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‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but in every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God.’

Mt 4:4

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This is the response of Jesus to the first desert temptation of Satan.  The word more important than bread.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This, of course, is the opening line in the Gospel of John.  It asks us: to what do you give primacy?  To money?  Power?  Politics?  Yourself?  Celebrity?  Your sexual desires?  Drugs?  Alcohol?  Food?

Food?  Yes, is obesity not a sign of self-deprivation?  Self-consumption? Emotional starvation, and spiritual suffering?  Would not God fill us to satisfaction so much better than food can?  Does Jesus not so very clearly say this?

There is nothing wrong in American society that cannot be radically altered for the better if God and the Word of God is not given primacy to each of us, and to this nation and its culture.  Nothing.

The Toltec Mexican writer Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. reminds us that in our head two entities reside: one is a parasite and the other is an ally.  Each speaks to us.

The parasite is the one who reminds us of the negative things others have said about us or done to us – the words and deeds which would have us think negatively of our self, impose on us the sense that we are deficient, less worthy. The ally offers, in contrast, thoughts that we are valuable and that voice comes to us from the voices and deeds of those who have seen our value.

Don Ruiz reminds us that we must dismiss the parasite and listen to the ally, but more to the point he reminds us that “neither voice represents your whole Authentic Self” for you are not your thoughts …

In our Christian tradition, its story and its truth: you are an extension of the Word of God, a child of the Master – a word in God’s vocabulary.

There is NOTHING in you, or this nation and its culture, that cannot be corrected by simply placing God at the center of our being – the defining reality of our life, this nation and its culture … and of life itself.

Ignore the many among us who speak as godless parasites.

Shalom.

The monk … says the claims of the world are fraudulent …

Thomas Merton

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These words are extracted from Catholic monk Thomas Merton’s last presentation before his accidental death.  They were given in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, in a speech to monks of various religious dispositions and identities, nuns, religious clerics and students. It was poorly received, and for good reason.

The above words seem, by themselves, relatively benign – but Merton’s text proceeded to equate the monastic with the Marxist.  His text explained that Marx was not militantly opposed to religion.  That Marxism seeks only to change social structures.  He opined that the rioting American students of 1968 were themselves monks.

Yes, you are right: shear dribble, idiocy on display.  Clerical error.

The point to be made is a simple one and it is as good today and it has ever been. The point is this: when clerics start talking about politics – stop listening. Blind shepherds are a great hazard to vulnerable sheep.

Need further indication?  Two words: “Liberation Theology.”  Anyone who reads this stuff with a sound education in economics, history, philosophy, the classics, theology, psychotherapy, cultural criticism and any real world experience outside a sequestered or exclusive religious existence cannot but conclude that they are reading worthless babble.

If there is any exception to the above point it falls under the rubric of St. John Paul II whose life under Nazi and then Soviet Communist occupation had tasted aplenty of the destruction, violence, enslavement, lies, corruption, immorality and abject failure of societies governed by faithless political force imposed on God’s precious souls.

Clerical error, folks.  Clerical error.

Shalom.

Footnote – The first test for you will be this: how will you react when the Left in Congress will proceed to throw the equivalent of a two-year old’s tantrum when others dare expose, alter and reject the destruction done by them – particularly in the last eight years?  Hasn’t their bratty child’s act gotten old?  Notice they never hold their breath to display their anger. Would that it be so.

The Holiness of Rain

The rain falls hard today in the mountains.  Hard enough to give it voice, a steady presence in a quiet room.  There is a peace in its persistence.  It seems to “hush” with its music, its patter –  coupled with its consistent, rhythmic din.  To match rain, the skies are close in; clouds and their gray dim the light as if to call us within.  Peace is at hand.  God visits today.  Being alone takes on its holiness, forcing the Truth of God’s eternal, everyday – day and night, year in and year out existence.

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” … my … pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself … I know I have seen what I was obscurely looking for.  I don’t know what else remains but I have now seen and pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

Thomas Merton

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These are Merton’s words upon visiting a cave adjacent to the ruins of ancient temple buildings near Polonnaruwa, Ceylon, and entering the cave to find large renderings of human beings and a giant reclining Buddha.

He felt in this excursion into this place an “inner clarity.”  He referred to this as “an aesthetic illumination” allowing him to see “beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

This was Thomas Merton’s last journey.  He was to die at 58 in a matter of days.

Is your life a pilgrimage?  Do you seek what you are created to seek.  Or are you captured by what is not Truth, not of the soul, of God, or of your divine nature?

Do not let the thought-police take you captive.  Your warden is a Loving Father.

For Merton the great stone figures were “in full movement,” beautiful and holy.

How does the world look to you?  What do you see?  Hear?  Feel?  Experience in the rain and the clouds?  Do you see “full movement” in motionless stones?

Shalom.

… the first Christian hermits abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude.

Thomas Merton, in The Wisdom of the Desert

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Why does a man live alone in nature, removed from the population and the city?

‘Tis a useful question.

As for the 4th century men who did so we can say, as Merton does, that they sought their salvation, saw its individual characteristic and their own responsibility for its solicitation.

Indeed, they saw that the pagan society that they knew offered little to further their salvation.  Rather, they concluded that it impeded access to it.

These men would not let the ways and values of the pagan culture destroy them, co-opt them.

They took no comfort in the Cross becoming part of the presiding temporal powers.  This, itself, is particularly interesting.  They seemed to know that civil matters where not spiritual in nature, that to The Divine alone belongs the primacy.

Think for a moment: these men saw Christian life as spiritual, as “extramundane” – as simply existing in the Mystical Body of Christ … and they saw that their responsibility was to seek life in Christ.

These men stood for the idea that man was personally responsible for his life and what it said of him and of God.  

Contrast that with today – when so many are captured by the common denominators of secular culture, its herd, its folly, its untruth and its destructive, conflictive and unsatisfying ways.

These men did not wish to be ruled by the decadence.  They did not see themselves, mind you, as superior to others but rather only more intent on living in accord with their faith. They lived socially in aid of one another and strangers as governed by their faith and “the charismatic authority of wisdom, experience and love.”  They “sought … their own true self, in Christ.”

Today I live on a ridge looking out on rolling pastures, forest, and mountains. Minutes ago the sun rose in the East over mountain peaks announcing once again that God reigns eternally …

Each sunrise – unique in its colors and hues – raises up God the Creator … enkindles my gratitude.

In my solitude, quiet makes the music so much sweeter and evocative.  In the solitude, I think of God in a daily silence, and meet the Desert Fathers.  In solitude, I have good company.

Shalom.

It is better to be alone than in bad company.

George Washington

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There are times when you realize that those around you cost you dearly, prompt the worse in you.  Bad company.

A culture at its worse and most distorted can bring bad company as a routine matter, a daily event – in all its communications and images.  Bad company.

Better to seek yourself.  For there is God.  Good company.  Better to be sequestered, in solitude.  Good company.

In being alone with self and God, one finds the best company, a bridge to eternal reality, good neighbors, good friends, the nature to discern and contemplate.

Shalom.

The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors and deluding images up into the mind – whether in dreams, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves.  There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide; the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. (Emphasis added.)

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces

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We live in a culture that does little or nothing to further a person’s full growth and wisdom and we are virtually ignorant of the human process that Campbell accurately describes.

We are, quite frankly, undeveloped and far more sick than well.  Stated another way: Who among the public figures that you see strikes you as one who has examined fully his or her life and come, as is our task, to honestly know their true self.  The absence of fully-developed public figures gives us a proper barometric reading of the state of our culture.

Who in the news media, politics, entertainment, among the clergy, within public policy venues or in universities strikes you as a fully integrated human being – someone who possesses humility, insight, vision, wisdom, a sense of humor, courage and speaks with clarity that offers you lessons worth learning?

Does the politician whose life is lie after lie, deception after deception, failure after failure demonstrate anything but their sickness?  Does the “egg head,” know-it-all professor who speaks arrogantly impress you?  Does the photogenic talking T.V. head suggest any depth of understanding of the humankind, a sense of history, or even recognition of what happened yesterday or last week?  Does the robed jurist full of bias and error convey any worth to you?

Great literature, religious narrative, mythology all introduce us to humankind and our true self.  But in exclusionary secular culture these are either shunned or ignored and evidence of their fruits do not exist in politics or the public square. We are sadly “led” by the ignorant not the able.

When we discard the things that give us access to our true self we grow blind, deft, superficial, insensitive, emotionally brittle and socially inept.  In this state we lie to self and one another, evil flourishes, corruption becomes common place.

Wellness and wisdom await, but not when religion is exiled and its narrative neglected.

Shalom.

Observation – Pundits think that the participants in a “presidential debate” have to be “smart,” demonstrate that they “know stuff.”  Wrong.  They have to be real, accessible, human, comfortable, at ease.  They have to connect with the audience.

Content without humanity is a put-off and the interior flags go up among those in the audience – those who attend, witness or listen to the participants.

Knowing the cost of everything but the worth of nothing is useless except that it tells a competent human in the audience – this person is not fit to lead.  Be smart, people.

… another porpoise broke the water … a third and fourth … neared … we knew by instinct not to speak … A wordless covenant was set …

Pat Conroy, in Beach Music

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Tranquility.  When happiness is deepest, natural – and contentment shows like the first crocus of spring in the warming sun of late March.

Tranquility – there all the time, buried and asleep in the cold ground of “demands” hardened by the chilling winds of hectic paces and “things to do.”

Tranquility – the deep quiet – the noisy world conquered and silenced … how we miss the good and natural state, the peace within … the wisdom that detachment’s silence is.

Shalom.

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement of the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.

1 John 2: 15, 16

Detachment requires discretion.  And this means, one must be refined in their view of the world, listen to that is said with a careful ear.  Be a wise observer, a critical thinker.

Rather than rush in and follow others easily – pause, think, assess, accept only what is consistent with the peace that lives within you, for discreet detachment feeds the self and soul so that you might be fully formed in being as God has made you to be, so that you might know peace, stability in chaotic times and, most importantly, know God and have a self that can draw close to God and serve Him.  After all, do you not wish tranquility – especially when chaos and conflict reigns?

Think about discreet detachment like this: when driving are you not safer driving within the speed limit, adjusting your speed to the road and weather conditions?  So, too, is discreet detachment.  Yes, just as the latter is wise, so too is the former.

Shalom.

Detachment is not a denial of life but a denial of death; not a disintegration but the condition of wholeness; not a refusal to love but the determination to love truly, deeply and fully.

Gerald Vann, in Eve and the Gryphon

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What does one do in a world that encompasses you?  Surrounds you every waking moment and even invades your dreams?  Presents worries and apparent obligations to you in endless streams?  How do you find peace and tranquility? Rest?

The knowledgeable answer: “detachment.”

But what is detachment?

Detachment is a process whereby a person moves from “the roiling unsettled surface” of exterior existence to the quiet of your interior life.  Yes, from the noise, to your quiet sanctuary of self, of soul.

Yes, peace and tranquility is a process of closing out the noise of the world, ceasing to be captured entirely by its roles and demands.  A discreet, conscious separation from those people, things, dialogues, ideas, assertions that further what is untrue, create discord, rob you of your soul.

Detachment is an act of separation, but not an act of indifference.

Detachment does not cease our obligation to be a source of good, a witness and voice of God, of Christ in the world.  Rather – ironically, detachment is essential to our obligation to witness of faith in this worldly existence. Yes, a witness as a salvific act repeated often throughout our life – no matter the risk or personal cost.

How does one detach?

There are many ways.  Be very discreet as to what you read, listen to.  Attend daily to quiet, to prayer.  Take a retreat once a year for a few days of quiet rest, worship and reflection. Make a habit of daily short spiritual or scriptural reading. Spend time in church – especially alone, in quiet presence.

Maintain an ongoing relationship with a spiritual counselor or director.

Listen to sacred music, Gregorian chants.  The point is a simple one: get in touch with yourself, your very being – the one God made in you – yes, separate out from the herd for God made you far more than a herd animal.

Yes, resist all efforts of secularists and ideologues to classify you for their control, so they might hold power and assert it over you and others.

Focus on your individual holy value – on the proposition that saints and martyrs defied being classified by others into groups the very same way that they defied the demands of mortal existence as a limit of their life and being.

And, think about this: those who become saints and martyrs were human beings just as you – those who sought the quiet holy space where they could find rest and know who God made in them and live as God called them to be.  They are you.

Amid the mob, within mass secular culture – detach … be  be as God made you to be.

Shalom.

Note – I welcome those of you who might wish the help of a spiritual counsel.

 

 

Although we have been warned by some of the greatest political thinkers of the 19th century, by Tocqueville and Lord Acton, that socialism means slavery, we have steadily moved in the direction of socialism.  (Emphasis added.)

Friedrich Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom

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Arrogance and stupidity run in tandem, and socialists are one proof of this.

You see these folks deny history by ignoring it.  Educated they are not. Especially the intellectual class housed in the colleges and universities – hidden from the world of the hourly wage and heavy lifting.

The former chairman of the University of Notre Dame Department of Theology once said to me this: “The problem with Ph.D. professors is this – once they get their Doctorate they think they have nothing left to learn.”

Amen.  And so it is.  Does this not explain the mess the Left presents to us where it is given reign?

How many times does Bernie Sanders and his fellow travelers mention the shambles of oil-rich, contemporary socialist Venezuela?   Not many.  Better fiction than truth.

No mention of food shortages.  Or government threats of expropriation of private property.  Commerce-killing price controls.  Stultifying government regulations and inert bureaucracy. Government seizure of private farms and companies. A contracting economy. Government currency and import controls.

Who among the Left mentions the great runner Czechoslovakian Emil Zatopek who, in the 1952 Olympics, won the Gold Metal in the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the marathon (in his first ever attempt at it) in record-setting times? Who among the socialists tells us of how Zatopek’s Soviet overseers kept a constant watch on this national hero, tracked his movements, stripped him of his military rank, consigned him to collect trash, dig wells and work in a uranium mine?

In socialism: no one bigger than the smallest bureaucrat!

Yes, socialism destroys economies, people’s wealth and their spirit; and, it enslaves them and their heroes.

We have become ideologues, uneducated louts despite college education – indeed, in part, because of it.

… failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens the most fatal tendency – – the belief that the here is now is all there is.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

Shalom.

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