Wednesday, October 7, 2009

seek no other thing here in this world as much as love


St. Cosmas of Aitolos on love:

"If we want to fare well in this life and to go to Paradise, and to call our God love and father, we must have two loves: the love for God and the love for our neighbor. It is natural for us to have these two loves, and contrary to nature not have them. Just as a swallow needs two wings in order to fly in the air, so we need these two loves, because without them we cannot be saved.

Let us have love for God and for our fellow men. Then God comes and brings us joy and implants the eternal life in our hearts, and we fare well in this life and also go to Paradise, there to rejoice forever.

Fortunate is the man who has these two loves in his heart, that for God and that for his brethren. He surely has God; and whoever has God has every blessing and does not bear to commit sin. Again, wretched is the man who does not have these two loves. Surely he has the devil and evil, and always sins. God, my brethren, asks us to have these two loves. As He Himself says in His Holy Gospel: "On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets." Through these two loves all the Saints of our Church, men and women, attained sainthood and won Paradise. Whoever has blessed love, firstly for God and secondly for his fellow Christian, becomes worthy of receiving the Holy Trinity in his heart.

If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love.

Know my brethren that love has two characteristics, two gifts. One of them is to strengthen man in what is good and the other is to weaken him in what is evil. I have a loaf of bread to eat; you do not have. Love tells me: Do not eat it alone, give some to your brethren and you eat the rest. I have clothes; love tells me: Give one garment to your brother and you wear the other one. I open my mouth to accuse you, to tell you lies, to decieve you; but at once I remember love and it deadens my mouth, and does not allow me to tell you lies. I stretch out my hands to take what belongs to you, your money, all your possessions. Love does not allow me to take them. Do you see, my brethren, what gifts love has?

Those of you who earn your bread by means of your toil and sweat should rejoice, because that bread is blessed; and if you give a little of it as alms it is reckoned as much. But those who live by means of injustice and grasping should mourn, for what you thus acquire is cursed; and if you give alms out of these they do not benefit you at all, being fire that consumes you.

The Martyrs won Paradise through their blood; the Ascetics, through their ascetic life. Now you, my brethren, who have children, how will you win Paradise? By means of hospitality, by giving to your brothers who are poor, blind, or lame."

Monday, October 5, 2009

C.S. Lewis on 'suffering' and 'happiness'

this weekend was the commemoration of the 'transitus' or passing of St Francis of Assisi, and his observed feast day. i've been blessed to have spent a good weekend both celebrating St Francis, as well as reflecting on my life and my own calling, in light of Francis' way of life.
it was a blessing to be able to spend the transitus with my secular franciscan brothers and sisters this year, to pray and reflect on the life and passing of this "poor man" of Assisi. two years ago i was blessed to be able to spend the feast with the Poor Clares at their monastery, last year i spent the feast day by myself- but with all the animals at home.

i've often contemplated and thought about questions regarding what true 'poverty' was, what it meant to be "poor in spirit", and what it meant to be 'rich'.
i've also been reflecting on the idea of happiness and suffering especially from the christian perspective.

people often philosophise and talk about "being happy" and what brings them "true happiness".
many of these ideas in the popular mind (depending on the culture, to some extent)often involve economic and financial security, socio-economic status, physical health and well-being and of course that elusive thing many call- 'love'.
it is believed by many, if not most societies, that if you have all these things to any extent, then surely you will find happiness, contentment and peace in your life.
i've always sort of felt that the idea of 'happiness' was somewhat over-rated (and to some extent self-serving), especially on how one finds 'happiness' in one's life in the popular mind based on attaining these goals.

to some extent it may be generalisation, that the poor seem to be (often) more content with what they have in life, as opposed to how miserable we sometimes hear the very wealthy can become.
certainly, the saying is accurate that "money can't buy you happiness"; many can confirm that in their experience. i think, however, that it is far more important to contemplate the "other side of the coin"; and that is- (earthly) poverty does not have to make you miserable or unhappy. in other words, just because someone is 'poor' or doesn't have all the 'conveniences' or so-called 'advantages' of wealth and earthly security, does not automatically mean they are unhappy with their life (overall) or miserable.

we don't necessarily have to look at the lives of the saints such as Francis or Clare to understand this, we can go to any poor nation and speak to some of the so-called poor people there and ask them if there is any 'happiness' in store for them in their life. i have met many such 'poor' people in my life, and they were far from miserable or would even consider themselves as 'suffering/ this is plainly because their expectations of what life has to offer is very different from many of us who seek their sense of happiness or contentment from something other than worldly or material things. the simplicity of the "lilies of the field".
i guess it often boils down to holding a belief that somehow life 'owes' us something, rather finding a sense of unconditional gratitude.

these words of CS Lewis rings true for me in how i see it.
i find it encouraging and edifying to read these thoughts on how to see suffering. i see the words of Christ from a new perspective on the "rich man" entering the kingdom of heaven. it makes total sense. it's not that God would deny them heaven, but those who hold on to that contentment with earthly satisfaction could not be satisfied with what God has in store for them because of their worldly attachments. i believe it's true for most of us, and myself certainly.
i guess that's why he naturally concludes that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the "poor in spirit"- those without "high expectations" of earthly satisfaction.

life doesn't owe us something, it doesn't owe me anything; i'm the one who owes a debt of gratitude that can never be paid in full.

someone once asked me how do you see the glass with water in it? is it "half-empty" or "half-full"; i answered- it depends on how thirsty you are at the moment, and how much water you're accustomed to getting.

"Christ said it was difficult for 'the rich' to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, referring, no doubt, to 'riches' in the ordinary sense. But I think it really covers riches in every sense--good fortune, health, popularity and all the things one wants to have. All these things tend--just as money tends--to make you feel independent of God, because if you have them you are happy already and contented in this life. You don't want to turn away to anything more, and so you try to rest in a shadowy happiness as if it could last for ever.

But God wants to give you a real and eternal happiness. Consequently He may have to take all these 'riches' away from you: if He doesn't, you will go on relying on them. It sounds cruel, doesn't it? But I am beginning to find out that what people call the cruel doctrines are really the kindest ones in the long run. I used to think it was a 'cruel' doctrine to say that troubles and sorrows were 'punishments.' But I find in practice that when you are in trouble, the moment you regard it as a 'punishment,' it becomes easier to bear. If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad.

Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimist: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it becomes optimistic." -C. S. Lewis

Saturday, October 3, 2009


(*note: an old blog from october 4 2007. since today is the observation of the 'transitus' by franciscans around the world, i wanted to re-blog this here)

i remember being in asissi when i was young. seeing the tomb of francis and then to visit the basilica of clare and seeing her in her tomb as well.
i remember the birds outside both churches and how well fed they all were...

today we remember "il poverello"- the "poor man of asissi".
strange in a way because francesco bernardone was never poor. he was born the a fairly wealthy merchant family and was well taken care of financially, and then after he renounced everything he was given and all he had in the world, he became even richer; so in a very real way, francis never knew poverty.

i remember mother teresa saying that the poverty in the west (in america) was greater than it was in india, because here in the west the poverty is that of the spirit.
when you walk down the poorest neighbourhood or alley in calcutta, for the most part, the majority of people have some sense of hope and a source of strength to draw from, but if you walk down skid row in any part of north america, you can virtually feel the sense of abandonment and forsakenness.

francis embraced the suffering that he saw in Jesus virtually everywhere he went, in nature among animals as well as among the poorest of the poor- lepers, outcast, peasants, etc.
the confronted the sultan in palestine at a time of great hostility and violence the same way and with the same heart as he confronted the wolf at gubbio that was frightening the villagers.
he taught not only the 'enemy' (such as the wolf) to learn a way out of fear, but more importantly those who, like us, every day people who were afraid to reach out.
he taught that love is always greater and stronger than fear- whether it was the leper he embraced, the hungry wolf, or his own body which he referred to as "brother donkey/ass"- when it was literally breaking down as he lost his eyesight and other physical strength.
towards the end of his life, it has been said that he was very emotionally drained and depressed.
the man who has inspired so many countless people-himself was in great turmoil at the end of his life; yet through the darkness he never lost sight of the light, and so at the end in all humility he asked to be placed on the ground and told his brothers/friends/ followers- "dum tempus habemus, operemur bonum" -while we have time, let us do good... (because up until now, we have done little")

i cannot help but question how i've lived my own life...
at the time i made a pilgrimage to asissi, i was a very idealistic young franciscan, i had just entered the order.
today many things have changed in my life, though there have always been threads that are ever-present thanks to many touch-stones still in my life.

today, i pushed myself to get up early (no easy feat for this night-owl), and drove about an hour (more or less) to the Poor Clare Monastery of St Joseph in aptos. (interestingly enough as a side note).
i almost didn't go since i didn't get much sleep last night, but my alarm went off and as i reluctantly got up, the thought that got me to get up out of bed and go to the convent was the memory of being in asissi so many years ago, and the incredible peace and sense of home that i felt while being there.
i got to the monastery and found it from the simple directions that the nun gave me over the phone.
i walked into the monastery church, a bit late but as they were about the read the gospel, which was about francis' life (indirectly). it was about Jesus talked about where our treasure lies.
afterwards, i brought my bag of apples as a small feast day present to the sisters at the monastery.
i rang the bell and one elderly nun dressed in the traditional Poor Clare habit came and answered the door. the rest of sisters cannot be seen as they are a cloistered community, but unlike the carmelites, whom i am more accustomed to seeing, at least i got to speak face-to-face with one of the nuns there who was serving at the mass.
she was so kind and hospitable. very friendly.
we talked about franciscans and about their own community.
i talked of my own journey as a member of the franciscan family.
we talked about mother teresa's sisters as well and her community and how much they take poverty so strictly.
she also spoke of an outreach for the poor and homeless in san francisco under st boniface's community or church i think that is still very active in serving the needy in that city.

i was so happy to be there and reconnect with my franciscan family again as well as to recommit to the vision of francis- one that is never without its challenges, but has never failed to be a source of strength to countless people around the world for generations as well as in my own life.

i feel sometimes that i have felt or at least had a taste of the deep depression that francis felt towards the end of his own life after he lost his eyesight and could barely walk anymore.
this man who once wanted to be a soldier, a knight of the realm, chose a different path, yet still in so many ways kept fighting- only in a different battle.

the stigmata of francis to me is a very real one, not in the material sense, for that is irrelevant to me, but more in the spiritual and mental sense.
he truly felt and identified with the painful wounds of the crucified Jesus, but not only in his vision at La Verna in the mountains, but among his brothers and sisters, even in animals such as the wolf at gubbio, or a stray lamb he would find, in the leper outcast at the edge of the city walls, or wherever he saw suffering.
suffering was not something to be avoided or feared- even death which francis called "sister death" he clearly never feared but rather embraced, as he did "lady poverty".
to be poor, was to be free in every sense of the word. this was the path of francis, this was the way he felt Jesus called him.

when i feel that sense of empty heart, or sense of exhaustion and discouragement......i know i have not walked or entered a place that others have not known before- those like francis who knew this cold, desolation still walked out of it to see and find the warmth of the light which they themselves kept burning in their hearts always enflamed with love and compassion.

Friday, September 25, 2009

feed the birds, tuppence a bag

(*note another old blog from 2007)

when i was growing up as a child, we only ever had a dog as a 'pet'. i always wanted to have other animals as a child.
my mother says when i was an infant, i used to feed crumbs to the little mice and even ants near my crib. i remember having two little birds though when i was about 4 or 5 years old (i can't remember how old i was).

i remember watching mary poppins as a child and this song really etched itself in my mind i think.

every so often over the past few months while here at the old house in the woods, i've had to take care of and prepare the food and feed all the animals myself, cats, bunnies, birds, pig, dog, etc.
i have to say as much as i love them all it can be stressful sometimes and really wears me out some days...
last night while i was taking care of something for the cats, getting their food bowls cleaned or cleaning the litter (a job i definitely do not enjoy, but has to be done), i heard this song from iTunes that matt had playing in the background, disney songs mostly and i heard this song playing.
matt always gets choked up when he hears this song and so do i.
so as i was busy getting a little stressed with taking care of some of the chores for the animals i heard this song and it just completely lifted my heart like a balloon getting filled with that gas that makes your voice sound funny. it hit me like a dart hitting a bull's eye, and why i do all this work for the animals, both at home and elsewhere- feed the birds, tuppence a bag....

Friday, September 18, 2009

chicken a la carte

At first i didn't get the video because it seemed to just be about two girls going to a mall and shopping- boring and not very interesting; but then you see the end and realise what's happening.

The irony- if you can call it irony, is that this is in one of the poorest nations in the (so-called) third world- the philippines. The disparaging gap between the rich and the poor is wider than the grand canyon in the u.s.. It's very sad indeed. I feel sorry for all the people there, rich and poor alike. I feel sorry for the family who has to eat the "garbage food" and risk food poisoning constantly at every meal (which probably happens often). Garbage i wouldn't even feed stray cats in my neighbourhood. I also feel sorry, and in some ways feel worse- for people who are oblivious to that suffering, to the dire poverty around them daily, not in a judgemental way, but just to say that they are first of all missing out on an incredible opportunity to serve those in need which is our privilege and joy; and secondly, that their focus is so small and limited, it's like watching those poor horses drag carts around with blinders on. That's what it's like for them and yet they can't see or realise how truly blind they are. How blind we ALL can be at times. This is what is truly sad.

Life is short, how much good do we leave undone in the world around us while we live?
I pray for all- that the poor may find justice, the hungry may be filled, and those who are blind and ignorant to the suffering around them may open their eyes and see the great opportunities before them.


"if you do not love the brother whom you see, how will you be able to love God whom you do not see?" - St Elizabeth the New-Martyr

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

message from an older shelter cat

Currently, i am hoping and praying to find a realistic, and successful way of rescuing some stray/feral cats, at least two that are really needing to be rescued.
One has a bad left paw and lives in a parking lot (she's been called 'Flipper') and another one that is more urgently needing to be moved to a different home. He lives on the sidewalk near a street near a very busy supermarket mall and no one else (so far as i can tell is looking after him). He waits for me to bring him food and water daily, but needs a new home. He cannot be caught easily as i am guessing he is either feral, or an abused stray who was at one point living at a person's home but was abandoned or kicked out.

This poem is sad, poignant, and if nothing else, it makes you think. Hopefully and more importantly it makes you feel something.

The thing is....people can sometimes make all kinds of excuses for not wanting to take care of someone- whether it is an elderly person we know, or an older pet, or any animal...some people just can't be bothered.
Some people don't like hearing this and some say there is no comparison...but if they'd only listen with their hearts they might see the similarity or the irony.
What if they had to move to a place that didn't allow children (and they had children), or didn't allow people who were black, asian, latino, irish, polish, cherokee, catholic, jewish, etc., and they happened to be one of those things or their spouse was, would they still insist on moving there?
"..Well, with 'pets' it's different- Someone will take care of them or give them a home."
Is it really too much to ask? Are our other 'priorities' in our life really that much more important?
Meanwhile, Lucky sits and waits...

Hi there - My name is "Lucky" and this is my story....

Image Hosted by

Admitted October 2007 - I am told that I am the longest resident at The Finger Lakes SPCA...Does that make me "..lucky"..??? on.....

Message From An Older Shelter Cat

I sit alone and so confused behind these metal bars,

The loss that I am feeling will forever leave its scars.

My family left me here one day a month or two ago -

maybe a year, I don't know

They said, "Don't worry, Tabby, you'll find a home, we know."

It seems they'd bought a condo that said "No Pets Permitted".

I thought they'd never leave me, but then they went and did it.

My favorite windowsill is gone where I used to lay and sun.

I cried all night the day they left and remembered years of fun.

The people stop and look at me and always say, "Poor Thing".

Then they choose a kitten, when they could have had a KING!

So, please, if you stop by my "home", just give me an extra rub.

I've given up being adopted, but I sure could use the love.

And if you really like me, please, please take me home with you.

I'll be real good, I promise, and love you long and true.


BATH NY 14810
CLOSED EA. Thursday &

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

millions and miracles from the eyes of a child

Et erunt signa in sole et luna et stellis et in terris pressura gentium prae confusione sonitus maris et fluctuum...

And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea, and of the waves - Luke 21:25

this is one of my favourite films from the director Danny Boyle. the story is so fascinating, but the most beautiful part of it is to see things from the point of view of the 7 year old boy in it- Damian Cunningham (played by Alex Etel) who's imagination is not limited to anything less than saints who constantly visit him, and in his own innocent way see this apparent miracle as a brilliant way to help the less fortunate.

i relate in many ways to the character Damian, not only because he loved the saints as a child and knew their stories by heart, or that he so much wanted to help others, but that his mind was so open to the idea of 'miracles', even at the risk of making him look like a 'looney' to others (including his own brother). i think this is what i like best about this film.

"what was your miracle? don't you know? it was you."

this is the song at the end of the film (and the trailer) with the latin words taken from Luke.

Friday, August 28, 2009

roses and leaves

The tragedy of the world is that so many are unloved. Roses always look beautiful and smell sweet, and hence they are a prize to be possessed. Sweetbriar, however, has fragrant leaves, and they are never so fragrant as when it rains. The common people of the world are like these leaves; they have something fragrant about them, particularly when the days are dark and clouded and rain falls in their lives... Anyone can love a rose; but it takes a great heart to love a leaf.
- Fulton J. Sheen



"Seek to do brave and lovely things that are left undone by the majority of the people. Give gifts of Love and Peace to those whom others pass by".
-Paramahansa Yogananda

Thursday, August 27, 2009

...the greatest of these is love

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

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riverside, california, United States
please feel free to offer some thoughts and leave me comments if you should feel moved to do so... these are simply my thoughts, rants and ways of reflecting on where i've been and what i've seen. factual corrections and insight from others is gratefully appreciated and always welcome; endless arguing, debates and preachy personal opinion is not. ;-) "pussy cat, pussy cat where have you been? i've been to london to visit the queen. pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there? i frightened the little mouse under her chair"