Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.

Shusaku Endo, in Silence

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These are the words thought by a Catholic priest held by his Japanese captors in Silence written by Shusaka Endo.

Imagine if we took heed of these words.  Imagine if we prayed that we may never walk over another person, discount them, trivialize their very existence.  Imagine if it was our nation’s central concern, if all policy was geared to that one thought – that we would not walk over another’s life and callously disregard the wounds we have caused.

Imagine if that one thought took control of the our culture.  Would their be abortion?  Unwanted children?  Animals brutalized?  Divorce?  The need for drug use?  Suicide?  Loneliness?  Unhappiness?

Right after Endo writes these words to express the thoughts of his captured priest, he writes this – again the thoughts that enter the priest’s mind as a companion to what entered above:

And then for the first time a real prayer arose in his heart. 

At its root, need life be any more complicated than this?  Forget what others do to us, how are we positioned to live? With the priest’s recognition or not?  Is that not ground zero for us?  For you?  For me?

Yes, and then real prayer arises in one’s heart.

Shalom.

The cross is the sign of liberation … There is no hope of freedom in myself alone or in simple conformity to what is said and done here.  Freedom means a battle between faith and darkness and a new creation out of darkness.

Thomas Merton

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This is a passage from Thomas Merton’s personal journal written on Passion Sunday, March 15, 1959.

There you have it.  The Cross is our liberation.  Not Karl Marx, or politics, or the President, or public policy, or money, status, wealth, youth, pleasure, etc.  The things of this world are only the things of this world, this fallen world.  Yes, there are goods in this world and we can be thankful for them – but none are The Good.

We cannot find freedom in our mortal self for freedom is found in the essence of our being: in the Spirit.

Life’s journey is in the spirit, for we have intellect but it is wisdom we lack, and in wisdom comes meaning and purpose.

Yes, it is in the lived experience of life, a battle between light and darkness, that we are made to know who we are and how and why we are called into life, purposely and intentionally called into life – divinely so.  Yes, it is in faith and its narrative that we come to translate life’s experiences into wisdom, meaning and purpose.

Those who would dispatch faith, exile it, attack it and usher it out of the public square and the culture, wish for you two things: your illness and control over you.

There is no hope in oneself alone, or in rote conformity to the popular, faithless group. There is, however, life and liberation in the Cross, as Thomas Merton reminded us some 56 years ago.

Shalom.

The Fourth of July, 2015

America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it is be because we destroyed ourselves.

Abraham Lincoln

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We have a rather large responsibility as Lincoln sees it.  It is the responsibility to be responsible.  To remain whole, one nation, civilized and grateful.

Will we be the first in our history to falter?

Bickering.  Legions of special pleaders finding fault with this or that and always advocating and agitating for their own desires no matter what the cost to others, to the nation, to future generations.  And few mature and wise voices to remind us what Mr. Lincoln said, how privileged we are to be Americans.

Have we not had quite enough dividing one from another?  Have we not been careless enough with our financial future, our security.  Might we pause today and think about unity?

And where oh where is our leadership contribution in the West?  In the world?

In the United States religion … directs the customs of the community, and, by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state.

Alexis de Tocqueville, 1839

America!  America!  God mend thine ev’ry flaw, confirm they soul in self-control, they liberty in law.

America!  America!  God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

Katherine Lee Bates

Shalom.

In a world … which has largely returned to its condition of original secularism, the church … best fulfills her mission the more purely … she is given over to her spiritual work of spreading the Gospel and confines herself to strictly sacred activities.

Yves M. J. Congar, in Tolerance and the Catholic

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This is Yves Congar in 1955.  How well he saw us today.

His words give us direction.  Yes, we are back to the “original securlarism” and, hence, to Christ at the beginning.  We are in this, not merely, Christians – but disciples, priests, prophets and princes.  We are now closer in our life condition to Christ, for we are where He was in His time.  For this we might be thankful.  His task is now our task.

If you wish to know what to do with yourself amid the disorder and evil that comes from secularism, do as Congar suggests – give yourself more purely to the spiritual work of spreading the Gospel and to sacred activities.

Read the Gospels.  Discipline yourself to do that.  Read the spiritual classics.  Learn what others fear in Christ and Christianity and try, in their fear, to stamp out.

Keep the company of believers.  Live the language of faith.

Learn, learn, learn.  Learn your faith.  In learning your faith, you become as Christ, your actions and thoughts are of Christ.  You live your faith.  It resides in you and surrounds you; it gives you the distance necessary to breath God in a faithless world.

Minimize your relationships with what is destructive.  Maximize your contact with what is good, pure, sacred for that is where life is and always will be.

… the universe is ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.

Heb 11: 3

Shalom.

Pythagoras, when he was asked what time was, answered that it was the soul of this world.

Plutarch, in Platonic Questions

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Plutarch is writing this in 66 A.D.  Plato, in 380 B.C., writing in Dialogues called time “The moving image of eternity.”

One shutters to recognize that we have lost touch with the gifts of those of the past, and that we pay dearly for this. Sadly, ignorance seems to reside in those who would lead.  On a broader scale, we seem to proceed daily at a breakneck pace of ignorance and collusion.

The least among us spin in small circles of infidelity, drug induced stupor, addiction and psychological states of one sort of another, engaged in aimless, time-wasting nonsense housed in subsistence dependence – often producing a self-destruction and injury that consigns others to inter-generational impotence.

Does anyone know what time is?

Recently my good friend Jeff wisely challenged me when I used the phrase: “time is of the essence.”  He reminded me, rightly, that God – not time – is of the essence and in that he meant correctly that truth and eternity are of the essence. How right he is!

His comment prompted me to take Plato’s line to explain my comment about “time” and “essence.”  My point was, of course, that in temporal time we play out eternal time.  That is, in temporal time we must live the measure and dimension of eternal time.

An illustration is in order.

If one is confronted with the demands of a Nazi culture at its infancy and one recognizes the forthcoming hostility and evil that it is preparing – time is of the essence because the decisions we make in the face of the evil of the temporal world has eternal consequences.  Indeed, it is in thinking like Plato as to time that we can legitimately wonder and be alarmed when today seemingly good men and institutions remain mute and inert when evil gathers and boldly shows its face.

Yes, at the moment – time may be of the essence, for in temporal time the soul of the world and those in it is on display.

Shalom.

Sing praise to God, sing praise; sing praise to the king, sing praise.  God is king over all the earth, sing hymns of praise.  God rules over the nations; the princes of the people assemble with the people of the God of Abraham for the rulers of the earth belong to God, who is enthroned on high.

Ps 47: 7-10

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When you turn on your television news show or public affairs program, do you hear people praising God?  Or do they praise man, themselves, government, a political cause, idea or ideology?

Do they elevate man?  Elevate man and never mention God?  Elevate man above God?

If you answer “yes,” you are living in a culture that glorifies man over God.  In such a culture, ideas (usually reflective of rote and superficial understanding of a chosen ideology) are touted for their value and the “promise” of happiness they will bring to us.

When you listen ask yourself: Does he or she who wishes to lead us or influence us give any evidence that they “belong to God?”  Do they live as such?  If not, they are not fit for leadership.  For to lead one must be humble and reside below God, not above God.

Once society is launched on the path of secularization it cannot stop in the halfway house of Liberalism, it must go on to the bitter end, whether the end be Communism or some alternative totalitarian secularism.

Christopher Dawson, in Religion and the Modern State

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Shalom.

Virtue is a kind of health, beauty and habit of the soul.

Plato, in The Republic

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An earthquake in Turkey killed 11,000 people in 1999.  Over half of the structures that were destroyed did not comply with building regulations.

We could see, and do see, that same sort of news around the world and in our own country as well.

Corruption.  It is a major problem.  Virtue, it follows, is a lost child.

Looking only at the United States, think of how language is used to deceive.  Cities like Detroit, states like Illinois and protectorates like Puerto Rico create pension obligations and sell bonds backed by a promise to pay a sum at maturity, then proceed to function in a manner that forecloses their ability to honor their promissory obligations.

In corrupt societies promises mean little and the consequences are great.  When one cannot trust, one cannot live freely, in a secure state – commerce freezes, and neighbors are lost, fences go up and conversations cease.

Do you need contemporary examples?  I cite a few.  New York prison guards helping prisoners escape.  A presidential candidate who displays problematic conduct in a number of areas, present and past.  The Supreme Court’s legislating when it is not their job to do so.  The extraordinary misuse of language such that legitimate difference of opinion become “intolerance,” and even unlawful conduct.

How does this happen?

There are many elements of this but a few in particular stand out.   I give you two.

First, the lost of faith makes virtue less common.  Why?  Because in faith we conceive of the soul.  Without faith, without the consciousness of the soul – ethics displaces morality and in ethics one can play “close to the line,” even “go over the line,” and argue one’s way out of the misbehavior, the deception and dishonesty.

Second, when virtue is missing, so too is truth.  Missing truth everyone fortifies their position, discourse freezes, friends are found in very small circles only.  Pain, isolation, anxiety, apprehension, distrust, depression follow – and life becomes far harder to manage, a greater burden than we were made to carry.  In such a climate the future for children and adolescents is drained of meaning, optimism and hope – and marriages and families fail, fracture.

Sadly, in corrupt cultures bravery is rare.

Of course, when governments become corrupt the game changes radically for the worse.  I mention only three recent incidents: the Veterans Administration, the IRS, and Benghazi.

We have considerable work to do.

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: if we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject evidence of the bamboozle.  We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.

Carl Sagan

You really do not want to get to the point of “no return.”  Time is of the essence.

Shalom.

Detachment is not the denial of life but of death; not a disintegration but the condition of wholeness; not a refusal to love but the determination to love truly, deeply and fully.

Gerald Vann, Eve and Gryphon

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Well, I watched the Sunday news shows yesterday and saw, among others, former Solicitor General Ted Olson speaking on the Supreme Court’s action in the “gay marriage” case.

Not a word from Olson or others, or their interviewers, as to anything spiritual, or psychological, or social psychology, or the disposition of our nation’s Founding Fathers to vest their trust, and our country and its Constitution, on the beneficence of a Creator God.

This is precisely the problem we face – secularists ignore God, dismiss faith and the understanding that we are not human beings but spiritual beings.  They are, like Olson and others, neither complete in their growth and development, nor very bright.  They are in their narrow assertiveness foolish and utterly destructive.

They do not deserve your attention, but have earned your scorn.

What can one do in the midst of all this?

Recall the words of Benjamin Cardozo in Law and Literature, “The prophet and the martyr do not see the hooting throng.  Their eyes are fixed on eternities.”

By all means detach from the present popular commentary.  It is below you.  It destroys.  Dismiss completely the chattering class.  Reject what you hear from the secularists, those on the Supreme Court included.  Listen for the voices of those who are governed not by the glorification of man or intellect but by God.

Those who deny God bring death.  Choose life.

In secular existence the assumption is that the human person governs and that our secular institutions are “sacred” and authoritative.  Balderdash.  We are a Nation under God.  There is no one created who is not under God.  That is the simple reality.  To deny it is to destroy yourself and others.

Oh son of dust!  Be blind that thou mayest behold my beauty – Be blind, that is, to all save my beauty; be deaf to all except my word; be ignorant to all but my knowledge; thus thou shalt enter my Presence with pure eyes, keen ears, and a purified heart.

Bahaullah, in Hidden Words

We are at a very critical juncture.

Shalom.

Purity of soul cannot be lost without consent.

St. Augustine, in On Lying

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Such a simple proposition.

What does it say to us?  I suppose it speaks to discipline.

When all around you are undisciplined and making poor and destructive choices, it is your turn to seek what is good and that invokes disciplined living, choosing what is good, doing what is good.

When all chatter mindlessly, be quiet and select in what you say.  When the culture bombards you with images, select carefully those that are wholesome and good.  Ditto with news as it is conveyed, and with those who would pretend to lead.  Select those who add to what is pure and good.  Reject the others.

Consent, too, is significant.  When the nation was formed its founders had specific thoughts in mind.  They expressed their beliefs, the predicate for union.  When subsequent individuals depart from the vital predicate – the expressed ideas that gave rise to the union – consent evaporates, and we are no longer bound together as we once were.

If our founders believed that freedom and equality were deployed within a moral order arising from their religious understanding and that belief is ignored, consent is breached.  Union no longer holds.

Purity, then, seeks that we be disciplined and that consent be prized and expended on that which is pure and good.

Our soul is not lost without our consent.  Its purity is ours to protect.

By purity God is made captive in me, purity makes me God-conscious and conscious of naught beside God, purity begets detachment.  The pure soul has a light-birth as it were, purity is satisfied with God alone.

Meister Eckhart

Shalom.

I believe that the more we think, the more we become convinced that the instinct which asks for equality is a low one, and that equality, if it were completely brought out would furnish play for the lower instincts and impulses of man.

Phillips Brooks

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These are the words of a noted Protestant pastor, and staunch abolitionist, in 1897.  They appear in his book New Starts in Life and Other Sermons.

Equality.  Lower instincts and impulses.  There you have it.

Imagine if our vaunted luminaries had any depth of intellect, any depth of spirit – any grip on history, any schooling in theology, social psychology, done any reading in analytical psychiatry, were versed in the classics.  How different life would be. But alas, we have lemmings, and lemmings do not elevate the conversation or the public conscience.

‘Tis best not to take your lead from lemmings.

Sort of makes you wonder if public luminaries made the nails for Christ’s Cross.

From the very beginning the modern mind has missed the real source of man’s equality with man.  It does not know what makes a Chinese coolie the equal of a Roman cardinal.  It is the fact that they were both created by the same God to enjoy Him fully for all eternity, a destiny that dwarfs all accidentals, social, economic, intellectual … With the necessary grace they are equally capable of attaining it.

Robert I. Gannon, in After Black Coffee

Shalom.

Next – Purity and Detachment.

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