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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.

 

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The proverbs of Solomon … To know wisdom … receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity … fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Prov 1: 1, 2, 3, 7

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We seem to concede a great deal of our living to others, to the structures that surround us.  Perhaps, it is the desire for “easy” living – a “just-add-water” kind of intellectual and personal shortcut.  A shortcut that assumes carelessly, and without thought or examination, that “those in authority” know what they are doing and they act in our best interest.

Living by fantasy or myth?  So it seems.  Indeed, facts appear to incline to the exact opposite proposition than that “those in authority” know best.

In re-reading British Historian Paul Johnson’s 800 page book Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties I am reminded how Johnson reports that the Germany of World War II was prepared by the unexamined actions of state leaders in the late 1800’s and the early years of the twentieth century.  That is to say: government made choices that unwittingly readied their people for a collision course that became the Second World War.

In particular Johnson points out that the ranks of the industrial workers expanded between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as German industry grew and that the elites and military class resisted sharing power with them so an extensive welfare state was established to placate the population, and that Bismarck manufactured “imaginary foreign threats” that created a unified, subdued German populace – and unwittingly prepared Germany for war.  Yes, Johnson reminds the reader that these fears worked their way into subsequent politicians and leaders who fostered German aggression.

What is my point?  Proverbs were designed to make each person wiser, to cultivate knowledge and good conduct, independent thinking – greater understanding and insight.

The German state Johnson describes was governed in precisely an opposite manner.  It was meant to deceive and reserve all control in the hands of the ruling elites.

Are we not in a very similar situation today?

The Democrat Party of the Left is rigging its primaries, colluding with the Russians to secure outlandish allegations against a political opponent.  While in power they are making insider-deals with Russian oligarchs to provide them access to American uranium while identifying a goodly number of Americans as “a basket of deplorables” and furthering the nuclear development of an Iran that seeks “death to America.”  Mind you, the comfortable Republican elites are more than willing to go-along-to-get-along.

Frankly, it is the above circumstances which explains the last Presidential election result.  Unlike pre-War Germany some in our population know that something is seriously amiss.

Maybe a focus on Proverbs might be in order.  Maybe we have an affirmative duty to acquire the wisdom of Solomon.  Think about it.

Shalom.

Screamers –  When I grew up “screamers” were losers.  This was once again re-inforced when yesterday a handful of Lefties “screamed” in unison because Hillary is not president (nor sane, apparently).  These people can vote.  How sweet.

 

Begin the morning in the dark and quiet again – but there is a glimpse of sunrise to come where the clouds have parted.  In the background the chants of the Monks from the Monastery of St. Ottilien.  Peace is in the air … beautiful, eternal, above all mortal being.

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” … at last bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.”

Gen 2:23

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We have lost our way and make grave errors that antagonize and divide, make us enemies in the most fundamental areas of our life – in the most sacred areas – places from which our happiness, joy, and contentment – meaning and purpose are meant flow.

Perhaps no area of error and divergence is any greater than that of  understanding man and woman – understanding their sacred identity and divine value.

God willed the creation of man and woman.  They share perfect equality, one to the other.  Each possess inalienable dignity as they are made to be.  Efforts of any kind to subvert this are reckless, utterly destructive, contrary to nature, God’s will and doomed to fail.

Men treat women as your equal, revere them, protect them, defend them.  Women, see your extraordinary dignity, your special gifts, your most cherished honor to bear a child and love so deeply.

In creating man and woman as helpmates to one another, we see God’s wisdom and goodness.  Together in Holy Matrimony we see God’s image – – – God as pure spirit, pure and steadfast love, and union with us.

Men and women: marry and honor your pledge of union.  No absent fathers.  No single mothers.  No out-of-wedlock births.  No more abortions.  No more rebellion against God.

Men and women are made for one another – as a communion of persons in the intimate manner in which God is unified with the human person.  Two as one – complimentary to one another.  One flesh, “bone of my bone.”

As one we are entrusted with creating new life – sharing in God’s work of divine Creation.  In this we have personal responsibility for the world around us: how it will be, what it will do  – whether it is dominated by Good or Evil, Truth or Lie, Life or Death.

Does not our faith and heritage give question to “same sex marriage,” to “multiple genders” and a self-claim to gender?

Shalom.

Prayer for the Dying

All-powerful and merciful Father, in the death of Christ you have opened a gateway to eternal life.  Look kindly upon Margaret McCurdy who is suffering her last agony.  United to the passion and death of your Son, and saved by the blood He shed, may she come before You with confidence.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Your prayers for Margaret McCurdy are welcome.

 

 

If someone believes that he is a Christian and yet is indifferent to the fact that he is, then he truly is not Christian.

Soren Kierkegaard, in Works of Love

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Kierkegaard is not the only person to raise this issue.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jacques Maritain and Christopher Dawson said much the same thing.

The point that is raised is this: what is required of a Christian?  Are we justified in sitting back and waiting for God to correct errant conduct, evil, hatred, violence, abhorrent behavior and the actions of those who would de-sacralize institutions and drive God, religious liberty and faith from culture?

The answer would seem (to Kierkegaard for sure) “No, we are not justified in silence and retreat.”

This leaves one to ask: if I am a Christian am I not obligated to speak up when I encounter godless behavior, see others advocate those things that do harm to self and others, destroy sacred institutions, divide and make enemies of groups based on race, sexual ethos, gender and such?

It is difficult for many to speak up when the crowd favors a view the is contrary to you.  The desire for social relations and acceptance is strong – people fear being isolated, and alone.  Hence, silence is common and in that we are often under siege in a secularized mass culture.

Sadly, I know Christians who recede from public discourse because they do not wish to address hatred and disorder that is publicly expressed and politically advanced.  Of course, this was St. Peter when asked by others if he knew Christ when Christ was apprehended on his way to crucifixion.  It is human but not our best conduct, and to Kierkegaard and others it is not Christian in nature.

We have some hard questions in today’s environment.  On this matter we are divided: godlessness vs. godliness.  It is a “St. Peter time.”  A very serious moment with high stakes.

Shalom.

Boy Scouts.  Well, the Boy Scouts will now include girls in their ranks.  Sounds harmless enough if thought of as an isolated matter.  But is it an isolated matter?

Regrettably, feminism carries an overt antagonism aimed at men.  It is (like all Leftist movements) saying this: hurray for me (woman), the heck with you (man).  Yes, the broad thrust of feminism is anti-man.  Forget the “war in women” – feminism presents “the war in men.”

You wonder if that is so?  Look at social welfare dependency, abortion, the sexual “revolution” – where are the men in dependent families?  In out-of-wedlock births?  Fatherless families – especially (but not exclusively, for sure) in Black families?

Liberals, having successfully driven Black men from families, continue on their way to undermining the role of men and manliness in general.

I saw that carrying out a vocation differed from … actions dictated by reason or inclination in that it was due to an impulse … essentially and manifestly different order; and not to follow such an impulse when it made itself felt, even if it demanded impossibilities, seemed to be the greatest of all ills.  (Emphasis added.)

Simone Weil, in a Letter to a Friend

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Vocations arise from distinctly personal impulse.  One has the interior impetus to dedicate oneself to God and God’s service in an exclusive way.

Impulses like this cannot be easily ignored. To live in relationship with God is to be aligned to the impulse to serve God when needed.  Vocations come to those who are open to receive the call to vocations – to God’s service.

Those who close themselves from these impulses by saying – I will not be involved, I will simply be quiet and let God do the work – have no vocation, cannot be called to vocation because their pre-conceived disposition prevents the openness that impulse requires.

To deny the impulse to serve God actively – in word and deed – forfeits discipleship.  It leaves one to remain safely on the sidelines – even when Rome is burning.

Disciples speak and act.  Other are sideliners.

Are you a sideliner?  Or are you one who is open to the call of God and prepared to do what God asks of you?

Shalom.

Simone Weil was a French Jewish girl with a devotion to Christ.  She was born in 1909 and died in 1943.  My wife Sylvia was taken by Simone Weil and her remarkable life in search of God.  The next few blogs I offer on Simone Weil are for you and for Sylvia whose birthday was this month.

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I always believed that the instant of death is the center and object of life.  I used to think that, for those who live as they should, it is the instant when, for an infinitesimal fraction of time, pure truth, naked, certain, and eternal, enters the soul …  I never desired any other good for myself.  I thought that a life leading to this good is not only defined by a code of morals common to all, but that for each one it consists of a succession of acts and events strictly personal to him, and so essential that he who leaves them on one side never reaches the goal(Emphasis added.)

Simone Weil, in a Letter to a Friend

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Such a cogent proposition laid upon our table.

The object of life is the exact moment of our passing for that is the moment in which we might know Truth in our soul.  

One lives for that moment by living a moral code “common to all,” and by our particular acts and our accepting the events that come to us (each uniquely personal to us) with the clear proviso if we deny the events and avoid the acts we are called to do in our mortal life we will fail to know that sublime moment when Truth is imparted to our soul in an eternal life.

Well there you have it.  Do you live the life you are given?  Do you avoid the actions required of you by the events that are brought to you?  Are you living for you, or are you living the life God has made for you?  Do you live and act in the context of a common moral code?

So we ask: Are you moral?  Do you long for Truth and eternal life?  Do you accept what God gives you and act accordingly?

Shalom.

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.   

 

If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things work out.

Randy Pausch, in The Last Lecture

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I’ve never been a fan of whiners so the well-healed NFL football players, coaches and owners who put their social complaints on the captured audience of ticket-holders and television viewers have lost my interest and respect.  Shame on them.  Nothing admirable about them – nothing.

Just watched Patriots Day about the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Excellent movie.  More than that a terrific story about tough-minded, loving men, women and children who rallied together as one to see that those who killed innocent people were apprehended and punished.  It is a story about courage, toughness, achievement, honor, resolve, determination, individual strength, shared mission, sacrifice, community, love.

I grew up in Boston in a very testy public housing complex.  I know these people.  Many have been my friends for 64 years and more.  They are my family.  They would sacrifice for me and I for them.  Several recently faced tragic medical situations, I kept in touch: encouraging and caring.  I prayed for them and, as is always the case in tragic situations, I drew closer to God and became more thankful for all that we are generously given – especially for friends, neighbors, the capacity to care for others – and love God and others more than self.

Today, I see the legions of complainers in American culture today and am sickened by this – disgusted with them.  I knew a far different life.  I knew the life of taking what you get and moving forward, proving the obstacles non-existent, defying others who thought less of me by being more a person than they were.  I was not a genius but I was a hard worker, determined, tough, a realist who saw the near-empty glass and said: “Damn, I’ll fill the thing and more like it.”

I knew the bigotry that befalls the guy from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  The thoughts others affix to the poor neighbor and its residents.  This was my badge of courage – a badge shared by others in my same situation.  I saw life being raised with one parents and not much money.  I lived that life.  Became the first in my family to go to college.  First to graduate from college, go to law school, become part of a profession.

I became an Army officer.  Went on to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, worked in the U.S. Congress on foreign policy matters, had a successful law practice helping the poor, the sick, the under-represented.  People wrote articles about my work, about me.  I walked my wife through a devastating illness that took her life at age 29.  I left law in my late 50’s to earn a graduate degree in theology at Notre Dame, became a Catholic convert and vowed religious Catholic Brother.  I raised a successful son with his own Ph.D.  By the grace of God, he is a better man than I am – talented, smart, a terrific son, father and husband.  Ya, I was busy … I had no time to whine nor taste for it.  Like those around me, I saw bigotry and said “Screw you, I’ll show you who I am and what I can do.”  Their bigotry was motivation to me.  I didn’t sit on my fanny or make a political statement: I lived and defied those who discounted me and my friends.

At the end of the movie Patriots Day the men and women who participated in the hunt for the hate-filled brothers who killed and maimed children and adults spoke of visiting those wounded and without limbs and made this point: none were bitter – but rather they were optimistic, courageous – ready to strive, to live and prosper.  Yes, working class people I know are – not whiners … they are Boston Tough. 

Damn it, we ought to learn from them.

Shalom.

 

Triumph was in a sense the counterpart of Woodstock.  The one argued the imperative of the licentious, self-indulgent lifestyle; the other, the ultimate satisfactions of faithduty, and fidelity.

William F. Buckley, in National Review, (May 19, 1997)

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Buckley was commenting on Triumph (a Catholic magazine) founded by his close friend, Yale classmate and brother-in-law L. Brent Bozell.

The comment he made draws a sharp and applicable contrast to our situation today.

The contrast: on the one hand we can live for faith, duty and fidelity or we can be licentious and self-indulgent.  The latter is the godless American Left today. The former is the rest of us – Yes, the “basket of deplorables” – or as Mr. Obama says those who cling to their “guns and Bible.”  [Guns and Bible …. you know the people in (the former Republic of) Texas who are pitching in to rescue their fellow Texans in the colossal flood.]

The division in American today is along this fault line.  Believers versus pagan hedonists; those who favor liberty and those who worship self and government as God (the bigger the better).

What is particularly interesting about today’s divide is this: the hedonists are grandparents – ex-Woodstockers in their late 60’s, and a small cabal poorly schooled ideologues and we cover them in news stories like they are an insurgent army of thousands upon thousands and not the remnant of days gone by.

Are we not looking at this intersection: faith, duty and fidelity vs. lustful self-indulgence? Is the former not timeless and the latter as dated, arthritic and worn out as any 60-70 year old (of whom I share their age)?

I’ll stick with “the living water” of faith.  No peace in the other.

Shalom.

 

 

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.

 

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