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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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Short Post, Swollen Knee

… God speaks in the silence of our heart.

Mother Teresa

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For God to speak, we must listen.

I give you a short story.

A short numbers of years ago, when I was a vowed religious Brother in the Congregation of Holy Cross living at the University of Notre Dame, I said to my colleague and Dear Friend Br. Tom (a remarkable guy in so many ways), “Tom, you look like you need a break.  How about we take a road trip.”  (I often drove Tom on over-the road journeys and on them we had some of the most insightful and restful conversations.)

Tom took the bait and suggested that we go to see a very special exhibit of the terracotta Chinese Soldiers at the Indianapolis Children’s Art Museum.

Arriving before our chosen exhibit opened, we noticed there was an early morning one-person play in memory of Anne Frank.  Just right for us.

So we entered a small theatre in which there was a set that replicated the small attic room in which young Anne hid from the German Nazis who were intent on sending her and other Jews to labor or death camps.

The theatre lights dimmed with Tom and I sitting alone at center stage.  Then a petite, dark hair young girl walked on stage and paused in the stage light to speak eagerly.  Indeed, she was offering us the words Anne had recorded in her extraordinary diary of those months in hiding.

Her words were hopeful and candid, youthful and optimistic.

The young actress instantly transported us back to that time and its deadly peril.  Yet, our guide was full not of dread, but of vitality and spirit.

The one-act performance lasted about 30 minutes and our young, lovely guide exited.

Tom and I sat unmoving.  Our still silence seemed right.  Our Anne Frank had brought us to quiet tears, humbled us, caused us pause, regret for those lost … shame for what we do when God is rejected, dismissed … ignored.

In young Anne – in her truth, and courage, and spirit  – we heard God speak.

We exited in time without a word – waiting moments to speak so we might live in the sound of God’s voice.

… be still … and hear God speak … 

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.

… there is no real teacher who in practice does not believe in the existence of the soul …

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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If you want to understand what has gone wrong in America you need understand that higher education (and now elementary and secondary education as well) proceeds without regard for the soul – nay, it repudiates the existence of the soul … and this proposition alone explains the hostility and idiocy of the American Left as it emerges in politics, media, entertainment, the press, the academy and even among religious institutions.

The question of course comes: can a society hold itself together without regard for the soul and all the harm that comes from its exclusion?

Look around, the evidence is quite clear – and the answer followers.  The answer is “No.”

You think I am wrong?  Look at families or shall I say the fragments of family.  The protection of child sacrifice.  The presence of sexual assault, child abuse, gang murders, mass shootings, avarice and greed, foul language, intergenerational public dependence, addictions, pornography, adulteries, public corruption as it emerges in our high offices – among the law-keepers and those charged with keeping us safe.

Look too at the greed of ex-Presidents and their spouses who must glorify themselves while filling their pockets with money and and their lives with fine possessions.  Contrast that with President Truman who carried his own luggage to the train station when he departed from the White House.

There is nary a moment in the news that does not say to us: we are soulless.

Universities are sadly and tragically disordered and corrupted.  Things must change.  Those who preach moral disorder must be ignored, challenged, discredited.  We have gone in the wrong direction for some time – and the destruction is widespread.

The restoration of belief and faith, and morality, and virtue, honesty and honor, and community, and fellowship, and family, and religious worship, and humility, and sacrifice, mutual and self-respect, civility and individuality responsibility is essential and immediate.

… there is no real human being who in practice does not believe in the existence of the soul …

Shalom.

Observation – When some men and women in the U.S. Congress sat on their fannies as others stood in shared respect of mothers and fathers whose teenage daughters were murdered by violent teen gang members –  we see the soulless … and we saw this in the recent State of the Union Address.  Shameful.

No one can govern who is soulless.  Pay no attention to the soulless except to rebuke them.

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.

“What then will you give us, Lord?  What are you going to gift us?  “Peace I give you.  Peace I leave you,” says the Lord.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in On the Song of Songs

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You may always know that crime is committed by those without peace.  Yes, the disturbed – sometimes the very prideful – those who think so very much about themselves.  The present-day F.B.I. adulterers of Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page – a classic example of Judas, so sure of their genius and purity that they (and their colleagues) could tip the scales of justice and defy the national electorate in their choice of President.

We don’t often mention Judas these days.  But we should.  Honor cometh to the peaceful.  The Lords gives us peace.  The miscreants lack peace and ergo lack honor.

This is, sadly, the state of the elites.  So much for “education” today at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, et al.  Ditto legal education at-large.  By the way, we saw evidence of this in the 1950’s when Patrician Secretary of State Dean Acheson could not fancy that one of his breed (Alger Hiss) was a Communist spy.

Mr. Trump saw the failures of the elites and this is precisely why those who claim “privilege” so vehemently attack him.  He commits the offense of exposing them as they are.

Our necessary corrective?  Restore our faith.  Make it that which governs us.

Lacking that, we will rot from the top echelons down.  Thus, history declines once great nations.

Shalom.

 

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers.  For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Emphasis added.)

Ps 37: 1-4

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The application of these words could not be more applicable to today and American secular culture and its politics.

Hollywood female celebrities dress like streetwalkers and adult-age female teachers sexually assault underage male students.  Men in media and entertainment prey on female colleagues and young children, while men in politics and the workplace prey on staff members and associates.

Immoral and destructive ideas are advanced as public policy.  Government is seen as savior and God is shunned, faith dismissed.

We have been given divine guidance.  Turning our back on evil and wrongdoing is our task.  Drawing closer to God in darkened times is our mission.  Rejecting what is bad, impure, immoral, wrong, destructive and those who promote such things is our obligation.

How do you live?  Do you seek what is good?  Do you delight in the Lord and do what is healthy and right?  Or do you conform to the worse things and the ideas of lost souls who advocate what is unhealthy and godless?

Remember, you are a sacred being made for what is good and life-giving.

Shalom.

Mental Toughness – Looking at Tom Brady and his Head Coach you see two people who are mentally tough, determined, disciplined … these are traits accessible to each of us.  But who among us seizes these?  I can tell you this: starting from real deficits, as I did, presented those choices to me early on.  Fortunately I had people around me – my mother, members of my family, and friends who lived by these traits.  Yes, when your back is against the wall – these three things get you through life.  Seize what you are given.  Live despite the obstacles.  Happy sailing.

 

Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than to think they represent ‘the people.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Paul Johnson

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Therein lies the identification of our present historic moment in time – and the foundational explanation of Donald Trump’s election as President.

In short, the elites reside “aloft” – above the common folk, the workers, the hourly wage and the part-timer, the displaced miner and factory worker, the retail clerk, the Walmart shopper, the truck driver, the firefighter and the police officer, the Sunday churchgoers, the folks who do the fighting and dying like their Daddy and Uncles did.

You see in the last five decades we have flourished economically but the “big money” went to the elites, the celebrities, the media types, tenured university professors at privileged colleges, and the political class and lobbyists, to the mavens of social networks and internet commerce, to expensive cities, ritzy suburbs and exclusive enclaves in Malibu, Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Naples, Chevy Chase, Potomac and Bethesda and such … but not to the common folks who do all the “heavy lifting” and die before they age.

Recently I heard a Yale Professor and Nobel Prize winner in economics tell an interviewer (without any hesitation) that President Trump had some nerve going to Davos for a gathering of the international elites to discuss world economics.  His justification for his comment was this: Mr. Trump is a “popularist,” a nationalist, one who favors national borders – the things at this self-selective collection of the super wealthy, world political figures, bankers, financiers, globalists, liberals and social activists simply reject and despise.

Well now, don’t they know better than those of us who live closer to the ground and deal (unlike them) with the battle of survival every single day – day after day, morning to night.

Imagine the ignorance these elites possess, the self-deception and pridefulness multiplied in this small hot-house of arrogant “we know better than you do” yahoos.  Whence we hear those not in attendance are a “basket of deplorables” – not good enough for elites but sufficient for cannon-fodder, wage slavery and permanent dependence.  Atrocious!

This is central to our troubles today.  The lesser among us are invisible and thus expendable.  You can’t miss what you can’t see.  They don’t see us.  We are chattel at best to these sequestered elites.

Today we have a divide that threatens our demise.

This is our historical moment.  Those who would lead must know who comprises the ones that might follow.

The Christian who might lead knows those who struggle the most, has come from them, lives with them, has acquired their suffering and fears and their strength and courage as well.  Elites who live “aloft” can offer nothing but error and division … and if unchecked the death of what we once have known and been.

Think about it.  Who among us shows you that they know who you are?

Shalom.

Postscript – We grant too much authority to people who have gone to college – especially to the once “elite” colleges.  There is no magic to getting a college degree.

It is life experience that teaches and distinguishes a person.  What have they done?  What trials have they faced?  How did they respond?  What did they learn?  How vast and varied is their experience?  Have they maintained healthy relationships over time?  What insights can they share?  Are they wise?  Patient?  Stable?  Invariable?  Do they inspire confidence?

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mt 5:2

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I remember hearing this and initially thinking: How can one without the Spirit come into the Kingdom.  Of course, I have come to understand as I got older that what Jesus said meant something entirely different.

Yes, it took more life experience to realize that life is the invitation to grow in the Spirit.  We live in the midst of a spiritual journey.  In this we begin with a native spiritual disposition, a natural endowment: the joy of children – their life in a state of supernatural reality, with an instinct for good sitting within.  Their eyes are the eyes of innate Believers.  Yes, we have those eyes.

Soon enough the world imposes a materiality on the young.  Their vision blurs.  Their conscience becomes that of the concrete world in its one-dimensional structures and requisite consciousness.

In our mortal world we are soon enough diverted from what is innate and natural to a state of spiritual poverty.  From cradle to adulthood we grow poorer than we are made to be.

Indeed, our life will teach us that we must seek what we have been given: life in the full – and that means a spiritual existence and all its joys, insights and comforts.

Beware.  What is your spiritual state?  Have you remained poor, without growth in the Spirit?

You see your blessing is in this: poor as you might be – the Spirit and its riches await.  You are made for this journey is the destination is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Journey on.  That is the primary purpose of your life – to come to the full form in the gift of life – a spiritual life full of understanding, wisdom, peace, contentment and certainty … a life in touch with God throughout – a life of building up, not tearing down.

Shalom.

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