as a mentor the distinguished Belgian philosopher-theologian, Jan Walgrave. One day, while discussing a point in philosophy, he asked me: "Do you ever sit on a park bench and ask yourself: Why is there something instead of nothing?" I had to admit that I didn't, at least not very often.

Date posted: 2007-01-22

Loneliness and God's Pleasure

In what kinds of loneliness do we feel God's pleasure?

Date posted: 2007-01-14

Getting and Not Getting the Secret

Do we ever really understand life? Do we ever really get things right? What lies at the center of life? These are the deeper questions that gnaw away inside of us and we are never really sure how to answer them. Do we ever really understand what our lives are all about?

Date posted: 2007-01-12

Ultimate Consolation

Christ descended into hell. What is meant by that?

Date posted: 2007-01-09

Searching for Bethlehem in the Soul

it is not just important to learn and become sophisticated, it is equally important to eventually become post- sophisticated; it is not just important to grow in experience and shed naivete, it is equally important to eventually find a certain "second naivete"; and it is not just a sign of intelligence and maturity to stop believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny, it is a sign of even more intelligence and deeper maturity to start believing in them again.

Date posted: 2006-12-15

Freedom, Liberation, Frigidity, and Uptightness

What does it mean to be free and liberated as opposed to being frigid and uptight? Not an easy question.

Date posted: 2006-12-11

Growth Through Dark Nights

A canon of wisdom drawn from the scriptures of all the major world religions, mystical literature, philosophy, psychology, and human experience tells us that the journey to maturity and compassion is extremely paradoxical and that mostly we grow by falling apart.

Date posted: 2006-12-03

Looking For Rest Amidst The Pressures Of Life

We need sabbath. We’ve all lived too long where we can be reached.

Date posted: 2006-11-27

Steadying Ourselves In The Storm

There are headaches and heartaches for which there is no cure. But the soul doesn't need to be cured, only to be properly cared for. Our task is go home, to find those people, places, prayers, and books that truly care for our souls at those times when our world is falling apart.

Date posted: 2006-11-20

Dark Memory

Inside each of us, beyond what we can express in words, picture clearly, or even feel distinctly, we have a dark memory of having once been touched and caressed by hands far gentler than our own.

Date posted: 2006-11-12

The Communion of Saints

Growing up, as part of our family prayer, we used to pray for a happy death.

Date posted: 2006-11-05

Breathing Emotionally

One of the things that made Henri Nouwen such a loved writer was his disarming honesty. He hid little about himself.

Date posted: 2006-10-29

On Healthy, Constructive Criticism

Liberals and conservatives both pride themselves on speaking out for the truth, on thinking critically. But too often both are deluded as to what it means to be critical. Generally we think of a critic as someone who debunks what's false, heretical, naive, inflated, or superficial. Partly that's true, but it leaves too much room for us, liberals and conservatives alike, to criticize others according to our own image and likeness.

Date posted: 2006-10-22

Sadness, Faces, Beauty

Our faces, more than anything else, mirror of our souls and, in the end, they show forth both our beauty and our struggle, our softness and our hardness, our forgiveness and our jealousy. And sadness, perhaps more than anything else, is what ultimately shapes our faces.

Date posted: 2006-10-12

Standing on New Borders - Islam

The Gospels recount an incident where, one day, Jesus was "walking along the borders of Samaria, when he met a woman." Scripture scholars assure us that what is being described here is more than mere geography and more than a simple conversation between Jesus and a Syro-Phoenician woman. A border is a boundary, the edges of something foreign, and Samaria and this woman were what was particularly foreign at that moment.

Date posted: 2006-10-06

Caring For Our Hearts

The heart breaks in different ways. It can break in a way that softens, purifies, and stretches it in love and selflessness, or it can break in way that makes it bitter, jealous, and cold. Heartbreaks can be warm or cold and, either way, the pain will bring us to our knees and that moment will define us, one way or the other.

Date posted: 2006-09-29

What Is True Religion?

What is the essence of true religion? What, in the end, constitutes authentic discipleship? There is a lot of tension within and among the churches today about precisely that question.

Date posted: 2006-09-21

The Struggle To Trust

Perhaps if we had all been loved perfectly, had perfect confidence, and had never been wounded, disappointed, betrayed, or made to cry tears of regret, we would find it easier to believe that it is safe, that we can trust, that we have no need to protect ourselves, and that we do not need to be forever anxious about how we are measuring up, how we are being perceived, how we are being understood, and whether we are worthy of love.

Date posted: 2006-09-14

Chastity and Healing

I'm not sure exactly how we need to challenge our age, especially our youth, in terms of the beauty and importance of chastity. I only know that it needs to be done. Virtually everything in our culture and within youth today militates against it. Chastity is seen as a naivet, a timidity, a stance against life, not one for it. Our culture has unconsciously inhaled, and misunderstood, one of William Blake's, Proverbs from Hell: Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.

Date posted: 2006-09-07

Set Apart or One-With?

How much, and in what way, should Christians set themselves apart from the world?

Date posted: 2006-08-31

Our Real Moral Struggle

Herein lies one of the biggest moral struggles within our lives: To keep a mellow, warm, trusting heart when, as Pascal says, the heart has its reasons to want to chill and become aloof in order to protect itself. But the capacity to resist that impulse, to not turn cold, to not turn off, is, I believe, the real mark of maturity and even of faith. It's this that makes for a great lover.

Date posted: 2006-08-24

Home

More than anything else, we long for home. Our deep ache for intimacy, security, and comfort is, in the end, a longing for home, nothing more. We are forever restlessly searching for someone or something to take us home.

Date posted: 2006-08-17

Suicide - The Pain of the Ones Left Behind

I would like, this year, to share the feelings and reflections of a woman who, last year, lost her husband to suicide. The victim of suicide may be at peace in Gods arms, but those left behind generally take a long, long time to make peace with this kind of death.

Date posted: 2006-08-07

Our Need for Confession

Roman Catholics are familiar with confession, the sacrament of reconciliation. However, in recent years, the practice of confession has suffered, and pretty massively, from neglect.

Date posted: 2006-07-31

Not Our Own Children

Your children cannot, ultimately, turn their backs on God. They can refuse to listen to you, walk away from you, spit on your values, but there is still another parent from whom they can never walk away, whom they carry inside. Not many people, I suspect, would ever have the courage to be a parent without realizing this.

Date posted: 2006-07-24

Stopping the Haemorrhaging by Touching the Hem of the Garment

In the end, the power to give life can only be restored to us through grace and community, through letting a power beyond give us something that we cannot give to ourselves.

Date posted: 2006-07-17

Faith, Doubt And Imagination

The woman who sought spiritual counsel from me claimed that she did not believe in the resurrection but, by almost all indicators, she lived her life in function of it. Her problem was only that her imagination could not picture it. Like all of us, she suffers the poverty of a finite imagination trying to picture the infinite. But God cannot be pictured and so a weak imagination is not the same thing as a weak faith.

Date posted: 2006-07-11

In Pursuit of Innocence

Jesus challenged us to innocence by inviting us to have both the heart of a child and the heart of a virgin.For Jesus, the heart of a child is one that is fresh, receptive, full of wonder, and full of respect and the heart of a virgin is one that can live in inconsummation, without experiencing the finished symphony. The child and the virgin both have to live inside a great patience because many of the things they intensely desire cannot not be had just yet. Both hearts may not test their God.

Date posted: 2006-07-05

Cultivating Loneliness

By being introduced more deeply to ourselves we are also introduced more deeply to each other. In letting our loneliness haunt us, we begin, in the best sense of that phrase, to haunt each other’s dreams.

Date posted: 2006-06-19

Interruptions, Our Real Work

David Steindl-Rast once commented that we tend to be resentful when things interrupt our work until we realize that, often times, the interruptions are our real work.

Date posted: 2006-06-12

The Sacredness of Work

Work, like prayer, is a privileged way to get to know God because, when we work, we are toiling in partnership with Him.

Date posted: 2006-06-05

The Mystery of Presence and Absence in Love

We experience many painful goodbyes in life. There are so many times when someone we love has to go away, or we have to go away. There are many times when, for whatever reason, someone has to move on and irrevocably change a relationship. Almost always this is painful, sometimes so painful that it leaves us feeling restless and empty, as if all the colour, energy, and joy have gone out of our lives.

Date posted: 2006-05-29

Needed: A New Maturity to Match our Freedom

We are the freest people to ever walk this planet, at least in terms of opportunity. Our freedom is so great that, at times, is almost a burden, an over-choice. We often find it difficult to commit ourselves to marriage, to a vocation, to a career, and to a friendship precisely because we are so free and have so many choices.

Date posted: 2006-05-23

Dealing with Hurt and Disappointment

"The person who doesn't have a softening of the heart, will eventually have a softening of the head." Chesterton said that. He's right.

Date posted: 2006-05-16

Eucharist As God's Physical Embrace

Words, as we know, have a relative power. In critical situations they often fail us. When this happens, we have still another language, the language of ritual. The most ancient and primal ritual of all is the ritual of physical embrace. It can say and do what words cannot.

Date posted: 2006-05-08

A Prodigal God

The challenge, of course, is to respond to the infinite number of invitations that God scatters on our path from minute to minute. The consolation is that, no matter how many of God's invitations we ignore, there will always be an infinite number of others.

Date posted: 2006-05-01

A Mellow Heart in a Bitter Time

We all do pretty well in love when the persons we are loving are warm and gracious, but can we be gracious and mellow in the face of bitterness, jealousy, hatred, withdrawal?

Date posted: 2006-04-25

Jesus' Last Words

Just before he dies on the cross, Jesus utters these words: "It is finished!"

What's "finished"?



Date posted: 2006-04-17

Mary Under the Cross

One of the most popular images in all of scripture (an icon that's been endlessly painted, sung, put into litanies, written up into poetry, and used to triggered every kind of pious feeling) is the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, standing silently under the cross as her son dies.


Date posted: 2006-04-09

Walking Away Out of Sorrow

As we walk away from the place where we got hurt, what do we invariably walk towards? We walk towards human consolation, towards compensation, towards something that looks like it will alleviate the hurt, soothe our wounded pride, or at least distract us from the pain.

Date posted: 2006-03-29

Helping Simon of Cyrene Carry Jesus' Cross

Pure earthily accidents often do make us responsible for what is divine and they conscript us to our real work.

Date posted: 2006-03-21

Betraying Jesus As Peter Did

The tears we weep when we are loved despite weakness are very different from the ones we weep when we feel judged and humiliated by our weakness. To experience love when we don't deserve it is the one grace that cleanses us of sin and gives us strength against sin.

Date posted: 2006-03-13

Sweating Blood in the Garden

To be faithful, to love beyond daydreams, requires that sometimes - in hotel rooms, in gardens, at parties, in our workplaces, in places where wine is drunk, and in every place where people gather and intimacies are exchanged - we have to enter a great loneliness, the loneliness of moral integrity, the loneliness of fidelity, the loneliness of duty, the loneliness of renouncing an overpowering desire, the loneliness of losing life so that we might find it in a higher way.

Date posted: 2006-03-06

Listening to Christ's Heartbeat

Our sensitivity must be a stethoscope that hears the beat of the complex and fascinating heart of Christ.

Date posted: 2006-02-27

Love's Baptismal Robe

At the beginning of every love, romantic or not, the dream for that love is connected to an ideal of purity, mutuality, and respect. Every real love begins with the idea that this time we'll get it right...

Date posted: 2006-02-20

What's Worthwhile Is Worth Waiting For

Patience, waiting, chastity, and commitment are, in the end, worth it.

Date posted: 2006-02-14

Helping Each Other Into Heaven

The love we experience from each other on this earth will, no doubt, greatly sway our choice when we stand alone before God and have to choose between love and its opposite for all eternity.

Date posted: 2006-02-07

Deeper Things under the Surface

Imagine you live in proximity to your mother and you make a commitment to visit her three times a week. In the course of a year, that means you will be visiting her about 150 times. How many times, among all those times, will you have a deep conversation with her? A dozen times? Five times? A couple of times?

Date posted: 2006-01-30

Making the Taboo a Holy Place

The good news in this is that we have emptied sex of superstition, false fear, and false taboo. The bad news is that we have also robbed it of most of its sacredness, mystique, depth, and soul.

Date posted: 2006-01-23

Standing under the Cross

As Jesus was dying, the Gospels say that Mary, his mother, stood under the cross. What was she doing while standing there?

Date posted: 2006-01-16

Sin and Sadness

French philosopher, Leon Bloy, a man very instrumental in helping bring Jacques and Raissa Maritain to faith, once stated: "There is only one real sadness in life, that of not being a saint!"

Date posted: 2006-01-09

An Immune-System Inside the Body of Christ

Robert Bellah tells how one of his researchers, speaking at a conference, made the statement: "Some people believe that human life is priceless." A scientific expert, in all seriousness, challenged him: "We have no data on that."

Date posted: 2006-01-03

Keeping Watch with the Shepherds in Bethlehem

Like the shepherds we're asked to watch in the night and we're watching when, in our hearts, there is more wonder than familiarity, more childlike trust than cynicism, more more love than indifference, more forgiveness than bitterness, more joy in our innocence than in our sophistication, and more focus on others than on ourselves.

Date posted: 2005-12-19

Don't Worship Your Emotions

We're meant instead to worship a God whose son, Jesus, tells us that the highest moral and spiritual demand of all is forgiveness.

Date posted: 2005-12-12

Being Blessed by Pagan Friends

I look at some of my pagan friends, at their energy, their generosity, their warmth, what they bring into a room, and my heart lifts and I believe in God more deeply.

Date posted: 2005-12-06

Cataclysms of the Heart

There are times when the world unravels. Who hasn’t had this feeling? “I’m falling apart! This is beyond me! My heart is broken! I feel betrayed by everything! Nothing makes sense any more! Life is upside down!”

Date posted: 2005-11-28

The Litmus Test for Being Christian

Did Jesus have a litmus test? Is there one issue, principle, or dogma within his teaching that can function as a criterion for judgement so that we are, in effect, a Christian or not, depending upon where we stand on that issue?

Date posted: 2005-11-21

Feeling God In Vulnerability

No matter our achievements, no matter how strong our self-image, no matter how blessed we are in body, mind, and possessions, in the end, we're all insubstantial - and we feel it!. We aren't Ipsum Esse Subsistens.

Date posted: 2005-11-14

Reflections on Death

Death is a journey into the unknown, the ineffable, the unimaginable, the unspeakable - unspeakable loneliness, ineffable embrace, unimaginable joy.

Date posted: 2005-11-07

Living With Fear and Timidity

After listening to his litany of fears and self-doubts one day, I told him: "Because of your sensitivities you will always struggle, but at least you'll never be a jerk!"

Date posted: 2005-10-31

Speaking our Truth from a Deeper Place

If, before all else, I define myself as a woman or man of faith, my first message will not be family values,feminism, ecology, doctrine, tolerance, boundaries, the tradition, the breaking of unhealthy fear and superstition, or even a pro-life or pro-choice position in the abortion debate.

Date posted: 2005-10-24

Our Struggle For Community

Community means staying together even when we don't like each other, aren't attracted to each other, and struggle with hopeless differences. Only when we understand and accept this will romance, a beautiful thing in itself, cease being an obstacle to real community.

Date posted: 2005-10-17

Life’s Key Question

What makes it difficult for us to die, beyond all the congenital instincts inside of us that want us to live, is not so much fear of the afterlife or even fear that their might not be an afterlife. What makes it hard to die is that we have so much life yet to finish and we finish it by loving more deeply and expressing our love more freely.

Date posted: 2005-10-11

Our Inability To Cast Out Demons

The older I get, the more I realize that there is a huge difference between speaking effectively, perhaps even brilliantly, and actually changing anybody’s life.

Date posted: 2005-10-03

Proofs for the Existence of God

Can you prove that God exists? Some of the greatest philosophers believed that it can be done. Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibnitz, Spinoza, Hartshorne, among others, all tried to do it.

Date posted: 2005-09-27

On Being Jealous of God's Generosity

We know we need God's mercy, but if grace is true for us, it has to be true for everyone; if forgiveness is given us, it must be given everybody; and if God does not avenge our misdeeds, God must not avenge the misdeeds of others either. Such is the logic of grace and such is the love of the God to whom we must attune ourselves.

Date posted: 2005-09-19

Acknowledging Our Own Complexity

As a seminarian, I was introduced to the writings of Thomas Aquinas. I was nineteen years old, young for philosophy, and his abstract language befuddled me for a time. But slowly some of what he was saying began to break through and it felt like I was being introduced to myself. I'd always been deeply restless, in every sense of that word, and the grip of that restlessness and its concomitant complexities worried me, leaving me wondering sometimes whether I was normal.

Date posted: 2005-09-12

On Carrying Ecclesial Tension

We need to carry both, the conservative and the liberal understanding of things. There's an important place both for authority and conscience, dogma and truth's incapacity to be captured in any one formula, and for the demands of church and the demands of individual freedom. The secret is to respect both, refuse to betray either, and then accept the tension that ensues.

Date posted: 2005-09-05

Moving to a New Job And a New City

In the more than twenty years I've been writing this column, I have only on rare occasions focused on my own life. But this particular column will be an exception because I have just undergone a major transition and believe it's helpful for a reader to know at least the broad strokes of the life of the one who stands behind the words he or she is reading.

Date posted: 2005-08-31

When Feeling Down and Out

We should never be shocked at our own emptiness, nor should we run from it and think that God is dead. God is in the emptiness. But the God who's found there is not God as we imagine Him.

Date posted: 2005-08-21

From Depression to Delight

The air we breathe out into the universe is the air we will inhale. That's the law of karma. When we act like God, we get to feel like God. And God is never depressed.

Date posted: 2005-08-15

A Lesson from Some Young Missionaries

Living witness to Christ today requires precisely that we build communities that are wide enough to hold our differences. What we need is not a new technique, but a new sanctity; not a cooler dress, but a more inclusive embrace; not some updating of the gospel to make it more acceptable to the world, but a more courageous radiating of its wide compassion; not some new secret that catches peoples' curiosity, but a way of following Christ that can hold more of the tensions of our world in proper balance so that everyone, irrespective of temperament and ideology, will find themselves better understood and embraced by what we hold most dear.

Date posted: 2005-08-04

A Mystical Imagination

The mystical imagination can show us something that science, wonderful though it is, cannot, namely, it can show us the many grace-drenched and spirit-laden layers of reality that are not perceived by our physical senses.

Date posted: 2005-07-25

Our Struggle to Understand Suicide

Suicide, no doubt, is the most misunderstood of all deaths and leaves behind a residue of questions, guilt, anger, second-guessing, and anxiety which, at least initially, is almost impossible to digest.

Date posted: 2005-07-17

The Truth Sets Us Free

In her book, Guidelines for Mystical Prayer, Ruth Burrows describes what it means to die a "happy death". To die in a good way, she states, is not a question of whether or not death catches us in a morally good moment or a morally bad one (dying drunk in a bar as opposed to dying in a church). Rather, to die a happy death is to die in honesty, without pretence, without the need to lie about our lives.

Date posted: 2005-07-12

Second Birth

Nothing is more evident than the existence of God - and nothing is more obscure. Why? If babies in the womb could talk, they could help us with this. A baby inside the womb cannot see its own mother or even imagine its mother's existence not because the mother doesn't exist, but because the mother so totally encompasses it. That image can be helpful in our struggle both to believe in God and to believe in life after death.


Date posted: 2005-07-07

What the Next Hundred Years Will Bring

In his new book, God's Politics, Jim Wallis predicts 50 things that will happen during this next century...To his list, let me add some predictions of my own.

Date posted: 2005-06-26

Purity

Purity is not so much about sex as it is about intention. We need a certain purity and chastity of intention or we will always manipulate others in everything, including sex. We are pure when our hearts don't greedily or prematurely grab what isn't theirs. As Quoist so aptly puts it, we are pure when we can grasp a hand and not try to retain it, when we can love without being over-possessive, serve without being manipulative, and when we no longer try to make other people orbit around us as their center. We are pure when we stop using others for our own enhancement, whatever that might be. We become more pure as we become less manipulative in relationships.

Date posted: 2005-06-20

Meeting God Without Fear

What would you feel if God suddenly walked into a room? Fear? Shame? Joy? Apprehension? Panic? A desire to hide? Relief when God finally left? Indeed, how would we even recognize God should God walk into a room?

Date posted: 2005-06-12

Searching for a New Maturity

The world needs mature Christians who, like Jesus, have the strength to walk inside the world, right inside the chaos of sin itself, without sinning themselves.

Date posted: 2005-06-06

Supporting Family Values

The issue of "family values" has long divided liberals and conservatives. It constitutes an ideological fault-line, determining what newspapers we read, what television programs we watch, what circles we socialize in, what jokes we tell, what political party we vote for, and sometimes even what church we attend.

Date posted: 2005-05-30

The Jesus Code - Unravelling the Secret

We all love to unearth hidden things, to crack some puzzle or code. We need only to look at the hoopla surrounding The Da Vinci Code to see how true this is. Like children, we all still believe there's a buried treasure somewhere, a secret wisdom, just waiting to be found.

Date posted: 2005-05-23

The Danger of Riches

If Jesus is to be believed, then we need to believe that the poor stand before us always as that place where we are judged. We get to heaven (or don't) on the basis of our response to the poor.

Date posted: 2005-05-16

The Mystery of Saying, "Good-bye"

When children leave home for the first time to begin lives on their own, in one fashion or another, they are saying to their parents what Jesus said to his disciples before his ascension: "It is better for you that I go away. If I do not go away I cannot come back to you in a deeper way!"

Date posted: 2005-05-09

Permission to be Unhappy

If love, beauty, and happiness are as simple and easy as the latest television commercial suggests, why, like the prophet, Isaiah, would I feel so unworthy before them that I should want to cleanse myself with a burning coal?

Date posted: 2005-05-01

Welcoming a New Pope

There has been a mixed reaction to the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the papacy.

Date posted: 2005-04-25

Multi-Citizenship - Wide Loyalties

Both our humanity and our faith make us citizens of many worlds, demand of us wide loyalties, and demand too that we do not name intolerance, narrowness, racism, sexism, self-interest, and indifference to the suffering of others as virtue by appealing to some narrower loyalty.

Date posted: 2005-04-18

The Descent into Hell

Our belief that Jesus did, and can, "descend into hell" is the single most consoling doctrine within all religion. It gives us hope when, humanly, there isn't any. Sometimes, because of illness and hurt, someone we love can descend into a place where we, no matter our love and effort, can no longer reach. But not all is lost: Jesus can descend into that hell and, even there, breathe out a peace that again orders the chaos.

Date posted: 2005-04-11

On the Death of John Paul II

What John Paul II left us will not be received through an uncritical admiration that too quickly strips him of his sometimes obvious humanity. We knew too his faults. But, like Jesus, he has gone away and we are left with his spirit. That spirit, now given more purely than ever before, contains powerful nutrients that can both nourish and stretch our souls.

Date posted: 2005-04-04

Midwives of Hope

It's no accident that when Jesus rose from the dead he appeared first to women. Why? During his pre-resurrection ministry, at least so it seems, he called mainly men to be the principal actors. Why a certain reversal at the resurrection?

Date posted: 2005-03-29

Tasting the Darkness of Good Friday

A year ago, partly in response to the popularity and controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, TIME magazine ran a cover story on the question of why Jesus died. The piece was well-researched and included the opinion of a variety of scholars, but it also delved into the feelings of ordinary people around this question.

Date posted: 2005-03-21

Gethsemane - The Place to Give up Resentment

That's the greatest struggle we have in love. We're good people mostly, but, like the Older brother of the prodigal son, all too often we nurse resentment, even as we do all the right things.

Date posted: 2005-03-14

Gethsemane - The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

Beauty, sex, ambition, jealousy, fear, tension, wounds, anger, despair, impatience, frustration, hatred, tiredness, and even misguided religious fervour can overthrow us.

Date posted: 2005-03-06

Gethsemane - the place of moral loneliness

Our deepest loneliness is not sexual, but moral. More than we yearn for someone to sleep with sexually and emotionally, we yearn for someone to sleep with morally. What we really want is a soulmate.

Date posted: 2005-03-06

Gethsemane As The Place We Are Put To The Test

The Garden of Gethsemane is also the place where we are put to the test. What does this mean?

Date posted: 2005-02-27

Gethsemane - a place to learn a lesson

There's nothing wrong with wanting health, success, beauty, power, glamour, money, or fame. Of themselves, these are good and can, if used properly, help God's glory shine through in ordinary life.

Date posted: 2005-02-13

Gethsemane as Liminal Space

The Garden of Gethsemane is, among other things, "liminal space". What is this? Anthropologists use that expression to refer to special times in our lives when our normal situation is so uprooted so that it is possible precisely to plant new roots and take up life in a whole new way.

Date posted: 2005-02-06

Lost is a Place too

Beauty is ultimately more about the size of our hearts, about how much they can empathize, and how about widely and unselfishly they can embrace.

Date posted: 2005-01-31

Get behind me, Satan!

Satan is alive and well, still tormenting us in our beds, in basement rooms, in dark stairwells, and in broad daylight as we travel to work. We call his presence: obsessions, heartaches, restlessness, jealousy, emptiness, fear, paranoia, old hurts, insomnia, chaos, and other names.

Date posted: 2005-01-24

Honouring Jacques Dupuis

On December 28, 2005, Jacques Dupuis, a Belgian Jesuit and a professor-emeritus at the Gregorian University in Rome, died at age 81. We shouldn't botch that death, but recognize and honour the fact that we've lost a great man whose life and work has been a major gift to us.

Date posted: 2005-01-17

Against an Infinite Horizon

Does belief in life after death have an impact on how we live our lives right now? Should it?

Date posted: 2005-01-10

The Inclusive Embrace of Catholicism

Canadian theologian, Michael Higgins, recently made this observation. At the upcoming Academy Awards, two movies will take centre stage, Mel Gibson's, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, and Michael Moore's, FAHRENHEIT 9/11.

Date posted: 2004-12-29

Faith means that God is with us

If Christ was born into the world to redeem it, why doesn't our world look more redeemed? Why is our world still full of loneliness, anxiety, betrayals, sickness, poverty, violence, war, and death? What did Christ's birth into our world really change?

Date posted: 2004-12-20

The Earthiness of Christmas

What Christmas teaches us is that God is as much domestic as monastic, a God of the body as well as of the soul, a God who is found in barns as well as in churches, in kitchens as well as in cathedrals.

Date posted: 2004-12-19

Jesus' Dysfunctional Family Tree

Nobody is so bad, so insignificant, so devoid of talent, or so outside the circle of faith, that he or she is outside the story of Christ.

Date posted: 2004-12-13

Naming our Restlessness

We come into this world with unsatiable desires, huge talents, boundless energy, grandiose dreams.

Date posted: 2004-12-06

Advent Hope

To light an advent candle is to say, in the face of all that suggests the contrary, that God is still alive, still Lord of this world, and, because of that, "all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well," irrespective of the evening news.

Date posted: 2004-11-28

Finding our Loved Ones after their Deaths

As Christians, we believe in the "communion of saints". We believe that those who have died are not only still alive but that they are, as well, still in a real relationship with us. But how? How do we find our loved ones after they have died?

Date posted: 2004-11-22

Unspeakable Loneliness

Innocence and experience are indeed a rare combination.

Date posted: 2004-11-14

Unspeakable Loneliness

There is a lot of loneliness, as we know, that can be spoken about. When you are lonely in certain ways, no matter the pain, you can still put out a hand and someone will take it, hold it, offer empathy, and the loneliness itself can lead to a deeper sense of being loved and valued.

Date posted: 2004-11-07

Carrying Tension

One of the things we're asked to do as Christians is to help "take away the sins of the world" as Jesus did. How?

Date posted: 2004-11-01

Biblical Anxiety

The opposite of belief is not non-belief, but anxiety. To not believe, to not have faith, is to be anxious in a particular way. What way?

Date posted: 2004-10-25

Failure and the Second-Half of Life

Success always feels good, but at a certain age it no longer works its magic. That doesn't make it wrong to continue to be successful, it only makes it wrong to need to succeed in order to feel good about ourselves.

Date posted: 2004-10-17

Binding and Loosing

Gabriel Marcel once said: "To love someone is to say to that person, you at least will not die!"

Date posted: 2004-10-11

Jesus' Sensitivity

Michael Buckley, the American Jesuit, once did a fascinating study of Jesus and Socrates, comparing them in terms of human excellence. The result? In many aspects, Jesus appears to be the weaker of the two men.

Date posted: 2004-10-03

Struggling with being Blessed

We're born into this world with divine fires inside us. Inside those fires lie seeds of every kind, both for self-destruction or for greatness.

Date posted: 2004-09-26

Offering Sanctuary for Sadness

And so we are a grieving church, though that is not necessarily a bad thing. Tears can save us from bitterness and hardness of heart. So perhaps one of the important forms of sanctuary that the church can offer the world today is that of being a safe place where you can come and be sad.

Date posted: 2004-09-20

Beauty as God's Language

Beauty has a power to transform the soul and instill gratitude in a way that few things have. Confucius understood this and suggested that beauty is the greatest of all teachers. People can doubt almost anything, except beauty.

Date posted: 2004-09-12

The Da Vinci Code

Christianity is a great religion with a billion adherents and the world measures time by its inception, and that's hardly because a few self-serving church officials have been able to hide the real truth from everyone (except "the wise and the clever") for a couple of thousand years.

Date posted: 2004-09-06

Struggling with Possessiveness

The award-winning Broadway play, Children of a Less God, tells an interesting story of how love can go wrong, even when it seems like it's going right.

Date posted: 2004-08-30

Mourning our Virginity

The daydreams of our youth eventually die, though perhaps as we get older we replay them just to feel old sentiments (our own version of The Way We Were) rather than with any kind of practical hope. But what created those dreams all those years back hasn't changed.

Date posted: 2004-08-22

Conceiving of God - Metaphor and Reality

Our generation struggles with believing in God, not that this, as Reginald Bibby states, puts God in trouble. God isn't in trouble because people stop believing or going to church.

Date posted: 2004-08-15

Irritations and the Spiritual Life

The time will come too, all too soon, when our loved ones are gone or we are preparing to leave, when it will be only with fondness that we remember how such a wonderful person once snored, cleared his throat too often, ate her food too slowly, couldn't match his colours, loved Country and Western music, disdained hamburgers and fast foods, and, for too short a blessed time, shared life with us.

Date posted: 2004-08-08

Substance and Appearance

Our world has become obsessed with appearance, with image, with persona, with what's in the store-window, with how we're perceived. Today it's more important to look good than to be good, more important to look healthy than to be healthy, and more important to have a good-looking surface than to have much in the way of integrity and depth underneath.

Date posted: 2004-08-01

Suicide - The Most Misunderstood of all Deaths

Death is always painful, but its pains are compounded considerably if its cause is suicide. When a suicide occurs, we aren't just left with the loss of a person, we're also left with a legacy of anger, second-guessing, and fearful anxiety.

Date posted: 2004-07-26

The Mother Tongue

Hans Urs Von Baltasar once wrote: "After a Mother has smiled for a long time at her child, the child will begin to smile back; she has awakened love in its heart, and in awakening love in its heart, she awakes also recognition."

Date posted: 2004-07-19

Helping Create a Symphony of Prayer

The next time you're at a church service and telling yourself that this isn't nurturing you, remember that the function of an orchestra is, first of all, not to entertain itself but to make music for others.

Date posted: 2004-07-11

Living with our own Complexities

Peace, as we know, means more than the simple absence of war. It's a positive quality. What makes for peace? Two things: harmony and completeness.

Date posted: 2004-07-04

The Struggle for Sincerity

We live with two great desires. Beyond our desire for intimacy we also want sincerity. But, like intimacy, this too is rather elusive. It's not easy to be sincere.

Date posted: 2004-06-28

Providence and the Conspiracy of Accidents

In the conspiracy of accidents that make up the ordinary events of our everyday lives, the finger of God is writing and writing large.

Date posted: 2004-06-21

Therapy of Family, Community, and Church

To participate healthily within community and family takes us beyond the pathology and fragility we so often sense within the recesses of our own souls. Community steadies us. It has a rhythm and regularity that helps calm and make ordinary the feelings of disorientation, depression, paranoia, and obsession which can wreak havoc in our private lives.

Date posted: 2004-06-14

In Our Full Humanity

God does not make mistakes, though we do, and one of these is that we too quickly feel guilty if we're bored in church.

Date posted: 2004-06-07

Conflicting Voices ...

There is no simple truth, here or anywhere else. Truth is painfully complex (as are we) and truth is always bigger than our capacity to absorb and integrate it.

Date posted: 2004-05-31

A Spirituality of the Ascension

The ascension deepens intimacy by giving us precisely a new presence, a deeper, richer one, but one which can only come about if our former way of being present is taken away.

Date posted: 2004-05-23

The Noonday Devil

When the Desert fathers first formulated a list of what they considered "deadly sins", they included the sin of sadness. It wasn't until the 17th century that it was dropped from the list, replaced by sloth.

Date posted: 2004-05-17

A Spirituality of Not-Hurrying

When we hurry too much and for too long we end up doing violence to time, to ourselves, and to our blood pressure.

Date posted: 2004-05-09

On becoming post-liberal

Thoreau once suggested that we live lives of "quiet desperation". That may have been more true of his generation, but it's less true today. Our struggle is more with internal bleeding, though Thoreau's right about its quietness.

Date posted: 2004-05-02

Setting Our Ecclesial Gauges

Jung once said that whatever energies we don't consciously access and direct will unconsciously direct themselves.

Date posted: 2004-04-25

Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ

A wake-up call isn't intended to be deep, it's intended to rouse you from sleep. Tens of millions of people are flocking to see this movie. Whatever else, they're leaving the theatre a bit more awake and infinitely more cognizant of what it cost Jesus to die for us.

Date posted: 2004-04-19

Waiting for the Resurrection

Simply put: Whenever we do anything wrong, anything at all, it won't turn out right. It can't. The structure of the universe won't receive it and it comes back to us, one way or the other. Conversely, whenever we do something right, anything that's true, good, loving, or beautiful, the universe vindicates that. It judges our every act and its judgement allows no exceptions.

Date posted: 2004-04-12

The Agony in the Garden: The Place of Transformation

Jesus takes the sin and tension out of the community, not by dying and going away, but by absorbing and transforming it into something else. How does he do this? Perhaps an image (sadly, more mechanical than organic) might be helpful: Jesus took away our sins in the same way as a filter purifies water. A filter takes in impure water, holds the impurities inside of itself, and gives back only the pure water. It transforms rather than transmits.

Date posted: 2004-04-05

The Agony in the Garden: The Place to Ready Ourselves for Ordeals

We have nothing to fear but fear itself; easily said, but mostly our lives are dominated by it. We may be sincere and good, but we're also fearful.

Date posted: 2004-03-29

The Agony in the Garden: The Place of Special

Poet, Theodore Roetke, once wrote: "In a dark time, the edge is what we have." In a dark time we also have prayer.

Date posted: 2004-03-23

The Agony in the Garden: The Place where Angels Strengthen Us

In a book soon to be released, Trevor Herriot writes: "Only after we have let the desert do its full work in us will angels finally come and minister to us." That's one of the lessons of Gethsemane. It's only after the deserts of loneliness, duty, and helplessness have done their work in Jesus that "an angel from heaven came and ministered to him."

Date posted: 2004-03-15

The Agony in the Garden: The Place to Stay Awake

We fall asleep out of sorrow whenever we become so confused and overwhelmed by some kind of disappointment that we begin to act out of hostility rather than love, paranoia rather than trust, despair rather than hope. We fall asleep out of sorrow whenever we sell short what's highest in us because of the bitterness of the moment.

Date posted: 2004-03-10

The Agony in the Garden: The Place to Sweat Blood

Biblical scholars agree that the accounts of Jesus' death do not highlight so much his physical suffering as his emotional anguish and how his decision for love, to respond to a higher moral call, left him lonely, humiliated, misunderstood, prostrate in pain. It's Jesus, the lover, who sweats blood in Gethsemane.

Date posted: 2004-02-29

The Agony in the Garden - The Place of Special Loneliness

Jesus' passion should be understood precisely as "passio", passivity, a certain submissive helplessness he had to undergo in counter-distinction to his power and activity.

Date posted: 2004-02-22

The Romantic Imagination with Religion

Without vision the heart doesn't know where to go; but, without romantic fire it doesn't want to go anywhere, least of all to church.

Date posted: 2004-02-16

The Law of Karma

The air we breathe out into the world is the air we will re-inhale.

Date posted: 2004-02-08

Compassion and Truth

Truth must always be yoked to compassion. Growth in our lives (be it intellectual, spiritual, psychological, professional, or moral) should not lead to arrogance, elitism, or the false judgement that we, now so free and enlightened, are stuck among the ignorant and unwashed. Rather any genuine growth should lead to a concomitant growth in compassion, respect, gentleness, and the capacity to be more understanding of what's in opposition to us.

Date posted: 2004-02-01

Beyond Labels

We need to let go of labels and try to let the truth speak independently of them. We need too to have the courage to face up to where our own ideologies are blinding us to truth, keeping us in unnecessary anger, and dividing us from others of sincere will.

Date posted: 2004-01-25

The Spirit, the Water, and the Blood

Why does God always seem hidden? Why doesn't God simply manifest Himself (and Herself) in a way that's as indisputably real as is our physical world?

Date posted: 2004-01-19

Faith, Church, and Commitment in an imperfect world

Michael Buckley, the American Jesuit, once said that the main cause of atheism is bad theism.

Date posted: 2004-01-11

Facing Otherness and Differences

David Tracy, the eminent intellectual, submits that perhaps the biggest challenge confronting us today is that of facing our differences, of accepting, truly accepting, otherness. This challenge confronts us at every level: social, political, cultural, moral, religious.

Date posted: 2004-01-05

Interruptions, Our real work

C.S. Lewis once said that we'll spend most of eternity thanking God for those prayers he didn't answer. I suspect we'll also spend a good part of eternity thanking God for those interruptions that derailed our plans but baptized us into life and love in a way we could never have ourselves planned or accomplished. We do not live by accomplishment alone.

Date posted: 2003-12-29

On Not Letting the Sky Wilt

Words are really all we have to fend off the chaos. They can't make or remake reality, but they can give us a vision with which to lift ourselves out of the ordinary.

Date posted: 2003-12-23

Christmas - No Room at the Inn

Christmas is like well-cut diamond. Every time you turn it in the sun it gives off a different sparkle. It has many meanings.

Date posted: 2003-12-15

Mary, as Model of Faith

Christmas isn't automatic, it can't be taken for granted. It began with Mary, but each of us is asked to make our own contribution to giving flesh to faith in the world.

Date posted: 2003-12-09

The Mary of Piety

Karl Rahner, studying the phenomenon of Marian apparitions, points out that all these apparitions have one thing in common: In every case, Mary appears to a poor person.

Date posted: 2003-12-01

Faith and a Time of Agnosticism

Mature faith must take its roots in love and gratitude, not fear. Thus, freedom from false fear holds a rich potential for a maturer faith and religion.

Date posted: 2003-11-24

Jesus' Moral Loneliness

What Jesus (and people like Therese of Lisieux and Simone Weil) model is how to carry tension correctly, how to carry solitude at a high level, and how to resist, no matter the pain, calling second-best by any other name than second-best.

Date posted: 2003-11-22

Purgatory Revisited

The pain of purgatory is two things: First, it's the pain of being unconditionally embraced by selflessness while we are still selfish, the pain of being enfolded by goodness while we are still sinful.

Date posted: 2003-11-11

A Wisdom Born of Pain

It's tragic to die and not have loved and it's just as tragic to die and not have expressed your love to those around you.

Date posted: 2003-11-06

The Invitation to a Deeper Virtue

Perhaps the most misunderstood text in all of scripture is the one where Jesus says to us: "Unless your virtue goes deeper than that of the scribes and the pharisees, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Date posted: 2003-10-26

The Value of Praying a Doxology

The main reason our faith asks us to constantly render glory to God is that the more we praise the less we slander, gossip, or pass judgement. Offering praise to God, and others, is what saves us from bitterness and violence.

Date posted: 2003-10-19

Conservatism is a good place to start from

Sometimes it's helpful to imagine you're a strip of litmus paper and then analyze the colours you turn as you fall into the various acids of life and religion.

Date posted: 2003-10-13

Dark Nights of the Soul

The dark nights of the soul strike where you least expect, where you're vulnerable and don't know it.

Date posted: 2003-10-05

The Kenosis of God

How do we speak of God inside a culture that's pathologically distracted, distrusts religious language and church institutions, and yet carries its own moral energy and virtue?

Date posted: 2003-09-28

Living with Criticism

Nobody goes through life without facing criticism, opposition, misunderstanding, suspicion, and, at some point, having to experience hatred.

Date posted: 2003-09-22

Coping with our own Complexity

Holiness and wholeness are, ultimately, the same thing. To be holy is to be whole. That shouldn't surprise us, grace builds on nature. What's problematic is achieving wholeness. Why?

Date posted: 2003-09-15

From Self-Protection to being Food for the Life of the World

Church life exists to build up a body, but that body exists not for itself, but for the world. Our task as church, especially today, is not to defend ourselves or even to carve out some peace for ourselves against a world which sometimes prefers not to have us around. No. Like Jesus, our real reason for being here is to try to help nourish and protect that very world that's often hostile to us.

Date posted: 2003-09-08

The Width of our Ecclesial Embrace

In a time of much ecclesial quarrelling, especially over authority, Raymond Brown reminds us that "the greatest dignity to be striven for is neither papal, episcopal, nor priestly; the greatest dignity is that of belonging to the community of the beloved disciples of Jesus Christ."

Date posted: 2003-09-01

Spirituality and the Second-Half of Life

We need, more and more, to immerse ourselves in the language of silence, the language of heaven. Meister Eckhard once said: "Nothing so much resembles God as silence." The task of mid-life is to begin to understand that and enter into that language.

Date posted: 2003-08-24

The Abuse Scandal as a Dark Night of the Soul

For the church in the Western World, particularly in the United States, the recent sexual abuse scandal is probably the biggest crisis we've yet faced, though it's not so much a crisis of faith as one of credibility.

Date posted: 2003-08-17

Gospel-Challenge

To walk tall means to walk within our God-given dignity. Gospel-challenge doesn't shame us with our pettiness, it invites us to what's already best inside us.

Date posted: 2003-08-11

True and false notions of Freedom

C.S. Lewis tells the story of his conversion in a little autobiographical piece entitled, Surprised by Joy. His journey has some things to teach us.

Date posted: 2003-08-08

Our Misconceptions about Suicide

Suicide is indeed a horrible way to die, but we must understand it for what it is, a sickness, and stop being anxious about both that person's eternal salvation and our less-than-perfect response to his or her illness.

Date posted: 2003-07-28

Our Struggle with Envy

Why do we struggle with the things we struggle with? What explains us to ourselves?

Date posted: 2003-07-21

Reading the Signs of the Times

Partly our instincts are right. God didn't cause September 11, God didn't send AIDS as a punishment for sin, and God doesn't single out some people to win lotteries, while causing sickness and tragedy for others.

Date posted: 2003-07-14

What's to be done? What's being asked of us?

Oliver Wendall Holmes once commented that he wouldn't give a fig for the innocence that lies on this side of sophistication, but would give his life for the innocence that lies on the other side of it. The task of our generation of believers is to find and model that innocence which lies on the other side of sophistication.

Date posted: 2003-07-07

Against an Eternal Horizon

We understand our lives best when we see them against the horizon of the infinite. Nowhere is this more important than in the belief that there is a life beyond this one.

Date posted: 2003-06-30

Moving beyond Hurt

We cannot forgive and move on simply on the basis of good intention and raw willpower. We'll forgive, but not forget - and nothing will change.

Date posted: 2003-06-23

From asking to be carried to helping to carry

We won't always be best-buddies to our children or the coolest mum or dad on the planet, but we will be the elders, the mentors, the teachers, the adults, the parents, the mums, and the dads that our society so sorely misses.

Date posted: 2003-06-16

Falling Asleep out of Sorrow

We don't live in the best of all possible worlds, Leibnitz said that. That's more than an abstract statement. Most days it's a fact that grates us, frustrates us, eats away at our patience and moral fibre, and leaves us living lives of quiet desperation.

Date posted: 2003-06-09

A Reflection on Vocations

We need, again, to have a romantic ideal about the vocations of priesthood and religious life, otherwise we can expect still fewer priests, nuns, and religious brothers in the future.

Date posted: 2003-06-02

Faith's Darkness

Why does God stay hidden? Why doesn't' God reveal himself so concretely and physically that no one could doubt his existence?

Date posted: 2003-05-26

Being Missionaries to our own Children

It is no secret that we're having trouble passing the faith on to our own children. Our churches are greying and emptying and our own children are no longer walking the path of faith, at least not public and ecclesial faith, with us. The most difficult mission field in the world today is Western culture, secularity, the board rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and entertainment rooms within which we and our children live, work, and play.

Date posted: 2003-05-18

Cassie Bernall - Unlikely Martyr

Both Cassie Bernall and her killers knew the taste of being unanimity- minus-one and the temptation to bitterness that this brings. But in Cassie's case the good won out, she died in a fashion remarkably similar to Jesus.

Date posted: 2003-05-13

The Potential and Dangers of Powerlessness

Yes, there's a risk in powerlessness and humiliation, but there's even a great risk in its opposite. Ursula Hegi's Ilse Abramowitz chooses the better part: Better to be persecuted than to be numb to what's human.

Date posted: 2003-05-06

Seize the Moment!

Every season, whether chronological, cultural, or religious, brings with it a certain spirit, mood, and feeling that we sometimes capture and sometimes miss.

Date posted: 2003-04-28

The Beauty of Light and Morality

In the Hebrew scriptures we are presented with the rainbow as a sign of the resurrection and of God's unconditional love for us. What a beautiful, wonderful, apt symbol! A rainbow bends light so as to refract it and show what it looks like on the inside, its colours, its mystery, its spectacular beauty. Light has a beautiful inside that we can't always see.

Date posted: 2003-04-21

Forgive them for they know not what they do!

There's more jealousy, hatred, anger, murder, adultery, slander, lying, and blasphemy at God in our world than there is sin. We're not so much bad as ignorant, inculpably so. Often times when we do wrong, we aren't betraying love because we don't know love to begin with.

Date posted: 2003-04-14

The Value of Ritual in Sustaining Prayer

The great spiritual writers have always said that there is only one, non-negotiable, rule for prayer: "Show up! Show up regularly!" The ups and downs of our minds and hearts are of secondary importance.

Date posted: 2003-04-07

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplation is a way of being present to what's really inside our own experience. We are in solitude, contemplation, in prayer, when we feel the warmth of a blanket, taste the flavour of coffee, share love and friendship, and perform the everyday tasks of our lives so as to perceive, in them, that our lives aren't little or anonymous or unimportant, but that what's timeless and eternal is in the ordinary of our lives. Sensing the eternal in the ordinary is contemplative prayer and that, and that alone, stills our restlessness.

Date posted: 2003-03-31

Affective Prayer

Prayer, it is said, is not meant to change God but us. True. And nothing changes us as much for the good as to hear someone say that he or she loves us, especially if that someone is God.

Date posted: 2003-03-26

Priestly Prayer - Prayer for the World

One of the responsibilities of being an adult is that of praying for the world. Like the high priests of old, we need to offer up prayers daily for others. Indeed we are all priests, ordained by the oils of baptism and consecrated by the burdens of life that have given us wrinkles and grey hair. As adults, elders, priests, we need, as scripture puts it, "to make prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, for ourselves and for the people." All of us, lay and cleric alike, need to offer up priestly prayer each day.

Date posted: 2003-03-17

Pray Always -- Prayer as lifting mind and heart to God

To "pray always" invites us to live our lives against a certain horizon. We need to do everything within the context of a certain awareness, like a married man who goes on a business trip and who is somehow always anchored in a certain consciousness that he has a spouse and children at home. Despite distance and various preoccupations, he knows that he is "married always". That awareness is what keeps him anchored in his most important relationship.

Date posted: 2003-03-03

A Challenge from our Born-again and Devotionally-oriented Siblings

In John's gospel, ecclesiology and liturgy are subservient to the person of Jesus and a personal relationship to him. To teach this, John presents the image of "the beloved disciple", one who has a special intimacy with Jesus. For John, this intimacy outweighs everything else, including special service in the church.

Date posted: 2003-02-24

The Churches and the Social Gospel

The churches have been, and still are, at those places with the poor where nobody else wants to be. With little difference among the various churches, Christian spirituality teaches, and has taught for a long time, the following moral truths:

Date posted: 2003-02-16

In Defense of Mystery

Never assume that religious language is anywhere near adequate; albeit it's useful. No theology, however good, gives you a picture of God. Good theology helps you know something that you can't think or picture. The heart knows things that the mind cannot picture and our experience is full of a richness for which we never find adequate words. Thank God for that. That's the heart of faith.

Date posted: 2003-02-10

The loneliness of leaving home

Among the kinds of loneliness that afflict us, there's one we don't often recognize and deal with very well, the loneliness of moving on. There's a loneliness that comes with leaving home, with forever losing loved ones, loved places, and loved things.

Date posted: 2003-02-03

Pentecost Happened at a Meeting

Pentecost, it is important to note, happened to a group at a meeting, not to an individual alone in the desert. That can be helpful to keep in mind when we tire of meetings, despair of their effectiveness, or resent that they pull us away from important private endeavours. The fact that pentecost happened at a meeting can also be helpful in keeping us focused on why we are going to all these meetings in the first place.

Date posted: 2003-01-26

Ministering with Authority

I wonder whether our failure today to pass on our faith to our own children, to effect forgiveness and harmony within our families and communities, or to inspire others to any kind of religious vocation, isn't predicated precisely on our incapacity to speak God's word with authority.

Date posted: 2003-01-19

The Need to Admire

Whenever our world feels grey, whenever we feel bitter and short- changed, and whenever we feel frustrated with everything and everyone, we need to ask ourselves: "When was the last time I really admired someone?"

Date posted: 2003-01-12

Perspective on a Scandal

What needs clarification? Three things in particular: The effect of sexual abuse on its victims, the prevalence of sexual abuse within our culture, and the nature of the disease of paedophilia.

Date posted: 2003-01-07

On Being Loved Sinners

We're strange creatures, more lovely than we think and more sinful than we imagine, too hard and too easy on ourselves all at the same time.

Date posted: 2002-12-29

Awakening the Christ-child

We awaken the child by inducing it to smile. How's that done? Where is the Christ-child? In terms of an icon, the Christ-child is in the crib, but, in terms of spirituality, the Christ-child appears in our lives in a different way.

Date posted: 2002-12-25

A Meditation on Joy

If I go about my life demanding, however unconsciously, that others carry me rather than seeking to carry them; feeding off of others rather than trying to feed them; creating disorder rather than being a principle of peace; demanding to be admired rather than admiring, and demanding that others meet my needs rather than trying to meet theirs, joy will never find me, no matter how hard I party or try to crank up good cheer. I'm breathing the wrong air into the universe.

Date posted: 2002-12-11

The Promise of Christmas

What Christmas promises is universal peace, the lion and lamb lying down together; reconciliation, enemies forgiving each other; justice, valleys filled in and deep places raised up; food for all, every sheep carefully tended to; restfulness from our longing, everyone cradled peacefully in loving arms; and healing from all wound, God himself drying every tear on earth. The Christmas crib is an icon of that peace. The hymn "Silent Night" captures its spirit.

Date posted: 2002-12-09

Lighting Advent Candles

We light advent candles, accepting that changing the wind is a long process, that the evening news will not always be positive, the stock markets will not always rise, the most sophisticated defenses in the world will not always protect us from terrorism, and secular liberal and conservative ideologies will not rid this planet of selfishness. But we continue to light candles because God has promised to establish a kingdom of love and peace on this earth and is gracious, forgiving, and powerful enough to do it.

Date posted: 2002-12-02

Privileged Communication within the Communion of Saints

When I was a child, as part of our family prayer, we used to pray for a happy death. In my young mind, I had a certain conception of what that might look like. A happy death would be to die inside of grace, cradled warmly in the loving arms of family and church, fully at peace with God and others, having had time to speak some final words of love and gratitude. But not many people get to die that way....

Date posted: 2002-11-25

Twenty Years "In Exile"

Yes, we do live in an enigma. The God who is omnipresent cannot be sensed, only known at some deeper level; others, who are as real as we are, are always partially distanced; and we, in the end, are fundamentally a mystery even to ourselves. We're a long ways from home.

Date posted: 2002-11-18

Turning our Eyes Towards Heaven

It's not easy to be centred, rooted, secure in who we are, able to give the world our best. More commonly, we find ourselves adrift, unsure of ourselves, with most of what's best in us still frustrated, buried, waiting for a better day. Too many things, it seems, conspire against us living out what's truest and best inside us.

Date posted: 2002-11-10

The Anthropological Function of Gossip

Jesus took away the sin of the world this way: He took in hatred and gave back love; he took in curses and gave back blessing; he took in bitterness and gave back graciousness; he took in jealousy and gave back understanding; and he took in murder and gave back forgiveness. By absorbing our sin, differences, and jealousies, he did for us what we, in a less mature and less effective way, try to do when we crucify each other through gossip.

Date posted: 2002-11-04

In Praise of the Ordinary

Sometimes obedience to that imperative is what saves our sanity. There's a lot to be said for being a contented, little person, anchored in the rhythms of the ordinary.

Date posted: 2002-11-01

The Dream of Fewness

The dream of fewness is rooted in our wildest longings. It's a dream of heaven really, of beatific vision as sweet embrace. The ache of romance, perhaps more than anything else, propels those of us who aren't yet saints beyond ourselves, outwards, towards something beyond comfort and safety. It's a fire that also says: 'You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until the rest in you.'

Date posted: 2002-10-28

Living in a moral diaspora

Inside each of us there is a moral centre, a place where all that is most precious in us is rooted. It's this centre we call our truest self. ... If this spot is violated in a significant way, through major betrayal, sexual abuse, or other such soul-searing experience, the soul begins to unravel and we have the sensation of falling apart. Our moral centre is the glue that holds the soul together.

Date posted: 2002-10-21

The Eucharist as Touch

Something in that goes against the grain. Christ's relationship to the physical scandalized his contemporaries and is still hard for us to accept today. But it's also a wonderful part of Christianity. In the Eucharist, our skin gets touched.

Date posted: 2002-10-14

Polishing our stones

There are times when we can only live by hope, when what confronts us is so overwhelming, so huge, so utterly beyond our strength, that it's simply hopeless, or a joke, to try to muster any resources against it. Sometimes we need a magic wand, something supernatural and beyond us, to come and defeat what cannot be defeated. But that's child's fantasy! Or is it?

Date posted: 2002-10-07

Kathleen Norris -- An Augustine for our time

What we need today is for someone to do for us what Augustine did in his time, namely, help us to find a vocabulary for our faith that works for us. The faith, of course, always works, but the language we use to talk about it often doesn't. We need a new Augustine. One such person is Kathleen Norris.

Date posted: 2002-09-30

Amazing Grace

In the end, we need to forgive is God and that might be the hardest forgiveness of all. It's hard to accept that God loves everyone equally -- even our enemies, even those who hate us, even those who don't work as hard as we do, even those who reject duty for selfishness, and even those who give in to all the temptations we resist.

Date posted: 2002-09-22

Faults of the Parents in the Children

Sometimes when I look at my kids, I blush with a kind of shame because I see myself in their faults! I know exactly from where they get all of that! It's in their genes. I see my faults inside of them. The good thing is that, seeing this, triggers a real compassion in me. I want to hug them and apologize!

Date posted: 2002-09-15

Missionaries to Secularity

[T]he most complex and demanding missionary task in the world today is that of being missionaries within the culture of secularity. In the Western world, as we know, our churches do pretty well with those who walk through our doors on Sunday, but, and this is the problem, less and less people are walking through those doors. We seem to know what to do with people once they come to church but we no longer know how to get them there.

Date posted: 2002-09-08

The Language of Soul

The eternal truths that God has revealed need, in every age, a proper vocabulary to give them expression. They need the language of soul. That's not a language that's easy to learn, although it's the most natural language of all. Like Nouwen, we must work at it -- for the sake of our own children who lack a vocabulary for their faith.

Date posted: 2002-09-01

The Tale of Two Flights

Like Jesus, we should stand before noble duty and the endless conscriptive demands of living with others and say: 'Nobody takes my life from me - I give it over freely.' That's also true for seats on airplanes.

Date posted: 2002-08-26

The Illusion of Our Own Innocence

At the beginning of the Book of Revelations, John, purporting to speak for God, has this advice for us, at least for those of us who are beyond the bloom of youth: “I've seen how hard you work. I recognize your generosity and all the good work you do. But I have this against you - you have less love in you now than when you were young! Go back and look from where you have fallen!”

Date posted: 2002-08-19

Praying the Psalms

More and more we see criticism of the psalms as prayer (or the desire to sanitize them) because they speak of murder, revenge, anger, violence, war-making, and patriarchy. But anyone who would lift mind and heart to God without ever mentioning feelings of bitterness, jealousy, vengeance, hatred, and war, should write slogans for greeting-cards and not be anyone's spiritual advisor.

Date posted: 2002-08-12

Energy Meets Wisdom

Most of us are neither as old as John Paul II nor as full of life and colour as the youthful pilgrims who met with him. What is our job? To be both, pope and pilgrim, to do what the pope did, admire and direct youth, even as, like the youthful pilgrims, we humbly bring all that's robust and energetic inside us to the wells of wisdom to learn there some of the deeper secrets.

Date posted: 2002-08-05

Three Things for Conservatives to Ponder

Last week's column suggested three areas for liberal self-scrutiny. It's time for the flip-side. What three areas might conservatives ponder?

Date posted: 2002-07-29

Three things for Liberals to Ponder

What is the achilles heal within liberal Catholicism? I suggest three places where liberal Catholicism (Protestantism included) might want to do some self-scrutiny: On our failure, by and large, to inspire permanent, joyous religious commitment. Have we been too naive in hooking our moral star to liberal ideology in the secular world? Have we been too fundamentalistic in not appreciating or even condemning certain religious movements and practices because these offend our liberal sensitivities or remind us too much of our own religious past?

Date posted: 2002-07-22

Bewailing Our Virginity

We are made for the infinite and are, as John of the Cross says, caverns without a bottom, infinite canyons that nothing can ever fill in. With a depth and a capacity for the infinite, we shouldn't be surprised that we don't find all we need within the finite. We're over-charged for this life.

Date posted: 2002-07-14

Suicide: When Someone is Too-Bruised to Be Touched

A few days ago, I was asked to visit a family who had, just that day, lost their 19 year-old son to suicide. There isn't much one can offer by way of consolation, even faith consolation, at a moment like this, when everyone is in shock and the pain is so raw. What needs to be said about all of this: First of all, that suicide is a disease and the most misunderstood of all sicknesses.

Date posted: 2002-07-07

Taking Our Rightful Place with the Scheme of Things

What do we need to achieve to make us happy? What brings us peace and meaning? You get these for filling in that little piece of the big picture, that one wee atom, that is uniquely yours.

Date posted: 2002-07-02

The Right to Call Another to a Vocation

A couple of years ago, one of our Oblate provincials, in commenting about his struggle in trying to lead and animate a group of priests and brothers through a painful, dispirited time - lawsuits for sexual abuse, departures from religious life, aging personnel, community infighting, lack of people wanting to join our ranks, and the anger of some of those within our ranks - made this remark: "We would need a saint in a time like this!" How true! Our problem is not one of strategy and marketing, but of sanctity.

Date posted: 2002-06-28

On Sex And The Unsurrendered Life

If you were to take all of Jesus' teachings, all that's said about belief, morality, and piety in the gospel, and boil that down to a single precept, you could put it into one word: surrender. The gospel asks us to surrender. But to surrender what exactly?

Date posted: 2002-06-20

Carrying A Scandal

The Catholic church in North America today is undergoing a crisis of soul, perhaps the most severe one in its young history. Sex scandals among the clergy and the less-than-ideal way the bishops have, at least up to now, dealt with this, have left the church shaken, humbled, and humiliated. It's dark hour, a painful dark night of the soul.

Date posted: 2002-06-17

Moving Beyond "Our Little Rule"

Eventually we reach a point in the spiritual life where, precisely because we are proficient at being good and decent, we are invited, like the rich young man in the gospels, to give up our most-cherished comforts and securities and plunge into the unknown in a radically new way.

Date posted: 2002-06-10

Giving Up Our Need to Be Right

Jesus left us the Eucharist as the source of our unity. Sadly, often, it's the cause of our division, both among Christian denominations and within them.

Date posted: 2002-06-02

Ten Tensions to Carry

The thought of some of the greatest and most influential persons in history seems, at times, riddled with inconsistencies. Jesus, Augustine, Socrates, Aristotle, among others, appear at times to contradicting themselves. It's not always easy to see how everything squares with everything else in their teachings.

Date posted: 2002-05-26

From the house of fear to the house of love

We live in a world of division, hatred, and violence. One only has to watch the news to see this. Daily we see fear and hatred translated into violence and death all over the world. Inside our families, churches, and communities we see the problems of the world played out on the small-screen of our daily lives. Bitterness, suspicion, the sense of injustice, anger, jealousy, hatred, division, and subtle forms of violence eventually penetrate even our most intimate relationships... How do we remain free of fear when we there is so much anger around?

Date posted: 2002-05-19

God's Gender

God is ineffable. What this means is that everything we imagine, think, or say about God is, because of the very nature of God, highly inadequate, poor theology at best. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215), in fact, defined as dogma the fact that all language about God conceals more than it reveals and is more inaccurate than accurate. All language about God largely misses the mark.

Date posted: 2002-05-12

Where faith resides

Faith is manifest in our decisions, our commitments, and our life-choices, more than in any intellectual beliefs or passionate feelings. It shows itself in decisions, in choosing certain commitments and in remaining within them.

Date posted: 2002-05-06

On Envying the Amoral

It's one thing to be responsible and dutiful, it's quite another be grateful for living that way. The danger is that, like the older brother of the prodigal son, we end up doing the right thing and then becoming bitter about having to do it.

Date posted: 2002-04-28

A Rich Tradition of the Heart

One of the great complements to theology has been the Roman Catholic devotional tradition. This tradition doesn't trade on critical thinking, but on the romantic imagination. It aspires to inflame the heart. Admittedly, this is risky. Feelings can lead us in many directions, but faith-without-feeling is perhaps the greater danger. The heart also needs its due.

Date posted: 2002-04-21

On Hearing the Voice that Soothes

Inside each of us there is a deep, congenital restlessness. We are not restful beings who sometimes get restless, but restless beings who occasionally experience rest. Karl Rahner, I believe, had it right when he said that we do not have souls that get restless, but that our souls themselves are lonely caverns thirsting for the infinite, deep wells of restlessness that make us ache to sleep with the whole world and all that is beyond.

Date posted: 2002-04-15

The Gaze of Sheer Admiration

Happiness doesn't come from achieving great things, being the centre of attention, or being recognized for being exceptional in some way. Paradoxically, the near-reverse is true, real joy lies in being able to admire another, in focusing attention away from self, and in being able to enjoy the beauty and giftedness of others without trying to possess them.

Date posted: 2002-04-08

God's Resurrecting Power as Ultimate Truth

If we believe in the resurrection of Jesus, we can stare the empirical facts in the face, no matter how bad, and know that injustice, selfishness, violence, loneliness, chaos, and death are only an interim chapter in the story.

Date posted: 2002-04-02

The Cross as revealing the Inner Life of God (7)

Inside of God, as we can see from the cross, there is no bitterness, vengeance, loss of patience, or lack of graciousness (not a single trace). When the veil inside the temple is torn, when the side of Jesus is pierced, what we see, what flows out, is only forgiveness, patience, gentleness, understanding, and warm invitation.

Date posted: 2002-03-25

The Cross as revealing Christ's Descent into Hell (6)

What the cross of Christ reveals is that when we are so paralysed by fear and overcome by darkness that we can no longer help ourselves, when we have reached the stage where we can no longer open the door to let light and life in, God can still come through our locked doors, stand inside our fear and paralysis, and breathe out peace.

Date posted: 2002-03-18

The Cross as revealing God's Presence in the Poor (5)

In one of the Nazi death camps, a prisoner had escaped and, in retaliation, the Nazis took a young boy, hanged him publicly, and forced everyone to watch this horrific spectacle. As the young boy dangled on a rope in front of them, one man cursed bitterly: "Where is God now?" Another man answered: "There, on that rope. That's God!"

Date posted: 2002-03-10

The Cross as revealing the true cost of love (4)

We want to be saints, but we don't want to miss out on any sensation that sinners experience. We want fidelity in our marriages, but we want to flirt with every attractive person who comes round; we want to be good parents, but we don't want to make the sacrifice this demands, especially in terms of our careers; we want deep roots, but we don't want to forego the intoxication that comes with new stimulus; we want stable friendship, but we don't want duties or obligations that tie us down. In short, we want love, but not at the cost of "obedience unto death."

Date posted: 2002-03-03

The Cross as revealing the value of the Passion (3)

The great lesson is how we view the terminally ill, the severely handicapped, and the sick. There's a lesson too on how we might understand ourselves when we are ill, helpless, and in need of care from others. The cross teaches us that we, like Jesus, give as much to others in our passivities as in our activities.

Date posted: 2002-02-24

The Cross as revealing God's Unconditional Love (2)

Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, used to say that we understand the make-up of things best when we see them lying in pieces, shattered. In the brokenness we see the underlying structure. That is also true of love and faith. We see how they are made up when we see them fractured.

Date posted: 2002-02-17

The Cross of Christ as revealing the Non-Violence of God (1)

The brute fact of mortality also brings with it the realization that there will always be some areas of life where you will be all alone, alienated from others, separated by differences that seem, as the classical divorce formula puts it, irreconcilable.

Date posted: 2002-02-10

Loneliness and the Second-Half of Life

The brute fact of mortality also brings with it the realization that there will always be some areas of life where you will be all alone, alienated from others, separated by differences that seem, as the classical divorce formula puts it, irreconcilable.

Date posted: 2002-02-03

Sexuality and Creativity

Innate within the very concepts of love, sex, respect, and responsibility themselves, lies a deeper set of moral principles that are much less easy to name and codify. We learn these more by living morally than by studying anything. So how should we live so that our sexuality properly fuels our creativity?

Date posted: 2002-01-27

Mourning Our Inconsummation

Our faith needs to help us come to grips with the fact that we live and die in incompleteness. Being lonely, having always to wait, and finding ourselves ultimately sleeping alone is our human lot. We have to make peace with that. If we do, we will be generous and happy. If we don't, we will be selfish and demanding.

Date posted: 2002-01-20

The Empathic Gaze 0f God

In the face of our inadequacies, we must begin to see ourselves as God sees us, a child who cannot yet be fully responsible for his or her life. Then our shame can give way to tender compassion.

Date posted: 2002-01-12

Coping With the Imago Dei

There's a divine fire within each of us. If we link ourselves to it properly and connect it to the other world, it becomes godly energy, the source of all that's wonderful in life.

Date posted: 2002-01-02

Commandments For the Long Haul

As we begin a new year, filled with new hope and new resolutions, here are ten such commandments listed in this article that might serve us well as we walk the long road.

Date posted: 2002-01-01

Bridging the Unbridgeable Gap

How can the divine speak to us? How can God, who is infinitely beyond, touch us with divine tenderness in a way that we can understand?

Date posted: 2001-12-04

Giving Birth to God

The existence of God can't be empirically proven because God doesn't work that way. God doesn't appear in the world as the conclusion to a mathematical equation. God, as we know through the way Christ was born, comes into our lives at the end of a gestation process.

Date posted: 2001-12-03

Haunting Each Others' Dreams

St. Paul tells us that, in the great mystery of things, we are in a union with each other and with the world that is beyond what we form through the normal interaction of our everyday lives, where community and intimacy depend upon mutual physical presence, talk, touch, and embrace.

Date posted: 2001-12-02

The Cosmic Christ

This concept challenges the imagination, implying far, far more than we normally dare think. Among other things, it tells us that Christ lies not just at the root of spirituality and morality, but at the base of physics, biology, chemistry, and cosmology as well. This has many implications:

Date posted: 2001-11-30

Wrestling with God

In a poem, entitled, A Man Watching, Rainer Marie Rilke, suggests that it is healthy to wrestle with God because a defeat by the other world is better than a victory in this one, and that, while it is painful to be in the storm of one's life, it is perhaps far worse if the storm never shows up.

Date posted: 2001-11-29

Giving our deaths to our loved ones

Our deaths, like our lives, are either a source of blessing or frustration to those around us. Ultimately the choice is ours. The final task of life is to live in such a way that, when we die, our deaths, like our lives, sweeten rather than embitter the air.

Date posted: 2001-11-28

Praying for the Dead

By praying for the dead, we share with them the pain of adjusting to a new life. Part of that pain of adjustment (which classically Roman Catholics have called 'purgatory') is the pain of letting go of this life.

Date posted: 2001-11-27

In Praise of the Ordinary

There is much, much to be said for that seemingly dram routine. The rhythm of the ordinary is, in the end, the deepest wellsprings from which to draw joy and meaning.

Date posted: 2001-11-26

The Prayer of Helplessness

When we hurt all over, live in a shame we can't bear, and are on our knees because we're too weak to stand, we're in the perfect posture for prayer.

Date posted: 2001-11-25

A Child not fully grown

The intellectual disaffection with Christianity today is not bad. It's just unfinished. It needs to grow-up more and become cognizant and appreciative of the fact that the heritage that it has been so critical of is the very thing that has given it the freedom, insight, and self-confidence to speak all those words of criticism.

Date posted: 2001-11-24

Remaining in the Upper Room

Peter Maurin, the man who helped Dorothy Day found the CATHOLIC WORKER, used say: 'When you don't know what else to do, keep going to meetings!' Sound advice.

Date posted: 2001-11-23

God's Risk -- Our Freedom

Evil exists because God respects freedom, both in nature and in human beings. When we are confronted with the problem of evil in the world the conclusion we might draw is not that God doesn't exist or doesn't care, but rather that God respects and values freedom in a way that we don't.

Date posted: 2001-11-22

Practical Hope

Karl Rahner once defined hope this way: A woman sees the tiny rivulet of her life and fears that it might not mean anything, that it might die out completely. Yet she somehow still believes it will flow significantly into the great ocean, despite the immeasurably huge, dry sand-dunes it must cross to get to an ocean it cannot even see.

Date posted: 2001-11-21

And the whole world changed

And we are called to hope. We are a resilient people, with faith in the resurrection. Everything that is crucified eventually rises. There will be a morning after. The sun will shine again. We need to live our lives in the face of that, even in times of great tragedy.

Date posted: 2001-11-20

God Underneath -- A Priest's Diary

'God Underneath, Spiritual Memoirs of a Catholic Priest.' If you are a parent, struggling to explain your faith to your own children in a credible way, this book can help you; or, more basically, if you are a person who sometimes wonders why you yourself still believe in God and go to church, this can be a good book for you.

Date posted: 2001-11-19

Being Born from Above

Being born again is about seeds growing silently when nobody is watching, about unseen yeast leavening a batch of dough, and about an umbilical cord inside a dark womb supplying nutrients for an unknowing child to grow and be born. Gestation takes time. Growth works slowly. Life, whether in the body or in the spirit, has the same dynamics.

Date posted: 2001-11-18

Receiving our faith tradition

Thus religion is indeed a ligament, offering bondage and freedom, both at the same time.

Date posted: 2001-11-17

A Culture of Amazement

What is amazement? We are amazed (in the biblical sense) when we simply let energy flow through as a wire conducts an electrical current, when we simply take in the energy of the group around us or the energy that spontaneously arises within us and, without holding, carrying, or transforming it in any way, act on it and let it flow through us.

Date posted: 2001-11-16

Anxiety as the Opposite of Faith

The opposite of faith in scripture is not doubt but anxiety. To lack faith is not so much to have theoretical doubts about God's existence as it is to be anxious and fearful at a deep level.

Date posted: 2001-11-15

Real and False Humility

To hide our light under a bushel basket serves no one -- others, God, ourselves. That's precisely what Jesus warns us about in the parable of the talents. When God gives us a gift, God expects a certain return. To hide our talents, as the parable makes clear, is perilous to self and not very pleasing to the one who gave those gifts.

Date posted: 2001-11-13

Splitting the Inner Atom

Private morality and all that comes with it -- private prayer and the attempt to be honest and transparent in even the smallest and most secret of things -- is the core from which all morality takes its root.

Date posted: 2001-11-12

Our misunderstandings about Suicide

Our loved ones who have fallen victim to suicide are now joyous and whole, inside of God's embrace, where, as our faith assures us, all is well and every manner of being is well.

Date posted: 2001-11-11

On Naming the Present Moment

John of the Cross suggests that God's daily word is written inside of ordinary experience. Our task then is that of examining our own experiences and trying to name, by using images from scripture and our faith tradition, what God is saying to us inside these.

Date posted: 2001-11-10

On Not Committing the Original Sin

The original sin of Adam and Eve wasn't sexual, but it was an act of rape. They wrongfully took what was intended as gift. Our culture, which rewards aggressiveness and tells us that we are foolish not to take for ourselves the good things we want, too often invites us to do the same thing.

Date posted: 2001-11-09

A Parable of Grace

Their life together was not without its pain; but, as the years went by, their love grew and was deepened by the birth of their children.

Date posted: 2001-11-08

Moral Loneliness

Loneliness lies at the very centre of our lives. Feeling lonely, restless, and set apart isn't something we experience at the edges of our lives. It's a fire that burns at the heart. And this is true at every level of our being: body, psyche, soul, sexuality. We are perennially restless, driven, hungry, longing creatures, never perfectly in union with others.

Date posted: 2001-11-07

Beyond Ideology

Liberal and conservative are dysfunctional and that what is needed is a radicalism that takes us beyond the selective sympathies of both the right and the left. Such a radicalism can be found only in the gospel which is neither liberal or conservative but fully compassionate.

Date posted: 2001-11-06

Finding God in Community

The realities of dealing with each other in community, at the dinner-table, over a bottle of wine or an argument, not to mention the simple giving and receiving of hospitality are not a pure, secular experiences but the stuff of church, the place where the life of God flows through us.

Date posted: 2001-11-05

Praying for Pentecost

Every generation needs to experience pentecost for itself. It needs God's spirit and it needs it in its own particular way.

Date posted: 2001-11-04

The Mystery of the Ascension

The ascension, in essence, is the mystery that explains the transition between the earthly and the enduring presence of Jesus.

Date posted: 2001-11-03

The Mystical Body

To believe this is to be both consoled and challenged. Consoled, in knowing that we carry each other in love and union, across all distance, even through death. But challenged too in knowing that everything we do, be it ever so private, is either a bad virus or an healthy enzyme affecting the overall health of the body of Christ and the family of humanity.

Date posted: 2001-11-02

The Grace in Creativity

Creativity is not in the end about public recognition or outstanding achievement. It's about self-expression, about nurturing something into life, and about the satisfaction this brings with it.

Date posted: 2001-11-01

The McVeigh Execution

Th[e] execution [was] wrong, not because it [served] to make Timothy McVeigh a martyr in his own eyes, but because all killing is wrong, pure and simple.

Date posted: 2001-10-31

God's bosom, our self-understanding

The bosom of God is not a ghetto. Our hearts and loyalties need to mirror that. But they wouldn't unless, like Socrates and Teilhard, we understand ourselves first of all as cosmic, human, and communitarian and only after that define ourselves by our private stories.

Date posted: 2001-10-30

Praying Lauds and Vespers

One of the things asked of us by adulthood itself, and more especially by our baptism, is that we pray for others. Like the high priests of old, we need to offer up prayers daily for the whole world. But how do we do that?

Date posted: 2001-10-29

Living beyond our crucifixions

Ultimately that is what the resurrection challenges us to do, to go back to Galilee, to return to the dream, hope, and discipleship that had once inflamed us but that now is crucified.

Date posted: 2001-10-28

The Eucharist as Vigil

We should be on our knees washing each others' feet because that is precisely what Jesus did at the first Eucharist and he did it to teach us that the Eucharist is not a private act of devotion, meant to square our debts with God, but a call to and a grace for service.

Date posted: 2001-10-27

The Eucharist as washing each others' feet

We should be on our knees washing each others' feet because that is precisely what Jesus did at the first Eucharist and he did it to teach us that the Eucharist is not a private act of devotion, meant to square our debts with God, but a call to and a grace for service.

Date posted: 2001-10-26

The Eucharist as Reconciliation

According to Augustine, when we stand around the altar at the Eucharist as a community and sincerely pray the Lord's Prayer, any sins we have committed are forgiven.

Date posted: 2001-10-25

Eucharist as Sacrifice

A sacrifice is any act of selflessness, of self-denial, which helps someone else. For example, the mother who freely gives up her own dreams of achievement so that her children might have her needed presence during their critical, nascent years is making a sacrifice for her children. They will mature more fully and healthily because of it.

Date posted: 2001-10-24

Eucharist as the New Manna

A wise family will say to itself: "We will all be home at regular times, we will all eat together twice a day, and we will all be together in the living room at least once a day" even if it isn't exciting, even if real feelings aren't shared, even if some are bored, and even if some are protesting that this isn't worthwhile. We will do this because, if we don't, we will soon fall apart as a family. To stay together we need regular, straight-forward, predictable, daily rituals. We need the manna of daily presence to each other.

Date posted: 2001-10-23

The Eucharist as molding us into Community

One of our deepest, congenital longings is for community. But we come together, seeking each other, carrying huge differences: our wounds, our separate histories, our preoccupations, our sexual and emotional obsessions, our jealousies, our boredom, and (far too often) our cellular telephones.

Date posted: 2001-10-22

Eucharist as God's physical embrace

The child, tense and miserable, is clinging to his mother's leg. At that point, she knows what to do. She picks up the child. Touch, not word, is what's needed. In her arms, the child grows calm and tension leaves its body. That's an image for the Eucharist. We are that tense, over-wrought child. There comes a point, even with God, when words aren't enough. God has to pick us up, like a mother her child. Physical embrace is what's needed. Skin needs to be touched. God knows that. It's why Jesus gave us the Eucharist.

Date posted: 2001-10-21

Love of enemy as the text of orthodoxy

Virtually no Christian group has adopted Jesus' teaching on love of enemy as the critical test of orthodoxy. Yet Jesus issues four ringing commands: love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.

Date posted: 2001-10-20

Affective Prayer

But prayer is ultimately about love not insight. It is meant to establish friendship. Friendship, as we know, is not as much a question of having insight into each others' lives as it is of mutually touching each other in affection and understanding.

Date posted: 2001-10-19

The Tension between Theology and Piety

It is very important therefore that we recognize the importance and legitimacy of both, theology and piety. They aren't in opposition, but a healthy corrective of each other.

Date posted: 2001-10-18

In Praise of Silence

"There is nothing in the world that resembles God as much as silence." It's the language of heaven and it's already deep inside of us, beckoning us, inviting us to deeper intimacy with everything.

Date posted: 2001-10-17

Carrying Ecclesial Disprivilege

Transformative suffering works like a water filter. It takes the impurities out by absorbing and transforming them. Transformative understanding takes in bias, bitterness, curses, and offense and gives back understanding, graciousness, blessing, and forgiveness.

Date posted: 2001-10-16

From maintenance to missionary

Today we are better at dealing with someone already sitting in our church pews than we are at getting anyone there in the first place. Our churches are strong on maintenance, weak on being missionary.

Date posted: 2001-10-15

The Domestic Monastery

The different kinds of monasteries. Response to duty can monastic prayer, a needy hand can be a monastic bell, and working without status and power can constitute a withdrawal into a monastery where God can meet us. The domestic can be the monastic.

Date posted: 2001-10-14

Commandments For Making Friends

As we struggle to live out them out, it might be helpful if Moses again descended from that same mountain with two new tablets of stone, spelling out some rules for better befriending each other, God, life, and ourselves. Perhaps this second set of commandments might read like this:

Date posted: 2001-10-13

Sober Questions on a New Year's Eve

Living is not a simple business, not by a long shot, especially if one tries, at least occasionally, to take the road less travelled. To try believe in something beyond sight and understanding, to try to place one's trust in something beyond what one can secure, and to try to love in a way that doesn't just turn others into satellites of one's own orbit, generally raises more questions than it answers. Whoever said that life was simple wasn't doing us a favour.


Date posted: 2000-12-26

Advent: Curing Fire by Fire

Advent celebrates human longing. It asks us not to deny our longings but to enter them, deepen them, and widen them until we become insane enough for the light so that, like the butterfly, we open ourselves to undergo a metamorphosis.


Date posted: 2000-12-17

Impatient For An Emerging Butterfly

One of the motifs we celebrate in advent is the idea that the messiah must be born of a virgin. Why? Is sexuality somehow dirty? Is it beneath Jesus to be conceived and born in the normal way? Sometimes those, false, understandings have been put forth.

Date posted: 2000-12-12

Advent: Creating a space of Chastity

Chastity is 90% about proper waiting. It's for this reason that one of the rich metaphors of advent is that of preparing a virgin's womb so that the divine can be born in a proper way. Advent calls us to patience, patience in carrying the frustration that we suffer when we have to wait for what we desire.


Date posted: 2000-12-03

Advent: Preparing for the Sublime

The spirituality of advent is not about repentance, but about carrying tension without prematurely resolving it so that what's born in us and in our world does not short-circuit the fullness that comes from respecting love's rhythms.

Date posted: 2000-11-26

Culpable and Inculpable Ignorance

Looking at our world today, I would risk saying that in many important moral matters, we are acting in invincible ignorance. Simply put, we don't know any better. Only the type of ignorance that allowed sincere people to crucify Jesus can explain why so many good, sincere people can be so massively blind, communally and individually, to the economic and social demands made by our faith.


Date posted: 2000-11-19

Weeping in a valley of tears

It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness.

Date posted: 2000-11-12

How interesting is God?

Many of us struggle with prayer, both to take time to pray and then to be actually interested in God while we are praying. The problem is not just that we are restless and that prayer takes us away from other things, but also that we do not think that God is all that interesting.

Date posted: 2000-11-05

Being Present to God and Life

To prayer is not to try to make God present, but to make ourselves present to God. The secret to finding beauty and love in life is basically the same. Like God, they are already present. The trick is to make ourselves present to them.


Date posted: 2000-10-29

The Great Divorce - Energy from Wisdom

Time again, it would seem that the raw energy (colour, wit, beauty, health, intelligence, and eroticism) that drives our world does not come from the churches but from elsewhere. Hence we see a lot of energetic, colourful, healthy, witty, and beauty-filled life that is simply divorced from wisdom, that is, is cut off from all that holds the community together at its heart and from most of what helps us cope with the great questions of meaning, love, suffering, and death.


Date posted: 2000-10-22

The notion of suicide revisited

A couple of months ago, I wrote a column suggesting that we still have too many misconceptions about suicide. Among other things, I stated that many, perhaps most, people who die from suicide are, in the really meaning of those terms, not morally or otherwise responsible for their own deaths but are victims of a disease, not unlike cancer or heart failure. Suicide, understood in this way, is not the act of despair that it has too often been seen to be. Moreover, if this is true, then we need have no extra anxiety about the eternal salvation of those who are its victims.

Date posted: 2000-09-24

On not overreacting to Criticism

In much of North America and Western Europe, we live in an intellectual climate that is somewhat anti-church and anti-clerical. In intellectual circles it is fashionable today to bash both Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. In fact, this is done in the name of being open-minded, enlightened, and politically correct. It's the one bias that's intellectually sanctioned. Say something derogatory about any other group in society, and you will be brought to account; say something disparaging about the church, especially if you can work in the word "fundamentalism", and you will be rewarded with invitations to speak on university campuses. How serious is this? What's to be our response?


Date posted: 2000-09-16

Purgatory Revisited

Purgatory is the redemptive pain that follows falling in love, the pain of paschal purification. It is not a locale distinct from heaven, but the pain of entering heaven itself and, there, having to let go of all that prevents us from being there. In the ecstasy of embrace comes the agony of purification.

Date posted: 0000-00-00