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Sanctity is not a luxury, but a simple duty.

St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

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St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic Priest, died in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, 76 years ago today.  He was 47 years old.

He died a martyr when he voluntarily stepped forward to request that he be permitted to take the place, in an execution, of a fellow inmate who had a wife and children.

The Camp Commander agreed and Fr. Kolbe was placed in a dark and dingy cell with nine other men to be starved to death.

Having survived two weeks without food, Fr. Kolbe was given an injection of carbolic acid to kill him.  It is reported that his appearance at death was as if he had been enveloped by the love of God.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is truly an appropriate measure to apply to ourselves and our culture and those in it – and particularly to those in politics who profess to “lead” us, serve us, protect us – keep us sane and safe … and to those in the professions and education, and to those in religious stations who have vowed to keep us close to Christ, and to the Father.

On this anniversary of Fr. Kolbe’s death, I suggest that you take time to reflect on your obligation to live up to your faith, to live as Fr. Kolbe did, as Christ did. Likewise, it is a good time to ask: Do those with public voice live as Fr. Kolbe did?

Remember “Sanctity is not a luxury, but a simple duty.”

Shalom.

Question.  Who among those who clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend resembled Fr. Kolbe?  Answer: No one, it seems.

 

God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. (Emphasis added.)

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity

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Such an interesting thought, clearly stated.  The stakes in a Christian life are not to be simply nice, or to conform to the rubric of the practices of religion – but rather to live as the children of God.  In that alone is redemption.

It is not enough to be nice, nor is it to live nicely behind closed doors while the world around you collapses.  A sequestered life is not sufficient for a Christian.

Look around you, we live in a culture that more and more resembles Sodom and Gomorrah.  New York City has a public hotel that encourages residents to engage in all sorts of sexual activity in plain view to their neighbors in surrounding apartments. Their mayor shelters nude women who solicit cash donations from tourists in Time Square. His justification?  The women are undocumented aliens and New York is a sanctuary city.

Chicago is a killing field.  The City of Angels (Los Angeles) is for the most part a shambles with widespread poverty and homelessness.  And we bar mention of God in public places.  How sick is this!

What is your responsibility?  What side of the divide are you on?

Shalom.

God, bring us to our senses.  Give us the courage to speak out.

 

Pain is weakness leaving the body.

A Navy Seal Instructor

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Imagine Christ on the Cross.  He’d have been a natural for the Navy Seals.  How about you?  What are you made of?  What are you capable of enturing?  Have you tested yourself?  Has life challenged you?  If so, did you see the struggle to conclusion?  Did you get up when knocked down?  Did adversity make you more determined?  Are you a “tough out”?

In St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (2 Tim 3:1-5) he writes of the last days as the most difficult time we face.  He says in those times: men will love themselves and money, that they will be boastful and arrogant … ungrateful, unholy.  That they will be unloving, malicious, without self-control … that they will hate what is good.  He says that they will be conceited, love pleasure more than God and that they will proffer their godliness but in actuality not live it. Most importantly, St. Paul says “Avoid such men as these.”

Look around you, what men do you see on the major news channels?  Are they men you can envision as Navy Seals or are they those St. Paul would have us avoid?

Ask this same question about your politicians?  Sports figures?  Celebrities? Actors? Public figures?  News media?  Critics?  Social “activists”?  Intellectuals? Professors? Judges? Lawyers? Doctors?  Public advocates?  Those running public organizations? Could you see Mark Zuckerberg as a Navy Seal?  Jeff Bezos?  Alex Baldwin? Anderson Cooper?  Or are these individuals that fit St. Paul’s advice?

In looking about I see far more people who fit St. Paul’s advisory, and I see that we have the very lax and costly habit of listening without discretion to anyone who has access to mass communication and that this is absolutely foolish to do.

Finally, do you fall into the first of the above paragraphs or the second? The best among us fit the first.  They may be few, but they are the best.

A life of faith, a life fully lived is not for the faint of heart.  Isn’t it interesting that those least likely to excel when troubles arise are so often those we see speaking?  

Shalom.   

For my Son, himself a divinely loving father … of whom I am very proud and for whom I am so grateful.

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They ate the little mushrooms together with the beans and drank tea and had tinned pears for their dessert. He banked the fire against the seam of rock where he’d built it and he’d strung the tarp behind them to reflect the heat and they sat warm in their refuge while he told the boy stories.  Old stories of courage and justice as he remembered them until the boy was asleep in his blankets and then he stoked the fire and lay down warm and full and listened to the low thunder of the falls beyond them in the dark and threadbare wood.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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A father loves the son in divine dimension.

It is Sunday.  We are given Sunday so we might ask if we love as the Father?

In the best of moments and in the strongest of bonds a father loves his son in ways that mimic God and prepare the son for tomorrow and all the tomorrows we might be given, all the burdens that fall to men – the sacrifice of killing and of dying in the fight.

In the last few American decades it is men who have been attacked, derided, suspected and accused.  Fallen times and fallen women – a race gone wrong in many ways. Such is a time when God is forsaken.  Fundamental undoing. Dangerous course and full throated nonsense.

But who will fight for the frail but the father and his son?  The crop of warriors diminishes. Whole groups have no fathers.

We speak and act as if there is no treachery, as if “others” will magically appear to save us.  But there are fewer fathers who love their sons divinely … and fewer sons breeds fewer fathers and danger appears to conquer and destroy.

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.  Nights dark beyond darkness and days more gray each one than what had gone before.

Shalom.

Footnote – I hope this strikes a satisfying cord for you, especially for men and fathers. We have fewer now who know who we are and what we do, know how deeply we feel and how essential we are.  Share this with others if you wish – and surely with men who are fathers. God bless you all.

 

Today’s Assault on Republican Congressman and Staff

[I wish I did not have to mention this.]

The man arrested for shooting a Republican Congressman, staff member and police officers is reported to be a Bernie Sanders supporter with troubling social media posts aimed at President Trump.  His posts show he is an ideologue and a devotee of Leftist policies and Leftist media celebrities.

Perhaps, Democrat politicians and the Leftist press and media types will realize their careless, inflammatory words and calls for “resistance” in the streets have a very dangerous consequence.  Hatred claims its victims.  It is best to watch what we said and how we say it.

Serious prayer and civil behavior is needed.

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… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …

Mt 20:28

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What will it take for us to be humble?  The Son of God came to serve, and ransom our life at the price of his own.

When will we see the essential, indispensable, central role of humility in human existence?  The foundation stone that it is for us, for a contented and peace-filled life?

Does it take tragedy like today’s devastating high rise holocaust in London?  Or the brutality of despotic regimes?

Yesterday, I saw for a second successive time the rudeness of a U.S. Senator (Kamala Harris, Democrat) asking questions of a witness.  No humility there.  No grace.  Rudeness, yes – not humility.  (Attention, Miss: the wise ones play hard, get their answer and are not rude in the process.)

Today, I saw the bright orange-red sun, a perfect orb, ascend over the mountains. Humbling.  Can anyone doubt God’s dominion?

Then, a friend sent me pictures of his four grandkids – two boy and two girls, Quads – four at one pregnancy.  All healthy.  All exquisite.  Perfect.  Little button noses, bright eyes, chubby little arms and hands and bellies.  Humbling.

The children’s Dad is a young guy who came to me when he was an undergrad at Notre Dame.  He sought me out to discuss becoming a lawyer.  Hesitant, he needed insight, encouragement, counsel.  I delivered.  He is now licensed in two states and occupies a seat in a Chicago law firm.  I’ve seen a college student become a lawyer and a father. Such a joy to witness.  Humbling.  Quads.  Very humbling.

I’ve seen my own son become a man, secure his Ph.D, in one of the hardest disciplines to tackle (the hybrid field of AI/neurals systems).  Humbling.  And seen him become not just a man with a doctorate but become a loving, patient, engaged, soft-spoken, fun-loving father of two little ones – a boy going on three and a girl of eight months.  Humbling.

Look, Friends – we are far better with humility than without.  Look around those without humility are bores.  They really crowd public life, politics especially … in the celebrity realm, and in media.  Bores, so often.  

Cherish the humble ones.  They are a clear “cut above.”  Do we not instinctively know this!

Shalom.

If this message is helpful.  Share it with others.  We are in this together.

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.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called to one body; and be thankful.

Col 3:15

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We live in a hyperbaric environment.  Such are the doings of a highly politicized, secular mass communication culture.

Yes, the “news” is instant and almost inescapable.  And, yes – this keeps us ginned-up, on edge – involved in things we have, frankly, no control over on a day to day basis.

We are, to be honest, cranked up and riled by the daily news – a savage murder here, a major government screw-up there, a celebrity meltdown next, then a grotesque dishonesty, and the sprinkling of partisan name-calling and calamity here and there, oddball advocacy and opinions on top of it all.

My point?  We are apt to forfeit the peace of Christ that is our gift as Christians. Yet, we need not be swept up in the confusion, sin, shame, actions of others, foolishness and the anxiety and doubt that others create.

We can be at peace.  Yes, rest in Christ.  Stay in the peace of Christ.  That is your constant, your stability, your present and your future – here and for all time.

Quiet down.  Stay in Christ.  Stay in the stability that is that peace.

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.

For those who face a trial and complain or become resentful.

… do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing … to the degree that you share the suffering of Christ …

1 Pet 4:12, 13

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How often have I heard someone say: why is this happening to me?  Why am I suffering?

In what are rarer instances, I have witnessed in my life those who have faced hard challenges and yet never complained.  I think of my mother: struggling to find work, alone – having lost her parents when she was still a young lady.  And I think of my young wife with cancer, a punishing disease that worsened year by year. Neither complained.

I am asked from time to time, was your mother faithful?  I answer: “yes, by the way she lived – she encountered hardship and never wavered.”  The same could be said of my wife. They each possessed a courage that tells of faith, that comes from faith, that rests on faith.

They believed.  They saw God in the trials, and they walked with God without complaint, or doubt and they never felt sorry for themselves.  Indeed, they put others first.

In our trials we draw closer to God and learn to rely on God not on our self.  We learn that we are not alone and that life is but a passing.  In this we see who we are and what a human being is and can be.  We see how those who do not believe are in constant turmoil and how they cause problems for themselves and others – how discontented they are.

To believe in the midst of a trial is to be a witness to others of the Truth that gives us peace: we are God’s children and we are never alone or forgotten.

Have faith.  Act accordingly.

Ask yourself – does this culture promote or disparage faith and the experience of God?

Have faith.  Act accordingly.

Shalom.

… that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they may also be in Us …

Jn: 17:21

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” … that they may all be one … “

We often think we must find God, as if God is hiding somewhere or is distant and far from us.  But does God require our search?  What if God is nearer than we are to ourselves?

What if God is in “the all?”  What if the Creator is in “all” that is created – in the visible and invisible, in us and without us – in all time, without absence or pause?

In Jesus words, he is saying that we can be one with God, in God as The Son is in the Father.  Does this not suggest an “allness,” a divine inclusiveness?

In Eastern religions, the human is thought to be able to go beyond all ignorance, fear and change to a stable state in which “All things are Buddha,” the Divine is known and experienced in “all things are without self.”  Yes, where we dissolve into the One that Jesus speaks of in the above words.

Imagine this simple thought: If God makes all, is God not in all, is God not All? And from this, we might ask: Are we not in God and is God not in us?  And this: Is our search necessary?

If we are in God as the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son, would we not change in a drastic and fundamental way how we lived, thought, interacted, spoke?  Would we listen to the godless and uninformed?  Would we pursue matters of discord or division? Would we experience loneliness?  Despair?  Or would we not live in calm, with a quiet inside, softness in our voice?   Would we ever lack for intimacy?

Finding God in All.  Think about it.

Shalom.

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