God got a dog!

Cynthia Rylant, an award-winning writer of books for children and adults published a new book recently with drawings by Marla Frazee.

God got a dog


Here’s a sampling:

God went skating

He loved it.

He wasn’t very good at it.

He fell twenty times.

But God always

bounces back.

“Cool!” said God

as He whooshed 

past the old ladies.

He felt


(He knew he WAS invincible

but He didn’t

always feel that way.

Not every day.)

God made some other

friends on


God thought

they were 


He was proud

of them.

Proud that they

flew their spirits

down the alleys

and the boardwalks

and the streets

like angels.

    They were, you know.

         And they

             hadn’t forgotten.

It’s a great anodyne for those us living in the Oakland diocese these days living under a restorationist bishop who prattles in sheep’s clothing about being Francis’s man.

And God switches gender throughout the book!

The book is most likely available in the e-version but I highly recommend you get the actual book! Carlo and Mary have it at Sagrada.

Christos Anesti!


The 8th Day


(Calla photo  by Nan Daly)

Christ is Risen!! Today we celebrate the 8th day, the octave of the Easter event. In the ancient church the people understood this week to be by the clock 8-24 hour days; yet they celebrated as if it were one long day. By that I don’t mean non-stop parties but rather a sense that they entered into the resurrection moment and lived it intensively for this whole week. We might wonder why this intensity? Emil Brunner, a Swiss theologian, once said, “The death of Jesus is nothing for us if we have not died with him; the resurrection of the Lord is nothing for us if we have not been raised with him.” To me, this captures the celebration of the early church: live the event over and over again. Perhaps if we focus on it for 8 days we will remember to live it for the other 358 days as well.


A couple of thoughts for the 2nd week of Easter.

Read or re-read the Book of Acts!

Every year I set myself a simple task: re-read the Book of Acts in the Easter season. It’s hardly an onerous task and it reminds me of the many aspects and many stories of the early adventures of the disciples and apostles. We get snippets in the readings for the Easter season and a few other portions allocated over the feasts and ordinary days of the liturgical year. We learn a great deal from such a sustained reading.

Early liturgy in the time of Acts

We do well to remember that the early church had very little ritual: they were still Jews as far as their worship went – going to synagogue or temple services on Saturday and coming together on Sunday to remember the Lord. This may seem odd after the liturgies of Holy Week! Yet these folks we hear about in Acts and the Easter gospels and listen to their experiences once again had something else: a startling understanding of God in our history. They experienced this Jesus Christ and took that real feeling out into the world. At times they were blocked by human nature (Thomas), by real fear for their safety (Emmaus folks getting out of town), by their disappointments (Ascension Day—gone again!). Yet as they remembered the experiences of being with Jesus, especially during his passion, death, and resurrection, they understood it was not enough to simply hold these events in memory. No, they wanted to re-live them so they would feel the power of God’s love over and over again. From these undertakings and their prayer, our liturgy evolved over many years.

And we do that remembering in the lived experience of the liturgy, whether it is a simple daily liturgy or the bells and whistles of the Easter Vigil. When we falter in our own commitment to the gospel, we may remember how these friends of the Lord went from fishers and tax collectors and became disciples willing to give all for the life they had found in Jesus Christ. Christ is Risen, Indeed!

Francis at liturgy

On another note about the 8th day. This photo shows Francis the 1st attending daily liturgy with the Vatican workers. Great photo and it looks fairly candid. Someone said to me right after his election: “Francis and Ignatius – what’s not to like?” If he keeps hitting them out of the park – well, as she said: what’s not to like!


Christ is risen!

Easter 2013


Easter Dismissal  and Jesus Christ is Ris’n Today


We say we are a people of the book, a people of our stories about our God.  Too, we are a waiting people: one of our pet theologi­cal statements is “already, but not yet.”  Jesus came to save the world and through his death that salvation was evinced.  The Already.  Yet we still live in this imperfect world, we who are saved must still work out our salvation by responding to the Gospel until Jesus comes again.  The not yet.

Our tradition narrates an idea that as Jesus’ body rested in the tomb, a great silence filled the universe.  Listen to this portion of an ancient homily:

Today there is a great silence over the earth, for the King sleeps.  The earth has trembled and fallen still, for the Lord sleeps in his fleshly nature; in the nether world he is arous­ing those who have slept for ages, God is dead in the flesh, and has shaken sheol to its founda­tions.

Today, on Easter Sunday morning, our waiting is over.  Today we experience once again the ultimate act of God in our history, the raising of Jesus from the dead.  In all our other holy days whether it be Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Pente­cost, we only remember the event, we do not relive it.  Jesus did not die two days ago; no, we remember poignantly that graced moment when Jesus of Nazareth gave up his life for us.  But on Easter Sunday we relive the Resurrection.  For each of us the power of God’s action in our history and our lives is renewed with force majeure.  As we listen to the story of the empty tomb we must marvel, be astonished, wonder at the power of God and God’s willingness to enter our history.

What do we get from this experience?  I believe on this morn­ing we are closer to the nexus of already and not yet.  While many other days of the year we may find those two ideas as divergent as the continental divide makes our rivers, today they come as close together as humanly possible. And we know this from the stories we share this morning.

In Acts, an awesome gathering of stories about the first communi­ties of those first believers, we have tales of wonder and amazement.  Peter and John and James and Paul and their friends wander the world for many years telling the story to anyone who will listen.  Have you ever been in at the beginning of anything?  A new club?  A new publication?  a startup? Some event where a group of people come together and give of themselves without a lot of human sin to an ideal?  where folks work together to achieve some goal? The excitement, the fear, the power of the group, the willingness to subdue individual needs and passion for the good of the group effort.  What a spirit!  What life!

Well, these folks sure had it!  They were energized by the experience of the Already and the NOW.  Jesus’ life and teaching gave them the push, the spirit to live the Gospel.

In the Gospel we have a ballet scene.  Think how easily this story would choreograph.  Peter and John rushing forward, the overtaking, John’s stopping, Peter’s arrival and headstrong Peter jumps into the tomb, John’s eventual entry: advance and fall back, a great hesitancy on their parts. The story exemplifies “already but not yet.” Movement forward, movement backwards.  Is this not our story, sisters and brothers?  Are we not filled with the same hesitancy, the same springiness in our spiritual life, our life which responds to the Gospel?  We never seem to be like those first Christian who put Jesus and the telling of the story first and every­thing else afterwards. NO, we live in a different world where the already and not yet diverge and converge, day in and day out.  Sometimes we are really there, like the Beloved Disciple, like Mary, like Peter.  Other times we are the Pharisees, the unbelievers, Judases.

But today, after our forty days of preparation, after the remem­brances of the Triduum, after our own experience of renewal, we come to the table on Easter morning, with our two strands the already and the not yet almost convergent, at least for this hour together. We come to the Table to feast secure in the knowledge that we have helped the tradition, the already but not yet continue in the witness of our Elect and those seeking confirmation. Our challenge to continue this life, this quest, however, is echoed in Paul’s letter to the Colossians: we have died in baptism with Christ we must be intent on the higher things: the living of the Gospel.  Each of us knows by now the things we do which separate us from God and from each other.  What we swear to here this morning as we renew our own baptismal promises will draw us closer to those “higher realms” and we will be ultimately much happier.  What we need to do, brothers and sisters, is to get excited like those first Christians about what has happened to us over these holy days this year and to live it, to tell our story about how God, the Risen One, is active in our lives. Already but not yet.

Great Easter Joke

A good friend approached Joseph of Arimathea and said:

“Hey Joe, why did you let those friends of that fellow Jesus of Nazareth use your new tomb? You had the best craftsmen hew that tomb in the hillside and it was quite elegant. Seems a waste.”

“Ah, Mike, not at all. See I knew he only needed it for the weekend!!”

St. Valentine’s Day Day 2 Lent 2013


St. Valentine’s Day

See’s, Hallmark, and most restaurants benefit highly from this saint’s day. Valentine was a priest in Rome mid 3rd century and was reported to have ministered to those denounced and killed during the persecutions under Claudius II.  Eventually he himself was captured and executed when he would not renounce his faith. The celebration of this day as a feast of love, especially committed love, seems to have begun in England. Probably more to do with the calendar and emerging spring and hormones and instincts rather than a memorial to a dedicated priest who gave up his heart to Christ. In any event a day set aside to celebrate love.

Prayer Today

1.         From the Hebrew Bible reading.

I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving Adonai, your God,
heeding God’s voice, and holding fast to God.

The famous Choose Life passage from DT 30. Always a good place to spend some time in prayer. Choosing life is what the Christian ideal calls us to experience. Choose life in everything we do, we say, we think, we pray. Spend some time today with these few lines, praying them over and over again out loud, perhaps finishing with a repeated Choose Life a number of times. Then examine the lived life to see where death or darkness or indifference easily overcome choosing anything, never mind life.

2.         What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? Lose and forfeit stimulate much discussion in theological circles. The argument seems to stem from forfeit being a decision to do something actively.  A distinction in the sporting life might be:

            I choose to forfeit this game; I am unwell.

            I lost the game because I played poorly.

In the theological world the forfeit seems to conjure up a clear decision to reject God’s saving grace. Losing connotes doing something that puts one outside that grace; the action causing the loss.

Without getting too enmeshed in the language, it’s an issue that we might find useful for prayer. Address Jesus directly and ask him what he thinks he meant!

3.         If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Lent seems a good time to talk about the cross. This text is often used for talks and the focus of homilies. For Jesus and his followers they saw the results of crucifixion often: the Roman’s used it as a terror tool. When Jesus was a pre-teen over 2000 rebels under the leadership of Judas the Galilean were crucified near Sepphoris – a few miles from Nazareth. Yet the cross language seems out of place: if Jesus died for us, then why do we have to take up the cross? Is it a clear notice to any would be follower that living as a devout Christian will have the essence of the cross about it? A meditation on the cross might be helpful on day 2 of Lent!




Ash Wednesday

Readings for Ash Wednesday

08 Be Merciful, O Lord _ Psalm 51

Today for once in any given year we may be  marked with a sign for all to know we are Christians – followers of Jesus the Christ. It always seems a little off that the Gospel chosen for today does not admit to such a marking. Oh it points out anointing but it follows with wash your face. Wearing the burnt palms mixed with oil lands on the side of letting others see who we are; perhaps opening us up to ridicule, a charge of hypocrisy. For by flaunting our discipleship in the various places we travel on a Wednesday, do we not allow ourselves to be judged by all who see? Will our public avowal stand a measured examination of how our lives reflect the living of the Gospel?

Those of us who see today as the beginning of a yearly retreat when we let the powerful stories of Lent beckon us once more to attend to the daily business of discipleship may say YES that is true! And none knows it more than I myself.  We accept the black mark as a sign of our determination to once again turn back to the one who calls us. Yes, please, do remark on how well I live out the call from Jesus Christ; remind me often of how the challenge of the Gospel finds me wilting against its bright light. Remind me, please, of how easily I can rework the daily schedule to find a few moments to treat others as I would be treated. Let me embrace that now is an acceptable time for me to turn myself toward the voice that calls me across the tumult of my life.

Today the mark of ashes visibly proclaims our allegiance. Tomorrow and in the days ahead let us pray that our actions will offer as visible a sign of our discipleship.

12 Ubi Caritas

1.         Go to your inner room… In the instructions from MT a form of private prayer is outlined, distinct from public, communal worship. I like the adjective inner here. What is our “inner” room? If we think of it as a place, then some private area in our home would seem to fill the bill. Yet if we consider inner as a form of privacy that focuses on our mind, then that private space can be anywhere. Perhaps ponder what inner room means to you? Remember some memorable prayer time when you were in the midst of chaos but secure in your private place.

2.         In our Christian world we have many connections to our Jewish roots.  Perhaps one most direct link is our Lenten discipline which was the three-legged stool for Jewish people’s living out God’s commands: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. We might read all of this text from MT as Jesus’ warning shot across the bow of his listeners and followers. We all have experiences of gift giving as required, prayers like Claudius’s, fasting as sheer application of the law. Perhaps a good time to mediate and pray with those evangelical virtues and test our own resolve to hear Jesus words in this text directed directly to ourselves.

3.         Fasting. Always a strange bird this fasting business. As some bishops (and bishops’ conferences) continue re-arranging deck chairs in many modes of the Christian life, fast and abstinence has crept back in de jure. Some of the language is reminiscent of atonement speak from pre-Vatican II. Yet fasting can be one more vehicle to help with prayer. Many spiritual writers and practitioners speak of its value as a way to focus attention in prayer. As we begin Lent 2013, perhaps a time to revisit fasting in our own lives as our own choice.

Don’t forget to laugh today!
Each Friday night after work, Bubba would fire up his outdoor grill and cook venison steak. But all of Bubba’s neighbors were Catholic, and since it was Lent they were forbidden from eating red meat on Friday. The delicious aroma from the grilled venison steaks was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked to their priest.  The priest came to visit Bubba and suggested that he become a Catholic. After several classes and much study, Bubba attended Mass.
The priest sprinkled holy water over him and said, “You were born a Baptist and raised as a Baptist, but now you are Catholic.”
 Bubba’s neighbors were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived and the wonderful aroma of grilled venison filled the neighborhood. The priest was called immediately by the neighbors.
As the priest rushed into Bubba’s yard, clutching a rosary and prepared to scold him, he stopped and watched in amazement.
 There stood Bubba, clutching a small bottle of holy water, which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meat while chanting, “You wuz born a deer, you wuz raised a deer, but now you
is a catfish!”

Alleluia Sunday

In many churches that observe Lent today is Alleluia Sunday. Once Lent begins on Wednesday the alleluia and the Gloria are packed away for 40 days – more or less.

So here’s an offering of some Alleluias and Glorias for those that need a fix before the burnt palms appear this week.

01 Alleluia! Alleluia! Let the Holy

03 Alleluia! the Strife Is O’er

06 Resuscito

01 Kinh Vinh Danh (Glory To God)

While not technically an alleluia, this flash mob of the Ode to Joy will make you feel very good and laugh a lot. (We do sing an Easter hymn to this tune.)

And of course the Hallelujah Chorus – another flash mob version.

January 31, 2013 St. John Bosco

John Bosco, better known as Don Bosco truly lived the gospel in his lifetime. His focus in ministry was boys and young adults abandoned with no hope of a home or schooling. He emulated Francis de Sales and developed a Salesian spirituality that he used to minister to the people of Turin and in the Piedmont. In 1859 he selected some seminarians and one formed priest to establish the Society of St. Francis de Sales. In 1981 he worked with Mary Mozzarello to form a similar group to work with young girls. Ever thoughtful for the work, he formed a third group of lay people who would assist in these ministries without joining either order. In his day he attracted many youngsters and adults to his ministries because he believed that education was a matter of the heart – a student must be loved and know that he or she is loved. He was a tireless worker in the vineyard and made some ecclesiastical enemies because of his iconoclastic methods. His religious orders spread around the world.

Psalm 24


MK 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples,

“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket
or under a bed,
and not to be placed on a lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”
He also told them, “Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has, more will be given;
from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

  1. Jesus’ talks to friends and disciples often were made up of wisdom sayings. In this text from Mark we get a few that can be helpful for our prayer. These five sayings can be consternating because they require us to sit with ideas that may seem odd to us. Take just one and repeat it out loud a number of times. As you repeat it, see what phrase or word attracts your attention?
  2. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. Perhaps pray with this saying and incorporate Don Bosco in the prayer. Or some other ikon whose life you might like to emulate. What have you done with the measure given to you?
  3.  Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear. We often distinguish between listening and hearing, especially when pointing out how a superficial hearing of important advice can lead to disaster! Again an interesting saying to repeat aloud and then apply to your own prayer life.
  4.  To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. A lot of ink has been spilled over Mark 4:25. How does it speak to you? If we think of it as how we respond to the light of Christ, then does this change the meaning for you? 


12 Ubi Caritas