… happiness dwells in the soul.

Democtitus, 496-406 B.C.

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I read in The Wall Street Journal that Belfast has become a haven for crime writers, successful ones at that.  From the murderous time of The Troubles to crime writing.  Not much of a toss from second to first there.

In the very same edition of The Journal I read a lengthy and favorable review of an HBO show which seems to center on this one dreary proposition: a husband stirs his wife daily, shall we say even moment-to-moment, scorn by showing her that he loves her.

Geez, Louise. Talk about jaded.

If there were alarm bells for being lost they would be resounding clearly if this is who we have become: fed on violence and a disdain for love.

Can anyone imagine the picture of health being an indulgence in violence and a contempt for love?  How is life possible under that umbrella? How is each day lived under that sort of cloud?

Having read these two reviews, I reflectively asked myself: How do I wish to live my remaining years?  Instinctively, I thought: in quiet, in the country, where nature prevails in its beauty, where man is not so near, where I can read and write, sit with the Divine, converse with what is Good and Lasting, be able to visit my son, and grandson, and friends – friends of many years – my treasure, and worship with the Trappists in their monastery – a regular reminder of what has meaning and satisfies.

Is it age that prompts my thinking?  Maybe.  Or maybe maturity?  Or exhaustion from the battles endured and the hopes reconfigured?

Be that as it may, it is fair to say that we have in front of us an age that wields a sharp and indiscriminate knife, an age without a loving voice that overrides as it once did, that soothes and comforts, gives us ready and ample shelter and reassurance.

Yet, in the soul (if you can find your soul) there, there it still resides.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.”

Jn 14:1

Yes, “why do you look for the living among the dead?”  Why be among the dead, when you can be of the living?


Most of us believe that the freedom and power of adulthood is our due, but we have little taste for adult responsibility and self-discipline.

M. Scott Peck, M.D.

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Is there a relationship between memory, belief and responsibility?  It seems that there is.

To believe one must acquire and maintain the remembrance of stories past for the lessons they record and teach.  It is from these ancient stories, these experiences of the past that belief is formed, truth known.

Without stories preserved each day is a blank sheet lived out as a “case of first impression.”  In such an environment responsibility is unimaginable – absent.

But what evidence do we have of this?

Think of the news of one week ago.  The economist whose algorithms were instrumental to concocting national health care has babbled on about how the President’s health care colossus was willfully fraudulently “sold” to the public.  Or think of the absence of responsibility in the matter of the political use of the IRS, or the scandalous conduct in the Veterans Administration, … or the failure at Benghazi, or the wasted stimulus resources directed at “Green” business now gone belly-up, or any number of government initiatives.

No one is ever, it seems, responsible for any errant or unlawful behavior.

This is a very troublesome trait in exclusionary secular America, a culture that does not remember.

How might responsibility be restored?  Among the first things one would be wise to do is this: listen carefully to those who claim to lead.  Ask yourself, do they take responsibility for their failures?  Do they hold their organizations responsible for their miscues and intentional wrongdoing?  Have they lived lives of demonstrated responsibility?  Do they propose grand plans in which people are routinely excused from being responsible?

Interestingly you will fine that those who prefer to exile faith from the public square are most likely to be those who have become strangers to responsibility.

The price of greatness is responsibility.

Sir Winston Churchill


All the descendants of Israel will glory in the Lord’s gift of victory.

Antiphon, Morning Prayer, Week I – Friday Morning

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The above recitation from morning prayer brings to mind a critical question raised by Roger Lundin in his excellent book Believing Again.

The question?  Can you believe without remembering?

This short passage poses implicitly that question.  Can we, as descendants of Israel, glory in God’s victory over death without remembering the narrative which surrounds it?  Stated another way: can we believe when a culture divorces itself from faith and its narrative?

The short answer is: No.

Secular culture relies on this divorce and in separating the human person from faith and its story, its language, its way of thinking and being.

You see, exclusionary secular culture tolerates no competitors, no beliefs other than what it proposes and enforces on its subjects.

Make no mistake this places our full humanity, happiness, health, peace and salvation at grave risk.

Likewise understand that this disposition fosters unbelief and all the ills that flow from it.  It places the Christian squarely in that dead space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  It places us in the doubt of that dark, dead day where we grieve and wonder: is there a tomorrow, is there hope?

The last several centuries have placed many things in our life to challenge remembrance of our faith and its narrative, its story.

Humans being humans, we prefer the immediate and that which distracts to that which asks us to think, to sit in solitude and ponder meaning, and purpose and that which exceeds today, mortality.  We prefer distraction to introspection and, hence, we live moment-to-moment with little remembrance of yesterday, yes – literally yesterday.  We are, as a consequence, easily fooled.

We are apt not to remember because we are distracted by pleasures, tasks, worry, daily events and instant demands, the intellect, selfishness, ambition, pride anchored in all sorts of definitions of ourselves, “obligations.”

For a Christian to remember he and she must recall that we could well have been in the crowd watching the crucifixion, perhaps watching in horrible attraction or yelling for a blood lust.

Yes, faith requires that we see who we can be in our most lost and beleaguered moments.  Simply stated, for a story of loving triumph to be the ultimate truth we must know its sharp contrast with our full nature and how it conquers our mere and meager humanity.

If you look around and wonder why it is that we are in the disordered state we are: think about remembering.  Do we remember our faith story or is doing so blocked by our secular culture and its preferences that we forget?

Memory precedes belief.  Think about it.


I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me … I will not take my steadfast love from him …

2 Sam 7:14,15

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If you did not identify these words as coming from the Old Testament, you might think of them as those assigned to Jesus.  But they are not; they are the words spoken to the Prophet Nathan to be delivered to King David who God anointed King over Israel.

I have often wondered about David in contract to Jesus.  David was proclaimed by God as His son, as was Jesus.  Yet, David’s behavior was far from that of Jesus.

For those who have not read of David’s life, I strongly urge you to read the fascinating account in the First and Second Book of Samuel.

Reading about David will have you wonder as I do about this contrast and will, I offer, teach you about the transition God seems to expect of us from the tasks assigned to David and those assigned to Jesus.  Indeed in the present environment where politics is so pervasive and faith discounted, the contrast can be a great teacher.

David’s mission, while maintaining a very mortal and flawed relationship with God, was to establish for the Hebrews, after many years in a nomadic existence and perpetual conflict, a permanent place to live – Jerusalem.  His task was, it seems, a specific part of God’s plan that heralds Jesus mission to come.

Now what might be learn from the contrast between each of these chosen sons?

A recent book by Rabbi David Wolpe (David), he makes the point that despite his many regrettable actions David returned to God always and that he had with God a more stable and faithful relationship than he often had with people.  That alone makes David interesting and God bestowing favor on God even more interesting.

It is hard not to conclude from David’s story that God expects us to maintain a stable relationship with Him at all costs and despite what failures we may exhibit in doing His earthly work.  As a corollary, it can be said that had David not maintained a constant relationship with God he would have been dispatched as were other prior Hebrew kings from the Northern and Southern kingdoms of the tribes of Israel.

How does this contrast with Jesus?

Jesus is not asked to secure an earthly state or kingdom.  Not asked take a political role.

Indeed, Jesus directs us to the Kingdom of God that is within us.  In this, the focus changes from the exterior to the interior – and so, it seems, must we.  Yes, what worked for David was maintaining that central focus on God – exactly what is raised up for us by Jesus.

Politics, despite its prominence today in our lives, is not our central need or task. Indeed, if we learn from David that a constant and stable relationship with God is essential to governance we would not cast God aside in favor of anything: science, money, celebrity, material goods, influence, personal or political power, status, appearance, etc.

It is fair to say that we have not learned the lesson taught by God in David’s story and seem to ignore what Jesus in this divine progression is to teach us: that having Jerusalem, the Kingdom is now within us and our conduct requires we place that reality at the center of our life.

A plainly stated, and we have work to do.


… what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true, will at evening have become a lie.

Carl Jung

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The ego is full of defenses and the soul is not.  Morning is not night.

When we age and approach the end of life it is best to shed the ego for it is the soul that meets eternity.  Yet, the mortal world engages the ego and keeps a grasp on us.  It does so in many ways.

How might we shed the ego and embrace the soul?  As day becomes night and light dims.

Be conscious of what tethers us to the ego – our fears, our habits and ways of thinking, endless tasks, our concerns about the demands of mortal existence and all its structures.  These are the predicates of attachment to mortality and living in the ego.  From these flow the particulars – telephone calls not returned, anger at insults met, affronts of one sort or another that flow from daily discourse, distances from others, voices lost that once were not.  All these stir the ego and hide the soul from us in daylight.

But we are souls, eternal beings – and destined for eternity – life without end, life in the soul.  As light closes we see.

To shed the ego is to find the soul, to know what is eternal in the mortal world.

Without ego we meet the soul, who we are.  With the ego this is not so, for in ego we are bent to the world’s dimension not God’s form and being – blinded by daylight.

The art of being and our deepest, inexhaustible, actual identity is in the soul.

In aging and mortality, we meet the soul if we shed the ego, create a distance from the day-to-day, accept dusk and its gentle tones, sit quiet in the afternoon.

Aging is a blessed time.  A time of settling up and clearances – open fields where the soul reigns and the ego fades.

Aging is the soul’s time, an entry to the eternal.

Do not fret when your children forget you.  Their life is in the mortal world where ego governs among the fears and customs.  Your journey when young was quite the same.   But now you live who once did not.  The morning is not evening.


While he was still speaking suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

Mt 17:5

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This passage is from the Gospel of Matthew.  It is lifted from the Gospel’s description of The Transfiguration.

Lest anyone think that The Transfiguration is a fiction, I say suspend judgment for such events are common to mystics of various faiths throughout the ages.

Of course, those of us denominated by life’s daily events may not know such experiences precisely because we are captured by the mundane and, hence, cannot imagine such an occurrence.

To those I say think for a moment of times when a reassuring thought popped into your head to comfort you or give you clarity, or when you had an instinct, somewhat out of the blue, to call a person who you had not spoken to for some time only to find that this person was about to call you, or that the one who called needed your counsel or presence.

These experiences are an indication that there is in human beings some ever-present, innate capacity for mystical experience.

That said, look at the passage written above.  See what it says: ” … listen to him.”

What could be plainer and more important?  Nothing.

If you adhere to the instinct to call a friend or are comforted by the seemingly random thought or insight that enters your mind without your beckoning it, can you deny The Transfiguration and the vital message to ” … listen to him.”

What have you done with this simple direction?  What has your culture done with this?

Do you listen to those who do not ” … listen to him?”  Do you do so mindlessly and without thinking?  Does your zeal go only to politics and picking sides?

You are, remember, a spiritual being.  Forget this and you forfeit who you are. Forget this and you cannot hear three simple and direct words: ” … listen to him.”

To whom are you listening?  Are you listening?


Prayer Request - Please pray today for our Jewish friends who were murdered by terrorists while praying in their synagogue, for their families and loved ones … and for the people of Israel.

Present to ourselves in the fullness of our own personality, we are present to Him Who is infinite in His Being, His Otherness, His Self-hood … a … presence of self to Self …

Thomas Merton

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Trappist Monk Thomas Merton lived in the woods in a small hermitage – a small cinder-block building with cement floors.  He read by kerosene lamp, and cooked on a small camping stove, chopped his own wood, fetched his own water.

He lived in silence, his writing and way of life spoke for him.  Silence speaks.  So does how we live.

When he died his colleagues found a broken rosary in the hermitage, and a small wooden icon of Mary and Child.

A broken rosary.  Small icon.  Mary and Jesus.  Kerosene lamp.  Silence that spoke. Choices that instructed.

Jesus is experienced.  Received one on one.

Jesus went to the mountain alone, and to the desert alone.

The Kingdom of God is within.  Where are you?  Where are you looking?

When you have shut your doors and darken your room, remember, never to say that you are alone, for you are not alone, but God is within, and your genius is within.




For our sore and tormented separation, the possibility of this imaginative and unifying friendship is the Celtic gift.

John O’Donohue

This post is dedicated to my friend and brother Buddy Mahar – husband, father, grandfather, coach, actor, great man.

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The ancient Celts placed great value on friendship, and on kinship relationships. This carries over to today.

Growing up in Irish Boston I saw and experienced the importance of friendship.  I saw that my friends were my family.  That one was welcomed in another’s family and treated like kin.  That neighborhoods became like clans, rich in relationship and loyalty – a place where acceptance was not fragile but stronger than time.

I have, as a result, friends I have had for over 60 years – men and women who are, to me and me to them, brothers and sisters, trusted confidants, kin.

In this tradition we find a vitally important idea and it is this: among our clan, our friendships and this extended family we had those with whom we could always talk freely and in confidence about concerns, grief, hurt, uncertainties and problems.

Those to whom we talked were known in the ancient tradition as soul friends - in Gaelic – anam cara.

The Celts knew that each person needed a mentor, a listener, counsel, a compassionate ear, a teacher who challenged, reassured, guided, encouraged – responded in complete honesty and utter confidentially, one who helped us on our journey, walked with us the whole way.

These ancient people knew that health relied on inner growth and healing and that honest conversation was the route to inner growth, self-understanding, and to the Spirit.  They knew that these conversations were sacred and mediated a relationship with God.  They knew that in these conversations God and love were present.

They recognized that these conversations knit us together in lasting friendship, that the experience of this sharing heightened in us the value of all things – large and small, of story-telling, of music, and poetry, literature, shared life, humor and laughter itself, common suffering, celebration, love and loyalty, and the beauty in all things from children to earth and sky.

These are the ones who, without fail and for all time, laugh and cry with us, live and die with us.  Without them live is not lived.

Realize from the wisdom of this ancient genius that you too need someone with whom you can speak in complete confidence and know that your words and you will find a home – always have a home.

With a soul friend, you never are alone – ever.



The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and all science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is good as dead: his eyes are closed.

Albert Einstein

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Human beings tend to think and live in one dimension, in a flat manner – on one plain.  Such thinking does not capture the Spirit easily.  In one dimension we think good-bad, yes-no, up-down, here-there, happy-sad, etc.

But does such thinking enliven God in our consciousness?  Capture living? Capture what it is to be a spiritual being in a human body?  To live as a mortal whose horizon is eternal?

No, most likely it does not.

How might we know that we are both mortal and eternal?

You might want to think of yourself as passing through the horizontal dimension of temporal time while God at every moment of our horizontal journey is present as a vertical reality.  Horizontal and vertical.  Is this NOT the Cross?

Think of it this way: if you die does your soul not instantly pass to a non-temporal, immortal reality?

We give little thought to God and the eternal in secular culture.  Indeed, we think scientifically and materially, but not spiritually. But, wait – we are not scientific beings or material beings, but spiritual beings.

We are inhabitants of land.  Would we easily be turned to think we are water beings, if others explored existence under water? Our culture thought of us as water creatures?

Be not so easily captured by others that you reduce reality, create blindness, truncate who you are, lose your identity.


Man was made for joy and woe,

and when this we surely know, through the world we safely go.

Joy and woe and woven fine,

a clothing for the soul divine.

William Blake

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There is no denying Blake’s observation as far as I can tell.  We drink from the cup of what is bitter and sweet.

This is not a distasteful or avoidable thing.

I will soon have another birthday and have lived long enough to know that it has all been worth it.  There have been more unexpected pleasures and gifts than there have been disasters, although the disasters have been ample in their scope, and wounding, and hardship and pathos.  Yes, what hurts is hard and some things hurt deeply.  Oh, but how they teach and strengthen, and how they amplify the sweetness.

If there is one thing I would share it is this: live what you encounter, work with it and see in it what it teaches and listen to how it calls, for in what you encounter is the next best thing waiting to be known and lived.  Yes, be open to what life brings.

I have lived through poverty, abandonment, a war, death, rejection, unemployment, loneliness, failure, disappointment and loss.  Yet, none of these killed me or soured me or stopped the next day from coming and me entering it. Getting up each day is always our best strategy.

The woes teach you to be skeptical of institutions, and others who seem to possess a status you do not hold.  In facing woe you find your genius.  It is rooted in showing up for another round.

Woe teaches you humility, gives you insight and breeds the best and most irreverent of humor.  Woe liberates and makes you, for others, something of a challenge, even a danger.  You see, those who fail to live fully fear those who have not so lived.  Their fear is often unconscious – but you’ll detect it.

Woe delivers you to you, to your soul, to the frontier of faith.  Most of all it yields great joy.  Woe prepares a harvest of deep and daily joy.  Joy in your friendships. Joy in your memories.  Joy in the sun, the rain, the wind, the snow – the seasons, in each new dawn.

Fear not.  Life is woe and joy, mixed to a fine measure – all the better for the tasting.


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