Biography

Thoughts

Lyrics from a song penetrated. The ‘you’ should not be attached to an individual, rather the world in general.

“I have been to Hell and back so many times you bore me.”

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Christmas approaches

A new schedule at work promises extended free time, an intentional reduction in overtime.  The new year will bring changes.  Hopefully, the grace providing free time will allow growth in the pursuit of God.  I have ideas, yet silence, prayer, and the exercising of the moment presents a greater immersion into the sacred heart through a divine mother.  Words playing to music as I type:

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves
There’s no need for rain, it’s our own parade
Let’s not be afraid of our reflections
It’s not only you you’re looking at now

Jack Johnson ‘No Good With Faces’ from the album ‘To The Sea’

For if things are to go well with a man, one of two things must always happen to him. Either he must find and learn to possess God in works, or he must abandon all works. But since a man cannot in this life be without works, which are proper to humans and are of so many kinds, therefore he must learn to possess his God in all things and to remain unimpeded, whatever he may be doing, wherever he may be. And therefore if a man who is beginning must do something with other people, he ought first to make a powerful petition to God for His help, and put Him immovably in his heart, and unite all his intentions, thoughts, will and power to God, so that nothing else than God can take shape in that man.  Meister Eckhart 

St John of the Cross was known during his time for converting secular songs into religious themed excursions.  There is a term for such an exercise that I cannot think of right now. I like the idea of observing, adoring secular activities and artistic efforts, trusting in man and God, while centering everything within one’s religious efforts. It is an endeavor of humility, the avoiding of using religion as a hammer, the immature reduction of religion merely to a means of elevating one’s self–complexly through delusion seeking one’s self.

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Adoration: Church life

Experientially, Mass at St Paul Shrine, or rather post-Mass Adoration, proved profound today.  I have returned to the Shrine after four weeks of being away, disappearing into recollection and regathering.  It soothes soulfully to realize spiritually I have a home.  My first visit back included my new roommate, a man whose company I treasure, convinced God has placed him in my life.  He has suffered through a divorce, father of three prospering adults, a graduate of St Ignatius and John Carroll University, pitching for their baseball team.  Our reception after last Sunday’s Mass was charmingly intimate.  The Cuban poet friend was lavish with conversation, as well as others, including Jason the operatic professionally trained singer.  Today four individuals shared in Adoration.  Joan, a widow and mother of sixteen adult children, a spiritual masterpiece within in her disheveled and bewildered appearance.  Her chaotic personality, the sickly impression she is barely holding on to sanity, hides a wizened prayerful individual, a soul whose presence I always feel close to.  There is no need for words exchanged, nor even a meeting of eyes.  A second was Lauren, a woman my age, in her fifties, a purposeful nurse, one who gives everything she has to the caring of patients.  She lit three votive candles; praying slowly, silently, and for a serious length of time before the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue.  Her sense of anonymity, the lack of self-consciousness, impressed.  She is a woman mature in prayer, presenting the reality she is a soul who has learned to access grace for others.  Speculating, I felt confidence her intense prayer life is dedicated to the salvation of others.  A third individual was Chris, the Man of Prayer.  We spent Thanksgiving together after not speaking for well over five or so months.  The one-on-one lunch was penetrating, introspective and properly self-analyzing.  I have never met someone so intent on basing everything about their life solely upon their prayer life.  Everything he does—organizing time, structuring days, psychological healing and exercising insight into his thoughts and feelings, socializing and professional experiences—are done strictly in regards to improving his prayer life.  To spend one-on-one time with the Man of Prayer is truly a blessing.  Providence provided a Thanksgiving lunch with him at Siam Café after Mass at St Paul Shrine.  The fourth individual is a man I hardly know, an elderly gentleman named Tom.  His smiling face exposes his joyful demeanor.  His open and welcoming greetings are respected with a friendly distance and few words.  His presence sitting behind me always brings a spiritual smile when I turn during the exchanging of peace.  A fifth individual should be mentioned.  He served during Mass, fairly new in appearance, yet substantial in impression.  He appears to be quite successful as a businessman, always well-groomed and professionally dressed.  His mild-mannered disposition renders one defenseless.  His devotion to Mass, and his obvious dedication to the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, reflects a psychological soundness, a purity of intent and motivation.  That goes for the elder gentleman Tom.  I find it comforting to discover an authentic love of a deep prayer life comingled with a sensible, humble, and well-adjusted personality.  Exiting the Sacristy, the man serving during Mass walked closed.  I waved, feeling a deep sense of Christian camaraderie.  His big smile warmed my heart.  Sitting contemplatively before the Eucharist, a sense of community enhanced and enlightened.

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The call of life

The effort for this blog has been absent to a certain degree. The hours at work have sufficiently increased due to the loss of my tool partner. He is a gentleman in his mid-seventies dealing with a type of cancer in his heel, soft tissue sarcoma is the diagnosis. He is the only one in the maintenance department with any longevity, thus establishing his knowledge as extremely useful. With chaos and continual fires being the normal mode of operandi, his presence was appreciated. On the human level, he is a good man and friend, sharing an intense devotion to the Cleveland Indians. With the MLB playoffs starting this week, he will be missed.  There is some anger in the fact we knew for five weeks or so he would be going on medical leave for six to eight weeks and nothing was done. The futile effort to hire another maintenance worker provided nobody. We have just added another line with five hydraulic presses, fed by a coil embossing system and the load of work for two men could be quite extensive. Now by myself, I am covering two buildings for a company that operates singularly through incompetence. That will amount to 63 hours of work for the week, amassing a total of 78.5 paid hours. The money will be astounding, yet the level of discouragement is substantial. Providence provided a late-night conversation with a priest from the seminary, a vocational guide who in person is a younger athletic inspiring, intelligent, and fully alive man. A Sunday morning breakfast was scheduled, with plans for further engagement.  I vocalized my weariness with work and he did not finish his thoughts quoting words from St Ignatius due to his own weariness from an overloaded schedule. His advice centered upon the idea of not making life changing decisions while feeling discouraged. In times of discouragement, it is difficult to decipher the calling of the Holy Spirit. I added the need for immediate comfort and solace being the natural reaction, while the greater strengthening may lie in acceptance, perseverance, and fortitude within an overwhelming trust in God. Daily Mass and my Adoration/prayer time has become the grounding and absolute high point of my day. Though my reading and spiritual intellectual activity has diminished, my prayer time remains comforting and profound, the Jesus prayer a constant companion I always return to no matter how many moments I drift away in thought and responsibility. Foreign classic films absorb the little idle time I have while lounging in bed. The early films of Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Robert Bresson providing a steady diet of images and reflections upon life.

French master Robert Bresson

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Saturday afternoon

A wonderful return to the early Saturday morning Mass and adoration at St Dominic infused reflections. Thoughts wandered around my conception that Adoration, sitting before the exposed Eucharist, was essential to my spiritual exercises. It was a concern whether the Carthusian life could prove rewarding since they do not practice such a form of worship. I thought of Father Prior’s words that one must consider deeply the Carthusian charism, not just the belief one wanted to remove one’s self from the world and focus singularly upon God. If one placed devotions such as commitments to St Jude or St Joseph above everything, a predetermined idea of worship, it would inevitably create conflict with life as a Carthusian. Placing words in his mouth, exercising control over what and how one was going to worship, above the constructs of the Carthusian ways, was an obstinance, a determination that one would do as one pleased—an opening of the door to disobedience. First, it was extremely odd that he would point out St Joseph and St Jude as they are the two saints I have been leaning on the most heavily. It concretely defined his point. I told him of my concern regarding Adoration and he smiled, quickly acknowledging this was exactly what he was talking about. Certain devotions and ways may be good, authentic, and proper, yet if one allowed them to be a means of inflicting self-will above obedience than one would experience strife as a Carthusian. He explained that there had been several incidents proving to him personally the validity of his words. Younger men entered the life unable to abandon their religious prejudices and preferences, causing unfortunate negative circumstances, creating turmoil within the community. Things happened that could not be resolved with later apologies, admissions of blame, that would allow a return to the monastery. Matters were gravely serious regarding obedience and submission. My thoughts during this morning’s worship dwelled upon the matter as an attending gentleman played the flute during the receiving of communion. I realized the life of a Carthusian would eliminate music from my life. Music has always been an extreme joy, as well as a plague with my obsession as a youth with alternative, serious to the extreme, music. The polyphonic Latin chanting would be the music and soundtrack to my days—the absence of one thing allowing the filling by another—when something is taken away another is given. This morning’s reflection mused upon the fact that during the lengthy one-on-one consultation with Father Prior, I spoke to him at certain points as if we were equals regarding the spiritual life. It was a correction I was able to curtail during the happening, demonstrating the natural ignorance to assume that my spiritual experience and exercises could be matched against a priest weathered by decades through life as a Carthusian, a prior travelling the world for the Church as an essential voice within the Carthusian order. There is a time one should listen when God places proper authority before us. Religion imposes the freedom of enlightenment, false or proper. Pride allows for such power to elevate one’s natural inclination to assume that one is the center of the universe.  It is not one’s duty to establish an all enveloping truth, rather to become supple and malleable before God.  Religion must not become simply a weapon to wield upon the world, which it will, if one is unable to let go of preconceived ideas, unable to remain unattached to one’s affirmations and deepest truths. One interacts, defensively or offensively, or runs from the world, on the terms of a spiritual master, convinced one possesses the keys to truth.  Being someone is more important than becoming something that is the fulfillment of being human.  I remember once reading that St Francis of Assisi, a true imitator of Christ, treated every individual he encountered as his superior. Adhering to his devotion to Christ with the greatest of strength, he presented weakness to others.  The Carthusian concept of the recognition and acceptance of mediocrity, without and within, soothes wounds deeply.

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