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The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.  (Emphasis added.)

Alexis de Tocqueville

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Open up The Wall Street Journal today and you’ll see stories about a government agency established in 2008 which has done virtually nothing … a story about how Iran was able to purchase American airplane parts through one of our NATO “allies” despite our embargo prohibiting such purchases, our collecting a handful of the 11 million illegal aliens in the country (many with felony histories) … details about how once again we focus on gun “control” and regulations regarding gun purchase in the wake of the Parkland murders without any thought that people, government failure and a sick culture are the problem.

Likewise you’ll find an opinion piece that laments the shape of American culture with focus on the decline of democracy in America without once mentioning our nation’s peculiar and extraordinary linkage of freedom and religion (that is, Christianity – to be specific) as the foundation to our representative democracy.

Yep, you got it!  We have lots of tongues wagging that is for sure.  But those speaking are unrestrained by the rigor to learn before vocalizing.  Their words are unstudied – they speak but do not know.  They make repeated mistakes.  One, they do not know of America’s unique and religiously inspired origin, nor do they understand that Christian morality is the essential ingredient of peaceful civic life in America’s representative democracy with its autonomous states and federal system.  Two, they ignore primary causes of our decline as found in the last five to six decades: radical egalitarianism, radical individualism, the adoption of the failed ideas of Marxism and socialism, destruction of the family, advancement of identity politics that divide us on fundamental fault lines of race, gender, sexual morality, ethnicity, class, ideology and the like.

The fact of the matter is quite simple.  Liberty and religion go together.  Deny faith and liberty is extinguished.  In their place – bigotry, hatred, division, hostility, vast ranks of intergenerational idled dependents, addictions, declining mortality, social chaos, institutional failure, corruption, abortion, sexual self-destruction – all tributes to nihilism.

Public voices would be well served by spending a few pennies to pick up a used copy of de Tocqueville’s two-volume Democracy in America …We’d all be well served if their mouths remained silent until they actually know who we were as Americans.

Shalom.

With Thanksgiving, Gratitude and Prayers.  Let us remember the men and women who selflessly respond everyday to dangerous circumstances in order to attend to, defend and rescue others notwithstanding the danger that is posed to themselves.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Merton … understood … the human person and transcendent human dignity … through faith and experience he knew to what the human person is called.  The way thereto he explored generously and fearlessly.

Basil Pennington, in I Have Seen What I Was Looking For

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Who among us has taken time to understand the human person and the transcendent reality of human dignity?  Not many, I bet is your answer.

If it is so that not many you encounter have taken the time to understand what it is to be a human person and the divine measure of transcendent human dignity – you are saying this: the ones around you lack a depth of faith and the depth and range of human experience each of us has access to in our mortal and spiritual existence.

Indeed to say those around us do not understand human existence or the divinity of the eternal grant of dignity to the human person goes a long way to explaining why the world is the way it is.

Odd isn’t it.  We are given to know and to experience, but we so often fail to abide by this gift.  Rather we hunker down determined to construct ourselves as if we are the omnipotent Gift Giver.

This, of course, is the story throughout the Ages.  We seem intent on substituting our dubious genius for God’s gifts.  That Dear Friends is evident in our devotion to ideology, to politics, power, control, status, self, wealth, title, etc.  That Dear Friends explains the glorification of the body, the disaster that the focus on sex has produced.  That, too, explains the unhealthy place of race and gender consciousness in this land.  Ironically, as Christ was killed, so too do we kill the unborn child, one another, marriage and the soul of so many.

Where are you in this scene?  Is that not the question as we begin a new calendar year?

Shalom.

Hymns.  I have taken to starting my day listening to hymns as I prepare the fire and ready the tea and muffin.  It is quite difficult to be captured by the rhythm and force of godlessness when one has such a daily beginning.

Interestingly, these hymns bring to mind many lovely days spent with my son – especially our days in Scotland – in the Highlands, and Balliter, on the Isle of Muir and in Iona, and in St. Margaret’s small chapel in Edinburgh Castle.  Neither of us have ever quite left Scotland – the place of our family origin.  May you have such peace that death holds no sway.

… 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.

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!

 

The mistake that you make … is thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself.

George Orwell

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A glance at the condition of the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton investigation or the current Special Counsel’s activities might give just pause to think about Orwell’s statement.

Likewise the past administration’s suspension of drug interdiction that allowed Middle East terrorists to smuggle drugs into our country so as to placate the Iranians and preserve the dubious agreement to further Iran’s nuclear program also prompts reflection on Orwell’s proposition.  Ditto, “Fast and Furious” whereby the Justice Department gave guns to Mexican drug gang members that eventually were used to kill an American law enforcement officer.  And then there is the IRS targeting conservative organizations and forestalling their applications for tax exempt status might also cause some soul-searching as to Orwell’s comment.

Think about where we are today in this culture.  Think about the daily drumbeat designed to discredit a duly elected President because one either doesn’t fancy him, or because one is “offended” that their candidate did not win, or because he does not fit the Washington-way where everyone participates in a privileged event for “insiders” – members of the governing-club, the Skull and Bones of politics.

You know when you attend church this Holy Season and kneel to pray, I wonder if you’ll think of today’s events and how they might implicate those who remain silent.

When you hear “Silent Night” sung, I wonder if you might ask yourself: Am I to remain silent today?

Shalom.

Stumbling, Bumbling, Fumbling – That’s your Federal government – that’s the GSA’s (General Services Administration) handing over private emails belonging to private citizens to Special Counsel Mueller who had no legal approval to seize these emails.

It seems Mr. Mueller and others know less about ethics and law than required. It is the Gang that can’t shoot straight looking for the Gang that can’t shoot straight – when all they need to do is to look in the mirror.

Wonder why people have no confidence in the Department of Justice,  the FBI, the Special Counsel and government at large?  They see what they see.

Remember it takes only one clown to make a circus.  Seems we have more on hand than required.

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.

All efforts based on parliamentary control and free-market economic mechanisms proved useless in quelling the growing polarization in opinion and stance.  Different propositions were put forward, ranging from anarchism to autocratic rule, and for many young people each seemed preferable to the rotten democracy they lived under.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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These words describe the deteriorating political climate in Poland in the 1930’s and to some extent the political climate in Europe at the same time.

They so remind me of the extraordinary state of affairs and discontent in the U.S. today.  Partisanship reigns.  One Party houses the extreme Left.  Liberalism embraces nihilism and its echoes ring in the public square, mass media and the courts of law.  Anarchists, while small in number, dressed in black slash and burn.  Foundations fund the voices of Black racism.  We live in uneasy times.

Circumstances have changed.  The once stable America is less a source of certainty than it has been and the world becomes more dangerous.

We tilt Left and morals have been mothballed.  Trusted government institutions have lost their glow.  Public corruption tarnishes democracy.  Religious belief itself is in thin supply.  Education is below the waterline.  It is a troubled time.

History tells us that in such times the best young men mature more quickly … and across the land the wise turn back to faith.  Yes, extreme moments snap us into what is fundamental, personal, sure, uplifting, good and eternal – humanizing, strong, kind, heroic – the only option in dark days.

Beneath the flawless manners of a worldly gentleman he hid his compassion for all that is living.  Some people perhaps could sense it, but it was certainly known, in ways mysterious to us, to the small birds that would perch on his head and hands when he stopped in a park alley.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Goodness

Lord, bring us to our senses – to morality, honesty, kindness, compassion – Make us One.

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.

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.

 

 

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