“For most of my life my father was manifested by an absence.” From Being Flynn

Greg Spalenka

Greg Spalenka

A father passing by his son’s bedroom, was astonished to see the bed was nicely made, and that everything was picked up and tidy.  Then, he saw an envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow. It was addressed,


With the worst premonition, he opened the envelope and read the letter, with trembling hands.

Dear Dad,

It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing to you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend, because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mum and you.

I’ve been finding real passion with Stacy, and she is so nice, but I knew you would not approve of her, because of all her piercings’, tattoos, her tight Motorcycle clothes, and because she is so much older than I am.

But it’s not only the passion, Dad. She’s pregnant. Stacy said that we will be very happy. She owns a trailer in the woods, and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children.

Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn’t, really hurt anyone. We’ll be growing it for ourselves, and trading it with  the other people in the commune, for all the cocaine and  ecstasy we want.

In the meantime, we’ll pray that science will find a cure for AIDS, so Stacy can get better. She sure deserves it!

Don’t worry Dad, I’m 15, and I know how to take care of myself. Someday, I’m sure we’ll be back to visit, so you can get to know  your many grandchildren.

Love, your son, Joshua.

P.S. Dad, none of the above is true. I’m over at Jason’s house.  I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the School report that’s on the kitchen table.


“How does one hear God? Here he points to two places: outward to creation, where God “speaks in everything that is,” and inward to our own heart, where we discover that “we ourselves are words of His.”

 William Harmless.  Mystics  (Kindle Locations 574-575). Kindle Edition.

Mystical Theology

Greg Spalenka

Greg Spalenka

 “Mystical theology[i] is an experiential[ii] knowledge of God [iii]that comes through the embrace of unitive love[iv]” (theologia mystica est cognitio experimentalis habita de Deo per amoris unitivi complexum).

Jean Gerson quoted by William Harmless. Mystics (Kindle Locations 153-154). Kindle Edition.

Gerson recognized what has become obvious to us: that scholastic theology, in its efforts to be scientific, unwittingly severed the intimate link between theology and spirituality, between theologians’ public thinking about what the Church believes and believers’ personal encounters with God in prayer and worship. Scholastic theology seemed abstract, devoid of devotion, cut off from the heart and from the personal. As Gerson argued, “It is better to have the knowledge of God through a repentant affectivity than through an investigative intellect.”6 William Harmless. Mystics (Kindle Locations 182-184). Kindle Edition. [I am struck that in every book I pick up deplores, it its way,  the split/opposites/duality of belief & devotion.]

 Thomas Merton


[i] Theology here means a “speaking of God”

[ii] The saints use various names to describe these interior forms of experiential knowledge of God … They speak of contemplation, ecstasy, rapture, liquefaction, transformation, union, exultation. They talk of a jubilation beyond the spirit, of being taken into a divine darkness, of tasting God, of embracing the bridegroom, of kissing him, of being born of God, of obeying his word, of being brought into the divine cellars, of being drunk in a torrent of delight, of running into an odor of his perfumes, of hearing his voice, and entering into the bedroom, and of finding sleep and rest in peace in him.4 William Harmless. Mystics (Kindle Locations 158-161). Kindle Edition.

[iii] Where scholastic theology was public and exterior, mystical theology was personal and interior. Where scholastic theology focused on the mind, mystical theology sprang primarily from the heart, the affectus. William Harmless. Mystics (Kindle Locations 172-173). Kindle Edition.

[iv] The mystic possesses his or her knowledge of God not from books or academic study, but from experience, from the experience of being loved intimately, intensely, by God.”. William Harmless. Mystics (Kindle Locations 178-179). Kindle Edition.





Milestone on the Internet


Milestone on the Internet

For the first time the Vatican Library has put ancient manuscripts online. The availability of original source documents at a distance very good indeed. Although, visiting the Vatican Library would be best, this is a huge step forward

What did we learn at Thanksgiving that will get us Through Christmas?


The Holy Days are coming, those occasions that by the rhythm of once a year but all our lives mark the seasons of living.  We live in a country that has the double whammy of Thanksgiving followed a month later by Christmas. We have double helpings of feasting and double visits from family. One raises our cholesterol and the other our anxiety. 

gI_SFPBookCover3Da.jpg I have learned that while the Holy Days are Holy they are not always happy.  In fact I am convinced, particularly this time of year,  that only orphans think that having a family would solve all their problems, the rest of us know better.  How to survive the Holy Days?  I suggest that you might want to read (or go back and read) Screamfree Parenting. “Ah,” you say, “It’s not my children that are the problem.”  To which I say, “Take out the word parent and put in living.”

Screamfree is a way of thinking that focuses on our own functioning rather than the functioning of others.  To prepare for the Holy Days, we might ask ourselves some of the following questions. On Thanksgiving and Christmas when families gather:

 Who will experience the most anxiety and who the least?

  • What amount of “space” is between me and the family? Am I stuck or cut-off?
  • How much energy is spent on the  “issues” of being together?
  • How do you stay “loose” in the family so that you can risk being an adult?
  • How can I plan ahead so that I know what I will do/be when the family member begins doing what he/she “always does.”
  • How can I define myself, sometimes by keeping my mouth shut?
  • How can I focus on the reasons that I love my family even while being with them?
  • Can I go into “research mode” and seek to learn from my family, resisting the temptation to give advice and fix them?

The country is anxious, states, cities, neighborhoods are anxious. How to do non-anxious-presencedeal with this anxiety during the most anxious time of the year?  As my teacher, Ed Friedman, used to say that, “consistency is only possible when we Focus on our own functioning.  Breathing in and breathing out is a good focus when anxiety rises. Getting more oxygen aids thinking and breathing may be the only thing that we can control. Stick to the facts not what we think they meant by the words they spoke. If things get more than we can take find an excuse to take a walk or visit a sick friend and then come back later. If you are out of town, hotel rooms are neutral.

Now I will see if I can take my own advice.  In addition to the national and religious holy days we also have the annual parish meeting on this coming Sunday, December 8th.  Please come and join us as we take council in this annual gathering of the parish. 

Let’s focus on the things that matter so that we are not distracted and miss them.

Peace, John+

Pray to Jesus and Play the Lotto


This is my favorite song from a new favorite artist: Brandy Clark. I love songs that tell stories. I love songs that tell stories with a simple, yet clever, use of words. Ms. Clark reminds me of Kate Campbell who is an inspired song writer.

Brandy also clearly knows some folks with substance abuse problems. Her read is right on and right painful. She holds up a mirror to our eyes and though it may be cracked  it is also a real reflection.