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“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.

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.

Happy Easter, April 16, 2017

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. (Emphasis added.)

St. John Paul II, in On the Relationship between Faith and Reason

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It is Easter.  Christ has risen in fulfillment of the words of the Prophets and in furtherance of the proof of God existence and reign.  We need fear no longer.  Yet, in this Truth, we are ordered to seek truth, to guard it, preserve it.  Yes, in this – we are not alone and meaning and purpose is established for all time – mortal and eternal.

In an age where some in the East use violence to enforce their beliefs on others, it is fitting to see the Easter contrast as the Father presents in through the Son.

Continuing the theme of conversion (developed in prior posts) as illustrated in the story of Whittaker Chambers rejection of life as a Communist spy in favor of a life in truth, and in faith – we can see an example of what our path can be.

When Chambers left Communism, he noted that he endured “an inner earthquake” in which the structure of Communist thought, as he says so logically and firmly built, convulsed and that deep down he knew for some time that the political “faith” he held and “devoutly served” was destroyed – but that he knew not “what the right way might be.”

Are we not in the same spot today, whereby the errant ideas and desires of the Left lead us to know at some level – something is desperately wrong?

For Chambers, his initial hesitancy in leaving his political life was stymied for he reasoned if Communism was evil, was not all that remained but moral chaos and nothing more?

He knew, he records, that the killing Communists invoked was evil and he realized that in his Leftist politics his mind justified “evil in the name of history, reason or progress.”

In turn and in time, and through the grace of God, he realized that “there is something greater than the mind, history or progress” and “this something is God.”

From a political mindset, to indecision, to sight.  This is a conversion – and evidence of God’s grace and nature, and His love of us.

At this Easter in 2017, with the troubles in the East and the violence and persecution of Christians, and the assault within our nation on faith, reason, common sense, morals, truth, law, history, tradition, national security and the American legacy – are we not where Whittaker Chambers once stood?

Yes, the Truth of the matter starts with faith, and for the Christian that is in Christ risen.

Shalom.

This and at least one following Post will focus on conversion, growth in faith and action that flows from it.  We live in very challenging times across the globe and in our home land.  These times bring us questions about who we are and what we must do.  Whittaker Chambers faced these questions.  We might learn from him.

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About me had closed a separating silence – the deathly silence … and in that silence I heard their screams.

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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These are the words written by a former Soviet spy – an American – in explaining his motivation for risking his life and the lives of his family members by leaving a widespread and carefully managed Communist espionage ring.

Chambers goes on to explain that he heard the screams of innocents for the first time and these cries reached beyond his mind to pierce his soul.  Having denied himself the very existence of the soul, these screams said to him: “This is evil, absolute evil.  Of this evil I am a part.

Chambers heard the cry of Judas who recognized what he had done.  He heard the cry, too, of innocents whose lives were to be denied: the innocent Jewish men, women and children in Nazi concentration camps.  He heard also the cries of those who were victims of Stalin’s purges and his forced starvation of his citizens in the Ukraine.

Today we have the cry of the Christians in the Middle East who are tortured, murdered, driven from their ancient land.  Their cries are like those of the millions of innocent unborn children whose mothers have aborted them here and elsewhere.

This week two teenage girls in Central Indiana who, out for a walk in the country, were murdered for no apparent reason.  Their cry hangs in the air.  Then there is the cry of those gassed in Syria, and those burned to death in Africa by marauding “religious” terrorists.  So many cries, so many.

At this Easter, I wonder if our souls have died and the screams of others are now muted and no longer received?  We seem inert, passive – focused on small things, the selfish desires of a personal agenda – our own special pleadings inured of the sufferings and deaths of others.

This man who lived in the service of absolute evil heard the screams in his soul.  Do you?  Do we?

Pity the innocents and those once professed of faith when their souls stop hearing, for evil then grows and the darkness of hell descends.

Can you hear?  Hearing, what will you do? 

Shalom.

“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.

… in order to integrate himself anew, man must submit himself once more to a higher power … We must now experience immanently what the Middle Ages experienced transcendentally.

Nicholas Berdyaev, in The Meaning of History

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Surveying the American political landscape can be pretty dismal.  The common liberal refrain is to say, “Ugh, Donald Trump” as if he alone warrants disfavor.

Good God: Al Franken, Nancy Pelosi, Chuckie “Hair-Plug” Schumer, Slap-Happy Tim Kane, Susan Collins, Maxine Waters, Bernie “Never Had a Paying Job” Sanders, Little Harry Reid … The list is endless.

Is it any wonder that the policy process is disordered as it is?

Which brings one to Nicholas Berdyaev.

Berdyaev seeks the full development of the human person and includes in that his and her spiritual development.  He sees that asceticism plays a part in the fullness of the human person.

From his quote above, he sees that without a relationship with God, man cannot flourish. I would add: nor can peace be realized, community established and sustained, and wisdom prevail.

If there is one thing about the present political and cultural landscape that strikes me it is this: it is flat, material, quarrelsome, often foolish and distasteful, wasteful, counterproductive and utterly uninspiring.

Placing Berdyaev’s words on today’s landscape makes me wonder if those of us who are faithful might shift gears ever so slightly.  Our habit is to focus on The Father, and The Son – but less so on The Holy Spirit.  In the former we sit more materially than mystically.

Imagine the re-orientation if one and one’s culture and politics were to accommodate immanent experience.

In such a turn, people would live from the inside out – concern would shift from a collective culture of “free stuff” to desire that all might grow in individual responsibility and dignity.  Indeed we might pass from dependent serfdom to sacred being.

Imagine if each thought of himself, herself and others as sacred beings.  Yes, living in the The Spirit – life is recognized for the mystical experience that it is.

If you want to jump the curve from a nation of people who seek that others might care for their every need, accommodate their strangest infantile whim, ask yourself this: if we all felt that we were sacred beings responsible to live fully, in dignity and in joy, would we not cease the foolishness we now exhibit and enjoy the leadership of the wisest and most faithful among us?

Shalom.

Ash Wednesday … and Grace abounds !!!

” … Give up to grace.  The ocean takes care of each wave ’til it gets to the shore.”

Jalaluddin Rumi

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Grace is such an interesting thing.  Pliable.  It washes over life and comfortably settles in the cracks and crevices.

We do not control grace.  Heck, we often seem in our rigidity and in our imagined and manmade “protections” to actually guard against grace.

Grace is like an ocean wave.  We can neither put it in its perpetual motion nor control it from washing over us … … ah, but that we take exception that it might calm our desire, our anger, our frustration, our disappointment … that it might soften our heart and grow our understanding of self and other.

How we unwisely reject this great gift of faith.  How common it is that we wish to prevail over it as in all circumstances where our desired outcome dominates us as if we wish to dominate the Ocean and its grace.

So tense.  So buttoned up.  So far from Annie Dillard … and The Ocean.

It is so self-conscious … to step aside where the creeks and wind pour down … and then sulk … on the edge of rage.

Annie Dillard, in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Shalom.

Observation – The Democrats tepid (at best) response to President Trump’s speech last night shows the great gap that exists between them and their views and the majority of Americans.  Too many Democrats are ideologues, special pleaders, play identity and racial politics, are lukewarm to the very country in which they live, act like they always know what is best for everyone while exempting themselves from obligations they place on others.

Last night was a brilliant snapshot of the divide the FDR privileged big government Left has created.  Perhaps, the tide is turning.  Perhaps we can be one nation under God again.

Surgery was a success.  Total knee replacement.  No pain killers needed.  In rehab – things going well.  Learned I have strong bones and a high pain threshold.  Interesting.

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” … the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel, of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Cor 4:4

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Last Monday while in the hospital awaiting a late morning surgery, I was asked several times by nurses if I had fasted as required and each time I was asked when I last ate or drank anything, and I replied “6:50 p.m. on Sunday.”

Just prior to surgery the anaesthetist asked me that same questions.  My response did not vary.

However my friend Marty who drove me to the hospital added, “He had Communion this morning.”  The doctor turned sort of pale.  “When?” he asked.  “About 6 a.m.,” was the reply.  “We have to reschedule to a later time today,” said the Doctor.

I apologized for the inconvenience.  I felt embarrassed.  I felt like an idiot for not thinking of the Communion offering as “food.”  A few hours of humbling silence followed.  I thought, I am a lawyer, how could I not see that issue?

In those hours of waiting I realized that years ago I would have seen the Communion offering as simply a wheat product.  But not now, not now as I routinely live … and believe.

My blindness to wheat was actually a proclamation of the sight of belief that I had acquired … quitely, earnestly over years of my conversion to Catholicism and my many, many days of attending Mass, and all that I experienced in the Mass, in my life and in my faith.

My faith had blossomed.  My sight had replaced the blindness that is of this world.

It is so very funny, strange, special how God delivers us and when He does.

How grateful I am for the sight I have been given.  I was blind and now I see!

Shalom.

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