Friday, November 30, 2012

To the Ends of the World

Lectio Divina

“Their voice has gone forth to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”

Romans 10:18


Catching up on my Catholic periodicals. Continuing to read the biography of Saint Colette. Will return to Mumford, The City in History, when I am able, for class assignments and current affairs come first. The Mumford text will be long-term leisure reading and continuing education.


This morning, we celebrated Mass in Spanish for the first time in the novitiate, and I sincerely hope we will do it again a few more times. The music was good (the schola rehearsed the Mass parts on Monday), and the Spirit was quite present. And I do not know where the time went -- ordinarily we finish Mass in 40 minutes, but we went for a little over an hour. Where did the time go? We were in the flow.

Now, just returned with my novice brother from our first day of weekly ministry to the Catholic prisoners in the low-security and medium-security facilities at FCC Lompoc. We introduced ourselves; the men introduced themselves; we shared how our respective faith communities practice our religion; and we described what we propose to do in the faith sharing group.

It feels like a victory, a triumph that we are there at last. Our mere presence is enough to cheer the hearts of the men who are leading their faith communities. Make no mistake, their small faith communities are Church, never mind the walls, bars, and fences. If every Friday is like the one we had today, ministry is going to be an experience of phenomenal power, bursting with positive spiritual energy. My novice brother and I feel spent, but we are a good kind of tired. We have begun our ministry well -- the men made it easy, given their enthusiasm -- and we aim to continue with the same fervor that we have begun. The Spirit of God penetrates all barriers, crosses all borders, and sheds light in every dark place. Indeed, the Word of God goes forth to the ends of the world, even to the dead ends of prison corridors.


Looking cloudy (and threatening) all around, but when the sun shines, the light is irrepressible.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

See How He Loves

"See how he loved him."

John 11:36

Had a recollection day yesterday on the love of Jesus, who desired and chose to be with people. From Tuesday evening to Wednesday afternoon, I read the Gospel of John from start to finish with an eye toward seeing how Jesus showed warmth toward the people, how he really wanted to be with them with the love of God. We also meditated on the San Damiano Cross, whose image of the Crucified spoke literally to Francis of Assisi and moved him to works of love to build up the Church and his sisters and brothers. Looking on the San Damiano Cross to Jesus and the figures in relationship with him, we see how God in Jesus loves others, loves us, sees our suffering, and loves us into relationship with each other.

This was a difficult day of recollection for me. It led me to look at some dim and ugly places inside of me where there is little or no light, little or no love.

Some of my reflections, after an examination of conscience:

See how Jesus loves. See how I do not love.
I could wish to love as Jesus loves, but I have not wished to love.
I pray, but I have not prayed, truly prayed, that I would love.

Jesus desires to be with people, and he actually chooses to be with people.
But I desire and choose to be alone.
If this is all I desire and all I choose, today and every day,
I will not desire Jesus and I will not choose Jesus.
I will be alone every day,
And when I die,
I will die into eternal death.

God desires to be with me, and God actually chooses to be with me,
But all too often I desire and choose to be alone,
And I go so far as to tell God to go away.

But God does not go away.
And God will not leave me alone.

I do not know if God likes me.
But God loves me.

The reason I leave people alone
Is because I want to be left alone.
But this is not life.
This is not love.
We need life; we need love.
We need to live with each other.
We need to love each other.
Because God is life; God is love.
God is "I AM here with you."

So I ask God:

Help me love the brothers.
Keep my likes and dislikes from being an obstacle to being with all the brothers, in God's love.
Do not allow my likes to turn into partiality.
Remove my dislikes, if possible.
Above all, increase my love.

Help me desire to be with the brothers.
Unharden my heart that is often cold.
Help me choose to be with the brothers.
Let the warmth you give me warm them, too.

Forgive my offenses against the brothers.
Above all, forgive my thoughts and words.
Forgive me for what I have failed to do for the brothers.

Let me desire as Jesus desires.
Let me choose as Jesus chooses.
Let me love as Jesus loves.

Let me see Jesus' love.
Let me see others, and love others, like Jesus.
Let me know and love God.

Finally, some words of reassurance from the formator who directed our recollection day:

God is at your side. This does not mean God is on your side, but God is always by your side.
Lean forward into Jesus. Have the confidence of the beloved disciple who leaned on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper.
Be at home in the presence of the Lord. Think of the sparrows or swallows making their nests in the rafters of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.
Speak to the Lord Jesus. Do not merely talk about God in your prayer. Speak directly to the God whose Son sees you and loves you.

Redemption At Hand

Lectio Divina

"... your redemption is at hand."

Luke 21:28


Catching up now on recently arrived issues of Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter. Wading slowly through Mumford, The City in History. 

A novice brother has loaned me a copy of his book about the correspondence between Saint Clare of Assisi, founder of the first community of Franciscan women religious, and Princess Agnes of Prague, who renounced marriage and her destiny as royalty to live Gospel poverty and care for the sick and poor. Here is the citation:

Mueller, Joan. Clare's Letters to Agnes: Texts and Sources. Saint Bonaventure, N.Y.: The Franciscan Institute, 2001.

While we are talking about women Franciscans, I am working on a small-group assignment about Saint Colette of Corbie, France, a 15th-century reformer of both the men's and women's religious communities. I found a biography in our novice library:

Schimberg, Albert P. Tall in Paradise: The Story of Saint Coletta of Corbie. Francestown, N.H.: Marshall Jones, 1947. It's probably typical of the pious hagiographies of the time, but at least it will illuminate for me the significance of her life and works.


This morning at Mass, we celebrated all the saints of the Franciscan order. Thinking prayerfully about Dorothy Day, who entered into her eternal reward 32 years ago today. She was not formally a Franciscan, but who better lived the Gospel example of Francis and Clare in our times than she?

Staying put today because I have several things to get done. First, updating this blog! Next, getting a haircut and trimming my beard -- I want to clean up for my first day of ministry at the Lompoc federal penitentiary. While working on my presentation on Saint Colette, I am also reading my kid brother's graduate school application essays and offering him advice and improvements. If I have additional time, I will get to that Advent/Christmas circular I have been meaning to write. And, if I am really industrious, a Christmas greeting card to the Walmart home office and the managers of the supercenter and grocery in Santa Maria.

So many troubles in our world: the polar ice caps are melting, and creation is crucified; greed ruins lives, corrupts souls, and batters families; the machinery of the global industrial economy kills workers, and still we worship Mammon over God; we turn to violence for redemption, and we wonder why peoples refuse to live in peace. But then there is the Gospel and today's message in Luke. We are at the very end of Ordinary Time, and Advent feels really near. Redemption is always near, always at hand.


Damp but warmer than yesterday. It is important to keep the heart warm and the blood moving. It's California but the valley gets cold at night. It can be hard sometimes to shake off the chill and the hardening of the extremities. Lord, don't let the chill harden my heart, my core.

Brother Zachary, RIP

The Province of Saint Mary has lost a member of its family. Fr. Zachary Grant, OFM Cap., died yesterday evening at the age of 82.

I do not have a biography of Brother Zachary's life. This is ironic, because he was our province's official necrologer, that is, the writer of the lives of our deceased brothers. Most everything I know about our departed brothers in the Capuchin Franciscan family, apart from anecdotes from brothers who knew the deceased directly, come from Brother Zachary's knowingly, lovingly crafted biographies.

I will post a fuller obituary once it becomes available to me. In the meantime, here are the merest details of Brother Zachary's life in religion:

Date of birth: June 21, 1930
Investiture: August 31, 1948
First Profession: September 1, 1949
Perpetual Profession: September 1, 1953
Ordination: June 23, 1956

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Monday, November 26, 2012

In Editorial Form

Lectio Divina

... his Father’s name written on their foreheads....

Revelation 14:1


Continuing with Mumford, The City in History.


This morning and tomorrow morning, class sessions on liturgy, perhaps with an eye turned toward Advent and the new liturgical year. This afternoon, much work to do on the newsletter. This evening, schola rehearsal, also in preparation for Advent. In between, reading my kid brother's essays for his graduate school application. Also hoping to draft a circular letter to send to friends and family for Advent and Christmas. And, if I am really creative, a song or poem for the seasons nearly upon us. So, in editorial mode this week.


Nippy at the fingertips; still warm enough on the inside.

On This Day

A song for my mother, Mary, on her sixtieth birthday.

On this day, your first of days,
God Creator's name I praise
Who with spirit quickening
Did your life from darkness bring

On this day your grateful son
Sings to show what God has done
On this day the Spirit came
With her gifts of living flame

God, the one who fashioned you,
Made of you a maker, too
Filled you with that love divine
And life in you to beget mine

Flesh from your flesh, your legacy
Now exults in liberty
Free to live and die and rise
Into God in sacrifice

Mother, always do impart
Gifts of love to warm my heart
Share God's light and grace, I pray
Fill my heart this holy day

God is love and God is one
May her holy will be done
Take my word and all its worth
Tribute on your day of birth.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crossing Over

Lectio Divina

My kingdom does not belong to this world.

John 18:36


Continuing with Mumford, The City in History. Also for today, revisiting The Master and Margarita, a novel written in the 1920s and 1930s by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov (d. 1940) and published posthumously a generation later. His acknowledged masterpiece, a work of magic realism that borrows from and updates the legend of Faust, playfully savages life in the Soviet Union under Stalin. But what draws me back to the novel is its parallel narrative of a day in the life of Pontius Pilate. Not just any day, but the day he sentences Jesus to death. The novel portrays the encounter as a conversation between Jesus and Pilate interrupted, a life-determining opportunity missed for the procurator of Judea. But in Bulgakov's rendering, there is something like redemption for Pilate as the parallel plots are resolved and merge. In the end, Bulgakov imagines Jesus and Pilate resuming their nighttime conversation on a moonlit path ascending heavenward. A beautiful image. If even Pilate can cross over from the rule of Caesar to at least consider the rule of Christ, who cannot be saved? 


Yesterday, sweet vindication as I tried again with the vegan buttery double pie crust and succeeded. This time, I filled two pies with blueberries, and the desserts both looked and tasted great. A tip of the hat to the novice brother who suggested I bake the pies longer and at a lower heat. That was the most important improvement, but also I rolled out the crusts to a greater thickness than the first time, and I figured out how to crimp the edges better. I received twice the compliments for the blueberry pies with twice the satisfaction.

This morning, Mass at Old Mission Santa Ines on this, the final Sunday of the liturgical year, the solemnity of Christ the King. Appreciated the pastor's homily, which distinguished the reign of Christ from the reign of earthly nations. Whereas the rule of the worldly powers is benevolent only within prescribed boundaries of race, class, ethnicity, religion, and territory; limited in time and space, and violent to the point of assailing love and truth with the weapons of war, the kin(g)dom of heaven is boundless, everlasting, and non-violent. It is for Christ's reign that we live first, and for our earthly nation second and only insofar as allegiance to God's rule is not compromised.

May we serve no "lord" but God and no "king" but Jesus Christ. May we all cross over and transfer our citizenship, so to speak, to that peaceful kin(g)dom. Only there can we all live.


Beautiful, blue, and brisk. The world may be passing away again, but today it is still alive.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Good Friday, Not Black Friday

Lectio Divina

Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things.

Luke 19:45

They are without knowledge who bear wooden idols and pray to gods that cannot save.

Isaiah 45:20

For the love of money is the root of all evils.

1 Timothy 6:10


Continuing with Mumford, The City in History.


No ministry today, the day after Thanksgiving. The novices get a "day off." But I had something else in mind than movies or the mall.

This morning, I travelled with my brothers to the shopping complex in Santa Maria. While they were running errands elsewhere, I went to the Walmart superstore, walked into the vestibule, found a spot where there was no traffic, knelt down, and prayed for an hour for the needs of the store employees and warehouse workers on strike throughout the country today. (See them now; read more about it here and here.)

Walmart workers were the first to notice and ask what I was about. When I told them, they thanked me.

Most shoppers were oblivious to the presence of a lone person kneeling in prayer in an unlikely place. But a few made eye contact and smiled, even if they could not comprehend what I was doing. And a few of those few did ask why I was praying. And then we had a conversation. They understood and sympathized as I, in turn, asked them to think twice about they way they live: what they buy, where they buy, how they buy, and why they buy. I urged them to consider who bears the cost of their convenience. Some asked what Scripture I was reading, and I shared the passages noted above. I pointed out that, in my opinion, Walmart's slogan, "Save Money. Live Better," is irreconcilable with the Word of God given to us in 1 Timothy 6:10.

Only one person gave me a dirty look and dirty word. And the police officer who passed through the vestibule didn't give me even a first look -- he must have been called to the store to handle some report of theft. 

I "behaved" myself this morning. I was courteous, patient, and even compassionate. No shouting. No grandiose gestures. I was meek. I do not want to speculate about the "difference" I made. God knows what becomes of the mustard seed.

We as a society, starved as we are for religious experience, invent rituals to compensate for our spiritual poverty. Is Black Friday the best we can do? When did Black Friday become a "holiday"? And when did Walmart and its titanic rivals in the retail industry become the builders and keepers of our shrines?

Does anyone else see the jarring contrast between the feasts of Thanksgiving, its quiet moments for encountering gratitude, and the spectacles of Black Friday, its noisy orgies of taking? The mystery of gift is perverted into the mysticism of riches.

I'm not being fanatical or frivolous when I say that I pray for the end of Walmart as we know it. The nation's largest employer concretely symbolizes the economic structures of sin. But it's not just Walmart. Everything about our thoroughly secularist economy must change. There is a true Gospel, and it is not the gospel of consumerism.

The person matters first. The person matters most. The person is the gift, and God, who is personality itself, is the source of all riches. Francis, the merchant's son, learned this through conversion.

We are not saved by Black Friday. Salvation was accomplished on Good Friday.


The sun is shining and the sky is blue, and it feels good.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

May Goodness Endure

Lectio Divina

May his goodness toward us endure in Israel
to deliver us in our days.

Sirach 50: 22-24


Going to dive into Mumford, The City in History. Being Thanksgiving and having neither class nor ministry, only kitchen chores later in the afternoon, it's the perfect day to this.


Grumpy this morning. Stayed up late last night to bake the apple pie. Didn't stop at preparing the crust. Figuring I had already come this far, I peeled and sliced the apples. And figuring I had got that far, and not wanting the freshly sliced apples to turn brown on me, I prepared the filling, rolled out the pie crusts, assembled the pie, and baked it. I'm grumpy because I worry about how the dessert turned out. I rolled the crust thin, too thin, I fear; the top browned too much and burned a little. Having lowered the heat considerably during the baking to prevent further burning, I may have undercooked the inside crust and filling. Sigh ... I ought meditate, to do a crossword, read, and above all, take a nap. If having a pie fail is the biggest of my immediate concerns, I need to find more important things to be upset about.

Good pie or not-so-good pie, it is Thanksgiving, and it is Thanksgiving with the friars at San Lorenzo. This will be the third time I am coming to the feast apart from my family. The previous two times, in 2010 and 2008 (I think), I celebrated with my friends in Boston. On those occasions, I chose to be apart from my family. This time, it is out of my hands. I don't miss New York a lot, but I do want to see the place, and my people. (The storms -- how awful.) Did talk to my parents via video call, and I will call my brother and sister later.

Making an address list, up to sixty names now, for an Advent/Christmas circular letter has reminded me of all the people from whom I am, for a time, separated. Only separated, but not estranged. I love them and miss them. It would do my soul good to see them, and it's okay to long for them, but not so much as to show partiality in favor of them over against the brothers I am living with now. The song is true: "And if you can't be with the one you love ... love the one you're with." Brothers, forgive me if I am a little pre-occupied today with the other good homes I have had. There is goodness in this home we build together and share, too. And the goodness of this home, too, will endure. After all, our house dwells among the dwellings of the house of Israel.


It's brighter than I know. I ought to turn around and look out the window.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sing Praise, Sing Praise

Lectio Divina

Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

Psalm 47:7  


Finished Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Now, to tackle Mumford and The City in History like I mean it.


This morning, concluded our class sessions on obedience. Sitting pensively with what we have learned. Our formator leading these sessions said that obedience is going to be most difficult of the three vows we will take. He is right. Will be grappling with the question of assenting to the will of God as mediated through human authorities (the Church, a friar's own provincial minister, the friary guardian) for some time to come.

This afternoon, hermitage time. Wrote Thanksgiving letters to four dear soul-sister friends. Feeling good about and grateful for my friendship with them.

Been fasting, cutting down on my meals, and abstaining completely from meat, cheese and dairy, and eggs, for nearly three weeks. Hunger makes you feel all kinds of things, not many of them positive or healthy. I hope to blog more about this really soon. For now, feeling refreshed after our evening meal, and looking forward to our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow evening. Now, off to the kitchen to prepare the non-buttery double crust for the vegan apple pie.


Breezy all over the land. Bright all over the world for as long as the sun is out. Sky as blue as the second day of creation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Come Down Quickly

Lectio Divina

"Zacchaeus, come down quickly."

Luke 19:5


Continuing with the same readings as before.


This morning, continuing our class sessions on the vow of obedience as mediated by the Church in the context of religious life, with an examination of Francis of Assisi's writings on obedience.

This afternoon, a good meeting with my formation advisor to discuss my first formal evaluation, reviewing the recent past and looking into the immediate future. Thinking about the resolutions I am making to improve the quality of my fraternal presence to all within the community.

This evening, cycling off of kitchen cleanup duties. But I will be occupied with Thanksgiving Day preparations. Tomorrow, I will prepare a pie crust for the apple pie I am baking (vegan, of course). On Thanksgiving I am on call as a "cook's aide," setting the refectory tables and cleaning pots and pans as they accumulate.


Cooler than yesterday, but most acceptable.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Do Not Be Remiss

Lectio Divina

Do not be remiss in doing good.

2 Thessalonians 3:13


In addition to assigned readings on authority and the vow of obedience, continuing with Hurston, Mumford, and the Catholic Worker.


Yesterday, received my first formal evaluation, a report written by my formation advisor reflecting the views of the formation team and community of professed friars. I feel good about the evaluation and both understand and agree with the friars' observations. Feeling motivated to make a few new year's resolutions early. I know myself, but I see myself better now that others have expressed how they see what I also have seen.

This week, our class sessions are on the vow of obedience -- that is, obedience to the will of God as mediated through the institution of the Church within the context of religious life with the Capuchin Franciscan order. We are off to a good start. Challenging readings and an easygoing class this morning with some definitions, general observations about our subject, and an examination of healthy and unhealthy behavioral responses to the call to obedience, with strategies for recognizing and dealing with passive-aggressive behavior.

This afternoon, work on the grounds, not the newsletter. This evening, schola rehearsal.


Brightening, and warmer than expected. A gift and a treat.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Under the Layers

Lectio Divina

I have all that I need ... even when I walk through the darkest valley.

Psalm 23:1, 4


Continuing with Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Mumford, The City in History, as before. Will read the rest of The Catholic Worker shortly.


This morning: house chapter, touching on matters concerning the novitiate program, quality of fraternal life, and finances. All this in an hour and a half. This afternoon: house jobs, and some work on the newsletter. This evening, a quiet night to myself going into the Lord's Day.

Feeling cocooned over the last day or so. Also feeling dissatisfied and impatient with myself, which is my ever-present temptation. While fighting the temptation, there is no need to fight the feelings: rather, interrogate them and see what lies beneath them. May God be there under the layers of the cocoon.


A drilling rain this morning. Somehow it has drilled into my marrow, too. A good thing?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Business as Usual?

Lectio Divina

"Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed."

Luke 17:30 (New Living Translation)

But what will it be for me?


Continuing Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Mumford, The City in History. Absorbed in the Hurston; engrossed by Mumford.

Now I am a subscriber to The Catholic Worker. My first issue arrived in the mail yesterday. So thankful that I can read and share every issue personally from this time forward.


Today, ministry at Catholic Charities in Santa Maria for the final time. Next Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, and there will be no ministry that day. On Friday the 30th I will begin my weekly visits to FCC Lompoc for hour-long small-group meetings for faith sharing. More on this in the weeks to come.

This evening, a review of life in our small faith-sharing groups, in advance of our monthly house chapter meeting, which is tomorrow morning.

Be it in our prayer life or ministerial life, it is good for the routine of this way of life to change constantly. Let me never take for granted the grace that saves, the love that gives life. Let the fire burn deep and long.


The rainy season is upon us. The clouds look heavier than the heavens, but they float.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rancho del Cielo

Lectio Divina

Refresh my heart in Christ.

Philemon 20


Continuing Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Mumford, The City in History, as before.


Today, an excursion up the winding roads into the hills of the Santa Ynez Valley with Fr. Brendan Buckley of Old Mission Santa Ines to the ranch formerly owned by Ronald Reagan, Rancho del Cielo. Reagan purchased the 688-acre Tip Top Ranch in the mid-1970s and renamed it Rancho del Cielo, a name he thought more becoming of such a heavenly place with views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Valley. He proceeded to build fences and a pond, and he built an extension to the small adobe house while keeping its dimensions suprisingly modest. This was his refuge from the White House, if not the presidency, during the 1980s, and it would remain his beloved getaway until the advances of Alzheimer's disease forced him to let it go in 1993.

What struck me about the place, besides its simplicity (two fireplaces heated the home) and modesty (Ronald and Nancy slept on two twin beds yoked together) was the relative lack of political memorabilia. Instead, all you saw were portraits of his beloved horses on the walls and Western novels on the shelves. If you did not know who Reagan was, you might think you were walking through the home of any old rancher with a penchant for nostalgia for Americana and the Old West. To say horses was his passion is an extravagant understatement! Today's visit does not change my estimation of Reagan as a leader, alter my judgment of his legacy, or diminish the vehemence of my disagreement with his political philosophy and public policies, but I did gain a sense of his personal goodness and felt lifted up by it.


So many clouds in the sky, but the sky cannot be clouded over.

Why Celibacy

Finished our class sessions on celibacy in religious community yesterday. Have been thinking prayerfully, again, about the reasons why I believe celibacy is the way I was made to love. As one of our formators pointed out, all talk about celibacy is unintelligible without reference to a life centered in God. With that prefatory point taken, these are a few of the reasons among many others that make the fibers of my being resonate when I regard my choice for celibacy.

1. Celibacy is the essential expression of the fundamental commitment my total self to proclamation of the reign of God.

2. Celibacy is the way I make of my body a prophetic sign of the coming reign of God.

3. Celibacy, my celibacy, is the response to a deep interior sense of a personal call.

4. Celibacy grants me the freedom to belong primarily to a religious family, to the people of God, to the body of Christ.

5. Celibacy signifies and effects my felt experience of a spousal relationship with God, namely the Holy Spirit.

6. Celibacy is a charism, a gift, a graced way of being in the world, and it is my charism.

Celibacy is my mode of commitment for holy service;
a visible witness to an invisible reality;
the way to wholeness, maturity, personhood;
liberation from bondage of family, nation, and the tyranny of exclusive loyalty;
intimacy with "what makes the lover lovely";
more than the means to live well--God has given me this way to love.

Celibacy is also poverty. It is good not to forget the existential reality of my own emotional poverty, in renouncing forever the prospect of a physical sexual intimacy with another. But celibacy is neither an escape from nor a flight into personal loneliness. It is an invitation into a communion of loneliness.

A compassionate celibate will not generalize about other people's loneliness from his or her own. Rather, he or she will use loneliness as a conduit into compassion for other people in their emotional poverty. Moving from estrangement to a communion of loneliness: this is to emulate the compassion of the lonely, suffering Christ, God-forsaken but full of the Spirit, love poured out and life given up for others.

The celibate shows compassion for the poor and loveless, putting love where there is no love, finding love in the abyss of one's own soul, out of faith that God, who is love, is there.

Monday, November 12, 2012

War No More

Lectio Divina

... nor shall they train for war again.

Isaiah 2:4

Saint Martin of Tours, pray for us. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us.
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, pray for us.


Continuing with Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Mumford, The City in History.


This morning, resuming our class sessions on celibacy, led by our formation team. This afternoon, spiritual direction at Old Mission Santa Barbara. This evening, schola rehearsal.

This week Bro. Bob Toomey, a Capuchin friar from the Province of Saint Augustine, is visiting San Lorenzo. He was the director of the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps for his province the year I volunteered in Baltimore, 2002-03. In the spring of 2002 my discernment of a calling to religious life with the Capuchins had taken a doubtful turn, and had it not been for Brother Bob keeping the door open for me by offering me a placement with four other lay young adults in Baltimore, we might well have gone our separate ways for good. So thank you, Brother Bob, for keeping one foot in the door, and God's peace and goodness be with you.


Cool but not yet frosty. May the frost stay away, but if it should ever appear, may the sun quickly make it to disappear.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Share Kindly

Lectio Divina

It was kind of you to share in my distress.

Philippians 4:14


Continuing with the new reads, the Hurston and Mumford books. For meditation this morning, toted to the chapel the October issue of The Pilgrim, a little literary newsletter written by homeless and recently housed persons who worship with the Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in Boston, and with Ecclesia Ministries, the ecumenical spiritual community for Boston's homeless. What a beautiful offering they give, they who give from their poverty. Let me learn to see such sacrifices (literally, holy makings) as the most precious gifts.

I last shared pieces from The Pilgrim around Holy Week; I must share some more of them now. Watch this space.


Keeping a flexible schedule today as all hands are at the ready to take their turn baking, cooking, setting up the refectory and grounds for the Sunday gala appreciation luncheon. Otherwise, continuing in the conventional house chores and holding to our appointed hours of prayer.


The chapel, dormitories, and refectory are less nippy now that the heat has been turned on, but things still feel cold to the touch. It is up to us to bring warmth.

Friday, November 9, 2012

All She Had

Lectio Divina

She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had.

Mark 12:44

Would that I showed the charity of the poor widow! I can; may it be so.


Venturing into Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Mumford, The City in History. The latest America and National Catholic Reporter await, too.

But most delighted this week with the letters that came from my soul-friends back East, one still in Cambridge, Mass., the other also a Boston acquainted, now living in Canada. What wonders their greetings have done for me. They bless me to the pith of my heart.


A busy day at Catholic Charities in Santa Maria, with much unloading of wholesale and USDA canned goods, cereals, grains, juice, and pears and plums. Breads of all sorts, and plenty of vegetables, mainly greens and squash. Made room in the cooler for meat donations coming Monday. Also, donations of baby food and sundry canned goods from folks in the community. Thanksgiving is coming, and people are remembering how generous they can be. I hope they continue to remember the day after the feast. I hope I remember, too.

When will I begin the ministry at the federal prison in Lompoc? The shadow of the Holy Spirit knows. We're negotiating a schedule with the supervisory chaplain. We must wait and see what is possible, and after all options are considered, accept whatever arrangement is available. Patience....

This evening, faith sharing on the Sunday gospel, and then I may duck into the kitchen for some late night baking. On Sunday the entire fraternity is remaining at San Lorenzo for worship, and following Mass we will hold a luncheon for the committee and volunteers who organized the September gala that raised over $30,000 for the seminary. Everyone is part of the planning; everyone is part of the hospitality. My part: vegan peanut butter cookies, and maybe a batch of oatmeal raisin, too.


Wearing five thin layers, from the habit down to the undershirt, to throw off the morning and evening chill. Thankful for the warmth generating from within.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Celibacy in Community

These are not my own original thoughts, but wisdom shared by Jesuit Fr. Gerard McGlone of the Saint John Vianney Center:

1. Too much talk about sex is secret and laden with false, unhealthy myths. Do we Catholics hold a genuinely Christian theology of the body? Or do we hold a Puritan mindset that separates body and soul, denies the passions, and represses desire?
2. If we are to know and love God and other people, we must know our own feelings and what lies beneath those feelings. This self-knowing is the mark of a true mystic.
3. Healthy religious learn how to identify, acknowledge, and manage, through appropriate expression, their emotions. They learn how to deal with stress by minding the quality of their relationships—their relationships in ministry, their relationships in religious community, and their friendships.
4. Unresolved emotional conflicts lead to violation of boundaries and abuse of power. Mature religious maintain good professional boundaries. They know how to risk vulnerability to friends and to brothers in community when conflict arises.
5. Attraction happens: you can’t stop it, you can’t control it. The happier you are in religious life, the more attractive you will be to other people. Likewise, healthy celibates fall in love: it is not a matter of if, but when. The key is knowing how to respond, not merely reacting to our mood but acting reflectively according to our identity and our vocation.
6. Seek friendship "in the Lord." You have no choice but to be a friend in the Lord in a religious fraternity, because healthy celibacy depends on intimacy. The well-being of one affects the well-being of all. Therefore, love one another with sincerity and trust, and in grace. Live the way of the Spirit, not "the street."
7. Becoming a mature religious happens in our weakness. It happens in relation with others and with God. It happens with grace. And it happens, not with what we have planned, but in what we have not planned. Healthy religious go with “Plan B.”
8. Grieving well leads to new life. Do not pass over Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday. Observe your grief.

Beginning Again, Again

Lectio Divina

... I even consider everything as a loss....

Philippians 3:8


Beginning new books, both classics in their own right:

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: HarperPerennial, 1998.

Mumford, Lewis. The City in History. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1961.

For the dedicated reader: the November issue of The Caperone is online.


Feeling sad and sober this morning. Trying to avoid self-pity as I examine my conscience. After our conferences with Fr. Gerard McGlone on celibacy in religious community, feeling contrite about my shortcomings as a brother -- not with respect to physical chastity, but with emotional and spiritual chastity. It is with respect to practicing genuine friendship in God with my fellow brothers, to loving all and serving all with a clean heart. Whenever the quality of our fraternity suffers, whenever we fall short of the fullness of charity, I am apt to protect myself from the dysfunction or immature behavior. In other words, instead of participating in conflict resolution and building peace, I look out for my own well-being apart from the fraternity. The more courageous thing to do, the healthier thing to do, is to seek my well-being with the fraternity when there is conflict, because my well-being depends ultimately on the quality of the fraternity. I am worth it, and they are worth it. We are all children of God and brothers in Jesus and Francis.

Had to get that confession out of my soul. Now, to resolve to do better and be better in community. Namely, to approach brothers with renewed trust, with selfless love, with agape. Beginning again, yet again, is hard to do. Time once more to let go of myself and hang on to Christ.

I'll post some of Father Jerry's insights on celibacy and religious community in a separate post.

Today, staying still at home. Reading, writing a few letters, and reflecting prayerfully. Thinking about loved ones back in Northeast, their lives crabbed and cramped after a second severe storm.


Outside and inside, it's cloudy and gray, and chilly and damp. It's all right -- it's got to be like this some of the time. But got to keep moving.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Late Election Special

Lectio Divina

... he emptied himself ... he humbled himself....

Philippians 2:7, 8


Finished the Miller biography of Dorothy Day, at last! Also finished Crosby, Celibacy. Acquired several books recently, purchasing a couple at the Catholic Charities thrift store in Santa Maria, and receiving three more from a dear old friend from North Babylon, N.Y. Plus, one of the volumes in our novice library has caught my eye. Hoping to get a start on them presently. Watch this space.


Stayed up late last night to watch the election results. Now, looking to pray rightly about the outcome. It seems to me that the people of the United States have decided that, although they long for things to be different, they have opted, collectively though not intentionally, not to change their leadership. Depending on how you look at it, this is both the greatness and the great flaw of our democracy and the means by which we select our leaders.

From Monday to this evening, having conferences and conversations about celibacy in religious community with Fr. Gerard McGlone, executive director of the Saint John Vianney Center. We're about to begin our final conference. I hope to collect my thoughts and blog more tomorrow or in the days to come about what we have been learning.


Cool, not chilly, but wishing it were warmer.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Church at Lompoc

Lectio Divina

... love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:5


Continuing with Crosby, Celibacy, and Miller, Dorothy Day. Halfway through the former, two chapters from finishing the latter.


Today, worship at the Federal Correctional Complex at Lompoc. Three Masses, 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2:30 p.m., with our Capuchin brother from Old Mission Santa Ines, the Catholic chaplain. We were introduced formally to the men during worship, after the homilies.

Emphatically I say: today I did not go to prison: I went to church. All the encroachments of minimum-, low-, and medium-security containment did little, if anything, to divert us from the praise of God; certainly the bars and walls did nothing to prevent the free passage of the Spirit. And what faith I found among the men who are confined in the prison camps. They truly love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength. Deprived of their freedom, families, friends, and fortunes, they still have their heart, soul, and strength, and these they have given gladly, gratefully, to God. Oh, how they pray; and oh, how they sing! They worship the way you ought to, like your soul depended on it. There was nothing affected or pretentious about their worship; it was totally honest, down to earth, and without guile.

It was a spiritual workout for me and my fellow novice brother. Worshipping for several hours without rest is exhausting. I admire our Capuchin brother for his stamina and total outpouring of himself for these congregations behind bars!

We met the supervisory chaplain, who will arrange our Friday visits. We will have conversations with her early this week about the kind of we pastoral care we will offer. God willing, our first Friday at Lompoc will be this Friday.

Now, to a gentle evening, making ready for our class sessions on celibacy this week, with an opportunity for one-on-one conferences with the guest presenter. More on this in the days to come.


Blue skies, few clouds, and warm sun.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

For Longing

Lectio Divina

As the deer longs for streams of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God.

Psalm 42:2


Continuing with Crosby, Celibacy, and Miller, Dorothy Day, as before. I hope to move on to new reads next week.


I pay little mind to my morning grumpiness. It only gets in the way of holy longing. Be grumpy all you want, but remember to keep longing. Stay in the longing long enough, and all the passing feelings will be transcended by more awesome sensations.

Today, finishing up a week of assistance in the vegetable garden. Been watering the plots since last Sunday. This morning, spending a couple of hours doing various jobs with the novice brother who tends the garden. This afternoon, other house chores, but probably not the newsletter, as we have three weeks until the deadline for submissions and four until we publish (Dec. 1).

Let the grumping give way to groaning for what is inexpressible. Amen.


Accustomed to the mild chill, accustomed to the gentle warmth. I can live with these, but I wonder how well suited I am for the extremes I have, for a time, left behind.

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Souls

Lectio Divina

"You are not far from the kingdom of God."

Mark 12:34

Indeed, but are you near to it?


Continuing with Crosby, Celibacy, and Miller, Dorothy Day, as before. Continuing with my Catholic periodicals, arriving one day after the other.


It is the commemoration of All Souls. As we say at the conclusion of every evening meal, after reading the necrologies of the friars whose anniversaries of death occur that day, "May the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace."

Began the fast to Christmas, with complete abstinence from animal products. Feeling a little cranky. I'll get used to it. For most of the world's poor, it's everyday life.

Today, ministry at Catholic Charities in Santa Maria. It could have been my last day there, depending on when my novice brother and I get to begin our Friday visits to the federal penitentiary in Lompoc. This Sunday, we will accompany the Capuchin priest who is Catholic chaplain for his celebrations of Mass throughout the complex.

This evening, faith sharing in small groups. Energy is up a little more after the evening meal, but still low. A dull day -- they come sometimes. It's good to remember at moments like these that God is a God of the living.


Temperate midday but cold at both ends.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints

Lectio Divina

Such is the generation that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.


Continuing with Crosby, Celibacy, Miller, Dorothy Day. A chapter a day, or half a chapter of each, and I am satisfied. Catching up with my Catholic periodicals, which come every week or every other week. Sometimes they come one day after the other.


This morning, a joyous, spirited Mass for All Saints. Good singing and good preaching. The pleasing odor of incense. Sunlight pouring through the chapel. Hearts were truly lifted up to God.

Today, the trip to Oso Flaco. Walking at an easy pace through thickets to a bridge crossing the lake, with scenic overlooks along the way. Saw families of ducks and many little ducklings. So calm and undisturbed a scene. On the other side of the lake, the bridge became a boardwalk taking us through the dunes past tall and deep shrubbery and many varieties of wildflowers to the ocean. We felt like we had been miniaturized as we walked through the flora, which so thoroughly carpeted the terrain. Once at the seashore, we walked as far as we could in both directions before turning back. We must have covered five to six miles today. On the way home, a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Guadalupe, where we visited the Catholic Worker community a few weeks ago. In all, a fine afternoon of peace, light, and refreshment as we honored our ancestors in the faith and all the holy women and men from time ancient to the present moment, linked in eternity, where all time is as no time.


Turn your face to the ocean: the waters are great and the skies are cloudy. Turn your face to the land: the earth is dry and the sun is bright. Look down, and you see your shadow staying close to you. Look up, and you see the way to heaven.