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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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Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Lives

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We are made to seek contentment, to love and be loved.  In this one fact alone is evidence of God and the essence of our sacred being, itself.   Yet, today there are piles of evidence that we are neither content, nor seemingly loving or sufficiently loved.

“Evidence?” you ask.  Yes.

Look around.  See how few intact families there are.  See the divorces.  The adulteries.  The overt expressions of selfishness and hatred.  How we have elevated sexuality and exploited the human body.  Look at the predators and those who remained silent while knowing of their assaults, their habitual abuse.  Look, too, at pornography. The sexual abuse of children.  Abortion.  Parents killing their children. The addictions.  The “normalizing” of abhorrent conduct – the fiction of “same-sex marriages,” the lunacy of multiple genders.  And the grotesque violence.  All a product of the desperately unloved.

Now contrast these things with the God who is Love.

We live in a time when God is forsaken and destruction is advanced as a substitute.  We make Sodom look tame.

Many like to point to a President as the cause of our serious problems.  Others expect “politics” or government to be the source of our health, contentment – salvation.

No, these cannot satisfy.

Our happiness resides with us, with who we are – and with the recognition that God is necessary and the source of all that is good in us, good in human existence and in this mortal world.

It is Christmas time.  The source of your happiness is born this month.  Wake up!

Shalom.

Forget the suffering you cause others.  Forget the suffering others caused you,  The waters run and run, springs sparkle and are done, you walk the earth you are forgetting.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Forget

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Age roots in the body.  We remain, at best, of sound mind with insight from the years and the experience they bring.  For the fortunate ones joy remains, so too sight, touch, taste, sensuality, humor, gumption and guts.  But our voice softens as humility and gratitude take form – the soft voice – evidence of reverence.  Nearing home at last.

How blessed we are to age with soul in tact and heart alive with love and kindness – and long past worry and uncertainty.

There is a calm sense in being an elder for we have the range of sight unknown to the young – no matter the status, title, education, office … One must run the course to know and see.  Those ones see deeper, are content with quiet, live well among the lengthening shadows for by faith they are the sons and daughters of twilight … darkness holds no fear for them.

The aging ones who have lived well have fought the necessary fights – having fallen, they have gotten up.  In this they come to a point of common suffering and its fruit: compassion.

There is quiet and peace within when the light begins to fade.  Winter prepares for sleep.

Shalom.

The eye of the nihilist is unfaithful to his memories: it allows them to drop or to lose their leaves … And what he does not do for himself, he does not do for the whole past of mankind.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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The last several days I have been off my stride in posting a daily blog.  How can this be?

I was visiting Notre Dame – a place of faith where friends meet and memories are preserved; and in the preservation, the person and the past are, like Christ, alive and eternal.

This trip held time for friends and conversations of substance – human contact, embrace, careful listening, honest discourse, laughter, fellowship, remembrance and renewal.

Notre Dame is a place where daily life and faith meet – and faith absorbs its visitors.

There strangers greet each other as familiar neighbors – smiles and warm exchanges are the coin of the realm.

Standing in the very back of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus for the last Mass on Sunday past, I looked out on a church with every seat taken and many happily standing for worship – made all the more absorbed in faith by the beauty of the majestic structure, the stained glass made by French Nuns a century ago, the choir voices, the exquisite ritual of the ageless Mass – the privilege of Communion.  Many as One.

Standing there – seeing so many people focused on the reality of their faith – on Christ their Redeemer, Mary their Mother, God their Father, I was deeply moved by the truth and beauty, and hope and certainty that my eyes took in.

In faith there are no nihilists and memories are never forgotten nor misplaced.

It is faith alone that keeps us One.

This, Dear Friends, is for you.  Take heed, lost no more.  Live in faith – certainty and contentment follow – no storm or doubt may claim us then.

Shalom.

 

The object of contemplation is the whole of human reality, which, subjected to perpetual necessities of love and death, is not subjected, however, to the right of perpetual recurrence.

Czeslaw Milosz

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I wonder why people listen to me.  Perhaps it is because I think about the world, human experience in our shared point in time and cumulative history.

That is to say I have made a habit of taking experience in, wondering about what I see, felt, observed and what others encountered and how life speaks to them.

Yes, I spend time in contemplation – hence time with history, incident, my heart and soul, the individual and the aggregate, religious narrative, psychology, story, good writers, others, being alone, in the quiet, listening, in my faith, with my Self, in prayer, consciously with God.

In all of this I think: what do I see?  What is happening?  What registers on the faces, in the actions and in the hearts of others?  What gives authentic joy – makes one blissful … and brings us to sorrow?  What evidence is there of love and its absence?  Contentment and dis-ease?  Stability and disorder?  Tenderness and hostility?  Truth and its opposite?

I have been like this all my life – since a small child … because life presented incidents that questioned my existence, as loved ones died early – and far too often.

Contemplation gave some depth and range – immersed me in life’s events and living itself.  Yes, gave me immersion and perspective that regularly produced laughter and tears, grew understanding and the ability to diminish fear and shrink death to something manageable.

In thinking about life my voice had words that others received.  People actually listened to me and often laughed a legitimate laughter of joy at something I said – as the product of my experience and contemplation.

I was once a child, then young – full of strength enough to collide with life and history’s moments.  In age my heart has grown, laughter multiplied, friends became plentiful, gratitude ever present, love lives inside and leaps between me and others.

In a contemplative life there is neither regret nor blackened heart, eternity is real and close at hand.  Oddly, people listen – receive me and my words.

Shalom.

Whacked-Out.  Want to see how lost we are?  Look at the boorish behavior of the political elites and entertainment “celebrities,” and female teachers engaging sexually with their under-aged students.

Is this not evidence enough that the “sexual revolution” has worn itself out?

No more pampering of the boorish louts and misguided under-developed – children still when well past thirty.  Enough of them and their childish disposition, action and ideas.  They only succeed in making life more chaotic.

Back to normative behavior, people!

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.

 

When it comes to faith, “The heart has reasons that reason does not know,” Pascal says.  Those reasons … can become known to the mind … and insight and understanding is what happens when reasons of the heart are known to the mind.

John S. Dunne, in The Circle Dance of Time

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So begins John Dunne’s concise recitation of the human’s natural drive to find life’s meaning.  Yes, the human being has a natural spiritual drive to find beyond the limits of the mind and reason the transcendent nature of this life and the next.

Our present age prompts me to ask: have we diminished this natural quest?  Are we further from fulfillment of our human promise?  Are we less than we are made to be?  Are our addictions, homicides, suicides, broken marriages and disordered lives, mistreatment of unborn children, fractured families, sexual assaults and gross sexual disorientations not an indication that we are less than whole humans in a culture that is far less than well?

Recently Sean Parker, the former President of Facebook, talked publically about how he and others who initially developed Facebook knew that they were developing a product which would be “addictive” to its users – especially to children who used it.  Indeed, we see now suicides among its teens users, use of Facebook to “bully” and attack and exile others.  And, no one held to account for the damage caused, lives lost.

Aside for asking us to what degree is technology harmful as it is presently developed and used … yet, another question emerges and it is this:  Have we lost the capacity to know the reasons of the heart that exceed reason and the mind?  Could we even understand John Dunne or Pascal?

Asking these two questions asks this: do we know the endless stories recorded throughout human history which illuminate the meaning and purpose of this life and beyond?  Do we understand who man is?  Who woman is?  Who the child is?  What a marriage is?  What a family is?  What a community is?  Honor?  Virtue?  Fellowship?  Courage?  Selfless sacrifice is?  Do we experience The Divine?  Imagine eternal existence?

Once we did.  Now one wonders if anyone understands that there is a relationship between Buddha’s victory over the Bo Tree and his consequential view of transcendent reality?  Understand Dante’s vision of the Triune God in the Celestial Rose?  Or know of the foretelling of Christ’s crucifixion in the ancient German story of the pagan Othin who hung on a tree and in this penetrated darkness?

My point?  This: have we lost our way to the reasons of the heart? 

Does a nation of addictive tweeters lose God and in losing God lose the substance of Self … become reduced to mere mortal adjuncts to small machines which capture us and dull life, and impair much of what is human and hence transcendent?

Think about this.  Don’t go gently into that costly dark night.

Shalom.

Postscript – Many among us state this view: technology makes life more complicated not less so.  The machines load more and more functions onto smaller and smaller platforms sold at higher and higher prices.  A phone for $1000.00 dollars.  Progress?  I think not.

I have come to two firm observations.  One, just as the computer did NOT deliver a “paperless” office, technology has not made life easier – rather it has captured the human being and stole his and her time.  Two, life in the country among the cows beats being captured by machines … and it ain’t even close.

The object of life is surely not to have others take your time from you.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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