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All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and change is painful. (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of December 9, 1958

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We are willful.  We prefer our ways to the ways of He who made us. This one thing accounts for our disorder, and eventually to a demise.  It is for each of us the single challenge in our life.

Done well life is a process of submission to God.  Yes, we grow when we decline so He might gain. In shorter the shadow we cast, the greater we are – the healthier we become, the more certain and the calmer we are.

Look around you.  We now have organizations that work to advance selfishness, sin – one preferred method of rebellion and godlessness or another … and we have many who co-exist with those who advocate disorder and sickness.  The enablers can sink this culture, jeopardize our health and wellbeing.

The tug-of-war between good and evil is a consistent part of the human story from the beginning of time.  Flannery O’Connor reminds us in this December 1958 letter that God does not miraculously meddle in each and every human affair, rather He offers the grace to grow, mature, come to faith and meaning through life experience, the sacraments, belief, worship.  In grace we grow in dignity and our implicit responsibility is to defend and preserve the sacred value of life itself.  Yes, this may put us at odds with others … but is it not Jesus who asked: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mt 12:48)

To reject grace is to reject God and life itself.

Look about.  Do you see bad being called “good?”  This is the condition of our time, and the ageless challenge: good or evil – life or death, God or His adversary?

Shalom.   

 

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… your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to come from an incomplete understanding of sin … you seem actually to demand … that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Spirit be translated at once into all flesh … you are leaving out the radical human pride that causes death …

Flannery O’Connor, in a December 9, 1958 Letter

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One distinguishing fact about the Left and others who seek omnipotence in government is this: they put unjustified confidence in the human being and man-made institutions and efforts.  Yes, they are disoriented.

They, like the letter writer O’Connor is responding to, somehow think that an ideology (however distorted or errantly applied) will give us heaven on earth.

Have these people been watching the movie I’ve seen for seven decades?  Have they not watched Seinfeld or met Woody Allen?  It seems clear that they have not grasped the essence of the Judeo-Christian narrative or the sweep of recorded human history.

Just today, I awoke to the “can’t make it up” mea-culpa of an rotund, aging leftwing Hollywood mogul (who loves his mother, perhaps a little too much) and has been (for years) asking would-be starlets to watch him take a shower.

He, of the “pro-feminist” persuasion, puts in plain view this: we inflate the expectation of the human person and in this intoxication quickly conjure up insane propositions as if all that occurs in moviemaking paves the way to earthly nirvana.

No, it does not.  We are not to be exalted, but to be humbled.  We do more damage than we think, create greater division, exhibit more insanity, destroy more good things than we ever imagine.  Hence my son’s favored expression: don’t just do something, stand there.

Yes, there you have it – a refutation of the Liberal in six easy words: don’t just do something, stand there.

If sanity is to root in present American culture – humans will cool their heels, and their expectations will subside in inverse proportion to their growth in humility, kindness, friendship, faith and self-effacing humor.

Today’s bumper-crop of disordered behavior and sickness ought to teach that much of what those with demonstrated maladies advocate is precisely adverse to our welfare and prosperity.  If you see them wearing a raincoat, leave your umbrella home.

Shalom.

 

 

O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.

Ps 63:2

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Yesterday I began my day with men who attend a Saturday early morning gathering at a wonderful Catholic parish in Kensington, Maryland.  The men of varied ages attend a year-long program focused on developing their faith and growing in it.  It is a wonderful experience that includes a short video presentation with the men then recessing to a host of tables to share their thoughts on the subject matter of the video.

Yesterday’s video focused us on the simple question: Is there a God or is there not a God?

My table mates (eight men, counting myself) affirmed easily that there is a God – but most striking was this: their soul was thirsting for God.  These men ranged in age from early to mid-30’s to 70-plus.  All were family men, fathers and husbands.

What struck me so very deeply was this: these men were seeking God in the very manner that people in the 13th century and earlier sought God.

They asked questions much as the St. Thomas Aquinas might.  Deep probative questions. Their desire for God was vital to them – not because they themselves had burdens or carried sins that caused suffering – no, they sought God because they knew a relationship with God was critical to their existence, their contentment, their service of others, their life’s meaning and their ability to love, understand, find meaning and purpose in life.

I add, most importantly, they sought God because they experienced that faith, and God were under siege in America.  They had a sense that living a life of faith, God and Church was under attack today in this nation.

Honestly, I saw their desire, their urgency – their hope … and affirmation that God was the center of their being and that neither their faith nor God would be abandoned or exiled.

I saw in these men the metaphysical reality of the first 1400 years of Christianity.

I saw the probing question and longing that affirmed that there is a God and the desire for a relation with God resides within us no matter the utterances and hostilities of claims and actions of the godless among us.  Good news!

Alas, it can be said that the Psalms speak today:

My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. (Ps. 63)

Truth never fades.  Truth can never be denied, extinguished.  In the midst of challenge – God is closest and we are most deeply engaged.  Good News … in troublesome times.

Shalom.

 

It is part of … growing up to listen to the fearful discords which real life grinds out and to include them among the images of reality.  Truth and reality are … no music of the spheres – they are the beauty and terror of Nature herself.

Carl Jung, M.D.

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Jung’s view as a psychiatrist is that every person by nature is designed to strive toward wholeness – full human development.  It follows that if that is not one’s course in life – disorder comes.

Drawn on the larger canvas of society as a whole, the same applies.  If a culture does not impart the opportunity for wholeness – whole human development, it produces disorder on a large scale.

Let’s say, for example, that a culture is inhospitable to religion and religious narrative – then it is dismissing the single greatest vehicle for accessing wholeness.  Likewise, let’s say that a culture stresses individualism and in doing so (without religious narrative) it is placing a huge burden on the single human person to come to full development and meaning all by himself or herself.   This is a daunting task especially when we know that the full development of a human being is hard, introspective work that takes a lifetime of honest self-examination and considerable character, humility and intellect.  Yes, soul-searching.

Now let’s say that in place of religious narrative the bulk of individuals in a society are geared to the pursuit of equality as if that is the Holy Grail.  Under those circumstances the bulk of people chase a meaningless objective particularly insofar as all human beings have equal value to begin with.  Once again, the culture diverts human beings from wholeness in favor of something (equality) that they already possess.  Such a culture builds in the person a misconception: the perpetual underestimate of their created, divine value. Unfortunately, hostility and conflict follows where they need not.

You can see in a culture of individualism and the quest of “equality” how (in the absence of religious narrative and a focus on wholeness) one can end up in great discord – unnecessary discord, wasted energy and great stress.

Have we slipped off course?  Jung might well say we have.

Seek your true self – which is wholeness of being and the peace and stability that it brings. Forget all the orientations which keep you unsettled.  See your value.  Seek your whole and sacred development.  It is your birthright.

Today in our culture we make enemies out of friends and neighbors.  This is utterly unnecessary.

Shalom.

If you don’t think that religious narrative and wholeness matter, how can one justify a country like Iceland “solving” down syndrome births by aborting unborn children who show that genetic profile?  Or how can a society eliminate racism by making race consciousness prevalent?  If we do not assume all people are of equal value – we shall never have fellowship and community.

“Why do you call be me good?  No one is good except God alone.”

Lk 18:18

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These are the words of Jesus in response to a man who addressed him as “Good Teacher.” This rebuff reoriented the man, pointed him toward a truth so easily lost to mortals in the world.  Yes, we are accustomed to thinking we are “good” and things around us are “good,” that we effect “good” easily.  Not so.

Our current disposition places more confidence in man and less in God.  We forget that only God alone is Good … and anything we do to good effect is only a remnant of reality: that we are imperfect and that the good we do is inspired, evidence only of the presence of God within that finds articulation now and again and hardly justifies our imagining that we are good per se.  

In the seven plus decades I have lived I have seen two men occupy the presidency that I identify as particularly good men.  They are President Eisenhower and President Reagan.

That said, in seven decades I have seen exactly one man who I think carried the good of God consistently in virtually all he did in life from childhood to his death. That man: Saint John Paul II.

I caution that we cannot expect good men to occupy public life routinely.  Nor can we scapegoat those who sit in the Oval Office for no one is elected who does not reflect us and the times we live – particularly our concerns, our worries and our reaction to change, loss, and immortality.  

It seems many among us seek to assert with certainty their idea of what is good. Humility is in short supply in our culture today.   Wisdom is absent.  Pride, foolish ideology, selfish interests, even hatred take the place of humility and leave Lady Wisdom without a home.

The question then remains: if Christ was not himself able to claim the title “Good Teacher” how can so many pundits, op-ed writers, media mavens, professors, politicians, judges, advocates of so many questionable “causes” asset with such certainty that what they promote is good and wise?

Shalom.

Postscript – I have tried to write about faith in secular culture in the hopes of showing how we have strayed from faith at great cost.  Yet, today I see we are past the point of discussion, that minds have been closed, positions are set in stone and conflict, hate and violence are on the rise.  Alas, I shall have to focus on God in the humbling knowledge that it is God alone who will correct our troubled ways.

Father, we ask for forgiveness and seek that you might lead us to humility so then we might listen and learn … and it time do what is truly good – live the way you call us to live.  We ask that You free us from what is false and give us the capacity to see what is good and what is not, and to do that which is good while rejecting what is not. Amen.

Peace be with you.

“… the person is irrevocably a person in history, and the interchange between external event and the individual life is a matrix of poetry …”

Helen Vendler, in The Music of What Happens

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Yes, we cannot ignore the challenges that time brings us, that are posted by the times of our mortal existence.

If our interaction with history in its daily iterations and broad sweeps presents life as “a matrix of poetry” it also is life as spiritual journey (at least to those who do not – as many do – sit stubbornly in their laziness, refusing all but the life of an ideologue, a dullard).

So if history is the exchange between us and it, who in our current public dialogue offers any recitation that this is so?  Who among our clerics?  Who among those of letters? Who tells the spiritual story in a secular culture before many can no longer hear at all?

Who is your daily voice of faith?  Who nudges you into spiritual reality?  What do you do to awaken your soul, become what a human being is: a spiritual being seeking fullness of life mortal and eternal?

If someone believes that he is a Christian and yet is indifferent to the fact that he is, then he truly is not a Christian.

Soren Kierkegaard, in Works of Love

Shalom.

Let’s be truthful – When the government gives subsidies to health insurance companies, we are NOT keeping Obamacare health insurance premium costs down, we are merely having present and future taxpayers absorb the cost increases.  Let’s face facts: Obamacare is a disaster – designed by fools, supported by untruths.  We can no nothing well that hides the truth of the matter.  Fiction is not fact.

My suggestion?  How about legislation that says “pigs can fly.”  We can call it Obama-air.

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

“How full the days are, full of slow and quiet … Only here do I feel that my life is authentically human.

Thomas Merton

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Merton’s words in a journal entry of November 1964 when he moved into his hermitage – a place to dwell alone surrounded by nature.

In my solitude on the ridge I know what he means.  Never have I felt closer to reality, to God, to the ground of being … or more at peace.

I am away from disorder, chaos … and the flood of bad behavior, routine deceptions and the idiotic chatter – its self-destruction.

I think of ISIS.  North Korea.  The American Left.  The media, the press.  Iran. Russia’s global antics and Europe’s passivity and foolishness.

When good falls victim to evil has not the ground under you shifted?  Is it not wise to seek Eden once again?

In Eden there are no pagans, no herds of selfish people making unwise and suicidal demands.

Merton and the Ridge.

Shalom.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s civilize men and society.  My Mother saved my life.  I think of her everyday.  Maybe someday women will come to understand and cherish this: as birth-givers they are more important than men.  Seeking equality with men is a step down.  We have lesser gifts.  God bless Moms!

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There is a deep malaise in society … in our families and neighborhoods we do not speak to each other … There is … a vacuum inside us …

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Today I read an article about how parents of young men and women offer obituaries of their sons and daughters that candidly acknowledge the opiate use which took their life in the hope that with an honest statement about a very tragic and very serious national problem we might awaken to this deadly addiction.

Where might we begin?

There are many strands to this epidemic.  Of course, we have been very lax in   proscribing the use of painkillers.

Indeed, three months ago when I was being discharged from the hospital after knee replacement surgery, the nurse overseeing my discharge informed me I was to get a prescription for a powerful and potentially addictive painkiller even though I had had no pain and required no pain medicine after the operation.  I refused the offer over the nurse’s suggestion that I take the prescription “just in case.”

Yes, we routinely throw drugs into the mix for just about anything that “ails” us.

But I turn to Thich Naht Hanh’s point.  We do not stand on spiritual ground; we have little understanding of spirituality and, in this, life seems to lack meaning. We float or stumble about without a secure base, the inner strength and the resolve.

Hanh’s concern is that the elders in culture do not convey, do not project – values that display and confirm spiritual existence.

He notes that even priests do not  “embody the living tradition” of their professed faith. When this is so, ritual loses meaning – and worship seems thin – more ceremony than deep, lasting experience.

The elders of our culture had best renew their faith and renew it at depth, so they might daily convey its presence in all that they do, how they conduct their affairs and how determinative spiritual existence is to all they think and do.

The malaise has taken a huge toll on us – from opiate addiction, to broken marriages, abortion, coarse public behavior, gender and sexual confusion, political hostility and division, crass self-promotion and selfishness, the crude quest for money and status … All this while we neglect the spirit and our spiritual needs and development.

We are far less than we once were and can be.  Hanh is right.  Starting with spiritual existence is fundamental to our welfare, and survival.  Elders must show the way. Parents must lead, faith be restored.

Shalom.

This concludes the last in a series of posts on conversion.  This series has been offered to you so that you might see the manner in which conversion can appear to you in the present day and circumstance.  We are in need of restoration. Politics and the Left have led us astray, created deep division and godlessness, despair.  You can learn from Whittaker Chambers journey.

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… I tried to pray, it was as if the spirit from my boyhood … took my hand and knelt and prayed beside me, so that in the act of seeking oneness with God, I became one with myself(Emphasis added.)

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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Chambers had tried to pray as a boy and was unsuccessful.  Yet, when he needed God most – in his most desperate hours, when his world organized around the Communist narrative no longer held, … God guided him to prayer.

As Chambers writes “The secret springs of life, which had been lost so long in the desert of modernityjoined with impulses, broke free and flowed unchecked.” (Emphasis added.)

He records that the two mirages: one, of the Almighty Mind and the other, the Communist political fiction that man has the power to plan and execute human salvation – were illusions which had dragged him into the desert.

His daily prayer, he reports, “tore through (him) … a transformation with the force of a river … (and he) became what (he) was … (as he) ceased to be what he was not.” (Emphasis added.)

Yes, this is conversion!

As Chambers writes “the whole web of the materialist modern mind” fell.  No longer, he writes, did modernity and its rationalism cover “the spirit of man,” thwart “the instinct of his soul for God.”  He saw in this conversion that it was a “myth” to think of “man’s material perfectibility” which, he saw, as the “modern intellectual mood which gives rise to Communism” and, by implication, man’s sick fixation on all things “political.”

In his illumination, Chambers claimed the truth of this axiom:

“Man cannot organize the world for himself without God; without God man can only organize the world against man.” (Emphasis added.)

This Dear Friends is conversion.  This Dear Friends is our state today.  This Dear Friends identifies the nonsensical babble of the transgender crowd, the feminists, the abortionists, the pagans, the anarchists, the Democrat Left, the “progressives,” “the social engineers,” the morally vacuous academics and college administrators, the “open border” fools, those who demand endless “entitlements” and “safe spaces,” those who attack and diminish the place of faith in civic life and discourse, etc.

We have been led into the desert of hyper-political secularism and the idea that the human person can create salvation.

It is time to come to the sacred springs of Truth. Absent that: disintegration and disaster.

Think about this.  It is vitally important for you and this Nation to do so.

Shalom.

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