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Then they set out along the black top in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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McCarthy writes of a father and his most beloved son who walk under the grayest of skies in a burned out and broken America.  It is both a compelling book and extraordinary movie.  In both I am struck by the love of the father for the son and the son for the father, and by the grayness of the sky amid the ruin.  The latter reminds me of the verbal and video landscape of the present days where hostility is thick as fog and division seems the only objective of the public voices we hear and where each day brings stories of death, cruelty, hatred and the commentaries of the C- and D+ scribes and talking heads whose range of thought is a tad lower than that of a carnival barker.

In a most extraordinary land darkness has descended.  What was once one is now fragmented into many bruised parts .

He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without constructing the loss as well and he thought perhaps the child had known this better than he.  He tried to remember the dream but could not.  All that was left was the feeling of it … he could not enkindle in the heart of the child what was his own ashes.

This father like me had lived a dream – a dream in better times.  I was conceived when the Second World War was near its triumphant end.  My childhood was spent on a street of veterans and their families – remarkable men and women whose childhood commenced in the Great Depression and turned then to World War – its millions dead, others murdered in Stalin’s gulag.

How does one speak of what we had and lost?  How does one make that the known experience of an adult son?  Give him the optimism purpose and meaning I, poor as we were, knew so well?

How do my grandson or my granddaughter gain what had been, but now is so damaged?  How can my ashes live to sign their forehead?

The Road.  Where this father and son had the dark shadow and penetrating cold of a dying orb – they at least had silence.  We have the unstoppable voices and words of those whose lips bring darkness and cold.  They are now our dismal cover.

“You have to carry the fire … It’s inside you.  It always was there.  I can see it.”

So says the father to the son.  So say I to you, this day.

Shalom.

News as Soap Opera – This is where we are in a superficial mass communication, digitized social media culture.  We interview people with no achievement or proclaim and, in doing so, cannot distinguish people of substance from people who have no particular accomplishment.  We are more soap opera than not.  We can no longer tell the difference between depth and shallow, or what is substantive and what is not.  A real astonishing decline.

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… human institutions succeed of fail in large part because of the good traditions or bad traditions that animate them – and because good traditions, once lost, are difficult if not impossible to re-establish – we must guard and nourish all our valuable traditions.  (Emphasis added.)

Antonin Scalia

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The First Congress, acting under the Constitution, adopted a resolution that requested the President to “recommend” to citizens they adopt a day for “public thanksgiving and prayer.”  Hence, Thanksgiving Day.  Yes, faith has a root in America, its history and traditions.

Good traditions, once lost, had very hard to re-establish  Whither, reverence for the American flag.

Beware of those who destroy traditions – attack them, discard them – they exact a great cost on community, fellowship, history, faith and identity.

Think about this.  We live in an age where a small group attack tradition and with it our identity – individual and collective.  We flourish with God, but not without.

Shalom.

… that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us …

Jn 17:21

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At the Easter Vigil Mass we welcomed ten people into the Catholic Church.  It was, as it always is in welcoming new members, a solemn and yet joyous event.

At the conclusion of the Mass many gathered to offer a personal greeting to the new members.  I had the pleasure of welcoming a tall, broad shouldered man and having a few warm words with him.  He was all smiles and greeted me warmly.

“Welcome, such a happy day isn’t it,” I said.  “Oh yes, it is,” he responded with a wide grin on his face as he stood within his family members.  “Sure is nice to feel the warmth and joy rather than the division that many in Washington seem intent on creating,” I offered.  His response.  “You too! … I am so sick of the division and hostility that I do not even watch the news anymore,” he said.

We both agreed that this nonsense of division must stop.

This was not the first such exchange I had with an African American.  Indeed, in the past five years or so, I have had much the same conversation and reaction.

As Christians we are designed to be one with Christ, one with God and one with each other.

When you hear the voices of division recognize them for what they are: destructive and contrary to God’s intention.

Time to turn away from those would divide us.

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.

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.

 

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

The shadow of the Enlightenment’s failure to replace God with reason has engulfed the West and plunged us into a new Dark Age.

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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It is abundantly clear to many who have studied America and the West from varied areas of expertise: historical, psychological, political, philosophical, theological, sociological, literary, psychiatric and such that we have attempted to anchor ourselves to the importance of self over God and that this is an unmitigated catastrophe.

Stated another way, we have foolishly trusted that reason alone (the individual – singularly and in the aggregate) can form a coherent, thoughtful, just, compassionate, kind and moral community.

Looking around each day, it seems impossible to believe that such a misguided and arrogant orientation has done anything but make us far worse off, weaker, more chaotic – yes, dramatically sicker, more fragmented, untruthful, corrupt, addicted, suicidal, crippled, angry, ugly, disoriented and violently anti-social.

Yet astonishingly few in the public eye recognize this – discuss it –largely because they are part of the whole sick mess and frequently doing quite well … that they are captives of this mess sitting at the top of its rubbish heap.

Look at the accurate snapshot of Washington today: the closed circle that is the Washington elite who cannot yield to the popular election of a President who is NOT one of them and who would DARE to pursue a course of action that disturbs the benefits of their cozy corrupt culture.

What you see today in Washington is the clear identity of the privileged political class that seeks not to do the will of the voter but rather preserve its own “status” in a very lucrative and easy gig.  Hey, it beats working!

Some of us who have lived broadly in our six or seven decades can tell you that the population at-large is quite different, far less civil or sane than it once was. Indeed, it is far sicker.

A lawyer I know recently recounted how a member of the Bar lost his license to practice because he drugged his underage client in order to sexually assault her.

From work, to family, to community, politics, primary and university education, etc. – in all quarters (particularly in major cities – Washington included) we regularly see evidence of the Dark Ages … yet do not stand against it.

Hell of a situation to behold.  Pitchfork, anyone?

Shalom.

The Russian Fixation – Interesting to watch the Democrat Left “Russian Fixation.”  They go way back in colluding with the Russians – Stalin, no less.

Remember Yalta and how FDR sold out Poland and Eastern Europe at Yalta – gave the Communists control over post-war Eastern Europe.  Shameful.

During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupiers, the U.S. did nothing to help the brave Polish people, and the Red Army sat still East of Warsaw until the Nazis could put down the uprising.  Talk about collusion!

Let’s not forget the New Deal was full of Lefties.

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

Such a wonderful cool spring rain – gentle and quiet.  It pairs with the heart’s beat, easy breathing, the green and flowered forest, the pastures, hills, mountains, and umbrella pale gray sky.  It is a day for collecting thoughts, writing notes to friends, and making a chicken stew while incense burns and floats in the air.

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“How long are you going to keep killing people?” Lady Astor would ask Stalin brightly.  “As long as it is necessary,” he answered …

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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When he left his secret Communist espionage ring Whittaker Chambers felt “an uneasiness, an anxiety” which he identified as “spiritual.”  He pondered how and when it was that the “spirit of man” had gained its foothold in him.

He recalled he had wondered, quite involuntarily, what Communism lacked?  Why it was such “a rat’s nest of intrigue and faction?”  Why it housed a “corroding cynicism?”  What “keeps the human level of Communism so low?” Why it had “not produced a single inspired work of the mind” since the Revolution?

Chambers asked, is it God that it lacked?

He reasoned it’s killings and deceits injured the soul.

Yes, without God man’s actions most often attack the soul, and put to danger and trial the “spirit of man,” his essence, his identity – his divine inheritance.  In this is the edge of conversion in man.  

Within each of us is a longing for good, for God.  When this longing is neglected, denied (as it is by ideology and it our present highly secularized culture) man is estranged from himself, his true identity  – and meaning, purpose, intimacy, optimism, and peace are lost.

Today, we are like Chambers – captured by ideology and secularized culture. Combined they breed division and hostility and heighten anxiety, worry and isolation.  It follows the sooner one turns to God, the sooner health and civility is restored, community and fellowship are renewed, and we find peace and meaning – and become whole and one again.

Think critically.  Are you Chambers?  Is your brother or neighbor Chambers?  Your pastor?  Elected official?  Have you lost longtime friends whose lives are narrowed and governed by ideology, secularism, and utopian political nonsense?

In this past century, Mao killed 60 million of his countrymen, Stalin killed 50 million, and Hitler thirty million.  All ideologues.  Each godless.

Think about it.  140 million people killed by political ideologues.

Shalom.

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