Our Lady of the Pines

Gratefulness and poetry

Retreat center, my room far left second floor bay windows.

Retreat center, my room far left, second floor bay windows.

Thursday morning, looks like another rainy day, loving everything. Splendor in ambiance, this room supplies space to contemplate and adore. The Our Lady of the Pines website identifies my room as the McAuley Room. No wonder I’m developing such an affection for the saint. There is a stairwell next to my room, mid-travel she waits, posed in a painting (same image posted). At the bottom of the stairs stands a superb St Joseph statue. I start my day with prayers to St Joseph, seeking guidance for manliness; the embodying of strength within wisdom, gentleness, and kindness. Ascending and descending to my room: Holy Water, sign of the cross, the chapel: kneeling in prayer and a greeting to the Eucharist reposed in the Tabernacle a part. The retreat center, a mansion, was constructed in 1874 by a wealthy local jeweler Lewis Leppleman as a single family dwelling.

Last night a unique communal prayer session occurred. I saw a posting, yet when I walked by I felt hesitant, abstaining. The chapel was filled with thirty sisters, no men. I walked away content not to take part. I spoke with the night front desk clerk, attaining a multi electrical outlet strip. Walking past one of the sisters smiled in a welcoming greeting. In my room, a sense I should go to the prayer group settled in. I responded, forcing myself to go. I am a coward in presenting myself. Down the steps, I suddenly decided to act like I had no intention of going into the chapel, walking to the front lobby. Once in the lobby, registering my cowardly behavior, I consoled myself with the thought that they could not have me arrested. Once at the chapel, I held my breath, spotting an open seat by the front door. I crossed myself with Holy Water, genuflected and sat myself as inconspicuously as one can be when one is blatantly conspicuous. I blocked everything out, going into meditation, prepared for one of the sisters to tell me it was for religious sisters only. None did. I opened my eyes, feeling really awkward being the only male, plus nonreligious. I noticed several chuckling, finding amusement in my distress. One warm smile forthrightly announced welcome before standing and leading the prayer session. It was interesting, a meditation upon our hands. The thought of my hands. Where my hands have been.  What they have touched. What they have created. What they have destroyed. What they have loved. Through my hands many things have been done. My hands as a baby, soft and supple. The thought of the hands of my friend Janet, now ninety-six preparing for an end. The thought of the healing hands of Christ. ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand’.

There are intentional thoughts, arguments, I dismiss, refuse to address. The sisters are taking me in, having welcomed me spiritually. Deeply within their silence, I find peace. I am grateful and pleased. God is showing me something. I needed their maturity. Their refined formation. Their years of service. Their silence. See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls (Blessed Mother Teresa). It is not a concept, something to tell others. It is reality.

I thought of Father David Mary, my time with him in the friary, almost two years of acquaintance. Those who know me know I have whined about Father David Mary. Let’s be clear his community is authentic, mature formation. He is a priest of power and might, wielding an effective animated message, invigorating especially for young people. Young people adore him and his friars. Softball games breakout, heated dodgeball games are waged, and a Saturday evening Sunday vigil youth mass always resounds with praise–youthful hearts raised in beating. The friar’s daily experience possesses a level of religious devotion and daily living steadfast within the Holy Spirit. They are being formed through a devout pious superior process. Few will encounter such a life. Father David Mary, his friars, and sister community of Poor Clares are heavy hitters within the Catholic Church, functioning at a spiritual level few can comprehend. It is not superior skills or intellect that elevates their daily lives. It is community service, humble devotion, continual prayer-including two daily Holy Hours, transforming fun-loving camaraderie, living detached from worldly matters, an absolute dedication to the spiritual life consecrated to the Church, an unconditional obedience to Catholicism, a striving to grow in faith, hope, and charity. Apropos words from St John of the Cross: Charity, too, causes a void in the will regarding all things, since it obliges us to love God above everything. A man has to withdraw his affection from all in order to center it wholly upon God. Christ says through St Luke: “He who does not renounce all that he possesses with his will cannot be my disciple”. (Luke 14:33) Upon this retreat, watching rain once again pelt my tremendous bay window, I realize God has blessed me once again with people functioning on a high spiritual level.


I determined this post would be short, trying to hold to my conviction. Other writing calls. My spiritual director and I are bonding. Daily, I meet with her for an hour. She is affirming so much, providing inspiration and guiding, challenging yet broadening, assisting in disarming. Who am I? I am Catholic to become holy. I am not Catholic to determine and enforce dogma, to impose duelistic self-will. I am not Catholic through self-love, the need to be recognized as an authority or intellectual, a searcher of social worlds to dally within; sweet consolations, reputation, and the pursuit of accolades are rejected. Something deeper draws me inward. As Father Roger declares, ‘Are you truly being transformed through your faith?’ Does my conduct draw me closer to Christ? Defining the question by what it is not. It does not ask: Do you know more? Do you write poems? Do you have the right opinions? Do you go on retreats? Do you do more? Do you go to mass more? Father Roger simply asks: Am I being transformed? My spiritual director understands my concerns; my strengths and weaknesses. My interest in poetry, prompted the suggestion I employ myself in the effort of writing Haiku poetry. Simple three line poems: first line five syllables, second line seven, and third line five. Tears come to my eyes, I worked for hours producing fifty. She touched something dear and close to my inner most being. She opened me. Strangely a quote from Crane Hart, of all places, comes to my mind: ‘One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment’.

Faith in things unseen
Beyond intellect achieve
Within God center

Hope blank memory
Unpossessed beautiful things
Await gratefully

Love avert free will
Embrace brothers and sisters
God royally reigns

Wisdom clarity
Eternal uncreated
In love resound truth

Gentleness true strength
Reign in sensitivity
Jesus’ soft touch

Chastity Christ like.
Mother Mary obedient
Joseph most chaste spouse

Balanced vigilance
Eyes present gazing intent
A white owl aware

Unknown unnamed God.
Beware man wanders hunting
Empty the ocean

Prayerful tendering
Hollow gentle persuasion
Care full infusion

Grateful spacious room
Our Lady of the Pines shines
Loving light reveal

Understanding see
Revealed, discursive thinking
Biblical teaching

Self-control discipline
Charioteer cracks the whip
Appease strong horses

A vow, a life lived
A sister’s silent intent
Christ’s majestic hand

Scripture, Mercy Seat
Old and new softly alight
Cherubim, wings touch

Francis dreamed knightly
A poor lady came weeping
A leper kissing

NOTE: For the sake of phone app viewing I was forced to format as I did. My website building skills are limited. I find little pleasure in researching or expanding my skills. I stated last week I was going to organize and expand this website, however I feel God is taking me in another direction. I am trying to spend only relevant time upon the blog.


Second day of disappearing

Second floor balcony view, a sister captured walking.

Second floor balcony view, a sister captured walking.

God is good. All is good. Morning after breakfast, before mass, perched on a second floor porch overlooking the pine forest; a family, a boy and young girl visit below in the Lourdes grotto. I have been considering the blessing God gave to me within this retreat. The retreatant nuns conduct a silent retreat. There is one lay woman, French in spirit, who speaks, yet the rest are silent. A maturity I needed to experience is being experienced, a cultivated spiritual presence within the retreatants encountered, a loss of self-consciousness amongst those lacking self-consciousness through the culmination of proper formation. Obedience to the church has replaced the desperate need for unique individuality.

I am editing this morning’s post, now seated on a bench overlooking the Sister of Mercy cemetery, a crucifixion cross from the order standing upon a slight hill, resting atop a pedestal, centers the hundreds of grave markers. The sisters bless me in spirit with silence, and now their decease present themselves. I was thinking that a good way to understand these women is to comprehend the week of silence and spiritual direction must be the apex of their social life. I am positive many of them have looked forward to this summer retreat throughout the year. Time set aside, a dedication to cultivating their faith in silence is something they have hungrily anticipated for months.  Well over fifty of the sisters celebrate daily mass. The priest today smiled during the parting rites, nodding his head as he expressed gratitude for the affirmative and assertive responses and song throughout the mass. The sisters singing is worth the price of admission.  A special note regarding the Eucharistic celebration. After transubstantiation, amidst the priest expressing gratitude for the saints, the priest pauses, allowing the numerous sisters to join in proclaiming the name of their founder Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley.

Sisters of Mercy graveyard

Sisters of Mercy graveyard

These women, religious devotees, consecrating their life to God, have now reached an advanced state. I recall a book on St Thomas Aquinas commenting the saint felt scripture itself is no longer necessary after refined spiritual advancement is acquired. When the vessel is cleansed and empty, God easily fills. There is no need for wise words from saints, nor spiritual writers, poets, or even scripture. Involved is no bitterness, no devaluing of respected sources of wisdom. Silence and stillness is enough. The silence at Our Lady of the Pines is comfortable, no sense of arrogance, nor religious pretentiousness exists within the silence of the religious women, a quiet understatement of peace. Within the emptiness, a muted disposition of strong opinion and righteousness does not exist. Again, defining by what something is not. The sisters are woman treasuring the opportunity to spend a week away from conversation and responsibilities, a week away from themselves, able to focus upon God. Voices eliminated, space is created.

I was thinking about my room, actually more correctly my suite. I have the nicest room of all the retreatants. All these women I praise have normal rooms. I was given something special. I know it is because I signed up so late, the facility making room for me, yet I saw within it a deeper message. I recalled a mother of fourteen children a good mother with amazingly a happy, well-behaved horde. Someone asked her, ‘how do you know which one to give your love and attention to?’ She answered, ‘Every moment, I am aware, discerning which of my children needs my love the most. At that moment, that one receives my attention’. The one who needs attention obtains attention. I perceive my extravagant room is a message from God: ‘My dear child, out of everyone here right now, you need the most attention’. I met with a spiritual director, another elderly sister, a woman playing the spiritual game for decades. She told me God loved me in a way that presented the message in a vibrant and fresh way. Just as I am, exactly for who I am, within all my faults, failures, struggles, current imperfections, God loves me, offering mercy as a grace. He sent His only son down from bliss in order to die for me. I know it is a message we hear all the time, yet at that moment my room made sense to me. This retreat made sense to me.

A stripping away is in process, impediments being shattered. Two other of the director’s messages resonate strongly, the two coinciding. She stressed patience, patience with all things including myself. It is a message St Francis de Sales revealed recently. The other message was an affirmation, stressing the importance of a meditative prayer life—once again the removing. I will quote her words from a book-marker she gave me at the end of this post. They are words from my poems. I interpret God encouraging my prayer life, stamping approval upon my ways. My Litany of prayers is dissolving as stillness usurps. My spiritual life, based upon faith, hope, and charity is strong. Perseverance through patience is the key at this time. Inspiringly, I take example from these sisters. Their complete lack of attention for me is a message of intense love. A smile here, casual eye contact illuminating gentleness, an enlightened peace of mind exposed, it all speaks louder than the volume of opinions and wise things being said to me in my daily life. These nuns have lived their faith for years, conducting sacrificial service to Our Lord. The accumulation of years, day by day, conducting behavior conducive to uniting with Christ, gifts of the Holy Spirit rewarding in kind, being with them means something. They know Mary and the saints, having read extensively. They have stories. Yet silence means everything to them during the highlight of their personal year.  Their vacation is spent in silence. Lacking fanaticism, without extreme, they honor their commitment. It is hard. The tendency when sharing a table with one or two is to entice them into a few friendly words. However, I am determined to honor their commitment. No words simply for my sweet consolation. I properly receive their grace of silence.

I took part in a Taize choral practice yesterday. We will sing Friday during mass. I was asked to participate by an engaging lay woman my age. Attired within a French spirit, intimately familiar with the Taize community, possessing a remarkably gifted voice, her and the accompanying sisters put me to shame. I thoroughly enjoyed the singing session. Afterwards, I apologized, informing her that I warned her beforehand I was no singer. These women talk about proper key, being off-key, octaves–honestly and truly, I know nothing about such things. I love music and singing, yet intricacies elude me. The lay woman, Ann, and I speak, although we must control ourselves for we explode into an abundance of words. She is from Cleveland also, sharing many interest. I told her what a Jack-talk amongst my basketball buddies means. Jack is a seventy-five year old man, struggling to get around the court for the most part, yet in his younger days he was an outstanding player for the community of Olmsted Falls. There was one gentleman who showed up three times in a row to play with us. His skills were limited and his knowledge of the game was atrocious. Not only was he unskilled, yet his determination to control the ball hindered everyone on his team. He did not know how to fit in. Jack had a talk with the man after the third time he showed up, informing him he lacked the skills to play with us—that he should find a different gym and different people to play with. It kind of startled everyone. So afterwards we would joke about Jack having a talk with you after the games. If you have a bad day you better watch out because Jack just might pull you aside and release you. We call it a Jack-talk. I asked Amy, after the singing practice, if she was going to have a Jack-talk with me, explaining what a Jack-talk is. Informing her that if she felt the need not to have me come back anymore I would understand. She raised her voice a little, demanding that I was fully aware this is not basketball. We were not competing against one another. She made it clear that I must come back Thursday for the next practice session before the performance Friday. Plus today there will be a listening practice during lunch. She will play music recorded at Taize, believing that myself and the sisters will greatly benefit from hearing practiced and proper performances. As I type this a sister sitting close, just the two of us on the balcony, coughed, interrupting her reading. I forgot she was there. I have a feeling when all is said and done the mature silent company I have been blessed with will remain in spirit until the exclamation point of my formation, that being death, appears.

I will end with a poetry. The first poem comes from a book my spiritual director for the week supplied. The gentleman writing the poem wrote many of the poems on retreat at Our Lady of the Pines. He is a northwest Ohio farmer, raised in a farming family, father to his own family now. He proclaims a love and inspiration deriving from his life as a farmer, observing nature through time, and the raising of children. With enamored attention, through charity, I state his photo presents a simple, while penetrating and profound, happy country bumpkin, a man who will die a content and wise death. I contrast the poet with another poet, a modernist—a man of titles, elaborate style, recognition, and distinction, a poet recently presented to me, the poet being a Clevelander: Hart Crane. A highly educated pursuer of the faith dropped the name Hart Crane upon me. I know who I am and who I am not. I researched Hart Crane discovering a man of overwhelming complexity, tragedy, and ultimate failure—an individual who lost severely in a disturbing game of life. An image erupts of a troubling Robin Williams movie, another suicide victim, ‘Seize the Day’.

In a complex world of choices, multiplicity reigns, the advancement of good intentions fueled by high intellect into drastic self-justifying dependency, broken identities, vices latching and seizing, impossible to quit, the vastness of incredulity existing within attempts at grandeur, the remarkable nature of being human, suffering original sin, expecting too much from creative efforts, craving, needing everything, fear abounding, fear controlling, fear announcing throw thyself into the sea, suicide, a dreadful demise, a life of despondency, never revealing love, nor lasting within one’s duration, formation incomplete, an utter disaster.

Simplicity is the more difficult and courageous path. The simple, the little way, is nearly impossible. The complex is easy, a trap enticing, and once in motion humanly impossible to stop. God’s grace always abounds. God’s grace is the only way to halt an avalanche.


it is only an illusion.
Of what might be
Or might not be.
So often it is not the brave
Or the courageous one’s
Who conquer it.
But, it is the gentle ones
With open minds and open hearts and open eyes
That can go beyond
What appears to be.

–Eugene Scherley

Perceive the seductive nature of Hart Crane’s poetry, the sensuality of it attempting to draw one in, a Pandora ’s Box in the waiting, the promise of eternal literary satiation through the existence of a worldly misunderstood genius, a futile demise. The despondent desperate demand for illusiveness, pretend obscurity, portend misery, within a complex advanced expression of human creativity. Modern poet of esteem, endeavoring to be all embracing, proposing progression into a world of selectivity and intellectuality—a world set apart, choices amongst choices, a smorgasbord of indulgence and lack of self-discipline, no longer existing within the simple and mundane, something wickedly individual, brilliant, articulate beyond employment, the refutation of a factory lording father, the blossoming offspring of a mentally ill incestuous mother. It tantalizes the senses, whispering temptation, working upon pride—uniqueness and standing upon the shoulders of artistic giants, throughout the ages endearing, legacy and reputation falling upon scholarly tables. The allure of Crane’s poetic words cannot be denied. Many things I desire are not good for me.

Carmen de Boheme

Sinuously winding through the room
On smokey tongues of sweetened cigarettes, —
Plaintive yet proud the cello tones resume
The andante of smooth hopes and lost regrets.

Bright peacocks drink from flame-pots by the wall,
Just as absinthe-sipping women shiver through
With shimmering blue from the bowl in Circe’s hall.
Their brown eyes blacken, and the blue drop hue.

The andante quivers with crescendo’s start,
And dies on fire’s birth in each man’s heart.
The tapestry betrays a finger through
The slit, soft-pulling; — — — and music follows cue.

There is a sweep, — a shattering, — a choir
Disquieting of barbarous fantasy.
The pulse is in the ears, the heart is higher,
And stretches up through mortal eyes to see.

Carmen! Akimbo arms and smouldering eyes; —
Carmen! Bestirring hope and lipping eyes; —
Carmen whirls, and music swirls and dips.
“Carmen!,” comes awed from wine-hot lips.

Finale leaves in silence to replume
Bent wings, and Carmen with her flaunts through the gloom
Of whispering tapestry, brown with old fringe: —
The winers leave too, and the small lamps twinge.

Morning: and through the foggy city gate
A gypsy wagon wiggles, striving straight.
And some dream still of Carmen’s mystic face, —
Yellow, pallid, like ancient lace.

–Crane Hart

–Ending with the words of a spiritual director.

Let Your God Love You

Be silent.
Be still.
Alone. Empty.
Before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God
Look upon you.
That is all
He knows
He understands.
He loves you with
An enormous love.
He only wants to
Look upon you
With His love,

Let your God
Love you.

A sisters silent intent.

A sisters silent intent.


First Mass aftermath

My God, I am yours for time and eternity. Teach me to cast myself entirely into the arms of your loving Providence with a lively, unlimited confidence in your compassionate, tender pity. Grant, O most merciful Redeemer, that whatever you ordain or permit may be acceptable to me, take from my heart all painful anxiety; let nothing sadden me but sin, nothing delight me but the hope of coming to the possession of You, my God and my all, in your everlasting kingdom. Amen. –Suscipe of Mother Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy

Suscipe Latin for receive. Traditionally the word Suscipe is associated with St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, as he established his Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Ignatian formation strives to dispose one’s soul of obstacles, ridding oneself of all disordered attachments. Once exercised, stripped down, complications and impediments removed, an empty soul can properly seek and align itself with Divine Will.

Suscipe of St Ignatius: ‘Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me; I give it all back to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.’ 

Celebrated mass, surprised by the depth of the sanctity. Upon the same grounds as the marvelous retreat center is a retirement home for Sisters of Mercy nuns. The thirty-two females being spiritually directed this week, I believe, are all Sisters of Mercy nuns. Beginning this post is a quote from the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. It is received from a painting posted on the stairwell next to my room. The artwork in the retreat center and the retirement home is incredible. Mass is celebrated in the retirement home. I am allowed to walk through to attend mass. Aside from mass, it is off limits. My room is on the second floor. Across the hall is a large comfortable library. Sisters gather in the library. Directly, beneath my room is a chapel, including a tabernacle hosting the Eucharist. The Eucharist is directly below my room. I must comment on the quietness at Our Lady of the Pines. Interiorly and out of doors, it retains a depth, a prayerfulness and tangibility. I credit the populating religious, consecrated individuals focusing their energy upon spiritual discernment. During lunch, I noticed an elderly gentlemen push his walker through the dining room, exiting the room in order to eat on a patio. Already seated, I gathered my tray and followed him. Through hand signals, he welcomed me, gesturing silence. I deduced from his physical articulation he has taken a vow of silence during his retreat. His appearance and apparel makes me think he is a retired priest from the Youngstown Diocese. Together we sat upon the patio immersed in silence, a bluff in front of us, leeside a small pine forest descending to lower ground, walking paths waiting for exploration.

Back to mass, seated amongst approximately sixty religious, I felt tremendous stress. Nothing to do with them or the location. It was all about me. Concentrating upon my personal life, my experiences: past, present, and future, how could I not be filled with awful stress, anxiety and worry. I must be who I am. Brutal honesty is necessary for proper growth. Right now it is pouring down rain. Rain shellacking, I sit next to the large bay windows, rain obstructing the view of all three windows. It is appropriate. I have been attending mass at St Paul’s Shrine daily, mass and adoration, feeling the power and presence of my effort. However, it was not until mass at St Bernadine’s chapel here at Our Lady of the Pines retreat did I comprehend how much stress, anxiety; disordered emotion, thoughts, memories, and overall state of direst fills me. I could barely hold back tears, and in fact several fell out. I had to distract my mind from a younger sister’s voice directly behind me. To absorb and immerse myself within its beauty would have completely unraveled me. Two thoughts fixated during mass. Yesterday the saint of the day was St Maria Goretti. During his homily Father Phil told of Allessandro Serenelli, the man she forgave, sitting next to her mother during her canonization. The rapist and murderer of the little saint sat next to her mother during her official recognition as a saint. It may be extreme, overly dramatic, yet I identified with Allessandro at mass today. The second thought touches upon the Old Testament reading: Jacob wrestling with God, attaining a new name through the tussle, becoming Israeli, a Patriarch of God’s chosen people. The priest told of a conversation with a rabbi. The Rabbi said, ‘Christians talk of loving God. Jews talk of wrestling with God’.

Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley

Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley


First morning reflection

First morning, convictions are made, goals identified. I am here to fine tune my ability to hear God. I read an Our Lady of the Pines handout this morning stressing the importance of silence. Internally and externally, eliminating noise. I am here to listen. “I have calmed and quieted my soul…hope in the Lord from this time on and evermore”. A seeker of wisdom, I am. A fool wagging his tongue, an individual demanding attention, I am not. Authentically, to be or not to be. I know who I am and who I am not. My parents instilled a personality trait that I will also put into check. Being overly nice, presenting myself as a bit of a bumbling fool, self-deprecating in words and action, complimenting and praising others, seeking others approval by over-extending myself, clearly and loudly establishing the fact I am a humble, non-egotistical man. I will be serious and quiet, my eyes kept low or distant, avoiding even the demand of beaming God to others. Within silence, I will not petition for attention, imploring others to witness my Godly presence. I am quiet in mind, disposition, and presentation, allowing God to direct and command my activities. Last night I was informed I was assigned a spiritual director. Immediately, I refused, imposing self-will. If the sisters so deign a meeting with a spiritual director, so be it. I prayerfully participate.

The handout greeting retreatants upon entry is Songs of Taize. I have conducted research, discovering the subject of Taize draws a vast array of opinions. Conservative Church voices, as should be expected, express strong concern, fanatical voices declaring outright harsh opposition, due to the emphasis upon an ecumenical approach and the adoption of a New Age approach to prayer.  They reason and argue in defense of what they identify as true Catholicism. Pope Francis opens the way to a new Catholicism, rejecting those who feel the need to declare who and what the Church is. Those with the strongest opinions, those clinging to conservative ways as being the only way, those establishing faith through reasoned righteousness and might are a bit left out in the cold. The Taize prayer, or song stems, from a French community in Taize joining Protestant and Cahtolic brothers. The founder Brother Roger Schutz, born in Switzerland in 1915, formed the community as a Protestant, eventually converting to Catholicism. He honors papal authority, a personal friend to all the popes during his life. Brother Roger passed away in 2005.

Jacques Berthier composed Taize song/prayer as it is being incorporated by select parishes throughout the world. The chanting prayer meditatively utilizes simple phrases, in four part harmony, repeating over and over rudimentary concepts. An example is the words of Dismas, the redeemed thief: Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom. Another is the Taize chant, Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit). The Latin chant ubiquitous at Catholic ceremonies invoking the Holy Spirit.

Overall avoiding conflict, the imposing of self-will during a retreat of listening I embrace rather than judge, unafraid and unreserved. I know who I am and who I am not. I am a man of prayer, not a man seeking to rule. I am a human striking deeper into faith, a man of weakness attempting to build upon progress made, while recognizing the intense and difficult path ahead. I just came across words of a blogger describing his education, comments following the receiving of his doctorate.  When I received my bachelor’s degree, I thought I was really smart. The world was mine for the conquering.  When I received my Master’s, I felt humbled, wondering what ever gave me the courage to think I knew so much.  When I received my Doctorate I honestly looked about confused, realizing I really possessed so little knowledge. In conclusion, I resort to a comment I made on a recent post. I am Catholic not to be self-righteously Catholic, a fanatical fan supporting his favorite team, collecting playing cards of favorite players, learning intricacies and canon law for the sake of being judgmentally and victoriously Catholic. I am not Catholic for the sake of being Catholic. I am not a student competing to graduate with the highest honors. I am a broken human being trying to get well. Catholicism authentically provides a path to perfection, the means to becoming a man of depth. Salvation, grace and mercy for family and loved ones is everything. Personal victories, the defeating of others, and accolades are not necessary. It is all a part of the quieting of myself.  I am ceasing to fight all things.

Finally words of Pope John Paull II, friend to Brother Roger Schutz, both men intimately involved in the horrors of World War II. Brother Roger’s story is interesting. He rode his bicycle from Geneva to Taize, France. There in 1940, he and his sister purchased a home on the warring front, utilizing the home to hide refugees. There the spirit of the Taize community was born during World War II. Standing peacefully in the face of the Nazis, he subversively sheltered individuals. Eventually, he would be forced to abandon his efforts when the Gestapo became aware of his efforts. Understanding the roots of the community is essential in establishing permanency. Relevancy in regards to one’s birth provides a fruitful future; one must know how and where one arose. Organizations must also know who they are, as Pope Leo XIII states all organizations must return to that which gave them birth if they are to prosper, in monastic communities that process being recognized as reform. In faith as Christians that being known as Christ. A cleansing reform is not the embracing of new concepts, rather the return to that which gave something life. Foreseeing the complications the Taize community would confront, Pope John Paul II comments and encourages:B011_brotherroger2

“I do not forget that in its unique, original and in a certain sense provisional vocation, your community can awaken astonishment and encounter incomprehension and suspicion. But because of your passion for the reconciliation of all Christians in a full communion, because of your love for the Church, you will be able to continue, I am sure, to be open to the will of the Lord. By listening to the criticisms or suggestions of Christians of different Churches and Christian communities and keeping what is good, by remaining in dialogue with all but not hesitating to express your expectations and your projects, you will not disappoint the young, and you will be instrumental in making sure that the effort desired by Christ to recover the visible unity of his Body in the full communion of one same faith never slackens.” 


Brother Roger Schutz

Brother Roger Schutz


Something in the wind

God is good and I am exhausted. The Sisters of Mercy extended themselves graciously. Sister Mariella said she was going to set up a special room for me. She did not say she was going to turn a conference room into my room. This is incredible. Twenty foot ceiling, dropped lighting, plus two reading lamps, and a large ceiling fan with quiet air conditioning cooling. The room size is approximately twenty-five by thirty feet with a large private bathroom. The grounds are secluded, securing privacy with an eight foot fence surrounding the acreage. I am touched, feeling blessed. The dinner with the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament also went beyond expectation. Driving to St Paschal Baylon, old insecurities kicked in, almost forcing me to avoid the dinner date. I forced myself to go. Once inside, nervous, overwhelmed, still debating whether to attend, I stood by myself in the hallway, racked with doubt. Walking by the entrance, the only Blessed Sacrament brother I met noticed me, calling for me to join him on the couch. He immediately lowered my defenses. Disarmed, a smiled blossomed. I joined him on the couch. Speaking of incredible accommodations, the dinner was no cookout outside during an incredibly hot and humid day. It was an excellent dinner in an air conditioned dinning room. I met several brothers and three priests from the first order, impressed with their kindness and hospitality. Dinning, I sat with four women and one gentleman. Conversation flowed splendidly. Overall, I felt like crying I was so touched by the quality of people welcoming me. I refused to feel insecure, or to focus upon my failings. This is a serious group of adults, dedicated to their lay association, detailed and precise as a Catholic faith based organization. The group worships the Blessed Sacrament. I do not feel second to anyone in terms of my devotion to the Eucharist. I love the Eucharist, adoring routinely. More than understanding its power, I experience it daily. I felt the strength of the Eucharist filling me throughout the dinner, confidence firm and concentrated. One of the gentleman proved interesting, remarkably inspiring in exchange. I recognized him as a lector at St Paul’s Shrine. I felt embarrassed a bit as once I called him a clown. Ann commented she felt the man was holy when he read. I responded with a critical remark. The man is extravagant in attire, articulation and gesturing. The more I saw of him, the more I realized he was authentic as a person. I always felt bad for judging him harshly the first time I heard him reading during mass. Suddenly there he was in my face, eager to speak to me. He recognized me from St Paul’s and someone told him I was going to Our Lady of the Pines.  Excitedly, he informed me he would be conducting a one man play, portraying Thomas Merton at Our Lady of the Pines. I recalled reading about the event. He was pleased I was aware of his play. I will see what I can do in regards to attending his performance. Final note on the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. I will attend their next event August 1st, moving forward in discernment. I am tired and it is time for bedtime reading and prayers. Retreat is officially in session.

Retreat room

Retreat room