Pope Francis, as we speak, is in Cuba. Having Celebrated Mass in Revolution Square this morning, has met with Raul Castro and today, his brother Fidel. It was an informal but cordial meeting between the two men.
The Pope wants “Change.” Change in a good way, Change in an internal attitude way. Of leaving our safe homes and safe lives to go out in the streets and serve “the least of these” in the best way we can, from our hearts, not our minds.
He wants to unite the world in the ways of God. Francis sees God in a very particular way. He invites us to share in the divinity of God through Jesus, and come into that special spiritual awareness that comes with the resurrected Christ on Easter morning.
I admire Pope Francis a great deal, because he asks simply to serve God in each other. Because we are all formed in the image of God, and we are also, star stuff. Which means that “Divinity” exists in each of us, as we are, warts and all.
If we stopped and took a serious look at our fellows, our neighbors and our friends, we too would see that divinity.
It comes to us to “change” to be able to see it.
We are called to serve. Not for our own good, but for the good of others. For the good of God, yes, “church” would be mentioned here as well, Francis has been stripping away the trappings of “Church” for a simpler way of life. We don’t need finery or gems and gold.
Jesus once commanded his disciples to go out into the world carrying only what they had on their backs, and to do the work they were commanded.
Just the same, Francis calls us to go out and do good works.
Because it is in those works that we exemplify the spirit of God.
I am slowly working my way through The Great Reformer, Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, written by Austen Ivereigh.
I have read a few other books about Francis. When he was elected Pope several tomes were released. Pope Francis has not escaped the past because he plays a much hated man, a much loved man, and a man who was once a very tight Jesuit priest with his own ideas and ways of life, until the time came, when God struck him and Francis had his spiritual awakening.
People have many opinions about Francis, and the role he played during the Dirty War. Was he complicit, was he flying under the radar, or was he a victim of the times as they played out before him?
Every writer I have read has painted a picture of Francis.
I do not stand in judgment of his past.
I do stand in awe of the man he became and the words he speaks and the challenges he puts before us as the leader of Holy Mother Church. Even there, he turned the Curia and the papal household on its ear, by living in Casa Santa Marta, and sharing his days working in the church, then at night, he changes into his spiritual superman suit and goes out and visits with the least of these, inviting them to dine with him and attend his morning masses at the Vatican.
There is a kernel of Holy Mother Church in me, I won’t deny that. I loved the church that educated me, the church that served me, and the church that went above and beyond to save me when I needed to be saved and looked after.
I am eternally grateful to those men who took time out of their lives to sit with me, to break bread with me, to minister to my spiritual needs, and to give me Hope and Faith, in a time when Hope and Faith were in little supply.
Churches … Many of them, Across the board, were not kind to the gays, especially us gays who had AIDS, because it was said that we got what was coming to us from God himself as punishment for our sinful lives.
I can say this with total confidence … I have NEVER met a man of God who EVER pointed a damning finger at me and said that God was punishing me for any reason whatsoever.
That is a thing …
We’ve talked of God these past few days again. God has been in high rotation for a while now, and I really did not have anything substantive to write, but it was coming.
We read “An Artists Conception” tonight. It opens with this quote from Appendix II in the back of the Big Book, in regards to Spiritual experience.
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance –
That principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
Our man has a serious problem. And he knows what the problem is, Alcoholism. He has investigated the issue backwards and forwards, but he lacks one thing; the spiritual approach, because like many of us, religion is a nasty word, because of the taste it left in our mouths.
But he meets one man, who shows him the way, humbly and quietly. And our man GETS IT. Then he meets twenty other men who also have gotten it. And the desire to drink becomes pointless against all of his other problems. But he never picks up a drink again.
He says that it wasn’t the words they used, or the book they were reading, but there was an invisible force that he recognized. He saw it. And in some miraculous way, he finds that power greater than himself.
Many of our folks are still trying to figure it out for themselves. God as an intellectual pursuit is a rather hard task. But if you stick around long enough, you will find it, sure enough.
Did I tell you the time I met God ???
Yes, I have. Over and Over again. It is the best story I have in my bank.
After listening to my friend vacillate and try to figure out who God is for them, I had twenty minutes to state my case. And I tell them of the horrors I was living in the nineties. And how my life came to a crashing end when I was diagnosed with AIDS, and was told to go home, kiss my ass goodbye and wait to die.
I made one phone call that changed my life.
I had actually made several other calls that did not pan out.
So that one call I made was to Provincetown.
Todd and Roy returned from their holidays early because I needed help.
When Todd stepped up, it was because he loved me. He chose me to save, in the way he chose to do that. He concentrated everything he had into me in those first two years that saved my life.
Meanwhile, at the bar, all of my friends were approaching death in exactly the way they chose. living fast and leaving a good looking corpse. Well, how good of a corpse is it when it is riddled with K.S. stricken with disease, plowed with exotic drugs and tanked on the best liquor a bar tender could pour ?
I had no other choice. Well, I did have a choice.
I could have taken that route myself. Todd had other plans for me.
He began to teach me how to live, with the reminder that BOB was in the cemetery right across the street from the bar. And if I was not willing to try to live, that I would end up there myself.
When I needed God, He came. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, that I know what God looks like, I know His voice and I know for sure that He was with me in my hours of need.
And I looked at my friends after telling this story, (with more words used to get the point across) that if they need proof that God does exist, they need not look any further than myself.
I lived. I did not die. Because God saved me.
But like any mortal man, addiction knows no bounds. I forgot …
But when I returned, I said a single prayer to God for help.
And let me tell you, I prayed a specific prayer for specific needs in a specific order.
- I prayed for the desire to drink to leave me
- I needed an alcoholic to come to me, and
- I needed to get to a meeting.
Nothing is too difficult for God when we really need help. Because He moved heaven and earth and provided me that prayer in the order it went out, as if to say,
“Hey there, I got your back!”
Not a day goes by that I do not remember where I came from. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Todd. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for something. However, I admit, freely, that gratitude is not something I think about constantly.
It is an action.
I’ve chosen to live out my gratitude in my “Presence” to my friends. Like Francis calls us to do, I go out and I serve the “least of these” and those who need the love and faith I have.
Which leads nicely into the next portion of tonight’s read … The Baby
I work every day to be a man of honor, courage and strength. I work every day to make the right decisions, and to be of maximum service to my fellows. And let me tell you, that does not come easily. Creating family is difficult. Maintaining family is challenging. Taking care of a baby is the most rewarding experience I can share in today.
Today, I got an entire afternoon with the baby, we had some lunch. She would not eat her food, by herself, so she did eat when I offered food to her. hen we played for a while with her blocks, but that did not last very long.
So we dressed her and popped her into her stroller and went to the park. This was our first park outing together. And we passed a few of my friends on the way, and it was said to me that “we probably started tongues wagging …” but you only live once.
We did some swings. We did some slides, and some playground rides. We played in the sand and got dirty. It was just me and the baby. It was the most wonderful feeling. There were screaming kids all over the playground, and their parents watching closely, and for a while, I was one of those parents, playing with his child.
It was immense …
I want to close with some thought’s by Pope Francis.
“Archbishop Quarracino invited Bergoglio in January and April 1990 to give retreats to dozens of his clergy in La Plata. In the first, “Our flesh in Prayer,” Bergoglio reflected powerfully on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the story of the foreigner who comes to the aid of a traveler beaten by brigands. He showed that those who passed on the other side – symbolized in Jesus’s telling by the priest and the Levite – used a series of distancing techniques, which were all temptations: either they intellectualized the suffering they saw, or evaded the responsibility for it by reassuring themselves that this is how life was.
The Samaritan, on the other hand, got on his hands and knees to get close to the victim, opened his heart to him and bound his wounds, shouldered him and spent his money on him. “That is what we will be judged on,” Bergoglio told the priests, adding that this proximity was at the heart of the Incarnation. Jesus, far from “passing on the other side,” paid the ultimate price in sacrificing his own flesh for those who suffer; and God’s closeness to humanity is the reason why “Prayer touches our flesh in its very nucleus, it touches our heart.”
Prayer, he told the priests, meant enduring the possibility of change; it meant a willingness to suffer. When a person ceases praying and starts complaining, “he ceases to serve the Gospel and becomes a victim. He canonizes himself.” Making oneself the victim, rather than Christ, was blasphemy; and a flesh that is used to blasphemy, which does not know how to ask for help for its own wound and sin, is a flesh incapable of helping the wounds of others.”
Even if he dedicates his life to God he will only ever be able to come close to himself.: It is the asepsis of the Pharisee,” Bergoglio warned: “neither virus or vitamin.”
There is a God, and I am not He.
More to come, stay tuned …
Rain Rain Go Away, Come again Another day …
This week, it rained, and rained and rained some more. Kinda pissy rain, not a flat out pouring, however it might have, I was just out when it was just pissing …
Today, the skies cleared and we have sun and blue skies.
It is the big week this week. The project that we have been working on for more than a year comes to a head on Monday. Tomorrow we hit our last hurdle, getting space in a day care for Baby Mama’s daughter. The girls are taking care of that.
Monday Baby Mama flies in with assorted luggage and the baby. We will be meeting her at the airport Monday afternoon, and bringing her to her temporary home, until her apartment is ready on the 1st of July.
We’ve spent the last year working with her, finding her a place to live and sort out baby needs between St. John’s N.F. and here in Montreal.
There is a lot to write about, so much that a second post will go up after this one.
Thursday was all about friends, cake and major milestones.
I have known our speaker man ever since I got sober. And I’ve heard him share several times over the last decade or so. We only hit one speaker meeting during the week, so repeat performances are usually slim. Anyways, He tells the story, but what I took away from his share was the wisdom that has come about his story and how that relates to the present.
Time is the one constant that we have that polishes wisdom of our lives.
One of my long time friends celebrated thirty years. I can’t believe he’s been sober that long. He hasn’t aged a day in ten years. It is fact that he got sober in his twenties, which speaks to his longevity. I’ve known him as long as I’ve been sober as well.
The LGBT community came out in force to celebrate his anniversary.
Our guys are preparing to go away for work this summer. One of our men is in South Africa with his family for the summer, departure one, two of my guys leave Wednesday, departure two and next week for the other, departure three.
Friday was spent with people coming and going, friends came over for a visit, and then I was off to meet up with a friend before the Friday evening event. (it rained)
As Friday goes, it is the best night/meeting of the week. We sat a full house and then some.
The topic, “Freedom through Acceptance.”
When we come in, who wants to admit they are powerless over alcohol, and also, everything else in our lives? And who wants to turn it all over to a Power Greater than Ourselves in the second breath? But it is true, that when we do relent and let go and turn it over, things begin to turn around. For some, it takes longer than others.
In the end, “We neither ran nor fought, but accept we did. And then we began to be free.”
I learned the first time around that, in reality, there was no where else to go. And I knew nothing, and I needed serious help. And help stepped in. I loved this man more than I had ever loved anyone else up to that point.
So I gave it up. I allowed myself to be led, to be healed and to survive.
I’ve spoken about this before in great detail. Hindsight tells me that when I needed God the most, He came, incarnate and walked with me for that period of time. I am 100% percent sure of this fact. It happened, I survived, and today I am here because of it.
I know what that kind of freedom feels like.
When I got here, I again, had nothing, I knew nobody and I needed serious help. Over time, I met folks, went to meetings, and one day at a time, turned it over to people who knew better than I did, and I survived, and today I am here because of it.
I’ve had my God conversion. I know there is a God and I am not He. I can talk about God of the bible and God of the book. But I am better at talking about God, as He presents himself through my friends lives.
My friends are sober, they have had their own experiences. I just happen to be in the same room at the same time. We are here, we survived and today we are here because of that.
When I turn it over, to my friends and fellows, and I trust in God, as I understand Him, I thrive, I prosper, and I become strong, I gain strength when I let go and let God. I don’t need all that power or strength, nor do I need my ego. The simple power exchange between that which I know and that which I do not know grants freedom and power where I need it, when I need it.
At the end another friend took a year chip. We are all very proud of him. It has been a long year for him, but we were steadfast and we did what we could for him, and he stayed sober.
It was a good end to the week. Everybody is sober.
Another post will follow.
Courtesy: VIP Football Collection / via Getty Images Copyright attributed.
Lionel Messi, F.C. Barcelona
The first HUGE match of the season took place yesterday between Bayern Munich and F.C. Barcelona. Team Messi, went up against a very unprepared Bayern Squad. There are many things being said about Bayern tonight, some, not that kind at all.
Too many good players were out with injuries. Too many players were benched before the match even took place, who would not see any action, even though they were kitted up and ready to play. So the team that Bayern did field, failed in goals.
The Star Players Lionel Messi, was the King of the match, hands down. He just killed the Germans with his Top of the League playing.
I couldn’t give a shit about hockey, unless of course, it is the Olympics and Sydney Crosby is playing for Team Canada.
So that was the big sports news that I am interested in.
I was at the Thursday meeting tonight, and I heard our guy say something that really resonated with me. At some point in sobriety, we learn about people, by listening to them speak, either in person with us, or from the chair, or from their chair.
At some point we might hear something come out of someones mouth, that is a “truth” and you learn what that means for you. Sometimes people talk, and in most cases, they are unscripted and unvarnished. To a degree I am judgmental, but I also attribute my judgment to this:
“When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.”
Oprah said it, and I have used this advice sparingly.
We are not immune to this happening to ourselves.
For a year, my little band of friends at our Tuesday meeting have been working tirelessly in the meeting, and for the most part, outside the meeting, to bring normalcy and sobriety to certain women we know, who are out with small babies.
We’ve invested in these lives because we love our women, all women. Some of those women have just moved back into the city from points farther away, and they have come to our little meeting, because we invited them to come, and guaranteed that we would all welcome them with open arms.
Couples marry and they have children. It is a natural progression in life.
Pregnant women, go to meetings. New mothers, go to meetings. And sometimes they bring their babies with them. And in years past, every “other” woman in the room, knows what to do. One by one, we play hot potato with the babies. We hold them, feed them, rock them, while mom gets an hour to go to a meeting.
That is a certainty. This is how we do things here.
On Tuesday one of our new mothers, brought her daughter with her. We had seated a small group. Caveat … babies are not naturally silent, for long stretches, unless of course they are sleeping.
She came a few times prior to this weeks installment. Every time she came, she got up and left because the baby was a little noisy. She did not get her meeting in.
A particular old timer (read: My Sponsor) who is thirty one years sober has an opinion about small children.
On Tuesday, mom was sitting, baby was chirpy, and we let it go. Nobody said anything. She stayed for the entire meeting. However, five minutes into the meeting, my sponsor was already fidgety. He got up, went to pee, and went home.
After the meeting I called him, and asked what his problem was? His response …
A.A. is not a nursery, we come to get sober, not to listen to babies cry…
This was unvarnished truth. I heard the words, I listened to them as they came out, and right away I knew, in my heart of hearts, that he was telling me a real truth. Not an opinion.
That did not sit very well with me. I said to him, pointedly, that I will not ask a woman with a child to leave a meeting, because she is carrying a baby. I will not go against the third tradition for no reason whatsoever.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
The tradition as it reads in the Twelve and Twelve states:
“You are an A.A. member if you say so. You can declare yourself in; NOBODY can keep you out. No matter who you are, no matter how low you’ve gone, no matter how grave your emotional complications – even your crimes – we still can’t deny you A.A.”
Having a child is not in the handbook. Bringing that child to a meeting, is also, NOT in the handbook.
If you read Tradition Three from the book, and you have studied the early fellowship, this tradition was really needed early on because of all of the strife, judgment and problems, those early drunks had with certain people. Some of those prejudices still exist.
It was a very good thing when the Traditions came in, because they solved a lot of problems.
But like I said, shit still happens in meetings to this day.
Traditions be damned in some people’s opinions.
So I heard that judgmental and sexist remark.
Some alcoholics get sober, some do get SOBER, and some do not. Nobody is immune to judgment or opinion. We all have them. It was my judgment that someone with thirty or more years of sobriety would “behave better” or be a little kinder or compassionate and understanding.
I did not hear that when he said, A.A. is not a nursery.
What I heard was, women with babies do not belong at a meeting. Not mine of course.
For many weeks, I have been in consultation with another Old timer. I respect him a great deal, and I have been talking to him about many things. After this small succinct conversation with my sponsor, I knew the deal was done.
I don’t agree with you, and I won’t be part of your campaign.
I just lost all respect for someone because they were honest, to a fault.
Tonight after the meeting, I asked this other old timer to be my new sponsor.
He respects me as a man, that is mutual.
Tomorrow I am getting in a car, with my present sponsor and going to Vermont for the Spring Men’s Twelve Step Intensive retreat, at St. Anne’s Shrine in the Vermont lake district.
I have shared my displeasure with him.
I paid $200.00 for this weekend. I can NOT go. One, it is nonrefundable, and Two, my husband would kill me if I stayed home.
Suffice to say, I am glad that there are two other people riding in our car. That will make the transits a bit more pleasurable.
But the deed is done. I made my decision. I trust my intuition.
I’m not going to ask my friends, that I have spent inordinate amounts of time ministering to afar and close, ask them NOT to come to the meeting with their babies. That is just NOT going to happen, not on my watch. The other women in the group would agree. You can’t kick someone out of a meeting because they are “with child.”
I will be away until Sunday.
I need to pack my bathing suit before I forget !
More to come, stay tuned …
Canada welcomes her to the Royal Family.
Our congratulations to the proud parents, Catherine and William.
Edit: 04 May 2015 – Charlotte Elizabeth Diana
Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
The Oscars are on. The opening number just ended. We love N.P.H !!!
It was a warm one today. Warmer than it has been recently. (-5c/-12c) We had a little snow last night, and in certain places (read:Westmount) snow is piled up about two feet deep in some yards.
It has been a beautiful weekend.
It was an early night last night, and there will a number of early mornings this week. I have to drop labs tomorrow morning, and I have a midweek doctors appointment. Has it been six months already? My doctors have dropped me from four visits a year down to two visits.
The Super hospital is opening in a few months, so they are consolidating services and closing hospitals as they are absorbed into the larger super building. To that end, my one clinic at the General is staying open, but that may change this week. My other doctor is seeing me at his private office on the other side of town, but I don’t see him until April.
I departed on time and we cranked out set up and our guys and ladies, came to do our hour prior read and discussion. I can honestly say that I am inspired by my guys. They, each in their own way, inspire me to be a better person.
The sun shone down on us today and God was good, prayers were answered and a miracle took place, all in the space of ninety minutes. If you don’t believe that miracles happen, they do.
We sat a small group.
One of our women gave birth to a healthy baby boy yesterday. We are so proud of her. Babies in A.A. are miracles in themselves, because the women who gave birth to them are miracles as well. The miracle baby phenomena now counts four children strong.
It was the last Sunday, therefore a Tradition meeting. Second month, Tradition Two.
“For our group purpose there is but one authority – A loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.”
I am not God. And I am not the center of the universe. And it isn’t all about me either.
Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal about this tradition, because I have seen what egos and attitudes do when they collide in a meeting. And I have been guilty myself, of being less than charitable or kind. We all have grown past these problems and all the players are good men and women. Each in our own ways.
We see Tradition Two come together at every business meeting. I can sit back and let my friends partake in the miracle that is recovery. Everyone plays a role in the group, and as a community, and finally in their own recovery. We defer to our chair for wisdom, and to God to guide us. And that model seems to work.
It was a night for miracles. And I am grateful to have been present to see it happen.
A good night was had by all. Please pray for our guys.
More to come, stay tuned …