In our time we should emphasize what unites rather than what divides.

Pope John XXIII

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These are the words of Pope John XXIII on his death-bed.  I cite them today because they fit so well the circumstances we face now.

There is great division in this land.  It seems as if people desire that we be divided, fragmented, at odds with one another … divided and separated from God and faith, self and one another.  Today hostility is heightened and friendship diminished.

This brings me to my long-term concern with how one lives one’s faith in a secular culture – now that one is apt to be estranged from spiritual existence in a culture that manifests so much discontent, anger and self-destruction.

My own course has been an attempt to understand both God and culture.  To look at our history as a nation and Western Civilization, to see the challenges we face, review our failures and our successes, look closely at our psychological health and development and our nature as spiritual beings.

It follows that my reading encompasses history, philosophy, psychology, theology, mythology, literature and the like.  But my inquiry has also experienced and thought about monastics and their ability to live faith and grow spiritually and as healthy humans notwithstanding the shape of the world over many centuries.

What I have come to understand is this: (1) if you wish to live your faith and do so deeply, you need to know how a culture can deter you from faith and your spiritual development, and (2) in seeking to live your faith in a secularized culture, you would be wise to learn from the monastic experience for it has over many years allowed men and women to grow spiritually and in contentment through their separation from the culture at-large, their silence, solitude, study and simple life style.

I might add that if you wish to assist others in finding faith in secular culture it becomes necessary to identify those things in culture which make a healthy spiritual existence quite difficult and those things which incline to foreclose one’s spiritual development and ultimate peace and contentment that daily living of one’s faith allows.

In short, what I am saying is this – to live faith in secular culture – you do well to take an informed assessment of the culture, become familiar with the nature of monastic existence and make use of its framework so you might exist within a secular culture while living fully in your faith.  Yes, in this you will be living at an arm’s length or more from the present culture as it is endlessly extended to you in a mass communication and the highly visualized and extensively noisy storm of images and words.

In practical terms it is wise to adopt a monastic disposition in an intrusive secularized culture. 

Shalom.

Postscript – In the 1950’s we held the Communists in check when they invaded Korea, would we do less in facing them in our own country?

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