The longest journey is the journey inward.

Dag Hammarskjold, 1905-1961

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We are somewhat “nuts” about “the body.”  We want to look good.  We like to stay young in our appearance.  We train as if to say: “No mortality for me!” But what is our motivation in these states?  How do we attend to our body?

Does it ever occur to us that to engage the body is to engage the Spirit?

Do we ever imagine that something as simple as walking can be contemplative?  I think not, but it is.

A daily slow mindful walk induces quiet inside and opens us to the world outside and heightens our senses, particularly the ability to see and to hear, to listen and receive.

Receive?  Yes, to receive life in the moment and each moment is a journal entry of all that has come before, is now, and will forever be. Yes, we are a small link in a very long chain, a word in a long book, a breath in an endless flow of breaths.

When we walk we hear our breathing, our heart beat.  The Spirit.

We are in a quiet walk in the Spirit and there is most likely nothing else we do in a busy day that will bring us this experience.

A quiet walk immerses you in the world in its widest context – in what is seen and unseen, what is sound and silence.  In a quiet walk we arrive where we always have been, we meet ourselves again – or maybe for the first time.  In a quiet walk, what is temporal becomes what is eternal.  In a quiet walk we are in the world as it is now, always has been, and always will be.  In a quiet walk there is no separation that alienates us.  In a quiet walk there is reverence, what is sacred.

In a quiet walk listen, be a blank slate ready to receive, let the ideas and feelings emerge, think overtly of nothing in particular for you cannot hear while you are thinking just as you cannot receive when your hands are full.

Shalom.

… contemplation is the work of the Holy Ghost acting on our souls through His gifts of Wisdom and Understanding with special intensity to increase and perfect our love of Him.  These gifts are part of the normal equipment of Christian sanctity.

Thomas Merton

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I spent a week in the northern woods of Wisconsin this month and when I got in my car to take the long ride back to Notre Dame I found myself frequently thanking God for all He had done for me in life and asking God to equip me to do more for Him and others in the life I still have to live.  This was a spontaneous feeling of love for God and great gratitude.  It was a feeling of contentment.

I suppose it was infused in me all along but awakened in the quiet and beauty of a vast expanse of nature, with star lit skies and God’s breath visible over the waters of clean, clear lakes and present in the swaying leaves on tall and small trees.

Contemplation is a part of Christian sanctity, an often neglected and under-utilized part.

We do not put ourselves in silence, in nature and in solitude.  But we should.

Our vocation is sanctity but our culture gets in the way of this with total absorption of our body and mind, constant tasks, noise and chaos, endless intellectual feats – and so little physical movement, so little quiet, so little time by ourselves – and, as a result – so little contemplative time.

How can we know joy without contemplation?  Or love?  His love?  How can we see what has been created for us without contemplation?  How can we be happy without it?  Or content?  How can we connect our existence with Him without contemplation?

We need only ask for a contemplative life to receive it.  You see, God gives us what He knows we desire when it is good.

Contemplation gives us intimate union with God.  That is precisely what I experienced in my drive home from God’s great creation. His presence there drew me in to Him, added peace to my life, calmed me.  Indeed, when I arrived to Notre Dame after a very long drive people said to me: “You look so rested. At peace.”

Connecting our heart with God is not a function of staying on the surface of things but rather it is the product of going within.

Use what you have been freely given.  To detach is to unite with the One who governs all and outlasts all.

In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength.

Ps 23:2

Shalom.

“Of all that might be omitted in thinking, the worse was to omit your own being.”

Saul Bellow

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This quote appears at the Introduction of Shelby Steele’s award winning 1990 book entitled: The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America.   It serves to remind us that a life that loses its individual divine identity is a life-in-being that is lost, indeed – irreplaceably so.

In his Introduction Steele talks of the “public choreography of black and white” and how, on matters of race, neither the white man nor the black man offers their “full self” to one another in conversation.  He tells us that race has prevented our full human development particularly among Black Americans, that each party to this co-existence is trapped in what is less, not what is more in human development.

His words are captured by the predictable voices and lawless antics of the mobs in Ferguson and predicable show of force of governing authorities.

My point is this, echoed by Steele in 1990 and others today, what we see in Ferguson is an all too predictable and tired scene, and proof positive that race is both a more institutionalized and individualized reality in the U.S. despite government efforts to exact precisely the opposite result.  In fact, if anything is to be concluded on race it might be this: it is a change of heart, not government actions which holds the promise of brotherhood and that alone bespeaks a nation of active faith.

However, what we see in Ferguson is a mob whose identity is racial and whose politics is division and resentment, and government whose only trump card is force.

Think about it: Are we not human beings regardless of race (or ethnicity, class, gender, sexual preference, etc.)?  Are we so trapped in race that a suspect to a strong arm theft can be our crucified victim?

Yes, this incident requires examination and prosecution if the facts support it – but aligning behind the “good” and the “bad” at this point lacks reason and factual justification.  Better patience and goodwill rather than words and actions which harden the hearts and make deft the ears.

Assume the worse, and you get it.  Assume the best, and you might receive a moment of community-building and a future of brotherhood.  This is what Mr. Steele wisely sought 24 years ago.

    Of certainty the man who can see all creatures in himself, himself in all creatures, knows no sorrow.

Eesha Upanishad

Shalom.

 

… the Lord … (G)uides the humble rightly, and teaches the humble the way.

Ps 25:9

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We need not fear failure, error, mistake – even tragedy.  For in misfortune there is a great gift.  The gift of humility.

When we come to know that nothing we possess is more valuable than our relationship with God, we have learned what we must.  All that we see in this mortal world will fade away and yet we will not.  Eternity is invincible.

Look upon humbling experiences as a great gift.

Think of what Thomas Merton has said:  “A humble man can do great things with uncommon perfection because he is no longer concerned about … his own interests and his own reputation, and therefore he no longer needs to waste his efforts on defending them.”

When things turn against us, and they will in life from time to time, we are liberated – free to proceed with a clean slate, free to innovate and see exactly who we are and what life is.  We are God’s and life is opportunity.

Be not afraid.

Shalom.

 

Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.

Sophocles, 496-406 B.C.

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Integrity – adherence to a code, but it is so much more: it is wholeness, completeness, honesty.  And more yet, it is striving for excellence, living to be a better person day by day.  It is the pursuit of excellence, and the pure heart. It is, in the end, godliness – being who God made you to be and being all the more humble and grateful for it.

The more integrity, the greater the humble servant.

Here at Notre Dame we face today the question of integrity.  Four athletes on the Notre Dame football team are the object of an investigation as to whether they failed our standards in their academic work.  No conclusion as to the conduct of these four young men has been reached and one can assume that a thorough review will cover all aspects of academic behavior for athletes and non-athletes alike.

I have lived a long and varied life from the poverty of an Irish Mob neighborhood, to the Congress, the law and, now, religious life.  I have been married and I have been single.  I have lost many loved ones and gained many wonderful news friends.  I have lived through the Cold War, the Korean War, Vietnam, integration, the Sixties, the resignation of a President, the assassination of another, the fall of the Berlin Wall, space travel, conflict in the Middle East, the age of technological revolution, 9-11, the AIDS “epidemic,” Bernie Madoff, the decline of the family, the rise of out-of-wedlock births, and the failed social theory gimmicks that come from seeing the world exclusively through a gender, racial, class, or sexual prism.

That’s a long time to sample the wholeness of the world and this culture.  Not a surplus of integrity as far as I can tell.

You see, contemporary secularism cannot produce integrity because it is exclusionary - it denies God and rejects faith – lives by its “wits,” by its desires and mind and this state of being is no match for passions, or fears and has no particular code for virtue.  Yes, it has its ethics – its laws and regulations, but it lacks morals, and in that it lacks integrity and a taste for its indispensable necessity.

Notre Dame is a unique place in this culture.  It still seeks moral standard.  It could, like each of us, improve – but rare in this day that an institution seeks such.

Troubles always teach, give us pause – allow us to ask: who are we and who do we wish to become?

A long life and faith have taught me that God is in all things, even troubles, and wishes in all things that we grow, grow in love and wisdom, grow closer to Him and one another just as we in our wholeness, integrity are meant to be.

“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.”

Shalom.

Poet Emily Dickinson, like other writers of the late 19th century, struggled with belief and unbelief.  God or not God?

In Roger Lundin’s excellent book Believing Again he reminds us that Dickinson viewed the question of belief and unbelief as “internal drama of the self.”  It was for her, as it is for each of us, a personal and interior matter – a matter of life lived in the world.  How do we do without God?

As Lundin reports Dickinson was troubled by God’s absence from “a lonely humanity” and she wondered if her culture’s growing unbelief was our “parricidal act of human aggression.”

A powerful concern this “parricidal act of human aggression.”  Can the acts of the 20th century – the genocides and mass killings in two World Wars and homicidal totalitarian regimes dispute her worry?

Think about it.  Is man or woman good all by himself or herself?

Shalom.

Jesus … rose from the meal and took off his cloak.  He picked up a towel and wrapped it around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel he had around him.

Jn 13:3, 4, 5

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This passage is part of the Passover meal account just before Jesus entered His Passion.  The act of washing his disciples’ feet is the very first thing Jesus did once He realized that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.  He washed His disciples’ feet so to show each of them His love of them to the end, and beyond.

To those of us who claim to be Christians it asks: what would we do for others knowing we will face our final hour?  Would we serve others?  How would we show our love of others, especially those we hold closest to us?

And this story asks, are we washing feet throughout our life?  Loving and serving others – as Jesus so clearly demonstrates?

I have spent the last week in the wilderness of Wisconsin’s woods.  It is beautiful here.  I am in God’s creation.  Each morning I rise to see the mist lift from the lakes and the fields, and the forests.  Out of this gray, the sky appears, the clouds form and the sun breaks into day.  I drive or walk the roads alone and see the wild flowers and see the vast variety of shrubs, ferns, trees and grasses as the sun channels through the dense greens of the timbers – large and small.

In God’s presence, I think of feet and I think of this: what am I doing to wash the feet of others, and am I doing enough?

Wherever you are, ask that.  And go to the silence that is in God’s vast bounty of this good earth and let the question come to you.

We are given so much?  How do these gifts resonate in us?  Do we wash feet? So generously served, do we serve?

Shalom.

 

“He who seeks only himself brings himself to ruin, whereas he who brings himself to nought for me discovers who he is.”

Mt 10:39

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Who are we?  Who are you?  Who are you really?  Not on the surface, but in the essence of your being – in your soul.

These questions matter to each of us – individually and in the aggregate.  But do we ask them?  Do we probe them?  To explore them is to take a journey of self-examination and self-discovery.

We are more than what we “plan” to be.  We cannot orchestrate our life as if we are writing a symphony of a blank piece of paper.

We did not call ourselves into being.  We did not sign up to be born.  Our life is a divine gift, not an accident – and surely not something we set in motion. Likewise we are authors of neither our birth or our life story.  Rather, we are gifted with each and our task is to see our birth and life as generous, unearned gift – an opportunity to know the One who made us and who made others and made all things.

Look we are in a sacred reality.  Each day and each breath has a sacred nature to it.  Coming to know this requires that we unburden ourselves from the mistaken idea that we must be the source of our prosperity and identity. We need not.  Our happiness, health, prosperity, contentment, meaning, purpose and identity depends on being “nought” and discovering He who made us, and He who died for us.

Nothing can provide the peace that being “nought” can.  That is the gateway to your sacred identity.  Each of us matter or we would not be called into being.  To know this allows us the ease of accepting in confidence born of faith we need not and cannot not strain to create what He has created in us, for us.

Be well.  Be of good cheer.  We matter to Him and nothing changes that.

Shalom.

“I tell you all this that in me you may find peace.  You will suffer in this world.  But take courage!  I have overcome the world.”

Jn 16:33

This blog is for those who suffer depression and all those who love them and suffer with them.

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These are the words of Jesus to His disciples just prior to His trial and death. Yes, we will suffer in this world as surely as we will know joy also.

Jesus tells us His way of life overcomes the tribulations of this world.  He invites us to live as He lives.  But do we?

You know the answer.  In the aggregate, our culture shuns faith, Christ and Christianity.  It was not always so.  But of late, that has become our way. How sad this is.  Unnecessary injury is always sad.

Absent faith, absent Christ, absent Christianity – we are subject to lives of illusions, layers upon layers of illusions – all conjured up from the human ego and its fears.  Without faith we are at great risk.  Without Christ the Christian is as vulnerable to suffering and all its destructive manifestations – depression included.

Those of us with an active faith are duty bound to live in faith, share our peace with others, reach out and support, encourage, love and walk with those in doubt and in pain.

The death of Robin Williams provides us and opportunity to think about who we are and what we have become.  It begs this question: do we find peace in Christ?  Does our faith give us courage?  Do we come to the aid of those who have lost their faith?  Come to a dark valley?  Need our help?  And, most critically, do we sit idly by while others who would lead us, entertain us, report to us, model faithlessness?

We need not be a party to faithlessness.  We cannot be.  Ours is a way of live that has overcome the world.

Be Christ in life and Christ to others in this life.

Shalom.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Trial or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? … I am certain neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Rom 8:35, 38-39

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Think of what Christ offers us.  Out of the darkness of our own will and fear, our earthly boundary comes One who gives us new life. One who presents us with a new world and eyes to see it, a heart to receive it in all its hardships and its joys.  In Christ beauty is ever-present and a loving God in all things and all others, present in even those who deny Him.

In Christ, truth shines in darkness, Light unconquered.  In Christ, eternal life is manifest in the here and now.

You see in Christ is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  In Christ we need not wait to death, or pursue man-made utopias.  Earthly utopias, no matter their promise, are for the unbeliever.  Those who believe live free of man-made promises.  Utopias are redundant – illusions to those who believe, who know Christ and live with Christ.

In Christ we enter, as Malcolm Muggeridge says, into the “crazy extravagancies of God’s love.”  Yes, we live in salvation in the world of the living.

You and I live in a culture that needs our witness.  It is a time for discipleship.

May you be fortified by the faith of St. Paul and live as the Christ we claim to be our own.

How we need leaders such as you.

Shalom.

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