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We have to constantly critique imperialist white supremacist patriarchal culture because it normalizes by mass media and rendered unproblematic.

Bell Hook, in Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism

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I have been alarmed recently by the loose talk about racial conflict.  Some talk of the need for violent racial conflict aimed at “white oppression.”

Words can inflame.  Their use requires care.

The above words are ideological.  Their base: racism, feminism and socialism.

Ideology is a no guide to good.  It narrows the sight and hardens the heart.  Where ideology appears, faith better serves.  You see if peace is to prevail, God is required.  Our best actions do not separate by gender, race, antagonistic political fiction.

I know of no problem that can be solved without kind, honest, conversation.  I know of no peace that is made without care, no embrace that binds without humility and love.

People do bad things.  All people.  This is the human dilemma since the beginning of time.  It is embodied in the story of Adam and Eve – the Fall from Grace, Original Sin.

Our only path to love and fellowship is through growing our relationship with good, becoming wiser, more humble, thoughtful friends and neighbors.  Peace can never be insured through divisive ideology.  Ideology is the language of the lesser heart, its pitch is calibrated to hatred.  Yet, relationship with God dissolves anger, raises us up by bringing us to our knees.

There is an inmost center in us all where truth abides in fullness.

Robert Browning, in Paracelus

Shalom.

Lord, give us the strength of faith to know the truth about ourselves so we might live in peace as one.

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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.

 

 

A beautiful fall day in the Virginia countryside.  The fallen leaves call.  And I shall meet them in the challenge posted.

I offer a prayer for your quiet contemplation and closer walk with God.

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There is God

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are found, there is God.

In every flake of snow, in every grain of sand – there is God.

In the stout and stoic strength of our brother, the mountain, in the swift and sure vigor of our sister, the sea – there is God.

When the cold winds whip the head, when warm breezes brush the face – there is God.

In the darkest hours of the blackest night, in the brightest light of a golden afternoon – there is God.

When we are uplifted by the joys of victory, when we are wracked by the sorrows of defeat – there is God.

When we are surrounded by companions, when we are isolated in solitude and loneliness – there is God.

In the laughter of a friend, in the smile of a stranger – there is God.

God is always there.

Lord, grant that we may always walk with you and that we may have the peace, joy and love that is your countenance.  Amen.

Jared Sylvester, Class of 2006 – University of Notre Dame

Jared wrote this prayer while a freshman at Notre Dame.  This and many other excellent prayers can be found in Lead Kindly Light: The Notre Dame Book of Prayers.

Yes, God is alway there!  Have faith.  Maintain a steady hand and live in joy and humble confidence.  It is nothing new to swim against the currents of discontent and falsehoods.  It is the way of Christ, our Way.

Shalom.

Please feel free to share this with others who may be helped by it.

 

 

All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and change is painful. (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of December 9, 1958

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We are willful.  We prefer our ways to the ways of He who made us. This one thing accounts for our disorder, and eventually to a demise.  It is for each of us the single challenge in our life.

Done well life is a process of submission to God.  Yes, we grow when we decline so He might gain. In shorter the shadow we cast, the greater we are – the healthier we become, the more certain and the calmer we are.

Look around you.  We now have organizations that work to advance selfishness, sin – one preferred method of rebellion and godlessness or another … and we have many who co-exist with those who advocate disorder and sickness.  The enablers can sink this culture, jeopardize our health and wellbeing.

The tug-of-war between good and evil is a consistent part of the human story from the beginning of time.  Flannery O’Connor reminds us in this December 1958 letter that God does not miraculously meddle in each and every human affair, rather He offers the grace to grow, mature, come to faith and meaning through life experience, the sacraments, belief, worship.  In grace we grow in dignity and our implicit responsibility is to defend and preserve the sacred value of life itself.  Yes, this may put us at odds with others … but is it not Jesus who asked: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mt 12:48)

To reject grace is to reject God and life itself.

Look about.  Do you see bad being called “good?”  This is the condition of our time, and the ageless challenge: good or evil – life or death, God or His adversary?

Shalom.   

 

… your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to come from an incomplete understanding of sin … you seem actually to demand … that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Spirit be translated at once into all flesh … you are leaving out the radical human pride that causes death …

Flannery O’Connor, in a December 9, 1958 Letter

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One distinguishing fact about the Left and others who seek omnipotence in government is this: they put unjustified confidence in the human being and man-made institutions and efforts.  Yes, they are disoriented.

They, like the letter writer O’Connor is responding to, somehow think that an ideology (however distorted or errantly applied) will give us heaven on earth.

Have these people been watching the movie I’ve seen for seven decades?  Have they not watched Seinfeld or met Woody Allen?  It seems clear that they have not grasped the essence of the Judeo-Christian narrative or the sweep of recorded human history.

Just today, I awoke to the “can’t make it up” mea-culpa of an rotund, aging leftwing Hollywood mogul (who loves his mother, perhaps a little too much) and has been (for years) asking would-be starlets to watch him take a shower.

He, of the “pro-feminist” persuasion, puts in plain view this: we inflate the expectation of the human person and in this intoxication quickly conjure up insane propositions as if all that occurs in moviemaking paves the way to earthly nirvana.

No, it does not.  We are not to be exalted, but to be humbled.  We do more damage than we think, create greater division, exhibit more insanity, destroy more good things than we ever imagine.  Hence my son’s favored expression: don’t just do something, stand there.

Yes, there you have it – a refutation of the Liberal in six easy words: don’t just do something, stand there.

If sanity is to root in present American culture – humans will cool their heels, and their expectations will subside in inverse proportion to their growth in humility, kindness, friendship, faith and self-effacing humor.

Today’s bumper-crop of disordered behavior and sickness ought to teach that much of what those with demonstrated maladies advocate is precisely adverse to our welfare and prosperity.  If you see them wearing a raincoat, leave your umbrella home.

Shalom.

 

 

If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things work out.

Randy Pausch, in The Last Lecture

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I’ve never been a fan of whiners so the well-healed NFL football players, coaches and owners who put their social complaints on the captured audience of ticket-holders and television viewers have lost my interest and respect.  Shame on them.  Nothing admirable about them – nothing.

Just watched Patriots Day about the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Excellent movie.  More than that a terrific story about tough-minded, loving men, women and children who rallied together as one to see that those who killed innocent people were apprehended and punished.  It is a story about courage, toughness, achievement, honor, resolve, determination, individual strength, shared mission, sacrifice, community, love.

I grew up in Boston in a very testy public housing complex.  I know these people.  Many have been my friends for 64 years and more.  They are my family.  They would sacrifice for me and I for them.  Several recently faced tragic medical situations, I kept in touch: encouraging and caring.  I prayed for them and, as is always the case in tragic situations, I drew closer to God and became more thankful for all that we are generously given – especially for friends, neighbors, the capacity to care for others – and love God and others more than self.

Today, I see the legions of complainers in American culture today and am sickened by this – disgusted with them.  I knew a far different life.  I knew the life of taking what you get and moving forward, proving the obstacles non-existent, defying others who thought less of me by being more a person than they were.  I was not a genius but I was a hard worker, determined, tough, a realist who saw the near-empty glass and said: “Damn, I’ll fill the thing and more like it.”

I knew the bigotry that befalls the guy from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  The thoughts others affix to the poor neighbor and its residents.  This was my badge of courage – a badge shared by others in my same situation.  I saw life being raised with one parents and not much money.  I lived that life.  Became the first in my family to go to college.  First to graduate from college, go to law school, become part of a profession.

I became an Army officer.  Went on to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, worked in the U.S. Congress on foreign policy matters, had a successful law practice helping the poor, the sick, the under-represented.  People wrote articles about my work, about me.  I walked my wife through a devastating illness that took her life at age 29.  I left law in my late 50’s to earn a graduate degree in theology at Notre Dame, became a Catholic convert and vowed religious Catholic Brother.  I raised a successful son with his own Ph.D.  By the grace of God, he is a better man than I am – talented, smart, a terrific son, father and husband.  Ya, I was busy … I had no time to whine nor taste for it.  Like those around me, I saw bigotry and said “Screw you, I’ll show you who I am and what I can do.”  Their bigotry was motivation to me.  I didn’t sit on my fanny or make a political statement: I lived and defied those who discounted me and my friends.

At the end of the movie Patriots Day the men and women who participated in the hunt for the hate-filled brothers who killed and maimed children and adults spoke of visiting those wounded and without limbs and made this point: none were bitter – but rather they were optimistic, courageous – ready to strive, to live and prosper.  Yes, working class people I know are – not whiners … they are Boston Tough. 

Damn it, we ought to learn from them.

Shalom.

 

When the apostles preached, they could assume even in their Pagan hearers a real consciousness of deserving the Divine anger.  The Pagan mysteries existed to allay this consciousness, and the Epicurean philosophy claimed to deliver men from the fear of eternal punishment.  It was against this background that the Gospels appeared as good news. (Emphasis added.)

C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain

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This from the chapter entitled “Human Wickedness.”  Reading it is some indictment of us today.

Think about it, Lewis notes that the Pagans 2000 years ago were conscious of their faults and thought themselves deserving of divine punishment. Further, Lewis points out that this was state of mind and consciousness that allowed the Gospels to be received as “Good News.”  

That said, one must ask: Are we anywhere close to such consciousness?  I think you know the answer.

We seem to lack the humility of the Pagans. This, I observe, is the price we pay for our intentional separation of man from God.  Indeed I would say that the last seven centuries have put us on a steady trajectory away from God and humility. Imagine having less humility than unbelievers.  Imagine today that we lack the consciousness to receive the Gospels as men and women once did when Christ appeared and Christianity flourished.  Such a thought is worthy of our contemplation.

It may well be that we need a radical abandonment of our egocentric life in favor of the humility we once possessed in earnest.  When we think less of ourselves we might think more of God.  That cannot be anything but helpful today.

Shalom.

 

 

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts … perhaps the fear of a loss of power.

Seneca

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Seneca has something here.  We have seen people who manage power very nicely with calm and grace – but they are a distinct minority in time.  God’s deeds, of course, are masterfully offered and employed.  His power is perfectly expressed.  Not so in man’s conduct.

If you want to understand Washington today, think of Seneca.

Corruption here today in Washington is rooted in the fear of the loss of power. Yes, this is the entrenched Washington elite – both parties, the bureaucracy and mass media, in the entertainment community, et al; they display a fear a loss of power, status, etc.  They liked “being liked.”

Those who have power and influence simply refuse to release their comfortable grip on status, influence – power.  They profit from the status quo and those who would disturb it are not welcome.

Let’s face it.  People are self-interested.  The greater the grip – the more prominent the fear.

One of the the hardest things to do is to acquire the experience of others. We live in our own experience; our fears and insecurities frequently govern – and more so among the godless.

Truth: the acquisition of another’s experience necessitates a growth in the Spirit, a faith which denominates one’s humility and God’s supremacy – reduces mortal existence to a passing moment and eternity to its rightful place.  In this God-centered view, fear is vanquished and power need not corrupt.  We are made, you see, for humility, not fear, for eternity not mortality.

If you want to understand corruption.  Know this: it is present today.  It is present among the powerful and privileged and when you see it you are seeing (as Seneca notes) fear.  Yes, fear begets corruption.  And, yes, those who are in relationship with God do not fear … and those who are not so inclined show fear.  The latter is inevitable.

Think about how the powerful see and name “the basket of deplorables” and how they react when they are not favored, and how they react when a person is elected who challenges them: yes, the person and his or her supporters are attacked, and attacked, and attacked.

The fear of the loss of power is a mighty destructive force.  Yet, our strength and identity has nothing to do with status, or power, wealth or privilege.

Seneca – very cool.

Shalom.

 

 

… imaginary things are often easier to see than real ones.

Norton Juster

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We are a culture of images.  But what we see may not be what it purports to be.  I give a few examples.  Former FBI Director James Comey was reported to be a “Boy Scout,” straight arrow.  Seems that was not the case.  Evidence?  He leaked material to secure the appointment of a “Special Counsel – who just happens to be a “best friend.”  It now appears he intended to excuse Hillary Clinton’s transgressions before hearing from all witnesses, including Hillary.  The image he had looks to be at variance from the facts of who he is.  This is a common occurrence in Washington – what you “see” is often not what you get.  The place functions with smoke and mirrors.  Images prevail frequently.

People, many of them, prefer images because they present a false security. Being fooled is for many “A-okay” – reality can be discomforting.

Reality can be hard to digest, but without it you are quickly lost and prepare yourself to be played the fool.

Want to look at reality?  See the film 13 Hours on Benghazi and the disservice served on Americans who deserved support when they were under siege and outnumbered defending an American duty station in Libya.  That film shows you life is hard – in life people take your “stuff” and sometimes kill you … it shows that people betray you, lie when it suits them … yes, that some people are cowards and others brave beyond measure.

When you live illusions – images that are not real – you end up watching good men suffer while lesser men and women do nothing.  You see the product of images is often the “cover-up.”

Images and illusion claim their innocent victims at the behest of those who live what is false and self-serving.  Truth matters – it beckons courage and accountability.  Not so images.  Today this is the great divide.  

Shalom.

  … in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making.

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity 

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Since we are in the riot and protest season (it fades in the colder climates – that is: it is the matter that “outrage” prefers sun and moderate temperatures), the above remarks by Lewis strike a pleasing cord.

Recently, I saw video of an indignant Leftist mob.  What struck me is that they were “in uniform,” with appropriate paraphernalia – signs, chants, a requisite number of “marshals’ and “medics,” the oh-so-popular black bandanas to cover the face (apparently a “must get” for protest season 2017), etc.

What came to my mind was one word: authenticity.  I wondered how it is moral outrage has a uniform?  Could this be authentic?  Was the rage real, buried in the heart and soul of the protester or rather more like theatre, costume?  You know, “I’m busy Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 with the protest – but dinner at six sounds great – that’ll give me time to shower and change into something appropriate for dinner at Positano’s.”

In Venezuela where a citizen is having his judicial and legislative bodies taken over by a prospective dictator and where the economy is closer to ruin than health, costume seems less visible.  There, it seems, survival is very much the purpose of protest.

American culture is, regrettably, a visual culture.  Female Hollywood celebrities seem compelled to take nude “selfies.”  Style and fashion are, in our culture, important.  How you look is (seemingly) more important than who you are as a human person, what kind of character you possess.  Yes, much is about the vail – the gloss, the appearance.

Our depth seems to go to “deep down inside he/she is really shallow.”

What Lewis is talking about is being … as in you being who you are – not scripted and wrapped as some projection of who you are – but really being who you are.

Sadly, there are fewer real people than there once was in American culture. Image has its price and it’s authentic personhood.

Alas all the world is (apparently) but a stage and indignation and many more things are exercised merely by actors.  Ho-hum.  I’ve never been much for soap operas.

Shalom.

You know.  The Members of Congress – Senate in particular – are the Country Club set. They have their affluence.  They like a seat of honor and the “club” membership that the Senate is.  They lack leadership.  Heavens, they are averse to work, but they love the privilege.

The federal bureaucracy?  Bloated.  Too many agencies, commissions, departments and too many people.  In an age where technology displaces the private workforce, where is the shrinking federal workforce?  Like the Senate and Members of Congress, federal employees might well share a motto: “It Beats Working.”

Nothing would help us more than a dramatic reduction in the federal government, the relocation of its remaining agencies and departments throughout the nation, and the institution of term limits and the eradication of Congressional privileges.  We need a government that more resembles the lives we live and a relocation would make life harder and more costly for lobbyists.   

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