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“… fear … is the first step to wisdom … the fear of being untrue to God and to ourselves … (fear) that we have thrown down our lives at the feet of a false God.”

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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There is much political chatter in the air. We have listened to some outrageous and expansive rhetoric among the Democrat Left presidential hopefuls.

They say much about abandoning the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and destroying the American economy – like the mainstream news media, they make some extraordinary claims.

Yes, what we hear can be bewildering. What is one to do?

Merton makes a sound suggestion. Ask yourself first – does the language I hear make any mention of God? Do any of these voices reflect that the speaker has any relationship with God? Do their words reflect a faith-life? A knowledge faith?

From what I hear, I’d have to say “no.” There is no reverence. There is no humility. There is no evidence of a relationship with God and the words that reflect that relationship.

Thinking of what Merton says above – one can easily conclude that there can be no wisdom in the words of the godless. That said – there is no need to listen to the words of the godless for they utter not wisdom but foolishness.

As for yourself- you might ask this: am I governed by the desire to be true to God? To answer in the negative is to have “thrown down (your) life at the feet of a false God.

Politics without faith is but a false God. So beware of the faithless who claim your attention and desire not a life in God, but rather power. They promise only folly, division and destruction.

Is not one Herod enough?

Shalom.

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” … it is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are else where.”

J. R. R. Tolkien, in The Fellowship of the Ring

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Once in a while I think I must do more, that perhaps I must be more active, more involved in the world – make of myself an active presence … there is then always a sense that I am best left as no more than one who writes as I do and attends to those who I encounter who might need a friend, some help, a conversation.

The root of this sentiment is this: I am (as perhaps we all are) just “just small hands” and that is indeed what God intends. Rather than take a public shape I am instinctively more myself when I tend to someone in need, my friends, those I love, my Son and my grandchildren.

Writing as I do as now – at 2:45 a.m. alone and in the dark and silence seems “right.” I often wonder about those who feel compelled to cast a large and long public shadow – especially those who do so without an apparent inkling that perhaps their desire for a public presence is their own deception and hence a misguided enterprise that adversely affects us and them.

Celebrity surely seems to make this case rather obviously. So many shine but for a moment and then (fittingly) fall face first and are lost to the light of day … as they almost inevitably must.

Is not the message then that celebrity is brief as it must be and hence not of particular merit – and hardly offers words worthy of an ear of one who might listen.

For me – a small scale seems so much more the fit.

One wonders if age is part of the issue here. Though in truth, I never much cared to be center stage. It has always been sufficient that I kept learning and growing while maintaining the company of those I loved and those who needed a companion on this long walk of ours. Small hands … long walk.

Shalom.

“Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than feeling that they represent ‘the people.’ Nothing, as a rule, could be further from the truth.”

Paul Johnson, British Author and Historian

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To understand the root of our divide in the United States is to understand the inordinate, unearned and unwarranted influence of our resident, isolated elites – of whom Jeffery Epstein was one, of course.

Think about it. Look at the Hollywood celebrity elites. Bet you don’t make a habit of molesting young actresses, or spending handsome sums of money to have other people take a college entrance exam for your child or even more money for having some heretofore “elite” private university athletic coach put your privileged little darling of a mediocre child on the squash team so she might tumble into the rarified air of privilege and a short cut to affluence.

When, by the way, was the last time you had lunch with a member of the Editorial Board of The New York Times or the head of CNN or NBC?

How about the last time you had a day of sailing with a Kennedy kid, or with the head of a major pharmaceutical company or a successful hedge fund?

The problem it seems if this: the elites have no idea who the average American is and less an idea or any interest in the small town folks who sit in poverty after the work at their local factory was shipped overseas or South of the Border by the globalist whose ox is never gored by such crushing economic dislocation.

If you want to know why the British people want out of Brexit – you need only know that this sentiment and desire is the result of the distance between the British global elites and the common citizen. The story is likewise in the discontent in France and the voter preferences in Italy, Hungry, Poland and the like.

As an aside I ask you if under some quirk the son of an elite was facing death in the defense of the onslaught in Benghazi do you think for a moment that lad would be left without any military support in the midst of a deadly battle?

If you doubt by “distance principle” – just look closely at Britain – the British Globalists who occupy Parliament and refuse to pursue the exit from the European Union despite that fact that a majority of the British electorate voted to exit.

Likewise, if you want to understand why and how Donald Trump was elected President – the “distance principle” applies.

Common Americans are fed up with the elites and see in the Democrat “wannabes” pandering extremists who will “promise” everything to everybody no matter how destructive the promise so long as they gain power and maintain their gated-community distance between them and you.

Elites. ‘Tis a long way from Christ. Yet, the common people are Church-goers and Believers. Are we not?

Shalom.

“Awe is the emotion of self-transcendence.”

Jonathan Haidt, in The Happiness Hypothesis

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We don’t often think about awe.

We do not often hear a person report that they had an experienced that they could best capture by describing their “awe.”

In his book on happiness, Psychologist Haidt tells us that awe cannot be studied in a lab and does it lend itself to easily to research. Yet, he notes that it is mentioned in philosophy, theology and sociology and that looking back in human history it is recorded and can be characterized as a “submission in the presence of something much bigger than the self.”

This got me to thinking that when a culture emphasizes “the self” and “reason” and aims us in the direction of individual achievement, intellectual focus, material plenty, power and personal wealth – perhaps we are less apt to feel in awe of others things for we are so inclined to be absorbed by self and concerns as to our self.

Perhaps today in our culture we are less likely to know the experience of awe because we are acculturated to place inordinate self interests, attention and value on our individual self to the exclusion of those things that have, throughout human history, allowed the human being to feel awe, to experience things quite obviously far greater than one’s self.

If that be the case one is less likely to be humbled, to live and know one’s humility as a condition of all human beings – who are mortal and who (through no particular fault of their own) likely experience difficulties, challenges, hardships, setbacks and, yes, be discomforted and inconvenienced in life as we all are – without exception.

It seems logical to say that if one is not implicitly humbled by the gift of being called into life, and then oriented to place great focus on self – one would be unlikely to encounter “awe” … that is – to be conscious of things much larger and greater than one’s self.

In this state, of course, one is (as Haidt suggests) de-sacralized – one is made distant from spiritual experience, from transcendent experience.

I raise this because it seems obvious to me that the chaos, anger, division, etc. that we see in our culture and in the Western Civilization at-large is the product of de-sacralization – and in this we are full of ourself and divorced from the natural experience of life and the world that in the past allowed us to know the experience of “awe” and in so doing allowed us to humbly and gratefully engage life and others without any one of us having to be the center of the universe.

Shalom.

” It is the will of Christ to make of this sacrament the symbol of that Body of which he is himself the Head, to which he would bind us as his members by the close bonds of faith, hope and charity, so that all should be but one reality, with never a division.

The Council of Trent

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The Eucharist bands together all who are known as Christians. It is a unifier – a bond that brings community, identity and harmony to all who participate in Communion. It is, as Pope Leo XII identified – the “root and principle of Catholic unity.”

That said: Is not “identity” politics its direct opposite for does not “identity” politics but divide and in dividing is it not contrary to Christ, to Christianity and the over-arching arc of the U.S. Constitution and the intention of our Founders as they wisely perceived and established America?

Of course, this is a rhetorical question. You know the answer – and in knowing the answer is it not your duty of the Christian to defend the tenets of your faith, to live out daily in all venues and ideas these tenets?

Stated another way: Is not unity connected to Eucharist? Is not our fellowship with one another tied to this? Does not practicality and civil order rest on such and the unity it brings to one’s soul. Does not the Eucharist give you ALL the identity you need?

You know, of course, the answer to this last question. So now do you see the treacherous nature of those who divide? Are they not faithless and destructive? And can you justify your silence in their presence?

Shalom.

“The water and blood which flowed from the side of Jesus on the Cross, the water of Baptism, and the blood of the Eucharist, the first fruits of the mystical union between Christ and his Church, are, at the same time, the streams at which that Church is nourished. As the water flows over out foreheads it does not merely effect a series of incorporations, but there takes place at the same time a “concorporation” of the whole Church as one mysterious unity. Baptismal regeneration, on final analysis, is not confined in effect to one soul alone. “For in one Spirit,” says the Apostle (St. Paul, 1 Col 12:13), “we are all baptized into one body.”

Henri de Lubac, in Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man

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I apologize for this lengthy quote, but I think it makes a point that is vital to understanding the public discourse today and the troublesome and worrisome culture we inhabit.

Now, how to connect the dots?

Henri de Lubac, at the very beginning of this quote, connects the narrative of Christ’s crucifixion with the holy sacraments of Baptism and Communion. He identifies in this powerful narrative two deeply personal events repeated many times in our life. Yes, two very personal and meaningful events that have spanned centuries and presented over time deeply and very powerful personal experiences that sustain us individually and unite us as One Body.

This is the sort of intellect and vision which is NOT present sufficiently in discourse or culture today … and we pay a huge price for it. “A price,” you say. Yes.

Private and public discourse today does not carry much in terms of images or understanding of mystical reality. Indeed, we are bombarded by meaningless talk, images, reports, advocacy, complaints, advertising, etc. that present no depth and little insight or value.

Our exchanges do not suggest that what appears concert and simple is often laden with deeply and ageless spiritual reality. In such a poor state, we cannot in these exchanges experience the fullness of human existence, nor come to know that all that is “here and now” is not all that is hear and now.

Today we are poorer intellectually and in our human development and understanding, insight and faith than those who have come before us. Our predecessors lived in metaphor – we do not, and in that we hear less well and grow less well, engage others less well. Yes, the cost we face are devastating.

“Costs,” you say. Yes. Think only of division.

Think of Adam and Eve and think in contrast of the division embodied in radical feminism and identity politics today.

Two made to be one – are enemies in much of the feminist discourse. Likewise think of abortion and “post-birth” abortion in an age where contraceptive devises are inexpensive and readily available. Are we not worse of for resuscitating the equivalent of child sacrifice?

My point in the broadest sense is this: without the scope presented in the above de Lubac vision – our public discourse and culture is barren and unedifying – and frankly more harsh, antagonistic, hostile, unfriendly, lonely, difficult and violent than it need be.

To restore this culture to its former self – we had best renew the thinking and discourse that de Lubac presents here in this quote.

Shalom.

Remember 9-11 … Is this not why we need secure borders?

“What surrounds us is what is within us.”

T. F. Hodge in From Within I Rise

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I have been reading Andy McCarthy’s book entitled Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. It is, of course, a book about the efforts of many (particularly in Washington D.C. and its institutions, political quarters and among its lawyers, political consultants, media and newspapers that cover the Nation’s Capitol) to discredit and destroy Donald Trump.

It is sad to say that in reading this – one is overwhelmed with the seemingly endless number of individuals who are, to say the least, disappointing.

One finds in this book people who are simply not very bright, unlikeable, incompetent, lawless, chaotic, without honor, corrupted, astonishingly self-important … and in all this – poorly developed people … yes, not well, not wholly grown individuals – unhealthy … disordered.

Which brings me to the above quote. In an unhealthy culture one is best to be very select as to who surrounds you, who you befriend, with whom you associate.

Yes, what is around us can seep within us. It is NOT uncommon to be deeply influenced by the company we keep, to be less than we are made to be by the ethos of the company we keep.

So what is my point? Be careful of the company you keep, take a net assessment of the culture you find yourself immersed in.

My suggestion: keep the company of the people who are balanced, fully grown, calm, capable of quiet – who can be trusted, whose outlook is both realistic and optimistic – – – those who bring out the best in you, who are loyal, candid, who have lived life in a full manner, survived hardships with their dignity in hand, have grown spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and in faith, those are insightful and honest … those who are thoughtful, helpful, humorous, encouraging, humble, wise and inspiring.

What surrounds you can invade you. Beware. Good people do not bathe in dirty water.

Shalom.

“Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing.

Bishop Robert Barron, in And Now I See … A Theology of Transformation

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What if the central point of Christ and the Incarnation is this: God offers in Christ sight to each of us? Imagine this if we think of ourselves as the sighted who are blind to a greater reality, to faith, to the mystery of life, to God Our Creator, to God’s ways, to belief itself.

What if we are allowed to see fully through Christ but we never contemplate that this might be so, that this might be precisely why Christ appears and largely one of our greatest gifts: to see as Christ saw … and to live as Christ lived, as God wants that we might live to know happiness, purpose, joy, the distinction between what is mortal and what is eternal.

Imagine living six, seven, eight decades or more and never coming to realize that Christ offered us sight just as he offered the blind man sight.

How many people in public life or in your life experience have you met who would appear to see as Christ saw? I dare say – “not many.” That said, who are you? Do you see as Christ saw?

Believe me – if you see as Christ – much of what is troublesome will be less so. If you see as Christ: difficulties will be clarified, disappointments fewer, understanding greater, life easier, contentment more abundant, belief quite natural, easier, more common and the source of stability and calm notwithstanding what might come you way.

Shalom.

“Don’t let the noise of others … drown out your own inner voice.”

Steve Jobs, from a Stanford University Commencement Speech

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Let’s be honest. Life events pound us about, and others have their go at us as well. Much of the calamity stems from childhood and even within families … and, of course, the hardships and setbacks that come about quite naturally like the numbers on a wheel of chance, or the cards turned over in the deck of cards one by one – some high and some low … these refine us, reveal and shape us.

If those who do not know themselves very well impose on you their fractured ideas of existence and being – you will be (like many) disadvantaged – maybe handicapped. But, ah – we have years to take stock and “right” our boat and master sufficiently the seas we sail.

Yes, life presents the gift and the intentional and divine task of coming to know who we really are. That process is a life-long process … identity is revealed first as our core likes and dislikes – the hints of likes come in what we are attracted to, and in the expression of our skills which are but a road sign to who we are, and what talents and interests we have been given by God.

Make no mistake – our identity is God-given … no one is without an identity … Confidence in this fact delivers us to this certainty: we are made purposefully, with Divine intention, with an identity that is uniquely our own. We are never an accident, nor without a name and a personhood that is our’s to possess – just as our life is not replicable – there are never two persons exactly alike. We are as distinct as the grains of sand are multiple and beyond count.

Our life is designed to reveal our identity to ourself. Carl Jung, M.D. – says it so well: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are.” Knowing who we are might well take a lifetime! Fear not. Do not worry. Be patient. Have faith. Trust God.

Knowing thyself takes a lifetime – and it is a process of interior examination (introversion), life experience, social interaction, attention to faith, acceptance of life’s ups and downs, retaining patience for life and identity which evolves over time … you see, we grow throughout life and refine both of knowledge of self and our identity as time passes.

Of course, a relationship with God and particular attention to those who show they see us so well and love us ever more are vital to our knowing our identity. Some give us more and some less of a glimpse as to who we are. All however lead to a full picture of exactly who we are and were made to be.

Those Dear People who love us, attend to us, see us – they tell us who we are … often far better than we can learn all by ourself! They are God’s emissaries – chosen to assist us in knowing who we are. Yes, their experience of us reveals “us” to us.

Shalom.

“He who practices the law without loving does not practice the law, because the first commandment is to love. And, he who loves while scorning the law does not love, because the law is the first will of Him Who loved us, and Whom we love.” (Emphasis added.)

Jacques Maritain, in Art and Poetry

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Law practice for me often felt like combat – a battle against injustice and – in some cases – a confrontation with obvious dishonesty, cruelty, hatred, lying, illness, lawlessness and, yes, evil.

In this I can tell you I was made for the law and for being a lawyer. You see, I knew hardship and poverty, and loss from a very early age … as a small child. I encountered both death and betrayal as a small child … and then poverty and its over-riding, daily uncertainty. Loss, death and hardship were common well into my adulthood.

Life was a struggle wrapped in the recognition that I would fight for those I loved and love those who fought by my side.

As a child I was conscious of being a protector … such is the Grace of God. Seeing others being taken advantage of – always triggered anger – outrage and response. That never changed when I became a lawyer. It led to unplanned success.

My combative nature fueled my skill as a lawyer. Yet, the genesis of my existence was in love, in God’s love of me – God’s placement of me in a family that loved and made a home for me, in God’s desire that I might know hardship and have the grace to protect others, and be provided friends much like me – those for whom life presented difficulties that made us tougher, more loyal, inclined to faith, trust, honor, insight and street-smarts. Yes, we were a hard-scrabble bunch – not easily beaten, nor apt to evade a fight.

Such is the contradiction of God – we are made to love and be possessed of the willingness to fight for its primacy and preservation.

You might want to apply the essence of this to those who claim to lead us, legislate for us, occupy positions of authority over us, those who sit in judicial venues or stand for election, advocate radical change without evidence of past acts of courage or a record of achievement, honor, love and appreciation of our common heritage, faith in God and what is right and good – as proven throughout human history.

Shalom.

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