Saturday, August 27, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, August 28, 2011

[NOTE: I shall be having major surgery on Monday at 7am to repair two abdominal hernias. I’ll be in the hospital for a couple of days, and I shall resume the Reflections when able!]

Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, "Impossible, Master! That can never be!" But Jesus didn't swerve. "Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works." Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? “Don't be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You'll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn't pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory."

Matthew 16: 21-28 [The Gospel for this Sunday, Proper 17A]

God bless Dr. Peterson and his great work of “translating” the Gospel into modern idiom… so well! Just read this and ponder.

I think the key phrase is; “You have no idea how God works.”; and “Self-sacrifice is the way”. That’s what the Way of the Cross is. And it is the path to full personal fulfillment and to joy.

I “know” that the compilers of the Gospel, some 40-70 years after Jesus, redacted the now “Scriptures” to include their own theology and belief and experience. And perhaps it was even edited as late as just before Nicea (325). It is important to understand this. But here I agree: the words that are put in the mouth of Jesus here are spot on when it comes faithfully to interpreting the Gospel Message.

We must understand “how God works”. God’s message is of Radical Love. It is the utter nature of God, and of human beings if we have the courage to seek it. The Darkness has almost succeeded in eviscerating this Truth in the World today. But we all long for the life of Radical Love, and for the peace it brings.

Christ must lead ….. and we all know, whoever we are, what that means: Pour out Love, and embrace everyone.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, August 26, 2011

Not everyone shares this sympathy of mine for hope. Nietzsche, for example,
calls it the “virtue of the weak”. … In the course of the centuries there have
also appeared from time to time affirmations and tendencies of Christians that
were too pessimistic with regard to man. But these affirmations were disapproved
by the Church and were forgotten, thanks to a host of joyful and hardworking
saints, to Christian humanism, to ascetic teachers … and to a comprehensive
theology. St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, puts among the virtues jucunditas
or the capacity of changing things heard and seen into a cheerful smile … When
St. Thomas declared that joking and making people smile was a virtue, he was in
agreement with the “glad tidings” preached by Christ, and with the hilaritas
recommended by St. Augustine. He overcame pessimism, clothed Christian life
in joy and invited us to keep up our courage also with the healthy, pure joys,
which we meet on our way.

Pope John Paul I. He was elected Pope on this date, 1978; He died 33 days later.

A long quote, I know. I regret few things ….. but I regret that this man had such a short pontificate. Something tells me that he would have joined Pope John XXIII as one of my heroes.

I find such a grimness in so many communities of faith today. They seem to have lost their way, mired in ugly politics and the preservation of worldly power and in the ugly theologies that rationalize them. I wish there were some way that I could send these words of John Paul I to every person of faith for them to meditate on today, as I hold them up to myself and to you.

I had a lovely moment today. Dennis and I took Holy Communion to one of our fellow parishioners. His caregiver Michael was there, and was wearing on a chain around his neck a small picture of a smiling woman. It was Amma, known as the “hugging saint”, of whom Michael is a devotee. She smiles and hugs people with loving devotion; it’s her life and work ….. but she also gathers millions to help the poor and destitute. She changes peoples’ lives.

Simple “healthy pure joys” that instill hope. I’m with John Paul I; I share his sympathy for Hope as a light to the human spirit. And for the way that Hope stirs us to compassion for each other.

Jucunditas and hilaritas. I’d like to be known for them both.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, August 25, 2011

True affluence is not needing anything.

Gary Snyder, American poet, writer,

This is like a little koan ….. not surprising, since Gary lived in Japan in a Zen monastery for some years. So, like my Reflections (say I defensively), it’s not meant to encompass “all truth” and voice every aspect of an issue. It’s meant to get one thinking.

I’ve trained myself on the Principle of Non-Need ….. and “Need” is what essentially Gary is talking about. My friends chuckle about all my stuff, from piles of elegant Limoges china to 19th C antique Italian carnelian intaglio rings to an iPad, iTouch, and MacBook. Perhaps my 15 years in a monastic order guided me in this. I’ve collected all sorts of things ….. and I’ve given them away, or sold them when I moved, or exchanged them for something else ….. or for nothing. And I have enjoyed every single thing I’ve had, used it, and appreciated it. And delighted in knowing that someone else was enjoying them when they were gone.

But I don’t need them, and I certainly don’t need them in order to be “happy”. We’re not talking here about the basic things that all human beings need and should have, like a place to live and enough to eat and appropriate clothing ….. and I would add the ability to enjoy the wonders and beauty of creation, and a community. It’s the “accessories” I’m talking about. I can be as delighted by a good toasted bagel with real butter as a fabulous lunch at Benoit in Paris.

“Affluence” implies contentment. “Need” connotes dissatisfaction. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the basics (and more at times!). But on the whole, I can be as delighted and charmed by a meadow full of California poppies as I can by an elegant hotel on the Amalfi Coast.

Knowing what’s important is the key. I’ve found that pursuing perceived needs usually leads to an aching kind of poverty. Appreciating whatever comes along brings the peace of simplicity.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Taste every fruit of every tree in the garden
at least once. It is an insult to creation not to
experience it fully. Temperance is wickedness.

Stephen Fry, English actor [Wooster & Jeeves] and writer;
he was born on this date, 1957, at Hampstead, London

Yes, I agree [in general, which is to say that the Rule may be proved by a few exceptions depending on our individual makeup]. Mothers who said, “At my table, you will at least try every food once” I am totally in agreement with. I am very glad that my own mother - within the limits of lower-middleclass Verdun Scottish/English cookery - had me try kidneys (YUM! – especially in Steak & Kidney pie with a luscious crust made with lard, and eaten with HP Sauce!); beef liver; Brussels sprouts (served soaked in butter); bread fried in bacon fat (bless my father!); Blood Pudding (fabulous when fried crispy, and served with friend eggs); the Spanish make it with raisins ….. such clever people; I love a little sweetness!; snake (in Liberia); dog fried in palm oil (sorry, it was very tasty; cultures are different.); Haggis (utterly fabulous!); Black Russians; Poppers.

There are some foods I’ve tried ….. just once, and have no need or desire to try again: tripe; beef tongue; head cheese (thoroughly disgusting); fried locust in Morocco (well, maybe again); raw living conch; sea cucumbers (utterly revolting); Scotch.

Moving to a more “spiritual” level, I could make the same kind of list about Religions/forms of worship. For fear of being stalked and killed in my bed by fanatics, I shall refrain from naming them. Some are FAR better than others ….. Just Saying! And, I can say the same thing about sexual experiences; Propriety restrains me.

The World is chock full of absolutely amazing things, and people and ideas of stunning variety.

Be adventurous. Giv’em a Go! Narrow-mindedness is just a form of Fear, which is, like Temperance, wickedness!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of
Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.

Mark Russell, American comedian; he
was born on this date, 1932, at Buffalo NY.

The theological theory I like the best is that God sat down and wrote the Bible and had it transcribed by human scribes ….. into Hebrew and Greek! Everyone can use a good laugh now and then ….. and this theory provides me many a good belly laugh! It is about as plausible as Mark’s theory of the rings of Saturn – and just as frustrating as the aggravation of lost luggage!

One of the things I love about reading the Bible is the insight It offers into human nature. The Bible is relentless at poking fun at us – and this is even funnier when we recognize that we mainly composed it ourselves! Every one of our human foibles: our egomaniacal self-importance, our deviousness, our charming naïveté, our wickedness, our self-delusion, our lovely hopes and dreams, our beauty - they all surface in the text of the Bible. Without realizing it, we gave ourselves the great gift in the Bible of a mirror in which to see our true selves with all our warts and our wondrousness.

Awareness of the truth about ourselves is one of the primary tools to freedom, health, and wholeness ….. and towards peace and enjoyment of each other. God is very clever. She knows, understanding how we are made, that it is in walking the clear-eyed path of self-knowledge that we shall grasp the truth, and that doing this ourselves holds out the greatest possibility of our breaking free into a Life as wild and wonderful as whirling around like a bit of lost luggage in the rings of Saturn!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, August 19, 2011

You must descend from
 your head into your heart.

At present your thoughts of God
 are in your head.
And God Himself is,
 as it were, outside you, and

so your prayer and other spiritual
exterior. Whilst you are still
 in your head,
will not easily be subdued but
 will always be whirling
about, like snow 
in winter or
 clouds of mosquitoes
in summer.

Theopan the Recluse 1815-1894

I’ll be preaching about this on Sunday; the Gospel reading is about Jesus asking, “who do people say the Son of Man is?” And Peter’s response: “You are the Messiah, the Son of God”. I’ll be helping us to explore what all this means.

But I want to deal with a critical point here. And that is this: God cannot be “outside you” and be real.

There is no separation between the “God” of which human beings have conceived and ourselves. Jesus prayed that there would be Oneness between God and us, as there was between Him and His Heavenly Father; it is presented in the Gospel of John as Jesus’ deepest longing.

As long as God remains “outside”, God is not real. We know this when we stop “thinking” about God and we “connect” with God, become bonded with God.

But there is another more radical dimension to this, and it is this: God cannot be real until we understand that we and God are the same thing. God is given Life when any human being glimpses the truth that God is born when God is incarnated in any human heart. That is why Theophan says what he says about descending from our head into our heart ….. and why God must be, mythologically speaking, “born of the Virgin Mary”. God can only exist at the core of you and me.

God cannot manifest until we experience the moment Peter had: “You are the Messiah, the Son of God!”. This has nothing to do with church politics! - with the establishment of a church and a church hierarchy. Peter suddenly understood that Jesus was a full human being created in God’s image – and that so was he. Peter knew at that moment that Jesus had saved him from living a limited, truncated Life. And hence he saw Jesus as the Messiah, God’s Anointed Messenger. I think it is clear in the Scripture that if Jesus saw Himself as the “Messiah”, it was as this sort of Messiah, Saviour, a Giver of the Gift of Live and not a political or military one.

Jesus is You and I become whole. When we “see” that, we have the “keys of the kingdom”. In that Kingdom, we can unlock wholeness for all.

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, August 18, 2011

O my Lord,
 if I worship you
 from fear of hell,
burn me in hell.

If I worship you
 from hope of Paradise,
bar me from its gates.

But if I worship you
 for yourself alone,
grant me then the beauty of your Face.

Rabi'a 717-801

Rewards. Oh we human beings: we want “our just due”, what we deserve”. It’s related, of course, to the path which leads to our claiming our full humanity and our own particular unique personhood - where “I” and “Love” are One ….. or at least striving towards it.

For Rabi’a, the Face of God is Love – and we must love the Face of God for what it is and for no other reason. Otherwise, we will fail of our destiny. We don’t love to “get something” (Paradise). We don’t love because we are afraid. We don’t love to “be good”.

We love because it is who we are, and who we long to be. The true reward of Love is Love itself. It’s all we need.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, August 17, 2011

He who hesitates is a damned fool.

I always say, keep a diary and someday it'll keep you.

I like a man who's good, but not too good –
for the good die young, and I hate a dead one.

I speak two languages, Body and English.

I've been in more laps than a napkin.

It's not the men in my life that count, it's the life in my men.

Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution.

You Know Who; she was born
on this date, 1893, in Brooklyn

Hey! It’s Laugh Wednesday!! And who better but …..Mae West. What a character! Last time I wrote a Reflection about Mae, a friend gave me a marvelous collage. On the left is Mae, in a skin-tight silver-satin dress and fabulous fluffy boa, long blond hair cascading. On the right, above her signature (anyone want to make a bid???) are three pictures: her in a tight dark floor-length dress and long-trained feather coat, surrounded by four men in tuxes; her and two tuxed men kissing her cheeks; and her in high white father turban surrounded by eight buffed muscled men in bathing suits ….. very 40’s! Very Mae!

Marlene Dietrich’s daughter once told me that, when Mae had a dressing room across from her mother and her mother was away, Mae would steel the flowers that had been left! Good for her! I would have too.

Remember George Burns in “Oh God”? That movie was great, because it reminded us that laughs and humour are part of the character of the “Gods” we humans imagine ….. and that’s as it should be. God is Life - and Life would be sorely diminished without laughter. One of the things I have always loved about Gay men is their camp humour! They can make even death from AIDS funny ….. and it’s healing. I remember someone being trained as an AIDS buddy asking one of our trainers how to deal with a person who was really nasty. Bob, with an arching of the eyebrow, prefaced his remarks with, “Remember honey; asshole before AIDS, asshole after Aids!”. We cracked up ….. and compassion shined.

God we humans are funny! I’m going to look for that today, in myself and in others.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Doing defines being. A religion must be
judged on the basis of its adherents' behavior.

The Rev. Harry T. Cook (a colleague
and valued friend I’ve never met
in person – but we will!)

Harry may think that I could have found more “profound” things he’s said to quote! Anyway, I urge you to Google him; I think you would find his writings and musings very stimulating.

I think about all the things that I have said or written in over 40 years of preaching. I would guess that there might be less than 10 of those things that anyone has remembered. What people remember is what I’ve done. You knew my name at the altar rail the first time I came to Communion. You appeared at midnight at the hospital when my son was hit by a car, even though you didn’t know us. You received the quilt that I made for my lover who had died of AIDS, and I’ll always remember your hug. You gave the blessing in Italian at our wedding, something my inlaws have never forgotten. You’ve remembered by birthday for the last 23 years!

Pope John XXIII is a personal hero; I don’t remember a thing he said or wrote. I remember that he gave fake baptismal certificates to hundreds of Jews to get them away from the Nazis.

When it comes to what makes a difference, people may not remember the things that God has purportedly said; they will remember that they are unconditionally loved.

Many of America’s politicians these days play the god-card to the hilt. Ultimately, they – and their God - will be judged not by what they said but by their compassion for those they wish to lead.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, August 15, 2011

Let it be to me according to Your will.

The Blessed Virgin Mary; her feast
day is today (variously called “The Feast
of the BVM (spare, non-committal; how
Anglican!); the Assumption (how Roman!);
the Dormition (how Orthodox!) The
Protestants don’t keep it (how Protestant!)
Who knows when she was born,
if born, how born; IMHO she is, at most
profound, an eternal Myth of the God
potentially given birth in each of us.

O, what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive!

Sir Walter Scott, poet, novelist; he was
born on this date, 1771, in Edinburgh
(God, I love Scotland!)

A closed mind is a dying mind.

Edna Ferber, she was born on this
date, 1885, in Kalamazoo MI

All religions have been made by men.

Napoleon, Emperor; he was born on this
date, 1769, on the isle of Corsica

August 15. What a Bonanza! So, here’s a hodge-podge.

The BVM. If anyone asks you, you heard it here folks! Here’s the skinny. The Mystery of what it means to be Alive has occurred in you and in me and in every existing thing. You are Mary, I am Mary ….. IF we assent to be Theotokoi – bearers of Life. Our choice.

Scott: Truth is the ultimate source of Freedom, Peace, and Joy. First step: self-knowledge.

Ferber: Minds can be fueled by Fear or by Wonder. Choose Wonder.

Napoleon: Religion is the structure humans build around Mystery. They mustn’t be confused; the mistake is fatal. Religion is only a (wo)manmade tool ….. and if we mis-shape the tool, the end can only be profoundly deforming. Look around.

Living is ecstasy. So I find it, more and more as I age. Dennis’s smile leaves me breathless!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, August 12, 2011

Faith is not belief.
Belief is passive.
Faith is active.

Edith Hamilton, classisist, mythologist;
she was born on this date, 1867.

I think that Edith Hamilton got my imaginative life (and therefore what I think of as my “real” life) going. I was quite young when I read “The Greek Way”, “The Roman Way”, and “Mythology”. Though I did read “Peyton Place” under the covers with a flashlight, I was more likely to be reading Hamilton. And I think I will start reading all three again. (I’ve just downloaded “The Greek Way” to my ipad.)

Hamilton is, I believe, correct. “Faith is not Belief.” I’ve been a priest for nearly 40 years. For most of those years I have detested the Nicene Creed barging it’s way into the Sacred Liturgy. I have always thought of the Liturgy (the Holy Eucharist) as a great mythological poem weaving us into the life of the great Mystery we call God, enlivening us as part of the whole matrix of Being, and shaping us into active living epiphanies of Divine Love. The Nicene (or Apostles’) Creed, with its beginning “I/we believe”, always seemed to me an intrusion of politics, proclaiming our club membership and ensuring our loyalty to a 4th C definition of the institution of the “Church” (a definition I always find suffocatingly narrow and dry).

Not only is Faith active rather than passive, it is dynamic. It changes and grows, and pushes, entices us to grow and change as well. “Belief” seems to me designed to fixate us forever in one dead place. To my mind, this is particularly evident in World religion today. Belief is often exclusive; Faith is inclusive.

The “Hellenization” of the Christian story is often decried. Personally I give thanks for Paul of Tarsus’s Greek grounding, and his faith in the universal Mythic Christ. It lifts us Christians into unity with the eternal God in whom all human beings find our Glory.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, August 11, 2011

Either you deal with what is the reality,
or you can be sure that the reality is
going to deal with you.

Alex Haley, author [“Roots”]; he was born on
this date, 1921, in Ithaca NY

Almost every great spiritual teacher will tell you that fantasy, denial, self-unawareness is one of the surest paths to misery. I agree.

Since the time I left Canada in the late summer of 1967 to come to Holy Cross Monastery to “try” my vocation as a monastic, I have identified that as a “guidance of the spirit” in leading me towards wholeness and health and strength. And I am grateful. It was successful. Holy Cross gave me a life centered in a beautiful God Who loved everyone, and a diverse community of almost all Gay men who mentored me, intentionally or not. (Some were closeted.)

Here I was: this fat 21 year old. Who knew that he was sexually and emotionally attracted to men when he was eight years old. Who knew intuitively that he was called to be a priest from an even earlier age. How the hell does this stuff happen to a kid living in Verdun Quebec in the 50’s??? Now I know how it happens: There is a Great and mysterious Spirit of the Universe that seeks to guide each of us to the full Life we are destined for. My greatest disappointment is how almost every culture I have been a part of seeks to quash that destiny. When I try to think of how that can be changed, I sigh in sadness. Living in America today makes it exponentially more difficult.

Alex Haley is right. Reality will out. Like it or not. Reality can’t be suppressed. It eventually will sneak up on you and demand recognition - and the more you ignore it, the more hell you will go through.

Jesus was a Master at calling people to Reality. (The Israelite prophets were too.) The Israelites on their interpretation of “The Law”. Individuals on their loony concepts of Truth. His disciples especially on their self-delusions ….. including those of us who follow millennia later.

There is no way to become whole without dealing with Reality. We have to be ruthless at it. God bless AA for the way that they demand it of each other! Would that the Church were as fearless!

Reality is one of our best friends. Hold it close.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, August 9, 2011

As for doing good; that is one of the professions
which is full. Moreover I have tried it fairly and,
strange as it may seem, am satisfied that it does
not agree with my constitution.

Henry David Thoreau; on this date, 1854, he
published “Walden”, of his time spent on the
pond. I lived near there for 18 months.

Do-gooders. Hmmmm. I’m with Thoreau; “doing good” in and of itself “does not agree with my constitution”.

I have often thought of Jesus’ rather sharp response to the person who called him “good”. “Why do you call me good?!” I think He wanted to make the point that Goodness, arrogated to oneself, is just abominable pride, as well as a failure to recognize that Goodness can only authentically manifest itself when it is a reflection of a human being’s unity with the character of Divine Love. Goodness is a charism of humility; a do-gooder lacks love, as well as self-awareness.

Do-goodism think itself better than others. It “puffs up”. It is like that Pharisee who gave thanks that he was “not like other men”. Meaning, better.

None of us is any better than anyone else. Authentic Goodness flows from those who grasp this truth.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, August 8, 2011

1. Don't try to tear down other people's religion
about their ears. Build up your own perfect
structure of truth, and invite your listeners
to enter in and enjoy it's glories.

2. Honest hearts produce honest actions.

3. We should never permit ourselves to do anything
that we are not willing to see our children do

Brigham Young. He was chosen to lead the Mormons
on this date, 1844, after Joseph Smith was killed

I am “using” Brigham Young today to reflect on the differences between what “founders” say and what their followers do. To reflect on how difficult it is to remain true to what those Founders taught and lived in their lives. And to reflect on how difficult it is to interpret what the Founders meant. As an example, John and Charles Wesley did not intend to found another Christian church; they remained Anglican clergy. But their followers had other ideas. It is my own opinion that Jesus did not intend to found a religion beyond a Judaism He wished to reform; but his followers had other ideas.

Re. 1: Eventually every religion comes to the point of thinking that it alone has the “truth”, and it begins to denigrate and vilify all others. (Hinduism may be an exception.) More to the point: almost every religion eventually demands of its followers that it conform to the established doctrine, and begins to suspect and to expel those who do not agree with the church’s doctrine/dogma. An almost fascist conformity to purism develops. Then a suspicion of disagreement. Finally a pathology and a fear of disagreement – and before you know it, the wisdom of the Founders is rejected. In my view, almost everything that Jesus taught about Love and Compassion and Justice and Sisterhood has been denied at times by the churches that profess to follow His Gospel. We forget that the best witness and evangelism is, as Young says, living your path faithfully and offering it to others by the example of your life.

Re. 2: It was with dishonest hearts that the Mormon Church spent millions of dollars to fight and defeat Proposition 8 in California. As well (along with many others) deny rights to women and Blacks. Even one of their own Elders eventually publically said so and apologized – deceitfully so after their money and prejudices had denied equal rights to their fellow American citizens. They may have been promoting what they believed. But they were denying the validity of other religious groups in the country who supported Prop 8, and sought by money to impose their will. They were not “inviting”; they were imposing.

Re. 3: I would hope that Mormon parents today would not want their children to deprive fellow Americans of their legal and constitutional rights. More to the point, would not want others’ children to deprive THEM of their legal and constitutional rights, or subject them to mistreatment and hate that they themselves would not wish to experience, as Joseph Smith did.

There are many (not all, thank Goodness) religions in America today, including particularly Christian (including the largest Christian denomination) and Mormon and some Islamic, and the peculiar brand of Christianity called “Evangelical” (what a travesty of the blessed Compassion of the Gospel proclamation of the four Scriptural Evangelists!) which are seeking to deny the religious freedom of their fellow citizens by imposing their political will through the vast amounts of money thy control. They buy and threaten politicians.

Most religions today run on fear and on a will to power, contrary in most cases to the vision of their Founders. It is time it stopped.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, August 5, 2011

A human being - what is a human being? Everything
and nothing. Through the power of thought it can
mirror everything it experiences. Through memory
and knowledge it becomes a microcosm, carrying the
world within itself. A mirror of things, a mirror of facts.
Each human being becomes a little universe within
the universe!

Guy de Maupassant, novelist, short-story writer; he was
born on this date, 1850, at the château de Miromesnil,
near Dieppe.

That is the Big Question, isn’t it? Who am I? Who are we? What are we here for? I used to think about this when I was a child (in the way of a child, of course!), lying in our rowboat out on the lake in Montfort in the dark of a mountain country night, watching the Milky Way above. I think that this is the Question that most motivates us on all levels. It is the fountainhead of art, inquiry, religion, emotional maturity, relationships. It is the Mother of God ….. where the idea of “God” is born.

It has been proposed by scientists (some very ancient) and philosophers and psychiatrists and theologians that all things are connected: all part of a One; all part of The One Reality of Being; part of the One Universe. St. Paul was to use this idea in speaking of the nature of the Christian Community and, by extension, of the nature of the human race: we are the parts making up one Body. In my life, I have come to see that “Christ”, as the manifestation of God, is Being - the Universe. And that we human beings are not only a “part”, but that we are the fullness of Being ….. as de Maupassant says, “a little universe within the universe”. When St. Paul talks about “putting on the mind of Christ”, I understand him to be trying to get us to see that we are God in some mystical way. There is no separation.

I think that so much of the trouble in the human community these days - as it has been so often throughout Time - is that we have such a diminished perception of Who we Are. We hold a “low doctrine” of our self and of each other. But what of we were taught to think of ourselves as one Universe encountering another Universe, with all the vast beauty and majesty and wonder and power that one sees from the bottom of a rowboat on a clear Laurentian night! Soon we would not be able to look into each others’ eyes without Love.

I can hope, can’t I? And try to live the vision.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, August 4, 2011

"O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert,
Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men
Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart
Dare the unpastured dragon in his den?
Defenceless as thou wert, oh, where was then
Wisdom the mirrored shield, or scorn the spear?
Or hadst thou waited the full cycle, when
Thy spirit should have filled its crescent sphere,
The monsters of life's waste had fled from thee like deer.

Percy Bysshe Shelly, poet; this is a stanza from
“Adonais”, his elegy for Keats. Shelly lived in Rome
with Keats and nursed him as Keats died from
consumption. Shelley was born on this date, 1792.

[ The complete poem can be found here: ]

Dennis and I went to the Spanish Steps in Rome at about 8am a few weeks ago. I had been there several times, but not at that early hour. When I’d been there, it was packed with people, local and tourists. This morning, we were almost alone. I took this picture (above) of the little house in which John Keats died, where Shelley cared for him, and which is now the Keats and Shelley House. (Byron stayed there too.)

The first time I sat on the Spanish Steps and gazed at the house, I had with me a copy of “Adonais”. I was about 30 – four years older that Keats when he died. It was that morning, as I sat there reading Shelley’s “Adonais” that I became consciously aware that I was a Romantic. That I first understood Melancholy! It was a life-changing moment, spiritually and emotionally.

I remember reading:

For he is gone, where all things wise and fair
Descend; -oh, dream not that the amorous Deep
Will yet restore him to the vital air;
Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair -

and consciously pondering death for the first time, the “not-knowingness” - something which deeply shaped and affected my life as a priest, and my sense of how important living every moment was.

We know not how much time we have. It would be well to live it fearlessly – and to know Why!!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, August 3, 2011

There comes a time when every scientist,
even God, has to write off an experiment.

P. D. James (Baroness James of Holland Park),
writer of “detective stories” (she said herself!);
she was born on this date, 1920, in Oxford,
and is 91 today.

We are “created in the image of God”. That’s a fairly widely-held theological concept amongst most Christians. In general, it means that human beings are to be Compassionate, Loving, Kind, Just, and a few other core things which characterize the Divine nature of the Judeo-Christian God.

I am both a theological optimist and pessimist on this issue of being “made in the Divine Image” at the same time. On the one hand, I work to live my Hope and Trust and Faith in the Divine character of human beings. On the other - like these times in which we are living - I really think that Baroness James is right: God should give up on His experiment! Human beings “like God”? No way Jose!

But then. Dennis and I were in New Mexico this past week, setting up a trailer as a temporary home on our land there. (It will later become the Guest Casita!) It was complicated. But! A delightful bulldozer operator (who looked like Onslow in “Keeping Up Appearances”!) came and tidied up the land; he did a fine job – and said just to pay when we could. The delightful woman from whom we bought the trailer did everything possible to help us get that organized, including finding a persosn to haul it. She and I had a great conversation as that was being organized. A tire had to be changed – and Mike the garage man lent us his big car jack, no problem. Charlie, who moved the trailer, was as helpful “beyond the call” as he could have been. The young man in the Do It Store, where we bought paving stones and a chain to lay across the driveway went out of his way to help ….. and was as pleasant as he could be. The man in the Ace Hardware store was the same when we went to buy duct tape and a lock. Two guys at breakfast one morning told us about their decades-long hobby of discovering and studying bugs ….. yes, bugs! (And if we had not talked, we might easily have made unwarranted assumptions.) And when I wondered what saint it was depicted in a wonderful large painting in the Jalisco Café where we had a couple of fine lunches, the server went off and found out for me (St. Michael the Archangel – even though it looks like a woman).

So: politicians and terrorists and fundamentalists go on making havoc and suffering for many. Love and Religion fail or, worse, actively make suffering worse. It would be easy to be a pessimist about God’s “human experiment”.

But: there were these wonderful, interesting, helpful people.

I learned my lesson. And recognized the Gift I was given. The Experiment continues.