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… the fact remains that for Christianity, a religion of the Word, the understanding of the statements which embody God’s revelation of himself remains a primary concern.  Christian experience is a fruit of this understanding, a development of it, a deepening of it.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thomas Merton on Zen

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Merton, like others, stressed the importance of acquiring the Christian experience – the full integration of Christ into one’s life.  That is, not merely treating Christian existence as the acquisition of a system of truths about God, or an explanation of how the universe came into being or how it might end.  Nor did he think that the Christian experience was meant to explain the purpose of Christian life or a set of moral norms per se.

He saw the Christian experience as more – more than “a world view,” or “a religious philosophy” sustained by a cult of believers, or a moral discipline, or a code of Law.  No, he saw the Christian experience as “a living … experience of the presence of God in the world and in mankind through the mystery of Christ.”

Yes, the integration of the reality of God’s existence through the mystery of Christ in one’s mortal life in this world.

Indeed the Christian experience is nothing less than the daily – moment to moment understanding that God is with us, in companionship, through the mystery of the gift of Christ.

Imagine, if you will, what one’s life and each breath can be like if this is the cornerstone of your human experience.  Surely if men and women acted on the strength of the Christian experience, all that is sordid, treacherous, hateful, etc. would pass from view or at the least be less present in the world.

In this coming new year, think about this.  An integrated Christian life is offered to you.

Shalom.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord!

Lk 2:11

Today is a reminder- and how we need it at this moment in our history!  The reminder: we have a Savior and He is Christ the Lord!

When you begin this new year be conscious of this question: Do those who seek your attention speak as Believers?  With the wisdom of a Believer?

To walk with consciousness of Christ is to speak within the Divine reality.  In this, we are humbly resigned to Christ’s example – in this, we gain confidence and patience … and come to know the blessing that is Christ our Lord.

Have a very Merry Christmas – and let this be the year that Christ is your foundational stone, your certainty and guide to all things in this life we share.

Shalom!

 

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Lives

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We are made to seek contentment, to love and be loved.  In this one fact alone is evidence of God and the essence of our sacred being, itself.   Yet, today there are piles of evidence that we are neither content, nor seemingly loving or sufficiently loved.

“Evidence?” you ask.  Yes.

Look around.  See how few intact families there are.  See the divorces.  The adulteries.  The overt expressions of selfishness and hatred.  How we have elevated sexuality and exploited the human body.  Look at the predators and those who remained silent while knowing of their assaults, their habitual abuse.  Look, too, at pornography. The sexual abuse of children.  Abortion.  Parents killing their children. The addictions.  The “normalizing” of abhorrent conduct – the fiction of “same-sex marriages,” the lunacy of multiple genders.  And the grotesque violence.  All a product of the desperately unloved.

Now contrast these things with the God who is Love.

We live in a time when God is forsaken and destruction is advanced as a substitute.  We make Sodom look tame.

Many like to point to a President as the cause of our serious problems.  Others expect “politics” or government to be the source of our health, contentment – salvation.

No, these cannot satisfy.

Our happiness resides with us, with who we are – and with the recognition that God is necessary and the source of all that is good in us, good in human existence and in this mortal world.

It is Christmas time.  The source of your happiness is born this month.  Wake up!

Shalom.

Knowledge can only be gotten in one way, the way of experience.  There is no other way to know.

Vivekananda, in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

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A culture does itself harm when it glorifies formal education at the expense of experience, for it is experience that teaches, imparts wisdom, provides confidence, humanizes, teaches you about your adversary, brings you into contact with God.

We are a culture that glorifies education and mistakenly elevates certain once venerable colleges as being magically able to make mere graduates “wisdom figures.”  Ridiculous.  Silly.

Those with wisdom have lived and experienced.  It is in experience that we learn – the greater the challenge the more wisdom we acquire.

Look with care at those on the public stage.  Most of those who appear know little – have no particular expertise, have lived unexamined lives, are far from wisdom and maintain personal lives of chaos and confusion.  They have nothing but foolishness and self-promotion to offer.  They lack insight, are at best trite … not worth your attention.

In contrast, you are far better served by maintaining your spiritual life, coming to know your ancient text and its story.  A Christian’s relationship with God is rich in wisdom and truth – something, incidentally, that those in the public space seem to lack, or willfully neglect.

Your religious narrative and the faith to live what is presented to you are all that is needed to prosper and grow in wisdom and courage.

Shalom.

We have to constantly critique imperialist white supremacist patriarchal culture because it normalizes by mass media and rendered unproblematic.

Bell Hook, in Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism

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I have been alarmed recently by the loose talk about racial conflict.  Some talk of the need for violent racial conflict aimed at “white oppression.”

Words can inflame.  Their use requires care.

The above words are ideological.  Their base: racism, feminism and socialism.

Ideology is a no guide to good.  It narrows the sight and hardens the heart.  Where ideology appears, faith better serves.  You see if peace is to prevail, God is required.  Our best actions do not separate by gender, race, antagonistic political fiction.

I know of no problem that can be solved without kind, honest, conversation.  I know of no peace that is made without care, no embrace that binds without humility and love.

People do bad things.  All people.  This is the human dilemma since the beginning of time.  It is embodied in the story of Adam and Eve – the Fall from Grace, Original Sin.

Our only path to love and fellowship is through growing our relationship with good, becoming wiser, more humble, thoughtful friends and neighbors.  Peace can never be insured through divisive ideology.  Ideology is the language of the lesser heart, its pitch is calibrated to hatred.  Yet, relationship with God dissolves anger, raises us up by bringing us to our knees.

There is an inmost center in us all where truth abides in fullness.

Robert Browning, in Paracelus

Shalom.

Lord, give us the strength of faith to know the truth about ourselves so we might live in peace as one.

Begin the morning in the dark and quiet again – but there is a glimpse of sunrise to come where the clouds have parted.  In the background the chants of the Monks from the Monastery of St. Ottilien.  Peace is in the air … beautiful, eternal, above all mortal being.

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” … at last bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.”

Gen 2:23

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We have lost our way and make grave errors that antagonize and divide, make us enemies in the most fundamental areas of our life – in the most sacred areas – places from which our happiness, joy, and contentment – meaning and purpose are meant flow.

Perhaps no area of error and divergence is any greater than that of  understanding man and woman – understanding their sacred identity and divine value.

God willed the creation of man and woman.  They share perfect equality, one to the other.  Each possess inalienable dignity as they are made to be.  Efforts of any kind to subvert this are reckless, utterly destructive, contrary to nature, God’s will and doomed to fail.

Men treat women as your equal, revere them, protect them, defend them.  Women, see your extraordinary dignity, your special gifts, your most cherished honor to bear a child and love so deeply.

In creating man and woman as helpmates to one another, we see God’s wisdom and goodness.  Together in Holy Matrimony we see God’s image – – – God as pure spirit, pure and steadfast love, and union with us.

Men and women: marry and honor your pledge of union.  No absent fathers.  No single mothers.  No out-of-wedlock births.  No more abortions.  No more rebellion against God.

Men and women are made for one another – as a communion of persons in the intimate manner in which God is unified with the human person.  Two as one – complimentary to one another.  One flesh, “bone of my bone.”

As one we are entrusted with creating new life – sharing in God’s work of divine Creation.  In this we have personal responsibility for the world around us: how it will be, what it will do  – whether it is dominated by Good or Evil, Truth or Lie, Life or Death.

Does not our faith and heritage give question to “same sex marriage,” to “multiple genders” and a self-claim to gender?

Shalom.

Prayer for the Dying

All-powerful and merciful Father, in the death of Christ you have opened a gateway to eternal life.  Look kindly upon Margaret McCurdy who is suffering her last agony.  United to the passion and death of your Son, and saved by the blood He shed, may she come before You with confidence.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Your prayers for Margaret McCurdy are welcome.

 

 

A beautiful fall day in the Virginia countryside.  The fallen leaves call.  And I shall meet them in the challenge posted.

I offer a prayer for your quiet contemplation and closer walk with God.

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There is God

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are found, there is God.

In every flake of snow, in every grain of sand – there is God.

In the stout and stoic strength of our brother, the mountain, in the swift and sure vigor of our sister, the sea – there is God.

When the cold winds whip the head, when warm breezes brush the face – there is God.

In the darkest hours of the blackest night, in the brightest light of a golden afternoon – there is God.

When we are uplifted by the joys of victory, when we are wracked by the sorrows of defeat – there is God.

When we are surrounded by companions, when we are isolated in solitude and loneliness – there is God.

In the laughter of a friend, in the smile of a stranger – there is God.

God is always there.

Lord, grant that we may always walk with you and that we may have the peace, joy and love that is your countenance.  Amen.

Jared Sylvester, Class of 2006 – University of Notre Dame

Jared wrote this prayer while a freshman at Notre Dame.  This and many other excellent prayers can be found in Lead Kindly Light: The Notre Dame Book of Prayers.

Yes, God is alway there!  Have faith.  Maintain a steady hand and live in joy and humble confidence.  It is nothing new to swim against the currents of discontent and falsehoods.  It is the way of Christ, our Way.

Shalom.

Please feel free to share this with others who may be helped by it.

 

 

I saw that carrying out a vocation differed from … actions dictated by reason or inclination in that it was due to an impulse … essentially and manifestly different order; and not to follow such an impulse when it made itself felt, even if it demanded impossibilities, seemed to be the greatest of all ills.  (Emphasis added.)

Simone Weil, in a Letter to a Friend

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Vocations arise from distinctly personal impulse.  One has the interior impetus to dedicate oneself to God and God’s service in an exclusive way.

Impulses like this cannot be easily ignored. To live in relationship with God is to be aligned to the impulse to serve God when needed.  Vocations come to those who are open to receive the call to vocations – to God’s service.

Those who close themselves from these impulses by saying – I will not be involved, I will simply be quiet and let God do the work – have no vocation, cannot be called to vocation because their pre-conceived disposition prevents the openness that impulse requires.

To deny the impulse to serve God actively – in word and deed – forfeits discipleship.  It leaves one to remain safely on the sidelines – even when Rome is burning.

Disciples speak and act.  Other are sideliners.

Are you a sideliner?  Or are you one who is open to the call of God and prepared to do what God asks of you?

Shalom.

Simone Weil was a French Jewish girl with a devotion to Christ.  She was born in 1909 and died in 1943.  My wife Sylvia was taken by Simone Weil and her remarkable life in search of God.  The next few blogs I offer on Simone Weil are for you and for Sylvia whose birthday was this month.

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I always believed that the instant of death is the center and object of life.  I used to think that, for those who live as they should, it is the instant when, for an infinitesimal fraction of time, pure truth, naked, certain, and eternal, enters the soul …  I never desired any other good for myself.  I thought that a life leading to this good is not only defined by a code of morals common to all, but that for each one it consists of a succession of acts and events strictly personal to him, and so essential that he who leaves them on one side never reaches the goal(Emphasis added.)

Simone Weil, in a Letter to a Friend

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Such a cogent proposition laid upon our table.

The object of life is the exact moment of our passing for that is the moment in which we might know Truth in our soul.  

One lives for that moment by living a moral code “common to all,” and by our particular acts and our accepting the events that come to us (each uniquely personal to us) with the clear proviso if we deny the events and avoid the acts we are called to do in our mortal life we will fail to know that sublime moment when Truth is imparted to our soul in an eternal life.

Well there you have it.  Do you live the life you are given?  Do you avoid the actions required of you by the events that are brought to you?  Are you living for you, or are you living the life God has made for you?  Do you live and act in the context of a common moral code?

So we ask: Are you moral?  Do you long for Truth and eternal life?  Do you accept what God gives you and act accordingly?

Shalom.

I don’t know how the kind of faith required of a Christian … in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on (the) experience … of unbelief.  (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of May 30, 1962

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We have had a difficult time understanding what provoked Stephen Paddock to kill defenseless people at a Las Vegas outdoor country music concert.  Mr. Paddock’s action has been lost to law enforcement, public officials, media mavens, security experts and the mental health community.  But the truth is it is not that difficult to explain or understand.

Flannery O’Connor gives us the answer: we live in a treacherous age of unbelief.  It is a treacherous time in which God has been exiled.  Ms. O’Connor reminds us that without God life has no meaning.

Mr. Paddock’s brother, from whom he was estranged, said Stephen Paddock had “no politics, no religion.”  We know that Mr. Paddock had two short failed marriages, that he was a CPA – bright, good with numbers – yet, a loner with seemingly no close friends or neighbors who have come forward to tell us who he was.  He was a successful gambler, not a joiner.

Loner, smart, wealthy, no religion, no close relationships: a godless life – one without belief.  This a barren existence – a daily suffering.

One has to enter the depth of relationships to experience love, to find meaning in life – to see the animation of God in self and others.  Mr. Paddock was largely estranged from others, even his brother with whom he had prior business relationships.  Without God such estrangement is murderous and suicidal.

Mr. Paddock’s strength was his intellect but intellect narrows existence – in itself, it keeps the person in the head while starving the heart and soul.  Nothing promotes unbelief like the exclusive emphasis on intellect.  (Does this not explain a great deal about the failure of the education system and the educated class, their disposition and ideas – and their trusted tutors and favored ideologues.)

An exclusively intellectual life sterilizes life; it kills feeling and intimacy while isolating one from others.

In a purely intellectual life that neglects God and social, emotional and spiritual growth – one cannot see the divine image in others.  Mr. Paddock acted from that base – that was the genesis of his motivation and his mass murders and suicide.  Over-intellectualized, unbelief, personal under-development, isolated asocial existence were the seeds that took root in Mr. Paddock and produced his ethos and his final life-ending acts.

That said, the lesson for us must be this: we are so out of touch with the critical role of religious belief in contemporary life that we have created estrangement that kills and destroys in many forms – daily in this land … and we cannot even name it when we see it and suffer its consequences.

Forget all the “isms” – we have a greater problem in this land.

Finally, the answers to riddles often are conveyed in the facts offered.  In the Las Vegas killings innocent people were attending to the music of America, country music, with its stories of hard work, marriage, family, the land, faith, small children and small towns, first loves and love lost, hardship and reconciliation – these were Mr. Paddock’s target.  He made that which he did not have his targets.

Yes, a man without these intimate things confessed his godless alienation in this heinous massacre. 

Time to wake up – and get serious about what we have created and what we excuse and tolerate.  We are not the people we have been made to be.

“I do believe; help my unbelief.”  (Mk 9:24)

Shalom.

Please share this post with others if you wish.  Restoring belief is very important.

 

 

 

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