Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Offering of Ashes

Greetings Fellow Network of Love Lovers!

As Christians all around the world begin the Lenten Season, the 40 days leading to a remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, I thought I'd offer a brief reflection.


During the month of March, Pope Benedict has suggested that Catholics as a church try and fast from "judging other people." As a church and world community, this mission is a worthy, moral, just, virtuous (whatever we wish to label it), consideration to seriously strive embark upon.It is wonderful that the Vatican has issued such a statement, request, for this coming month---but this can and really should be a fast we strive to undertake for the rest of our lives. Carrying out this fast from judging others ultimately starts at the grassroots level, what we might consider our most intimate, tangible "church."

We are always critical of others, always holding people accountable for their actions and work. In a sense, this is how the world as we know it operates. We function and spin if and only if all members of society pull their weight, so to speak. To refrain from judging is to say that we understand and accept that sometimes that metaphorical weight becomes too heavy a cross to bear for people during especially difficult periods of their life. Refraining from judging others means that we withdraw from a competitive mind frame into an altered way of thinking and living that attempts to be all-embracing, all-caring, all-reconciling.

We seek to become a community that therefore measures success on the amount of love we are able to produce.If we stop judging our neighbors, people who society or our group might label a "have" or a "have not" even, then we can construct a concrete slab worthy of being part of the foundation of the building up of the kingdom of God here and now.Fasting from judging others is not going to be an easy task. I think how many people I have cast off as an "other," distinct or different or foreign to what I might know or believe. I think of how many labels I have put on people that should remain label-less, simply (and fully) brothers and sisters.I need to love all people and uphold the dignity of all creation if I seek to refrain from judging others. This begins with an understanding of my own need for repenting.

We have to admit to ourselves that there are pieces of our heart that are full of sorrow. There are such pieces of my heart that are in need of cleansing, of a God-loving embrace. I sing, "take it, take another little piece of my heart!" to quote the 1960’s singer Janis Joplin. So maybe Janis was crying out to a lost lover here on earth, a man who had stolen her heart, so to speak. But, this piece of my heart I ask God to take and to make anew, in the image and likeness of a LOVE I know not fully of but wish to fully seek and attain and spread to other people. And when we seek and attain and offer a piece of our heart, we become a piece of new dust that gives back to the earth and to the people of the earth in ways that only LOVE can imagine.

We are all in need of repentance. But, we are all able to obtain resurrection, endless reconciliation.

peace and blessings!

with love,

your friend bob.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Monday --- Help us believe!

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

“Monday, Monday (nah, nah, nah, nah nah)…” Not that I remember the song, but it is one of those classics from the mid-1960s, performed by the good ole’ Mamas and Papas.

Hope your Monday Monday turns out being good to you!

I thought I’d offer a reflection regarding the gospel reading for today, heard in Catholic churches throughout the world. It serves as a great foundation for me to blog (though I am by no means a verse theologian…I’m still wrapping up my philosophy studies!). Nevertheless, I hope the reflection brings you some kind of peace or at least stirs you in some way.


“If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. Jesus said to him, “’If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith. Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Mark, Chapter 9.

This is an excerpt from an episode in Mark’s gospel where Jesus comes to heal a boy with a mute spirit. The father is understandably shaken, tormented by the physical ailment of his son. He is searching for answers, for solutions, for a cure for his boy. But what he first asks for from Jesus is compassion. Let’s consider that this man has heard about Jesus’ healing ministry and that deep down he yearns for a miracle for his son. Though it is a kind of physical, spiritual, all around cure he probably seeks; it is rather compassion that he asks for. He asks for Jesus to be a passionate person, to come to the aid of his child. The boy whom he has nurtured is in need of healing. Jesus tells the man to be confident, sure in one thing above all else–––faith. Even a faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains–––but are we convinced of that? Are we confident that it is in a total realization of the possibilities of love on earth that our kingdom can come and that the will of God can be done?

The man believes, but he understands that the incredible belief he has in the moment that Jesus stands in front of him might wane and leave him at times. So he cries out, “Help my unbelief!” I imagine a man down and out, scraggly and tired, and possibly even unhealthy or battered himself after spending years worrying, sweating, caring for his child. And yet he believes. He has faith. Despite the adversity that has come his way he believes that anything is possible.

When problems arise, we often limit what we can imagine is possible. When we are told something we don’t want to hear, we feel that our options or are life is somehow compressed. But, for the person who has faith, whatever comes her way is another development in what it means to believe and be helped in times of unbelief.

For the persons, places and things that help us believe–––may they stay near to the possibilities that reveal the saving power within each and every one of us.

“O Lord there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you will all their heart.” (1 Kings 8:23)

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Prayer of Mary and Marianne

Greetings fellow Network of Lovers! I had an experience Wednesday night that brought an incredible joy to my heart. It was our yearly African American Celebration here at St. Joe’s Seminary and the choir from St. Felicitas came to sing and worship with us. After mass and dinner, I was talking with several women as they were getting ready to leave, a mother and daughter named Mary and Marianne. It started with a simple thank you from me to Marianne. She had been one of the solo vocalists during the service and I told her that she had a wonderful voice. I really had enjoyed the entire choir and the music and Spirit they brought to our little seminary home. Marianne thanked me, but not with a typical “thank you.” Rather, she began to talk with me about staying the course, about being true to myself, and ultimately walking with Jesus. She said I need to allow Jesus to touch my soul. I was struck by her passion, her gospel message­­---words of wisdom coming from someone I had just met. The words from her mouth were profound and prophetic. It was as if she had an eye on my very heart and was able to speak a kind of encouragement that I so often need. I felt touched by her friendly ministry toward me. I suppose I could have rejected her message on the spot and thought her to be a bit too pushy or intense for my taste. Sometimes, our hearts aren’t open to someone who is willing to really preach to us in a way that strikes a chord deep inside. However, rather than reject Marianne’s message, I fortunately felt compelled to accept her words at their core: indeed I---we---need to be touched in the right way–––in a sense, I need to be held by the outstretched hands of a loving God. Marianne told me that if I pray intimately to God on my own, to listen to the silent stirring of God in my heart, that I will feel the eternal presence of the creator. She told me I am following in the footsteps of a wonderful teacher–––her mother Mary finished the sentence for her–––the Son of God. Marianne said I need to stay true to the ministry I want to pursue–––and yet, how could she know that these words were going to touch me so? Part of me wants to simply shrug Marianne’s message off and forget about it, to move on and make her just another friendly face. But–––that does not seem like the right thing to do. Her words touched me. Her hand holding spoke volumes, her embrace was a spiritual moment–––a mystical moment in my little world. Marianne is not just another friendly face. For five minutes, she showed me a glimpse of the face of God–––of spirit turned flesh, turned radical reality. Before Marianne and Mary left, I told them to please pray for me. I hope to see them soon in person and I look forward to being with them in prayer. With the way Marianne sung, I can only imagine the way she prays, hears and feels God to be something incredibly divine. She is a part of our beautiful network of love, a network that knows no boundaries. And I think of a song the All Saints Catholic church choir in Milwaukee sings, the church I had the opportunity to work and live at this summer. The lyric I am thinking of goes something like this: “Yes God is real and so I can feel Him deep in my soul.” Marianne–––she helped me for a mystical moment feel God in my soul. I look forward to her prayers of encouragement as I journey on this long and winding road toward priesthood. Peace and blessings to all my friends! With love, Your friend bob : )

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Swimming in Love and Fear of God

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

An excerpt from a little spiritual book written by a Jesuit priest named Mark Link inspires today’s reflection. He happens to live at Loyola University in Chicago and I had the opportunity to meet him a few weeks ago! Needless to say, I was deeply honored to meet the person behind some of the spiritual writing I had read on his website Check it out if you have an opportunity.


A woman said, “I always had a problem reconciling biblical passages that said ‘fear of God’ was the start of wisdom and passages that said ‘God is love.’ Then one day I read something that helped me immensely. It was this line from Rod McKuen: ‘I love the sea, but it doesn’t make me less afraid of it.’

-From Action, Praying Scripture in a Contemporary Way, Mark Link, S.J.

I’ve struggled with the same sort of thing the above woman describes…reconciling “Love of God” with “Fear of God.” In fact, I’ve wrestled with this concept numerous times. It seems to enter my life at awfully high or low points. When I am even keel, I don’t worry too much about scripture passage that suggest we ought to fear God. However, when I am feeling lonely or insecure, the last thing I want is a God who requires FEAR out of me. I am in enough fear in that state of isolation or loneliness. And when I’m feeling exuberant, on cloud nine so to speak, I could care little about fearing God. Why should I fear anything when I am joyful? In a state of great joy, the only thing I think I have to fear is fear itself!

When I reflect on Rod McKuen’s quote again about loving and fearing the sea, I think of people I know who love bodies of water but can’t swim. They fear the idea of entering into any body of water without a life jacket or water noodle or a loved one to protect them. Some probably are scared to enter the water period! As a child, I was incredibly apprehensive of entering a lake or pool. If pushed too deep…well…I think I envisioned drowning or really freaky horror movies (of the Jaws kind).

The sea, pictures of the sea, simply observing expansive amounts of water collected in that kind of way…it’s a beautiful, beautiful sight. Casting our net over the horizon and breathing in the life-giving image of a never-ending body of water can be a very surreal experience. It’s awe-inspiring and can trigger divine, awesome thoughts.

I, slowly but surely, have learned to actually love swimming. (I’m still a terrible swimmer with poor form and tortoise-like speed). Nevertheless, I really enjoy taking a nice swim. I’m still fairly frightened of being stranded in the ocean in the middle of the night with no boat to save me (I’m thinking of shipwreck movies…The Perfect Storm, Titanic, Poseidon, etc.). Still, I love bodies of water and actually having my body in the water. Bodies of water are so incredibly grand and so incredibly vast in area that they are impossible to fully swim or fully comprehend. No matter how much we might physically know about a sea or how often we swim in the sea, the sea will forever be larger than us.

For sheer power, a kind of lack of comprehension of the sea-at large makes me uncertain or even fearful of the body of water. However, the older I get, the more I appreciate the kind of relationship I have with the sea. It’s still larger, much larger, than I’ll ever be…and yet, I’ve learned that the sea can be one of my closest, dearest companions.

To say I should fear God is not say that I should be scared to try and fail. I think it is to be scared to say I never tried and to admit the magnitude of creation. The Creator is fear insofar as we never want to lose sight of our place in creation and all those people, places and things that share life with us in this place.

If I say I fear God on some level, I am admitting that I fear any limit to love–––a God who is love. I sometimes do indeed fear Love. Who can honestly say they don’t? Love is a beautiful thing, but it is the most powerful bond that we know to exist. In the end, it is a God who is Love who I desire to be united with. I fear anything that does not bring Love to my life. I fear God because I want to Love other people so badly. We fear God as a community because we want God’s love to work within each other so badly. When we are in love with another person, we are sometimes scared that that love will die or somehow fade slowly away. But, if that love points to Love, it is truly a real manifestation of Love as being here on earth in the now always giving without expecting anything in return…that love will become something so amazing to receive, something beyond the space and time that we can conceive. That love will be like staring deeply and intimately into an ocean that you can’t see the end of but can only hope goes on forever and ever beyond that odd line between the sky and the sea. Our horizon is endless when we put our trust in Love.

“Long to see God, fear losing God and find joy in whatever leads to God. Do this, and you’ll find great peace.”

-The words of Teresa of Avila–––a mystic, saint, spiritual writer.

I think Teresa was onto something.

A line of encouragement: go for a metaphorical swim today if you have the opportunity!

Peace and blessings~

With love,

your friend bob.

PS - (The pictures posted are compliments of my friends Rafael and Sylvia, taken in Brazil and El Salvador. I am blessed to have friends who take quality pictures!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Say it with me... Sixty Degrees in February!

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

The weather today makes my trip to Brazil feel dramatically close to home.

To all my friends in the mid-west: rejoice and bask in the glory of this day of dreamy outdoorsy circumstances.

I told a friend today that I feel as if I am Ferris Bueller and it is my day off---I want to spend the whole day outside!

(And that's why my reflection is unusually concise).


I pray you have the opportunity to enjoy the absolutely blessed weather today! May your day be bright.

Here is the translation of Francis of Assisi's 'Canticle of the Sun.' He was a saint who had a most intimate connection with nature and an impressive understanding of humanity's place in time and space---a real green, eco-friendly saint in that sense.

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,
who sustains us
with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.

We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.

We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility.

To quote George Harrison, "Here comes the sun!"

Wishing you sunshine and peace.

with love,

your friend bob : )

Monday, February 2, 2009

Restless Serenity

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

People of the ancient world would worship deities on top of mountains (Mount Olympus comes to mind). On Mount Sinai, the Israelites received the law that would come to shape an entire people. The heart of Jesus' ministry, the point of his passion, took place on a mountain (Mount Calvary). There is something so metaphorical about climbing a mountain, reaching a summit. It is like running a race, finishing something you started. The mountains in Rio de Janeiro, in which I had an opportunity to witness from above if you will, were breathtaking to say the least. In an earlier blog six weeks ago or so, I posted a poem that was inspired while on top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. I was within range of seeing a city as through the lens of a hawk in the air.

The serenity and the restlessness that I felt on top of the mountain was incredible. These two feelings (serenity and restlessness) would seem to contradict each other. On the contrary, somehow someway, they became two pieces of a complete puzzle of thought. It's serene, divine to be thousands and thousands of feet above where we do a majority of our living. To breathe in clouds and dew, to have air smell and taste different is spectacular. And those of you who have ever stood on top of a mountain (whether it be a famous mountain range like the Rockies, the Alps or the Andes), or a simple hill close to your home, can communicate at an "I'm mesmerized" kind of level, the feeling of awe when in the presence of a mountain. And maybe, if you have ever shared a mountain experience like the one I had in Rio, can relate to the restlessness I mentioned. For some reason, being up in the air, looking down on a city, on water, on clusters of creation, I felt a sense of wanting to capture that image for a lifetime and somehow make a bold, life changing decision on top of the mountain.

Needless to say, I decided to return home after the restless, serene, awesome mountaintop excursion. I didn't by accident get left behind in a beautiful country like Brazil.

But, what I can say is the impact that trip had on me will last a lifetime someway, somehow. And when I am feeling restless here at or near sea level (maybe a little above technically speaking), I have a memory to return to where that restlessness makes sense with a kind of tranquility that nature's beauty allows us to capture and share intimately with our Spirit and the Spirit of those around us. And so, I scattered several pictures from on top of a mountain in Rio de Janeiro (pictures taken by my good friend Rafael) throughout this blog entry.

May your day be restless enough to inspire you to do something seriously serene!

peace to all my friends.

with love,

your friend bob : )