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Remembering Thomas Merton

Ever since I first came in contact with the writings of Thomas Merton about 28 years ago, he has spoken to me. I know I’m not alone there. Countless people of every faith and persuasion have found meaning in his writings and his life. Of course, others will counter that with claims that he was too flawed to be held up as a role model, or, dare I say, saint, but that’s precisely why he’s a great example. Read more

Moving Meditation: the sacred rhythm of raking

I love to rake. I love everything about it — the sound of the rake scratching against the earth, the smell of the autumn air, the pre-winter peacefulness that seems to be settling into all of nature at this time of year, the crispy brown oak leaves swirling against a steely gray November sky and filling my path as fast as I try to clear it. Read more

The hope that’s found in the promise of purgatory

Some people have a problem with the idea of purgatory, which is something I honestly just don’t get. Of all our teachings, this is one that is not only incredibly beautiful but also especially logical (as logical as things of the spirit can ever be) and especially compassionate, at least in my book. When I look at my life here on earth so far, I can’t imagine — despite all my good intentions — that I’ll be ready to meet God face to face when I die. And so I’m banking on purgatory and the possibility that I might be able to do in the next life what I haven’t been able to achieve on this side of heaven, namely, get right with God. Read more

Italy alert: We are now under the one-year countdown to the most amazing pilgrimage

One year from now we will be just back from the most amazing pilgrimage, a 13-day food and faith tour of Italy that will take us from Montecatini, Florence, Siena, and Assisi to Rome, Naples, Salerno, Sorrento, and the Isle of Capri. There’s still plenty of time to save up some money and vacation days and join us for a wonderful weaving of spirituality, sightseeing, and one fabulous meal and hotel after another. You can find the full itinerary HERE. Read more

I think I met Jesus this morning

I walked down to the Mission District in San Francisco today to visit the original Mision San Francisco de Asis, more commonly known as Mission Dolores because it’s near the Creek of Sorrows, Arroyo de los Dolores. After wandering through a beautiful old cemetery and the newer basilica, built in the early 1900s, I found my way to the chapel (first building erected in San Francisco) just as people were leaving daily Mass.

I waited for everyone to clear out and then went closer to the altar to get some photos. That’s when I noticed an old woman sitting in a pew, skull cap pulled far down on her head, raggedy oversized clothes, big bag full of something at her side. She had all the markings of a homeless woman and our eyes met and we both smiled and I said hello and walked on by. But for some reason, just as I was about to leave, something — perhaps the echo of “Whatsoever you do…” that was running through my head at that moment — ¬†told me to go back. And so I did. Read more

Angel of God, my guardian dear…

Angel of God,

my guardian dear,

to whom God’s love

commits me here, Read more

For people who spend so much time in prison, they sure are fun — and inspiring

I had the honor of addressing 50 Catholic prison chaplains on retreat at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, N.Y., this week. And while my presentation was meant to give them a spiritual lift and maybe a little levity — I am totally goofy when I get up there in front of an audience. Go figure. — the truth is that they were the ones who did just that for me. The Spirit works in amazing ways, and there is no doubt in my mind that I was meant to be exactly in that place at that moment this week. And I need to thank them for welcoming me so graciously but also for teaching me and sharing with me and laughing with me and reminding me what is so wonderful and beautiful about the individual Catholics who make up the Body of Christ. Read more

Let Pope Francis tell you what Pope Francis thinks

When I sat down to blog about Pope Francis’ interview with America magazine, I started and deleted the post three times. Finally I decided that I have very little I want to say to you about this inspiring, groundbreaking, monumental interview with a man who continues to fill me with hope for the future of our faith and reminds me that, yes, the Holy Spirit is very much alive and active in the life of our Church. Read more

Lessons from Brother Sun

So much happens on silent retreat, even though nothing at all seems to be happening. No talking, no reading, no writing, no casual eye contact. Doesn’t sound like much could be happening, does it? But, let me tell you, there is so much energy and movement and chatter going on under the surface, it’s hard to contain it. At one point on the first day, as I let go of everything that was going on in my head and heart, my interior was actually shaking, almost like I was shivering, but I wasn’t cold. Just a flood of feelings and emotions and questions that came rising up to the surface after being pushed down day after day by the normal events of life. Read more