Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There Are No Mulligans

At 71 years and 106 days, I have begun to realize that in life, there are no do-overs, nor is there any value in spending time on what-ifs.  There is, however, a powerful option, albeit somewhat trite:  today, right now, is either the first day of my new life or yet one more day of being a zombie.  To stop my sleepwalking, I take to heart, yet one more time, the quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery which, for the past ten years or so, has stared at me from my computer desk:  a goal without a plan is just a wish. 

As I write this 14th of November, 2012, I recall the 26 years ago today when I was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.  I am not sure, though, were I to apply today, I would be accepted.  Be that as it may, looking backwards, there are two energy currents that have both challenged and sustained me.

When Archbishop Charles Salatka handed me the Book of the Gospels as a ritual sign of my diaconal ministry, I promised my self I would aim to protect the Scriptures from trivialization; and protect those, with whom and for whom I  minister, from being brow-beaten by either dogmatic or biblio idolatry. I envisioned myself then, as now, as seeking:  to rekindle, rather than snuff out, the smoldering wick--to assist in healing, rather than to break off and discard, the bruised reed.  Along the way, there have been mea culpa miscues; there have been, as well, times during which the power of a compassionate God has spoken through me the gracefilled and invigorating invitation:  Lazarus, come forth!

Looking forward, I move beyond if onlys. There are 7 days a week; 24 hours a day.  Sandlike, these 168 hours can continue to run through my fingers making accidental formations at my feet; or with intentionality, castles in the sand, even if they do not withstand the ebb and flow of the tides of history, can be fashioned for the benefit of others in the here and now. At the end of this day, I will have been alive 623,208 hours; I want to live another 250,968 to reach a full century.  For this, of course, there are no guarantees.  Hee is what I can be sure of, as I sing an old John Denver song, Yesterday's gone, and tomorrow is blind, so I'll live one day at a time.

Expanding on an adage from my philosophic hero, Bernard Longergan, just as an open mind is not an empty mind, so a life open to surprise and with flexible awareness to the presence of persons is not, thereby, one without a structure from which to act.

This renewed blog is a long-winded way to say:  I am coming to terms with my quasi-retirement. 
Peace, Joe    

Saturday, August 27, 2011

As Summer Ends: a test of the spirit

The summer heat of 2011 for many of us, particularly in Oklahoma, has been a major player in our lives. Some of us lived through the old record year of 1980, and the near record back in '99, so--in some respects--so, what else is new? What follows is a revised version of a column I wrote for the El Reno Tribune, August 1, 1999.

Heat can be a test for our spirit. To say that heat is a big part of our experience these days is an understatement. Even those fortunate enough to have A/C in their homes and cars are not always able to escape summer's oppression. But, what of those who have to rely on open windows, fans and occasional breezes for relief? Sometimes out of necessity, the virtue of long-suffering patience is the only answer.

There is, of course, the spiritual wisdom that suggests we learn the difference between things we can change and the things we cannot. Fortified with such knowledge, we can then change what can be accept with serenity the things beyond our control. So, the dog days of August--to say nothing of the record-breaking July and the looming heat is still with us September--can become a divine gift to us. The gift, however, is nevertheless a test.

The test is about the focus of our attention. Is it me and how awful I feel that becomes the center of my world? Or can I realize that, yes, it is hot as it always is in summer, then simply adjust without self-centered comment or complaint?

Proverbs 11:25 reminds us those who confer benefits will be amply enriched; those who refresh others will also be refreshed themselves. When our focus becomes our neighbor, then the symbolic cool cup of water in my name takes on a much larger perspective. How can we relieve the heat's oppression? Is there a stranger attacked by the heat, waiting for me to come along as a Good Samaritan? Or do I, too, beg the question with one of my own: But who is my neighbor?

So, yes, the summer heat is a divine gift, albeit a test as well. Will someone have a taste of resting in verdant pastures because of me? Will my drop in the bucket help the horn of Africa. What is it I have learned about human solidarity during this long, hot summer?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New Beginning

After a year, I am back. The dialogue had been side-tracked: the good intentions were there; the focus was missing. As I adjust my ministry responsibilities, I plan to re-energize my efforts to carry on an ever-widening conversation.

As 2011 enters its final quarter, there are personal mile-stones that have brought me along to a crossroad--I've turned 70; Joanne and I have been married 40 years; I will have been ordained 25 years; our sons and their wives have been married 10 years--I am ready to cross into a new horizon or two during what I hope will be my next 30 years of life.

One focal point for me will be anticipating the October 12, 2012 50th anniversary of the start of the Second vatican Council. The vision and spirit (yes, there is a genuine spirit of the Council that, fragile as it may presently be, can be named and fostered)--the vision and spirit of the Council will be the context for some of the themes I would suggest as the basis of our dialogue.

How can anyone harken back to some Catholic good old days? Particularly if you were really alert and alive, say, in the '40s, 50's and preConciliar '60s. Do we really want to return to a wall-surrounded Church, a Church with all the answers to no longer real questions, a Church that really did not, in practice, recognize the dignity of the human person?

To be sure there were seeds being sown in those preConciliar decades that would come to fruition as the Bishops of the world came together during those eventful days a half-century ago. Liturgical, scriptural, historical, psycholigical and philosophical perspectives were slowly reviving the dialogue with "the world" which effectively had been "officially" shut down for a few centuries.

My hope and prayer for this blog is to enable that dialogue to have one more place to continue.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Genesis: a beginning with an end

Why would a nearly seventy year old white male Catholic deacon suppose that anything he might find musable or wonderous be of interest "out there" in cyberspace? Only because some who span many age cohorts and find meaning within a diversity of "sub-cultures" that are really not so "sub" after-all, have found food for thought in dialogue with me. They have suggested that I begin to share, discern if there is a response, and move from there.

The context and subtexts of my life, out of which my musings and wondering flow, as they are for all of us, are rooted in experience; not simply raw experience, but experience mediated by meaning. (Yes, Lonergan and Gabe Moran) Theological reflection engages our on-going human interplay with glances over our shoulders at how our family of faith created religious meaning. This is done so the new meanings we are moved to create will not only sustain us, but might be worth an over-the shoulder glance by generations to come. Tradition, then, is a living process not a dictionary, an encyclopedia, nor even a catechism. We are, afterall, as Buckminster Fuller suggests, verbs not nouns.

Perhaps this suffices as a beginning: if so, why so; if not, why not? Peace, Deacon Joe