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To maintain monastic culture, monks limit their contact with the surrounding culture by means of cloister or separation 

Hugh Feiss, in Essential Monastic Wisdom

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Separation from existing culture in order to maintain one’s values, virtues – indeed to stay free of insanity, brutality, immorality and a range of toxic disordered and destructive dispositions in culture is a sacred act.

Monks have pursued such separation for good reason over the centuries.  We see in this practice – necessity, common sense, faith, peace and preservation.

A sacred separation comes from maintaining a critical eye on existing culture.  When cultures destroy people, institutions and what is good, those who seek healthy and peaceful existence separate.

In separation one preserves heart, mind and soul.

In separation one spends time carefully – at work, in quiet, in community, in silence, in thought and prayer – while the world about turns on itself much as Syrian bombing of unarmed civilians does today or as the American Left does by destroying standard identification of gender in favor of disintegration, confusion, disorder, untruth which they much prefer.

In separation there is no more gossip, useless “news,” talking heads, daily destruction of what is good and essential to peaceful existence.

In separation: prayer emerges, reading too, careful listening, care of self and others, soft discourse, contemplation, faith comes alive, consciousness of God is daily sustenance.

In separation you meet yourself, become re-assembled, restored to wholeness – stripped of the “needs” of the frantic culture.  In separation, life is simpler … life is life.

In separation: God, your own self, your thoughts, others and all that is under heaven.


Condolesse Rice wants to “modernize” the Second Amendment.  Easy for her to say – she’s among the elites — life for them does not carry the burdens the rest of us face.  Perhaps, Ms. Rice might think of the unarmed civilians in Syria whose government is bombing them daily, killing them – men, women and children.  

A little note to Ms. Rice – maybe you might want to civilize people before you “modernize” the Second Amedment.  Those of us who are not in “the elite” live far different lives than you do.  In short words – put a sock in it, no one needs to hear from you.

What (other than pride) makes you think you know anything and must be heard from?


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.


Detachment is not a denial of life but a denial of death; not a disintegration but the condition of wholeness; not a refusal to love but the determination to love truly, deeply and fully.

Gerald Vann, in Eve and the Gryphon

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What does one do in a world that encompasses you?  Surrounds you every waking moment and even invades your dreams?  Presents worries and apparent obligations to you in endless streams?  How do you find peace and tranquility? Rest?

The knowledgeable answer: “detachment.”

But what is detachment?

Detachment is a process whereby a person moves from “the roiling unsettled surface” of exterior existence to the quiet of your interior life.  Yes, from the noise, to your quiet sanctuary of self, of soul.

Yes, peace and tranquility is a process of closing out the noise of the world, ceasing to be captured entirely by its roles and demands.  A discreet, conscious separation from those people, things, dialogues, ideas, assertions that further what is untrue, create discord, rob you of your soul.

Detachment is an act of separation, but not an act of indifference.

Detachment does not cease our obligation to be a source of good, a witness and voice of God, of Christ in the world.  Rather – ironically, detachment is essential to our obligation to witness of faith in this worldly existence. Yes, a witness as a salvific act repeated often throughout our life – no matter the risk or personal cost.

How does one detach?

There are many ways.  Be very discreet as to what you read, listen to.  Attend daily to quiet, to prayer.  Take a retreat once a year for a few days of quiet rest, worship and reflection. Make a habit of daily short spiritual or scriptural reading. Spend time in church – especially alone, in quiet presence.

Maintain an ongoing relationship with a spiritual counselor or director.

Listen to sacred music, Gregorian chants.  The point is a simple one: get in touch with yourself, your very being – the one God made in you – yes, separate out from the herd for God made you far more than a herd animal.

Yes, resist all efforts of secularists and ideologues to classify you for their control, so they might hold power and assert it over you and others.

Focus on your individual holy value – on the proposition that saints and martyrs defied being classified by others into groups the very same way that they defied the demands of mortal existence as a limit of their life and being.

And, think about this: those who become saints and martyrs were human beings just as you – those who sought the quiet holy space where they could find rest and know who God made in them and live as God called them to be.  They are you.

Amid the mob, within mass secular culture – detach … be  be as God made you to be.


Note – I welcome those of you who might wish the help of a spiritual counsel.



“Give us Barabbas!”

Jn 18:40

Nothing spoke to me so clearly after FBI Director Comey’s announcement yesterday as the prosecution of Christ.  Why?

In the trial of Christ, Pilate declared that Christ was without guilt and the crowd demanded that not Christ but Barabbas be released.  Barabbas, a criminal, was released and Innocence died.

Yes, in releasing Barabbas justice was denied and Innocence died.

So too with yesterday’s FBI fiasco, justice was denied and Innocence died.  Just as the crucifixion of Christ man denied God and the world changed – yesterday did the same.

Pathetic and destructive.  Barabbas is free and we are not.


God, banish evil and those who advance it, and bring us back to You.

Love is a portion of the soul itself, and it is the same nature as it … Love is the celestial breathing of the atmosphere of paradise.

Victor Hugo

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Dedicated to J.F.S., S.G.S, E.F. and P.M.

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Few things say love to me like the sound of solo classical guitar music.

Perhaps, it is the sound that comes from touch, touch that moves and changes – yet, constant, always pleasing, comforting and confirming.

Yes, confirming that there is beauty, and Creation, and humans are gifted to share in the creation of beauty – channel God in this, that we might hear it, receive this beauty that gives us peace and assurance.

This sound and its beauty says to us: there is an eternity, that we are called to it through the toils of each day, the losses, and the rains and winds of nature and disappointment.

It says too that man need not always summon the fight that they so often must engage.

Today the guitar plays.  It is raining and the cows have eaten their way down the ridge. They provide a parade of the unharried, the unworried – a daily reminder of that state of being that God promises to those who believe.   A state a woman provides in her gentle loving presence and its unceasing, unconditioned gift. This: a rest and so great a hope in the midst of life’s combat.

Yes, it is quiet here and it is gray and no one stirs outside.  The clouds lay low and the mist has settled in the valleys.  The cool dampness speaks of a warming fire and that, too, adds peace to the day, enkindles the heart’s memory.

This sound of love calls to me to those women who love me – past and present.

Yes, a man receives a woman’s love and it is the comfort of the heavenly breath of paradise.  It is a glimpse of God for life’s weary soldier.

So here we are – with Mother’s Day coming on us.  Can we as men not stop to remember who women are in their heavenly best – the gentle breath of paradise?


In those days, and in that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up into David …

Jer 33:15

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This passage from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah comes from the first reading on the first Sunday of Advent.

David.  A new branch shall grow.  New growth on an ancient tree.  Such new growth is always tender and fresh, as all new growth in our garden and in nature.

Is Advent not a time for new and tender growth?  Growth in the heart?  Growth of the heart? Growth in our heart?  And does this not bring to mind a “crèche?” Yes, the crèche where Christ was born, born as a small child – so of tender heart and wonder as all small children.  A crèche – a foundling where small children are cared for.  Why but for us a crèche?

Tender hearts and children.  The hearts of children.  Children at Christmas. Christ as child, the Holy Child.

Is this not the Advent message for us?  Is this not our starting point?

Why else are our children at the center of this season?  Placed in the season’s excitement so we may see the joy, spontaneity and wonder of their tender hearts? 

Ah, but what of us?

Is this not a time for our heart to be so tenderly engaged?  Indeed, can we receive the Christ Child but with a tender, child’s heart – in the expectation of wonders to come?

Dear God, awaken in us the child’s tender heart and all its wonder.




The Gospel lives in conversation with culture, and if the Church holds back from culture, the Gospel itself falls silent.

St. John Paul II

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Pope John Paul II knew that it was not politics that controlled people but culture.

We in the West have lost that truth and would be wise to recover it now for we have become through the reign of modern liberalism a crass, cheapened and corrupted culture which has everything to do with our loss of character as we distance ourselves from faith, belief and God.

Sadly our politicians are usually the last to know that the stakes have changed and the risk we face is at the brink.  They debate policy as if culture is invisible, and our decline nonexistent.

Yet, one candidate for the presidential nomination on the Republican side seems to comprehend the spot we are in and the indispensable place of culture in defining the welfare of a nation, the West and its people.  That candidate, Ms. Carly Fiorina, recently said in commenting on the government funded pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood’s harvesting for sale of unborn children’s body parts, that their conduct (and by implication this election) ” … is about the moral character of a nation.”  Amen.

I applaud her accuracy and gumption it laying this out for all to face … for all to face.

I might make this even plainer: modern liberals in my lifetime have moved closer and closer in the politics of abortion to Josef Mengeler, the Nazi doctor who performed grotesque experiments on death camp captives.  Selling body parts of unborn children pretty much gets the modern liberal there.

It is time to ask oneself: Who are we?  What have we become?  Is politics more important than our character?  Morals?  Our soul?  The innocent?  The innocent unborn?  Do we have no limits?  No conscience?

Make no mistake, any one who would lead this nation today must know that it is culture and us that must change for the better and that is a question of morals and character and puts in play one’s spiritual existence, faith, belief and relationship with God.

Only the faith of Christ gives rise to a culture contrary to egotism and death.

St. John Paul II

Your choice.


Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury – to me these have always been contemptible.  I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.

Albert Einstein

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Why get tangled in all these things?  Do they not complicate your life and mind? Create obligations?  Things to manage, things to clean?

And why have expectations that we “deserve” this or that?  Does this not set one up for disappointment?  Change how we behave?  Create conduct in us that is unflattering.

In simple and unassuming there is detachment.  Independence.  Self-reliance. Simple and unassuming: a form of peace.  Simple and unassuming: they create distance, open space and free time.


… the Lord himself will give you a sign, the young woman is with child …

Is 7:14

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When I visited my grandson Jack for the first time, I was struck by the power he had.  Here was a month old, little baby who had, in his birth, transformed my son and and his wife into Dad and Mom and made of them a family.

Now I do not speak as to form, but as to substance.  A husband had become a father, and a wife had become a mother and in those three – Jack, Mary and Jared a family came into existence.  Mom blossomed and Dad and Mom were a team, and now neither Mom nor Dad went anywhere or thought of anything that did not include Jack.

This little child brought laughter, and mutuality, and joy, and concern, and tenderness, and purpose, happiness, delight, gratitude to a man and his wife, a wife and her husband … and to a grandfather, and love to each.

There is something very powerful and very special that God does with a child.

On the eve of a New Year, may we come to see, know and experience this.  May we come to want each child that is conceived, that is born.  May we see in the woman, a mother. May we revere the mother, as we do the child.  May we know each father as a father, and see him attend to his wife and his child.  May we see family, family in place, family assembled and preserved, like the child – a hallowed gift from God. May we come to our senses.  May we discard what injures or impedes family and neglects the gift of the child.

To make things right and well, it is first that we must know the power of a small child, the mission of an infant – the unique power they possess to make a man a father, a woman a mother and create a family and make of us a good and humble people.

No more nonsense.  Child.  Mother.  Father.  Family.  Do these things right, and all will be well.


Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church … Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system … a cheap covering for … sins; no contrition required.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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I often observe that the loss of faith in secular culture produces behavior that secularized commentators just do not, by their own admission, understand.  Their puzzlement is amplified by their unfamiliarity with psychology and intellectual history.

Take, for example, the U.S. Senate’s release of their report that is critical of interrogation techniques used on battle field combatants and avowed terrorists captured in our post-9-11 military efforts in the Middle East.

Commentators wonder how it is that the Senate could release such a report, which could have multiple serious negative consequences for those involved in the interrogations, innocent American civilians unconnected to the detentions, our military presently deployed around the world, and our national security.

Why, the commentators ask, would the Senate release something that can be that harmful?

Without passing on the merits of the detention or the interrogations, one thing seems to explain to me why such a report is issued.  Mind you, there may be a number of motivations in releasing the report.  But one thing stands out for me.

It is the notion of “cheap grace” that martyred Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer discusses at the beginning of his book The Cost of Discipleship.

In the book he discusses how people tend to receive the benefits of grace without acknowledging a countervailing obligation of discipleship.  To Bonhoeffer, “cheap grace” is the receipt of an extraordinary benefit without any sense of obligation resulting.

Mind you, I am not saying that our interrogations or detentions were a grace.   But I am saying that the members of the Senate, like all Americans, received some benefit from both the interrogations and detentions.  It is simply impossible to say that there were no benefits derived.  Mind you, as well, that I am not saying that the practices are to be replicated or not.

But I am saying that, in faith, grace is a reciprocal relationship.  There is, as Bonhoeffer would say, no cheap grace.

More to the point I am saying that the Senators who supported the release of this report appear to have missed the idea of reciprocity.  They, like us, were beneficiaries of the interrogations and the detentions.

That said, we cannot wash of hands of either the interrogations or the detentions so we might feel better, cleanse any sense of guilt.

Assuming that the practices were in any part unacceptable, reciprocity would require that having accepted the benefits we not act in a manner that can accrue to the detriment of others, either those who did our bidding or the innocent. Likewise, if there is sin the desire for contrition is necessary.  Public announcement of sin is not, and never has been, contrition.  We cannot feel good at the expense of others.




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