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Dedicated to My Son, His Wife and My Two Grandchildren … and All the Parents Raising Children

To be a good parent … we do not need to be people who have arrived; God simply calls us to be on the way, seeking, finding, and rejoicing in what we find. (Emphasis added.)

Catherine Stonehouse, in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith.

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My son and I recently had a very interesting conversation about providing for the spiritual lives of his two small children, ages almost three and almost one.

Yes, children have – as all human beings do – innate spiritual needs and desires.

Throughout the ages people are confronted with all sorts of probative “why” and “how” and “what” and “who” questions.  Why do bad things happen?  How can we be good? What is love? How do you forgive someone? Who made the world? Why go to church?

Yes, we are all bound by these questions.  And, no – politics does not provide the answer.  And, yes – by thinking all things are political as many do in this imploding secular culture we establish one thing for sure: life and cultures demand that individuals pay particular attention to our interior, the spiritual plateau in all human beings or court chaos and destruction, disintegration.  Absent attention to the spiritual: cultures, societies, communities, families, nations, individual people are undone – destroyed – trapped in selfishness, error, hostility, destruction, conflict, injury and despair.

Frankly, we are inclined precisely in that destructive dimension in contemporary America and the West at this very moment.  

We are, of course, not human beings seeking a spiritual experience, but rather – spiritual beings seeking a human experience.

Look around you.  Do you see how costly denying God and spiritual reality can be?

Parents attend to your spiritual existence and invite your children to join you.   Individually you will each be better – together you will be a family – a sacred, life-saving vessel in a world of choppy waters and occasional gales.

I wish you smooth seas – no matter the conditions you meet.

Shalom.

Moral Indignation.  Been alive for seven-plus decades.  Ain’t met a single perfect person, nor an angel.  My conclusion: we are not perfect.  Yet, now some (armed with moral indignation) are set on tearing down statues of people they find unsavory.  With this approach the Democrat Party may find itself banished after their lengthy history of favoring the Klan and racial segregation.

In the language of Boston politics – what goes around, comes around.    

 

 

What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence – moral, cultural, social, or intellectual.

C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters

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This, of course, is Satan speaking to his nephew in the The Screwtape Letters.

Satan goes on to describe how democracy levels all excellence, converts all to mediocrity or worse – enslavement.  In Satan’s world “no pre-eminence” is allowed, no one in the mass can be wiser than the mass.  Satan’s plan is “dumb everyone down.”

Well, welcome to the world of the American Left.  To the Obama national health “care” disaster. To the world of present day academics, the world of American socialism, the public school system, the federal government, the bureaucrat, the regulator, the “social engineers,” the “thought police” of this or that misguided “cause.”

In a degraded society, there is no excellence.  God’s gifts, like God, are unwelcomed, denied. Equality becomes a hammer, not a metaphysical state of being.  In such a state of being, democracy can do the work of the tyrant.  So says Satan in The Screwtape Letters.

It is sadly plain that much of what Screwtape said visits us today and few, so very few, among us are well-enough educated and devoted sufficiently to the mystery of God and Lady Wisdom to see what has been amply described in multiple sources over the ages.

We are hideously reduced.  Listening to whatever is the mass dialogue only makes matters worse.  Time to live wisely, to live in faith, to live with God.

We live in a moment when each Believer is called to know, and to speak and to reorient our present disastrous course.  Yes, we will have to speak truth when it is most dangerous to do so.

Shalom.

I am the way, the truth and the life.

Jn 14:6

 

 

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation … not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

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Very few visible in mass media are habituated to excellence.  If you want mediocrity or less, mass media provides an endless supply of such lightweights. However, beware: if you have a diet of mediocrity you will disgorge yourself of the attitude, instinct, discipline and will for excellence.

Excellence takes strength of soul.  Excellence understands sacrificial love. Excellence honors God in its being and doing.

All have the capacity needed for excellence.  Yet many forfeit the strength of soul.  Those who forfeit strength of soul live lies – excuses are common to them, envy too – they seek nothing more urgently than to thwart the will of others, to neutralize the soul.

Those who forfeit strength of soul are weak links.  They abound in politics today. They prefer dependence to a free populace for they fear being challenged to live fully.  They keep others bound-up so they might wallow in under-achievement, the cost of which always includes dishonesty and corruption.

When mediocrity rules, men are targeted, for it is men who do the dying, who come easily to sacrificial love.  A warrior class is always necessary.  Today, the weak seek their demise.  Men are targets for the weak fear them. 

Want to see the locus of excellence in American culture, look at the middle class and those like me who lived in poverty and in daily combat.  Look, not just at me but at my petite mother – one tough cookie … and her parents, and her brothers Don and Ray.  Their habit was excellence – its byproducts: humility, confidence, contentment, compassion, joy and laughter, insight, wisdom, generosity, gratitude.

Excellence comes to those who must work hard to survive, and to whom difficulties befall because in the hardest things they live daily by strength of soul. This is why the Left so despises the middle class and seeks to make dependents of the poor.  Don’t let yourself be sold short or sold out.

Live in excellence.  You’ll scare the heck out of the elites and make of us again a great people.  And, in the habits of excellence is satisfaction.

Enjoy the life God has given you.  Don’t let anyone deny you a life of excellence – especially of moral excellence.

Shalom.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  (Emphasis added.)

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

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Do you remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary?  (Lk 10:38-42)

In that story Martha is busy preparing a meal for Jesus and others while her sister Mary is seated at Jesus feet listening to him.  Martha asks Jesus if he does not care that Mary has left her to do all the preparations alone.

Jesus answered Martha – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This is precisely the wisdom Albert Einstein expresses. We all have the capacity to experience the mystical.

A life lived within mortal limits is a life not lived.  It is a life without fullness.  It is “the mystical” that makes a life, that alone completes a life.

Feodor Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov this: “Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystical sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world.”

We have many like Martha.  And few like Mary.  Which are you?

Those like Mary possess calm, certainty.  They see and they are not lured into all that is earthly.  They are not worrisome.  Addicted.  They are not egotists.  They are not trapped in the nonsense that prevails among the masses.  They are not captured in the present day and all its false gods and endless foolishness.

Our culture is full of Martha in many forms.  Ignore them.  They have chosen the lesser things.

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

Russia and Us.  It is interesting that for all the hubbub about Russia over the years, we have not been smart in dealing with them.  We have been, because we have “leaders” who do not live life on a mystical plateau, unable to see the undeniable truth about Russians which is this: Dostoevsky reveals their core, their heart – their orientation to life (even as they try to supplant him with Marxist nonsense).

The truth of who they actually are is their soft underbelly and, not being well and fully formed, our “leadership” cannot see it.

When the blind confront the blind – it is always an “eye for an eye.”  Endless folly. “Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.”

“Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.”

Jn 5:8

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These are the words of Jesus speaking to the sick man at the pool at Bethesda who had been unable to enter the pool for its healing benefits.

While these seem like harsh words, Jesus makes this point – it is best not to concede all of your welfare to others, not to disgorge yourself of yourself, of your own effort and power, your own autonomy and dignity.

It is so easy in society today to assume someone will assist you, do for you, “make things better” for you, cater to your needs.  But there is a disempowerment that comes from this attitude.  Yes, this is an attitude that concedes power to others.

Jesus saw the dispiriting nature of this.  He said as well in verse 21 of Chapter 5 in the Gospel of John:

” … just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”

When relying on others is our way of life, we deflate – we die a little when this reliance is habituated.  Jesus seeks to give us life, to show us life, to tell us we have a life that the Father called us to live fully.

Of course, from time to time one needs help here and there, for we are not omnipotent and exclusively self-reliant.  However, we are often capable of more than we think we are.  Do not let others consign you to less than you are.

Shalom.

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

If we wish to please the true God and to be friends to the most blessed of friendships, let us present our spirit naked to God.  Let us not draw on anything of this present world – no art, no thought, no reasoning, no self-justification – even though we should possess all the wisdom of the world.

Philokalia

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In a mass communication culture where we are assaulted with words, noise, chatter endlessly we would do well to think about the above words recorded by 4th and 5th century Orthodox Christians.

Yes, we are to know about the world, to gain knowledge – but we are not to be encased in reasoning, self-justification, art, thought or other artifacts of the present world – from trinkets and valuables, to politics and ideology because we are at ground zero spiritual beings … those tied to God by God’s creation of us and the world we occupy.

We are not consumers, pundits, lawyers, actors, CEO’s, professors … etc.  We are more than those things.  We have an eternal identity.

In today’s world it is wise to ask: how can I be exactly and precisely who God made me to be?  In this objective is health, stability, calm, contentment, quiet, patience, wisdom, morality, laughter, good judgement, ease, friendship, strength, loyalty, honor, love and salvation.

Ironically, in a culture that seeks to draw you in and under – the task is to stay afloat and aloft – above all the calamity, craziness, conflict and confusion.

Yes, the task at present: to live a monk’s life in mass culture, to take on independence and autonomy, gain humility and pleasure in all that God has given, all that God does, all that we have been made to be, all that God is.

Shalom.

If you find this helpful, please share it with others – friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues.

 We can all get better at living, gain peace, tranquility, stability and purpose – come to know joy as God provides it.

 

The Lord God planted a garden toward the East, in Eden … Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Gen 2: 8, 9

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… the tree of life …

We often miss this vital point in the story of Adam and Eve and their exile from Eden that results when they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

At Mass yesterday, Fr. Tucker pointed this out.  It is, frankly, a profound observation with extraordinary significance.

Yes, we were exiled for our disobedience.  Left to live far from the tree of life …. until 

Yes, until Christ was crucified – the Cross Our Tree of Life.  Such a wonderful and simple Truth from Fr. Tucker.

Think about this.  You have been brought back to Eden.  It’s enough to make a person obedient, thankful, faithful.

Beware of those who attack faith, the Church, religion and Believers – they have little understanding and are far from Truth and Life.

Shalom.

Technical knowledge is not enough.  One must transform techniques so that the art becomes artless art, growing out of the unconscious.

D. T. Suzuki, in Zen and Japanese Culture

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How do you fully live?  Yes, how do you access and activate the unconscious – awaken the essence of the human legacy?  Same question really.

He met the conformity of culture as structured by man but never conceded its control over his breathing, his heartbeat, his life here – as it preceded him and stretched into eternity.

He always had one foot outside the box.  His wry comments and independent judgment kept him free and gave him a sharper vision than most.  He saw behind the silk scene – people, after all, were not clever in concealing their shallow and predictable motives.

He was not often fooled.

Having access to the unconscious, getting to know it in detail made his life art – artless art, a movie from birth to mortal death … and then the everlasting sequel, a seat above in the presence of a warm May sun.

He was never much for formulas.  A blank canvas was more his comfort. Something to write on, to scribble freehand what came to heart, mind, wrist and hand.  Free flowing.

Operating on the margin of the box – turning the rules into sources of amusement and dismemberment so to say: “You do not have me yet.”  Life in the present structures as a game of escape and evasion, lest he suffocate, dry up and become weak and brittle.

Victory.  Life as artless art in all its ease, in each breath, in listening, hearing and seeing.

The experience of experience in its full range – from joy to sorrow and back again, never a dark day in triumph over the warmth of the sun reflected in the others, the friends, the children, love, laughter, kindness, the beauty, the quiet, the memories, the experience in yesterday and today.

… artless art …

Shalom.

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

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