Events of the last few days have brought to mind an observation made by the renowned essayist Jonathan Swift: “There are few, very few, that will own themselves in a mistake.”

After the all too predictable deadly assault on the Nation’s Capitol, ( a culmination of celebrated white supremacy over four years by a racist President), quite a few of Trump’s Republican enablers appear to have miraculously located their long-lost moral compass; well, at least as reflected in their majority vote to accept the results of the electoral college.

We listened to some lofty speech making this week. It was suitable for legacy-making and clearly crafted to project noble intent and statesmanship. Even Mitch McConnell, the self declared “ grim reaper” of the Senate, gave a seemingly heartfelt speech on the need to “do what’s right.”

It would all have been downright moving were it not for the last four years of defending the criminal madman at the helm and his corrupt and corrupting crime family of misanthropes. I suspect that these seemingly sudden expressions of Constitutional stewardship are but artful devices intended to spin a “ CYA” counter-narrative for what comes next.

While I am certainly glad they finally got down to what their limited proforma Constitutional task was really about, counting and declaring the winner of an already confirmed electoral outcome, the late post- insurrection pontificating was appallingly too little too late. People were killed and injured and we came close to a far more horrific catastrophe.

Besides this one class of artful dodger feigning integrity, there is the even more grotesque monsters of unmovable arrogance who delight in modeling Trump-styled narcissism. Men the likes of Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Mo Brooks are yet another even more poisonous species of political con artists.

Undeterred by the rampaging assault by the mob of Trump worshipers, these political hitmen proudly resumed their objections to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. Their own egoistic agenda was simply more important than the common good. It “ trumped” the well-being of colleagues, democracy, their oaths to the Constitution, and the security of the country. They should be sanctioned and then impeached.

As of tonight, the House will likely move to impeach Trump a second time in a matter of days. They must. There has been a slow trickle of Republican voices who have “seen the light,” as it were, ( e.g., Ben Sasse, and Lisa Murkowski), but McConnell has made clear that he has no intention of convening a trial in the Senate before the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Despite his high-minded rhetoric on the need to acknowledge the results of the election, the clear and present danger of Donald Trump, commander of an anarchic militia of white supremacists and Nazis, still has not risen for him to a level warranting urgent action. He can certainly move articles of impeachment to the floor for trial quickly if he so chose. But, he still fears the Trump voter more than a threat to the well-being of our Republic.

The Nation is in a more dangerous and fragile place than I have seen in my lifetime. The risks are especially high over the next 12 days before a new administration is sworn in. We need to remove Trump immediately.

Trump has leaned out all departments. He has filled key positions with incompetent puppets. Our adversaries recognize this time as one of weakness. Outside of the House and the few Republicans who are sounding the alarm, the Republican base and leadership appear profoundly unconcerned. Even now, they voice satisfaction with the job Trump is doing!

All of this underscores for me why character is prerequisite to any special leadership competence. The pain we are suffering as a country today is a consequence of the ascendancy of men and women of poor character with Machiavellian proclivities.

The principles and values alive in a person’s actions should always be primary assessments in considering them for leadership roles. Forever hence, Trump will be the go-to example of what happens when character is set aside and considered incidental by an uninformed electorate. Consider how many voters chose Trump despite his peccadillos, dalliances, and longstanding record of corruption and self- aggrandizement.

As Jonathan Swift opined, the 11th hour epiphanies are quite likely a continuing deceit of political theater: a projection of calculated repositioning. What they are not, with only a few exceptions, is genuine contrition and humble recognition that the Republican Party made a Faustian bargain with the devil and its time to pay up.

“Let Trump be Trump” was the Republican meme that has nearly killed the soul of this country. This logic is no less inane than would be tolerating a toddler’s penchant for biting people. Trump has not changed one bit in four years though Republican Senators, who are just now changing their tune, are acting as if he just lost his mind this week.

They chose to back a psychopath for four years. They and those who voted for and continue to support Trump ( a large percentage of the Republican Party) are complicit in the assault on our democracy. They are tantamount to a collective “Frankenstein” now expressing regret about the misguided reasoning that led to unleashing their dark vanity project on the world.

Spiritual integrity is impossible absent intellectual and emotional integrity. These events are real-time morality plays. They are challenging us to true citizenship for the sake of the future.

We are also called in such times to examine our own sinful estates and look to the spiritual work needed to ensure that we become parts of the solution.

As an act of personal leadership in troubled times, may we reflect on:

– the authenticity we project in the world

– what weakens or undermines it

– what strengthens it

– and how we can bring light to the task of chasing away the shadows.

I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.

Jonathan Swift

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Metastatic Rage

Imagine doing nothing for four years after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer. That would be the height of folly, right? That is the metaphor that feels apt this morning of January 6 as we examine the state of our democracy with focus on the unvarnished facts.

The Capitol insurgency was engineered and fueled by a virulent Commander in Chief who has trashed all norms of Presidential behavior, decency, public service and the rule of law. It was, in so many ways, a predictable lame duck action after four years of build-up to the full flowering of “the Donald’s” dark passions.

The Republican enablers have now definitively redefined themselves as a nationalist American fascist party. One hundred twenty members of the House and an unrepentant misguided group of senators continued to press their preposterous grievances well into the early hours of January 7. All of this took place after the brazen and barbaric assault on the temple of our democracy.

This political indignity was perpetrated by an unhinged and narcissistic few that even the likes of Lindsey Graham, the chief Trump whisperer and enabler, could not abide!

Pandora’s Box of horribles have been unleashed on our democracy since day one of this incompetent and diseased administration. Trump has certainly been the locus of the malignancy, the tumorous mass projecting a debilitating poison. His immediate removal after yesterday’s acts of sedition is essential (if unlikely).

The question now revolves around what I regrettably see as a poor prognosis for the country. This is the case despite the good news of democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, and the welcome and desperately needed ascendency of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

If we are to restore right order, civility and norms of true leadership, the treatment ahead will need to be very aggressive indeed and unrelenting.

Firstly, those responsible for the rape of the Capitol must be held accountable and brought to certain justice. This includes inquiry into the massive security failure by the Capitol police.

What’s called for after that is no less than the equivalent of whole body radiation for the Nation given the widespread reach of the disease. The beast that lurks among us must be loudly named with consistent vigilance, and countered with a laser -focused servant leadership.

Role models of decency and dialogue need to keep a firm hand on the tiller of enlightened and intelligent governance. In effect, securing a sustainable rationality and resumption of behavioral normalcy will need an intensive, long-term “light” therapy.

That the violence at the Capitol occurred on the Feast of the Epiphany is a case of synchronicity. It was, after all, into a politically fraught, violent and despotic time that the Prince of Peace appeared. The Holy Birth was made manifest in retrospect only after recognition of the Nazarene’s extraordinary destiny through the mystic foresight of the Magi.

At the opening of this new year, we are each tasked with examining ourselves and asking what we are being called to do in the broken country in which we find ourselves. Two things emerge for me as a dual call for an engaged spirituality embedded in the events of this Epiphany: radical discernment and radical hospitality.

We need to hone our capacity to spot false prophets and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” On spotting them, we need to denounce their malfeasance emphatically while being swift to seek authentic reconciliation.

Our new year opens with a compelling urgency around the real- time meaning of discipleship in action. We must renew our commitment to authentic resonant leadership at a time when those qualities appear in far shorter supply than was the case in years past.

I look forward to embracing the role of informed and involved citizen in support of the new administration with a passionately engaged Franciscan witness.

May we see the promulgation of wisdom, humility, integrity, accountability and pursuit of the common good.

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

St. Francis of Assisi

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or distribution of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

It’s New Years Day 2021, and we mark it’s arrival with the Times Square countdown . We celebrate it with champagne, dance, music, fireworks, kisses and best wishes.

Some still make resolutions that are, for the most part, high-minded intentions with low probability of fulfillment. Nevertheless, it is a time when we look to turn the page. But, really turning the page is a far heavier lift than is the ebullient declaration of intent.

January 1 on the church calendar is also the day on which we commemorate the naming of Jesus in the Temple. The name “ Jesus” derived from the Hebrew verb “ yasha,” meaning “ to deliver, save, or rescue.”

Naming is a profoundly sacred act. There is synchronicity in it that so often correlates with the nature of the child as s/he grows into adulthood. My wife and I saw this very early in the lives of our two children: their differences and the degree to which they embodied their names.

Though they were named prior to birth, their names uncannily captured something of their character, personality, and temperament. The name “ Marc, ” for example, traces back to the Latin “Marcus” connoting “a warlike visionary with keen leadership qualities”. People with this name tend often toward competitiveness: aspirational, serious and goal-oriented. They are quick to challenge and debate. Our son has consistently shown these qualities from day one.

Kristen means “anointed” in Greek, and “ follower of Christ” in Latin. Our daughter demonstrated natural empathy and social intelligence very early in life. She is drawn to the helping professions and forms strong and enduring bonds. Creating moments of deep feeling and an affirmation of the dignity of other people has always been among her signature qualities.

Looking into the history of names reveals clusters of attributes that mirror the archetypes that undergird and inform them. It is interesting that in many religious traditions, second naming accompanies significant life passages.

In Zen Buddhism, one is given a new name by the Roshi upon receiving the Precepts. Traditionally, Confirmation was a time in the Roman Church when the confirmand would select a “ confirmation name”. Upon taking vows in Religious orders, monks and friars take on a new name that signify their sense of spiritual calling alluding to affinities for certain aspects of their chosen spiritual path.

Naming is both inspirational and aspirational. It focuses on the gift inherent in the Call to celebrate our uniqueness and work continuously on uncovering our true natures and best destinies.

I find myself wondering about the Call to become more truly ourselves with each passing year. I do so at the close of this “annus horribillus” in particular. Our life’s mission is to uncover our central tendencies from among the panoply of virtues (along with the shadow that accompanies them).

This is a good and meaningful focus for the New Year: an inflection point at which to look back at the pages we’ve written in our life book so far. Then, after honest recollection, we can ask:

1. What do the pages I’ve already written point to as things needing pruning, and where are my growing edges in answering the Call?

2. Are there better questions worth asking as I lean into this New Year?

But then, this annual discipline begs the question: why not engage in it more often?

Why mark time against rotation around the Sun when we can punctuate each 24 hour rotation of the planet with the same reflection?

This way, the annual summation will indeed be rich and fertile ground for new growth.

I wish you many illuminating new dawns and revelatory night watches that unpack the mystery inherent in your naming.

A Blessed New Year.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The theater of the mind comes most fully alive in stories. The myths of all cultures are magnificently rich deposits of the many-layered projections of mind. Much as great art has the voice of the artists deeply embedded within it, so too do the repetitive storylines that we tell ourselves and each other with endless creative variation.

Myth is a phenomenon of passionate fascination for the analytically-inclined psychologist. Whether examining our dreams, or listening intently to the stories we tell over and over with idiosyncratic flourish, the evolving currents of consciousness can only truly be understood at the points where essential threads converge.

Psychic complexes have long been named after the dysfunctional machinations of the Greek pantheon. Freud personified psychic complexes with allusion to Greek myths such as Elektra, Oedipus, Adonis and Cassandra. Jung further codified the archetypes as patterning forces of the soul that shape our sense of meaning.

Jungian analyst and scholar, Marie Louis Von Franz, following Jung’s example, made a comprehensive study of the psychic roots of fairytales, number and even the place of matter in the world of psyche. The dynamics of consciousness give shape to our lives through emergent stories. They shed light on our perpetual quest to make sense of it all.

The science of psychology struggles to explain the rationale for human behaviors and our complex, conflicted, and paradoxical ways of being. While our experimental and neuroscience brothers and sisters offer interesting perspectives, it is only in entering deeply into the full theater of the soul that life can be understood. It is for this reason that fiction is crucial. The stories created out of our imaginations contain the essential tensions that seek resolution.

A return to the stories of Greek Myth can shed light once again on what we are living through as a country.

2020 has been a year of living on a razor’s edge, defined by an out of control pandemic, on the one hand, and an unhinged, megalomaniacal executive on the other. Making matters exponentially more horrible, we have been trapped in a cultural cult of Trumpian madness: a derangement we might well refer to as an Eris Complex.

Eris ( or the Roman equivalent, “ Discordia”), was the goddess of chaos, and strife. According to the myth, as told by Homer and Hesiod, Eris was the only one not invited to the Olympian wedding feast for Peleus and Thetis. She was excluded from the festivities owing to her reputation as the ultimate drama queen.

In an act of vengeful rage, she showed up anyway to toss a golden apple into the crowd. It might as well have been a hand grenade. Inscribed on it were the words “ to the fairest”. In spotting it, the other female Gods, (Aphrodite, Athena and Hera) began fighting over who deserved the Apple.

This gave rise to the famed “ Judgment of Paris” who was asked to adjudicate among them. He awarded it to Aphrodite. The Trojan War is said to have thus been set in motion. [ This is of course the archetypal inspiration for the story of “ Snow White” with evil personified by the poisoned apple given to her by the evil witch. ]

Trump (and those who have come under his toxic spell) is the all time grandmaster of tossing apples of discord into crowds to divide and foment war. Many of our fellow citizens took the fatal bite and are now seemingly locked in a state of perpetual and inconsolable quarrelsomeness.

There is no practical cure from this distemper save the need for the full throated arrival of Harmonia, Eris’s opposite. This is the spirit that clearly sets Biden’s promise apart. We need the counter-balance for all things Trump/ Eris recognizing that these oppositional forces will forever be engaged in a misery-producing tug of war.

The psychic milieu of Donald J. Trump replicates that of Eris. Trump’s only solace on losing the election is relentless rage. The only effective salve for his wounded ego lies in successfully hurting anyone and everyone he can that doesn’t enable the delusion that he won ( and by a landslide).

The most important question to ponder is whose voice inspires us ( the cries of Eris or the encouragements of Harmonia)?

Absent a true eradication of the dis-ease, we must rely on our daily spiritual practice to throw light on our own story and examine the dynamic forces at work in shaping it.

We need to watch out for the seeping poisons of pride and enmity that taint Trump’s endless supply of noxious apples. Even having these apples anywhere nearby is a problem. We have to choose wisely in deciding with whom we should spend time. If they have an apple and, like Gollum in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, they start referring to it as “ my precious,” run as fast as you can!

The best way to defeat the chaotic and discordant spirit of Eris is to not take her bait. This isn’t easy because the apples are just so shiny and inviting. Let us recall the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

When presented with a golden Apple designed to inspire pride and divisiveness, our prime directive must be to simply walk away.

Who is the fairest of them all?

We are when we celebrate our community together and embrace one another; when, to quote a favorite holiday movie of ours ( Love Actually) we see that “ love really is all around”.

A blessed and harmonious New Year to us all.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplications of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

… the student appears.

This inversion of the customary cliche comes to mind on this fourth day of twelve-tide ( or the 12 days of Christmas).

An apocryphal meme has it that this day commemorates the gift of the gospels ascribed to the four Evangelists of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John ( the four “ Calling Birds” of the popular carol “ the 12 days of Christmas”). While factually untrue, it does provide a timely heuristic for reflection.

The actual authorship of the Gospels themselves is still a matter of scholarly debate. What is crystal clear is that their authors were passionate about weaving a compelling narrative that would faithfully embody the heart of the ministry and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

In their retellings, parable is the frequent device attributed to the Teacher. Allegory, analogy, and symbol are prayerfully hewn from relatable local agrarian and sociopolitical experiences. These were explanatory allusions to the ordinary everyday situations that punctuated peoples’ lives in the time of Jesus and his Apostles.

What particularly strikes me this evening is how often the twelve apostles ( the students) are portrayed as just not “ getting it”. They were, like us, not altogether ready to take in the full import and substance of lessons offered.

Many Gospel teachings struck them (as it does us) as counterintuitive or even in conflict (at least on the surface). Over the years, I have come to appreciate the teachings as more akin to Zen Koans intended to reach well beyond reasoned thought to intuitive or tacit knowledge.

Christianity is at its core an initiatic tradition. The teacher endeavors to arouse the knowledge of the Heart in the penitent seeker. While the teacher is an essential and great gift to the student ready to learn, s/he is as great a gift to the teacher ready to share his or her experience of the Sacred. The teachers understanding challenges the student whose questions help clarify the teacher’s narration.

A profound revelation has little meaning if it is left unspoken. Teaching is also the surest way to gain clarity oneself about what one is attempting to impart.

I recall complaining to a university undergraduate physics professor after a particularly abstract lecture that I understood very little, if anything, of his lecture. He responded: “ I understand. So, come next week ready to teach a 20 minute segment on it to the class”.

I honestly thought he was joking! Wishful thinking, I suppose.

My startled reaction made clear to him (and anyone within earshot) that I thought he completely misunderstood me. On the contrary, he suggested that preparation to teach it would be the surest way get me over the hurdle.

Well, I feverishly worked for days to put together a 20 minute lecture. When the day came, I nervously advanced to “ teach” the material. He added much to my explanations but, bottom-line, I was in a far better place and recall to this day what he added to make my explanations clearer and more complete.

Famed physicist, Richard Feynman, suggested that the best way to learn anything is to teach it to a child without jargon of any kind. So, indeed, when the teacher is truly ready then and only then will the students who can receive it fully appear.

Our society celebrates the contributions of great women and men who seem often to find their genius in their 30s ( if not younger). Regrettably, we see way fewer celebrations of experience and knowledge that finds its full voice much later in life ( after age 60). This of course says more about our cultural expectations than it does about wisdom.

Our elder saints have a treasure trove of accumulated life experiences and reflections to impart if only we work to tap it. In reaching out to our elder saints in the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, we have been calling on them ( many of them octogenarians) to tell their stories. The depth of the well of talents and insights has been awe-inspiring, and we are still skimming the surface.

Chronological age is an impoverished metric in itself. After all, one often tells a story many times in a lifetime before we get it just right. Each retelling raises the odds of revealing a nuance missed in an earlier rendition that makes all the difference. This is the power of the oral tradition.

It opens toward revelation resident lying many fathoms deeper than accessible on a first hearing. Consider the practice of reading scriptural passages many times over yet never exhausting their power as lenses on life experience.

When each teacher is truly ready, their stories sample from the swiftly moving currents of the river of life. It is a great blessing indeed for the teacher, uncovering some delicious epiphany, to find a student eager to embrace and ponder it.

Only by giving voice to a shift in one’s understanding can the sacred spark that flows among us be made truly alive. I recall Thomas Merton’s autobiographical Seven Story Mountain, a tale of a young man’s conversion. While compelling, Merton himself critiqued it years later for its obvious triumphalism and overly abundant certitudes.

These are the usual symptoms of youthful autobiographical writing . One can clearly see the deeper layering and nuance in Merton’s later writings (such as New Seeds of Contemplation).

Let us be telling and writing our stories often and allow them to ripen with time like fine wines. In this way, we can acquire the gifts awaiting us on the fifth day of Christmas: “five golden rings.”

Tradition has it that these represent the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, or the Pentateuch. May we come to plumb their greater depths through the lens of the Four Gospels to better appreciate the sacred subplots running though our daily lives.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplicationsd of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Yuletide Expressions

A Humble Christmas 2020

“ Deck the halls with boughs of Holly, fa la la la la, la la la la,‘tis the Season to be jolly …”

This oft played classic Christmas carol captures the secular tradition of decorating our homes, businesses and main streets with brilliantly colored lights and ornaments. In almost every town, there are those that go “ Baroque” with as many sometimes award winning displays of lights, inflatables and even animatronics designed to awe passersby. It is an annual expression of the American appetite for competitive flamboyance.

I am always struck by the juxtaposition of the luminous eye candy against the humble beginnings of the “ Prince of Peace” in a cave. St Francis of Assisi embraced Lady Poverty and celebrated simple joy in all creation as it is naturally adorned. Nothing fancy was needed, just the recognition of the delicious surprises of sacred Presence.

Rather than happiness, Francis and his brothers and sisters pursued “ perfect joy”: the inexhaustible delight that transcends the character of events that occur. As followers after the example of Saints Francis and Clare, we are drawn to the simple and we find in it authentic liberation.

On Christmas Eve, we were blessed with quiet time with my daughter, son in law and granddaughter, Zoey Ava. Owing to Covid 19, there was no travel agenda as might usually be the case. We had a lovely day of being together accented by a smorgasbord of painstakingly prepared delights for Christmas Eve. Her wonderful dad, Stephan, labored for hours to prepare a spread of scrumptious hors d’oeuvres.

We had creatively prepared meatballs in a balsamic glaze reduction, French Brie with an onion cumin and coriander marmalade, cream cheese stuffed baked jalapeños ( seeds carefully removed) and air-fried eggplant. It was indeed a grand feast!

Surprisingly, Zoey seemed to really enjoy a few bites of the Jalapeños. Then, asked if she wanted more of one or more of the specially prepared treats, she took a few moments of quiet thought and then enthusiastically declared:

“ I want Mac N’ Cheese for Christmas!

We all had a hearty laugh at her honest and simple request for a favorite food, and her Dad promptly complied. Children have an arresting and endearing way of bringing us back to light-heartedness, the beautifully simple and unadorned. They are honest, spontaneous, direct and uncomplicated.

On so many occasions these days , I find myself reflecting on the words of Jesus captured in Matthew 18:3 – “Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Special holiday foods are, of course, great fun. What I walked away with was a sense of the sheer joy of even sharing the simplest foods with loved ones. That sharing is the quintessential transformational spice as a moments reflection back to our own childhood Christmases attests.

This is the true and living Eucharistic repast. With love as the principal ingredient, the simplest food and activity enjoyed together becomes a storied memory. As our hearts are converted, the whole world becomes radiant.

I hope you too have many such moments in this sacred season and in the year to come.

Christmas Blessings.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplications of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

iPhone photo taken on 12/22/20

On the evening of December 21st, we were witness to the rare “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. The astrophysical phenomenon is a function of orbital mechanics whereby their rotations around the Sun produces an apparent visual separation of just .102 degrees at very predictable intervals.

While the conjunction of the two gas giants happens every 20 years, it is quite rare to have a visual separation this small. The last one like it took place on March 5th, 1226. What that practically means is that these two largest planets in our Solar System appear to the eye as one bright celestial object. With so small a visual arc of separation, both planets can be seen in the same field of view in the lens of a telescope.

Astronomers speculate that the “ Star of Bethlehem” may well have been a conjunction like the one seen in these last few days before Christmas. Visible in the southwest sky around 6:30 pm, the conjunction was most dramatic on the 21st of this month ( the date of the Winter Solstice).

Sky conditions on the 21st, unfortunately, made it impossible for me to spot it. However, I did get that chance to view it on the 22nd. This occasion was made all the more exciting for me as I did so with my two and a half year old granddaughter, Zoey Ava, her mom and dad, and Linda.

Zoey had no idea why Pop-Pop was all worked up about going outside in the cold to look to the southwest sky, but she eagerly joined me anyway. We enjoyed taking in the neighbors’ displays of Christmas lights along the way.

The word “planet” derives from the Greek, planetes, meaning wanderer, and it struck me that this is an apt characterization of all creatures. We are all of us moving through space-time in an expanding cosmic web wrapped in profound mystery.

Gazing at Jupiter and Saturn, our vision reaches out to points of reflected light coming from some 365 and 746 million miles away, respectively. While that may be a remarkable thing to ponder in itself, what is truly astonishing is that all of the drama is actually happening right here inside of each of us.

We are, after all, the stuff of stars made conscious. The elements of which we are made were forged in thermonuclear stellar explosions in a distant history. Here we were, just days before Christmas 2020, drawn to look out into the grand enigma to celebrate products of the same origins as we.

From the vantage point of consciousness, all that seeming distance between us and the planets and the stars is totally irrelevant. Thinking in terms of inside/ outside, or above/below is but the product of dualistic illusion. A quote from St Francis leaps to mind: “What you are looking for is what is looking.” We are indeed privileged participants in a grand entanglement.

As Zoey and the family walked to find a good angle from which to see the conjunction unobstructed and out of the glare of street lights, one of my favorite Christmas Carols leapt to mind: “I wonder as I wander out under the sky”.

My daughter spotted directly overhead another bright object. It was Mars with its unmistakable red hue making a bold appearance. We were treated to a planetary triptych.

Zoey picked up on my sense of the thrill of the moment. My enthusiasm was certainly further aroused by the fact that we will not see a conjunction this unusual again in our lifetimes. It was a one off for us and so it was particularly auspicious.

Despite the dazzling bright display in the sky on this crisp and clear night, it paled by comparison to the the sparkle in Zoey’s eyes. She had no need of understanding. It was sufficient to be present, under the canopy of heaven, as we gazed at the spectacle together. Thus, the moment was made holy.

I imagine it was just so for the Magi.

They were drawn toward mystery but not motivated to do so alone. The magic of the moment was that they each joined with two other like-minded wanderers. In the annual telling of the tale, three of them made the journey east: a mystical number indeed. The prize, on arrival, was “ Emmanuel”- God with Us.

Zoey and I, Linda, Stephan, and Kristen walked in the Spirit of the Living God. Love transfigured the night air, warming the chilly evening, and elevating it all to something so much greater.

where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

We Franciscans often chant the “ Ubi Caritas”: “ Where charity and love prevail, there our God is found. “

Amen. Merry Christmas!

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians5:17-18

Physical measurement systems “ drift” and require regular recalibration. This drift in sensitivity and accuracy is often a function of heat and other changes in ambient conditions. Our psychical system is not so terribly different.

We need frequent tuning. We drift off the mark. We need “standards” against which to assess the degree to which our inner compass is reading true. For that, we need guides, brothers and sisters who can listen and help us navigate back to “ true north”. This is a core pillar of our Rule of Life.

A relevant lesson for me goes back many years to the 1990s. On a clear and quite frigid Winter’s Day in Anchorage AK, I rented a Cessna from Merrill Field with intent to travel North to the staging area of Mt. McKinley, the small town of Talkeetna.

I wasn’t long out of Anchorage when ATC contacted me to check in on my direction. It seems I was off my published flight path by more than a little. I should have been heading North but was actually heading East: an error about which I was totally unaware.

After a few back and forth adjustments, we came to the conclusion that my Directional Gyro was defective. We made the needed recalibration and off I went.

On arrival at Talkeetna, I met an unassuming and affable aviation mechanic who replaced the DG while my wife and I went to lunch. He charged me nothing for the help. ( I discovered later that he was a quite famous pilot himself).

I learned something about DGs that day, but also about the virtues of having extra eyes on my flight path and the support of fellow pilots. One should never fly alone!

In the same way, travel along the spiritual path takes a vibrant and engaged community. Our brothers and sisters are there to help us recalibrate to be sure our own inner DG isn’t off the mark. [By the way, trade secret, it always is! ]

How often do we need a tune up psychically?

In our Third Order, the minimum check-up period is annual. In my experience, it is best to seek reconciliation monthly. For the same reason, we must ALL have a Spiritual Director with whom we connect regularly ( monthly or bimonthly).

The “ drift” in calibration of the soul’s compass is as much a function of heat as that in physical systems: the passions, the conflicts, the habits of mind and body, and all of our addictions and attachments.

In these last few days of Advent, my one question is simple: Is my DG up to snuff as I lean toward Bethlehem?

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A constant fidelity in small things is a great virtue.

St. Bonaventure

Striving to make a difference is indeed among the noblest of pursuits. Those doing so among us stand out, now with special luminance, given the contrast with the daily displays of flagrant public narcissism and studied indifference.

As the dawn of Christmastide approaches, I find myself reflecting on a special form of difference making: the subtle generosity of attention to the little details.

Standing so much taller than grand magnanimity are the small gestures of quiet kindness, conscientiousness and authentic regard. These cost nothing and take no time. They require no ornate wrapping nor a well fashioned card announcing the gift-giver. Not seeking reciprocity nor even notice, these are the quintessential Moments of Christ.

The opening quote by The Seraphic Doctor, Saint Bonaventure, captures the heart of this virtue: “fidelity in small things”. This is the discipline that ensures the vitality of the wellspring of kindness.

If we learned this, we did so very early. We were encouraged to pay attention to such detail as: putting things back where they belong after using them, being timely, clearing away one thing before taking on another, listening completely before speaking, and being quick to praise and slow to criticize.

A resonant feature of religious life is fidelity to the small points of our rule of life. We recite the Office unhurriedly each day. We stop to pray throughout the day regardless of the press of business. We see the person before we see the urgent task. We delight in seeing someone and letting them know it before we get down to the work of the moment. We think of one another each night before bed.

Right order and pacing are essential ingredients to having space in our heads and hearts for our sisters and brothers. The true aptitude of “ obedience” in the Spirit is rooted in an enthusiastic readiness to be open to the next moment of Christ. Such faithfulness to the small things is surely prerequisite to fully seeing, receiving and celebrating the miraculous.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”.

Ephesians 1:18

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Truest Gift

In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended but a gift to be shared.

Henri Nouwen

In this Holiday Season, we spend a lot of time looking to get those we love something special. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give is our time. There is no greater gift than undistracted attention. A kind heart, one ready to celebrate what is beautiful in someone else is the highest form of priesthood.


© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.