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A guy needs somebody to be near him.  A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody.  Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s as he’s with you.  I tell ya, a guy gets lonely an’ he gets sick.

John Steinbeck, in Of Mice and Men

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Like many people yesterday and last night I watched television coverage of the Parkland, Florida high school murders.  Frankly, the most significant and most revolting aspect of this tragedy is simply this: no one – not one person – knew Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old student who committed these murders!

Most troubling: no school official seemed to know anything about a young men who was within their jurisdiction.  No teacher appeared to tell us who he was.  No school counselor appeared to tell us who he was.  The school principal never appeared at all.  Those who previously disciplined the student did not appear.

The police chief spoke – he could offer no personal information on the lad.  Not where he lived. Who were his parents.  Whether he had full or half-siblings.  How long he lived in the community.  Who he had known.  What he might have done in school.  What grade level he had been in.  How long he was in the school or the Parkland educational system.  Whether he has received psychological or counseling services through the school or benefited from medical or mental health or social services referrals.

This kid was an absolute stranger to these people.

Listening to the coverage – it was as if this fellow just appeared out of thin air.

The state “dignitaries” likewise knew nothing about this young man.  The Florida Governor was a blank sheet as to Nikolas Cruz.  Ditto the Florida Attorney General, the Parkland School Superintendent.  No one knew Nikolas Cruz – No one.

As you sit today and ponder what happened in Parkland, Florida, yesterday – there is one thing you can know for sure – those who had charge and care of student Nikolas Cruz did not care for him, did not know him … and in effect put him on course to these murders.

A gun did not kill these murdered students.  Oh noabject, inexcusable indifference of adults did.  Shame on those who failed this young person.

Let’s face the truth, Friends – we have become a culture devoid of intimacy.  Simple caring and acts of friendship are fewer – far fewer – than they once were.  And yet we fool ourselves while dividing ourselves into small self-centered and angry groups separated by race, politics, gender, sexual “preferences”, ethnicity … at the same time we shun God and those who believe in God.    

Indifference and those who are indifferent killed these high school students the very same way they killed Nikolas Cruz.

Some Ash Wednesday in the year 2018!!!  If we ever needed God, we need God now!!!

Shame.  Shame.  Shame.

Shalom.

The Aftermath.  One day after the Parkland tragedy and the hysteria commences: talk of mental illness without any indication that Mr. Cruz was ever diagnosed … and talk of banning guns … Yet, not any evidence of introspection.

It is always easiest to point blame away from ourselves.

Let’s be plain.  Parkland is a small town of 23,000 people.  Until the 2000-2010 it was a town of 8000 plus (according to Wikipedia).  The school was probably the largest government entity to have direct daily contact with its population.

Are we to assume that this small town threw a mentally impaired kid (without a family) out of school with no concern for what he might do or whom (including himself) he might hurt?  If so – forget mental illness and guns – these people need to focus on their conduct and responsibility. 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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.

“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.

 

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.

The most paradoxical and at the same time unique and characteristic claim made by Christianity is that in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord from the dead, man has completely conquered death, and that “in Christ” the dead will rise again to enjoy eternal life, in spiritualized and transfigured bodies in a totally new creation … Such a fantastic and humanly impossible belief has been generally left in the background by the liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th centuries … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Well that pretty much explains the roiling discontent many feel in their souls each day and explains the concern one has for their children and grandchildren – their country, Western Civilization and the exile of God from culture.  That is to say – we no longer carry at our core the above understanding.

The abandonment or loss of this perspective also explains the errant notions that flood our culture: same-sex marriage, Marxism, feminism, racism (expressed even by those who were once its victims), fanciful ideas of multiple genders, liberal intolerance and the like.

Think about it.  Is there any reason for a Believer to adopt any of the popular mantras and divisive dispositions so present in contemporary culture?  No.  There is not.

If one believes that Christ in His resurrection conquered death, there is no need for doubt, discontent or division.  And, yes – Merton is quite right that liberal Christianity have abandoned the unconquerable truth that Christ was Resurrected and as Christians this Resurrection rescues us from all apprehension – furnishes us with certainty, frees us to live fully and in the Spirit.

So in a sense, the unease we see, the hostility and antagonism and their attendant expressions and assertions literally have no place among those who Believe as Christians.

As Merton goes on to say – “Christianity without this fabulous eschatological claim is only a moral system without … spirituality consistency.”  I add only “a moral system” at best; for I have seen in my lifetime the weak idea of “ethics” displace morality as surely as man has replaced God in secular culture.

Ironically, in the age of ethics we get endless rules and regulations of all things and the extraordinary result that those who author the rules and regulations seem never to be held to them.  Out with morality – and corruption flourishes while individual responsibility, freedom, and accountability of the rule-makers seems to disappear.

Without the recognition of the Resurrection we are (as we now show) but a culture inclined to chaos and decline, the loss of freedom and community, and the sickness of godless existence.  Our present trajectory, of course, cannot hold.  We are at a critical moment.

Where are you in your thinking and living?  Best turn to God and the Truth of the Matter.

Shalom.

Life and death are at war within us.  As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die … If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in the flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an agonia not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Last night I watched Part One of Ken Burns film on the Second World War.  I saw the war from the perspective of the common man and woman, the families in small towns and large cities.  It is, of course, a story of all ethnic groups, all races and religions, rich and poor, farmer, factory worker, school teacher, professional. Yes, it is the story of Americans when we were once One and united – neighbors, friends, a community, a proud and patriotic nation – people from foreign shores who arrived to make a new life and seize opportunity in a free society.

Burns shows us what we once were – before we became “fat” and fancy, successful, too expectant, spoiled, too focused on our own welfare and too rooted in demands and divisions from one another.

Once we lived implicitly what Merton describes: we were conscious of our supreme value – yes, of our God-given value – the divine equality of the soul.  Friends, this was how we once lived … You see victory in this world and the next comes only to those who live this way.

I grew up on a street with World War II vets in a working class city known for producing more U.S. Marines per capita than any city in the country.

The ethos of our greatest hour is now misplaced.  You see its absence in Members of the Congress – in the Flakes, Schumers, Pelosis, Durbins, Waters, et al … in the public chorus of “me first, only me” special pleaders whose arc of complaint stretches from the banal to the bizarre, and among the over-privileged in the entertainment industry and in the lost souls of media.

What we see is clear evidence of a loss of faith – of wisdom, perspective, patience.

In a secular society there is no transcendent purpose, no eternity – no moral context and all-embracing narrative.  No – secular life lacks meaning, leaves us shallow and self-absorbed – dependent, unhappy, … with an emptiness that breeds drug use, sexual chaos, hatred and violence.  Godlessness, we see, produces self-destruction.

Time to wake up.  We have regressed.  We lack the honor we once had – and the valor, bravery, virtue, honesty, confidence, integrity and purpose of our recent past.

Shalom.

A very jumbled schedule today – so a late post.  My apologies.

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A good life does not require that we think less of ourselves, but that we think of ourselves less.

Bob Sylvester

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We need not think less of ourselves to be good people.  Rather, we need only to think of ourselves less.

Being a servant does not mean diminishing yourself – rather the point of service is to put others first – to serve those in need of help.  We serve best when we preserve our sacred value, protect our God-given dignity and act on that.

Today we see people acting as if serving others through government policy is the ultimate form of service.  In these pursuits – the government takes money from people to hire employees to manage the distribution of money or services to others.  There is little sacrifice in this.  No one offers themselves to another and pays a personal cost, nor is the actual experience of personal servitude realized.

In giving we are embellished spiritually because we humble ourselves so others might be assisted, receive our care, concern, love and attention.

I often say to others: in my lifetime secular culture has diminished both imagination and intimacy – robbed life of its spiritual content, numbed us to our full humanity – created distance between man and God.

When we do experience the capacity to serve, we draw closer to our sacred personhood – the experience of knowing service as Christ knew service.

With your dignity in tow, serve with humility … Yes, thinking of self less makes us whole – amplifies our sacred being.

Shalom.

God abandons only those who abandon themselves, and whoever has the courage shut up his sorrows within his own heart is stronger to fight against it than he who complains.  (Emphasis added.)

George Sand, in La Petite Fadette

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Yesterday I spent much of the day alone.  That gave me time in all the quiet to think about the joy of seeing my son, his wife and my grandchildren and gave me mind to think about loved ones and friends who have passed away.  My mother has now been gone 21 years.  I have no siblings.  My uncles and their wives are now gone almost as long as my mother.  My wife Sylvia will have been gone 40 years this year.

I have spent a great deal of time without people who I loved and who loved me.  I have in absolute truth borne the weight of these years alone without complaint.  Honestly I have done so courageously – as Sand says I have “shut up the sorrows within (my) heart.”

Against this backdrop I call tell you I never liked complainers.  I was born to modest means and soon enough loved ones (grandparents with whom my mother and I lived) died.  Yes, each by the time I was just out of the sixth grade.  In short order my mother and I were in public housing and poverty took up residence in our reality.  Complaining was out of the question.  Complaining does no good.  It accomplishes nothing.  Doing is what problems and hardships demand.  Doing makes us stronger, wiser, more cunning, more empowered, more defiant, more confident, more independent.

That said, we live in a nation of complainers.  I am so sick of hearing about racism.  So sick hearing about income transfers, diversity, the plight of the dependent class, women who feel slighted, poor immigrants, etc.  Nothing gets better without parking your sorrows by the roadside and getting after life.  Wrong side of the tracks?  Show those who might demean you that you can outwork them, are stronger, more determined, bolder, more focused, unbeatable.

In the course of my life I have (despite a learning disability and poverty) graduated from college and law school, earned advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, practiced (serving poor clients, mostly), entered religious life, become an Army officer, purchased a home, a car and a small business for my mother, cared for a wife with cancer, raised a son who now has his Ph.D. and a nice wife, two lovely children and a good job where he is valued.  Mind you I am no genius.  I work. I had no time for complaining – I was a doer. 

We tolerate too much whining.  Too much complaining.  The best we can do for people who complain is this – tell them to be quiet and “get after it.”  Better we challenge others to show all the doubters wrong than waste time complaining or listening to their complaints over and again.

As legendary football coach and sidewalk philosopher Lou Holtz says: “Don’t tell people about your problems.  Twenty percent don’t want to hear about them – and the remaining 80 percent are glad you have them.”

Shalom.

The NEW Democrat Party.  Former Army enlisted clerk and transvestite Bradley Manning who was convicted for the illegal release of thousands of classified security documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison (before being pardoned by President Obama for no particular reason) has announced he/she is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against a seated Democrat Senator who has spent (as Democrats do) a lifetime on the public tit.  The New Guard is replacing the Old Guard.  (Same tit, by the way.) How charming.

This is exactly where the Democrat Party has been driving the bus.  George Orwell must be tickled pink – yes, isn’t that the color perfect.  The pinkos have more than one screw loose.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Matt 5:6

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So speaks Jesus.

My son and I have wonderful conversations about life and living in this land at this time.  The conversations have among their themes seeking truth – wondering how it is that the culture and many in leadership positions or in positions of influence (as in the media) seem uninterested in truth and what is right and good.

A good life is oriented to seek truth.  Ones who seek truth are, in a real sense, seeking the Divine – that is with man but rises above man.  Yes, seeking the Eternal and Everlasting – seeking God.

The desire for good, for what is right – is planted within.  Its expression is a natural thing – a good itself, a reassuring sign that one seeks properly, that one seeks what is meaningful and meaning itself.

For what do you seek?  Do you seek what is false and cannot satisfy?  Look at those whose life is chaos – they seek not for what is good.

What does the culture hold out as worthy of our attention?  Status?  Celebrity?  Wealth?  Influence?  Power?  Beauty?  Pleasure?

Be smart.  See clearly that secular culture seeks these things mentioned.  But it does not seek righteousness … it does not seek God.

Remember: nothing but Truth satisfies.  That is: nothing but God satisfies – as God is Truth.  What do you seek?

Shalom.

 

 

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