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Every writer I knows has trouble writing.

Joseph Heller

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Gee, that is a problem.  I never have a problem writing.  Maybe I am not a writer.

To me writing is like breathing.  Like seeing.  Like watching the human parade of the morally and spiritually disshoveled with a blithering idiot section (reserved for those with a public presence), each marching out-of-step with one another – and in this I include the upper middle class haughty bourgeiose – the pretenders of affluence, the self-proclaimed “special people” and those of faux status and little humor – the “intellectuals,” the people near the top of the pyramid, the celebrites and the life-long elected – “ahummm” – “public servants” who seem to gain more belly fat with each successive electoral victory – balloning in time to the size of a small banana “republic” or a well-fed water buffalo.

I was born poor.  To this day I have not become a man who looks like he swallowed a small Volkswagon or Toledo, Ohio.

I can still see my feet clearly with no interruption at the waist line.  Poverty, dyslexia betrayal and untimely loss kept me humble – a near failsafe against a culture of being “special.”

As to writing – life has always seemed to me to be hand to hand combat and an hilarious Marx Brothers adventure.  A combination of terror and hysterical laughter.  This – more than an adequate mix for a verbal man such as myself.

Long ago someone said to me – “You write like you speak.”  Ah, that is the answer to the puzzle.

I am who I have always been.  The same eyes looking at variations of the same insanity with rare moments of crystal clear brilliance on our worse and on our best days.

Light and severe dark produce the same product:  I write from this – the combat, the terror, the instinct to fight back, the absurd idiocy and the humanity of it all – delivered outside to reside within until its moment arrives.

The crowd and its antics, like God, write of me – I just transcribe.  Somewhere in my head and heart the notes have been stored, the images kept fresh.

If I am a writer it is all because of what God gave me.  Blame Him.  I write from the gifts of pain and suffering, from cunning and courage – and from the endless laugther at the folly of it … from the surrounding of beauty, heartbreak, sacrifice, heroism, pathos, common injustice, freinds, people who loved me and the uncommon victory that emerges now and again.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

Holy Saturday

” … You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been risen; he is not here.  Behold the place where he laid.”

Mark 16:6

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Jesus was plunged into sorrow, but triumphed over this world and all its vices and deceits.  This said, as a Judeo-Christian culture – how can so many who say they are Christians act as if what Jesus did does not matter today?

Is it not true that if we actually believed would we put so much trust in politics, government, in seeking power, and focus all our efforts on material goods, or destructive pleasures and addictive vices?

Western Culture and this nation will rise or fall in direct proportion to our belief in God and, as Christians, our relationship with Christ Jesus.

Today our faith and traditions and founding propositions are under attack … and for Christians it will be our relation to Christ which will decide the day.  One of our two major political parties and our once reliable press advances perspectives and policies that are hostile to what the West is and the place of God in our lives and public our affairs.

Speak not and act not and you will have assumed the posture of Judas.

Dear God, help us to see the glory of the empty tomb and to act upon that glory each and every day.

Shalom.

Good Friday

… aware that everything was now finished, Jesus said, “I thirst.”

John 19:28

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Take a moment today to stop and let your mind feed your heart, as on this Holy Day it most surely will.  When the heart is in play the soul is touched … on this Holy Day even more so than on most others.

Make a few minutes for this silent retreat – from the head, to the heart, to the soul.

In silence now, I come to this question: What did Jesus do?  And to this recitation – He entered mortal life as the incarnation of Our Father and all that Our Father is and enkindled in us.  He healed those who suffered.  He befriended the friendless.  He called others to the Father.  He taught others including the religious scholars he encountered.  He made the sinful clean.  He suffered and was rejected.  He hung on the Cross and was taunted and ridiculed.  He redeemed us by His death … and was resurrected!

I ask this question and provide the above answer in the hopes that you might look around you and particularly look at those who appear prominently in our mass culture – those whose images, voices, opinions and criticisms we see and hear all to frequently.  Indeed I ask in this – what have they done to justify our attention?  And I mean people in politics, the intellectuals, elites, princes of the tech industry, those in media with unrestrained opinions about all things, and the endless “advocates” of self-serving (destructive) politically (in)correct views.

Who is worth your attention?  Jesus or the talking heads of present day American mass communication culture?

I’ll take Christ … and proclaim that no one who seeks our attention warrants our time or consideration who does not show he or she has lived a life representative of the selfless nature of the Son of God.

Shalom.

Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941/Remember Benghazi Too

It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

“When you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of the Light.  These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.”

Jn 12:36

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There are endless lessons to be learned in Scripture.  The above is an example.

As “literalists,” we understand the easy lesson here: believe in Christ and become the sons of the Father.

But there is another extremely important lesson here as well and it is this: give yourself private time, time alone – in quiet – in solitude for that is precisely what Jesus does … he retreated from people, from the crowd, to be alone in quiet for prayer, rest and contemplation.

As to this point, let’s be deadly serious: we live in a troubled land with many disordered people and disordered ideas and a great deal of stress, conflict and destruction.  People are very limited in their own development and have anchored themselves is selfishness, foolishness, fantasy and what is false, fraudulent and wrong.  Evil has been passed along as good.

We are, in many real ways, a disintegrating society.  There are those ideas and people among us who push us more and more to our destruction.  Yes, things are that disjointed and out-of-control.  Even institutions like the Church show these signs.  Fortunately as Christians, we have Christ and His teachings and He and His teachings are all the more indispensable to us in this time of chaos and conflict.

For you I say only this: pay attention to Christ and keep some time for being alone in quiet, rest, prayer and contemplation.  Do not immerse yourself totally in culture or labor.  Read Scripture and see so plainly what is before you: many are lost and forces present attempt to push us to extinction.  That is what godlessness brings – evil deeds and the assault on what is Good, life-giving and eternal.

Stay strong and tough.  Be wise.  The Light is your guide.  Stay in the Light.

Shalom.

If today’s message is helpful, please pass it along to others and welcome them to share it with those they know.  We are in this together.  All in one boat.

As always, comments are welcome and helpful.  Peace be with you.

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

Thucydides

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Our culture does not look kindly on men.  We are more the suspects than the welcomed.

Secular culture does not honor the nature of things nor the historical record.  Aside from rejecting religious narrative and God, groups of “special pleaders” adopt a variant of Marxist analysis and divide us by gender, skin color and political views.

In the present age, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is reflected in disparaging men.

Thucydides speaks a Truth.  The bravest among us face the difficulties that come to their families, their clan, their children, their spouse, their friends, their community, their country, their Church, their neighbors, the old, the weak, the poor, the young.

History tells us the task of facing danger and risking death has been the job of men.  To disparage men is to lose sight of who they are.  Yet, we disparage them without thinking – “Who will fight for us, protect us, do the dying that life demands so others might live?”

We are at this point a foolish culture.  I see those who garner public attention – but I do not see the men I know – those who stand ready when trouble approaches.

Life is combat.  And men do combat.

Shalom.

 

A [person] entrusted with the care of souls ought to have certain wisdom of which does not consist of words only, but chiefly of experiencea certain wisdom of life … If such a thing can be taught at all, it must be of a personal experience of the human soul.  (Emphasis added.)

Carl Jung, M.D., in Letters

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Some guy goes to a pricey college after prep school and then to an “esteemed” law school and then into law practice or politics and we are told in time that “he can part the seas” (or if he is a real egotist he tells you he can make the seas recede several feet).

Pure idiocy … but this is the nonsense that dominates razor thin thinking about public figures today.  We get the public figures we deserve.

Public figures are a reflection of who we are as a people.  It you see pretenders and fools in public life – you live among pretenders and fools.

Wisdom figures, to the contrary, have lived and learned from a life fully experienced.

Too many public figures have simply traveled easy street and matriculated at some well known college and assume in time “positions of authority.”

Easy streets and a modest degree from a known college are not in any sense apt to produce “a certain wisdom of life.”  Far from it.  Have we not had sufficient numbers of fools with that meagher portfolio – affluence, a private secondary school, nice summer vacations, a house at the beach, a fancy college, law school and “authority.”

In the bar fight that live is – you’d best have someone who has thrown some punches, been knocked down and got up again … and again and again.

Live experience, alone, provides life wisdom.  Combat is your teacher.

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.

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.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.

Ralph Ellison, in Invisible Man

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With the warmth of a wood-burning stove, I write alone in the frigid darkness while the wind howls.  Aaron Copland’s Own Town makes now the memories of the past.

Yesterday’s battles tug most when you are alone, when the earth is asleep and the ground is stone hard.

There is nothing gentle in these recollections.  Thank God the ones you loved and lost sit closest as the night takes its form.

I am a long way from the Boston I never left.  Yes, life’s markers are portable and, at times, inescapable.  Curses and blessings served on one plate.  Time teaches unforgettable truths.  Yet, joy survives in having lived it all out.

What is exterior is interior.

The trials grant us wisdom for future battles.  What was once opaque, is not.  In challenges – the gifts of insight and understanding, a sense of humor – and confidence.  Behind it all, faith waits cultivation.

Yes, Ellison is right – life is to be lived … and we are not to be controlled.  The Spirit cannot be jailed.  He must take his breath.  His heart must beat.  His dignity is of God, so too his identity.  You are his host.  He lives in you.

Shalom.

 

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