“Daydreaming again, Cunningham?” A frequent chant during my childhood, when I would become immersed in a book or activity which really brought me to another place. When I was a child, I had a tremendous love for fishing. We lived near the river Avon, which winds its way from the hills of the Cotswolds through market towns and cities and eventually to the sea in the city of Bristol.

Many days would be spent at the riverbank of the Avon, trying my best to catch the fish of the day. For many, the idea of sitting on the riverbank for hours on end could not sound like a more boring experience. However, being there with nature, reading the character of the river, considering what the fish might be eating at a given time of the year, looking for those special places where the “big one” hangs out, were all a part of an action-oriented contemplative experience. On the very best of days, I was at one with the fish.

The same thing often happens when we are reading. We become affected by the co-creative process which brings us to another time, place, even personality. It is hardly surprising that we are often disappointed when we finally get to see “our book” in movie form. The visualization, the smells, the characters all take on another form, one informed by the director.

These same processes and effects are at play when we involve God in our interior conversations. Sometimes it can be as simple as remaining silent, while at other times it may be scripture speaking to us differently.

This week let us notice our “noticing” of these times in our week, however short they may be. For it is often in these moments where God is moving inside us, sometimes without any perception from ourselves.

It may be a book, a movie, some prayer time, but let us give a huge thank you for this extra “sanctuary” time in our lives.



Sitting, hidden here in the gardens,

I remain immersed in the novel’s dialog,

Soaking up the rain in 17th-century Scottish highlands,

On a summer day.


Meanwhile, my body relaxes in the mid-afternoon, SOCAL shade.


Proving once again, the deliciousness of time travel.


We often imagine living in a heavenly place, somewhere where we consider we are always on vacation, away from chores and responsibilities, where we enjoy ourselves devoid of day-to-day hassles.

Such was such a day recently on a boat trip to Catalina, the wonderful channel island just offshore from the Southern Californian coastline. The weather was perfect, an almost calm ocean, an escort of dolphins for a while, and a day filled with beach weather, cycling and sightseeing up and down the Catalina hills. It was the sort of excursion that makes you feel the need for a “mental health” day and be filled with thankfulness for our lives.

On the way back to the boat, the pilot on the water taxi was asked the question, “do you live here full time.” She retorted with almost a hysteric response; “I get that question all the time” … “I wonder why people think I am so different from them just because I live here?” She was obviously disturbed, and it turned out this was the umpteenth time she had been asked the question today. After a little exchange, we explained because it is so beautiful on the island there was a certain amount of admiration and envy in the question, the questioner imagining himself living each day like the one we had just enjoyed.

Of course, for us, as day-trippers, the day was filled without agenda, deadlines and responsibilities, not so for the water taxi pilot. She had a working day, albeit on a beautiful island, still a working day.

A little further into the conversation, she noted that she always felt sad when leaving the island, indicating she also had a great affinity for the place and described how she met her obligations to see the family on the mainland but left with sadness as a result. The detachment was clearly felt on her face and emotions. She had gotten herself, perhaps by accident, into a conversation that went deep into her heart.

As we look for those days of retreat, searching for refreshment we could consider how God helps us in the process. Do we not find ourselves almost in immediate wonder, gratitude, reflection and consideration of our lives as soon as we can slow down? Does not the change of scenery help us appreciate our own, and force our minds and hearts into a different zone? Is this not why you make time for a retreat each year?

Perhaps this week, we can set aside some special time for one of those sacred places in your lives, and sit there a while with God. It might not be far, on a porch, a motorcycle, a second coffee on a Sunday morning. Give up some minutes for a micro-retreat in your everyday life; and then be grateful for all we have.


Searching for Avalon

How did I end up here, in Avalon?

I am sure it could not have found it alone,

For such fortune cannot be sought, only given.

Whatever the path, I am grateful.

For leaving is painful, made tolerable only by knowing I will return.


Someday …



Copyright 2019 Reflection, poem and photography by Michael J. Cunningham OFS


Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr
Lectionary: 470

Reading 1ROM 3:21-30

Brothers and sisters:
Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,
though testified to by the law and the prophets,
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ
for all who believe.
For there is no distinction;
all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.
They are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth as an expiation,
through faith, by his Blood, to prove his righteousness
because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed,
through the forbearance of God–
to prove his righteousness in the present time,
that he might be righteous
and justify the one who has faith in Jesus.
What occasion is there then for boasting?  It is ruled out.
On what principle, that of works?
No, rather on the principle of faith.
For we consider that a person is justified by faith
apart from works of the law.
Does God belong to Jews alone?
Does he not belong to Gentiles, too?
Yes, also to Gentiles, for God is one
and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith
and the uncircumcised through faith.

Responsorial PsalmPS 130:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6AB

R. (7) With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the LORD
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

AlleluiaJN 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelLK 11:47-54

The Lord said:
“Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets
whom your fathers killed.
Consequently, you bear witness and give consent
to the deeds of your ancestors,
for they killed them and you do the building.
Therefore, the wisdom of God said,
‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles;
some of them they will kill and persecute’
in order that this generation might be charged
with the blood of all the prophets
shed since the foundation of the world,
from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah
who died between the altar and the temple building.
Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!
Woe to you, scholars of the law!
You have taken away the key of knowledge.
You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”
When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees
began to act with hostility toward him
and to interrogate him about many things,
for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


This past month we started our retreat season here at Mater Dolorosa; the retreat center where I work. I use the word “work” in the most general sense, as most of the visitors consider the place close to the Garden of Eden. Almost every month someone does something to make the buildings and grounds more beautiful, today it was the blessing of a stained-glass window of the Woman at the Well, in commemoration of a prior Retreat Leader. I will post a photo of it in an upcoming UW.

It makes me think of my own journey and the journeys of others as we try and get closer to God throughout our spiritual lives on earth. For me at least, wanting to do my will, and now necessarily follow God’s has punctuated my journey over the years. Now, in my more mature years (read getting older), I can see the importance of those steps and the places where I held back, and those when I said the big “yes” to God, and let the cards fall where they may.

The following reflection is about how all we have to do is submit to the ever-present and everlasting love which God has placed right inside us. All we have to do is recognize it, and using the gifts given to us, try and follow without forcing our own desires on ourselves, and others. Food for thought?


Ocean of Love

I am a watcher by the stream,

longing for the cool, clear water to refresh me,

yet I cannot enter, for fear of where it will take me

dissolving my will

losing my status

giving in

to a journey and a path I cannot control.

So many others line the stream,

friends, others I don’t yet know, watch it, mesmerized it seems

by the sound of water and the eternal nature of its path.

Still I stand, now noticing all around me,

all transfixed on its path.

After some time, years or maybe seconds,

I suddenly jump in and find myself taken,

first scared as I am carried without a guide through white waters

in a seemingly uncontrolled ride.

Then suddenly, I am protected,

and the coolness turns to warmth as I enter the river.

And a sense of oneness overcomes me.

I feel the divine as God enters my soul

as a light ravishing me,

I continue to dissolve in His presence,

illuminating cold and empty places I dwelt moments before.

For all is now forgotten as I drift along an ever-slowing river.

Noticing others around me,

a communion of like souls drawn together,

as a salty taste fills the air,

we near the ocean of love.

The ocean where each drop makes it mark,

fills it role,

makes the taste that is God Himself,

as this ocean is His, as we are His.

At last together.


The invisible people in our daily lives are out there. Of course they are not really invisible, but we have made it so to ourselves and to our souls. I travel a lot, and see a lot of people who are invisible to us. The waiter at breakfast in a hotel, the room cleaners, bathroom attendants in a busy airport, thousands whose opinions are ignored and their contribution is unrewarded by a smile or acknowledgement in the workplace.

We all serve in our lives, but yet we seem to have different classes of servant hood, some seem more important than others, noticeable, or rewardable. Does this really make sense? Do the servants not make the wedding more successful? Are they considered part of the celebration or just the decorations for our own pleasure?

What if we were to notice their contribution today? How do we feel when we are serving others?


Let Me Be Your Server Today

Let me be your server today

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.


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.

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.


Just as I love them.


As I read this meditation/poem what does it mean to me?
Who are the invisible people in my life? What happens when I encounter them? Do I notice them? How do I treat them? Am I invisible to someone?


The first step in helping ourselves move along a road of interior reflection is noticing what is happening around us in our lives. This seems like a pretty simple thing to do, but for many years I went through each day without savoring anything that was being tasted. I rushed from one minute to the next focusing on little but the next moments; those to come.

The only way to start on a road of reflection is to begin to live in the now, the present. God lives in the present. It is there we will meet Him and we meet him first by noticing our own activities. Listening with our heart to what is happening, why it’s happening. Now if I sound like one of those people who find meaning in almost everything, it is because, I do find meaning in almost all the happenings of our lives. It was not always that way.

So today start by noticing what is going on. Slow down, listen, and you will be surprised. Don’t worry about trying to analyze everything, but start to notice it. Journal your day, or even your week. Notice the small things as well as the big ones. Imagine someone made a movie of your life this week. Your own reality show, starring you and God.

It’s a challenge to notice things going on around us. Some of it is the obvious nature of what goes on in a frenetic existence, but routine and boredom can also be a cause. Just as the human eye scans sections of the image in front of us and then puts it together in our brain, there are pieces we know are there, but we haven’t noticed them.
Some might call this camouflage of the senses, but often, to those around us, it’s an ineffective excuse for rudeness and uncaring behavior.

When we don’t speak to the person who we consider more significant than another what message does that send? And to all those around us?




Sometimes, actually a lot, I miss stuff.

It is lost in my every day,

unnoticed, or heavily disguised,


it is missed.

Might be an image, a familiar noise,

people, food,

the autopilots in my life,

painting a backdrop which seems to be only

one color and one sound.

Gray and bleak.

So let today be different.

As I read this meditation/poem what does it mean to me?
What patterns are hidden in my life? Do I see my day in color or shades of gray? Are those patterns sounds, or visual, behavior, ritual? Do I like the patterns I see? What are they telling me?

Reflection, photograph and poem Copyright 2019 Michael J. Cunningham


Speaking the words of God is an awesome responsibility, and yet sometimes we place our inflection on those words so others may congratulate us on our presentation skills, our dulcet tones and other self-satisfying metrics of the world. (Perhaps the word inflection should be replaced with infection.)

When we hear the words “Thy Will Be Done, Not Mine,” are we really saying them as if we truly mean it? Perhaps, but often we still want to know others appreciate us, our words, etc. Do we really need the applause after presenting something from scripture, or something spiritual for others to consider? Do we want to get between the person and the Holy Spirit?

I don’t think so. If we do, then it becomes about me, not about the listener’s relationship with God. When we consider our role in the world, as a Christian, we have a responsibility to “do the right thing,” making ourselves secondary. In fact, when you do something genuinely selfless, without expectation of a result and leave the cards to fall where they may, it often results in the most beautiful outcomes. This is because we have already placed ourselves in a good situation in relation to God. We have surrendered our personal goals and success objectives for the common good of another.

What you do for the least of my brothers, you do to me. (Matthew 25:40)

One Voice

So today, perhaps I may think differently.

Not using God’s words with my voice, but talking in one voice.

A voice which listens to God, but does not drown God out.

A voice which discerns what should be said.

A voice which determines how it should be said.


One voice, but not my voice alone.

God, lead me to lose my solo voice and become a duet with you.


Which voice do I hear?