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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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Margaret adored her father, but (he) moved (out-of-state) when Margaret and her sister were small and started a second family.  Margaret recalled she rarely saw her father again … Margaret knew little of her mother …

Excerpt from a Funeral Program (Nov. 5, 2017)

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I spoke at a Memorial Service for a woman I knew who died recently at age 97.  She was a petite and pretty lady.  I knew her, her husband (who predeceased her), her two daughters and members of her extended family.

Margaret kept a nice home in a nice neighborhood, married an engineer who was successful.  She was cordial to me and others.  She had a social life, sang in a Church choir, worked at an herb shop, won awards for floral decoration, did some painting, belonged to the Women’s Club – always looked nice.

Seems like an exemplary life, a good and comfortable life.  Yet, she carried in her entire life the deep injury of loss of her mother and her father.  She was, in practical effect, abandoned – betrayed by her father and her mother at the very young age of two – sent to live with her grandmother in a crowded home where she was largely forgotten – but for her use as a servant girl.

The critical loss of one’s parents is devastating, disorienting – it left in Margaret a longing to be cared for, accepted, loved as a child is loved by her mother or her father.

Psychologist tell us to have a relatively normal and healthy life a child needs one “good enough parent.”  Margaret had no such parent.

This loss was a constant in her life; she always needed others to do for her.  This was her pathology.

No sooner had I met Margaret that she called to ask me if I might drive her car less than two blocks from her home to fill her automobile with gas.  Without hesitation I said, “No, Margaret – but you have a nice day.”   You see I knew from her daughter that she inevitably tried to usurp others into serving her in all manner of things, at any time – day or night – once compromised more and more expectations were placed on you,  yet nothing but the love of God could fill her void … only those who offered this love could assuage her hurt.  For her part she had to seek God, not the perpetual dependence on others as a source of affirmation.

We fail miserably when the government pursues policies that strip fathers from the family and leave women idle and alone to raise children by themselves.  Yet, that is the policy of the government and the Left.  Yes, we insure dependents and the illness it manifests so readily in the human person.  As for the Black family and poor Whites – government policy enslaves them and generates inter-generational disorder.  This need not be.

It is about time we acknowledged the devastating injury to the family caused by the government, Leftist champions of the Nanny State, and advanced by the law, legislators, the judiciary, a sundry “talking heads,” lightweight celebrities and media types, and odd ball academics.  Let’s be plain – villages do not raise a family – parents do!

Getting families right is a fundamental measure of the health and strength of a society.  Getting them wrong creates lasting injury and disorder and is astonishingly costly in human and monetary terms.  Failing families weaken a nation and make all easy prey.

The truth of the matter is this: that government which governs least governs best … because people prosper when they face their individual responsibilities and grow in experience, faith, maturity, confidence, pride and wisdom as a result.

We ought to be ashamed of what we foster – of the broken families we create.

Shalom.

There is for all of mankind but one felicity – a gracious God.

Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews 

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Well, there you go.  Written in 75 A.D.  If only we had the wisdom of Flavius Josephus!  But alas it is absent.

Nowhere in public discourse is there much thought of God, of life in the Spirit, of our historical record or wisdom of the many centuries.

No, in its place – talking heads, the chattering class of ill bred, poorly schooled, ideologues incapable of holding two contradicting ideas in their head at the same time.  And yet the most astonishing thing is this: their words pass as worthy of our attention. Who is the greater fool there?

RETREAT while you can.  Take safety in wisdom and reality.

Imagine a God of felicity – a gracious and loving God.  Such a novel thought today in this deflated culture flooded with harmful utterances and ideas.

In contrast, I can offer this.  I have never doubted that there is a God and that this God had an interest in me and all others.  That is not to say that I acted without sin, nor that I did not attempt a life of self-reliance, a life in which I acted as if it all depended on me, my efforts.  Yes, we are foolish for a time until we prove ourselves less than we think we are.

There is nothing, by the way, like tragedy and injustice, chaos whose actions abound to your loss and pain to bring you to God … and, in due time, to Flavius Josephus and his insight.

In retrospect, I can now express daily sincere gratitude for the grace to have always known there is a loving and merciful God – and that God, not man, reigns over mortal and eternal life.

After years of life, I know the valuable gift of humility, in knowing that I am His subject … and you are too.  Likewise, I know in that reality, that relationship – the priceless value of intimacy … God’s love of me, of us and our divine opportunity to love others as God loves each of us.

Imagine if we knew what Flavius Josephus knew, we would not live in fear and think in that fear of the world as governed by race, or gender, or class, or force, or power, or money, or intellect, or sex, or status, or nonsensical ideologies.

No, on the contrary – tension and anxiety would dissipate; we would know certainty, live in confidence and gratitude, know peace and fellowship.

Best of all – if we were as Flavius Josephus – there would be no place for those who spread words of hate, who divide and speak so carelessly, so ignorantly.

That, Dear Friends, is a step toward Eden and you have been given the opportunity to step toward that Paradise.  Alas, seize it … or suffer more, and continue to hurt yourself and others until you die and face this question: Why did you not take the path I gave you?

God help us all.

Shalom.

God, let the words of Flavius Josephus rest in our heart and animate our every thought and action in the confidence of your gracious and loving dominion.

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified … Repent, and … be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ … and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …”

… baptised … They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.

Acts 2: 36, 38, 41, 42

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Christian life is difficult.  Remember many who initially stood with Jesus left him. And but twelve Disciples assembled and one of them “jumped ship” while another denied Him three times.

The above words are those of St. Peter who denied knowing Jesus prior to the Crucifixion.  Yet, Peter devoted himself to Christ.  He rose in faith despite his failure.  He is just as we are.  Yes, a failure is not fatal when you have access to Christ – as we do.

No matter how dark the gathering clouds are – you have the Light of Christ inside you, and about you to impart strength and guidance.  In trials we grow most in faith.

When the hours are hardest, God is more consciously near.  See difficulty as a time when you draw closer to God, see more deeply, grow in confidence and wisdom and resolve, in faith and in Spirit. Never lose faith.

Shalom.

Combat – Living in and for Christ brings us first and foremost to witness Christ in how we live.  Yes, the task is to live as Christ would ask us to live.  That, Dear Friends, means a life not of combat with other mortals but with ourselves.  Yes, life in and for Christ brings us to spiritual combat – life in struggle with the dominant instincts of mere our human existence and the multiple challenges and demands of mortal life.  We journey in Christ from mere humanity to spiritual existence and its assent … mere mortals gaining traction over time in which our faith grows and we gain wisdom and our intended full identity.

 

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.

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