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The happiness on this side was like an announcement of the other side.  I realized that this was an undeserved gift and I could not grasp by what grace it was bestowed on me.

Czeslaw Milosz

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These are the poet’s words near the end of his life.  He had acquired perspective, saw the whole and stopped lamenting of things past.  We should all be so inclined.

Have you ever noticed how the least bright or least development among us fester in fear, announce in the strongest terms that we must pursue this or that “adjustment,” policy, point of view lest the planet/the universe/all humankind perish?

It is always the youngest or shallowest among us – some (but this is no longer a prerequisite) with their undergraduate degree and access to a TV camera or a radio audience ring the alarm of shear doom and name those they deem responsible for the impending catastrophe.

The inexperienced always panic and shout of the sky falling.  Yet, those who live fully and examine life along the way fear less – such is the harvest of years well and properly lived.

In the wise is faith – yes, the resignation that there is a God and time proceeds as God wills that it might.  Likewise, the wise see the humor of it all, and dismiss much of the pomp and circumstance.  Their eyes see the suffering of others, the unnecessary worry many without faith carry.  The wise go quietly into the dusk.  They sleep well when the night falls.  They do not bow to mortals.  They keep their words and thought with God and love those who love also.  Their voice turns soft as light dims.

It is Christmas time – live with the wisdom it brings … hear the words of ancient choirs sung once again so we might hear and grow in wisdom – yes, acquire the settled heart of Christmas – proof  of eternal reality.

Shalom.

 

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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.

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart … do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him … He will make your paths straight.

Prov 3: 5, 6

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We have strayed dramatically from God.  Our nation has many among its elites who have gone far astray, who trust only in themselves – who have become corrupted.

In this circumstance we see the challenge posed for those who believe in God by those who are godless and hence pursue their selfish interest – power, and personal gain.  Yes, the questions joined now are good vs. evil, God vs. godlessness, belief vs. unbelief, Truth vs. falsehood.

In too many who occupy leadership positions God is rejected.  It is hard to imagine how it is that one can reject God, a God who is Love.

Think about God who is Love.

It is difficult for humans to imagine a God who loves freely, whose very nature is to love us without fail.  Why is this so?  Because we often love selectively – love only those who comply with our views, love only those who seem to love us as our condition of loving them.  But this is not how God loves.

Through we are sinners, God sends His Son to die for us, so we might believe in Him.

While we love on condition, God loves unconditionally.  But mind you this does not give us permission to lie, cheat, steal, be selfish, be a racist, advance sexual dysfunction and declare it normative, kill the unborn, commit adultery and violent crimes, deny reality, etc.

God loves us so that we might have peace, security, joy, contentment, a level of certainty, courage, meaning and purpose, and full growth.

Having been given love – we must love for to not love is to abandon who we are and who God is.

In the God who is love – all are worthy.  And yes, those whose behavior is rank, dishonest, selfish say: “I do not believe in anything but me.”  We have many of these people in our midst – one cannot yield to them, they must be dismissed, rejected for their ability to destroy is obvious and contrary to God and our welfare.

These naysayers now have greater influence over us and this culture than they warrant.  They are in positions of power, in academia and politics, in mass communication, law, education and entertainment – even in religious entities.

Time to restore God’s place in our life, our culture, our nation and our daily discourse.  Each of us bear this responsibility.

Shalom.

Sickness – Last night on Tucker Carlson’s show I saw yet another Law Professor (Ekow Yankah) spouting off as if a law degree itself made him smart, and wise.

Law degrees make one neither smart nor wise.  If you can read you can become a lawyer.  I know I am a lawyer.

Mr. Yankah was not just spouting off, he was advancing Black racism, yes – judging people by their skin color in just the same way feminists judge people by their gender.  Whither knowledge of moral philosophy, religion, theology, history, humility, good taste and grace?

We have a real problem of granting to lawyers, judges, academics, the media, politicians and (God help us) celebrities and entrepreneurial technologists knowledge and wisdom that they do not possess.  Granting those like Mr. Yankah any public forum is precisely what we ought not to do.  We have ignorance enough – no sense adding more and the division these thinly educated, misguided individuals now bring to us.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Mt 5:8

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John Dunne in The Circle Dance of Time tells of a student who asks a rabbi why it is that men no longer see the face of God.

The rabbi replies that men no longer “stoop so low” – meaning that they no longer subordinate themselves to a superior reality … that our preference for our own autonomy keeps us from knowing God and ironical finding and knowing ourself.

It follows that not knowing self nor God staves off contentment, peace and loving self or another.

If you do not know yourself nor God can you know another or have peace?  Indeed the question arises – Without knowing self or God, can you love at all?  Can you find peace?  Tranquility in mortal existence?

One can justifiably ask: does our autonomy – the priority we place on our rights under the law of man in a culture that disdains faith, relationship with God … does this state of being, this consciousness leave us discontented, quarrelsome, far less than we are made to be … does this emphasis on autonomy insure our unhappiness? 

The loss of God in a mass communication culture where legal rights are extolled accentuates our unhappiness – particularly when all manner of uninformed, sparsely educated voices, ignorant and hostile and divisive ones dominate public discourse?

If we are offered the “pursuit of happiness” in our nation, are we not wiser still to subordinate ourselves to the superior reality of God?  Is it not obvious that our access to happiness requires that we bend to a superior reality.

One nation under God – – – yes or no?

If you wish to understand the chaos, division and hostility that abounds daily in this land – think about what is written here today.

From mass media to politics and mindless homicides – we show our distance from health and happiness.  This need not be.

Shalom.

 

 

… I tried to pray … in the act of seeking oneness with God, I became one with myself.

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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These are the words of an adult who had tried and failed as a child and a youth to pray – but failed to experience God.  Yet, as Chambers said: his “whole life as a man lay between those failures and (his) present need.”  God listened and Chambers received.

In describing his experience in prayer in his time of need, Chambers says that “(T)he secret spring of (his) life, which was lost in the desert of modernity, joined their impulses, broke free and flowed unchecked.”  He realized that the “almighty mind” alone could not prevail, that man did not create his own salvation.  As he says of prayer and its aftermath, “I became what I was.  I ceased to be what I was not.”

He realized that he had been captive to the “materialist modern mind,” that this paralyzed, in the name of reason, “the instinct of his soul” for God.  His rejection was not just of Marxism but of the disposition and habit of the modern, secularized world that enforced “the myth of man’s material perfectibility.” 

This is precisely the challenge we face today in America and the West.  Can we awaken those smitten by Marxism?  Yes, those among us on the Left.  Can we change the nature of this disordered culture, its personal conduct and belief, and its destructive public discourse, advocacy and action?

What Chambers came to know we too ought to know and that is this: man without God destroys man.

Yes, as Whittaker Chambers said so well: “The gas ovens and the Communist execution cellars exist first within our minds.”  This is evident in the hostility and nihilism that has become Leftist politics, policy and action today.

Shalom.

 

I do not know … by what subtle stages this conflict of the spirit of man gained on the doctrine and practice of Communism in me.  I do know that over the years the unwanted thought … crossed my mind: What is lacking in Communism?  What lack is it that keeps the human level of Communism so low, that makes the party a rat’s nest of intrigue and faction?  What is the source of its corroding cynicism … that makes us waste human life and effort without scruple …?  Why … thirty years after the … revolution … Communists have not produced one single inspired work of the mind?  What is our lack?  (Emphasis added.)

… I asked at last: can it be God?

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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Chambers, an American and a Communist Party member, recounts his thoughts in 1937 prior to his break with the Party and his renunciation of his role as a Soviet spy.

His words then are applicable today.  Why?  Liberalism and one of our two prominent political parties and its many activists groups have taken on a Marxist disposition as their guide, and foundation of their political discontent.

Indeed, how else can you explain a President signing off on selling our uranium reserves to our Russian adversaries?  How else can one explain the cozy relationship between the Clintons and Russia?  How can one explain Russian oligarchs enriching the Clinton Foundation by millions of dollars?  Or explain the Leftist feminists who link their complaints to the Marxist dogma of class, race, and “imperialism?”

We are in a Chambers Moment.  Will we conclude as he did – that we, too, need God?

I know of no other way to restore this culture or the human person to health and sanity.  We are badly disoriented and artificially divided.  God alone can make us healthy again.

In the strangest way – in a mystifying way, I see our healthy turn in the troubles of the day.

The bark is being (incident by incident) stripped off the Left.  Its principal Party is being exposed for its lying and corruption.  Its special pleaders are losing favor with the public.  The media that echoes Leftist views is dying – its newspapers have been discredited time and again.  Its campus hold seems farcical and cartoonish – a Doonesberry character of the absurd.  Feminism, too, seems like this – gender politics the same, occupying a juncture of absurdity, fantasy, abject foolishness – too much the curse to warrant any serious reflection.

Take heart.  The spirit of man cannot be denied for we are spiritual beings before we are anything else.

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.

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.   

 

… 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.

 

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