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… signs … Jesus … performed … have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Jn 20: 30,31

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Believing or not believing.  Belief in God or belief in nothing.  Theism or nihilism.  We face this proposition more directly today than we have probably in our history.

I have a very dear childhood friend.  He was my closest friend growing up.  We were like brothers – did so many things together.  Shared the same classes and teachers throughout school.  I was like a family member in his home.  His mother treated me like one of her children.  She and my mother were best of friends.

My friend is now in a nursing home.  He is frail.  Spends a good deal of time in bed.  As a child he was bright, friendly, a reader – social, trusted, quite capable.  In his late adolescence he seemed to be at odds with institutions and authority – but more to the point he began to lose interest in the world around him.  He seemed to make a wilful decision to reject this or that – his skepticism began to grow.  His actions seemed to say: life is worthless – this view and his skepticism grew as he aged.

He drank consistently throughout his life beginning when he was a teenager.  His initial adult working life seemed consistent with his abilities.  He had a modest political life and was elected to his local School Board.  His two children were successful.  He seemed at odds with his wife and she with him most of their married life.  She too was a negative person.

His negativity continued to grow – his work history declined as his cynicism strengthened.  He suffered from seizures.  Eventually his downward work trajectory ended when he worked himself out of a janitor’s job, being fired from a government position despite his union membership.  A very hard act to accomplish.  He burned bridges at work and with family members.  He scoffed at religion and those who tried to help him.

If I have to point to one thing that explains my friend’s decline it is this: he became a cynic – lived as a nihilist.  He lived as if to say very loudly – life has no meaning.  Nothing  met his approval – all was more or less rejected.  He lived as if to deny his own existence and existence itself.  

I see his attitude in our culture and politics today.  Those who reject national borders sound like him.  The lapses with the Vatican as to sex abuse, denying law, morality and the Canons of the Church reflect his disposition. The upheaval in sexual mores, in families, in lawless urban enclaves seem to say: “belief in good” no longer holds.   The corruption at the federal bureaucratic level says much the same thing – truth and honesty are not honored in practice.  Drug addictions, suicides, random violence and corporate men preying on women employees – but more indications of decline and decay, amoral behavior – signs of depravity and reasons for serious concern.

All this to say but one simple thing: I do not hear much said about nihilism and the denial of values, morals, conduct – rather, too often, I see others advocating decline and decay – angry people attacking structures and codes of conduct that hold us together and provide a basis for community, peace and prosperity … life itself.

Theism or Nihilism.  Believe in something or believe in nothing.  God or nothing at all.

Shalom.

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… within the progressive societies … every last vestige of the ancient human heritage of ritual, morality, and art is in full decay.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero of a Thousand Faces

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Professor Joseph Campbell was a pioneer in field of comparative mythology.

In The Hero of a Thousand Faces he shows us that the myths of the world have but a limited number of responses to the riddle of life, and he presents in his book the shared elements of that quest to understand life itself.

Critical to quest is in recorded mythology, as the book title shows us, is the story of the hero.

In the final section of The Hero of a Thousand Faces Campbell focuses on the loss of the hero’s story in modern life and culture.  He observes that the systems of symbols which conveyed the hero’s story have collapsed – and in its place is something far less in content and instruction, namely – the self-determining individual sans our accumulated knowledge and wisdom, respect for the truths previously discovered and the traditions, institutions, and beliefs which guided us over many ages.

Losing track of our legacy, we are very much alone, leaderless and much poorer and weaker as a result.  Yes, our stories, and the symbols in them, once connected our conscious and unconscious life.  Today, we lack the insight and stability which that connection provided.

Look about today – those civilians who occupy leadership positions are dreadfully under-accomplished – offering a college degree and “big ideas” but no experience, wisdom or moral acumen.  In the absence of substance, self-reflection or familiarity with our long history they give us increased risk in place of value.  Where we once found meaning in group – we are now very much alone, divided and among adversaries who scorn our identity, our history, and faith – and promote the end to our borders as a way to destroy who we are, and what we have achieved.

I caution you about replacing a successful legacy with nothing as today’s disgruntled, inexperienced, arrogant adversaries demands.

The irony, of course, is this: now more than ever we need the presence of heroic men and women who will help us recover the coordinated, whole, spiritually charged soul we once possessed.  Absent this, the prognosis: chaos, suffering and decline.

Shalom.

Socialism … cannot not be brought into harmony with … the Catholic Church … the reason being that it conceives human society in a way utterly alien to Christian truth.

Pope Pius XI, in Quadragesimo  Anno

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With today’s loose talk about socialism, it is wise to ask those who speak in its favor several questions, to wit:

  • What are the consequences (under socialism) to the life of the human person and his and her experience of what it is to be human?
  • What effect does socialism have on the spiritual life of a person?
  • How can the centralization of power in the socialist state keep from crushing the autonomy and sacred nature of the human person?
  • How can socialism fail to concentrate power in the hands of a small and privileged ruling elite while turning all others into mere slaves of socialist policy?
  • How is socialism consistent with the sacred nature of being itself?
  • Why does socialism discredit religion and exile God when it gains power?

Strange as it may seem, Thomas Merton helps orient us to these questions in a chapter entitled “The Inward Solitude” in his book No Man is an Island.

In that chapter he writes of the sanctity of each human being and reminds us as individuals and, by implication, as a society that we are to respect in others their autonomy, their privacy, their loneliness and solitude for there each person is unique and there each comes to know God and themselves – made just as they are by The Divine Creator.

While Merton is talking about one’s spiritual life and psychological well-being, his words are the essence of individual liberty, independence, privacy and sanctity which are all threatened by the centralized socialist state that always and everywhere is at odds with faith, religion, God and economic freedom for the secular, socialist state courts no rival – neither the free and sacred person, economic freedom, nor God.

The socialist state is godless and seeks to separate the person from the Divine.  Aside from socialism’s historically established economic and social failures – it alters the essence of the experience of human life such that it imprisons the Spirit of each who yearns for fullness and for meaning, for God, peace, community and prosperity.

Think about it.  Those who promote socialism are UNABLE to justify its conduct and the barren end it produces.  This is what Pope Pius XI is saying.

To comprehend socialism in practice – look at socialist Venezuela today with its starvation, poverty, state corruption and heavy hand.

Venezuela: a once prospering and wealthy democratic state turned to ruin.  Voter beware.

Shalom.

The eternal life is not the future life; it is life in harmony with the true order of things.

Henri Amiel, in Journal

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I have taken to distancing myself from the everyday, and particularly “the news” only in so far as I cast a glance at the calamity and the ridiculous ignorance of many who “report” on it and then, God help us, provide their own uneducated, small-minded, predictable, silly “commentary” on the happenings they mention.

That one thrust alone makes space of eternity.  The intellectual poverty and rote recitations of some left leaning ideological fetish are ironically liberating and sanity-preserving, if not life saving.  Enter what is eternal and indestructible.

Aye, a far better and healthier focus where love and humility seem to grow.

In the void that the nonsense has created, I live closer to my faith, and my loved ones (especially the little children) are more in my thoughts and prayers.  God and those I love and what is good emerge as most important.

My world is now meaningful and not confined to what is inane, self-destructive, erroneous, ignorant and captive to all the “clap trap” of fickle styles, language, forms of expression and the chorus of trained parrots that passes for contemporary discourse … and such.

I much prefer what is true and not mad, to what is false and perpetually angry.

In this I remember St. Augustine who wrote: “Eternal life is the actual knowledge of the truth.”  (De moribus Ecclesiae catholicae, etc.)

As a compassionate man, I offer this to you: walk away from the nonsense.  It is disorienting, wrong-headed, and destructive of person, culture and nation.

Shalom.

 

The origin of justice is to be sought in the divine law of eternal and immutable morality.

Cicero, The Laws

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Corruption of a very serious nature in the F.B.I and the Justice Department, apparently intended to discredit a Presidential candidate, seems to have involved individuals in the intelligence community, perhaps the White House, the press, news media and academia, and members of the Washington political consulting and legal community.

Yet, there seems no vigorous effort to root out those who may have acted unlawfully.

The unfathomable failure to hold Hillary Clinton and others accountable for breaches of national security or investigate the questionable conduct of the Mr. and Mrs. Clinton as to their Foundation and extraordinarily lucrative payments for presentations made to those who could potentially have business before one or another of Washington’s governmental agencies or Departments is astonishing – really, really troublesome.

It appears there is no interest in kicking over those rocks no matter the suspicion that is quite reasonably present.

Sexual predators in the Catholic clergy and cover-up in the Church’s hierarchy and virtually no one pays a price – least of all the Bishops and Cardinals in the “chain of command” within the Church.

One concludes from the absence of justice that all involved are far, far from divine law, morality and God.

Time to knock some people of their pedestals, it seems.  Absent that, we let the corrupt corrupt usNo, thanks!  Why would anyone stand for that?

Those in power have failed us.  Show them the door.

Holiness toward God and justice toward men usually go together.

Philo, in Abraham

Shalom.

the essential issue is no longer between Catholicism, on the one side, and Protestantism, on the other, but between Christianity and Chaos Civilization – and by this I mean … the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe – has not in itself the power of survival.  It came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance … It is no longer possible … to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis on which it rests.  (Emphasis added.)

Evelyn Waugh, in Joseph Pearce’s Literary Converts

… the common tradition of Christianity … has made Europe what it is … It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe have … been rooted.  It is against a background of Christianity that all our thoughts have significance.  (Emphasis added.)

T. S. Eliot, in Notes on the Definition of Culture

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Waugh and Eliot and others have seen, and so stated, that it is upon the essential nature of Christianity which Europe and Western Civilization (America, included) rests.

Yet, none of our politicians, nor press mavens, nor media types, nor judges or lawyers, nor corporate heads, nor intellectuals in “the academy,” and surely not the lightweights that talk loosely of “democratic socialism,” seem to have the faintest idea that this might just be so.

Such ignorance has found its place in those who have recently occupied the Oval Office.  Sad as it is, the worthy and amply recorded views of Waugh, Eliot and others appear lost to the hierarchy at the Vatican in a number of ways including in responding to predatory clerics.  What a terrible irony to see the venerable seat of Christianity do such harm to Christendom.

The truth of the matter, this blindness explains Brexit and the dangers of flooding Europe with those who are rivals to Christian belief and are all the more unlikely to integrate into European culture and nations in a period of radical Muslim resurgence.

Closer to home, this is why “open borders” is most destructive.  Why loose talk of socialism is destructive.  Why one can reasonably be concerned as to the consequences of the “sexual revolution” which has been so damaging to individuals, and the institutions of family and marriage.  Why racial division is so costly, and why Left wing fascism that we see in the streets must be addressed by law enforcement, politicians, state – local and federal government – and why we must have the will to investigate and subject to prosecution those have been implicated in scandalous misuse of national security documents, and those who have schemed to “cook up” evidence to defeat the 2016 Republican candidate for President and drive him from office. 

From top to bottom we have in the present moment grave problems facing us.  Problems that pose a danger to the fundamental ideas that formed America and have given us decades of domestic peace, freedom and equal treatment under the law, prosperity, unity and community.

We, the average citizens of this great nation, must step up and speak up – lest we lose a nation, a civilization and a way of life.

Shalom.

Postscript for Lay Catholics – It seems we have an obligation to protect Christianity, to sustain a vigorous public and private adherence to our faith, and ensure that our spiritual heritage is protected and preserved.  Without it, we are likely to expire as a culture and civilization.  Time to join hands with our kin in Europe and other countries with whom we share faith.  Does God not expect this of us?

 

A gracious woman attains honors, and ruthless men attain riches.  The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.  The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward.

Prov 11:16-18

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HonorMercyRighteousness.  Does this describe you?  Describe those you meet?  Those you admire?  Those you listen to?  Those who have public authority?  Those who wish to lead you?  Those who claim to serve justice?  Those who comment on public affairs?  Those who preach and baptize?

If not, why not?

There is no time in my life that I have seen what I now see: namely, the absence of virtue and the virtuous.  It is as if we have stopped teaching men to be gentlemen and women to be ladies.  More to the point we seem like we emulate Sodom and Gomorrah.  And, it seems that ruthlessness, cruelty and the acquisition of extraordinary wealth and power no matter the cost to our character are just fine by us.

Make no mistake – the human heart longs for what is good, and just, and true and merciful and not what is bad and unjust, false and merciless.

We had best restore the best in us – or bye, bye birdie.

It all starts with you – and it starts now, today!

Shalom.

 

 

Then they set out along the black top in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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McCarthy writes of a father and his most beloved son who walk under the grayest of skies in a burned out and broken America.  It is both a compelling book and extraordinary movie.  In both I am struck by the love of the father for the son and the son for the father, and by the grayness of the sky amid the ruin.  The latter reminds me of the verbal and video landscape of the present days where hostility is thick as fog and division seems the only objective of the public voices we hear and where each day brings stories of death, cruelty, hatred and the commentaries of the C- and D+ scribes and talking heads whose range of thought is a tad lower than that of a carnival barker.

In a most extraordinary land darkness has descended.  What was once one is now fragmented into many bruised parts .

He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without constructing the loss as well and he thought perhaps the child had known this better than he.  He tried to remember the dream but could not.  All that was left was the feeling of it … he could not enkindle in the heart of the child what was his own ashes.

This father like me had lived a dream – a dream in better times.  I was conceived when the Second World War was near its triumphant end.  My childhood was spent on a street of veterans and their families – remarkable men and women whose childhood commenced in the Great Depression and turned then to World War – its millions dead, others murdered in Stalin’s gulag.

How does one speak of what we had and lost?  How does one make that the known experience of an adult son?  Give him the optimism purpose and meaning I, poor as we were, knew so well?

How do my grandson or my granddaughter gain what had been, but now is so damaged?  How can my ashes live to sign their forehead?

The Road.  Where this father and son had the dark shadow and penetrating cold of a dying orb – they at least had silence.  We have the unstoppable voices and words of those whose lips bring darkness and cold.  They are now our dismal cover.

“You have to carry the fire … It’s inside you.  It always was there.  I can see it.”

So says the father to the son.  So say I to you, this day.

Shalom.

News as Soap Opera – This is where we are in a superficial mass communication, digitized social media culture.  We interview people with no achievement or proclaim and, in doing so, cannot distinguish people of substance from people who have no particular accomplishment.  We are more soap opera than not.  We can no longer tell the difference between depth and shallow, or what is substantive and what is not.  A real astonishing decline.

I often wonder what the world would be like today if some of our modern religions taught that self-knowledge … was the paramount goal of the spiritual path.

Randy Davida

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I might frame what Mr. Davila (the Publisher of The Mastery of Self: A Toltec Guide to Personal Freedom) said a little differently.

I might say that we would all be far better served if we realized that religious narratives address our human development and well-being – that they speak to our full growth – psychologically, socially, emotionally, inter-personally, intellectually and spiritually.

As to our spiritual growth think of psyche (Greek for soul); and I suggest you do too.

Our spiritual growth is growth of our psyche – the deepest form of self.  Religious narratives present a dimension of observation, insight and understanding that enriches us at the very core of our being – in the soul/psyche.

Frankly, far too many people in our culture (and particularly among those who wish to govern us) neglect their full growth and development and present evidence of this daily.

They are as to full human development – lost souls – confined to error, ego, ideology, desire for status, wealth and attention … and, regrettably prone to poor, and even destructive, ideas and policies.  In a word – we are poorly served and poorly led by those who (forsaking religion and religious narrative) have little wisdom and not much of use to offer us.

My “take-away” from Mr. Davila’s words is this – we neglect religion, do not see its narrative as useful and informative in a very fundamental way, and turn our back on the ageless wisdom of our faith and, hence, we face a multitude who seek to lead us without knowing who they are and who we are.

Living without the self-knowledge contained in religious narratives is destined to produce error, ignorance and egotists prone to foolishness and serious mistake.

Each of us would be wise to take only the pulse of those in public life as a way to monitor the state of chaos, calamity and confusion present today – while focusing on our individual acquisition of the wisdom and insight present in religious narrative.  Absent that – the unknowing are led by the unknowing.

Shalom.

Postscript – As some of you know I am trained – in law, government and politics, international relations and American foreign policy, and theology.  I have long been interested in the relationship between faith and secular culture.  After a great deal of reading, thought and experience, one has to conclude that neglecting our religious heritage is a very unwise thing to do – for religious narratives deal entirely in the human person and his or her peace and prosperity – personal, communal, familial, psychological , intellectual and spiritual.  Neglecting religion produces poor results.

… (the) psychological state of affairs had … changed.  For them (George Orwell and Czeslaw Milosz), the state threatened to become not only militarily and politically triumphant, but psychologically so: the custodial Superego for millions, their Id effectively enthralled, their Egos an instrument, pure and simple, of the state’s bureaucratic manipulation. (Emphasis added.)

Robert Coles, M.D., in A Secular Mind

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The state or political party coming to control a person’s thoughts and psychological disposition … Yes, the state control of its people – their ability to control the thinking of its citizens can literally alter the fundamental experience of being a human being.

In the mid, late last century that is what Orwell and Milosz and other prominent intellectuals and writers saw as a major change in the West, in democracies, in culture and universities.   They saw this as a real threat.

In our present mass communication society of Left-controlled social media giants and once-venerable newspapers, this is precisely where we are.

Indeed, the politics of identity and Marxist ideology has changed how we look at ourself, others and the nation.  They have divided us, made us hostile and violent as to those the Left deems their foes … and, indeed, hostile to the ideas upon which our Representative Democracy, Federal system and concept of liberty enshrined in our Constitution was founded.

The more the state grows and media is titled Left – the more Orwell and Milosz’s fears are confirmed.

That is where we are now.  You see it. I see it.  Language is no longer evidence of freedom but subject to state punishment, social exclusion and the like …

As to Orwell, he concluded in his novel 1984 that language, the reading we choose, what we are taught to learn from our “education” has everything to do with the rise of Fascism and Communism and the state’s encroachment on (our) private life.

To make this current – think of the language “rules” surrounding sexual identification and pronouns used to supplant male and female, etc.

Make no mistake the Leftist and the Leftist state is intent on changing who you are, what you think, how you feel, your existence and experience of life.  Most noticeably their view has no God or worship in its agenda.  Beware.  We have met the enemy inside the gates of the castle.

Shalom.

Politically “Correct” –  “Politically correct” by whose standard?  If you do not speak what is on your mind, you have forfeited your freedom.  Free speech allows you to have your views and express them but it does NOT guarantee that others must listen to you.  If only the Left realized that !!!

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