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Excellence is an art won by training and habituation … not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

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Very few visible in mass media are habituated to excellence.  If you want mediocrity or less, mass media provides an endless supply of such lightweights. However, beware: if you have a diet of mediocrity you will disgorge yourself of the attitude, instinct, discipline and will for excellence.

Excellence takes strength of soul.  Excellence understands sacrificial love. Excellence honors God in its being and doing.

All have the capacity needed for excellence.  Yet many forfeit the strength of soul.  Those who forfeit strength of soul live lies – excuses are common to them, envy too – they seek nothing more urgently than to thwart the will of others, to neutralize the soul.

Those who forfeit strength of soul are weak links.  They abound in politics today. They prefer dependence to a free populace for they fear being challenged to live fully.  They keep others bound-up so they might wallow in under-achievement, the cost of which always includes dishonesty and corruption.

When mediocrity rules, men are targeted, for it is men who do the dying, who come easily to sacrificial love.  A warrior class is always necessary.  Today, the weak seek their demise.  Men are targets for the weak fear them. 

Want to see the locus of excellence in American culture, look at the middle class and those like me who lived in poverty and in daily combat.  Look, not just at me but at my petite mother – one tough cookie … and her parents, and her brothers Don and Ray.  Their habit was excellence – its byproducts: humility, confidence, contentment, compassion, joy and laughter, insight, wisdom, generosity, gratitude.

Excellence comes to those who must work hard to survive, and to whom difficulties befall because in the hardest things they live daily by strength of soul. This is why the Left so despises the middle class and seeks to make dependents of the poor.  Don’t let yourself be sold short or sold out.

Live in excellence.  You’ll scare the heck out of the elites and make of us again a great people.  And, in the habits of excellence is satisfaction.

Enjoy the life God has given you.  Don’t let anyone deny you a life of excellence – especially of moral excellence.

Shalom.

Start each day with a task completed.

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This simple piece of advice is from a Navy Seal’s list of things to do or remember, his prompts to keep him aimed at excellence.

Why would it be important to complete a task at the start of each day?  Because it builds the experience of achievement, of accomplishment and imparts the message and habit that “you do,” you have a goal and you achieve that goal.  As such it sets the day up for other tasks to be faced and finished.

I was, soon enough, as a child living in public housing with my mother. Work was in short supply and money was too.

We lived in a small apartment.  But it was clean and orderly and we were as well. Our living quarters were swept, dusted, organized.  We ate breakfast each morning. I was never late for school.  My clothes were clean and pressed.  I had a shower each day.  I did not miss school.  My homework was done, my reading assignments too.  I had a routine. My mother knew where I was and when to expect me to be home.  I knew where she was and we were both reliable to do and be as we were expected.

Before my feet hit the pavement each day – there were tasks done and tasks to come.

I was the first in my family to attend college – not as a brilliant student – but as a person who applied myself to the task.  The first also to become a military officer, attend law school, enter the professions, and pursue graduate study in both American foreign policy and theology.

In the course of my life I brought my mother a house, a car and a small business.

Start each day with a completed task.  Make it more than one and that is all the better. Accomplishment comes from habit.  Good habits breed achievement. But more to the point – completed tasks build toughness, confidence, fortitude.

Life is a sacred gift.  You are the biblical servant given a talant (coin) by your Master.  Your coin is life.  Use it.  Multiply the gift of life my attending to tasks, completing them – making each small thing a task well done.  Live fully … and the right way.  Achievement follows.

Shalom.

Afterthought – In a nation of dependents, have we not diminished people – made those created for full life consigned to far less, too brokenness and perpetual discontent?

Frankly, this is the godless manner of the Democrat Left.  They breed victimhood so they might reign over dependents and stay in power.

Think about it, President Obama was so proud to have grown “the dependent class.” Seems pretty sick to me.  I prefer life to bondage.  How about you? 

“O ye who in a little bark, desirous to listen, have followed behind my craft; for haply, losing me, ye would remain astray.”  (Emphasis added.)

Dante, in Paradiso

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Isn’t this the point of immanence, and the predicament of many who profess to be Christians in our land today?

Too many seek to listen and follow but never believe sufficiently and live to set their small boat a sea in the waters far from land’s view.  Not all of these are laity, by the way.

There is no cheap grace.  No faith in “hedged bets.”  No comfort of Christ in a pagan culture that kills its young, distorts Holy Matrimony and mocks gender divinely created.

The expressions of religious sentiment over time tell us: many often seek in an earthly life the symbol of God as access to a guarantee of a “comfy” afterlife.  But no, the curve bends quite differently.  In the experience of God we are offered life lived in the grace of God.  In our earthly time, we must set a sea and trust in who and what God made in us and in all. Such is the gift of grace.

We live, in too many instances, in the smallest of scale, clinging to shore – afraid to believe fully and live as such.  In this, grace is forfeited in favor of our own dubious “genius,” power, and “wisdom.”

To dress this up in present day appearance, the shore dwellers drive the cars in the Catholic Church parking lots that have the bumper stickers that show their preference for the “pols” who favor abortion.  No grace, there.  Symbols but no sea.

If you believe: set a sea – your life and our nation today depends on it.

Our land cries for Believers, Evangelists, Disciples.  God calls to you!!!

Shalom.

Footnote – Catholics would do well to learn from our Evangelical brothers and sisters and our devout elder Jewish brothers and sisters.  That we may be one.

… imagery can be interpreted as … psychological; for it is possible to observe, in the earliest stages of the development of the infant, symptoms of a dawning “mythology” of a state beyond the vicissitudes of time.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero of a Thousand Faces

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I remember one of my first lectures when I entered a year of monastic life in the mountains of Colorado.  The speaker, an experienced Catholic priest, told us this: never lose touch with imagination.

Imagery.  Campbell tells us infants show signs of having a natural state of mind that exceeds the “vicissitudes of time” – that is, that accesses the mystery of life that has been recorded by varied humans, in varied cultures over the entire stretch of human history.

Oh, if that natural state were present in America and Western Culture today!  But alas, we are secularized and our ignorance is displayed in ideologies that bring us to ruin – personal and collective.

I get emails today from friends I have known over the years and with whom I have retained kind relationship.  The ones I refer to are in a twitter, a panic – turned to fear and frantic language; to wit:” Trump is a liar and those who support him are fascists, crazy, demonic, etc.”

Mind you, these are emails from people with college degrees who have cash in hand and have done well financially.  I note that they lack the state of being that brings them beyond the vicissitudes of time.  They have been sufficiently secularized, their imagination crushed and their range of experience boiled down to less than that of an infant.

These are brittle and sadly limited people.  Fear grips them.  Panic is near, and hatred within reach.  Resentment and anger has replaced calm and optimism.

When the Catholic Mass is said and the Body and Blood of Christ is consecrated the priest says “Et Verbum caro factum est.”  (And the Word was made flesh.)  This is the experience of apotheosis – an exaltation to divine rank … making what seems but one thing, yet another more glorious than our mere human perception thought it to be.  Imagination.  

We have lost the capacity to imagine, to access and experience what is Divine, Eternal, Real, beyond the vicissitudes of time.  We have been dumbed-down and where hope was once known hatred, panic, anger, antagonism has taken its place.

By the way, I sadly count those who offer attacks in emails as casualties of secularism and dismiss their “views” accordingly. Education notwithstanding they are lost … lost to the mystery, converted to all that is material, now – lost to Truth and the long yesterday of the human story.

We live very poorly today in the West… and one wonders if those who wish our death and destruction live closer to imagination than we do?   At the same time it seems the case that some among us, without imagination, pose a danger all their own.

Shalom.

For those who face a trial and complain or become resentful.

… do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing … to the degree that you share the suffering of Christ …

1 Pet 4:12, 13

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How often have I heard someone say: why is this happening to me?  Why am I suffering?

In what are rarer instances, I have witnessed in my life those who have faced hard challenges and yet never complained.  I think of my mother: struggling to find work, alone – having lost her parents when she was still a young lady.  And I think of my young wife with cancer, a punishing disease that worsened year by year. Neither complained.

I am asked from time to time, was your mother faithful?  I answer: “yes, by the way she lived – she encountered hardship and never wavered.”  The same could be said of my wife. They each possessed a courage that tells of faith, that comes from faith, that rests on faith.

They believed.  They saw God in the trials, and they walked with God without complaint, or doubt and they never felt sorry for themselves.  Indeed, they put others first.

In our trials we draw closer to God and learn to rely on God not on our self.  We learn that we are not alone and that life is but a passing.  In this we see who we are and what a human being is and can be.  We see how those who do not believe are in constant turmoil and how they cause problems for themselves and others – how discontented they are.

To believe in the midst of a trial is to be a witness to others of the Truth that gives us peace: we are God’s children and we are never alone or forgotten.

Have faith.  Act accordingly.

Ask yourself – does this culture promote or disparage faith and the experience of God?

Have faith.  Act accordingly.

Shalom.

Peace does not dwell in outward things, but within the soul; we may preserve it in the midst of the bitterest pain …

Francis Fenelon

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Yes, true enough.  But what does this say to us?

First, peace relies on one’s interior journey.  That is where the exterior is integrated and where, in that process, we grow in depth, understanding, wisdom, courage, mercy and maturity.  That said, this calls most frequently on faith and the place of religious narrative in one’s life.

But what more does this say?

Pain, disappointment, deception – even betrayal and abandonment are part of life among mortals who are in all states of immaturity, selfishness, fear, hurt, disorder, foolishness and the like.  So, yes – the interior journey provides a housing for the hurt that diminishes the injury that others and life invokes.

Faith and the interior journey: they neutralize the toxic nature of pain and make of it the best things that we are in being fully human and divinely created beings.

It is so often pain and disappointment that opens the doors of the heart and soul, and faith narratives which most frequently provide the template and context in which, relying in the ancient and ageless truth they impart, that hold the key to heart and soul.

Shalom.

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son …

Jn 3:16

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This is the starting point of Christian life – that God, out of pure love of us, came to us incarnate so we would cease to be alienated from the source and meaning of life – mortal and eternal.

Indeed, in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ we are offered this: all the things we do that divide us from God, and one another, can be overcome if we but believe and act on our beliefs.

In this, Christianity transforms us, makes us brothers and sisters and places our relationship with Him above all other things.  Such is the solidarity that God has created with us and the dignity His love of us proclaims for each person.  In this we are raised up, exalted as His children.

God’s love of us transfigures us, identifies our worth and calls us into our full being.  In this comes confidence, courage, tranquility, forgiveness, honor, humility, fellowship, unity, love of others.

This gift gives the primacy to God.  Yes, it is not man and government, nor commerce, nor power, nor politics, nor control, nor wealth, nor status, nor celebrity, nor possessions, nor gender, nor race, nor title, nor sexuality that comes first – but God and our identity as His children and our call to serve others, not self, as God serves us – that is who and why we are.

This is the foundation of a nation that possesses a Christian heritage.  This is a way of being that offers fellowship, community, family, unity – a nation of One – an indivisible nation, a family of many as One.

That said, where are the voices to reprimand the violent protestors?  Why no unifying voice from Mrs. Clinton?  Why the divisive intent of Ms. Stein’s recount?

Are we not in need of unification?  Cooperation?  Do we not face foreign adversity?  Domestic challenges?  The rise of hostile entities in the world?  Unsustainable deficits?  Unemployed people?  A sea of idle dependents?

Exalted by God’s great act of love, the silence of some and the divisiveness of others stands without condemnation.  What does God imagine in this?

Shalom.

… those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to His Son …

Rom 8:29

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These are the words of St. Paul and they best never be forgotten, lest we each and all loose our way, our confidence and become converted not to God but this world and us alone in it.

How do these words apply today?

First, we have all been through a very stressful and fundamentally significant national election.  Such events draw us into the world, are emotionally-charged and now we must return to a stable base and our base is the above understanding – an understanding that says to us: “conform to Christ.”

We have drifted far away from what we once were in this land.  The drift has taken up the better part of the last fifty years.  Our economy has changed.  Industry has moved off shore. Jobs have been lost.  Our social existence is quite different than it once was. Morality seems to have been ignored.  These are disorienting developments.  In these developments we can and did lose our way.

Now we see that we have much to do to restore our nation to health.  Such a task requires a firm foundation, a settled and confident attitude.

Our foundation and confidence rests on the above truth: we are predestined to conform to Christ. Yes, this is the essential foundation upon which success is realized.  

If we hold fast to this principle we will succeed.  In its absence, we have created calamity and division. This should be obvious to all of us at this point.

We had best take heed and build on the only strong foundation we have.

Loving Father, guide the men and women of this land to the wisdom to conform to Christ, and plant in the hearts of those who would lead us the first and essential task of conforming to your Son in all they do.  Amen.

Shalom.

Student Tantrums – Compare these people with Navy Seals.  Weak versus strong. Children versus Adults.  Those who do nothing versus heroes.  Pathetic.

Do we really need to fund colleges, universities and a public education system that makes pampered babies out of children that should become adults but are not reaching that plateau?

And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But He answered and said, “… Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

Matt 4: 3-4

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This passage conveys the first exchange between Jesus and Satan after Jesus had concluded a 40 day fast alone in the desert.

Satan, as evil does, chose to exploit Jesus by addressing His hunger.  That is, giving Him something good and essential when he was vulnerable.  But Jesus knew that something more than bread was necessary for life, namely – that man’s spiritual needs were foremost.

This is a wisdom lesson that must be at the center of your orientation to the world. If it is so, you will not fall prey to Marxist foolishness or let a government make you a “dependent” who is consigned to idleness, and subservience.   In a word, you will not be trapped in the Democrat notion of life-long dependency … a state that empowers them at grave detriment to you. Indeed, your God-given dignity demands more of you, and more from you.

In simple terms: you are God’s child and valuable as such. It follows that you can work and know the achievement and pride of human toil, honest work and caring for your family.

Dependency, in contrast, is no substitute for fulfillment of a life that God has given to you for good use.

A significant fact often left out in this Biblical account is this: at the time Jesus lived, the Roman Empire distributed bread to promote goodwill for Caesar and his empire.  Free bread advanced his interests but did not satisfy the deepest needs of people to know their value, know their Creator and find strength, confidence, independence and solace in a relationship with God, their Creator.

Does this story not serve us today in our culture, in how we are governed, and how we understand our humanity and God’s divinity?

You know the answer.

Is it any wonder that bread figures into the Passover meal and our communion offering of bread and wine?  Again, the question answers itself.

Attend to government and political parties the way Jesus attended to Satan.  Do not forfeit what God has made in you.  Live in dignity and honor.  Expect excellence from yourself.

Shalom.

Comment – This blog initially focused on living faith in contemporary secular culture.  Out of necessity and because politics and the nation state have become a dominant aspects of living exclusionary secular, it has morphed into a blog on the faith, politics, culture and the individual.  Please share Spirlaw with those who may be interested in the content of this rather unusual blog. Thank you.

A strong city we have; he sets the walls and ramparts to protect us.  Open the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith.

Is 26:1-2

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These are difficult times.  They try the soul, turn one to anger. Combat lurks.  Our God and faith is demeaned by Clinton political aides.  The privileged Bush Family acts like sore losers who are accustomed to getting “their way.”  The ideologues and racists seek vengeance.  They hate this nation.  Their intent is to destroy us.

What is one to do to temper the anger?  Retain a faithfulness in opposition?  

My first piece of advice is this: Leave the righteous anger to God, for He alone judges and demands recompence.

I for one have renewed a habit, and that habit is this: to read the daily Liturgy of the Hours – morning and evening prayer.  This anchors me.  Refreshes me. Fortifies me.  Guides me.

The above citation is from the today’s Morning Prayer recitation.

In these readings, I am struck by how we have, in our heritage, been formed as a great nation first in our Jewish history, then in the Christian West.

How shocking is the reality today that we have forsaken God and in doing so lurch to destroy what He has given us: faith, freedom, family, holy matrimony, children, peace, commerce, independence, liberty, the free market, prosperity, courage, confidence, belief, insight, the capacity to lead and to sacrifice for what is good, to serve those in need, to love, care and forgive, and to live in civility, humility and community.

The ways of the godless are always self-destructive for absent God, they are full of self-hate.

We have been silent too long.  Too tolerant of those who would destroy and bend all to their sickness and disorder.  The battle lines are drawn.  We do not find conflict, conflict finds us.

All strength comes from God, all courage from faith.

Center your life each day on God … and give hell to those who seek it.

Shalom.

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