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Father Paul Keenan

by Father Paul A. Keenan


Father Paul Keenan passed away June 10, 2008 -- three days before his 62nd Birthday. He was a dear friend and wise and compassionate columnist for Soulful Living for six years. Father Paul was a generous, loving soul who always had a kind, healing word of encouragement to share. He will be deeply missed.
Let us celebrate and remember his soulful life, which he devoted to God and helping others, through his service as a Catholic priest for over 30 years, and through his radio ministry and his many books.
Father Paul was a great light in our lives. And his work and legacy live on in the many people he has inspired. We grieve, yet we know he is in Heaven, smiling upon us.

Within each and every one of us, there lies a place called "Home." It may look and feel different at various points in our lives. There are times, perhaps long ones, in which Home seems to be conspicuously absent. (Did it move away and forget to tell us, or did we wander off from it?) It is there nonetheless and if we are not presently aware of living in it, we are necessarily engaged in the search for it. Home is that place where we feel the greatest inner warmth, where we can go to be ourselves, and it is where we must go if we are to fulfill our purpose in the world.

Heart Storming by Father Paul Keenan

Home is an inner place, not an outer one. It is important for us to know that, and to know it for sure. Numerous people and influences in our lives will blithely assure us that Home is somewhere on the outside. People spend lifetimes, fortunes and much, much energy trying to find it or create it outside of themselves. But until Home is found on the inside, all our best efforts to build it on the outside eventually come to naught.

Contrary to appearances and to common belief, Home is not something that can be lost. Certainly, there are times in life when we feel rootless, Homeless, sitting among the ruins of shattered lives and broken dreams. In those times, everything in our experience tells us that all is lost, that we are lost. The truth goes otherwise. No matter how discombobulated our lives seem to be, there is still that inward place to which we may turn for solace.

The illusion that we have nowhere to turn, that we might lose our Home, is the basis of fear. When someone or something threatens to take away our security, our life, our domicile, our means of support, or people that we love, we become afraid and often panic. The basis of that fear is our belief that our very roots can be taken away. Our enemies will have us believe that they have the ability to destroy us. All their power over us lies in their assuring us of the truth of that belief. They will sue us in a court of law, they tell us. They will soil our name in the public square. They will make a laughingstock of us. They will rob us of every penny we own. It is in just such moments that we must remember where our true Home lies and how impossible it is for them to destroy it. Even the ravages of illness, no matter how severe, or the suddenness of an unforeseen accident cannot destroy the foundations of Home.

Home is where we know we were always meant to be. It is an inner experience of belonging, but belonging not to something outside of ourselves, but rather of belonging within ourselves. We get there by mentally collecting and contemplating those persons, places, times and situations that for one reason or other we came to cherish. A certain piece of music, an aroma from a long-lost kitchen, the memory of a beloved pet, the thrill of our first kiss, the first snowfall and babyís first Christmas. Within and beneath and around each and every one of them lies a tonality, a feeling, a common warmth that defines precisely who we are in life and what makes us happy. Home is where we come to know ourselves as no one else ever will.

Paradoxically, we also come Home by way of feeling that we are away from Home. Centuries ago, the philosopher Plato spoke of the forgetfulness that accompanied our arrival on earth; and he claimed that our experiences here were reminiscences of our former life, opportunities to recollect it. Much of the time, we can feel that we are seeking something, we donít know quite what, but we find ourselves longing for a simplicity, a warmness, a friendliness, a glowing fireplace by which to sit and bask in the play of the embers as they flicker on the wall. We feel it has eluded us. Broken promises, lives shattered by meanness or fate or abandonment, foolish mistakes and failures and plain bad luck Ė these, we feel have made it impossible for us to go Home. Didnít Thomas Wolfe write a book about it Ė You Canít Go Home Again?

Good News for Bad Days: Living a Soulful Life by Father Paul Keenan

You can go Home again. Home has always been there, burning brightly inside you, waiting for you to find it. No matter how far you believe you have strayed, no matter how much hope you believe you have lost, no matter how tired or ill or jaded you feel you have become Ė all you need do in order to cross the threshold into Home is to put your awareness there. Because, you see, being Home has nothing to do with having a certain job, or a certain amount of money or certain types of friends or furniture, good luck or even an unblemished moral record. Being Home has only to do with being Home. The door is always open.

If you want to find Home, ask two questions. What do I love? How would I like things to be?

What do I love? To list what you love and to feel the emotional impact of that list is to decorate and to infuse with loveliness the rooms of Home. What treasures do you bring from the various stages of your life? Even the bleakest times have breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, mouth-watering food and drink and the joy of music. What do you love? Take time to savor the feeling of all you treasure. Indeed, this is an exercise worth taking time over. Go through the various stages of your life, and make note of the persons, events and things that have special meaning for you. Nothing is too small or insignificant so long as it educes a feeling of worth and value.

It goes without saying that during the course of this exercise, many unpleasant feelings and experiences may also arise. They, too, are part of Home. In her beautiful novel The Bonesetterís Daughter, Amy Tan has Ruth Young, her main character, go through the closet of her mother, LuLing, who is becoming old and beginning to suffer from loss of memory. As she rummages through her motherís long-saved belongings, Ruth has two bags beside her Ė one for things going to Goodwill and the other for things going to the garbage. This scene may provide a useful model for this exercise. As you go through the closet of your memories, you will find things you want to keep. You will also find experiences you no longer need, but whose wisdom might benefit others. And you will find other experiences that simply need to be acknowledged, dealt with and thrown away. For example, we can share with our children what we learned from a foolish mistake we made when we were their age, but is it really useful for us to continue to carry around guilt and self-abasement over it? What weíre doing here is sorting through the closets of Home.

How would I like things to be? As we sort through the closets of Home and discover what things we love, we want to be sure that we do not simply remain in the past. Home is certainly furnished with the best of the past, but it is not right to turn it into a museum dedicated to days gone by. Home is our haven of safety and security as we go out to embrace new people, new situations and new challenges. It is important that we know that we have considerable say in determining the course of the future and what our Home will be like in the days and years ahead. Answering the question, "What do I love?" gives us a good emotional foundation for asking the question "How would I like things to be?" How I would like things to be is determined to a large extent by what I love; and when I know what I love, I actually can begin to live in the future I want to create. And thatís an important secret Ė in order to manifest the future that we want, we must live in it right now, in the Home of our heart and imagination.

Stages of the Soul by Father Paul Keenan

Architects and contractors know this secret, but we seldom think of it or apply it to other aspects of life. Letís say we are thinking of remodeling a home we have lived in for many years. There is much that we love about our home, and we need to make additions that will enhance what we love rather than diminish it. We need to plan. As we sit with our contractor and draw up the plans for the renovation, we will want to have the feel of each room of the new house in order to know whether a possible change is right. In other words, we need to be able to live in each room of the remodeled house right now in order to make the changes that will enhance the feeling of being at home. We canít afford to wait and see or to hope for the best. We have to live there now.

When we apply that lesson to the whole of life, we are using one of the greatest gifts we have been given Ė the gift of Imagination. The inspirational writer and speaker Neville (full name Neville Goddard) described this quality in his many books as "living in the feeling of the wish fulfilled." Ordinarily, when we look to the future, we use words like "try" and "wish" and "hope." Thatís why we often donít get the future we were planning. When we live in the feeling of the wish fulfilled, we place ourselves right in the feeling we will have when the future is manifested and from there proceed to imagine the details of our wish as already fulfilled. In our house example, we live in the rooms that we plan for.

Sometimes that turns people off, because it sounds too much like playacting, but itís not. The reason itís not is that we have already faced up to the question "What do I love?" The funny thing about that question is that it looks like a question about things inherited from the past, but thatís not quite the whole story. Remember, the question is not, "What did I love?" but "What do I love?" When we let the question "What do I love?" guide our movement into the future, we are bringing the future Home. We are not reaching out into an abyss of pure potentiality and hoping against hope that we can somehow make it come true. Rather, we are taking our deepest, truest reality and allowing ourselves to create what comes next.

The two questions "What do I love?" and "How would I like things to be?" produce an important axiom when taken together: Home begets Home. The Bible says the same thing differently: "To whomever has, more will be given." Again, we can turn to the construction industry in order to see. You canít get a building from an empty lot. Of course you need a place to put the building, but if that empty space does not have a vision around it, it will remain unoccupied and even deteriorate. By the same token, if we want to feel at Home on the outside, we have to fill our life with the vision of Home, the feel of Home right here and now. If we fail to do that, our lives will feel like a piece of property that is lying unused, unoccupied and utterly abandoned. But if we do it, we will be richly blessed.

Come Home, then. Discover what you love and what you would like to see happen. Bring them together. Live it now, from the fullness within, and you will watch your world unfold before your eyes with a joy and a depth you never imagined as being your Home.

© Copyright 2003 Father Paul A. Keenan.  All Rights Reserved.

Father Paul Keenan
Father Paul A. Keenan: Popular speaker, author and radio co-host of WABC Radioís "Religion on the Line," Father Paul Keenan likes to talk and write about the issues that matter to people. Widely experienced as a national and local television and radio news commentator, he is the author of Good News for Bad Days, Stages of the Soul and Heartstorming. As Director of Radio Ministry of the Archdiocese of New York, he supervises, produces and writes for various radio and television programs. In addition, he serves as a parish priest in New York City.

Father Paul Keenan, came to his now-ten-year-old career in New York broadcasting after having been a college teacher and administrator and a parish priest for many years. He hails from Kansas City, where he graduated from Rockhurst University and completed an M.A. in Moral and Pastoral Theology at Saint Louis University. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1977, and went on to complete an M.A. in Philosophy at Fordham University.

Father Paul is also known for his work on the Web. He hosts his own website (www.fatherpaul.com) and contributes regular articles to various other sites. He is a regular columnist for the monthly newspaper, "Catholic New York." His other talents and interests include reading, cooking and being humble servant to his three cats, Teddy, Lionel and Midnight.





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