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Dedicated to My Son, His Wife and My Two Grandchildren … and All the Parents Raising Children

To be a good parent … we do not need to be people who have arrived; God simply calls us to be on the way, seeking, finding, and rejoicing in what we find. (Emphasis added.)

Catherine Stonehouse, in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith.

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My son and I recently had a very interesting conversation about providing for the spiritual lives of his two small children, ages almost three and almost one.

Yes, children have – as all human beings do – innate spiritual needs and desires.

Throughout the ages people are confronted with all sorts of probative “why” and “how” and “what” and “who” questions.  Why do bad things happen?  How can we be good? What is love? How do you forgive someone? Who made the world? Why go to church?

Yes, we are all bound by these questions.  And, no – politics does not provide the answer.  And, yes – by thinking all things are political as many do in this imploding secular culture we establish one thing for sure: life and cultures demand that individuals pay particular attention to our interior, the spiritual plateau in all human beings or court chaos and destruction, disintegration.  Absent attention to the spiritual: cultures, societies, communities, families, nations, individual people are undone – destroyed – trapped in selfishness, error, hostility, destruction, conflict, injury and despair.

Frankly, we are inclined precisely in that destructive dimension in contemporary America and the West at this very moment.  

We are, of course, not human beings seeking a spiritual experience, but rather – spiritual beings seeking a human experience.

Look around you.  Do you see how costly denying God and spiritual reality can be?

Parents attend to your spiritual existence and invite your children to join you.   Individually you will each be better – together you will be a family – a sacred, life-saving vessel in a world of choppy waters and occasional gales.

I wish you smooth seas – no matter the conditions you meet.

Shalom.

Moral Indignation.  Been alive for seven-plus decades.  Ain’t met a single perfect person, nor an angel.  My conclusion: we are not perfect.  Yet, now some (armed with moral indignation) are set on tearing down statues of people they find unsavory.  With this approach the Democrat Party may find itself banished after their lengthy history of favoring the Klan and racial segregation.

In the language of Boston politics – what goes around, comes around.    

 

 

Sanctity is not a luxury, but a simple duty.

St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

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St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic Priest, died in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, 76 years ago today.  He was 47 years old.

He died a martyr when he voluntarily stepped forward to request that he be permitted to take the place, in an execution, of a fellow inmate who had a wife and children.

The Camp Commander agreed and Fr. Kolbe was placed in a dark and dingy cell with nine other men to be starved to death.

Having survived two weeks without food, Fr. Kolbe was given an injection of carbolic acid to kill him.  It is reported that his appearance at death was as if he had been enveloped by the love of God.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is truly an appropriate measure to apply to ourselves and our culture and those in it – and particularly to those in politics who profess to “lead” us, serve us, protect us – keep us sane and safe … and to those in the professions and education, and to those in religious stations who have vowed to keep us close to Christ, and to the Father.

On this anniversary of Fr. Kolbe’s death, I suggest that you take time to reflect on your obligation to live up to your faith, to live as Fr. Kolbe did, as Christ did. Likewise, it is a good time to ask: Do those with public voice live as Fr. Kolbe did?

Remember “Sanctity is not a luxury, but a simple duty.”

Shalom.

Question.  Who among those who clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend resembled Fr. Kolbe?  Answer: No one, it seems.

 

Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.

Cormac McCarthy, in All the Pretty Horses

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I’ve never been a “wisher.”  The life seemed so much more demanding than something that allowed for wishing.

You know, stuff hits you right in the face.  It happens early and it happens quickly and repeatedly on the right and wrong side of the tracks.  Me? I didn’t have the budget for wishing.  God had another agenda for me.  Hard reality. Wounding reality.  A strange way to love me, but love for sure, for hard things brought me to the experience of the battle and the gift of prayer.

Yes, prayer.  Not desperate prayer.  Not urgency.  No – but prayer of closeness, prayer of real relationship as in: “Okay, God – I see what’s here, walk me through this – you lead and I’ll follow You.”  Man, troubles are gifts.  They are the everyday sacred space between “the wish and the thing” where the “world lies waiting.”

Never fear to live.  Doing so is a common mistake.  Most people hunker down, cower, reach for a place to hide – in ego, in control, avoidance, fantasy, status, power, wealth, food, alcohol, drugs, sex, possessions.  Truth is they avoid the world that lies waiting.  They construct barricades against life.  Opt for pretending.

Listen carefully.  Most people who speak never pass the “I’ve lived” test.  Those who have hidden have nothing to tell you.  That said, your ear will hear the pitch of the ones who speak out of the pain they have lived – they are to be comforted and they can share their experience of living in a world that lies waiting.  

Life is to be lived.  Get after it.  Don’t hide.  Live.

Shalom.

“… the person is irrevocably a person in history, and the interchange between external event and the individual life is a matrix of poetry …”

Helen Vendler, in The Music of What Happens

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Yes, we cannot ignore the challenges that time brings us, that are posted by the times of our mortal existence.

If our interaction with history in its daily iterations and broad sweeps presents life as “a matrix of poetry” it also is life as spiritual journey (at least to those who do not – as many do – sit stubbornly in their laziness, refusing all but the life of an ideologue, a dullard).

So if history is the exchange between us and it, who in our current public dialogue offers any recitation that this is so?  Who among our clerics?  Who among those of letters? Who tells the spiritual story in a secular culture before many can no longer hear at all?

Who is your daily voice of faith?  Who nudges you into spiritual reality?  What do you do to awaken your soul, become what a human being is: a spiritual being seeking fullness of life mortal and eternal?

If someone believes that he is a Christian and yet is indifferent to the fact that he is, then he truly is not a Christian.

Soren Kierkegaard, in Works of Love

Shalom.

Let’s be truthful – When the government gives subsidies to health insurance companies, we are NOT keeping Obamacare health insurance premium costs down, we are merely having present and future taxpayers absorb the cost increases.  Let’s face facts: Obamacare is a disaster – designed by fools, supported by untruths.  We can no nothing well that hides the truth of the matter.  Fiction is not fact.

My suggestion?  How about legislation that says “pigs can fly.”  We can call it Obama-air.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  (Emphasis added.)

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

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Do you remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary?  (Lk 10:38-42)

In that story Martha is busy preparing a meal for Jesus and others while her sister Mary is seated at Jesus feet listening to him.  Martha asks Jesus if he does not care that Mary has left her to do all the preparations alone.

Jesus answered Martha – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This is precisely the wisdom Albert Einstein expresses. We all have the capacity to experience the mystical.

A life lived within mortal limits is a life not lived.  It is a life without fullness.  It is “the mystical” that makes a life, that alone completes a life.

Feodor Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov this: “Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystical sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world.”

We have many like Martha.  And few like Mary.  Which are you?

Those like Mary possess calm, certainty.  They see and they are not lured into all that is earthly.  They are not worrisome.  Addicted.  They are not egotists.  They are not trapped in the nonsense that prevails among the masses.  They are not captured in the present day and all its false gods and endless foolishness.

Our culture is full of Martha in many forms.  Ignore them.  They have chosen the lesser things.

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

Russia and Us.  It is interesting that for all the hubbub about Russia over the years, we have not been smart in dealing with them.  We have been, because we have “leaders” who do not live life on a mystical plateau, unable to see the undeniable truth about Russians which is this: Dostoevsky reveals their core, their heart – their orientation to life (even as they try to supplant him with Marxist nonsense).

The truth of who they actually are is their soft underbelly and, not being well and fully formed, our “leadership” cannot see it.

When the blind confront the blind – it is always an “eye for an eye.”  Endless folly. “Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.”

” … God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead … I cannot know for certain where it will end … But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you.” (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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If a devout monk can experience uncertainty, imagine the state of confusion and error of those who do not believe.

Yes, in a godless culture godless figures emerge to “lead.”  Of course, they cannot lead. Why?  They have no clue what has value, what is good and just and honorable.  What they have is simply the idiocy of unbelievers and their abundant foolishness and guarantee for destruction.

In a culture of unbelief blind squirrels might find acorns, but not men with sight who lack belief in God.

Look around, we have endless public figures who are lost and do not know it. The rule of thumb today is this: if a public figure dons a raincoat, you can leave your umbrella home.

In a culture of chaos, you are better off to do the exact opposite of what the “powers that be” would suggest.

Let’s be plain here: if you wish to have a life of value, and joy – desire one thing: to desire to please God.

Yes, set all the fools aside.

Shalom.

Sad – Godless pagan culture claims another life.  Singer Chester Bennington committed suicide yesterday at age 41.  He leaves fatherless children.  This is the real cost of the secular culture, the fruits of the failure of elites, the intellectual, political, media and celebrity classes.  Some legacy.  Yes, there are more suicides in the United States each year than homicides.  Sad.  It need not be this way.

For my Son, himself a divinely loving father … of whom I am very proud and for whom I am so grateful.

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They ate the little mushrooms together with the beans and drank tea and had tinned pears for their dessert. He banked the fire against the seam of rock where he’d built it and he’d strung the tarp behind them to reflect the heat and they sat warm in their refuge while he told the boy stories.  Old stories of courage and justice as he remembered them until the boy was asleep in his blankets and then he stoked the fire and lay down warm and full and listened to the low thunder of the falls beyond them in the dark and threadbare wood.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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A father loves the son in divine dimension.

It is Sunday.  We are given Sunday so we might ask if we love as the Father?

In the best of moments and in the strongest of bonds a father loves his son in ways that mimic God and prepare the son for tomorrow and all the tomorrows we might be given, all the burdens that fall to men – the sacrifice of killing and of dying in the fight.

In the last few American decades it is men who have been attacked, derided, suspected and accused.  Fallen times and fallen women – a race gone wrong in many ways. Such is a time when God is forsaken.  Fundamental undoing. Dangerous course and full throated nonsense.

But who will fight for the frail but the father and his son?  The crop of warriors diminishes. Whole groups have no fathers.

We speak and act as if there is no treachery, as if “others” will magically appear to save us.  But there are fewer fathers who love their sons divinely … and fewer sons breeds fewer fathers and danger appears to conquer and destroy.

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.  Nights dark beyond darkness and days more gray each one than what had gone before.

Shalom.

Footnote – I hope this strikes a satisfying cord for you, especially for men and fathers. We have fewer now who know who we are and what we do, know how deeply we feel and how essential we are.  Share this with others if you wish – and surely with men who are fathers. God bless you all.

 

The Seven Story Mountain … is a journey away from the world through the process of purification of those vices that hold the person back from God as well as an interior exploration of the ground of human existence, which is the presence of God through grace.

Lawrence S. Cunningham, in The Seven Story Mountain

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The Seven Story Mountain is Thomas Merton’s account of his journey in faith – his turn to Christianity, to Catholicism and to life as a monk, a contemplative and writer.  It recounts his interior journey and its relationship to his exterior existence, the world and to others.

Lawrence Cunningham’s above description is that of the journey to God, its path and trajectory is a good guide for anyone who desires to draw closer to God and find in that the solace that only a relationship with God can produce.

Mind you, in moving “away from the world” one is simply breaking the dominating chains of the mortal world and its ways in favor of what is above the mortal, what is divine and eternal.

Notice that Cunningham identifies a “process of purification” that takes us from the vices of our human imperfection and clears the way for our relationship with God.  Yes, the more our errant ways deflate, are reduced – the more buoyant we become, the more we have a course to naturally seek what is good, best in us – what is evidence of the presence of God, God within and without us.

Notice that our closeness to God rests in an interior exploration of our human experience and that this would have us say about life experience: why does this event or experience resonate with me?  Why does this make me sad, or angry? Why does this give me joy?  What experiences have I had that seem to be triggered by a particular external experience, and why?  What is the origin and essence of this experience and why is it such?

The interior journey – a matter of taking what is experienced inside – awakens the good within, our longing for it and the upset we feel when good is denied, when evil intrudes.

We are, as God’s children, made to seek what is good, to realize the good within, to seek the God within and without who is Pure Good, Love itself.

While Cunningham is describing Thomas Merton’s journey, Merton’s journey is your journey as well.  Be not afraid.  Seek what is The Good, for you are called to that Good and the longer you resist that call, the harder, more unsettled and upset you become, the further lost you are.

Come home.  Know peace and contentment … there you love freely and in wisdom.

Shalom.

An Autobiographical Reflection

[Maybe it will help in your unique journey.]

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I know what I think when I hear what I say.

So, too, with writing – and more so with writing about one’s story – lived spontaneously breath to breath, scene to scene  – heartbeat to heartbeat, never planned.  In this is the gift of life in the moment, life in one long unbroken strand of time, and place, and experience.

Bobby Sylvester

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Living is story … autobiographical story with interludes of humor, unexpected twists, abject sadness, disappointment, unwarranted delights, war – interior and exterior – personal and communal.

Yes, swings of elevated joy and darkness darker than night … and fear and bliss, betrayal and unswerving loyalty, trust and distrust where losses seem to outrun gains at times … drama and science fiction, fantasy and detailed and specific certainty – or at least attention grabbing with focus on that one thing so odd, or so sublime … so eye and heart-catching that it reveals in time access to the puzzle – at least part of it.

Pieces of time and space and events that reveal a theme and explain the story as youth turns to age.

I have been conscious of my story and life as a story since that day in 1948 or it was maybe 1949 when my absentee father walked by me and never turned to say hello.

If movement and moment were a gripping paragraph that one thing might suffice as the beginning of my story, or its crystallization – it’s clarion theme, it’s overture and it’s one, first and true guidepost: we are abandoned, left … and from this we know that those who don’t love us, don’t love us.

Ah, what a gifted truth to have so young – preparation for what would come to pass.

I never left that point where by I lived within the story and watched it at the same time …

Oddly, I never felt merely a viewer – rather both a viewer and a participant in one body.

And there never was a script.  There was just being … just living the immediate instant while sustaining contact with the yesterdays produced in the same spontaneous manner. Life for me was and is: experience it – whatever “it” was or will be – and learn and grow in depth, insight, strength, faith, understanding, comprehension wisdom and tempered expectation.

As tragedy enters and exits overtime in-and-out, living takes on scope, humor and sensibility increase.  Faith might also grow.

I know what I think when I hear what I say.

May your story come to you – clearly, and give you strength, reveal purpose and meaning.

Shalom.

 

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

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