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Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941/Remember Benghazi Too

It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

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Another late post – ‘Tis the season for visits with family and friends.  My time alone only now as the darkness of Sunday night encases me.

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To be beautiful means to be yourself.  You don’t need to be accepted by others.  You need to accept yourself.

Thich Naht Hanh

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Buddhist Monk Thich Naht Hanh is returning to his native Vietnam from his place of service in France for medical reasons.  Prayers of him are welcome.

His work has been beneficial to many.  I offer but one of his observations.

What he says I wish to say to my son, my daughter-in-law, my grandson and my granddaughter, my friends and those I encounter who are far from accepting who they are.

For my family and friends I seek only that they may know their sacred being and live life in humility making contributions which align with their gifts and their heart.

For those who do not trust their divine being, I say – you cannot make perfect what The Perfect One has made in order to teach us Heavenly Perfection and help us see the small slivers of divinity that we carry in this mortal life.

There is no need for us to carry the thought that we are “not good enough” – for being good enough is our best … it is, after-all, as good as we are capable of being by design.

We are but imperfect images of the Perfect One and to be just that is to be as we are made to me.  We are not good at out-doing our generous Creator – and all attempts to the contrary end in injury to self and others, to torment for us and others – even those we love.

To be yourself is to be as God hath made you.  In that act of acceptance is obedience, and peace and joy – sufficient to reduce all disappointments to extraordinary understanding and that good product is added to the goodness we possess gratis – as sacred gift.

In acceptance of self comes humility and certainty in the face of what is not known.

Shalom.

Only solitude has taught me that I do not have to be a god or angel to be pleasing to You, that I do not have to become a pure intelligence without feeling and without human imperfection before You will listen to me.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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We neither need be god nor angel, nor pure intellect or perfect.  God loves us and accepts us as we are: human and imperfect.

Yet, what public figures or those in leadership positions or those who insist that they must lead show any signs of what Merton is saying?  Who among those cited have the humility and understanding conveyed by Merton?  Answer: no one.

Given the acceptance of a loving God, we chatter endlessly – much as if to avoid any interior examination.  Ironically there is no leadership to be offered by those who lack the humility that comes from what Merton rightly says.

The endless chatter of the public class says one thing: they are neither whole nor intact.  Run from such people – pay them no heed.  Lacking humility – they lack wisdom and missing each they cannot offer anything much but division and folly … and they do so as we can plainly see.

Chatter is wasteful noise to avoid individual growth and the recognition that we are all, in essence, the same – with the same value to a loving God.  There are no hierarchies of privilege and heritage, and education and wealth that ought be honored.  Indeed, one who serves in leadership must stand with others and not above others.

It is the quiet one who leads.  It is the common one who possesses what Merton describes.  For it is the quiet one who walks with God and others.

Shalom.

Back from an unexpected day without a post.  It was a leisurely drive back from family and friends – a long road in beautiful country and heavenly quiet.

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The version of eros that Jane Austen’s novels study … is hardly animalistic.  It is ethicalthat is, it is concerned with the education of the will to the end of good character, and indeed is precisely about coming to know someone’s character.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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Who among us acts as if love is intended to deliver us to good character

To the best of my knowledge I give you my answer – not very many.  And I add we are a sick culture – more animal than human.  Grunts in heat – far short of character … the kind of people you’d be best to avoid.

McCloskey’s book is excellent and particularly good in discussing love and its relationship with our character.

Only through McCloskey can I see clearly the distinction between my wife who died childless of cancer at 29 (one month short of our 4th anniversary) and a subsequent wife who left a child, a husband and a marriage after 22 years for no particular reason but her desire to do so.

In McCloskey’s work I see so clearly one spouse aligned love and character and one did not.  I add, indeed, that unbeknownst to me in dedicating my life to the care of my seriously ill and dying wife – I had enkindled in me the relationship between love and character.

I add thankfully that by the grace of God I lived and loved in a manner that both life and love was joined to the quest for good character – who I am, who I have been made at birth to be.

Recognizing this allows me to see so clearly the blessings of that first love and the triumph that my life has been – all because of the grace of God.  Likewise, I see the ugly character of so many in our culture who make no such linkage between love and character.

It is hideous how the affluent and so-called “elites” and public figures, celebrities and the self-proclaimed wisdom figures and endless talking heads show absolutely nothing to distinguish them nor merit any of our attention.  Yea, their personal lives often a mess –  a series of failed marriages – seemingly without a touch of honor.

The fault lines are now between the urban and suburban elites and those who are not them.  Oddly, the fault lines might just be between those who show that love is connected with character and those that do not.

Shalom.

 

Follow me and allow the dead to bury their own dead.

Matt 8:22

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Let the dead bury the dead.  This phrase has followed me for some time.

As you recall these are the words of Jesus to a man who he encouraged to follow him.  The man’s hesitance led him to say he first wanted to go home to his father and Jesus gave him the above rely.

What does this say?  Well it is an emphatic way of saying that those who are spiritually dead are to be left to their own dilemmas and those who are spiritually alive are invited to be with Jesus.

Frankly, this is no less valid today than it was when Jesus spoke these words.

I am sure that you have tried to help people along the way and probably done so often and attended to those in need over a lengthy period of time – only to see that the person in need never made much progress – but rather remained in the same situation in which they sat when you first began to walk with them, help them, encourage them.

Let the dead bury the dead.

Many among us simply refuse to live in the spirit.  They neglect their spiritual development.  Often the are stuck in a dependent state – many times on the public dole.  Indeed, sustaining “hand-outs” very frequently instills dependence that kills the spirit and results in a life being far, far less than it it could be.  This is very much the difference between socialism and the “nanny state” and a free society that offers help but expects those helped to become responsible for their own welfare and well-being.

In a spiritually healthy society – there are NO “handouts” – only “hand-ups.”

Better to give a person a hand-up than a hand out.  The former enlivens the spirit.  The latter kills the spirit.  The former develops adults and the latter sustains the immature.

Let the dead bury the dead.  You cannot push a car up a hill with a rope.

Shalom.

… it is no sin to live a silent life …

The monk is … a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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I live as a monk … on a ridge at the edge of a forest and beside a large slopping pasture that sits at the bottom of a mountain range now in full autumn color posed against the blue November sky bolstered by the chill of brisk fall wind.

I live a quiet distance from a mass communication culture where those thrust ceaselessly at us are merchants of division, animosity, confusion, superficiality, self-interest and considerable ignorance.

A monk is counter-cultural.  His separation defines his values.  To stand outside the culture that divorces itself from God, that knows not sanctity, that neglects the spirit within us is to separate from disorder, to see the culture critically and keep peace with the Divine.

My cottage is my cloister where I may select what I read, hear, or see – a place where I may keep company with my thoughts and prayers and the things of a God who gave us our existence.

Having been planted on “the wrong side of the tracks” as a child, I was made ready to stand apart, to sustain a critical objectivity that refused “transient fashions and manifest absurdities.”  Leaving them was never to have fancied them at all.  Yes, it was a grace that liberates and leads me here.

In a solitary existence one finds the conditions for a full life, and life’s meaning – that is:

  • interior exploration and its sacred products – freedom, understanding and depth of being
  • the peace and health of silence and solitude
  • distance from distraction and disorder
  • contact with the Divine and what is Divine.

So I say (with emphasis added) what Fr. Hugh Feiss, O.S.B. says in Essential Monastic Wisdom –  “…  find some where a place of silence and creativity, where one can listen to the voice of God and think one’s thoughts and be one’s own self.

Shalom.

It is within your power to withdraw yourself wherever you desire.  Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.  (Emphasis added.)

Marcus Aurelius

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What gives rise to tranquility?  Your tranquility?

If you pause to think about your health and happiness is this not the fundamental question?  I think it is.

Our eyes are the avenue to the brain.  What do you see each moment, each day?  Do you live in an “ordered” realm?  Are your surroundings in chaos, disarray?  If so, how can your eyes not convey this disorder to your brain?  And what of noise?  What do you hear?  Does not noise itself affect tranquility?

Desire tranquility?  Ask yourself what effect the invasion of unwanted ads on the internet have on you?  When you think about it they are intruders – others pushing themselves into your life – ads: from the eyes to the brain.  Do you wish unwelcome intruders into your home whenever they desire to enter?

We live in a culture where intrusion and invasion are common.  Yes, tranquility is denied routinely.  What is one to do?

Wall off these intrusions.  Control your surroundings – have your place of home ordered.  Each thing has a place.  You need not that much.  The less you have the easier it is to know tranquility.  Give no space to the TV talking heads.  You do not know their life – whether it is utter chaos – which it probably is.  Why listen to sick, confused people?  They bring no tranquility – only chaos.  And celebrities?  Ugh!!!

And, problems.  Do you welcome those who bring problems into your life?  To do so does not bring tranquility.

And what about your interior journey?  Have you quietly and diligently examined your life experience and come to know the pluses and minuses of those so important to your development from birth to adulthood?  And what of the losses, betrayals, great disappointments?  Have you faced them honestly and learned what was intended to be learned?  And how about you?  Do you know what triggers your most salient thoughts, reactions, attitudes, convictions?

Finally, can you be silent and alone?  And most importantly, do you have a home in religious narrative?  Do you keep the company of history’s great contemplatives?

When you think about it – tranquility soothes the Spirit and we are all first and foremost spiritual beings.  Tend to that thought and act on it – and you will come to greater tranquility – no more anxiety, no more naked vulnerability to intrusions and the idiocy of the noise and disorder surrounding you.

Shalom.

Postscript – When we see another, do we see a man or a woman or do we see color, age, ethnicity, status, physical attributes?  Can tranquility come from such seeing?

… do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Emphasis added.)

Isa 41:10

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We are in difficult times.  Men are assumed by some to be the source of evil, a target to be destroyed.

Some among us will do anything to gain power.  Those who lust for power wish to void electoral results.  They prefer their way to the decisions of a free people who have spoken.

Those who lust for power are poor losers.  Their arrogance exceeds fair play and their conduct does not serve them well.  Acting in bad faith, their words ring false.

In fundamental ways this nation is being diminished by some of its people.  We are rightly dismayed by what we see.  The presumption of innocence is replaced as to men or those who believe in God and a presumption of guilt is applied to each.

Yes, those who disagree with those on the Left are presumptively dismissed and discounted, chased from public places, ridiculed and insulted.

In such times one need not fear for our God is an ever-present, just God.  In such times we are called back to God.  These times are for renewing our faith, invigorating our beliefs and carrying those God-inspired beliefs into each day in the way we present ourselves to others, in each transaction, and in our quiet moments and thoughts.

Difficult times renew our faith, restore God as our point of reference.

We are in such times.  Now is a time for strength and renewed confidence.  God gives us opportunity and courage in these challenging moments.  What a blessing that we may live our faith overly and without fear in our most difficult days.

Did not David face his challenge in this way?  So shall we.

When the world around us seems less faithful, those who believe become more faithful … and overtly so.

Shalom.

Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.

Maya Angelou

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Political ideologues are unable to do this.  They never mention love.  They make demands, insist on getting their way.  They go to extremes to divide and make enemies.  They expect all to adjust to them.  They show no evidence of a relationship with God.  On the contrary, you hear in their words only their own confusion and insistence.

It is strange that they can get away with this selfish insistence … but then again maybe that tells us that our culture is more Godless and God-ful.  If so, then we have no more ground to give the ideologue.  No more need to listen to them nor make space for their destructive disposition.  Loving them is expecting more from them, expecting them to change their ways – to be congenial, courteous, thoughtful and adult.

Yes, loving those who are unloving means not validating their nonsense.  Once the foolishness is gone – there is space to love and accept.  But no one who seeks a meal eats what is impure and spoiled.  When the standard is set, the meal can be shared.

Yup, no more ground to give.

“Well, Dear, talk to the tree until the tree listens and changes as you wish – then come back to me and we shall chat anew.”

Shalom.

Surprised.  You might be surprised at how many voice and sources I no longer listen to or pay heed – MSNBC, CNN, PBS, the major news networks, The Washington Post. The New York Times, feminists, Democrats and “social” Democrats, leftists of varied stripes, shapes and sizes to name but a few.  I prefer the clear air of a monastery of one to the open air “nitwitary” of many.

What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.

1 Cor 15:35

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I like this sentence.  Why?  Because in our life we sow many things by what we do.  Our work, our kindness, our missteps, our sacrifices, how we endure any suffering that comes our way – in these things we sow seeds.  Yet our lives and each of us personally is not the story, not the meaning of our existence – rather when we live and recede from our self-importance then we are known, then we are alive and in the full.

Think about it, when we decrease God increases.  When we are less, God is more.  In this we die to our egos, to our self-importance.  In that dying we are born.  Born to who we are – mortal beings with an eternal frontier that awaits.

Dying to self is living to the full.  Anonymity exceeds celebrity.  Our being and meaning is sacred and eternal – far more than merely mortal and earthly.

Shalom.

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