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What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

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I like the symmetry of this.  Our gift from God is being itself.  However our gift to God is in our being not just singularly but collectively.

What we become in reflected in each of us and in the culture in which we reside.  Just as we prosper in who we are, what we do, what we think, what we believe and how we order our life and time – so too is culture assessed in a similar manner.

As to culture today – we are not much of a gift to God.  Indeed, we live as if we reject this gift of being.

We have normalized all sorts of abhorrent behaviors.  We make violence lawful – think: killing children.  Yes, mothers engaged in child sacrifice.  Hideous.  Marriage is not honored as it once was – and families are in tatters.  Drug use is common, suicide and child abuse too.

Intimacy is scarce.  Vulgarity is not.

We care less about others and more about our self.  We have dumbed education down.  We have ideology but not belief.  One political party relies on division, Father Government and variants of destructive Marxism fantasies.  Envy and hatred are common.  Humility is rare.

What is one to do?  Separate yourself from godlessness.  Turn your back on it.  Close your ears to it.  Live independent of it.  Keep your distance from it.  Learn to live in silence, quiet, peace.  Learn your faith.  Recall its wisdom and employ its truth daily.  Speak softly of what is good.  Help those who come to you.  Be candid in describing what you see and the truth you know.  Make each breath count for what is good.  Stay close to God who brought you into being and ignore all those around you who have no God but themselves or some nonsensical idea or fetish.

A time for choosing what is good is here.  You are either a gift to God or nothing at all.

Shalom.

Washington Post.  The newspaper reports in a long article today that Nikolas Cruz was identified as a troubled child in his early school years.  The story reports that getting a child into the proper setting was a long and involved process that took years to accomplish.  Likewise, the newspaper article says that places in the right settings were fewer than needed for troubled children.  It also reports that Broward County had used many of the placements for youngsters who would have likely been referred for prosecution.  The paper suggests that some groups wanted to interrupt the “pipeline” from school to jail that beset certain ethnic groups.

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Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.  (Emphasis added.)

Mother Teresa

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They placed Nikolas Cruz’s younger brother in a facility for a mental health evaluation.  He is 18 years old, Nikolas is 19.

You know the thumbnail story of their lives – given up for adoption, a history of personal difficulties, thoughts of fetal alcohol syndrome, poverty, adoption, living on the edge – a home life that required the police to respond to their house multiple times a year, a failed school life, being ostracized, rejected by peers, self-mutilation, despair, confusion, learning problems, thrown out of school, abandoned – left to their own destruction.

They say Parkland is a family town where people care for each other.  Hard to see that in Nikolas and his brother, in the way the school system took a very deprived kid and threw him our of school with no oversight or care.  Hard to see the good people of small town U.S.A. in a good light when we know these kids lived a variant of being unwanted all their lives.

Parkland was not too long ago a smaller town without the Yuppie homes with big rooms.  I gather from news reports that remnants of its earlier status might be known by the few trailers that still house some families.  One imagines a sharp contrast between what might have been a short time ago and what is now.

Nikolas and his brother are lost kids, kids who likely needed care – maternal, paternal, familial, adult care … who needed real institutional support and particularized education and preparation for adult life.  Like all of us as children: they needed stability – the loving consistent care of an able adult, encouragement, predictability at home and in their small childhood world – truth is they needed love and care more than the lessons of rejection, alienation, confusion, defeat, loneliness and despair which seems to have come their way over and over again.

The story of the Parkland tragedy is at its core a story about lost children – and specifically lost boys in a culture and time that them.  It is a story that indicts not those who are unwanted but rather those around them who took no care to shepherd these lost sheep.  Shame in this Lenten Season!!!

I know these kids, I might have been one but for a mother who cared and sacrificed, two uncles and a loving grandmother, a great aunt and uncle, kind neighbors and childhood friends who accepted me and are today (now 68 years) still my brothers and sisters.

I am quite honestly sick and tired of those I see in public life, in positions of authority – with some exceptions.  They’d be best to leave us alone – go off and experience the realities of a hard and precarious life that humbles you by having you ask of yourself as I did as a child: what will happen to me if my mother dies?

If we demonstrate anything daily, it is this – all the talking heads and celebrities, and politicians, entertainers, media folks and those in authority everywhere – those who lay claim to our attention … might want to stop (as we all might) and ask: Do I see the Lost Sheep?  And what do I do when I see them?

Shalom.

 

Breaking News

The F.B.I. had specific January 5th warning of the prospective attack by Nikolas Cruz and did nothing with this information – contacted no one. 

Three points – one, incompetence costs lives; two, how could anyone think the F.B.I. can protect us from foreign terrorists if it cannot attend to Nikolas Cruz; and three, this makes the issues raised about F.B.I. (their poor leadership, political bias, Democratic favoritism, corruption) look more and more than simply justifiable but rather accurate.

This sure adds weight to the criticism aimed at the F.B.I. by President Trump and Republican Members of Congress.

Very Serious.  Overhaul due.  Shrink government.

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Reason cannot establish values, and its belief that it can is the stupidest and most pernicious illusion.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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A most interesting observation by Bloom.  It arises in this context: German intellectual Max Weber, formerly dedicated to the Enlightenment, abandoned the naive post-Enlightenment optimism that others had placed on reason and science.

Thinking life governed by reason a “failure” – akin to children playing with adult tools they found too hard to handle, Weber, for his part, parted ways with reason exclusively in favor of the study of religion so to understand those with values – and gods.

For Weber – religion, what is sacred became the cornerstone of human existence.

It is rare today that one hears any echo of the primacy of faith over reason.  Case in point: the post-Parkland homicides and virtually all public problems which adduce in almost all public parakeets (read: politicos, media, talking heads, celebrity types and citizens) this: “we need a program, a plan, a study, a grand humanly designed response of Father-Government, and laws and oversight, and rules and punishments and penalties … and all will be good!”

Horse hockey.  Mousetraps do not distinguish us, nor defeat evil.

Man but armed with reason is no match for Evil.

The match between Good and Evil is a sacred contest, a war of the soul, individual, humbling, purposeful, eternal, fought within more than without, private much more so than public, of the heart not the head, not tidy, not subject to flowcharts, clipboards, spreadsheets, a sea of blue suits and jurists, rehab, fines and what all.

Life is personal.  Each act of evil places us one by one on the scales.

Reason is light as a feather.  The soul carries weight.

Shalom.

Thirty-Plus Times.  Re: The Parkland Killings.  The local police responded to calls to the home of Nikolas Cruz in excess of 30 times in a very short period.  And here we have the “authorities” turning the young man out without any guidance or oversight!!!  Inexcusable!!!

Make NO MISTAKE this is Papa Government, the Nanny State, Big Brother.  This is misplaced faith.  Godlessness and its murderous results.

This is loud cry for smaller government, decentralized authority, limited central government, and end to the nonsense and fantasy of the New Deal, the Great Society and alike.

It speaks to the need for individual responsibility, the restoration of faith – humility … the end of Leftist division, racism, racial consciousness, the war men and gender politics, fixation on “rights” and the envy and hostility that tumbles forth.

Back to the Soul, People.  Back to prayer, modesty and an end to selfishness.  Faith, not reason.

 

I would like to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue

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There is wisdom in what John O’Donohue says.  Indeed his words tell of our growth and mission in life, our divine identity – how we have been made to be.

A very smart and pleasant young doctor confided in me recently that he and his wife often wondered if they were doing enough with their skills to help others.  This, of course, is a wonderful way to think.  Their interest was to use their skills to help others.

Implicit in this desire is a proper and good orientation to life.  Their desire to serve registered with some urgency – they wanted not to waste a day in which they were not doing their best for others.

He asked my thoughts.

I offered him this: patience.  I assured him that life will unfold as it is intended and in the process he and his wife would know with a compelling certainty that there was a next step to which each would be called.  In what I said I was stating what O’Donohue has said, namely – be as the river and let life flow and in the flow unfold.

When you think about it – there can be no wisdom without a practiced patience and the peace and humility that patience brings.

The river does not get impatient, nor does it create its own sea into which it might flow.  Rather it merges with the circumstances of its path, the terrain it traverses.  Our life is no less river-like.

Yes, we can have a broad direction.  We can elect an orientation – to teach, to write, to paint, to build, to care for others or what have you.  But the details for our life await in life’s flow.  Our purpose is told to us over time, played out in time.

Yes, we know with reflection and life experience who we are.  This is a process that takes a lifetime – with definition being more refined as years pass.  But the key to the larger nature of our journey is to let the journey happen.  We are all on a sacred mission, called to be – and in this we must first of all relinquish command and let life happen to us.

Be as the river that flows and unfolds.

Shalom.

Aging is no accident.  It is intended … we become more … of who we are simply by lasting into the years … the final years … the fulfillment and confirmation in one’s character.

James Hillman

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What if your life is a measure of your growth in character?  What if the opportunity you have to live this life is precisely so you may grow in character?  In understanding?  Wisdom?  Patience?  Kindness?  Confidence?  Empathy?  Compassion?  Insight?  Maturity?  Integration?  Mercy?  Courage?  Faith?  Humility?

What if Jim Hillman is right?

How have you treated aging?

In my lifetime I’ve seen us more and more neglect this question: what is it to be a human being?  During the same time we have traveled while neglecting the wisdom of the ages, the treasures of the classics, religious narrative?

Pause a minute.  Think about what your life actually is, what it might expect of you?

Pretty serious business.

Shalom.

 

You are so hard on yourself.  Take a moment.  Sit back.  Marvel at your life: at the grief that softened you, at the heartache that wisened you, at the suffering that strengthened you.  Despite everything you still grow.  Be Proud.

Tibetan Wisdom

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Grief gives.  Heartache gives.  Suffering gives.

Gifts come in unexpected wrappings.  Receive the gift.  Live in the gift.  Breathe in the gift.  See the sky in the gift.  See the sun in the gift.  See the trees and the mountains in the gift.  See the sun and its shadows in the gift.  Feel the wind in the gift.  Touch your memories in the gift.

Never be captured by things less than God.  There is no daily confusion that surpasses eternity.

See the gifts.  Accept yourself – a child of God.  Smile at it all.  Be settled in what is reality not what is less.  What is temporal is only temporal.  What is Divide is Eternal.

See the gifts.  Life is a gift.  You are a gift.

See the gifts.

Shalom.

More Money for YOU!  Well this week you are getting more $$$ in your paycheck because of the Trump Tax Reform legislation.  Mind you, Democrats in the Congress opposed this legislation.  The message is plain: Democrats want more of your money for them, for bigger government, to give to others.  Progress?  Yes, we are ATM’s no more! 

Weasels and Liars.  Yesterday a dismissed former F.B.I. Director tweeted about “weasels” and “liars.”  Irony is interesting.  Introspection is essential – humility its product.

FISA Memo.  Will the release of the FISA memo spell the end of the Democrat Party?  One might think so given the energy its Party members are putting into fighting its release to the public.

It is for God to grant His grace.  Your task is to accept that grace and guard it.  (Emphasis added.)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in Catechetical Orations

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A friend of mine wrote to me this week and asked that I might be available to talk to her.  Her mate had passed away after a long illness.  The passing was about three months ago.  She knew I have experienced a number of such losses of loved one in my lifetime.

In responding that I, of course, would be available for her call.  I thought immediately of grace and its gift to us – a gift that we often overlook and that is so, so powerful in facing life’s losses and its extraordinary hardships.

Knowing the grace that has been bestowed on you (in my experience) is best identified my thinking about the parts of your life to which you have been drawn over time.  Or the recurring events in your life.

Are you one you cares for the injured?  Or the less fortunate?  The lost or abandoned?

Are you one who defends the innocent?  Stands up to the aggressor?  Whose foundation is kindness?  Or courage?  Whose skills are in seeing behind the veil?  Understanding human behavior and explaining it to others?

Are you one who sees the missing parts of others and how conduct and language tells you of another’s fears, limitations, or the constraints that have been imposed on them?

These, to me, tell of the grace that you have been given.

In times of hardships the grace is your strength.  Grace blossoms in difficult times.

I give an illustration.  If you suffer the death of another so deeply that you feel utterly lost and deeply saddened, does it not say that you loved deeply and gave all of your heart and soul to another?  I believe the answer is, “yes.”  That is a grace – to love so deeply.

Think about it.  Loving deeply is a capacity you have been given.  It is natural to you.  It is what you do.  It is you.

That grace exceeds all that has been lost, and anything you might be able to muster-up under your own power.  That grace is given by God and brings you closer to God – in this you are made more whole and come to know that all that befalls a human in this mortal existence only speaks of what is eternal and Eternity itself.

There is nothing that can exceed God’s grace.  There is triumph in all that appears as defeat – when one believes.

Shalom.

State of the Union and the Democrats.  It is revealing to watch the Democrats at the State of the Union.  They are not happy unless they are unhappy.  Members of the Black Caucus sat on their hands when President Trump noted that Black unemployment is the lowest it has been since the records were firsts established.  One thinks that the Black Members of Congress are more comfortable when their constituents are less well-off.  One supposes then the Black Members of Congress will have little to do but continue to complain and ferment racial divide.

The Democrats are in-large no different.  They specialize in exploiting division so they too showed no indication that they intend to cooperate in a bipartisan way with anything the President proposed.

They seem to have worked themselves into a Leftist cul-de-sac of racial, gender, ethnic and ideological division that has frozen them in their division and bias.

Nations are weakened in this manner – and our adversaries know it.  We had best snap out of this and doing so means rejecting the Leftist Party of Discontent and Division.

The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and prefered answers, not because they are obstinate but because he knows others are worthy of consideration.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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Who killed liberalism?  The Liberals … with the assistance of “education” turned into indoctrination of fruitcake social applications of Marxism.

Enter the nonsense of community-organization, feminism, “homophobia,” race baiters, multiple genders, sexism, white “privilege,” disarmament, socialism, redistribution, environmentalism, central government as omnipotent, etc.  All possessed as if these notions are, individually and collectively, the Holy Grail and justify attack on all ideas that stand in opposition to their point of view.

The question is now can this intolerant crowd once again become Liberals or whether contemporary “liberalism” will, as it now appears, to be converted to fascism and the destruction of our constitutional representative democracy – its tenets, ethos, habit, practice, civility, genius and institutions.  The choice: preservation of freedom vs. its lost.

Ironically, the present circumstances require that one might avoid colleges and universities that dumb us down.  Ditto “social media,” media commentators, traditional sources of news, academics and the Party of the Left.

Much of what you now see as assaults aimed at President Trump by the media, press, modern “liberals,” academics, Democrats, Hollywood, the entertainment world and identity groups is a clash between ill-liberalism and the existing, historic mores of our Nation.  Indeed, such a clash begins with God’s exile.  All form of evil prosper when God is denied.

We live in challenging times.  The question is this: Who are we and who will be?  Go with tradition, what has worked for a long time.  Don’t leave God.  Ride with the Wind.

Shalom.

Humility is the truth about ourselves, the whole truth – about our weakness, our failures, our history, our virtues, our gifts.

Fr. Hugh Feiss, O.S.B., in Essential Monastic Wisdom

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My life has taught me that humility is surely a natural goal as we age.  Humility leads to wisdom and there are no shortcuts.

Yes, you will grow in wisdom and stature from birth to death – if you simply and honestly learn from your life along the way – from your mistakes, misconceptions, errors, failures, losses, heart breaks, modest acts of good fortune and courage, from betrayals, deceptions and time’s fashionable untruths.  Indeed, life’s calamities are (when honestly received) the path to humility.

In living a long time, I have also learned this: people resist humility and doing so make a mess of life – their own and the lives of others.

Rather than grow, people resist recognizing their own human shortcomings.  People seem to prefer defense to honestly.  They deny their wrongdoing and miscues.  That, by the way, is often a signal of their own frailty.

Some see their education, or status, wealth, profession or possessions as designations that raise them above the common folk.  Ah … no humility in this diversion.

Elites almost by definition shun humility … no fun to be a commoner apparently.

Ironically, humility gives one freedom.

Life is easier when you see your capacity for miscues, for being wrong.  When you have that baseline understanding that people are imperfect – all of us, you included – and hence prone to mistake and endless folly, life actually becomes amusing, fun, far more relaxed, and quite entertaining.

To show the essential place of humility in life I offer just this one thing: Saint Bede cited the incarnation of the Son of God as an extraordinary act of humility.

Think about it: if God would offer Himself to us in such and action is it not sure indication that humility must be a central part of our human existence???  How could it be otherwise?

Think critically about your growth in humility.  Have you aged well in this regard?  You will know if life comes to you easily, without strain, with pathos and laughter, understanding, insight, mercy, compassion, and a divine humor and honesty.

Shalom.

Humility’s Absence.  Humility is scarce in secular mass communication culture.

Case in point: in a new book on the media by Howard Kurtz, Kurtz reports that young Jonathan Martin, a New York Times reporter, labeled Donald Trump and those that work for him as racists and facists.

Martin makes this claim as one with a simple B.A. in history from an obscure small college.  “Higher education” being what it is today, one might assume that Martin’s schooling is about the equivalent of a ninth grade education at a rigorous prep school of yore.

Today’s public discourse is flooded with under-educated people, lacking humility, throwing about all sorts of nasty assertions.  This, by the way, is a primary reason why I do not miss television and forsake newspapers but for The Wall Street Journal.  No sense taking on foolishness, now so common.  Humility absent, one’s access to truth is limited.  Listen and read very selectively.

The charism of the monastic community is one of simplicity and truth.  The monk … abandons routines, the clichés … the empty formalities of the world …

The purpose of monastic detachment … is simply to leave the monk unencumbered, free to move, in possession of his spiritual senses and his right mind, capable of living a charismatic life in freedom of spirit.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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Without thinking, we live tied to the world.  The question is must we be tethered to its ways, subsumed by its noise, demands, foolishness, rules, structures, dysfunction – encumbrances?

More to the point is health and happiness possible within these encumbrances?

When captured by the world does one have any remote chance of being in possession of his or her spiritual senses and right mind, free to live spiritually?  I would say, “No.”  That is “no” without reservation.

The move complexity, the less simplicity.  The less simplicity, the more discomfort and illness.

How can one ever expect to know himself or herself – understand what it means to be a full human being, spiritually alive when we give way to the complexity of secular culture and its demands on us?  In godlessness, God is lost to us – to our consciousness.  In short disorder breeds illness – emotional, social, psychological, physical.

Have you ever stopped to consider that much of your personal distress is the result of being in contact with those who are disordered, who literally have no idea of what being human entails?

When you are engaged with disordered people, your life becomes disordered.  If a person does not know themselves, has not examined who they are – how much health and stability can they offer others?

There is wisdom in what Merton say – who among us would not be healthier and more contented in a life of simplicity and truth?  The answer: “None of us.”

In short our peace, health and happiness flourishes in simplicity and truth.  Knowing self quiets us, holds disorder at-bay and brings us to peace and to God.

Shalom.

Fan Belt Inspectors – The way the upper levels of the F.B.I have behaved makes them look like “Fan Belt Inspectors” not the nation’s elite criminal investigative agency.

Let’s see – key investigators (both married) having an affair and teaming up (according to their emails) to do what they can to apparently forestall the election of a Republican president. A significant member of the agency in some form of contact with a Democrat “operations research” firm.  The agency’s failure to turn over documents to Congressional Committees who oversee their work.  The inexplicable loss of five months of emails requested by those Committees.  James Comey and the absurd handling of “the Clinton Matter.

Hardly apt to build one’s confidence in their impartiality and competence.

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