THE UNBROKEN WORD

THE UNBROKEN WORD

Earlier this week I visited a state park in Malibu, CA during my day off. Since moving to California I have learned to appreciate a new form of beauty in nature, and a winter which the none of the fierceness of my previous New England home.

As usual, I came loaded with camera equipment but could not bring myself to take an image of the many places destroyed by the recent fires which ravaged the area before Christmas. What is astonishing is how quickly nature brings everything back to life. So what was a blackened landscape only a few weeks ago, has an emerald green to it that Ireland would be proud to own.

My days off here are precious, so I like to go somewhere where I can commune with nature. This past week I went to Point Dume, a California nature reserve. After a long climb down the cliff steps and pathways (much of which had been washed away by recent rains), I made it to the beach. The colors of the beach rocks and pebbles were a wonderous color, making everything fall into a giant jigsaw. As I turned around on the beach from the stairway, I suddenly noticed a presence right by my feet. A seal as shown in the photo below.

The fact I was right next door and the seal did not disturb me was a visible flag to a problem. The seal was in distress and not able to move anything except his head. So I stayed with him to see if he was perhaps just having an afternoon nap, or something more serious was up.

Turns out he was injured and after a discussion with two other beachcombers who arrived on the scene, we called the California wildlife rescue. They arrived on the scene very quickly but were only equipped with a couple of fishing nets but they managed to secure the seal in one of them and they carried him up the stairway and cliff face. A not inconsiderable feat!

While they were obviously doing their job, it was so wonderful to see the care they took to ensure the seal was not made more uncomfortable despite this inevitable handling of him. His wounds become evident as they moved him with much compassion and attention.

By then, more bystanders had come to help, bringing equipment and helping load the mammal into the truck on his way to the California sealife veterinary center nearby.

Yet another week in which unconditional love is expressed in action. An instant community of care built around an animal who might have died on the beach otherwise.

Just another reminder of God is in all of us … all the time.

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Rescued

I almost didn’t notice,

As you blended silently into the color of rocks,

At this windswept California beach,

Shaded by the sun.

XXX

Then I saw you,

Sad eyes holding back the tears,

Displaying your suffering, which now was clear.

I wondered how long you were there,

On this beautiful but washed up beach,

At the top of all the rocks,

Safe from an incoming but drowning tide.

XXX

Exchanging glances, then staring at each other,

Until your head fell towards an exhausted sleep,

Hoping the pain would leave,

Like a tide which washed me in.

XXX

More beachcombers arrived,

And talked of your plight,

Calling rescuers to see for themselves,

What, if anything could relieve your loneliness;

And our helplessness.

XXX

I waited, and suddenly they were here,

Armed with, knowledge and Goodwill,

The swaddled you, wounds and all,

And carried you up the cliff face stairs.

And drove off with you into the cool night,

The rescue completed.

XXX

Showing how perfect love is,

When given without conditions.

THE UNBROKEN WORD

Hospitality is an interesting word. It is a wonderful word. I love hospitality. It allows us to give and get back at the same time. It cannot be easily faked because it is baked with love. Doing something without love being at the core of it is just a task being completed. Hospitality is love expressed in words and actions; it is central to everything we do. It is the reason I am where I am. Without it anything we do is just a series of actions.

This was my introduction this week to a conference on the topic of hospitality; a core feature of our Catholic faith. It is interesting that we use the word hospitality as if it is something we take out of the cupboard on special occasions, rather than something we should be wearing at all times.

The hospitality of those welcoming me at Saint Eulalia’s three years ago still resonates in my heart. Those who immediately volunteered to help me after an appeal at Mass for Catechists, the support in the parish office and willingness to accept a “newbie” into the parish. We talk about putting out the welcome mat for others in our lives, but shouldn’t it always be out there?

Hospitality is not pretending to be nice, just doing our work, but doing our work and ministry with intention, with creativity, without anger, with care and attention to detail. Hospitality is not perfection, but perhaps an intention to create a perfect outcome.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when we see hospitality delivered daily, weekly, in fact all time we can become immune to it. Not recognizing the face of God which is embodied in those actions. A welcome without agenda, help offered before it is requested, a listening ear, an open heart.

The parish has such a person who embodies the word hospitality in our pastoral associate, Louise Cocuzzo, someone I always felt I could use as a reference point if my own perspective was not set in a Christ like direction.

We all have those people in our lives who can give us this inspiration, not because they ask for it, but because they embody hospitality. Welcoming friends, family and strangers with an open heart and open mind.

As I meet a hundred retreatants for the first time this weekend, at our center here in Southern California, I think of how far I can go to increase the loving face of hospitality in my own life. We can all learn from the example of those who have the light of Christ burning brightly in their faces, a welcoming smile and in their hearts.

Let me be your server today

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Each step is an active part of my love.

Moving towards the table needing clearing,

Responding to an empty cup,

Smiling to a face far from home.

XXX

Reponses vary,

According to mood and pressure.

Sometimes I am invisible,

No one sees me,

Only what I deliver,

And if it’s on time.

XXX

However, there is always one,

One who sees me and what I do,

For what it really is,

Loving and giving,

Supporting and consistent.

There when others need me,

No asking for gifts or rewards from them.

Just a smile and greeting,

To show they love me.

XXX

Just as I love them.

THE UNBROKEN WORD

THE UNBROKEN WORD

When we hear those infamous words “the call,” those of my generation think about it as something restricted to saints or vocations for the religious life. We view the words as something sacred, yet something unattainable for us mere mortals. It is left to those special ones chosen by Christ to do the “important” work here on earth.

We could not be more mistaken. God has chosen each one of us, and our unique contribution to do his work. In the Confirmation program at Saint Eulalia’s much of the program is based around the word “chosen.” Each of us is made in His image. The image of God. With that as a starting point, it could not be any other way.

“I have chosen you to be with me.”. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” (paraphrase of John 15:16 and Mark 3:13)

So when we hear “the call” we, first of all, have to break this down to a more practical level. We don’t get just one call in our lives. There may be calls that are louder than others, which seem impossible to refuse (like my move to California recently for example), but there are many more calls which are reminders of how God wants us to live out our lives.

Perhaps I can reflect on the calls which have been vital in my life. The ones which really changed everything.

If there are many calls, then perhaps the most critical point is for me to listen more attentively so I might hear them. So instead of waiting for a lightning strike that is going to knock me to the ground to get our attention, I should instead be listening for small, still voice in the heart where God is with me all the time.

St. John Paul II always talked of small steps, of micro-conversions during each day, each one moving us in an almost indiscernible way to be closer to God. Each one of these steps moves us closer to God, as we help our neighbor, resolve an ancient dispute or love the unloved.

So the call may not be massive life event (although sometimes it can be) but can be smaller calls during each day. And the call to Holiness is a silent but continuous call which is as present as the air we breathe.

Let me look for the small calls, God’s voicemails if you like, to see where I am being called today.

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THE CALL

All calls are not equal.

The fire alarm invites us all to leave the building,

Calling us to safety and anxiety.

xxx

While the call for supper invites us to share,

With loved ones in spiritual and bodily nourishment.

Of all calls, the ones imbibed with love should never be screened out.

xxx

Because the source validates the message.

And should be acted upon.

THE UNBROKEN WORD

THE UNBROKEN WORD

We hear the phrase “get out of the boat” in scripture. (Mt 14:28-30) Peter sees Jesus walking on water and is invited to join him. Initially successful his trust in God fails, and then he begins to sink after an apparent few steps. Jesus saves him and brings him to safety.

This pattern is often prevalent in our own lives. We ask for proof of God’s love, but when called to trust in God we find ourselves failing and then require further rescue. It is interesting to note that while we spend much time creating a barrage of requests for God to bestow us with gifts from our prayers of intercession, we often do less when it comes to simple acts of trust or worship in our prayer life.

As we exit the Christmas season, perhaps we can consider some other prayer forms which don’t have us coming to God always with our shopping list of personals needs. After all, we all know how we feel about relatives and “friends” who only show up when they need something, versus those who are visiting and contact us solely because they love us, or care for us.

This week, I will try and approach God with an attitude of trust and love. Remaining open to His will with a mindset of trust, not the attitude of “prove it” which we all see too frequently.

If we trust in Him, all will be good. For He is “with us always”.

TREES

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Trees, awaiting the dawn again without agenda,

Today may be a cold one,

So less sunlight and moisture for our roots,

Nevertheless, we stand together,

Grateful and trusting.

XXX

That we will be nourished and stand for another season.

THE UNBROKEN WORD

THE UNBROKEN WORD

Firstly, let me wish everyone a very Happy New Year. While still in the octave of Christmas, we are often more focused on resolutions in these first few days of the New Year.

The New Year is a time when we often look to change something in our lives. Often something personal, losing weight, dropping a bad habit, or picking up something virtuous which has fallen off the radar during the past year. Like Lent, we are called to do some self-examination and see what might be better with a different outlook for the future.

Perhaps this year, as St. Ignatius of Loyola instructs us, we can involve God in the decision-making process. Is what we are changing going to benefit our relationship with God or others? Is it self-serving? Did I reflect on the decision, or just merely reenact some older one?

Well, not to pour cold water on some great new initiative you may have started for the year; but it is worth recalling the only thing God wants from us is to be closer to Him. Seems rather simple when we consider it in those terms.

A Happy and Blessed New Year to you.

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THE UNBROKEN WORD

At many times I pinch myself in gratitude as I “feel” God’s presence in my life. Thanksgiving is one of those times. It gave me pause for the many in the world who do great works, show great love, yet have little or no recognition of God in their lives.

We all have those who we want to be closer to God, perhaps nevermore so than those in our families. We “want” them to come to Mass, pray and generally recognize God in the same way we do. Yet we might be missing an important point.

For those wonderful people we know, who love their family dearly, help others, do good deeds and yet seem to be “non-believers.” Because we cannot imagine living in a world bereft of God, we feel sorry for them, as if God is not present in their lives.

Yet we know this to be untrue. God is present in all lives and is manifest through natural virtues as well as the theological ones from our faith. Anyone who loves is loved, gives love knows God; or at least encounters God through this grace. The natural virtues (look them up if you are not familiar with them) are also a gift from God, as are all things which emanate from His love.

For myself, meeting these people daily in everyday lives I continue to be amazed at how God operates through others even without their knowledge. How many people in your life display the virtue of love, yet don’t worship in the traditional sense as we know it.

While of course, our goal as Christians is to bring others to Christ, to save souls, we also must recognize the Holy Spirit is hard at work in all the others we pray for, work with, give to, and share with.

Again, we can be grateful for our own faith, one of the theological virtues, but we also should recognize God’s love in others, and acknowledge they may not be as far from God as we might have thought.

The Congregation 

The Congregation awaits

XXX

God is Missing … I don’t think so

XXX

God is never missing

XXX

Always on

Always present

XXX

Yet the greatest faith

Is the lack of it

Practicing love when it’s unreturned

Or so it seems

XXX

Giving to the ingrate

Who seems to always want more

Living a life of servanthood

When all desires pull me elsewhere

XXX

These are the marks of love unleashed

A love hidden deep in the dark night of the soul

Richer than the mystic who has affirmation

Stronger than the preacher with perceived truth and waves it like a flag

XXX

For the lover who loves quietly and silently without reward

Is the truer one

Where sadness is felt but not transmitted

Where the recourse is another visit to the well

XXX

In the hope Jesus will be there someday

THE UNBROKEN WORD

THE UNBROKEN WORD

Thanksgiving. This wonderful time of the year where we get to meet with all the relatives we love. (And some perhaps less so ) It is a time for community, sharing, renewed relationships, understanding and most of all gratitude.

So much of Thanksgiving is focused on the second part of the word. The giving part. Retailers encourage giving like an Old Testament prelude to the coming of Christ at Christmas. When I first moved the USA, I could not believe Santa was visible so early in the season. It is the season of selling as much as it is of giving.

I have nothing against the giving part, it is often required for sharing and showing how we care for others; however, the first part of the word is sometimes less well serviced by us. The “thanks” part is to which I refer.

For the Thanks part to work, we need to have a position of gratitude. Gratitude is something which has to be in place for a true Thanksgiving to be in place. For it is in this embodied surrender and thankfulness to God that real gratitude is located. Gratitude which is an explosive combination of God’s grace-filled love captured in a loving embrace which is palpable, something we can feel. As real as the hug of our nieces, children, and grandchildren at Thanksgiving dinner.

Gratitude requires more than a simple “thanks” to God. It requires a dedicated celebration of what we have been blessed with and shared with those around us if we are lucky enough to have them near during this wonderful time.

It is a time to be grateful for the simple things, a roof over our heads, food on the table, relationships, friends, community, the ability to be able to help others and the love of God which surrounds us always.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving! But more than that embrace gratitude for the gift it is, and our God who provides us with the ability to hold it entirely in his love.

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Joshua Tree National Park at Dusk

ARRIVED

Another destination

Appeared without looking

Found by merely walking in the woods

Without a flashlight

How wonderful is that.