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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.

… those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Mt 23:20

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Make no mistake there are distinct, substantive differences between our two major parties.

Do not be deceived the last electoral result highlighted the very real difference between the common citizen and the elites: those with power, money, status – the intellectual and celebrity class, globalists, the media, the perpetual Washington insiders whose class status is far different from Mom and Dad in small town U.S.A. , and between the ideologues, “special pleaders,” and mere citizen taxpayers.

Frankly, the privileged class lost and the most politically-focused of them (the Left and the Washington wags who are used to being “important”) are offended and not taking their bite of humble pie very well.  Yes, their obstruction and rhetoric is destructive – having gone beyond civil debate.  Actually, their behavior mimics the Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature who fled their state and hid from their official duties so as to thwart the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Like all actions people take, the angry objection to the voters choice of President tells us about those who are upset.  One thing it says is this: politics and power is a high priority for them – probably too important for their and our wellbeing as a nation.  Make no mistake a subset is NOT greater than the whole.  No one is more important than the nation.

It is always hard to speak to your Brother and Sister when they must be reproached – but speak we must – speak calmly, in a soft voice, as a friend, with authority and care. Reconciliation is the goal and it must always be.

Losses are difficult for many.  Those of us who have lived modestly and, in my case, on the “wrong side of the tracks” amid the very serious conflicts one can encounter – we are used to life’s ups and downs.  We learned long ago that no one wins all the time and that it is the losses which actually teach us the best lessons, impart the greatest truth and wisdom.

The one thing that we need now is a calm conversation with those who are most displaced by their perceived loss.  For civility to return, maturity must be cultivated and in this instance it means those hurt must listen to the voices of those who care for their welfare and that of this nation.  Yelling, fighting, anger will only inflame and put much at risk … including each of us.

Remember the opposite of love is not hate – but rather: indifference.  We cannot afford to draw battle lines, engage in nasty and dishonest behavior, retribution, character assassination, or violence.   Honest, calm conversation is the need.  An end to extreme language that excites ideologues and flames the fire … it must cease today, now.

I hope we are all to the task.  It is the humble who are exalted.  They are strongest who life has humbled.  Make no mistake – in the end the humble remain standing while the prideful fall. 

Shalom.

Postscript – I am always amazed that the “talking heads” on T.V. and many elected officials talk and talk without ever citing an authority – the words of someone whose insight and wisdom they share.  You have to conclude that they are talking through their hats, haven’t cracked a book since the 3rd grade.

You wonder: why would I listen to these people?  They really do not warrant my time.  They do not.  Happy landings.

… (Thomas) Merton described himself as journeying towards his destiny “in the belly of a paradox” … He sought the monastic life because he desired hiddenness and solitude, but his writings brought fame and demands.

Lawrence S. Cunningham, in Thomas Merton & the Monastic Vision

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When we flee the world in favor of aloneness or have aloneness thrust upon us, we most often find God and in finding God we find ourselves, others and the world. God, of course, is our solitude and in Him and with Him we then proceed … never to be without Him.

There is no hiding, though many do so in plain sight using status, title, appearance, celebrity, power, wealth or what-have-you to separate out from the mob.  As for the individual, there is no unitary escape, no disappearing act.

In seeking one’s particular solitude you will most surely find self and God – for solitude is the door to contemplation, to self-examination, reflection, infused wisdom, understanding, compassion, mercy, patience, love, forgiveness, intimacy, contentment … and in each of these the gateway to Truth, to what alone is True, to you and He who makes you as you have been made.

Once God is known aloneness is proved a lie, for then one is never alone and realizes that one was never alone.  Paradox ends, then – and all fits a divine rubic.

Our path – seek to withdraw as if to the desert, or sit under the lotus tree in quiet and soon enough God is present and hiddenness is impossible, unnecessary for then we are called to life as it is intended.

The Sacred Paradox is this: aloneness presents God and aloneness is no more.

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.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s civilize men and society.  My Mother saved my life.  I think of her everyday.  Maybe someday women will come to understand and cherish this: as birth-givers they are more important than men.  Seeking equality with men is a step down.  We have lesser gifts.  God bless Moms!

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There is a deep malaise in society … in our families and neighborhoods we do not speak to each other … There is … a vacuum inside us …

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Today I read an article about how parents of young men and women offer obituaries of their sons and daughters that candidly acknowledge the opiate use which took their life in the hope that with an honest statement about a very tragic and very serious national problem we might awaken to this deadly addiction.

Where might we begin?

There are many strands to this epidemic.  Of course, we have been very lax in   proscribing the use of painkillers.

Indeed, three months ago when I was being discharged from the hospital after knee replacement surgery, the nurse overseeing my discharge informed me I was to get a prescription for a powerful and potentially addictive painkiller even though I had had no pain and required no pain medicine after the operation.  I refused the offer over the nurse’s suggestion that I take the prescription “just in case.”

Yes, we routinely throw drugs into the mix for just about anything that “ails” us.

But I turn to Thich Naht Hanh’s point.  We do not stand on spiritual ground; we have little understanding of spirituality and, in this, life seems to lack meaning. We float or stumble about without a secure base, the inner strength and the resolve.

Hanh’s concern is that the elders in culture do not convey, do not project – values that display and confirm spiritual existence.

He notes that even priests do not  “embody the living tradition” of their professed faith. When this is so, ritual loses meaning – and worship seems thin – more ceremony than deep, lasting experience.

The elders of our culture had best renew their faith and renew it at depth, so they might daily convey its presence in all that they do, how they conduct their affairs and how determinative spiritual existence is to all they think and do.

The malaise has taken a huge toll on us – from opiate addiction, to broken marriages, abortion, coarse public behavior, gender and sexual confusion, political hostility and division, crass self-promotion and selfishness, the crude quest for money and status … All this while we neglect the spirit and our spiritual needs and development.

We are far less than we once were and can be.  Hanh is right.  Starting with spiritual existence is fundamental to our welfare, and survival.  Elders must show the way. Parents must lead, faith be restored.

Shalom.

Everyone agreed that Clevinger was certain to go far in the academic world.  In short, Clevinger was one of those people with lots of intelligence and no brains, and everyone knew it except those who soon found it out. (Emphasis added.)

Joseph Heller, in Catch-22

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Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was ahead of its time.  It is not an anti-war story but rather a tale that, written in 1955, so clearly foretells of the ills of secularized, modern America and its forthcoming bounty of obviously inane and imbalanced individuals.

Yes, Heller saw who you have come to know as your neighbors, in-laws, workmates, bosses, politicos, “progressives,” Nobel Prize winner President, media types, Hollywood Leftists, academics et al.

Heller’s genius?  He saw the range of the insane and utterly confused and mal-functioning to come. He realized: (a) the bureaucracy is full of these people, and (b) bureaucracy cannot exist without them, and can never do anything useful with them.

As to the above Clevinger, in particular, Heller detected and described the worthlessness of intellectuals whose idiocy is only made richer and purer by collecting and concentrating them with the same ideology at the same institutions, and in the same academic departments.   Yes, Heller saw 2017 in 1955!

Yes, think of the loons who created Obamacare.  Or the ineptness of any number of state or national governmental initiatives.  Do you not find Clevinger there? Or any one of the amazing host of characters in Heller’s Catch-22?

To make matters worse, we have chased God from the scene leaving the disordered prepared to color outside the lines with only the gravest consequences for you or me who, like Yossarian in the novel, wish merely to proceed without major calamity created by the overactive misfits of our age.

Prayer, religious revival and monastic solitude are often called forth out of the chaos of the age.  We can’t last much longer being characters in Catch-22.

Shalom.

This concludes the last in a series of posts on conversion.  This series has been offered to you so that you might see the manner in which conversion can appear to you in the present day and circumstance.  We are in need of restoration. Politics and the Left have led us astray, created deep division and godlessness, despair.  You can learn from Whittaker Chambers journey.

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… I tried to pray, it was as if the spirit from my boyhood … took my hand and knelt and prayed beside me, so that in the act of seeking oneness with God, I became one with myself(Emphasis added.)

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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Chambers had tried to pray as a boy and was unsuccessful.  Yet, when he needed God most – in his most desperate hours, when his world organized around the Communist narrative no longer held, … God guided him to prayer.

As Chambers writes “The secret springs of life, which had been lost so long in the desert of modernityjoined with impulses, broke free and flowed unchecked.” (Emphasis added.)

He records that the two mirages: one, of the Almighty Mind and the other, the Communist political fiction that man has the power to plan and execute human salvation – were illusions which had dragged him into the desert.

His daily prayer, he reports, “tore through (him) … a transformation with the force of a river … (and he) became what (he) was … (as he) ceased to be what he was not.” (Emphasis added.)

Yes, this is conversion!

As Chambers writes “the whole web of the materialist modern mind” fell.  No longer, he writes, did modernity and its rationalism cover “the spirit of man,” thwart “the instinct of his soul for God.”  He saw in this conversion that it was a “myth” to think of “man’s material perfectibility” which, he saw, as the “modern intellectual mood which gives rise to Communism” and, by implication, man’s sick fixation on all things “political.”

In his illumination, Chambers claimed the truth of this axiom:

“Man cannot organize the world for himself without God; without God man can only organize the world against man.” (Emphasis added.)

This Dear Friends is conversion.  This Dear Friends is our state today.  This Dear Friends identifies the nonsensical babble of the transgender crowd, the feminists, the abortionists, the pagans, the anarchists, the Democrat Left, the “progressives,” “the social engineers,” the morally vacuous academics and college administrators, the “open border” fools, those who demand endless “entitlements” and “safe spaces,” those who attack and diminish the place of faith in civic life and discourse, etc.

We have been led into the desert of hyper-political secularism and the idea that the human person can create salvation.

It is time to come to the sacred springs of Truth. Absent that: disintegration and disaster.

Think about this.  It is vitally important for you and this Nation to do so.

Shalom.

Happy Easter, April 16, 2017

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. (Emphasis added.)

St. John Paul II, in On the Relationship between Faith and Reason

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It is Easter.  Christ has risen in fulfillment of the words of the Prophets and in furtherance of the proof of God existence and reign.  We need fear no longer.  Yet, in this Truth, we are ordered to seek truth, to guard it, preserve it.  Yes, in this – we are not alone and meaning and purpose is established for all time – mortal and eternal.

In an age where some in the East use violence to enforce their beliefs on others, it is fitting to see the Easter contrast as the Father presents in through the Son.

Continuing the theme of conversion (developed in prior posts) as illustrated in the story of Whittaker Chambers rejection of life as a Communist spy in favor of a life in truth, and in faith – we can see an example of what our path can be.

When Chambers left Communism, he noted that he endured “an inner earthquake” in which the structure of Communist thought, as he says so logically and firmly built, convulsed and that deep down he knew for some time that the political “faith” he held and “devoutly served” was destroyed – but that he knew not “what the right way might be.”

Are we not in the same spot today, whereby the errant ideas and desires of the Left lead us to know at some level – something is desperately wrong?

For Chambers, his initial hesitancy in leaving his political life was stymied for he reasoned if Communism was evil, was not all that remained but moral chaos and nothing more?

He knew, he records, that the killing Communists invoked was evil and he realized that in his Leftist politics his mind justified “evil in the name of history, reason or progress.”

In turn and in time, and through the grace of God, he realized that “there is something greater than the mind, history or progress” and “this something is God.”

From a political mindset, to indecision, to sight.  This is a conversion – and evidence of God’s grace and nature, and His love of us.

At this Easter in 2017, with the troubles in the East and the violence and persecution of Christians, and the assault within our nation on faith, reason, common sense, morals, truth, law, history, tradition, national security and the American legacy – are we not where Whittaker Chambers once stood?

Yes, the Truth of the matter starts with faith, and for the Christian that is in Christ risen.

Shalom.

This and at least one following Post will focus on conversion, growth in faith and action that flows from it.  We live in very challenging times across the globe and in our home land.  These times bring us questions about who we are and what we must do.  Whittaker Chambers faced these questions.  We might learn from him.

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About me had closed a separating silence – the deathly silence … and in that silence I heard their screams.

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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These are the words written by a former Soviet spy – an American – in explaining his motivation for risking his life and the lives of his family members by leaving a widespread and carefully managed Communist espionage ring.

Chambers goes on to explain that he heard the screams of innocents for the first time and these cries reached beyond his mind to pierce his soul.  Having denied himself the very existence of the soul, these screams said to him: “This is evil, absolute evil.  Of this evil I am a part.

Chambers heard the cry of Judas who recognized what he had done.  He heard the cry, too, of innocents whose lives were to be denied: the innocent Jewish men, women and children in Nazi concentration camps.  He heard also the cries of those who were victims of Stalin’s purges and his forced starvation of his citizens in the Ukraine.

Today we have the cry of the Christians in the Middle East who are tortured, murdered, driven from their ancient land.  Their cries are like those of the millions of innocent unborn children whose mothers have aborted them here and elsewhere.

This week two teenage girls in Central Indiana who, out for a walk in the country, were murdered for no apparent reason.  Their cry hangs in the air.  Then there is the cry of those gassed in Syria, and those burned to death in Africa by marauding “religious” terrorists.  So many cries, so many.

At this Easter, I wonder if our souls have died and the screams of others are now muted and no longer received?  We seem inert, passive – focused on small things, the selfish desires of a personal agenda – our own special pleadings inured of the sufferings and deaths of others.

This man who lived in the service of absolute evil heard the screams in his soul.  Do you?  Do we?

Pity the innocents and those once professed of faith when their souls stop hearing, for evil then grows and the darkness of hell descends.

Can you hear?  Hearing, what will you do? 

Shalom.

Dedicated to my Grandchildren, my Nation and to you.

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Zion will be redeemed with justice and her repentant ones with righteousness.  But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together, and those who forsake the Lord will come to an end.

Is 1:27-28

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It is Lent.  We are closing in on Easter and the Resurrection.  Is it not a good opportunity to take this time between now and Easter to reflect on the above and ask: What do I see around me?  What do I hear daily?  In the news?  On television?  What is the state of our culture? Our nation?  Our leaders?  Our public conversation?

Have we forsaken God?  Have we listened as if there is no God?  Have we deserted our faith?  Been led astray?  Become pagans and thought and acted as such?

What is the tone of public discourse?  Do those among us divide for the lust of power? Have some among us elevated ideology and politics above all else?

Who among us speaks with faith?  Shows the courage to offer an honest picture of who we have become and how that is so unflattering, so godless?  So destructive of person and nation?  

We live in urgent times.  In talking about the Jews and Jerusalem and Judah, the Prophet Isaiah is speaking to us, today at this hour, in this time.  You best take heed.

Nothing good, absolutely nothing good, comes to those who forsake God.

If you do not live first in faith, then who but yourself can you blame for the troubles we have and the decline we court?

Shalom.

Discouraging – It is truly discouraging to see so many House and Senate Democrats carrying Mr. Putin’s water in their efforts to delegitimize President Trump and anyone who dares to challenge the settled and corrupt ethos of political Washington.

It leaves one to conclude: (a) they are the unwitting handmaids of Mr. Putin, (b) they are showing their Leftist allegiance, (c) they love the sweet Washington honeypot that gives them privileges the voting public does not enjoy and keeps them from real work, (d) all of the above.  Whose team are these guys and gals on?  Putin’s?  Their own?  Both?

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