If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature, even a caterpiller, I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature. Meister Eckhart

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


“Do you imagine that the individual created things in the world are imperfect attempts at reproducing an ideal type which the Creator never quite succeeded in actualizing on earth? If that is so they do not give Him glory but proclaim that He is not a perfect Creator.”

Thomas Merton in The New Seeds of Contemplation

Friday, October 15, 2010


Just a thought. You start reading the church Fathers and Mothers and you’ll run into ascetic and fasting practices sooner rather than later, which leads to research on Wickipedia; among other places.

The Lenten fast was the most stringent. Bread, fruits and veggies mostly. But, the sick, the old, children under 14 and I would imagine pregnant and nursing mothers were exempt from the full rigors of the fast. It’s spring; food supplies may be beginning to run a little short. It sounds a little crass, but rules provided a religious foundation for the protection of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Worked my way through a couple of chapters of Thomas Merton's Disputed Questions. If the mystical Christ is in me, Merton writes, He is also in all men. Which leads to the radical and frankly earth shaking realization that He is also in the likes Osama bin Ladin and.............name your favorite person that scares the hell out of you.

Ayeee. Faith is not for wimps or for folks looking for comfortable answers. If Christ is in Osama, what is he trying to tell us? Paging Amos and Jeremiah.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


[1] Blessed is the manwho walks not in the counsel of the wicked,nor stands in the way of sinners,nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

[2] but his delight is in the law of the LORD,and on his law he meditates day and night.

[3] He is like a treeplanted by streams of water,that yields its fruit in its season,and its leaf does not wither.In all that he does, he prospers.

[4] The wicked are not so,but are like chaff which the wind drives away.

[5] Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

[6] for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,but the way of the wicked will perish.

The tree is planted in the right environment. It has water, sun, Creation provides all that it needs yield fruit when it is time and remain leafy and green.

Creation provides humanity with all that it needs; as long as we remain truely human, To be human we must acknowledge our connections what the Creator has fashioned. If we remain mindful of our connections we will prosper. If we don’t we’ll be blown away.

Monday, September 06, 2010


I know a lot less than I should about the early church. But, ran across some material that claims that Paul was an observant Jew, perhaps even a Pharisee instead of a Hellanized Jew. If that's true some of his instructions make sense. Especially the one about women not teaching in church. Women didn't teach in the synagogue, as far as I know. They usually had their own section. Same with the wearing of veils and avoiding cosmetics. Trying to make good Jewish girls out a bunch of Greeks.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Awaken us to your glory.
Dispel the darkness of night.

Awaken us to your glory.
Destroy our heaviness of heart.

Awaken us to your glory.
Cure the blindness of our sight.

Awaken us to your glory.
Heal the deafness of our ears.

Awaken us to your glory.
Open the mouth that is dumb.

Awaken us to your glory.
Restore a gentleness of touch.

Awaken us to your glory.
Encourage in us a sense of adventure.

Awaken us to your glory.
Bring us an awareness of you.

Awaken us to your glory.

By David Adam former vicar of the Holy Island of Linisfarne

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


In Ireland the care of the hearth fire fell to woman of the house. The peat fire was carefully and prayerfully put to bed as the family retired at night and just as carefully awakened as the family prepared for the new day.

In some traditions the woman would pray as she divided into three sections, representing the trinity, and covered preserving the embers for the morning.

The sacred Three
To save
To shield
To surround
The hearth
The house
The household
This eve
This night
And every single night
Each single night


As I save this fire tonight
Even so may Christ save me.
On the top of the house let Mary,
Let Bride in its middle be,
Let eight of the mightiest angels
Round the throne of the Trinity
Protect this house and its people
Till the dawn of the day shall be.

The family would rest the night sure of the protection of heaven and waken the fire in the morning as it was put to rest; with prayers.

I will kindle my fire this morning
In the presence of the holy angels of Heaven.
God kindle Thou in my heart within
A flame of Love to my neighbour,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all…
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall,
O son of the loveliest Mary,
O son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that livest,
To the Name that is highest of all.

There is a certainty that the hosts of heaven are present in and around the house. In and around every house. Creator and creation are one and the same and that no matter how humble the act, making a bed, kindling a fire, churning butter or weaving cloth it is holy in God’s sight; worthy of blessing and protection.

Prayers from Every Earthly Blessing by Esther DeWaal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Kathleen Norris hit the bullseye with a quote from Graham Green's novel, A Burnt Out Case: "People have prayed in prisons, in slums, and concentration camps. It's only the middle classes who who demand to pray in suitable surroundings."

Go to any bookstore and you can find material on designing the perfect home alter or prayer space, meditation music......whatever. The danger is that you'll spend so much time and energy setting up the perfect space, finding the perfect prayer book, and getting the perfect music you won't have time to pray. Hmmmm......maybe it's time to ask what you're running away from.

There's money in them there prayin' people. And if you actually start praying, you may find that's all you need. Solitude is nice. We can't always get it. We could learn much from the Japanese. To be able to quietly meditate while the world around you buzzes along is a rare gift.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


It’s funny when I was writing this in my head, it was only a few sentences long. And then it grew. And grew.

When I decided to keep at least one foot in the tradition I was raised in, I also realized that I was, frankly, pretty damned ignorant. So, that’s where most of my of my reading has been going. Anyway, it led me here. Who is my neighbor and who deserved my help is a question being asked in every part of this country. And the answer in too many living rooms seems to be “nobody, I’m only responsible for myself, don’t ask me to pay extra taxes or offer any extra help to………because……..fill in the blasted blanks.

When Jesus answered the question of the man of law, “who is my neighbor?” he told story with remarkably few details. A certain man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho along a road known to be dangerous. The man is attacked, beaten, robbed, stripped and left by the side of the road. Of possible passersby, only three are named; a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan.

Why did the first two pass by? Kathleen Norris pointed out in an essay that the priest and the Levite were forbidden by the Law of Moses to have any contact with the dead. Apparently the rituals to cleanse them of being ritually unclean were time consuming and expensive. They might have been willing to face that cost for a fellow Jew, but they would have no may of knowing who they were dealing without breaking the law. Unconscious, stripped and wounded; the man could have been Greek, Syrian, Egyptian; heaven knows everybody seems to have passed through that part of the world at one time or another.

Maybe they were just in a hurry. And I can hear a few modern excuses running through their minds. Maybe it’s a trick or a trap. Darn fool, he should have known better than to travel this road by himself. Probably doesn’t belong here in the first place; there’s too many foreigners in the country anyway. It’s not my problem; I have enough troubles of my own to worry about. So, eyes averted, steps quickened, down the road they went. They may have felt bad about it. Who knows; they may have salved their consciences with “it’s a busy road; somebody else will be along before too long.” Although why they thought the possible somebody else would act differently……

Along comes the Samaritan. A member of a people who claimed to have been left behind when most of the population was forced out of the country by the Assyrians. They claimed to be Jews, but had their own ways and their own temple. They weren’t recognized by the Temple establishment in Jerusalem as Jews.

The rest of the story is familiar. The Samaritan cares for the stranger, puts him on his own animal, takes him to an inn and leaves money with the inn keeper with the promise that he’ll make up any differences when he comes back.

I haven’t thought of this story for a long time. I flashed on it while reading a one star review of a favorite film, The Shoes of the Fisherman. Faced with a world brought to the brink of atomic war by famine in communist China the Pope places the wealth of the church as guaranty for aid. That’s not right, said the reviewer. The Chinese should have been forced to renounce communism first. The writer didn’t suggest that the Chinese be required to become Christians, but the implication was there.

That’s when I flashed on the story. I seemed to remember that the parable started with “a certain man” and several translations later I was faced with a simple fact. Jesus didn’t say who the man was or what he was doing on that road. Only that he needed help and that when the letter of the law conflicted with the spirit of the law, well get things cleaned up and sort out the details later.

It might be a trap. It might be a sham. You might get fooled. You might get hurt. Or you might just light a little candle to shine in the dark.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Regarded as a heretic by the Western Church. But there were two Popes named Pelagius in the sixth century. And Pelagius II was born with that name. Curiouser and curiouser. Looking forward to getting the book on Cassian, the theologian who tried to make Pelagius' teachings more palatable for the orthodox. So much I don't know.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Something sis said this weekend keeps coming back in that irritating, itchy way that some thoughts have. Apparently the fastest growing church back home is Baptist style church popular with the young people. Services start on time and end on time. There's all sorts of youth groups, adult groups, singles groups etc. and up the wazoo.

It seems that the younger folks like it because it provides them "with what they want." I hate to admit it but my knowledge of the gospels is more than a little rusty. However, I 've always been under the impression that a certain itinerant preacher got in trouble with the imperial and temple authorities because he went around telling people what God wanted, not the other way around.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I was reminded of a line from this while watching a travel program about nothern Ireland. I hadn't listened to the LP piece in years. Reading this is much more brutal than I rmembered.

Richard Harris (1930-2002)
This great poem by the late actor and singer Richard Harris was given a superb dramatic reading by the author on his 1973 LP record entitled His Greatest Performances. It’s available on his CD entitled The Anthology 1968-1974: Man of Words. The various place names, the “orange” and the “green,” and the fact that Harris was Irish, made it obvious his specific subject was the conflict between Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland. Like all great poetry though, it rings true in a much broader context.

There Are Too Many Saviors on My Cross

There are too many saviors on my cross, lending their blood to flood out my ballot box with needs of their own. Who put you there? Who told you that that was your place?

You carry me secretly naked in your heart and clothe me publicly in armor crying “God is on our side,” yet I openly cry Who is on mine? Who? Tell me, who? You who bury your sons and cripple your fathers whilst you bury my father in crippling his son.

The antiquated Saxon sword, rusty in its scabbard of time now rises— you gave it cause in my name, bringing shame to the thorned head that once bled for your salvation.

I hear your daily cries in the far-off byways in your mouth pointing north and south and my Calvary looms again, desperate in rebirth. Your earth is partitioned, but in contrition it is the partition in your hearts that you must abolish.

You nightly watchers of Gethsemene who sat through my nightly trial delivering me from evil— now deserted, I watch you share your silver. Your purse, rich in hate, bleeds my veins of love, shattering my bone in the dust of the bogside and the Shankhill road.

There is no issue stronger than the tissue of love, no need as holy as the palm outstretched in the run of generosity, no monstrosity greater than the acre you inflict. Who gave you the right to increase your fold and decrease the pastures of my flock? Who gave you the right? Who gave it to you? Who? And in whose name do you fight?

I am not in heaven, I am here, hear me. I am in you, feel me. I am of you, be me. I am with you, see me. I am for you, need me. I am all mankind; only through kindness will you reach me.

What masked and bannered men can rock the ark and navigate a course to their annointed kingdom come? Who sailed their captain to waters that they troubled in my font, sinking in the ignorant seas of prejudice?

There is no virgin willing to conceive in the heat of any bloody Sunday. You crippled children lying in cries on Derry’s streets, pushing your innocence to the full flush face of Christian guns, battling the blame on each other, do not grow tongues in your dying dumb wounds speaking my name. I am not your prize in your death. You have exorcized me in your game of politics.

Go home to your knees and worship me in any cloth, for I was never tailor-made. Who told you I was? Who gave you the right to think it? Take your beads in your crippled hands, can you count my decades? Take my love in your crippled hearts, can you count the loss?

I am not orange. I am not green. I am a half-ripe fruit needing both colors to grow into ripeness, and shame on you to have withered my orchard. I in my poverty, alone without trust, cry shame on you and shame on you again and again for converting me into a bullet and shooting me into men’s hearts.

The ageless legend of my trial grows old in the youth of your pulse staggering shamelessly from barricade to grave, filing in the book of history my needless death one April. Let me, in my betrayal, lie low in my grave, and you, in your bitterness, lie low in yours, for our measurements grow strangely dissimilar.

Our Father, who art in heaven, sullied be thy name.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Rewrite the story of the Fall in Genesis without the spiritual element and the story is as old as humanity. It’s repeated every time some guy tries to get a girl into his bedroom. It’s repeated every time a joint, a line of coke, even a cigarette is offered with the tired refrain of “everybody’s doing it,” “what’s the matter, you scared,” and the classic “nobody will every know.” There’s at least one problem with trying to keep a secret. No matter how deep you bury that secret at least one person will always know what happened. You can hide things from everyone but yourself. Buried deep inside it festers and creates a wall between you and everyone around you.

And if you believe that in some way the God of scripture set the forces of creation in motion that resulted in humanity and every other creature in the universe, including a certain tempter; there’s always “don’t tell Dad.” And there’s another old standby. Take out the King James sixteenth century language and you might find that the story takes on a five year olds’ playground singsong; “I know something you don’t know.”

Perhaps the death blamed on man’s fall in the garden wasn’t the physical death that the far right evangelicals claim. After all there’s no claim in scripture that our physical bodies were meant to be immortal. Even stars and planets are born, age and die. Something the writers who preserved scripture wouldn’t have, couldn’t have known.

Perhaps the meaning story isn’t death of the body but injury to the soul. When truth is ignored, trust is impossible and without trust there can never be love or hope. And without love or hope life is meaningless.

Monday, January 11, 2010


With a bit of adaptation this would work for almost anyone. It’s still a beautiful piece.

Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the children of the earth.
Every part of the earth is sacred.

The air is precious, for we share the same breath.
Every part of the earth is sacred.

This we know, the earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.
Every part of the earth is sacred.

This we know, all things are connected;
Like the blood that unites on family.
Every part of the earth is sacred.

Our God is the same God,
Whose compassion is equal for all.
Every part of the earth is sacred.

We do not weave the web of life;
We are merely a strand in it.
Every part of the earth is sacred.

Whatever we do to web, we do to ourselves.
Every part of the earth is sacred.

From the Rhythm of Life by David Adam

David Adams was vicar of the parish on the island of Lindesfarne for many years. Although he is now retired he still lives on the island. Also known as Holy Island, it’s all of two square miles in area. The island has had some kind of religious foundation since 635 AD. It’s a place where you can be immersed in the sounds of the sea, the birds, the wind and the old church bells.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Lord make me an instrument of they peace:
Where there is hatred let me sow love,
Where there is injury let me sow pardon,
Where there is doubt let me sow faith,
Where there is despair let me sow hope,
Where there is darkness let me sow light,
Where there is sadness let me give joy.

O divine master, grant that I may
Not try to be comforted, but to comfort,
Not try to be understood, but to understand,
Not try to be loved, but to love,

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in forgiving that we are forgiven.

From the Glenstal Book of Prayer