Tag Archives: Lord



THE FIRST READING in today’s Holy Mass was from 1 Samuel 3, wherein the young man is called by the Lord and utters his famous: “ Here I am Lord! “


One of those modern songs, I dare not call it a hymn, used ad nauseam for years at ordinations and other liturgies, repeats that ‘ here I am Lord ‘ phrase over and over, but in a context which is more laudatory of ourselves than humble praise and gratitude of His calling to us.

This originates, I believe, in the misconception that once we have said ‘here I am Lord ‘, things are a done deal.

Yet the very life of Christ Himself, indeed the very ‘fiat’ of Our Blessed Mother, testifies that answering His call is but the bare beginning.

He calls us constantly to an ever deeper metanoia/conversion of heart and more dispossessed kenosis/self-emptying, so that by the purifying action of the Holy Spirit we may come to such a complete imitation of, configuration to Christ, that we can indeed, with the Apostle, cry out in truth: “ I no longer live, Christ lives in me! “

The perfect “Here I am Lord “is, of course, Jesus Himself — Jesus in the Garden and on the Cross, saying His ‘here I am ‘to the Father: [Lk.22:42] and [Lk.23:46].

Like probably everyone else, when hearing His call, I sincerely believed my ‘Here I am Lord ‘was complete.

Of course it was, in the narrow confines of that immediate moment, but, it was limited by my lack of understanding about the reality, the implications, as well as the gift, of His call: Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. [Mt.16:24]

Christ was obedient unto death….here is the ‘essence’ of our life……We are going to be tempted; we are going to be scourged. Everything is going to be against us; for the one thing the devil doesn’t want us to do is to die on the cross of our Lord…….At night, before you go to sleep, keep in your mind this thought: “ He was obedient unto death. “ [cu]


It is in the reality that our — no, in truth I can only say my: it is then in the reality that my ‘Here I am Lord ‘ is not yet complete that I am beginning to write the end chapters of this work, renewing my prayer that should anyone, should you, ever read this it will console your heart with the merciful, lavish, communion of love truth that, no matter how mired we are in sin, grace abounds all the more! [Rm.5:20]

I’M STILL reflecting in my heart upon the Desert Father story of the old man whom the devil distracted from trusting Christ by the scattering of the old man’s palm leaves.

What a metaphor for my life!

The old man said, indeed I say to the Lord, I weep because of the suffering, the shock, humiliation, frustration, yea even the fearfulness, that the devil should be allowed to treat the baptized of the Lord in such a horrible manner.

Jesus touches me, as He touched the old man, with tenderness, and Infinite patience, teaches me yet again a basic truth I always neglect — more than merely forget — the devil has his way with me when I seek to struggle in spiritual warfare, in even the ordinariness of life, by my own wits.

“As soon as you called upon Me satan fled for I have overcome him. “

Yes Lord, You, and You alone, are the Victor.

Once I had started university, as the Dean had requested, I informed him, telling him at the same time I was ready to move out of my living situation but given the cost of university and books did not have the income to get a place of my own. He said he would take care of it for me.

Weeks went by.

Winter arrived.

The Dean contacted me and said I was accepted for the fall term in the seminary and to proceed with the required medical check-up, necessary copy of my Baptismal certificate and gave me a list of basic books I would need, including the breviary for celebration of the Divine Office.

He suggested that even though the obligation to pray the Divine Office would not actually be mine until I was, some years in the future, a deacon, it would be good even now as a layman to begin to pray it.

As to my living situation he trusted my word I was living chastely and would soon have a place for me to live.

Today as I sit here and pen these lines in the rectory of a friend, where I am having a little holiday, I look out through the lace curtains into the expansive yard, with its statue of Mary, flower beds in full bloom, grapevines embracing their lattice. Across the alley, above the roofs of houses on the far street, the sky is boiling with black clouds, as thunder cracks the silence of this summer afternoon, and, lightening heralds the sudden downpour which slakes the earth, burdened by this latest drought.

It has been a good day. [Lk. 1:37]

We are nearing Epiphany.

Once again I fled these pages for months!

I have been scurrying around, chasing palm leaves again!

At this rate I’ll be on my deathbed and they’ll have to uncurl my fingers from around the pen with which I shall still be scribbling away.


Such a relentless companion of late.

A veritable cyclone of palm leaves.

It has occupied me much, both as a priest serving the dying, and the grieving, and very much in my own heart.

A great mystery in this season when we celebrate His birth — but then here is a deep mystery worthy of constant contemplation: God leaps down to earth Incarnate as a man, lain in the manger and ascends to heaven after having Risen from being lain in the tomb.

So far, since I last wrote any of this, I have attended the funerals of five dear brother priests and been the priest present as two of them were called home.

Each was in his own way a true holy servant of God, His People, our people.

It is also true that the actual reality of a person’s goodness becomes apparent only in death.

This is borne out by the fact, as another priest once remarked in a homily, we seem in our grief blessedly purged, in most instances, of all but the most tender and respectful memories of the deceased.

Yes, each of those dear brother priests was a mixture of saintliness and the woundedness of sins committed, sins thrust against them. But in the end each died in the arms of Jesus and Mary as we, their brother priests, prayed they be forgiven the sins of their youth.

The Pieta moment, for all Our Blessed Mother’s priest sons.

Is this not the joy of our Catholic sacramental faith that within the Church all are members of the same family, saint and sinner alike, and everyone is welcome and Our Lady is there as tender Pieta for all “ now and at the hour of our death! “

This week, the latest death of a brother priest hit me particularly hard, indeed reminded me too of the need to continue this writing.

Meanwhile I hereby pay a debt to my brother priest who died this week, a debt which is another example of the mysterious way in which Christ is always there, knocking on the door of our being and asking entrance:

Almost thirty years ago, not many months after finding myself unemployed from one of my many jobs, I was hitchhiking around the country.

It was early fall and the nights were quite cold.

This particular night the cold was aggravated by a steady drizzle and I was alone, cold, wet, hungry and, in spite of my anger at the Church, found myself desperate enough to bang on the door of a rectory in the small town where I was stranded.

It was well after midnight and no one seemed about anywhere in that town. There was no all-night gas station or coffee shop. No shelter of any kind.

After some pounding I noticed a light come on in an upper room. A few minutes later lights came on near the door. The door opened and standing before me, dressed in a black cassock, stood an elderly priest.

All I remember saying was, “Hello Father. “, and the priest instantly inviting me in.

The place was warm and before I had gotten too far in my tale of woe the priest assured me I could stay the night and immediately took me into the large kitchen, put on the kettle, disappeared for a few minutes and returned with some dry clothes, showing me a bathroom down a hall where I could clean up, dry off, put on the warm clothes.

When I came back into the kitchen he had a simple meal of soup, toast and coffee already prepared, gave me directions to a guest room, and left.

When I came down to the kitchen the next morning he had already prepared an ample bacon and egg, toast, coffee, breakfast. He’d even washed and dried my clothes.

As I was leaving after that breakfast he pushed what seemed to me like a fistful of cash into my hand, told me to keep the clothes, insisted I take a bible and a book of the lives of the saints, and as I stepped out of the door he said: “ You MUST return to the faith!”

A few days ago, just before Christmas, I took the elderly priest who lives here with me to the bedside of a dying brother priest. We anointed him, gave him Holy Viaticum, prayed the prayers of the dying as he fell asleep in the arms of Our Blessed Mother.

Both of those priests, the one who died, and the elderly one who accompanied me, had been brother priests together for decades and had even once served together in the same parish.

The one whom I anointed and gave Holy Viaticum to is the same priest who sheltered, clothed, fed, and encouraged me to return to the faith those thirty years ago.

Please God by now I have chased enough palm leaves.





STRANGE the feeling within me this afternoon as I begin to write again. A feeling difficult to articulate, yet it is intense.


Perhaps this morning’s phone call from a dear friend, like several of late from other friends, triggered the initial feeling.

Each has asked the same question, a question which has dogged me these five months into the sabbatical: Have you finished writing your first book yet?

There are only four months left to this sabbatical and clearly this first book isn’t finished yet!




Yes, those could describe what I am feeling, but they would not tell the whole story.

It is more a sense of duty, a peaceful sense of duty now that I allow myself to feel it.

The duty is not the writing per se, for the sabbatical has never been exactly about what I might produce, on paper or canvas.

The duty is to be here, still and faithful, in the moment.

The duty is the duty of the moment.

If You Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, Most Holy Spirit, grant there be enough moments to complete this book, or others, to finish that painting which leans against the wall near my desk, or others, indeed should You grant that anything I write be published, anything I paint be sold for the benefit of the poor, then praise be to You.

Should You grant that no matter how diligent I may be in the duty of the moment, not a manuscript is completed, not a canvas covered, not a book sold, not a painting bought, then praise be to You.

My heart understands, even if my emotions seem to put the lie to my understanding in heart, the purpose of this sabbatical is that I become more what I already am by Your Consecrating Will – priest of Jesus Christ.

All else is but means, and all is grace, praise be to You.

IT IS years from that summer when, through St. Sharbel, I was granted a healing miracle.

It is within the mystery of priesthood that I am here, deep in the forest, in this hermitage for a few days.

It is early evening.

The forest is still.

The valley in shadow.

The sharp blue sky now gathering about itself a shawl of grey cloud.

Beyond the hills, thunder’s growl announces the approaching storm.

Night is coming too.

I sit here in vigil candle light, penning these lines as I seek a receptive stillness of heart, mind, imagination, as the brilliance of Your grace in my life fills the memories of those years past when, grace flowing into my being like the now pouring rain on parched soil, nurtured me from death to life.

I am a living witness how it pleases You to use the weak, the fool, the sinner to confound the strong, the wise, the ‘saint’.

I am a living witness to the infinite bounty of Your Mercy.

This very bread I eat, spring water I drink, is tangible evidence of Your Fatherly care who adorn us through Baptism with a beauty which causes even the lilies of the field to bow in awe before the wonders of Your love.

My heart is moved this night with profound contrition for all the wasted years when, gorged on my abuse of the inheritance You gave, I fled from You Father, in such unseemly haste, giving myself over to idolatry and other addictions because, as Adam before me, I listened to the prince of darkness, the liar.

How easily we Christians say, true as it is, that You so love us You give us Your Only-begotten Son.

How rarely do we stand still before the immensity of that truth, the reality that sin cost the life of Your Only-begotten Son.

That we cost Him His life.

O Christ God You are indeed my everything.

O Christ God You are indeed fullness of Mercy.

My whole being leans into Your embrace with love. [Sg. Of Sg. 1: 2,3] 

Hours have passed and I am awakened in the deep of night, profoundly aware of souls across the earth moving about in the furtive darkness on their desperate errands, seeking what I once sought, wasting their inheritance as I once wasted mine.

It is a few weeks since I started to write more of this in the hermitage — but that was neither the time nor the place.

It was the time and place to pray for my brothers and sisters around the world that they might open wide the doors of their being to Him.

Now I sit here in my little basement rooms in this house of the aged and dying, having watched images from space, taken from the Hubble space telescope.

What most strikes my heart about those images from so many millions of miles away is the contrast of beauty in the midst of what appears to us as such blackness.

It is like looking into the mysterious vastness of a human heart!

It is summer, the time of heat, humidity, haze, and of a type of human restlessness which seems to take hold, particularly, of urban dwellers at this time of year.

I suspect the great allure of cottage country is the deep seated need in human beings of a simple life closely connected to, touched by, the earth.

If only souls felt a similar urgency to be touched by You!

My heart is moved to recall with gratitude my last summer in that other city where I too was restless, a restlessness which was indeed a grace.

The restlessness expressed itself interiorly as a basic question: what am I to do with my life?

This motivated me to speak with my spiritual father not only about those bitter rooted addictions and inner-vowed stances which spawned such anxiety throughout my life, but also about what was I called to do by God?

This led to my spending more time with The Community, when I was free from work, and a greater fidelity to daily Mass, prayer, frequent confession, to meditating upon the Holy Gospels.

That summer too I rediscovered in a profound manner, in large measure through my devotion to St. Sharbel, the gift and role of Our Blessed Mother in my life, a presence which would be dramatically confirmed through another of the important women in my life towards summer’s end.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, indeed I would only discover this some years later while doing research in the seminary library for an essay, Pope John Paul II had already stressed, in his first Holy Thursday letter to Priests in 1979, the importance of the role and presence of Mary in the life of a priest:

…..in the midst of the People of God, that looks to Mary with immense love and hope, you must look to her with exceptional love and hope. Indeed, you must proclaim Christ who is her Son; and who will better communicate to you the truth about Him than His Mother? [cp]

Within my being that summer a possibility was emerging, a dream being reawakened, and it confused me, for it seemed to the depths of my being a most radical and, frankly, unrealistic dream.

From my earliest conscious memory this dream, this desire, nay this passion, had always been there, even when I was most deeply in the dark ignorance of atheism and hedonism.

In fact, in the most improbable of circumstances and from the most unlikely of persons — such as clients in the street clinic where I had once been a counsellor — I was frequently asked: Are you a priest?

That was the never forgotten dream: to be a priest.

The desire was returning, the improbability, given my age, my background notwithstanding, there was deep in me a growing certainty that this was my vocation.

In the last few weeks of the summer I had some vacation time and spent it with The Community where I would have frequent conversations with my spiritual father, finally confiding my dream to him.

I’m not clear, in retrospect, exactly what I expected from him. Certainly not an outright refusal, probably a reply along the order of, in a few years, maybe.

Astonishingly he simply stated: “This may be closer than you realize!”

Barely an hour later one of those special women in my life came to me and told me the superior of the women wanted to see me before I returned to the city. So I met with the superior and she outright asked me: “What do you think of Our Blessed Mother?”

I don’t remember my reply other than I know for sure I would have expressed my renewed devotion to, and confidence, in Our Blessed Mother.


Later, as I was about to board the bus back to the city, my friend came up to me again and gave me a book, a gift from the superior: TO THE PRIESTS, OUR LADY’S BELOVED SONS.