The Mountain – Second Sunday of Lent

It was through the desert, the many years of the Exodus, which created a time of testing as well as discovery for the Hebrew people. Here they became a nation no longer enslaved by the Egyptians, but a nation of their own.

Nothing would remain the same after the Exodus through the desert. For the desert is a place of discovery: discovery of self and identity; a discovery of what you are made of; a discovery of being found by God.

Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus all were found in the desert. But the desert will gradually give way to another spiritual landscape, the mountains.  It is here, on the mountain that both the Hebrews and the Apostles were tested. You know the stories: the Hebrews received the Law on the mountain, only after returning to the worship of false gods. The Apostles saw the Word made Flesh as divine, only not sure how to respond. Both of these epiphanies, these manifestations of God’s Presence, have some common elements which might help us on our Lenten Journey.

The Mountain.

  1. The mountain, physically and spiritually, is both a destination and part of the journey. You must work hard to see the view from the top, and even then a view is not guaranteed. Often on top of a mountain, fog, mist, or clouds obscure your vision, as it did the Apostles. For us spiritually, the mountain might represent heaven, but heaven is both a destination and part of the journey.

Reaching the mountain top of heaven is truly our destination in life, but as St. Teresa said, “I will spend my time in heaven, doing good on earth.” If heaven is a place of life, life means growth. Therefore we will continue to journey in heaven, not remaining stagnate in our love of God, but growing and stretching.

2. The mountain was a place of separation for the Apostles from Jesus, Abraham from the Lord, and the Israelites from Moses. While God cannot not be with us, we can feel separated from Him. Jesus was communing with Moses and Elijah; Moses with the Lord; Isaac separated from Abraham in understanding of what was happening.

It would appear that separation into solitude in part of the mountain experience. We are “with,” yet alone; in “common,” yet individual. Born into a community, we must remember we entered into a community as an individual, yet not by ourselves.  This mystery of being “with” yet “separate” from the Lord here on earth is part of the mountain experience.

3. Finally, the mountain is a place of communication between the Lord and us. “This is my beloved son….” Moses receiving the Law; Abraham visited by the angel. It is this experience, this yearning for communication with the Divine that makes us want to climb the craggy mountainside to reach its summit. It is the hope of communing with the Divine Persons of the Trinity, that you and seek the Lord, crossing the desert and entering into the mountain experience.

Importance of the Mountain.

From a commentary on the Hobbit, “There is an old rule in adventure stories, from The Odyssey to Star Wars, that the hero’s personal growth must be accompanied by a journey underground. After Bilbo falls off Dori’s shoulders while fleeing from the goblins, he’s forced to fend for himself as he tries to find his way out of the Misty Mountains. In doing so, he has to confront Gollum and goblins, and discovers talents he didn’t know he had — deception, path-finding, riddle-telling, etc. Thus, the Misty Mountains represent Bilbo’s maturation as a character and an adventurer: when he enters them, he’s still immature (literally being carried on someone else’s back!), but when he leaves, he’s confident enough to navigate his own way around.”

We too in our Lenten and life journey must travel through the desert or underground to reach the mountain. We enter the mountain experience immature, but leave as a new man.  For remember Jesus too entered into a desert, only to climb a mountain, Mount Calvary, where he would forever create a new man: and that new man and woman is you and I.

From the desert to the mountain, our Lenten journey continues.

Father Ken



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The Desert: The First Sunday of Lent

The First Sunday of Lent: The Desert

Lent is a metaphor for our life on earth, with the Easter season as the conclusion as the metaphor of heaven. If Lent is our journey here on earth, then let’s look at the particular themes provided by the Church during these Sunday’s of Lent as aids or helps for our journey to heaven.

The first Sunday of Lent is always the Temptations of Jesus in the Desert. This is where I’ll focus today, and specifically “the desert.”  But the other Sunday themes will be:

First Sunday of Lent Mark 1:12-15 Jesus was tempted by Satan
Second Sunday of Lent Mark 9:2-10 The transfiguration – This is my Son, my beloved.
Third Sunday of Lent John 2:13-25 Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up
Fourth Sunday of Lent John 3:14-21 God loved the world so much
Fifth Sunday of Lent John 12:20-30 Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies

The wandering of the Hebrews in the desert. The flight of the prophet Elijah into the desert. And of course John the Baptist proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the Desert, it is no wonder Jesus began his ministry in the desert. It is a place that must be experienced.

The desert is more than a metaphor. It is a reality.  And within that physically reality, are spiritual implications.  There is a “spirituality of the desert.”  Let’s examine a few of the spiritual realities of the desert.

The desert has no respect for the person, or their position, rank, or ability. It is a harsh reality for every single person who enters into it and tries to live there, or live in the spirituality. The desert is place without refuge, a place that is harsh with extremes in temperature, and a place where storms can come up quickly, and animals or insects can harm you silently. It is a dangerous place.

The spiritual of the desert is equally harsh with no respect for who the person is. Within the spirituality of the desert one experiences isolation, boredom, an imagination that goes wild, self-deception, frustration, and depression.

After entering into a vocation of married life, priesthood, religious life, or even a new job, we often enter into the spirituality of the desert after 5-10 years of beginning. The newness is worn off, and the reality sets in. We will find ourselves many times back in the desert, not just a one-time trip. We even at times such as a retreat, will make travel plans to be in the desert, and at other times, life creates a turn for us, and we find ourselves in the desert.

Secondly, the desert allows for no compromise. It must be experienced in order to get to the mountains. The spirituality of the desert is also without compromise. In order to grow spiritually, we MUST travel through the desert, and do so in silence and solitude.

Solitude does not mean abandonment of the world, or escaping the world, but rather finding one’s inner hermitage. This solitude might be forced upon us by being misunderstood, disliked, or even in a new place, new apostolate, or new season of one’s life.

Solitude allows us to “Go and sit in thy cell, and thy cell shall teach thee all things.” It invites us to seek and find God within ourselves, rather than in community or through the apostolate. It is a lonely journey, but necessary one.

Silence goes along with solitude. Of course in solitude there is no one to talk with so that makes sense, but we can run from it, filling it with busyness or music, or reading. But, silence and solitude serve to unite us with others, for the more we are alone with God, the more we are united with one another.


The desert is both a place and a spirituality. Perhaps you will never experience the place, but you WILL experience the spirituality.  You have no choice!

But remember, you are not alone. Others have gone before you in this arid place and spirituality, and their traces can still be felt in your own particular desert.

You are not alone, nor are you there just for yourself. For it would be serious mistake to think we go to the desert for ourselves or for our own personal sanctification.   No, personal consecration is always, in part at least, for the sake of others.

The desert. A place and spirituality with little or no respect for the person; we all must travel through it. and a place or spirituality which allows no compromise:  a place of silence and solitude with ourselves, with the Lord, and for others.

Have a blessed Lent

Father Ken


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Epiphany and Geocaching


the following struck me  from Matthew’s Gospel,

“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”

So I Google’ed “search diligently” and found a website about Geocaching and how to be really good at it.  I thought about how we “search diligently” for Jesus, and perhaps the helpful hints on geocaching could translate to a spiritual search too.


What to Bring

A GPS receiver, topo map and compass are mandatory items. To ensure a safe search, you should also pack the following items. In searching ‘diligently for the child (Jesus) the three things that or mandatory times are: our intellect/common Sense (GPS receiver), the Scriptures (map), and the catechism (compass)

Flashlight: Don’t underestimate the time it may take you to find the cache. Be prepared in case dusk falls sooner than you expected.

“Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.” Mark 13.

What could represent a flashlight? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Jn. 8:12. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Follow Jesus, don’t try to lead Jesus, or walk with Jesus. FOLLOW.

Water bottle: As with any outdoor activity, staying hydrated keeps your muscles happy and your mind sharp. Take along an ample supply.

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. Luke 21:34.

I know for myself, if I don’t have enough water, I get sleepy, headachy and lethargic. They (whoever “they” are) say we need 8 glasses of water a day to remain hydrated. Hydration is our normal state; dehydration is abnormal. Having a water bottle recognizes we must plan for the abnormal. Jesus must have realized we would be “abnormal,” for he said “I am the living water.”

“….but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

This means we must come to Jesus for the water. He carries the extra supply. If we are looking for Jesus, how can we find that extra canteen? Perhaps the Woman at the Well can help us. She went to a place where water is found. To find Jesus, are we looking in the right places? Scripture, prayer, church, the sacraments, even nature?

Cell phone: Geocaching solo can be a welcome respite from the real world. But if you go alone, leave your “flight plan” with a loved one and take along a cell phone. Prayer.

First-aid kit: Get familiar with your terrain before you go. Your pack should include the basics as well as items specific for the environment. Sacrament of Confession

Extra batteries: Carry spares for each electronic device you take along, such as your GPS unit and camera. Retreats

Notebook and 2 pens: Keep a running log of all your caches. Record waypoints and coordinates for future reference. Jot down your impressions of the landscape. Journaling

Insect repellent and sunscreen: Apply before you go and take them along to reapply along the way. You may want to consider bug-repelling and/or SPF-rated clothing. Romans 10:13 gives the best insect repellent. Of course, insects could be a metaphor for the devil or temptations. Pa ul wrote, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Calling upon the name of Jesus, especially out loud, will repel the devil and temptations! 

“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”

Searching “diligently” for the Lord takes effort, planning, and follow through. And like King Herod found out, you can’t sit on your throne in your palace and let others search for the Christ child for you. You must get off your comfortable throne and follow that star.

Only when you yourself put forth the effort to know the Christ Child, then…..

…… you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.

Blessed Epiphany!  The Little Christmas.

Father Ken


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Making your family a Holy family…


I find it clever, even devious, that the Church would place this feast of the Holy Family in the midst of Christmas. A time of great joy, cheer, and food; but also a time when we are around our families much more than usual, and therefore a time when we find ourselves perhaps more irritated and impatient with those we are supposed to love.

Let’s begin with realizing Jesus was taught by Mary and Joseph how to pray. What did Mary and Joseph teach Jesus?  To understand how and what Mary and Joseph taught Jesus in methods of prayer, we first must understand the Jewish notion of prayer. Jewish prayer can be summed up under three categories, and from these three types of prayer, we find how a family can become a holy family.


The three types of prayer Mary and Joseph would have taught Jesus was:

  1. Prayers of Blessings
  2. Prayers of Praise
  3. Prayers of Remembering

So the three suggestions of how to make your family a holy family is to:

  1. Always bless
  2. Always praise
  3. Always remember

 Always praise.

Every time I see him, I know what he will say: “Thank you” and “what a great job you did, or are doing.”  Often I try to bypass such compliments, but he won’t let me.  He genuinely means it.   For him, the basis of his relationship with you is praise and support.

Nobody likes to be around a complainer. Of course, there are appropriate times for complaining, but we ourselves get tired of just complaining, and so do our family and friends.


            At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.

Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

To make your family a holy family, always praise.


All is a blessing.

A blessing is something imparted upon.

When a person comes to a priest for a blessing of a car, they want the car to receive a blessing, not changed. Of course some would like to see their Ford Focus changed into a BMW, but a blessing is conferred upon.  Like a blanket, covering and enveloping it.

Jesus understood blessings. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are they who morn…blessed are the meek…

Rather than seeing weaknesses of poverty, morning, meekness as a curse, Jesus “blesses” these absences or evils. Making something bad or difficult, into a  manner of receiving God’s blessings.

We could the do same in our families. Rather than seeing what we do not have, we look and give gratitude and blessing for what we DO have.  Doing this makes us a good steward, rather than a greedy person.

To make your family a holy family, always bless.


Always remember.

“Do this in remembrance of me!” Jesus told his apostles, having learned the lesson of “remembering” from his childhood home well. To not remember is to be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, I believe Benjamin Franklin taught.  If he did not say it, it sounds like something he would write.

Some time ago, I overheard one of my employees speak about the history of the Spiritual Life Retreat Center to one of our guests. While what was said was true, it was very incomplete. In further conversation with the employee, I realized they were speaking from a limited knowledge.  They did not know the story.

Having been part of the building and seeing the process in which the center and complex was built, I realized I had failed to “tell the story,” thus new stories were beginning to replace the real story. Not maliciously, but out of ignorance.

If a story is not told and retold, then bits and pieces of a story are retold; and suddenly you have a new story, even a fable.

The Jewish people understood the importance of remember the story. The story of Exodus is the pivotal moment of their history.  The Passover, celebrated every year; the event in which our Lord used to give us the Eucharist, the Passover is the retelling of the story of the Israelites exodus out of the slaver of Egypt.

As Christians, we will fail if we forget the story. As a family, we fail if we don’t pass down our family stories and stories of faith.  What is your families “exodus” story?  What is your “Passover story?”

To make your family a holy family, always remember.


Feast of the Holy Family

Yes, it might be rather conniving for the Church to place this feast of the Holy Family in the midst of Christmas, but I hope you find these suggestions applicable.

While I live alone, I come from a family. Today I do not have a family that I live with, but like Jesus, have been asked by God the Father to create a family:

Jesus said,

“ Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

When Mary and Joseph taught Jesus to pray in blessing, praise, and remembrance, they also taught him how to create a holy family from his followers.

If you want to make your family a Holy Family then:

  • Always bless
  • Always praise
  • And, Always remember


Father Ken

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Christmas Stable


A blessed Christmas.

Born in a stable

barnThe barn was located in the far corner of my grandparent’s property. It was large with three horse stalls and rather enticing because it was so far from the sight of adults.  There my brother, whose nose was mostly in a book and my sister, would play.  Hiding amongst the straw and hay, holding our noses to the sometimes strong odor the horses gave off; hiding and seeking in the stalls, we created many fond memories of the barn.

stable oneWas this the stable Jesus was born? Was it a barn like we find in Kansas?

Scripture scholars paint a different picture of this stable than our experiences paint.

Archaeologists have excavated first century homes in what was Judah. They have discovered that the upper level of a home served as a guest chamber while the lower level served as the living and dining rooms. Oftentimes, the more vulnerable animals would be brought in at night to protect them from the cold and theft.

stableThis is where the manger comes into play. Mary likely gave birth to Jesus in the lower level of a crowded house, in which some of the animals had been brought in for the night. She then wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger (feeding trough).

Does this image of the nativity scene change things for you?



Saint Ignatius promoted the use of one’s five senses. Perhaps using your five senses you might get a feel for the scene of the stable.


Sight.  What do you see?  Is it dark or light?  If light, then the light is coming from candles, torches or lanterns casting shadows. Of course there is wood holding the place together, but what kind of ceiling is it?  Rough or smooth wood.  What about the floor? Loose or hard packed?  Look around and see what you can see. …..

Hearing.  What do you hear?  May I draw your attention to the footsteps you might hear from above if the stable is the lower level of a crowded house?  Footsteps and shuffling.  Perhaps muffled voices.  People talking. Babies crying. Voices of joy or frustration? What do you hear? …

Smell.  Can you smell musty odor of last summer’s straw? Then you detect the undertones: the stuffy musk of animal fur and the stink of old, dried-out dung and droppings, and maybe mixed with all these earthy animal smells you receive a whiff of food. Perhaps bread with some meat gravy? What do you smell? ….

Touch. Reach down and touch the floor of the stable.  The surface is pitted. Take your hand, and spread it broadly over the surface. Feel the coldness and roughness of the wood.  The coldness penetrates up your forearm.  Take your other hand and place it on the wooden post.  Feel the strength of the post and floor.  How does it feel to hold the floor and post?  …..

Taste. This will be the most difficult to experience.  Some of the tastes will be from the smells.  But perhaps your mouth is dry. Maybe you are a shepherd who has travel some distance and your mouth tastes tinny because you have not eaten from some hours and are thirsty.  Perhaps you are one of the people from upstairs coming downstairs to the stable to check out the guest’s newborn baby and you have just eaten dinner.  What do you taste? ….

And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Our Lord is to be experienced. This short meditation perhaps will help you to experience the surroundings of the Lord’s birth.  Now take that experience and bring it to the people involved.  Their faces.  Their expressions. The manner in which they speak. The feelings you receive when they look at you. The desires you have when they look away.

This is prayer. Prayer is about a relationship and relationships are to be experienced. May this Christmas and new year be a renewed call to experience the Lord through prayer.

Merry Christmas,

Father Ken


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