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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.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I will not have to live a day without you.”

Joan Powers, in Pooh’s Little Instruction Book

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This is love.  This is friendship.

When you gather today with others or sit alone in your private thoughts, give thanks for the ability to love without condition, and thanks that you are loved and have been loved, and for friendships – those extraordinary connections that come out of nowhere and last a lifetime and beyond.

Think about love and friendship.

My neighbor, not a wealthy man for sure, deep frys turkeys and chickens this day and delivers them to friends, neighbors, people he knows who might be alone or are impaired, or down on their luck.

Yes, we have much for which to be thankful – remember these and life does not seem so hard.  Remember these and discontent cannot take root in you, in community and in our Nation.  Think about it: what other Nation has this tradition of remembrance – a celebration of gratitude and the God to whom we offer this day of Thanks.

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!

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.

 

 

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

September 11, 2017 – Remember the World Trade Center

Sixteen Years Ago Today

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” … the attempt to live … faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern.”

Rev. John Jenkins, in a Letter to U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (September 9, 2017)

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Sixteen years since 9-11.  We have changed.  Then we were one, now less so.

Fr. Jenkins is President of the University of Notre Dame.  His letter to Senator Feinstein was prompted when she and Senators Franken and Durbin questioned the place of faith in the life of Law Professor Ann Coney Barrett who has been nominated to assume a Federal judgeship.

Ms. Barrett is a Catholic and was asked questions that reflected the view of Feinstein and others that her faith made her a “suspect” nominee.

Frankly, I was stunned by the ignorance and lawlessness of Feinstein and her colleagues.

We have moved far from where we were as a nation sixteen years ago when the World Trade Center was attacked by radical Muslims who commandeered commercial airliners and flew them into the two Trade Center buildings.  Then, we were one nation under God. The attack filled churches and knitted communities together.  Faith solidified us.

Now we are a divided nation with the divide very much this: the Believers and the Unbelievers – God and the godless … or those whose primacy is faith and those whose primacy is ideology, politics and power.

The absence of faith is devastating – especially when we face the hostility of those without faith and those fueled by a radical expression of faith.

Today is a good day to reflect on who we have become and who we must be.

Our unity sixteen years ago made us one nation.  Now some among us question the need for borders, a subliminal rejection of the worth of our country. The message is clear: some do not believe that the United States is worth preserving.

Our nation’s founders created a Constitution that is as much a document to protect and further our individual and collective spiritual existence as it is a political document.

We see now sixteen years after 9-11 that when faith fades, a nation such as ours is attacked from within.

We had best take the measure of who we are.

Compare today with our snapshot on that fateful day: September 11, 2001. Which do you prefer: a nation as one, or a divided country with some intent on destroying what we have and who we are?

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 Holiness of Rain

The rain falls hard today in the mountains.  Hard enough to give it voice, a steady presence in a quiet room.  There is a peace in its persistence.  It seems to “hush” with its music, its patter –  coupled with its consistent, rhythmic din.  To match rain, the skies are close in; clouds and their gray dim the light as if to call us within.  Peace is at hand.  God visits today.  Being alone takes on its holiness, forcing the Truth of God’s eternal, everyday – day and night, year in and year out existence.

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” … my … pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself … I know I have seen what I was obscurely looking for.  I don’t know what else remains but I have now seen and pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

Thomas Merton

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These are Merton’s words upon visiting a cave adjacent to the ruins of ancient temple buildings near Polonnaruwa, Ceylon, and entering the cave to find large renderings of human beings and a giant reclining Buddha.

He felt in this excursion into this place an “inner clarity.”  He referred to this as “an aesthetic illumination” allowing him to see “beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

This was Thomas Merton’s last journey.  He was to die at 58 in a matter of days.

Is your life a pilgrimage?  Do you seek what you are created to seek.  Or are you captured by what is not Truth, not of the soul, of God, or of your divine nature?

Do not let the thought-police take you captive.  Your warden is a Loving Father.

For Merton the great stone figures were “in full movement,” beautiful and holy.

How does the world look to you?  What do you see?  Hear?  Feel?  Experience in the rain and the clouds?  Do you see “full movement” in motionless stones?

Shalom.

… the first Christian hermits abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude.

Thomas Merton, in The Wisdom of the Desert

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Why does a man live alone in nature, removed from the population and the city?

‘Tis a useful question.

As for the 4th century men who did so we can say, as Merton does, that they sought their salvation, saw its individual characteristic and their own responsibility for its solicitation.

Indeed, they saw that the pagan society that they knew offered little to further their salvation.  Rather, they concluded that it impeded access to it.

These men would not let the ways and values of the pagan culture destroy them, co-opt them.

They took no comfort in the Cross becoming part of the presiding temporal powers.  This, itself, is particularly interesting.  They seemed to know that civil matters where not spiritual in nature, that to The Divine alone belongs the primacy.

Think for a moment: these men saw Christian life as spiritual, as “extramundane” – as simply existing in the Mystical Body of Christ … and they saw that their responsibility was to seek life in Christ.

These men stood for the idea that man was personally responsible for his life and what it said of him and of God.  

Contrast that with today – when so many are captured by the common denominators of secular culture, its herd, its folly, its untruth and its destructive, conflictive and unsatisfying ways.

These men did not wish to be ruled by the decadence.  They did not see themselves, mind you, as superior to others but rather only more intent on living in accord with their faith. They lived socially in aid of one another and strangers as governed by their faith and “the charismatic authority of wisdom, experience and love.”  They “sought … their own true self, in Christ.”

Today I live on a ridge looking out on rolling pastures, forest, and mountains. Minutes ago the sun rose in the East over mountain peaks announcing once again that God reigns eternally …

Each sunrise – unique in its colors and hues – raises up God the Creator … enkindles my gratitude.

In my solitude, quiet makes the music so much sweeter and evocative.  In the solitude, I think of God in a daily silence, and meet the Desert Fathers.  In solitude, I have good company.

Shalom.

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