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The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

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The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia

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These words are from an address given by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1996.

Among his observations are these:

  • “a Christian should not support a government that suppresses faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life”
  • he knows of “no country in which the churches have grown fuller as the government has moved leftward”
  • the most religious nation in the West (the U.S.) is a capitalist society that is “least diluted by socialism”  (Emphasis added.)
  • since FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. has taken on the increasing role of a welfare state (i.e., taking tax proceeds of all and dispensing them to select individuals and groups that are deemed “needy” – and building political constituents in the process)
  • “Christ’s view was that you should give your goods to the poor, not that you should force someone else to give his (to others)”  (Emphasis added.)
  • “to the extent that the states takes upon itself one of the corporal works of mercy that would have been undertaken privately, it deprives individuals of an opportunity for sanctification and deprives the body of Christ of the occasion for interchange of love among its members”
  • the welfare-state does not contain or convey the Christian virtue of altruism
  • “governmentalization of charity effects … the donor but also the recipient … What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement … the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world owes everyone a living.”

What Scalia lays out is the decline of the role of faith in secular culture – and with it the loss of moral conduct long displayed by acts of religiously inspired service.

Likewise socialism fundamentally changes the way humans experience themselves, others and the nature of fellowship and community – indeed it blunts the power of love and hope … it deprives us of faith and sanctification.

Make no mistake, religion and God have been shunned in the post-New Deal environment – and, frankly, when moral conduct is not fostered through a population who has an active faith – hostility and faithless division takes its place.  There we become a troubled and self-destructive culture with less opportunity to make of us brothers and sisters to one another.

Converting to socialism and BIG government is, quite simply, destructive.

Shalom.

… that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You.  May they also be in us …  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 17:21

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In the recent four or five years in traveling across the country and in my daily public activities like shopping, I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to a good number of African-Americans – mostly men.  The conversations have always been cordial – actually wonderful, warm, joyful and a real blessing.

In each of the conversations I am referring to, I have offered and observation which has been universally and warming accepted.  My observation?  It is this: I say to the man with whom I have shared kind words and some laughter – this simple thing: “You know, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it is that others are intent on turning us against one another.  If I or you were drowning and someone threw us a rope that saved our life, would we ever care what their race, or religion, or ethic heritage was?”  Not one of my conversation partners ever responded other than this way: “You are so right, I am sick of the division.”

” … that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I am in You …”

Look, we have one critical responsibility and that is to be one as the Father and Son are one.

That said, ask yourself as you listen to those whose words are presented in public discourse – Does this man or woman divide us?  Or do their word bring us together?

I pray that we all start to apply these two questions to all who speak to us.

We will die by division – just as we will live and prosper only as one.

If you doubt this, think of this one thing.  In the Genesis story God provides man a companion – a woman because it is not good that man be alone.  Friends, could this be any plainer?  Men and women are clearly different and yet we are made whole by one another.  Does God not make this plain as day?  You know the answer.  Let’s live this reality, this truth.  One.  One.  One.

Dear God, help us see that we are one, meant to be one – help us turn from those who would divide us, create hostility for their own dubious benefit.  Amen.

Shalom.

If this message makes any sense to you, please share it with others.  We really are in this life together.  We own the problems we have and we have a way out of the troubles we had created.  Let’s get busy being one.

‘Tis raining – and cool.  A steady shower.  The wind persists and the fields are all green.  In the cottage The Chieftains join the Belfast Harp Orchestra.  The music matches the rain and the heart is happy and the soul is at rest.  Peace be with Ye.

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… if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be?”

Mt 6:23

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From today’s Gospel reading.  Light and darkness.

One of the present challenges today, given the harsh political language and the enormity of communication devices in our culture, is the question posed in the Gospel of Matthew in these words of Jesus – does the darkness live in you or the light?

By what words do you speak?  Is there a lightness to your voice?  Can you reassure in faith?  Do the words you hear change who you are or wish to be?  Being made an enemy, do you make others an enemy in return?

Given access to light eternal, do you elect darkness?

Lord, let me see the Light that it might live in me.  That I may shun the darkness and turn my heart to Light.  When darkness gathers, may I be Light.

Shalom.

Prayer Request – Political commentator Charles Krauthammer, M.D., passed away yesterday at age 68.  He leaves behind his words of wisdom, his friends of whom there are many, his colleagues, and his wife and adult son and extended family members.

May we pray for the consolation of his family, friends and colleagues and give thanks for his life, his work, his friendship, kind presence, his humor and his shared insights.

In a good life, death’s sting does not overcome the good that has been done.  In this, we celebrate and give thanks for a good life and a good man.

When you learn to be alone you’ll discover the difference between alone and lonely.

L. J. Vanier, in Ether: Into the Nemesis

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Coming to the ability to be alone is like climbing a very steep and very high mountain with tough terrain and turbulent weather.  Yes, being alone is not the first thing we come to embrace – more like the last thing we come to embrace.

I used to dread being alone.  Why?  I just lost so many people in my childhood – it was like being in battle and seeing those on your side, those you needed disappear leaving you with dwindling odds for survival.

Yes, loss at an early age is a serious awakening that brings more fright than confidence.

But then there is age.  When you have weathered many storms, you somehow grow in strength and confidence.  You can only bury so many people before you realize “you are still standing … and each battle has made you wiser and stronger … and ready for the final days whenever they appear.”

At some point being alone is tolerable and supplies you a state of peace that awakens you spiritually.  At some point, alone comes to mean God, what is eternal and joins you with those long gone but not missing really.

When you can be alone and yet with the others you have known, you have approached the summit.  At the peak of the climb there is no sadness, no loneliness – just the fruits of the hard climb up the craggy mountain.

Some people never climb the mountain.  In this the mountain becomes a demon and fear settles deep in the valley of one’s soul.

For me, I’ll take the mountain and the peace it brings – brings in such an odd way of suffering and challenges.

… Jesus led them up the mountain.  There he was transfigured.

Mt 17: 1, 2

Shalom.

Why does anyone tell a story?  It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose to say or do matters, matters cosmically.  (Emphasis added.)

Madeleine L’Engle

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So says author Madeleine L’Engle (Wrinkle in Time and so many other wonderful works).

Yes, life has meaning.  Yes, life has meaning for each of us – from the oldest to the youngest, from the richest to the poorest, the healthy to the ill.  Each of us live a life of meaning … and we are not called into life willy-nilly – without purpose or sanctity.  We are holy beings – everyone.

Finding meaning is the issue.  Finding meaning and experiencing the intimate and amazing reality that we (each one) has a reason for being and for living a full life – beginning to end.

Where to find meaning?  One place in story.  In the written and oral stories of the human being throughout history – in our mortal and eternal existence.

Story.  The best and most revealing story we possess as Christians and Jews is our religious narrative.  It, more than any other story within our reach, is laden with meaning for each of us.  Each recorded episode of God and his people, of Christ and his disciples records the meaning of life for each of us.

Yet, there are those among us whose actions seem to say: “I know not my meaning – I have no value, no meaning, no purpose – I am lost – irretrievably lost.”

This is a national cultural crisis.  It is immediate – it is now.  And it need NOT be so.

Sadly, we see the above words of hopelessness in the addicted, the criminal, the thief, the serial adulterer, the sexual predator (man or woman), the pornographer, the pimp, the prostitute, the liar, the cheat, the cruel ones, abusers … in those who take their own life.

We can even hear these words of hopelessness among those good men and women who have lived more objectively than subjectively – those who cultivated the mind at the expense of the heart.  These are good people who have missed the story and its life-sustaining nature.

Sadly about 45,000 people a year now take their own life here in the United States.  Yes, there are about twice as many suicides in the U.S. as there are homicides – and the number of suicides is growing rapidly.  Such is the price of godlessness in our exclusionary secular culture.  

We have lost our way.  Those with power and authority have forsaken faith – turned their backs to God and abandoned religion and our religious narrative at a very, very great price.  You see our unhappiness and self-destruction is the product of life without meaning – which is to stay: life without God, without attending to our religious story.

If there ever was a time when we had to reverse course it is now.  Come back to a life-giving story.  Come back to your faith narrative.  Demand it be welcomed in the public square.  Play an active role in our cultural recovery and restoration by adopting your religious story as a guide, and active ingredient in your daily life, thoughts and actions.

Our country needs you.  Others need you, too – especially our children.

Shalom.

If this post speaks to you, act on it – share it with others but do take your faith seriously.  Learn you story in its content and insight.  As usual, I appeciate your comments.  Thank you for reading Spirlaw.

 

She was gone and the coldness of it was her final gift.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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Along my fence line the cows are slowly chewing their way down the ridge.  They meander and are, as always, unperturbed.  The calves are the most interesting.  The youngest ones follow Mama, while the ones slightly older seem to couple in bands of three.  Unlike the elders, they wander here and there, and are often drawn to the downed tree too old to withstand time.

The morning sun has not yet risen.  It sits just behind the Blue Ridge too shy to show its face until just the right moment.

The moon appeared last night as I had never seen it.  Standing naked against a cloudless indigo sky hanging just over the mountains well before darkness.  It stayed a long time before retreating to its usual place in the high heavens.

I’ve never seen the moon show itself that way – alone, docile but invincible, large and so close.  I could see its uneven blemished surface from the craggy grays against its comforting glow.  In a world of alone there it was – big and personal – reassuring.  What is eternal is also loyal.  Such is the Divine way.

Some betray us.  I never had such instinct.  I was drawn to loyalty.  Always thought that was love.

Those who leave tell you that they are shallow.  Worthless.  Less than dust in the wind.

Words have no meaning to those who betray.  Once gone, they are dismissed forever.  Dead.  They are not the cows, or the calves, or the mountains, or the shy sun before daybreak, or the fallen tree that kept its place until age caught it as it catches each of us.

Ah, but the moon – that solitary moon – so big, so certain, so loyal and undying.  That is who I am.  Inside and out I am the moon and will be long after time takes me down.  Those who loved me and did not leave will see me in the moon and when they need me most, I’ll be there alone against that indigo sky.

Shalom.

Tasteless Media, Tasteless Left – The Washington White House Correspondence Dinner showed the crassness of the media and the Left when it featured an unfunny, insulting “comic” as their eve’s humorous.  In policy and reporting, in their politics and ignorance the Left and the media show  they are without value and should be utterly dismissed.

If the constant baseless and often loony attacks on the President are not sufficient, the hatred displayed at the Dinner was the topper.

Give the Left and the media what they have earned: your contempt and rejection.

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

Jn 17:21

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At the Easter Vigil Mass we welcomed ten people into the Catholic Church.  It was, as it always is in welcoming new members, a solemn and yet joyous event.

At the conclusion of the Mass many gathered to offer a personal greeting to the new members.  I had the pleasure of welcoming a tall, broad shouldered man and having a few warm words with him.  He was all smiles and greeted me warmly.

“Welcome, such a happy day isn’t it,” I said.  “Oh yes, it is,” he responded with a wide grin on his face as he stood within his family members.  “Sure is nice to feel the warmth and joy rather than the division that many in Washington seem intent on creating,” I offered.  His response.  “You too! … I am so sick of the division and hostility that I do not even watch the news anymore,” he said.

We both agreed that this nonsense of division must stop.

This was not the first such exchange I had with an African American.  Indeed, in the past five years or so, I have had much the same conversation and reaction.

As Christians we are designed to be one with Christ, one with God and one with each other.

When you hear the voices of division recognize them for what they are: destructive and contrary to God’s intention.

Time to turn away from those would divide us.

Shalom.

… love is by its very nature not unilateral, but bilateral, something ‘between’ two people, something shared. (Emphasis added.)

Harol Wojtyla, in Love & Responsibility

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These the words of St. John Paul II, such an extraordinary man.  For me, the most remarkable man I observed and experienced in my 72 years of life.

He writes of love.  He writes of love as a man who loved and was loved, a man who suffered, a man who knew hardship and showed enormous courage – a deeply spiritual man of great faith and great understanding.

He writes as a man of God – a man who served others not himself.

Love is bilateral.  What does he mean?

Love is interpersonal.  It joins and unites us – one to another.  It bridges gaps, distances, differences and divisions.  In love you and I become “we.”  Love is, and must bereciprocal.  There is no love of one another without reciprocity.

This is the love Christ brings us, invites us to know and share – live in and by.  This is Christ showing us God and God’s intention for each of us.  This is God – this is the divine gift – this is who we are made to be, how we are empowered to live and know God – to unite with those we love and those we encounter.

Yes, we live in difficult times – where untruth and selfishness abound.  That said, in love we are not precluded from joy, from realizing divine gift and God who is love and loves us – indeed, no deviancy we see today can triumph over God who is love and the love we have been given access to.

Our challenge today is to live in God among those who believe God is dead.

Shalom.

 

Listen, O my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth … tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord … He commended our fathers that they should teach them to their children … even the children yet to be born that they might arise and tell them to their children … (Emphasis added.)

Psalm 78: 1, 4, 5, 6

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I have written lately of our need to separate from the pagan, secular culture and turn away from the public discourse for it is destructive and devoid of God.

Yet, turning away is not enough.  We must turn to God, His words and instructions – to the good and faithful ways of His Prophets and Saints – His Disciples and Teachers.

We live in serious times, in a time of great deception and destruction whereby we jeopardize our nation and its legacy, and that of Western Civilization.

Our faith, beliefs and ways of living are attacked by those without God.  Yes, we are attacked by those who occupy positions of authority and command public presence.

We have failed to teach our children well.  We have been silent when we should have spoken.  Our silence has allowed evil and division to take root.

It is fair to say that we have not lived in more serious times than these.

I ask, then: do you read Scripture each day?  Do you grow in holiness?  Do you teach your children?  Do you stand in opposition to what is godless?  Stand against even family members who deny God and live in opposition to what is right and good and just?

This is a time of fundamental challenge.  Where do you stand today?

Shalom.

Men and Boys.  The state of men and boys is not good.  Men have more suicides than women.  Mortality among working class men shows men are dying younger than they once did.  Institutions like schools thwart the masculine aspects of young boys.  White Men are assumed to have a privilege and held suspect for it.  It is no surprise that police officers are targeted, hunted, killed regularly.

That said, we do not own this reality and its origin.

Its origin is explained in no small part by the division between men and women that Feminism has promoted.  Feminism, of course, is a simple variation of Marxist dialectic – that is, the notion that one must have an enemy to oppose in order to gain power.

Yes, Feminism has been at war with men for several decades.

Funny thing – having reduced men, one wonders how Whoppi Goldberg (62) and Joy Behar (75) will defend us from foreign enemies now that 71 percent of young men subject for military service are disqualified by reason of intellectual deficit, addictions, criminal records and health (obesity and mental health issues among them).

To the barricades Joy – to the barricades Whoppi!!!   What a mess the Left has made!

 

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