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There is for all of mankind but one felicity – a gracious God.

Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews 

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Well, there you go.  Written in 75 A.D.  If only we had the wisdom of Flavius Josephus!  But alas it is absent.

Nowhere in public discourse is there much thought of God, of life in the Spirit, of our historical record or wisdom of the many centuries.

No, in its place – talking heads, the chattering class of ill bred, poorly schooled, ideologues incapable of holding two contradicting ideas in their head at the same time.  And yet the most astonishing thing is this: their words pass as worthy of our attention. Who is the greater fool there?

RETREAT while you can.  Take safety in wisdom and reality.

Imagine a God of felicity – a gracious and loving God.  Such a novel thought today in this deflated culture flooded with harmful utterances and ideas.

In contrast, I can offer this.  I have never doubted that there is a God and that this God had an interest in me and all others.  That is not to say that I acted without sin, nor that I did not attempt a life of self-reliance, a life in which I acted as if it all depended on me, my efforts.  Yes, we are foolish for a time until we prove ourselves less than we think we are.

There is nothing, by the way, like tragedy and injustice, chaos whose actions abound to your loss and pain to bring you to God … and, in due time, to Flavius Josephus and his insight.

In retrospect, I can now express daily sincere gratitude for the grace to have always known there is a loving and merciful God – and that God, not man, reigns over mortal and eternal life.

After years of life, I know the valuable gift of humility, in knowing that I am His subject … and you are too.  Likewise, I know in that reality, that relationship – the priceless value of intimacy … God’s love of me, of us and our divine opportunity to love others as God loves each of us.

Imagine if we knew what Flavius Josephus knew, we would not live in fear and think in that fear of the world as governed by race, or gender, or class, or force, or power, or money, or intellect, or sex, or status, or nonsensical ideologies.

No, on the contrary – tension and anxiety would dissipate; we would know certainty, live in confidence and gratitude, know peace and fellowship.

Best of all – if we were as Flavius Josephus – there would be no place for those who spread words of hate, who divide and speak so carelessly, so ignorantly.

That, Dear Friends, is a step toward Eden and you have been given the opportunity to step toward that Paradise.  Alas, seize it … or suffer more, and continue to hurt yourself and others until you die and face this question: Why did you not take the path I gave you?

God help us all.

Shalom.

God, let the words of Flavius Josephus rest in our heart and animate our every thought and action in the confidence of your gracious and loving dominion.

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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.

 

 

I saw that carrying out a vocation differed from … actions dictated by reason or inclination in that it was due to an impulse … essentially and manifestly different order; and not to follow such an impulse when it made itself felt, even if it demanded impossibilities, seemed to be the greatest of all ills.  (Emphasis added.)

Simone Weil, in a Letter to a Friend

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Vocations arise from distinctly personal impulse.  One has the interior impetus to dedicate oneself to God and God’s service in an exclusive way.

Impulses like this cannot be easily ignored. To live in relationship with God is to be aligned to the impulse to serve God when needed.  Vocations come to those who are open to receive the call to vocations – to God’s service.

Those who close themselves from these impulses by saying – I will not be involved, I will simply be quiet and let God do the work – have no vocation, cannot be called to vocation because their pre-conceived disposition prevents the openness that impulse requires.

To deny the impulse to serve God actively – in word and deed – forfeits discipleship.  It leaves one to remain safely on the sidelines – even when Rome is burning.

Disciples speak and act.  Other are sideliners.

Are you a sideliner?  Or are you one who is open to the call of God and prepared to do what God asks of you?

Shalom.

I don’t know how the kind of faith required of a Christian … in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on (the) experience … of unbelief.  (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of May 30, 1962

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We have had a difficult time understanding what provoked Stephen Paddock to kill defenseless people at a Las Vegas outdoor country music concert.  Mr. Paddock’s action has been lost to law enforcement, public officials, media mavens, security experts and the mental health community.  But the truth is it is not that difficult to explain or understand.

Flannery O’Connor gives us the answer: we live in a treacherous age of unbelief.  It is a treacherous time in which God has been exiled.  Ms. O’Connor reminds us that without God life has no meaning.

Mr. Paddock’s brother, from whom he was estranged, said Stephen Paddock had “no politics, no religion.”  We know that Mr. Paddock had two short failed marriages, that he was a CPA – bright, good with numbers – yet, a loner with seemingly no close friends or neighbors who have come forward to tell us who he was.  He was a successful gambler, not a joiner.

Loner, smart, wealthy, no religion, no close relationships: a godless life – one without belief.  This a barren existence – a daily suffering.

One has to enter the depth of relationships to experience love, to find meaning in life – to see the animation of God in self and others.  Mr. Paddock was largely estranged from others, even his brother with whom he had prior business relationships.  Without God such estrangement is murderous and suicidal.

Mr. Paddock’s strength was his intellect but intellect narrows existence – in itself, it keeps the person in the head while starving the heart and soul.  Nothing promotes unbelief like the exclusive emphasis on intellect.  (Does this not explain a great deal about the failure of the education system and the educated class, their disposition and ideas – and their trusted tutors and favored ideologues.)

An exclusively intellectual life sterilizes life; it kills feeling and intimacy while isolating one from others.

In a purely intellectual life that neglects God and social, emotional and spiritual growth – one cannot see the divine image in others.  Mr. Paddock acted from that base – that was the genesis of his motivation and his mass murders and suicide.  Over-intellectualized, unbelief, personal under-development, isolated asocial existence were the seeds that took root in Mr. Paddock and produced his ethos and his final life-ending acts.

That said, the lesson for us must be this: we are so out of touch with the critical role of religious belief in contemporary life that we have created estrangement that kills and destroys in many forms – daily in this land … and we cannot even name it when we see it and suffer its consequences.

Forget all the “isms” – we have a greater problem in this land.

Finally, the answers to riddles often are conveyed in the facts offered.  In the Las Vegas killings innocent people were attending to the music of America, country music, with its stories of hard work, marriage, family, the land, faith, small children and small towns, first loves and love lost, hardship and reconciliation – these were Mr. Paddock’s target.  He made that which he did not have his targets.

Yes, a man without these intimate things confessed his godless alienation in this heinous massacre. 

Time to wake up – and get serious about what we have created and what we excuse and tolerate.  We are not the people we have been made to be.

“I do believe; help my unbelief.”  (Mk 9:24)

Shalom.

Please share this post with others if you wish.  Restoring belief is very important.

 

 

 

Touch comes before sight, before speech.  It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.

Margaret Atwood, in The Blind Assassin

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The political language today is disturbing, harsh – mean, hateful many times.  Those who speak seem unaware that words can injure, maim – diminish, divide, isolate, crush another’s spirit.  Public discourse alike is often banal – gibberish even.

This his makes me wonder what life might be like if we could only touch.

I recall touching my wife’s feet just before she died.  I knew instantly that this touch was the most loving thing I had even done.  I thought about Christ washing the feet of his Disciples.  Touch is love … or can be – love without words.

The eyes can speak as touch can.  Yes, the eyes are full of language.  They speak best when they express love, admiration, joy, acceptance, kindness and mercy.  The eyes show the heart and show its content.

I wish today that we did not speak as we do.  Today speech so often injures.  I, too, must remember this.

Imagine if we suspended language once a week for a day.  A verbal fast would bring peace in its silence, and thought reflected upon – tamed.  How we need this. A moratorium on the spoken word – peace at last for us one day a week.

I have come now to avoid listening to words willy-nilly, to “news” and commentary, to political people.  I prefer silence.  Life today is better with fewer words.

Recently a Dear Friend said to me: you write so well even when you are sad.  If this is so is it not the case that life does not end when breathing stops – and language is best when it is divine and from the loving heart, when it has “that kind touch” that never fades.

Shalom.

Discussion – The conversation after the Las Vegas shootings turns to preventing such acts.  Sounds fine.  But is that possible when a country supports and defends abortion?  Do we have the moral content to reduce such violence?  Character matters more than words.  Be careful to whom you listen.  

Meanwhile, for myself I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude – to disappear into God, to be submerged into His peace, to be lost in the secret of His face.

Thomas Merton, in The Intimate Merton

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In time the world becomes too busy, too distracting, too unsettling.  There is a progression.  We grow from full engagement in the hubbub of it all to its content – that which is known and experienced in quiet … silence.  It is as if you must be still to hear and to see, and to know.  This cannot be forced.  It must mature, evolve.  Perhaps that is why our steps grow slower and the mountains and clouds, the wind in the trees become so engaging.

I can sit and lose time itself in this quiet as if the meaning is in the sound of the air and the strength of the mountain and the freedom of the clouds.  Once busy, I am content with the clouds, the air and the mountains.

In the quiet my family comes to me.  Old friends in distance places visit in the quiet.  Those now at rest live once again.

In the quiet I have company.  My mother.  Mrs. Shannon.  My Uncle Don and my Uncle Ray.  Sylvia.  My grandmother and grandfather.  My Great Aunt Dot and Great Uncle Frank.  Even the trips to Scotland and Italy with my son are alive again.  We stand in Vatican square and eat under the night sky in Siracusa, stand silently in Mary Queen of Scots small chapel, walk the grounds of Melrose Abbey and gaze through the windows of Iona.

The church in quiet has been the very first step toward silence.  We taste this as children and it repeats with each visit on into the years, decades gather – each visit a trip stacked like firewood – one by one to warm the winter freeze, tame the wild North wind, fill the heart with warmth and certainty.

I shall go to Notre Dame in November and its call is this: to sit quietly, alone in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart with its beauty, with its stained glass windows made years ago by French nuns.  But it is the quiet that brings the peace.  It is the quiet.  There my friends will gather from all the days past as old days live again – and all will be as it is made to be.

Shalom.

Note – The Intimate Merton is a book containing entries from Thomas Merton’s life journals.  The above entry was made on December 13, 1946.  It is grouped by editors Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo with entries in Part II of the book under the designation “Becoming a Monk and Writer.”

Update – Apparently the news story about the CBS lawyer posting on social media that she had no sympathy for those murdered, shot and injured in Las Vegas because they were likely Republicans and “gun toters” was accurate.  CBS fired the named lawyer.  Aside from her words being extraordinarily wicked, it amazes me that a person with a Jewish heritage cannot understand the killing of unarmed innocents.  It is just this callousness that comes with partisan politics on the Left.  Very sad.  Bridges must be built, relationships repaired.  We are in this together – one Nation under God.  Make friends of one another, not enemies.

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.

 

Experience of the spiritual world is not only possible in special moments of ecstasy but is waiting for us within every experience, however ordinary.

A. Victor Murray, in Personal Experience and the Historic Faith

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Goethe spoke of the experience of God as “pure” and “radiant.”  William James thought that the effort to establish the truth of religious experience by intellect as “absolutely hopeless.” Albert Einstein identified religious experience as the “driving force” behind all scientific research.  Carl Jung wrote that those who have religious experience possess “the great treasure” of knowing the “source of life, meaning and beauty.”

That said, secular culture and those who drive religious experience from culture succeed in making humans less than they are, succeed in making healthy people ill – unhappy, unsettled, burdened, uncertain and confused.

Such is our state today in secularized America.  Such is the product of the secular Left that seeks to dispatch God, faith, religion and religious experience from life.

If you wonder how it is that we seem sick, and hostile to one another, lost and unhappy ask yourself: Are we separated from God?  Am I listening to the voices of the godless, of those who have no visible faith, or manifestation that they believe there is a God?

The political left manages in its thinking, discourse and actions to divide man from God.  A “desacralized” culture is the result.  Yes, we live less able to experience God than we once did.  Our innate spiritual instincts are blunted by the dominant discourse in media, politics, entertainment and academia in culture today.

The experience of God and sacred reality – once prized by Goethe, Einstein, James and Jung – is preempted by the shallows of narrow Leftist ideology which belittles contrary views while pursuing the concentration of power in the few and the central state.

There is the secular Left.  And then there is Jesus:

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

Jn 6:63

Restoring a healthy culture requires the experience of God – humans who live in the Spirit not the self.  In this, we each face a moment of truth.

Shalom.

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

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