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Happy Easter, April 16, 2017

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. (Emphasis added.)

St. John Paul II, in On the Relationship between Faith and Reason

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It is Easter.  Christ has risen in fulfillment of the words of the Prophets and in furtherance of the proof of God existence and reign.  We need fear no longer.  Yet, in this Truth, we are ordered to seek truth, to guard it, preserve it.  Yes, in this – we are not alone and meaning and purpose is established for all time – mortal and eternal.

In an age where some in the East use violence to enforce their beliefs on others, it is fitting to see the Easter contrast as the Father presents in through the Son.

Continuing the theme of conversion (developed in prior posts) as illustrated in the story of Whittaker Chambers rejection of life as a Communist spy in favor of a life in truth, and in faith – we can see an example of what our path can be.

When Chambers left Communism, he noted that he endured “an inner earthquake” in which the structure of Communist thought, as he says so logically and firmly built, convulsed and that deep down he knew for some time that the political “faith” he held and “devoutly served” was destroyed – but that he knew not “what the right way might be.”

Are we not in the same spot today, whereby the errant ideas and desires of the Left lead us to know at some level – something is desperately wrong?

For Chambers, his initial hesitancy in leaving his political life was stymied for he reasoned if Communism was evil, was not all that remained but moral chaos and nothing more?

He knew, he records, that the killing Communists invoked was evil and he realized that in his Leftist politics his mind justified “evil in the name of history, reason or progress.”

In turn and in time, and through the grace of God, he realized that “there is something greater than the mind, history or progress” and “this something is God.”

From a political mindset, to indecision, to sight.  This is a conversion – and evidence of God’s grace and nature, and His love of us.

At this Easter in 2017, with the troubles in the East and the violence and persecution of Christians, and the assault within our nation on faith, reason, common sense, morals, truth, law, history, tradition, national security and the American legacy – are we not where Whittaker Chambers once stood?

Yes, the Truth of the matter starts with faith, and for the Christian that is in Christ risen.


And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him.

Gen 4:8

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Cain’s hatred festered. Was he not equal to his brother?  Should not life reward them each the same?  Welcome them, praise them, accommodate each exactly the same?

How fair or tolerable, he thought, is a life when not all are the same, each reach the same result, soar to the same height?

How can God create a condition where results vary from one to another?  Is there any justification for man to have this and women that?  For one person to excel in ways another cannot?  What is one to do when talents, and disposition, strength, wisdom, humor, stability, appearance, kindness, peace are not given in the same quantities and at the same time in this life?  How can one’s journey be distinct from another?  One’s days pose greater challenge than those of another?  Gifts and opportunities be distributed unevenly?

No right thinking person can conclude otherwise.  Is there not something that one must do to alter what one sees?  Is not silence a consent to this divine injustice, and violence a righteous dissent?  A sacred objection?

The hatred builds and justifiably so, he thinks.

The scales must balance, Cain thought.  And if they do not … if they do not, then something must be done.

Rage may be justified, he reasons … for isn’t it a good that one seeks, and does not seeking good justify anger, violence – ever homicide?  Does not blood balance the scales, rectify – teach a lesson to anyone who is favored?  Preferred?

Does not the one who has more deserve to die at the hands of the one who has less?  Is this not fair, and good – and equal in all regards?

… Cain went out from the presence of the Lord … yes, those who think as Cain go from the presence of the Lord .. and seek the company of others who find pleasure and meaning in resentment and its twin offspring: hatred and violence.

Your neighbor Cain lives close at hand.  His words sing out in many distinct voices.


Lord, teach us to accept your ways, to have confidence in your wisdom and to trust in You.  Keep us from Cain.  Draw us to You.

Internet Down Today – So Noontime Post

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To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.

Allen Ginsberg

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You know sometimes in writing I feel like I am a man playing a piano in an empty music hall, and the truth is it does not matter to me.

I have no desire to actually be heard.  My life, my words, any music I make need not be heard to be what it is – an expression from within that floats out into space.

Maybe the words we utter, the sounds we make are for those already gone. Maybe these words give them joy – confirm their lives, their thinking, the toil of their earth-bound days.

Maybe it is enough that we echo those who loved us, so we might love others.

I’ve never had much interest in being famous and not a great deal of interest in mortal life more than all the beauty and thoughts that exceed mortal existence. The long today never seemed quite to measure up to eternity.

My son once sent me an interview in which an author spoke of his idea of life and my son said, “Dad, this man reminds me of you.”  In response, I offered this – my view of mortal life: “I think of mortal life as The Long Separation.”

In saying this I am certain that all the things my son and I did throughout the years will travel with me in the next world.  The vacations in Arizona, in Italy and Scotland,  fishing and boating at Deep Creek, the ball games, practicing pitching in the front and backyard, seeing him in the school science fair, playing pee-wee and high school football, at Disneyworld, waiting at the corner for the school bus, every joyous Christmas Day.  All of it will be packed effortlessly for the journey that never ends.

Soon enough all of the yesterdays come to union with those now gone and The Long Separation will be no more.  Dying we are a link between all those yesterdays and those we leave behind to love as we were loved.


A little autobiography sometimes helps.  

In this short story I make this point: our life journey comes to us.  We do not invite its content, and we surely do not design it.  As I have said before we are recipients.  We receive life without having petitioned or plead for it.  To live it fully we must learn from all that comes our way.  This is especially true with hardships.  They must be faced, experienced in truth and integrated wholly.  It is absolutely indispensable that the events of our life be fully taken in – and this question always asked: what am I to learn from this?  Rest assured that there is no hardship that does not, when it is faced, grow us in wisdom, understanding, insight, character and confidence.

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Estrangement has both color and sound.

Bobby Sylvester

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His small hand reached for the doorknob and turned it slowly so as not to wake her.  Still not old enough for school.  Toe to top, his fair-haired head barely surpassed the keyhole.

Gently and quietly he opened the door just enough so he might enter.

There she was: his Mom in sleep – the shades drawn, a darkened room in midday. A child only, he knew his mother was ill and that she found sleep preferable to day.

Young as he was he met estrangement without knowing its name.  His Mom was sick, and love was stifled and inert.

Remembering years later, his heart knew the color estrangement.  It was the color of drawn shades – a dark and light-less room that turned all things gray and black … Its sound was the sound of nothing, a near-dead silence.

When trauma meets a child’s eyes, either the sorrow grows to wisdom, or fleeing the arrow that it might not pierce his heart he is wounded all the same and in his failed flight his exile is certain and confirmed.  In flight he will not know love – neither in its absence nor presence. In this a sentence too painful to await a natural death.


‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but in every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God.’

Mt 4:4

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This is the response of Jesus to the first desert temptation of Satan.  The word more important than bread.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This, of course, is the opening line in the Gospel of John.  It asks us: to what do you give primacy?  To money?  Power?  Politics?  Yourself?  Celebrity?  Your sexual desires?  Drugs?  Alcohol?  Food?

Food?  Yes, is obesity not a sign of self-deprivation?  Self-consumption? Emotional starvation, and spiritual suffering?  Would not God fill us to satisfaction so much better than food can?  Does Jesus not so very clearly say this?

There is nothing wrong in American society that cannot be radically altered for the better if God and the Word of God is not given primacy to each of us, and to this nation and its culture.  Nothing.

The Toltec Mexican writer Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. reminds us that in our head two entities reside: one is a parasite and the other is an ally.  Each speaks to us.

The parasite is the one who reminds us of the negative things others have said about us or done to us – the words and deeds which would have us think negatively of our self, impose on us the sense that we are deficient, less worthy. The ally offers, in contrast, thoughts that we are valuable and that voice comes to us from the voices and deeds of those who have seen our value.

Don Ruiz reminds us that we must dismiss the parasite and listen to the ally, but more to the point he reminds us that “neither voice represents your whole Authentic Self” for you are not your thoughts …

In our Christian tradition, its story and its truth: you are an extension of the Word of God, a child of the Master – a word in God’s vocabulary.

There is NOTHING in you, or this nation and its culture, that cannot be corrected by simply placing God at the center of our being – the defining reality of our life, this nation and its culture … and of life itself.

Ignore the many among us who speak as godless parasites.


Friends a little later start than normal.  Had some early chores and errands so the day sort of got eaten up.  Sorry to keep you waiting.

” … bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Mt 3:7

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These are the very wise words of John the Baptist which were addressed to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they appeared while he was baptizing people in the River Jordan.

Often in Scripture a simple phrase gives us a reason to ponder, to think what is Jesus or the disciple saying?  What is the import of these words?

The above words are such a phrase.

The truth of the matter is that a repentant heart gives rise not just to a change in attitude but a change in behavior.

To experience a momentary change in one’s attitude is not the goal.  Rather it is to have a change in attitude that is sustained, that then changes your behavior.

I give you a case in point.  I am from a tough neighborhood. My instinct is to fight. I am not a wall-flower.  Nor are those I know from my neighborhood.

So what am I to do with that aggressive nature?  How can I move from that as my first response?  Truth is: such a disposition keeps you charged up.

Yet, in Christ, why must I be so ready to do battle, so geared for combat?

If I profess Christ, should not my attitude change?  Would I not become more settled, more anchored in the strength and certainty of Christ?  Would my behavior not be more tranquil, exhibit the patience and love of Christ?

It seems to me that is what John the Baptist is saying.  It seems to me that when we see we have not been as Christ would be and we sense our attitude has changed – then, too, our behavior does indeed change for the better.


This post is dedicated to Buddy Mahar, my friend and brother, whose genius is accepting life as it comes and facing the fight while not losing his soul, but rather enhancing it, and growing in instinct, insight, wisdom, love and courage.  Such a good friend and good man.  (See the Footnote.)

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How to live in the world pestered with lies and despair, not to flee but to fight and succeed in keeping the soul unsoiled and even aid in the purifying the world?

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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I differ with Rabbi Heschel’s wise words only in one respect – we may, in our best and heroic efforts, not spare the soul from being “unsoiled” but rather gain a goodness that out shines the dark marks of our human imperfection.

You see, for me, life is a journey to lesser imperfection and therein wisdom comes with humility and greater love and understanding.

Rabbi Heschel reminds us in explaining these words – the challenge implicit in them exceeds the strength of mere humans and, hence, requires the presence of The Ineffable … The Divine, of God.

Man cannot alone experience the growth we are built to know without God.  My experience tells me that the path to God in a very fundamental way requires that we accept life as a gift and, in confidence, live it come what may.  Life requires faith more than fact.

What do I mean?

There is no wisdom without faith.  Education alone does not win the day, for reason alone follows by nature what is not eternal everlasting and wise in all things seen and unseen, mortal and immortal.

Since the days of Socrates we in the West have thought that if you can think you can know how to live.  Not, so.  I say as one with a college degree, a law degree and two Master of Arts degrees – one who but reads does not possess wisdom, for who has not experienced life in its varied presentations, challenges, trials, joys, betrayals and moments of pure joy and excellence – excellence of the soul and heart – cannot know as wisdom does.

From Descartes forward we have focused on cognition, not the experience of living – on living fully.  Muted in this process, so few know what it is to be human, compassionate, courageous, fearless, humble, loving, selfless, sacrificial, heroic, brave, practical and insightful, tender and firm.

We excel when the full measure of mind and soul are engaged in all things, and condemned to failure and folly when only the mind is at work.

The culture we occupy “must grow out of the soil of daily living” just as the human person must grow from the soul out, from the interior to the exterior.

Yes, take in the experience of living for it is upon the faithful act of living life that we become fully human and excel as we are made to excel.  Incidently, is this not resonant in the moment, in the sounds of “populism” we have witnessed in the recent Presidential election?  Is it not clear in an Inaugural where God was invoked so appropriately?

We may be experiencing a Heschel moment – a great opportunity to repair our culture and ourselves.


Footnote – My pal Buddy “got” Trump right away before any commentators, media “geniuses,” political mavens, etc. got it.  Buddy’s background?  Like me the Irish Mob Boston neighborhood of Somerville.  Like me a post-WWII working class, first in our family to go to college.  We’ve been friends for 60 years – 60 years. Worked unloading freight cars in the summer.  Him?  A successful Division I basketball coach until the nitwits at Columbia gave him the “heave ho” because he “wasn’t Columbia material.” They were right. They couldn’t wipe his backside.     

The cows are in the pasture.  The prayers have been said.  The sky is dressed in gray.  Push-ups have been done.  The fire is young but alive.  Bach soothes.  The mountains maintain their vigil. Peace prevails.

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The desert was created to be itself … So too the mountain and the sea.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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Alone I find how anonymity allows you to meet your self.  Social man gives way to himself, to his sacredness, his holy being – its composition, the divine harmony of its contradiction, peace and His Creator.

It is a relief to no longer be among the crowd, adhere to the “to-do’s,” the hubbub and the gloss, the artificiality of it all, its costumes and its absurdity, its contaminated pecking order.

The desert, and the mountain, and the sea were created to be itself.  So too are we, each one of us.


Peace does not dwell in outward things, but within the soul; we may preserve it in the midst of the bitterest pain …

Francis Fenelon

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Yes, true enough.  But what does this say to us?

First, peace relies on one’s interior journey.  That is where the exterior is integrated and where, in that process, we grow in depth, understanding, wisdom, courage, mercy and maturity.  That said, this calls most frequently on faith and the place of religious narrative in one’s life.

But what more does this say?

Pain, disappointment, deception – even betrayal and abandonment are part of life among mortals who are in all states of immaturity, selfishness, fear, hurt, disorder, foolishness and the like.  So, yes – the interior journey provides a housing for the hurt that diminishes the injury that others and life invokes.

Faith and the interior journey: they neutralize the toxic nature of pain and make of it the best things that we are in being fully human and divinely created beings.

It is so often pain and disappointment that opens the doors of the heart and soul, and faith narratives which most frequently provide the template and context in which, relying in the ancient and ageless truth they impart, that hold the key to heart and soul.


Honestly, I don’t recall Christmas shopping being this complicated, Amazon notwithstanding.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas (getting gifts purchased, getting cards sent out, the tree up and decorated, and items wrapped) – I feel like a could use a few of Santa’s Helpers.

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Contentment consisteth not in adding more fuel, but in taking away some fire; not in multiplying of wealth, but in subtracting men’s desires.

Thomas Fuller, in The Holy State

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In The Art of Happiness the Dalai Lama says that there are two ways we look for happiness. One is in seeking to satisfy our desires.  But he notes that in life our desires at some point will not be secured.  In time, a person will face a situation in which what they desire they cannot acquire.

He notes the second way to happiness is wiser and does not lead to frustration. His advice on securing happiness is: it is best not to have what you want, but rather to want and appreciate what you have.

To build a life on seeking presents a disquiet and urgency to each moment.  Such a course leaves no room for rest, for enjoyment, gratitude.

Better to want what you have and appreciate what you have.  There one knows contentment, peace of the soul, and end to urges for more and more, and the discontent of such a disposition.

Happiness resides in finding the joy in what you have in your possession.


The Lost Elites.  In our culture and in the Western democracies we have seen that the elites have separated themselves from the millions of average people. The lives of elites are quite different than the lives of the average person. The elites govern.  They shape public opinion.  The control education.  Run large financial institutions.  Yet, they have drifted away the average person, cannot experience the lives of the average person and this is precisely why the Democrats lost and the vested ruling class in the Republican Party could not imagine a man like Donald Trump just might win, and just might have something to offer this Nation.

The moral of this story is simply this: when you drift from others, think of yourself as privileged and above others – you will in time find those you have scorned will have their day.  Yes, the worm turns.  And, it has.

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