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… we seek nothing but the particular place willed for us by God …

Then we discover what the spiritual life really is … It is the silence of our whole being in compunction and adoration before God, in the habitual realization that He is everything and we are nothing, that He is the Center to which all things tend, and to Whom all our actions are directed.  That our life and strength proceed from Him, that both in life and death we depend entirely on Him, that the whole course of our life is foreknown by Him and falls into the plan of His wise and merciful Providence; that it is absurd to live without Him, for ourselves, by ourselves … and in the end the only thing that matters is His glory.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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In the Mass readings today we hear God lamenting that His children have moved away from Him and we hear Jesus advise us to move away from those who do not receive or listen to his words.

Our dilemma is that we live in an age where many of the most public and most vocal have moved away from God and do not listen to the words of His Son.  Likewise the culture in its digital discourse and mass communication is crowded with those who operate largely by themselves – without reference to God.  Indeed, that is the bulk of present day discourse and we are obviously affected negatively by this.

What is one to do in such circumstances?

Yes, we are assured in the Old Testament reading of today (from Hosanna) that God will act mercifully as to those who rebel.  And, we know that Jesus in today’s Gospel (from Matthew) would have us separate from those who do not receive his words or listen to him.  So we have a plan: be merciful, yet separate from those who reject the Savior’s words.

But how is this to be done?

Merton offers a way: seeking time in silence and the company of God in that silence.  For in that silence the primacy of God is known and experienced and we are in the form that we are designed to know and in which we will find peace when all about are in discord and distress.

Yes, our confidence is in God and our task is to stand apart form those who reject God outright, and in their rejection of the Son, reject the Father.  Our remedy for this is silence – a singular silence where God is heard – much as the Son shows us in his regular retreats to the quiet of the desert.

In silence we can find stability, meaning and fulfillment.

Shalom.      

 

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It has been said that no great work of literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude.  We may lay it down as an element of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God.

Austin Phelps

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We are social beings.  We prefer others to being alone.  But is that where our peace is?

Think about it.  You have met hundreds of people and you are with scores of people weekly.  You have extended family members but no matter whether family or friends or those you encounter in number – you have only a few people with whom you share completely and who share with you in the same manner.  There are but few you can count on.

Maybe we miss the point that we are made for time with God, time alone with God.

You know when you get to be 70 being alone is a common part of each day, your months and each year.  Many of those who have been close to may well have died or retired and moved away. – and your children, as adults, are busy with their work, life and family.  What once was, is no longer – you spend time alone.

But that is likely how it is meant to be.  Age is a time to sum up – to reflect, take account of a life lived.

The “taking account time” is time with God.  Use it wisely.  Be at peace.

You cannot maintain yesterday’s status quo.  Life moves like the ocean tide and you are like the wave which laps on the shore and dissolves in the sands of time.  There is no shame or sadness in this – it is God’s way to eternity and Him.

Shalom.

If we want to be anything other than what God has made us to be, we are wasting our time.  It will not work.    The greatest accomplishment in life is to be what we are, which is God’s idea of what he wanted us to be when he brought us into being; and no ideas of ours will ever change it.  Accepting that gift is accepting God’s will for us, and in its acceptance lies the path to growth and happiness.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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The above is a foundational truth.  It is what leads to a good and satisfying life.

If you have an “education” or a profession, a title, status, a job that yields a high income and you do not understand the above, you are likely to do more harm than good to yourself and others and be perpetually discontented, or problematic, or wrong, or unlikable or all four of these things and worse.

We have a whole lot of people in the public eye who have no clue what a good and happy existence is or how one might live a good and joyful life.

Look at the political world, the celebrity world, the news and media industry, the big names in technology and finance – mostly unpleasant, prideful and over-rated.

Be who we were made to be.  Do what you are made to do.  Be you – God’s humble son or daughter.  Peace, comfort and confidence follow.

Shalom.

 

Aging is no accident.  It is intended … we become more … of who we are simply by lasting into the years … the final years … the fulfillment and confirmation in one’s character.

James Hillman

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What if your life is a measure of your growth in character?  What if the opportunity you have to live this life is precisely so you may grow in character?  In understanding?  Wisdom?  Patience?  Kindness?  Confidence?  Empathy?  Compassion?  Insight?  Maturity?  Integration?  Mercy?  Courage?  Faith?  Humility?

What if Jim Hillman is right?

How have you treated aging?

In my lifetime I’ve seen us more and more neglect this question: what is it to be a human being?  During the same time we have traveled while neglecting the wisdom of the ages, the treasures of the classics, religious narrative?

Pause a minute.  Think about what your life actually is, what it might expect of you?

Pretty serious business.

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.

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.

Here are people who move easily between worlds, the seen and the unseen … They encounter fairies and hold conversations with them but they also walk at ease with members of the Trinity.

Esther de Waal, in her Preface to The Celtic Vision

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The Celts maintained a connection with nature.  They were at home in heart and head.  They lived modestly – and mostly by hand.  They engaged the arts and spoke lyrically in storytelling, in song and prayer.  They were believers and lived without division between self and soul.

I spent Saturday and Sunday with my grandchildren: Jack age three, and Fiona – just yet a few months past one.  They are Celtic in heritage (Scots and Irish) and their souls and self are in complete unity.  Their worlds are whole – one grand adventure day-to-day and moment to moment.

Little Fiona wanders about the house endlessly – hoisting herself up onto a sofa so she can visit with you – rising early to find her favored stuffed pals and take them to her in full embrace and gently put them down.  If she has a cookie or other tasty morsel she offers you some.  She trudges about with her little bottom wiggling left to right and back again as an angel who has forgotten her wings might well do.  She is whole – one, a perfect human being – without complication … being just as she is made to be.  It is beautiful.

Jack is a man on an adventure, a fully animated fellow.  A life of many daily escapades.  He dives into life each day full of pep and is constitutionally incapable of lacking joy and energy and enthusiasm.  He is a lad of many daily joys and new ideas and projects that follow.  He invites old Grandpa Bobby Bob to participate … and I do … and thus I re-enter a world where I am one and undivided – full and whole and lovely, too.  He shows me what a beautiful thing it is to be as we are made – divinely whole, from and with God.

Fiona and Jack: proof of God and how God wishes us to be – whole and with Him, living as He made us to be.

These two are my Celtic origin, the people of my past – my heritage, theirs as well.  I shall do my best to keep them close to this, for what they have and who they are is reality … our divisions are not.

Incidentally I awoke today with this prayer on my lips from the days of my childhood:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my soul the Lord to keep.

Should I die before I wake, I pray my soul the Lord to take.

They awoke my past.

My Scottish Grandmother passed along her childhood bedtime prayer to me many years ago..  I had not thought of that verse for years.  Jack and Fiona: angels of reality.  Beautiful truth.

Shalom.

Frequently people who seek power are not as strong as they might wish to appear.  Many people who desperately hunger for power are weak.  They seek power positions to compensate for their own fragility and vulnerability.  A weak person in power can never be generous with power because they see questions or alternative possibilities as threatening their own supremacy or dominance.  (Emphasis added.)

John O’Donoghue, in Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

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Celtic wisdom – valuable insight.  People do not change over the centuries.  What they have been, they are.

Three Lessons:

  • Those who seek power are often lacking.
  • They seek power to compensate.
  • Too insecure and fragile, they do not share power – seeing others and alternative ideas as a threat to them.

This is as old or older than the biblical Herod who feared an infant child.

These three simple lessons tell you about the American Left and their clinging to a derivative Marxist ideology today.  They dread opposition to their ideas.  They demand conformity to their views.  Their claims of “tolerance” manifest themselves in intolerance.  When faced with losing power they hatch extraordinary schemes to discredit and destroy those not like them.  They govern by division.  They see others as a “basket of deplorables.”  They show their fragility and insecurity in their arrogance.

As to weakness and fragility.  Think of both the Clintons.  Do they not fit this Celtic framework?  No place in life outside of politics.  Lacking in other accomplishments.  Mr. Clinton from a difficult childhood with a troubled mother.  His womanizing.  Mrs. Clinton seemingly needing to embellish on her modest history – claiming she was named Hillary after Edmund Hillary who conquered Mt. Everest even through Sir Edmund did so five years after her birth.  Insecurity.

And then there is Mr. Obama and his disordered family life.  Despite a Harvard Law degree, a lack of accomplish before his election.  His overreaching sense of his genius.  His “we are the people – we have been waiting for” sense of super-importance … and his lack of presidential accomplishment.

Those who seem lacking seek to establish themselves in power, celebrity, status, wealth and control.

Applying ancient wisdom to life can make obscure things visible and explicable.  If Celtic lore works – would not religious narrative do the same?

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.

 

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