Monthly Archives: September 2015

Unquiet Vigil

Stale prayer from
unreal depths–
depths I assume are mine–

are relieved by
real sleep,
that awakens me to my

real shallows where
prayer amounts to
almost nothing
or less.

Such an infinity where
almost nothing
dividing endlessly
never reaches

wherein are
real depths
not mine…

Be kind,
Myself, to myself, be kind.

A poem by the Trappist monk Brother Paul Quenon from the Abbey of Gethsemane, from a collection of his work ‘Unquiet Vigil’.  A book I purchased from the Benedictine bookstore at Assumption Abbey.  An email sent, for no particular reason:

I called and spoke with Brother Michael, the call sending tingles down my spine.  Demonstrating the vigor of the monastic life, Father Warren, the man who drove me to the airport, moving in experience as we never spoke during my stay, I learned more about.  I asked Brother Michael about Father Warren’s cancer, the severity.  He informed me four years ago Father Warren was given four to six months to live.  The monastic life is truly a preserver, and above personal invigoration the hidden life blood of the Church.  Through prayers and healthy, prospering living of the monastic life, the monks and nuns are able to provide the contemplative spirit our Holy Mother was able to provide through her life after the ascension of her Divine Son.  I have been deeply moved by the writing of Father Thomas Philippe recently.  He identifies this as Mary’s Eucharistic time of life, continuing life with her Son through the sacrament of the Eucharist.



The emergence of Christ

I was thinking about the idea of power within powerlessness, strength within surrendering.  A training idea brought forth by the Hospice of Western Reserve made an impression upon me, relatable through my experience with my father in his passing and incapacitating multi-year struggle with invalidity.  A patient suffers from a loss of control.  The words of Shakespeare pronounce with veracity: “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  Medical authorities impose upon the patient: regimenting schedule, activities, and even the most private of moments is intruded upon.  For many, familial support causes complications and a further loss of control, a complete intrusion of privacy.  Within the overwhelming reality of dying, the patient experiences a total lack of control.  Nothing they think or desire matters.  In spirit, they are rendered destitute and alone.  A basic necessity in establishing and maintaining mental vigor for the patient is to know they have control.  Some aspect of their life belongs solely to their thoughts and voice.  It was stressed this is where a volunteer can prove crucial.  If I walk into a room and the television is blaring, I should not assume control, even politely asking the patient if he could turn the TV down.  It just may be the patient feels so helpless, alone, and lacking control that the television being loud is their rebellion to everything happening to them.  It is spiritual.  Within the loneliness and overwhelming struggles of life we are rendered powerless, yet to the highest degree we possess the ultimate power of determining eternity.  It was a marvelous revelation as I sat being instructed in order to bring the Rosary to the Hospice of the Western Reserve.  A great gift I can offer the patient is a sense of empowerment; putting aside my intentions, judgments, and assumptions, while being fully present to their thoughts and needs.  Truly presenting Christ to them, not my interpretations, nor my perceived clever thoughts needing to define Christ.  Allow the patient to bring Christ into his heart, soul and mind himself.  Allow the patient to reveal his own faith, hope, and charity; to expand the virtues through his own efforts and spiritual exercises.  Simply and fully, be there in mind, body, and spirit, absolutely open and inviting, asking nothing from the patient.

It is most important that, when you choose to sacrifice yourself, you see the positive side of renunciation, rather than the negative.  Instead of speaking of annihilation of self, speak of the coming of Christ in you, the growing of Christ in you.  It is more uplifting and results in a devotion which is less tense and less vulnerable to pride, a devotion which is sunnier, more gracious and more understanding of others.  –Father Albert Peyriguere ‘Voice from the Desert’

Disciple of Charles de Foucauld

Disciple of Charles de Foucauld



Return to Toledo

I returned to Toledo for a day and evening visit. It was a bit depressing, revealing the stark reality there is really nothing in Toledo for me. My family is there, lovingly I visit, yet the roots planted in Cleveland are deeper in regards to permanency. North Dakota beckons, discernment advances. I spent last night with friends from the Collingwood Art Center, sharing a bonfire at the community garden located across the street. The Rosary Cathedral is just north of the location. To the west is the rehab I spent three months convalescing at, a quarter mile away the half-way house. All locations important in my formation, yet now distant. With the friends from the art center, we talked, observing an eclipse. Melancholy dominated my lost soul friends. I took photos, however once observing I decided to delete, a sense of gloom dominating. There was nothing to hang faith and hope upon, while providing a vast void in which to channel love.

I did not visit with my son. He was busy in Ann Arbor. I spoke with him and his mother, learning something that immensely lifted my heart. For the first time in his thirty years of life, he is dating a particular young lady. He assures me I will like her. He has been seeing her for over four months. He rarely dated, previous to this young lady never a specific one for extended time. A Sunday school teacher who lives on a farm, he expresses the fact he really likes her, that I will like her. His mother and I both worried about his romantic life. Successful in education and profession, he expressed the fact he experienced an emptiness regarding romantic feelings. He just did not feel drawn toward being with someone. I felt guilty as a father. I have been alone, never dating throughout his life. He never witnessed me in a loving relationship while struggling with life. Guilt and shame amassed regarding improper formation toward healthy male/female relationships. I worried that I never taught my son how to love a woman. Now to hear that he is dating, happy, pleased, mature, and secure in his approach with this Christian young lady lifts my heart as few things can. God is good and giving. I feel humbled and blessed.



Sunday reflection

Hospice of the Western Reserve centralizes as a priority.  Yesterday after eight hours of training, I walked the grounds taking photographs.  Standing upon the concrete lakeside walkway, I observed the building, noticing upper floor windows containing stained glass windows I perceived as Catholic in nature.  I do not recall exact details, a dove hovering, the Holy Spirit presented within an image.  I did not give it much consideration.  Then this morning before mass at St Paul Shrine I encountered John, an amateur photographer, a retired school teacher, a college acquaintance of Susan Muto at Duquesne, a local historian always enlightening with his knowledge of Cleveland’s past.  John came to life when I told him of my excitement to begin working with the Hospice of the Western Reserve.  John started his teaching career at St Joseph high school.  I noticed the high school next to the hospice.  Its football field directly adjacent to the property.  From 1961 to 1964 John taught at St Joseph’s, once one of the largest schools in Ohio, hosting over two thousand students during his short tenure.  He told me the building sits on property that once housed the Marianist priest conducting matters at St Joseph’s High School.  He said the building housing the priest was torn down in order to build the David Simpson Hospice House so I am not sure regarding exact details, and the window I thought I saw relating matters to the Holy Spirit and Catholicism.  It does not matter.  I like mystery, when things touch, yet really do not come together, allowing incongruity rather than perceived tangibility, a lacking of definitude, avoiding signs pronouncing preciseness, imaginary perfection never allowed to tantalize or pervert.  Two thoughts teased my imagination while listening to John detail St Joseph’s high school and the Marian priest once populating.  The first was the fact I focused upon prayers to St Joseph during the training.  The second was reading the biography of St Peter Eymard and his Marianist priest background.  Neither amount to anything of consequence, best dismissed regarding serious discernment.

I would like to cover something striking regarding the life of St Eymard.  I found it revealing to consider the difficulties St Eymard created between himself and his sisters early in his priesthood.  His two sisters were extremely close to him, caring for him as he was a sickly young man.  His poor health produced lengthy periods of being invalid.  During one of these debilitating bouts, St Eymard mastered the violin.  His sisters cared for him throughout his difficult days of sickness.  During his first priestly duties with the parish of Monteynard, his sisters proved invaluable as laborers; reviving and decorating their brother’s dilapidated church.  I think it is important to understand their family background: their father’s horrible experience with death, losing nine children and one wife.  The children losing their mother.  In love and worship of God, there was a strong family bond, dependency between brother and sisters associated with an awareness of life and death—of extreme loss.  St Eymard, through the Holy Spirit, accomplished marvels at Monteynard.  The people responded, becoming reliant upon their priest.  St Eymard felt the calling to move beyond the assignment.  He discerned the defiance he would encounter trying to reason with the congregation and his sisters that God called him to leave the church.  St Eymard worked out the leaving with the Bishop, arraigning a musical concert for a Sunday afternoon, allowing him to sneak away undetected.  His sister were devastated.  The parish was outraged, demanding that the Bishop return their priest.  St Eymard sisters were so heartbroken and hurt they would not forgive their brother. His parting with no consultation they could not accept. Their tears immense within their anger.  Their refusal to answer his letters lasted for years.  St Eymard, responding to the call of God, a call that would move him to sainthood, crushed his sisters in the process, scarring their already deeply scarred hearts.  It would not be the first time he caused great turmoil.  I will quote Father Pelletier in relating another complicated St Eymard experience:

He (St Eymard) was so enthused about the spiritual progress of the members of the Third Order of Mary that he requested official approval from Rome for the group.  Pope Pius IX granted official approbation for the Third Order.  Eymard was understandably elated at the news but greatly embarrassed when he presented a fait accompli to Fr Colin, the Superior General, who was furious at Emayrd’s “initiative” in procuring Papal approval without his knowledge or authorization. What often seemed to Father Emyard as mere initiative or simple enthusiasm was regularly interpreted as impulsive behavior by others.  However, this time he had unquestionably overstepped the bounds of propriety.  Consequently, the incident nearly destroyed his relationship with the Superior General.


An impulsive saint whose actions to follow the percieved will of God insulted good people of faith.  Interesting.  Not sure why, yet the fact appeared important.  I want to go back to the Hospice of Western Reserve in regards to my six month discernment process.  Yesterday during the training, the day attained a depth I could not deny, a seriousness to my attendance manifesting.  There were many indicative moments, an overall ease about my interactions, a natural two-way attraction developing between myself, administrators and other volunteers.  I was quiet throughout the day, only speaking once voluntarily, while constantly vigilant and present to proceedings.  Midway through the day, the fifteen or so volunteers in training were asked to introduce ourselves, telling something about ourselves.  I found my moment of speaking distinct. I told of being spiritually directed through an experience at St Paschal Baylon, associating everything to the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.  I said other things.  A fearful public speaker, I was proud my words and disposition flowed with ease and comfort.  My eyes moved about, at one point touching and addressing one of the administrators.  It was unpremeditated, arising naturally and confident.  The woman I identified as tough, a detail oriented by the book nurse.  She never steered away from seriousness, while addressing carefully her words and responses from others, correcting and confronting volunteers regarding casual statements.  It was obvious the woman demanded accountability, determined to test individuals proneness to sensitivity and delusions of being beyond reproach.  I like an individual willing to disagree with others, not allowing others to assume a tone of familiarity with her.  Addressing diversity, she touched upon Roman Catholicism, identifying the fact it happen to be her belief system.  Verbally introducing myself, I found strength and support in directing chosen words directly to her, stating I appreciated the team concept, the emphasis upon communication.  Her nod of approval to my eye contact and words surprised me.  The point I identified was one she relentlessly pursued.  Volunteers were to understand they were a part of a team.  Volunteers were not to take matters upon themselves.  Under no conditions, within personally overwhelming conditions, they were to rely upon a team approach, even to the point volunteers were not to give their phone numbers to patients.  If calling a patient dialing *67 first so their number remained private.  The patient does not contact the volunteer directly.  Overall, I realize I have no experience in health care.  Through my eye contact, unspoken reposing upon a Catholic bond, I brought the administrator into the awareness of my nativity and need of authoritative support.  It all aligns splendidly with respect for Catholic hierarchy.  I know I have much to offer, yet my offerings must be open to the guidance of professionals seasoned in the serious care of the dying.  My offering is the Rosary.  My love and devotion to the Rosary is immense.  I simply want to share the Rosary.  That is my intent.  Let us see what God intends.  I want to end this post.  I would like to end with words from Ann of all people.  Blessings from Father Roger were immense.  I was surprised and moved to receive sincere blessings from Ann.

Hospice of the Western Reserve is the #1 hospice in Ohio owned by Cleveland Clinic Foundation. You are lucky to be a part of that organization and its pagan roots. They need you very much there to bring some kind of Godliness to the empty and dying. This is a true vocation. Ministering to the dying has no equal as they are on the precipice of heaven and hell. They are in a place where they are scared because they have lived their life one way and they don’t know how to change it. You can really help them by being there and guiding them to heaven. 


Big Water Vocation

I long to be there and to be quiet.
One can fill one’s soul with Christ only by being quiet
From time to time.
But will I find silence?
A whole crowd will rush at me,
Clamoring for me,
Little hounds and full chase.
But never mind.
Even then it will be living Christ
And not talking about Him,
Living His kindness,
His weariness,
His infinite compassion for souls,
I will find Christ where He is for me.
He does indeed ask of me the greatest sacrifice,
I am a contemplative by vocation,
By inclination.
In actuality, I cannot be a contemplative.
I shall never be able to be a contemplative.
As a monk, yes, I am a contemplative.
But since I am myself a whole community,
A whole congregation,
I am the brother doorkeeper,
The brother orderly,
The brother cook,
The brother Gardner,
So how can I be a contemplative?
But the point is to let Christ live
The kind of life on earth that He has chosen to live.

Father Albert Peyriguere ‘Voice from the Desert’

Lake Erie from the Hospice of the Western Reserve.

Lake Erie from the Hospice of the Western Reserve.


Mary’s Viaticum

I am intrigued by the Hospice of Western Reserve volunteer training. It will be all day training, allowing a full social endeavor. I did a satellite view of their property, pleasantly surprised to discover the facility residing lakeside. I have been wanting photos of Lake Erie, convinced the wide open spaces of the immense fresh lake will complement photos of North Dakota landscapes. The Sorrowful Mother Shrine added splendid wooded forest to my photo assemblage. I would like to get back to Our Lady of the Pines, capturing the amazing array of flourishing pine trees. I will spend Sunday with Carol, returning to the Sorrowful Mother Shrine. I have not done anything with Carol in weeks, and the opportunity to spend a day with her provides pleasantry. I am hoping Mary will come along, however she is not committing to plans. Joseph, the Hungarian, has been missing in action lately, and rumors abound that Juanita is plying him into a marriage proposal. I look forward to hearing the story straight from Joseph.  His stories are always filled with adventure and a zest for life. It is pleasant to have social friends centered upon the Church. Mary is the only one I truly elevate to a contemplative comrade, although in value that means nothing. In sharing, it provides someone to discuss spiritual direction, a give and take exchange. She appears a bit crazy, homeless and neglecting, yet in one-on-one discussion she is profound, and most important in prayer she absolutely disappears. Her prayer life is stout, exercised through adoration, allowing stillness and quietness to color her disposition and soul. There is nowhere Mary would rather be than sitting before the Eucharist. Sunday, she spoke to me of being upset due to the fact several women during coffee at St Paul Shrine were laughing at her expense, whispering in her presence. I assured her within the Church she should never feel insecure, amongst those shallow in pursuit she owed no credence. She is a woman who answers to God, and though the words are easy to say, I know it is upsetting for her to feel she is being mocked. Strong in faith, fearless in spiritual direction, she is still sensitive to the tongue of others. The more confidence I attain, through humility and the reaping of spiritual succors, aligned with the devastation of a wounded heart, unrequited solaces directed toward proper consolation, structure and sense, an ending with dignity allied with the Church absent, the more capable I become in regards to conflict, the protection of my spiritual life. Mary need fear nothing in my presence. During this six month discernment, she is essential as a spiritual comrade.

During the last phase of her life, not only was Mary’s charity fully developed, but her faith also had its supreme exercise. She had to believe not only in the divinity of Jesus, as when he was physically present, but also in his humanity in the Eucharist. Moreover, there was a painful gap between her faith and her charity. Mary loved Jesus, her God, with a mother’s love. “The Divine Mother”, the saints have dared to call her. And her motherhood did not end on earth; she was predestined to remain his mother in glory. Deprived of the physical presence of Jesus, she was plunged more deeply than ever before into the darkness of faith. This made her the poorest, the most mendicant of all the saints. Her need for Jesus and the Eucharist was almost physical; the Eucharist was a true viaticum enabling her to go on living. –Father Thomas Philippe ‘The Contemplative Life’



Passing beyond one’s efforts

I have noticed my reading has centered upon a French spirituality. Father Thomas Philippe amazes, stunning in relevancy, broadening and deepening contemplative ideas. I am also completing a St Paschal Baylon Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament priest’s biography on St Peter Julian Eymard. Then there is the comical desert tramp Charles de Foucald, always ripe for the pleasing. Another Frenchman, another Sahara desert dweller, I also discovered while in North Dakota, Father Albert Peyriguere, a devotee of Foucauld. Father Peyriguere’s writing is in the tradition of two French religious, St Francis de Sales and St Jane de Chantal, that is spiritual direction through the exchanging of letters. The poignancy of Father Peyriguere’s writing is his ability, similar to Father Philippe, in advancing contemplative ideals beyond the idealistic. He pulverizes concepts while actively pursuing his individual path through the directing of another. Demonstrating the contemplative life is not a matter of knowledge, nor a silly self-consumed game of superior and inferior, a need to surround one’s self with weakness in order to feel comfortable in spiritual preeminence. The contemplative life is not a game, an intellectual pursuit, nor a social activity. The only way properly done, it is not of our doing. A deeper introspective spiritual life is more than learning concepts espoused by saints. It is more than articulating phenomenal spiritual acumen. I will quote my own writing, words from a young man: Damn this random effort and too many books. It is time to throw away your books, and all your puerile words you thrust at others as if they were daggers, sharpened for stabbing, victory for attaining. Quit vomiting all over yourself, and leave others alone. And what about the writing you do manage to accomplish, you treat every word with such a reverence…it’s disgusting…and the truths you do manage to conclude through reasoning…well, I never. I do not understand this behavior, as a matter of fact I find it despicable. You are an intellectual old man while not advancing and that is a stagnating state. Let go, unlearn, release and unwind, slowdown in order to be like a child. I’ll tell you what to do, interiorly evolve to the point you are able to smash your conclusions, affirm a reality, a truth if you need to call it that, and then be done with it and throw it aside. Avoid dwelling upon your conclusions for you will only warp reality into your personal perversion. Through the centuries, the world has been polluted enough. Ideas like the dark night of the soul, detachment, abandonment, contemplation, meditation become absurd in spiritual fantasy, minds scheming and dreaming attain an absurd status within imaginary perfection. Father Peyriguere, advising a seasoned nun, is acute in penetrating through a dedicated spiritual life failing in regards to advancement exceeding decades of practice.

What pleasure you gave me when you wrote that your life is “simplified”, calmed and illumined.” It was so complicated, so involved, so tense and tormented, so befogged with book learning. But we cannot stop struggling when deep within us there remains a bit of ourselves; or, to put it another way, since we must never look at ourselves even to deny ourselves, as long as we are not solely Christ. But you may still be looking for Christ outside of yourself, far from you, as for someone you want to draw towards you.

You are still trying to go to Christ in two stages: 1) You leave yourself, displeased with self, disapproving of and denying self. 2) You try to bring Christ in.

Proper means of unification: 1) You empty yourself. 2) You let Christ fill the void.

This is still too complicated. The trouble with this system is that in the long run, by being continually confronted with our faults and failings, we may grow tired and depressed and, at the same time we may minimize the part played by Christ in us, it is our doing, when really we had nothing to do with it.

Christ is not captured, is not conquered. We allow Him to come in and expose ourselves to Him. We do not take possession of Him, He he takes possession of us. –Father Albert Peyriguere ‘Voice from the Desert’


Final note. Speaking of not doing things myself, I am recognizing it as a good thing, yet my new employment does not allow internet access while working, plus we stay constantly busy. I love being challenged at work, continually on the go or learning. Labor makes for a prosperous spiritual life, humbling and demanding accountability. My telephone service is minimal while in the building, internet accessibility nulled. I will only be making post first thing in the morning during work days. Tomorrow, a slow time in coming—to me a sign of the workings of God, I will finally attend training for the Hospice of Western Reserve, eight hours in commencing. Something within the happening soothes interiorly.