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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.

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Happy Father’s Day

Late posting today.  I spent the weekend with my Son, my Daughter-in-Law and my two grandchildren.  Just a wonderful weekend in every way!  Hope your weekend was as nice.

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The heart of a father is a masterpiece of nature.

Antoine Francois Prevost

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Father’s Days are complicated experiences for me.  I so loved being my Son’s Dad when he was boy.  Best job I ever had.

While still a Dad and now a Grandpa, I recall growing up without a father.  Thank God, I had a wonderful mother who helped her Mom raise her four younger brothers.  She knew how to accompany me to manhood and did a really remarkable job selflessly getting me “on my way.”

Perhaps you can sense the mixed feelings I have in this regard.  So miss my having a small boy to shepherd along.  So grateful for my grandson and my granddaughter and for the privilege of having an adult son who is thoughtful and loyal, an accomplished young man and good Dad himself – and so enjoy our honest and interesting conversations where we exchange ideas and observations freely.  Yes, I miss my mother, now years dead, and carry such a grateful heart for her many sacrifices for me.

I suppose what I am saying is this: I remember the hardship on my mother and me as a child.  I know what an extraordinary woman she was and how she helped me become a man.  Likewise, I know what a joy I had as the father of my young son.

Yes, I am thankful – but, yes, these things pass in time and become the bitter-sweet memories of deeds done and days passed.

You see our greatest deeds of love become memories and dictate times past and joys slipping out of reach and out of touch.

Father’s Day has its complexities for me.  The twilight comes and the light fades – as it must.  Never easy to lose the radiance of a thing so bright, and warm, and nourishing.

God bless you all.

Shalom.

 

March 19th, The Feast of St. Joseph

My Mother’s Birthday

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Blessed is the one whose will is the law of the Lord.

Antiphon – The Psalter, Vigil of the Office of the Saints,

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My mother was born on March 19th, the Day of the feast of St. Joseph – the Christ child’s Guardian.

There are no coincidences.  

As it is said: St. Joseph was like the tree planted near running waters which brought forth its fruit in due season, so it can be said of my Mother.

So many times I have said to others about my Mother, “She saved my life.”

Selfless, strong, loving, determined, thoughtful, sacrificial, savvy, tough – with a tender interior, a compassionate heart and eye for justice with a most merciful touch … and an inexhaustible love of children.

She taught by example.  Never placed herself first – preferred to serve rather than be served.

If there are two earthly things that I might say made the greatest difference in my life they are these: one, I had my Mother as my Shepherd and guide, and two, life brought us hardships, losses, challenges and misfortunes that strengthened us, grew us, increased our faith and made us One.

My Mother passed away 21 years ago, but the truth is she has never left me or my Son (her Grandson) – now a successful adult, father and husband.

Now she sits aloft to see her lineage extended to Grandson Jack (3), and Granddaughter Fiona (1).  Yes … fruit in due season …

Happy Birthday, Mom.  Love you always.  No one lived better than you.

We send our love to you … and think about you often.  You were one of a kind.  Unforgettable!

Shalom.

   

A Quiet, Peaceful Sunday

… of the things in life … which is the thing you believe to be most valuable?  (Emphasis added.)

William B. Irvine, in A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

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We seldom stop to think about who we are and what would most satisfy us in this life.  Most people just respond to the noise and impulses of the culture.  Hard to imagine a contented life might result from that default setting.

No wonder there are so many discontented people, so many who submit willy-nilly to the noise, fashion, ideology, stimulus, fear or fancy of the day.  Yes, we play the lead role in our own confusion and discontent.  Few live a considered existence.

Given the opportunity to live a contented life of inner satisfaction and peace – many live in perpetual distraction, anxiety, turmoil and unhappiness.  Seems like such a waste.

In the manner we think about the world and ignore our humble place within it, the more chaotic our life is likely to be.

Author William Irvine reminds us that the Stoic philosophers sought to live a life without negative emotions, a life of tranquility – one absent fear, grief, envy and anxiety.

In pursuit of tranquility, the Stoics saw the mortal world as transitory.  They sought to minimize desires.  In contrast they sought to live courageously, in a temperate manner, with self-discipline and virtue, with joy.  In this they foretold of Christ.

They examined their life, sought to control their attitude and expectations – but nothing beyond their reach.  They did only what they could.

This: a descent prescription for today.  Yes, separation from the chaos and decay requires knowing what it is you intend with this sacred existence you have been granted.

Use the gift of life wisely.  Listen discretely and avoid crowds of the confused and contentious.  Yours is a sacred calling.

You’ll remember me when the West wind moves among the fields of barley …

Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley.  See the children run as the sun goes down among the fields of gold.

Fields of Gold

Shalom.

 

 

God abandons only those who abandon themselves, and whoever has the courage shut up his sorrows within his own heart is stronger to fight against it than he who complains.  (Emphasis added.)

George Sand, in La Petite Fadette

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Yesterday I spent much of the day alone.  That gave me time in all the quiet to think about the joy of seeing my son, his wife and my grandchildren and gave me mind to think about loved ones and friends who have passed away.  My mother has now been gone 21 years.  I have no siblings.  My uncles and their wives are now gone almost as long as my mother.  My wife Sylvia will have been gone 40 years this year.

I have spent a great deal of time without people who I loved and who loved me.  I have in absolute truth borne the weight of these years alone without complaint.  Honestly I have done so courageously – as Sand says I have “shut up the sorrows within (my) heart.”

Against this backdrop I call tell you I never liked complainers.  I was born to modest means and soon enough loved ones (grandparents with whom my mother and I lived) died.  Yes, each by the time I was just out of the sixth grade.  In short order my mother and I were in public housing and poverty took up residence in our reality.  Complaining was out of the question.  Complaining does no good.  It accomplishes nothing.  Doing is what problems and hardships demand.  Doing makes us stronger, wiser, more cunning, more empowered, more defiant, more confident, more independent.

That said, we live in a nation of complainers.  I am so sick of hearing about racism.  So sick hearing about income transfers, diversity, the plight of the dependent class, women who feel slighted, poor immigrants, etc.  Nothing gets better without parking your sorrows by the roadside and getting after life.  Wrong side of the tracks?  Show those who might demean you that you can outwork them, are stronger, more determined, bolder, more focused, unbeatable.

In the course of my life I have (despite a learning disability and poverty) graduated from college and law school, earned advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, practiced (serving poor clients, mostly), entered religious life, become an Army officer, purchased a home, a car and a small business for my mother, cared for a wife with cancer, raised a son who now has his Ph.D. and a nice wife, two lovely children and a good job where he is valued.  Mind you I am no genius.  I work. I had no time for complaining – I was a doer. 

We tolerate too much whining.  Too much complaining.  The best we can do for people who complain is this – tell them to be quiet and “get after it.”  Better we challenge others to show all the doubters wrong than waste time complaining or listening to their complaints over and again.

As legendary football coach and sidewalk philosopher Lou Holtz says: “Don’t tell people about your problems.  Twenty percent don’t want to hear about them – and the remaining 80 percent are glad you have them.”

Shalom.

The NEW Democrat Party.  Former Army enlisted clerk and transvestite Bradley Manning who was convicted for the illegal release of thousands of classified security documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison (before being pardoned by President Obama for no particular reason) has announced he/she is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against a seated Democrat Senator who has spent (as Democrats do) a lifetime on the public tit.  The New Guard is replacing the Old Guard.  (Same tit, by the way.) How charming.

This is exactly where the Democrat Party has been driving the bus.  George Orwell must be tickled pink – yes, isn’t that the color perfect.  The pinkos have more than one screw loose.

Here are people who move easily between worlds, the seen and the unseen … They encounter fairies and hold conversations with them but they also walk at ease with members of the Trinity.

Esther de Waal, in her Preface to The Celtic Vision

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The Celts maintained a connection with nature.  They were at home in heart and head.  They lived modestly – and mostly by hand.  They engaged the arts and spoke lyrically in storytelling, in song and prayer.  They were believers and lived without division between self and soul.

I spent Saturday and Sunday with my grandchildren: Jack age three, and Fiona – just yet a few months past one.  They are Celtic in heritage (Scots and Irish) and their souls and self are in complete unity.  Their worlds are whole – one grand adventure day-to-day and moment to moment.

Little Fiona wanders about the house endlessly – hoisting herself up onto a sofa so she can visit with you – rising early to find her favored stuffed pals and take them to her in full embrace and gently put them down.  If she has a cookie or other tasty morsel she offers you some.  She trudges about with her little bottom wiggling left to right and back again as an angel who has forgotten her wings might well do.  She is whole – one, a perfect human being – without complication … being just as she is made to be.  It is beautiful.

Jack is a man on an adventure, a fully animated fellow.  A life of many daily escapades.  He dives into life each day full of pep and is constitutionally incapable of lacking joy and energy and enthusiasm.  He is a lad of many daily joys and new ideas and projects that follow.  He invites old Grandpa Bobby Bob to participate … and I do … and thus I re-enter a world where I am one and undivided – full and whole and lovely, too.  He shows me what a beautiful thing it is to be as we are made – divinely whole, from and with God.

Fiona and Jack: proof of God and how God wishes us to be – whole and with Him, living as He made us to be.

These two are my Celtic origin, the people of my past – my heritage, theirs as well.  I shall do my best to keep them close to this, for what they have and who they are is reality … our divisions are not.

Incidentally I awoke today with this prayer on my lips from the days of my childhood:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my soul the Lord to keep.

Should I die before I wake, I pray my soul the Lord to take.

They awoke my past.

My Scottish Grandmother passed along her childhood bedtime prayer to me many years ago..  I had not thought of that verse for years.  Jack and Fiona: angels of reality.  Beautiful truth.

Shalom.

May you always walk in sunshine.

May you never want for more.

May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.

An Irish Blessing

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Wishing each of you the very best of life in this coming new year.

Seek God each day.  His presence is always to be known and felt.  Learn from the challenges – they teach best of all.

Thank you for reading Spirlaw.  Writing it allows me to start the day thinking about God, our world and nation and you.

Shalom.

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice that thorns have rose bushes.

Alphonse Karr, in A Tour Around by Garden

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Complaining has a limited shelf life.  No one likes to be quartered with those who constantly carp.  This sort of behavior has killed many a marriage and friendship.

Such constant complaining wears one out, drags others down.

In public discourse, the Left is wearing thin.  They are the constant voice of complaint.  They are the snowflakes, the resident disgruntled.  Their taste for idiotic demonstrations makes protest nothing more than a proclamation of their sour and childish disposition.  Yes, constant complaining makes children of adults.

Make no mistake the tables turn.  People prefer optimists to pessimists, joy to anger, good to bad, palliative to caustic, calm to hysteria, life to death.

Yes, it is the rose that is the beauty – the thorn pales in comparison.

Want to annoy the Left?  Be optimistic, cheerful – turn their complaints into what they are: annoying and slightly crazed childishness.

‘Tis the season for happiness, joy, renewal, optimism, faith, strength of soul, belief and good will.  Yes, in mature people that is the season all year, year after year.

Shalom.

TV and Roses – TV is (and always has been) an opinion-shaping instrument.  Roses are not.  Roses are roses.  TV is largely aimed at shaping how you think of things like marriage, adultery, homosexuality, religion, country, race, free markets, centralized government, politics, etc.  Roses in contrast do not spread propaganda.  They just are.

Want to just be who you are made to be.  Ditch the TV.

Susan Rice – Former Obama foreign policy maven objects to Trump’s America First view.   Love that one percent growth, do ya’?  Hard to understand.

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.

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.

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