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  Happy St. Patrick’s Day

[2:09 a.m., Sunday, March 17, 2019]

Today’s Blog is dedicated to my Irish brothers – Buddy Mahar, Jerry Shannon, John Downey, Mike O’Brien, Marty Donovan, Mike Ryan, Fr. Jim Beattie, John Connelly, Georgie Shannon, John Flynn, Johnny Corbert, Danny Crowley, Fr. Mark Hughes, Br. Tom Shaughnessy, the Roddy Brothers, Tommie Mahoney,  John Boyle, Br. Malachy Borderick, Henry Murray, Jackie Alywood … 

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It was … reliance on home and family … dependence on faith and friendship, that gave Irish Catholics the unyielding determination to support lost causes and leaders long after all hope had been lost, all efforts failed, and all others had abandoned the struggle.

Thomas H. O’Connor, in The Boston Irish

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My lineage is from Scotland.  I grew up with the Boston Irish – and am as thankful for that good fortune as I am for any number of blessings I have enjoyed amid the tumult along the way.

In approaching my recent birthday in the month of December, I seemed to be involuntarily fixed on a simple thought: Why had I found it so easy to be combative – standing with those who were in difficult straits and not apt to be heard by the powers that be … why did I so easily fight for strangers who needed my support and counsel?

I wondered: was this something God desired or was I out of step with His intentions for me?  Had I followed Him or let myself and this combative nature lead me out of some inclination that I might better have left unattended?

As fate of the Divine would have it, I was (by chance) reading Tom O’Connor’s book on the Irish Boston and the author helped me realize that (as he reports) the Boston Irish were among the most steadfast of all the Irish who immigrated around the world.  Bingo!

If God had wanted me to be less than combative and independent, a risk-taker in public matters and the law – He would not have placed me among my peers, my beloved, loyal, funny, independent, faith-filled, tough, witty Irish pals nor would He have led me to Irish pals throughout my life.  Consequently, I now rest contented … I am, in my advocacy and general nature, who God intended me to be.  I am one of them.

As many childhood friends tell be “Bobby, you never changed.”  God and my Irish friends anchored me in who I was … such is grace so made present.

… the Irish did not break.  Against all odds, in the face of irrefutable logic, contrary to the rules of law and the dictates of society, the Irish would refuse to accept any measure or policy that felt conflicted with their faith, their values, or their ideals. (Emphasis added.)

I gratefully share my life and Catholic faith with these dear brothers and so many who like them manifest the courage and love that the pursuit of good so requires.

God bless the Irish!

Shalom.

 

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Christians are meant to be the continuing revelation of God’s Son through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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While our challenges may be many and run deep within us, our country and our culture, our task is quite clear: to be the continuing revelation of Christ in this world.

What makes this task initially challenging is that we are (independent of God) merely humans and as such we get angry, become busy, self-absorbed, weary and preoccupied.

Look about, many are angry (especially those in the secular Left – the socialists, Communists and radicals).  Confrontation can be quite hostile, even physical.

What is one to do?  Remain calm.  Be soft-spoken.  Avoid anger.  Simply respond quietly.  Perhaps take up your calling to speak to others of the truth of the Gospels.  Our task is to share Christ with others, to quell the hostility – defuse the anger.

In our most trying times – it is the peace of Christ which resides in us and gives us voice, courage and wisdom.  Yes, the peace of Christ in troubled times.

Shalom.

Postscript – Those who dislike Trump make their position known in rather intense and obvious ways,  We see this with Democrat Members of Congress and the news and celebrity class.  But few people ask: How did we elect Trump?

Well the news of the very wealthy in business, law and entertainment paying huge amounts of money to get their “little darlings” into once “elite” colleges tells you exactly why we have Donald Trump as President.  The elites live separately from the vast majority of all other Americans.  They live (as the Clintons so clearly do) above and apart from the vast sea of working Americans who pay their taxes without loopholes and privileges.

The arrogance of elites elected Trump, and their elected state, local and national representatives go one better – they ignore the will of the common voter on borders, the national deficit, abortions, illegal immigration, the Second Amendment, education, religion and all manner of Leftist (i.e., socialist and Communist) public policy.

This is a divide that creates very real problems.

 

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person.  Understanding is love’s other name.  If you can’t understand you can’t love.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in How to Love

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Hanh is a masterful Buddhist teacher and a monk.  His wonderful three book set (How to Love, How to Sit, How to Eat) is a lovely set of wisdom books given me by my Son in a hand-made artist box (which he made) into which these treasures sit so tightly.  Yes, they sit on a book shelf within arm’s reach of my bed.  It is always good to have Hanh, these books and my Son close to me.  Books, art, love and living well and wisely matter greatly to my Son and to me.

Understanding.  When we understand another, we take in their story, their existence, their heart, their soul, their doubts and fears, their triumphs and defeats, their hopes and aspirations, their sanctity, their dignity, their challenges, their joys and their sadness, their laughter and their tears.  Ah, but our ability to understand depends on our having come to understand ourselves and life as it presents itself to each and all of us.

This for the Christian is the essence of Christ’s admonition to “take up the cross” and follow him.  Life is, for all, a challenging journey … in life we find our “Crosses” and our “Crosses” find us … yet in this journey (when it is fully accepted – pains and joys the same) we come to understanding and make of us one capable of love.

Shalom.

 

 

… narcissistic orientation is one in which experiences as real only that which exists within oneself while the phenomena of the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are only experienced from a viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one.  The opposite pole of narcissism is objectivity … the faculty to see other people and things as they are … to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and wants.

Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving

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Narcissism.  We know it as selfishness and it is quite abundant.  Human beings are quite selfish.  We find it in families, professional associations, the entertainment industry, the media and other lines of work that have a public face.  It runs rampant in politics, in professional associations like Bar Associations and among the coveted and esteemed associations like the judiciary and the tenured faculty.

Selfishness is the root cause of corruption.  In selfishness others are mere objects or obstacles to one’s exclusive satisfactions.  Many people are imprisoned in this narcissism and they make others miserable.  There is no love or friendship with the narcissistic lot.  To them others are objects to be used or destroyed.

What is one to do?  For a calm and pleasant life – be very selective with whom you mix and mingle.  Maintain an objective point of view.  Be realistic.  See the world and others as they are not as you wish them to be.

Yes, there are good people who genuinely care about living a humble and kind life and thus treat others with the upmost dignity and concern.  Those people ought to be your circle of friends.  The others are to be kept at arm’s length or avoided altogether.  Narcissists, you see, are quite destructive to self and others.

When you think about it, do you not see the value of quiet, solitude, a small group of good friends, the value of a monastic disposition, life in God’s great space and beauty, the place of Christ in the life of a Christian?

Be realistic.  See what is.  Avoid unreal expectations or self-deception.  Things are what they tell you they are.  Acknowledging reality is the cornerstone of a life of peace, friendship, meaning, contentment, happiness, relative ease and love.  We live in a fallen world among many who are centered on self and self only.  Consider yourself so advised.

Shalom.

In our time we should emphasize what unites rather than what divides.

Pope John XXIII

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These are the words of Pope John XXIII on his death-bed.  I cite them today because they fit so well the circumstances we face now.

There is great division in this land.  It seems as if people desire that we be divided, fragmented, at odds with one another … divided and separated from God and faith, self and one another.  Today hostility is heightened and friendship diminished.

This brings me to my long-term concern with how one lives one’s faith in a secular culture – now that one is apt to be estranged from spiritual existence in a culture that manifests so much discontent, anger and self-destruction.

My own course has been an attempt to understand both God and culture.  To look at our history as a nation and Western Civilization, to see the challenges we face, review our failures and our successes, look closely at our psychological health and development and our nature as spiritual beings.

It follows that my reading encompasses history, philosophy, psychology, theology, mythology, literature and the like.  But my inquiry has also experienced and thought about monastics and their ability to live faith and grow spiritually and as healthy humans notwithstanding the shape of the world over many centuries.

What I have come to understand is this: (1) if you wish to live your faith and do so deeply, you need to know how a culture can deter you from faith and your spiritual development, and (2) in seeking to live your faith in a secularized culture, you would be wise to learn from the monastic experience for it has over many years allowed men and women to grow spiritually and in contentment through their separation from the culture at-large, their silence, solitude, study and simple life style.

I might add that if you wish to assist others in finding faith in secular culture it becomes necessary to identify those things in culture which make a healthy spiritual existence quite difficult and those things which incline to foreclose one’s spiritual development and ultimate peace and contentment that daily living of one’s faith allows.

In short, what I am saying is this – to live faith in secular culture – you do well to take an informed assessment of the culture, become familiar with the nature of monastic existence and make use of its framework so you might exist within a secular culture while living fully in your faith.  Yes, in this you will be living at an arm’s length or more from the present culture as it is endlessly extended to you in a mass communication and the highly visualized and extensively noisy storm of images and words.

In practical terms it is wise to adopt a monastic disposition in an intrusive secularized culture. 

Shalom.

Postscript – In the 1950’s we held the Communists in check when they invaded Korea, would we do less in facing them in our own country?

Tradition consists not only of handling down the dogmatic formulas and liturgical customs from one generation to the next.  It means receiving this traditional teaching into ourselves in such a way that it becomes part of us.  It must pass through our minds and hearts, become our own, and emerge in our lives as a true revelation of Christ here and now.  It is only then that our baptism and the other sacraments achieve their purpose of extending Christ’s presence throughout time and space.  Christians are meant to be the continuing revelation of God’s Son through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Our faith is meant to be experienced.  To be ingested.  Consumed.  And employed as the central understanding that governs us, in which all that is encountered is (as a consequence) received and understood.

Yes, we are to live to extend Christ in the present.  Is there any doubt that this culture, this nation top to bottom needs Christ today.  That our leadership needs Christ, our public discourse needs Christ today?  No.  None.  Nor is there any doubt that each of us is intended to be as Christ would have us be.

Our very being is centered on the reality of God, of Christ.  Recall our God says, “I am who am.”  God as being in us and in all others and things.

Live your Christian faith – openly, vocally, daily, and fortify all those among you who do.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shalom.

Once the art of thinking and feeling with Christ has developed through pondering the scriptures and has deepened by contemplative prayer, we have to reflect on the signs of the times and what is to be done given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Okay.  Let’s be brief and “to the point.”  We face very troublesome times.  Our moral structure is being attacked, our faith too, our history, our economy, the family, unborn and born children, our sexual mores, and relationship between men and women, men in particular … and so on.

As a Christian and as a Catholic, what have you done in response?  How have you stood up to these attacks?

What you do not protect will soon be lost if you do not act to defend it.

Believers show courage.  In those without courage belief fades.

Shalom.

The existence of evil is not so much an obstacle to faith in God as a proof of God’s existence, a challenge to turn towards that in which love triumphs over hatred, union over division, and eternal life over death.  (Emphasis added.)

Nicholas Berdyaev, in Dreams and Reality

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Who among us thinks counter-intuitively?   You?

In a mass secularized culture, if you are not careful your thinking and life experience will be altered in a fundamental way that will strip you of what you and those before you knew and by which you were shaped and well-informed.

Yes, in a short time – secularization has altered the human experience as we once knew it … and we are the worse for this.  Life itself has lost its sacred nature, its joy and meaning.  Such turns make it easier to divide us and see innocent, defenseless babies as the object of our violence and destructive of them.

Who among us can see this as good, justifiable?  Have we not seen such action in the extermination camps of the 1930’s and 1940’s?

Shalom.

 

 

Late start to my writing day.  Bitter, rainy and cold.  So much like life in Boston in the late fall, winter and near Spring – often providing a St. Paddy’s day snowfall.

Something about the raw chill of it all that bespoke life as it really is.  Such weather prohibits fictions of what life actually is.  You bones speak the truth … they are ancient in origin.

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… contemporary belief may be powerless to do more than “borrow light  and lightness from ancient lamps” and provide a sliver of hope for the few who are still driven “to take comfort in the periodic company of like-minded others, who day … ‘share the thing ancient that will not quite die.”

Roger Luden, borrowing from John Updike in Luden’s Believing Again.

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If you were to sit a bed watch for a dying culture you would ask: “Who believes?”  And, “Do I believe?”

One can make a plausible case that a death watch may well appear in a culture like our’s which moves intentionally away from religious belief.  Ah, yes – such is our moment.

As expected we are influenced in mass culture by unbelievers – the mavens of privileged,  immoral chaos, and self-exaltation.

I cannot tell you how to believe.  But I can tell you that belief is a gift if you dare seek God or look for the ancient sacred things destined to remain even if we die within.

I can tell you that my belief began when I was a child and observed the calamity so present in the conduct of others, the institutions and shallowness and lunacy they unwittingly displayed all the while those running them were thinking they “were something” other than small potatoes.

My vision has only been more confirmed with the ages – and now: mothers seek to “choose” to kill their children – born and unborn … and humans can mate with virtually anything, anywhere, anytime.  No sanctity there, people.

Believing.  What has your life told you of this?  What does today say of this?

The blind among us cannot see … and many are blind despite their eyesight.  In a dying age those who are sick cannot be saved but the children can be made stronger, wiser and more immune to human nonsense.

Shalom.

… left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entropy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them.

N. T. Wright, in Surprised by Hope

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For a person of faith it is never the case that can do nothing when matters are getting worse.

Why would I say that?  I say this because if one is a Christian one has a mission and that mission is the mission of Christ … to live in a manner that announces, witnesses the Good News of the reign of God.  And that Good News is that God is present and faithful … that God remains present in all times and circumstances.

In this, we can always have hope and certainty that God and Good prevail … and we always have the task of witnessing that reality … and all the more so when evil is present and on the rise.  And today we see this evil so present in culture and the godlessness of ideology in politics today, and in the errant conduct of many who prey on others and promote decline of person and society.

For a Christian – doing nothing in the face of evil and self-destruction is NEVER acceptable.  We are a people of hope … of public witness, and courage.  Act we can and act we must.

Shalom.

 

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