Monthly Archives: October 2015

Reconsidering scrupulosity

I eat my lunch, big meal of the day before work, at St Paul Shrine, after mass, a Rosary, and adoration. While eating, I have lately been having wonderful discussions with the zany nervous and obsessive mother of fourteen sons and daughters, the one whose beautiful daughter and grandchildren were so special for me the other week. During work today, thoughts occurred regarding the woman I knew I wanted to post. The woman confesses continually. She is so scrupulous it makes her sick. Scrupulosity is her greatest downfall she declares. Contemplating, I determined she is wrong. Without a doubt she is scrupulous, overly concerned about the tiniest details, overthinking every situation, however her scrupulosity is turned in upon herself. Her demands are interior, focused upon her perfection. She will stammer on and on about her faults, her failings troubling her greatly. She is sincere and authentic in her self-diagnosis, absolutely not utilizing dramatics driven by false humility. Her convictions are strong, lacking no ulterior hidden motives.

Here is an imitation of words she might spout: “Ohh, I am so prideful I should be ashamed to even be speaking to you. I spend the vast majority of my time running around for my grandchildren, and all I can do is think to myself how great I am for helping my children so much. There I go and do good things, only to ruin them with my nauseating pride. I’ll be walking to my car thinking about nothing but what a great person I am. That’s how I am. Give me any reason to be prideful and sure enough I will think I am the cat’s pajamas. Instead of thanking God for all the good things in my life, when I am alone: I worry, becoming anxious and crazy, filled with fear, thinking ohh God what is the matter with me, I am not grateful for anything, all I can do is worry and find fault in the world, trying to use all my devotion to You God as a wedge, trying to ply favor from You because I am sure I give more to You than others. I even ruin all my devotion to You, God, and my attending of daily mass by allowing my efforts to make me think I am something special. I do some religious reading, only to think I am the smartest person ever to breathe. That is how I am. I must make God so angry. I am a mess when I am home alone, fretting and worrying about everything—should I do this for this child, or that for the oldest child—completely discombobulated on what to do with myself, filled with fear and anxiety. Then I realize what I am doing, thinking all these terrible unholy thoughts, which then only makes me petrified by the fact I am so scrupulous, over-thinking everything about the spiritual life. When I should be joyful, I am only a nervous wreck. That’s about the time, I start pacing around my home understanding I am pretty crazy. Ohhh no, now look at me talking crazy to you. I can’t keep my mouth shut. I talk and talk and talk. I have to seek out father and see if he will grant me a confession for being unable to tame my tongue.” Then she might grow quiet, looking helpless, painfully stricken by her faults, more than a bit crazy in appearance, unequivocally adorable to me.

I have determined her scrupulosity is rare. Others suffering from the ailment focus their insight and attention upon others, criticizing brothers and sisters, the world and the Church. Their obsessive attention to detail, their overt concern with righteousness, is used to batter people, to rattle the Church, to be politically right, or war against the secular world. Their scrupulosity garners them control, personally empowering them to rule over even the hierarchy of the Church.  Being right means everything.  Exteriorly self-righteous, they scrutinize and judge the tiniest and largest infractions of the world, creating division and judgement, seeking the end of the world, not even granting immunity to the Church. They are obedient to none, or possibly a select few honoring their scrupulosity as holiness, creating superior circles of social interacting. A dialog line came to mind, the strangest of sources and situations, a line from the movie ‘Silence of the Lambs’, when Clarise Starling defends herself from the intensely personal attack by the insane Dr. Hannibal Lecter. She says to her imprisoned irrefutably confident antagonist: You see a lot don’t you doctor. Why don’t you turn that high-powered perception at yourself and tell us what you see, or, maybe you’re afraid to.

Anyway, I just wanted to present the idea that scrupulosity can be an interior or exterior shortcoming.  My friend from St Paul Shrine, I am convinced, is unique in being so interior with her harshness, while also being so kind to the world, never saying anything negative about anyone, never for a second would she dream of criticizing the Church.  I adore the mother of fourteen.  She never fails to bring a smile to my face.  Tomorrow, I will gift her my Teresa of Avila Spanish television mini-series.  I thoroughly enjoy listening to her ramble on and on, mostly informing me about her faults. I have also noticed something slightly odd. She has beautiful brown hair, granting the pleasant impression she was an attractive woman in her younger days.

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A Spanish Gentleman

Last name a figure of imagination,
A foreign man in an old hat and wool overcoat,
A gentleman from days gone past,
A black and white photograph reminds,
An appearance resemblance,
Loneliness apart of being set apart,
Something about you always made me want to cry,
I liked the feeling, growing warm every time,
That oversized four-door lumbered down our drive,
A De Soto, foreign to time in every regard,
Manuel, European pronunciation dignified,
Man well,
Distinguished, intelligent beyond words,
Things were said about you,
Behind closed doors,
Behind your back,
I never understood my mother’s wrath,
A poet, a rebel, a dreamer, an irresponsible crazy man, a drinker,
Our Holy Mother, I recall you loved,
A statue held in a way I never saw others adore,
You knew how to love,
A presence and knowing within every breath,
A reticent silence held tight in embrace,
You knew something others did not,
And therefore said nothing,
You sat and spoke with adults yet were always alone,
Others could not reach you,
You played different games,
Authentic, genuine, sincere,
Porch sitting, you spent time with me alone,
Did you sense my captivation?
Did you comprehend how enamored I was?
Were we brothers of a kind?
I never understood being nothing special as a child,
Yet you would find me worth knowing,
Sitting upon the steps saying nothing,
Your arm around my shoulder,
A lack of words penetrated deeply,
Soul stirring, inviting,
I cannot even recall what we spoke about,
Children’s songs chiming, sounding a call for treats,
Buying ice cream from an ice cream truck,
Did you know I possessed a secret fascination?
Thoughts running in my head when we sat alone,
I would wonder, imagine, clearly focusing upon fantasy,
Your story?
Your pain and suffering?
Your loves and joys?
I knew you were a Spanish Armada sailor,
Jumping from a war ship put out to sea,
Swimming to the shore of a new land,
An exile in New York City,
Arrested, seeking asylum,
What an adventure,
An artistic rebel, a spiritual man of rejection,
An operatic soprano swimming,
What were you thinking as you swam away?
What made you so brave?
A grand eternal escaping,
Where was your family?
Where was your poetry?
Unspoken words remained,
Dancing upon the mind of a boy wandering afar,
I wanted to know you,
My mother did not like you,
My father invited,
Why did she oppose a fellow countryman?
Why did she raise her voice at the sound of your name?
Then one day, growing older,
I realized you were gone, visits ceasing,
Imploring, I mentioned your name,
Revealing, I missed your De Soto,
Angrily responding, my mother told me to forget you,
Demanding clarity: you were crazy,
You were no good,
Goodness was all I sensed within you,
A longing, a yearning, an opening,
Something was wrong,
Something was beating upon the other side,
The light from the sun reflects upon the moon,
Years passing the sound of your name,
Your death, a funeral, my father speaking,
I knew tears, crying wanting to see you,
Needing to be alone,
I worried no one would come to your burial,
I knew you were alone,
A life apart, death imparts realities,
A first turning, seeking my Holy Mother,
Praying, Mary please, Mary please, Mary please,
Be with Manuel, he is alone,
I felt helpless, needing to do something,
Childhood dying, Mary please,
He loved you like no other I know,
Misunderstood, he is a poet, a man weary from life,
Help a dreamer wake to eternal life,
Mary please know his heart,
Be with him in death.

Manuel

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Ridiculous

I met with one of the training administrators from the Hospice of the Western Reserve.  She instantly lifted my spirits.  It was such a pleasure to see her.  Humbly, I felt she felt the same.  There is such an overwhelming sense, I belong there.  Okay Lord, we both realize I utterly failed in my time of waiting.  Please, let us not dwell upon the fact, instead moving forward.  I am confident about direction, comprehending I need the guidance and wisdom of the hospice administrators. Left to my own devices I tend to fall apart a bit, or a lot.  The point was clearly demonstrated.  Thanks for the lesson and insight into myself.  I marvel at how much a five minute discussion changed everything, inspiring and elevating.  All glory to God. I just received the call from my organizer, interview scheduled for Wednesday, final preparations before everything is set into motion. Once again, all glory to God. Lord, let me not forget the helping hands you provide. As Father Vann teaches: We are like children stumbling in the dark, and if God in His tenderness gives us another of His children to accompany and comfort and help us, we must cherish the gift more than all riches, but we must know the heaviness of our responsibility; we must be always at pains to keep it in God’s sight and God’s care.

Guardian Angel-01

During mass, and confession before, the reality of a goodness was exposed, self-knowledge attained. Last week was truly a dark week for me, a period of blackness. Yet overall, it was not devastating. My past is proof of sheer madness in terms of failure. Last week, God allowed a necessary refining. I was humbled. I learned about myself, identifying weaknesses. Enough said. With God at my side, under the tutelage of others, my mission begins. Tomorrow, I play basketball, waiting with patience and joy. I am pleased with the excitement the Hospice places in my life. It is a satisfied knowing God is working in my life.

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Kaos and Divine Love

The love of material things can be merely greed and possessiveness, the lust for pleasure, profit, or power; but the love of human beings can be these things also, and then it is not real love at all, although, we may deceive ourselves into thinking it to be. Because of our selfishness, to love in this real and deep sense is not an easy thing, not something given, but a hard thing, a thing that we have to learn, to create. First, to love God, then to love others as coming from Him; as given to us by Him, as His other children, this is what we must learn if we are really to love. Here more than anywhere, greed and possessiveness turn beauty into ugliness and light into darkness.

For a human being is more valuable than all the things that the world contains put together…We are like children stumbling in the dark, and if God in His tenderness gives us another of His children to accompany and comfort and help us, we must cherish the gift more than all riches, but we must know the heaviness of our responsibility; we must be always at pains to keep it in God’s sight and God’s care. –Father Gerald Vann ‘’Mary’s Answer for Our Troubled Times’

The Sicilian movie ‘Kaos’, by the Taviani brothers, I watched last night swept me away with the most breath taking scenery, capturing the grandeur of Sicily gorgeously. The aerial scenes, shot from a helicopter, must be witnessed to be believed. The five simple, often bewildering stories, involving the turn of the century Sicilians occur within the most majestic of natural settings: mountains, ancient ruins, sumptuous valleys and rocky peaks, gardens, animals: flying birds, cattle, horses, sheep, cats and dogs, the sea, the reflecting moon hovering, and the scene I posted yesterday: a pumice beach of white wonder all encapsulate the characters, who for the most part are so caught up in their personal dilemmas they seem oblivious to the splendors of God’s creation and existence. Although the children on the beach, amidst fleeing from revolutionaries with their mother, escape into the finery of the world—losing themselves to the mystery of the beach and sea, and also a baby lovingly captivated by the moon. For the most part, the adults never seem aware of their surrounding beauty. In fact, one of the stories involves the moon continuously driving a man crazy when it is full in appearance. The Sicilian adults trend toward insanity.  In the quote above, Father Gerald Vann teaches that beyond creation brother and sister are to be cherished above all things, and that proper love is a difficult matter to accomplish. It coalesces with my disillusionment with Cleveland. Last night the experiencing of the wonderful Italian movie allows a clear demonstration of my feelings and the depth of Father Vann’s words, many things recently point in such a direction, making serious demands.

The Taviani brother’s movie was over three hours long. During the second and third story, the Cinematheque gave the audience an intermission, a chance to stretch your legs and use the restroom. There was a man sitting in front of me, to my left, about four or five rows toward the screen. I paid him no special attention. While relaxing in the lobby, observing information for upcoming films–in November they will be conducting a retrospective of a favorite German filmmaker Wim Wenders–the man captured my attention. Instantly, I knew there was something wrong with him. I wanted to go to him immediately, without registering facts. His walk was severely crippled. He seemed in pain, mentally deranged. Physically and mentally, the man suffered. I wondered what he was doing going out alone. As he awkwardly made his way past me, his white outfit made it obvious that he soiled himself. His pants were a mess. Troubled, I was heartbroken, not knowing what to do. The others standing around paid no attention. No one noticed. Panic struck a bit. I felt I must say something to someone, yet looking around I saw no one I felt could really be of service. The man in charge of the Cinematheque, I admire, distantly knowing he is Catholic, his wife a devout proponent of the Rosary. I wanted to speak to him, however he was not to be found. The crippled stained man emerged from the bathroom, making his way, back into the theater as if everything was fine. I observed him, trying to catch his eye, giving him all my attention, however he simply walked past me. I made my way to my seat, moving past the man, seating myself, a little startled to observe the man now move directly in front of me, approximately six seats to my left. The stunning epic film of natural beauty and human displaying continued, my viewing now deepened with the reality of the awful condition of the man closest to me. The theater is brand new, incredible in comfort and cost, and I could only feel disheartened, knowing I must make proper authorities aware of the need to give the seat attention. There was no one to speak to after the movie, and since I felt the need to follow the man to his car, unable to speak to him, his oblivious nature, his determination to make his way to his car kept me distant. I am not sure why, a fear, a lack of confidence, I could not find the wherewithal to inquire whether he was okay. Watching the cripple’s car drive away, I felt weak, wondering about the man: his life, his hopes, his dreams.

Concluding the weekend of concentrated personal time, something significant presented itself watching the movie with the cripple in his filthy condition. Just as the previous weekend, my time with the oldest priest in the Cleveland diocese, Father Reymann, established significance. God was showing me something on both occasions. The cripple represented a brokenness I am deeply sensing within Cleveland. I am convinced we cannot live in a major American city right now and not be overwhelmed by brokenness and violence. Forget urban renewal, these are truly troubled times. Recently, my bicycle was stolen. The violence and confrontational nature of the city cannot be denied. I live in an urban area diverse in culture and economic status. Walking in the park yesterday, three young black men stared me down while walking past me in an absolutely intentional effort to intimidate. Fearless, I could only feel pity faced with such uncalled for aggressiveness, the obvious imposition of violence, such a juvenile intentionally offensive mindset disheartened rather than angered.

Mixing in with all of this, during the fundraiser for St Paul Shrine, actually before the auction, music, and brunch, I learned that a man whose company I enjoy, a fellow electrician, is now apparently stricken with terminal cancer. I have missed him, asking others where he has been, only to be hit with the most solemn of news. I spoke to his wife, insisting she communicate to him that I want to visit with him, to speak with him. We talk sports, and share a bond as electrician. I feel troubled. The Hospice plays in within all this trouble I sense surrounding me within Cleveland, yet they are not communicating. Am I to interpret, God that you ask me to flee from the sickness and trouble existing within the city? If I hear nothing from the Hospice, should I flee to the innocence and wide open spaces of North Dakota? You, Most Holy of Fathers, are all-knowing, please be of service. I am not that strong, feeling the need to flee, feeling more than bit overwhelmed and harassed by the city lately. There are times–and if one does not perceive such agitation from a modern large American city, one is not properly perceiving or being honest with one’s self—anymore, the city seems to be closing in and collapsing upon me. God, should I flee to the sanctity, soundness, and security of Assumption Abbey?

Also yesterday, a gentleman I invited, hosting his appearance, at the St Paul Shrine fundraiser startled me, making me suffer intense compassion. He is a remarkable man in certain ways, yet also oddly different in a unique way. Wandering through the silent auction, excited with the social buzz of the event, I made my way to the restroom. Walking into the men’s restroom, there was the man standing with his pants to the floor, utilizing the urinal. I never witnessed anyone use the urinal in such a manner, internally question what in the world was he doing. I stopped myself from thinking, as he turned to me saying in the kindest manner, ‘Hello James’. I dismissed the awkwardness of the moment, trusting the righteousness of the man, not allowing my thoughts to speculate what he was doing, allowing him the privacy to depart unquestioned. There was another man attending. I am familiar with him through the monthly Rosary at the Berea bookstore Tilma. The man breaks my heart with his awkwardness. His overt shyness and feminine nature, a persona that others recoil from while he devoutly dedicates himself to the church, instantly makes me befriend him. The man is utterly lost amongst his brothers and sisters. My Filipino friend also attended, and her appearance always touches me deeply with compassion as her sanity borders. Another Filipino woman sitting at our table, I admire immensely for her prayer life also bewilders with talk of the supernatural and her strange relationship with a distinguished African American gentleman. None of these people know of this blog. I fear not intrusion upon their privacy, and everything I express is done with the love Father Vann writes of. This other Filipino woman confuses me with her relationship with this man. It is my speculation, none of my business, yet I sense–I know the man is in love with her. He wants to take care of her, to share in a loving Godly relationship with her. I am certain in my insight. Maintaining constant company with him, she seems oblivious to his authentic Godly intent. Yesterday, he was absent from the brunch and auction, while attending mass. I noticed him sitting alone after mass, appearing a bit lost. The woman sat in the brunch exchanging phone numbers with another man. I found everything troubling, especially while observing my Hungarian friend interact with a lady friend from Thailand, knowing he wants to marry her, and she is such a sweet woman, kind to the most giving degree, an absolute charm to be around, yet unresponsive to his intent of marital permanency, once threatening to call the police on him for trying to kiss her.  All of this while, the other Filipino woman observes everything with a degree of jealousy and the fact when I first met her she was traveling around with the Hungarian gentlemen. There is something a bit unhealthy about the male/female relationships I am encountering in my personal life. I miss Ann immensely, desiring her companionship, her strength and support, knowing I can give the same in return. Good men and women, devout solid prayerful men and women, who truly seem unable to love on a deep Godly level, to come together in the ways God wills. Everything coalesces, culminating in the crippled man watching the stirring epic foreign film in the newly built expansive and elaborate Cleveland Cinematheque—the cripple captivatingly watching the movie while wearing his soaked and shit-stained pants. There seems to be a lunatic element to my existence in Cleveland. Craziness surrounds, individuals truly bordering upon insanity.  I said good-bye to Carter this morning, watching him walk dazedly about before parting for South Carolina, seeking the solace and distance of a loving sister.  God should I flee, seeking the comfort, sanity, and holiness of North Dakota? I am going to base my decision this week upon news from the Hospice of the Western Reserve. I humbly ask for strength and wisdom.

God enlighten the darkness of my heart. Grant me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord grace me with wisdom and understanding so that I may carry out Thy holy and true commandments. Be with me Lord so that I may love others as You see proper.

Comprehend in this clip from the film, sung over by Sicilian singer Etta Scollo, the mother dictates a letter to her two sons now living far away in America.  The young scribe scribbles upon the paper, the girl only acting as if she writes the woman’s well chosen heart pouring words.  The story details the life of her other son, an unwanted bastard who obsessively stays by her side.

 

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Sunday entertainment

At this time, I am experiencing a void of desire, wanting nothing in particular, yet unable to bring peace into my moments away from mass and the Eucharist.  There is something I want, yet no worldly thing attracts.  It is a time of transition regarding worldly matters.  The call to work with the Hospice being left to disregard and silence does mystify, allowing discontent to breed, calling forth a serious examination of conscience and circumstance.  I went back to older writing, intending to post a piece, identifying relevancy while driving, yet when opening and reading, I experienced an aversion, the witnessing of the work of a man who no longer exist.  My previous writing efforts I find unnecessary to explore.  The desire to be a writer no longer exist.  It is a part of dying to self.  Dabbling with poetry and my blogging efforts suffice.  I must say this two day excursion back into a private and personal realm calls forth the possibility of the cloistered life stronger than I considered.  Idle time brings into focus a lack of definition, an absence of direction, a longing desiring to be fulfilled on a worldly level.  This week will be interesting.  Last night, thoroughly enjoying the classical guitar performance, I could not deny a stronger yearning for the wide open spaces of North Dakota.  Cleveland feels contrived and crowded; unable to sanctify, finish, and satisfy.  Once more, my future becomes oblique.  I will answer the call with Chaos, encountering a foreign film, a Sicilian movie, the Taviani brothers, based on the turn of the century stories woven together through the theme of the Greek idea of Kaos, the name of the writer Pirandello’s village, a black crow uniting.  Absorb these images.  Where are these children?  Where are these beaches?  Where is this voice?  Metaphorically, the tantalizing nature of the spiritual life calls the loudest?

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Conviction a must: all or nothing

I woke this morning with a strange conviction, a determination made during sleep blossomed while reading in bed a biography of Henry Suso written by the mysterious religious sister known only as S.M.C. of the congregation of Catherine of Siena.  The book I find marvelous as a book in being, printed in 1947 by Blackfriars Publications.  The solid mindset established with the opening of my eyes today is effected by many realms of realities and potentialities.  Two in particular are worth mentioning.  One is the fact I took Saturday and Sunday off from work, allowing complete removal from my new employment.  I made the determination I would think nothing about work, no studying or preparing for the test I will have to take after my ninety day probationary period commences.  I would remove myself from the influence of my new professional environment.  The second factor is a classical guitar concert I attended last night in Shaker Heights by the Serbian artist Ana Vidovic.  She was a delight, a beautiful meditation within sound and vision, however the crowd left me cold, feeling distant and out of my element, a calm matter-of-fact aversion of not belonging, a feeling subtlety establishing permanency.  Discernment identified, the nocturnal conclusion is that if nothing moves forward with the Hospice of the Western Reserve this week, the fact must be interpreted as a solemn sign.  Assumption Abbey will resume as the religious vocation God intends.  The inspiration and invigoration arising during my training with the Hospice cannot be denied, yet the silence is bewildering.  I felt a profound connection with the calling and the organization’s administrators.  I called last week, being informed my paperwork was in order and I would be receiving a call from my organizer within days.  Nothing.  Nothing for three weeks.  I will pursue with effort, tomorrow going to the hospice’s corporate office, asking to meet with one of the women conducting the training sessions, presenting my startled and upset reaction that it has been over three weeks and I have received absolutely no response.  If matters do not progress toward certainty, it must be conclusively determined I have no calling with the hospice.  My focus returns singularly upon North Dakota.  Words from the Henry Suso biography:

Neither was Henry any more natural and at ease within himself than he was with his fellows.  For a while all would go well and he would be happy in this more complete service of God, but such seasons of good cheer were followed by periods of depression and temptation.  He would consider within himself that, after all, there had been nothing really wrong with the life he had been leading, a mediocre religious life of conformity, and so there could be no reason in making himself singular by trying to better it.  Many good people contrived to get the best out of both worlds, and why should he set himself out to be different?  At times those questions fretted him almost beyond endurance, for at the bottom of his heart he knew that for him the spiritual life must be all or nothing.

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Humble Reality

Waiting upon God,
Disposition demanding,
Proclivities and predilections,
Awful in thought,
Rioting through reason,
Brokenness mending,
Being human,
It is not difficult,
It is hellish warfare,
Surreptitiously, a longing within overwhelming,
There are so many things I am sorry about,
Simply a shy wounded stare,
Willfully, doubt no longer remains,
Awestruck, quiet and still,
Divine love unconditional,
Tendering ceaseless mercy,
Your patience astounds,
Painful in penetration,
Never once did You give up on me,
Never once did You recoil,
Never once did You restrain Your salvific love,

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