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Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Lives

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We are made to seek contentment, to love and be loved.  In this one fact alone is evidence of God and the essence of our sacred being, itself.   Yet, today there are piles of evidence that we are neither content, nor seemingly loving or sufficiently loved.

“Evidence?” you ask.  Yes.

Look around.  See how few intact families there are.  See the divorces.  The adulteries.  The overt expressions of selfishness and hatred.  How we have elevated sexuality and exploited the human body.  Look at the predators and those who remained silent while knowing of their assaults, their habitual abuse.  Look, too, at pornography. The sexual abuse of children.  Abortion.  Parents killing their children. The addictions.  The “normalizing” of abhorrent conduct – the fiction of “same-sex marriages,” the lunacy of multiple genders.  And the grotesque violence.  All a product of the desperately unloved.

Now contrast these things with the God who is Love.

We live in a time when God is forsaken and destruction is advanced as a substitute.  We make Sodom look tame.

Many like to point to a President as the cause of our serious problems.  Others expect “politics” or government to be the source of our health, contentment – salvation.

No, these cannot satisfy.

Our happiness resides with us, with who we are – and with the recognition that God is necessary and the source of all that is good in us, good in human existence and in this mortal world.

It is Christmas time.  The source of your happiness is born this month.  Wake up!

Shalom.

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When it comes to faith, “The heart has reasons that reason does not know,” Pascal says.  Those reasons … can become known to the mind … and insight and understanding is what happens when reasons of the heart are known to the mind.

John S. Dunne, in The Circle Dance of Time

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So begins John Dunne’s concise recitation of the human’s natural drive to find life’s meaning.  Yes, the human being has a natural spiritual drive to find beyond the limits of the mind and reason the transcendent nature of this life and the next.

Our present age prompts me to ask: have we diminished this natural quest?  Are we further from fulfillment of our human promise?  Are we less than we are made to be?  Are our addictions, homicides, suicides, broken marriages and disordered lives, mistreatment of unborn children, fractured families, sexual assaults and gross sexual disorientations not an indication that we are less than whole humans in a culture that is far less than well?

Recently Sean Parker, the former President of Facebook, talked publically about how he and others who initially developed Facebook knew that they were developing a product which would be “addictive” to its users – especially to children who used it.  Indeed, we see now suicides among its teens users, use of Facebook to “bully” and attack and exile others.  And, no one held to account for the damage caused, lives lost.

Aside for asking us to what degree is technology harmful as it is presently developed and used … yet, another question emerges and it is this:  Have we lost the capacity to know the reasons of the heart that exceed reason and the mind?  Could we even understand John Dunne or Pascal?

Asking these two questions asks this: do we know the endless stories recorded throughout human history which illuminate the meaning and purpose of this life and beyond?  Do we understand who man is?  Who woman is?  Who the child is?  What a marriage is?  What a family is?  What a community is?  Honor?  Virtue?  Fellowship?  Courage?  Selfless sacrifice is?  Do we experience The Divine?  Imagine eternal existence?

Once we did.  Now one wonders if anyone understands that there is a relationship between Buddha’s victory over the Bo Tree and his consequential view of transcendent reality?  Understand Dante’s vision of the Triune God in the Celestial Rose?  Or know of the foretelling of Christ’s crucifixion in the ancient German story of the pagan Othin who hung on a tree and in this penetrated darkness?

My point?  This: have we lost our way to the reasons of the heart? 

Does a nation of addictive tweeters lose God and in losing God lose the substance of Self … become reduced to mere mortal adjuncts to small machines which capture us and dull life, and impair much of what is human and hence transcendent?

Think about this.  Don’t go gently into that costly dark night.

Shalom.

Postscript – Many among us state this view: technology makes life more complicated not less so.  The machines load more and more functions onto smaller and smaller platforms sold at higher and higher prices.  A phone for $1000.00 dollars.  Progress?  I think not.

I have come to two firm observations.  One, just as the computer did NOT deliver a “paperless” office, technology has not made life easier – rather it has captured the human being and stole his and her time.  Two, life in the country among the cows beats being captured by machines … and it ain’t even close.

The object of life is surely not to have others take your time from you.

 

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Joseph Campbell

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Look around you.  I bet you know someone very well who refuses to tackle a problem they face, who refuses to grow – who prefers to stay as they are for fear of attending to their own growth.

I offer an example.  A man prefers not to stand up to others when defending himself is required.  By the way, one who will not defend himself will not defend you.

Many fear emotional growth.  Many prefer subjugation to independence.  Some operate on the misconception that being “nice” is best and all that is required.  Ah, but is there not an obligation to preserve your dignity?  Can giving-in do anything and everything dissuade those who seek an evil end, seek to dominate, get their way in all things – all the time?

Life is to be lived fully.  That is the treasure you have been given by your mere existence.  But, that requires that you grow all the way through your life, face the things you are inclined to avoid, ignore … enter the cave of your own deficits.

When you think about it – facing your deficits is an act of worship.  Why, you ask?  Because attending to your areas of growth says “Yes” to your creation; it affirms your existence.

Pursuing your full development is a positive act; not pursuing your full development is a negative act and sets you on a negative course.  Growing is an act of obedience and worship – a sign of faith, a bold affirmation that you live!  Hiding from your growth is the opposite.

Hiding from life – denies life … and problems and unhappiness follow.

Enter your cave.  Treasure awaits.

Shalom.

 

 

… I tried to pray … in the act of seeking oneness with God, I became one with myself.

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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These are the words of an adult who had tried and failed as a child and a youth to pray – but failed to experience God.  Yet, as Chambers said: his “whole life as a man lay between those failures and (his) present need.”  God listened and Chambers received.

In describing his experience in prayer in his time of need, Chambers says that “(T)he secret spring of (his) life, which was lost in the desert of modernity, joined their impulses, broke free and flowed unchecked.”  He realized that the “almighty mind” alone could not prevail, that man did not create his own salvation.  As he says of prayer and its aftermath, “I became what I was.  I ceased to be what I was not.”

He realized that he had been captive to the “materialist modern mind,” that this paralyzed, in the name of reason, “the instinct of his soul” for God.  His rejection was not just of Marxism but of the disposition and habit of the modern, secularized world that enforced “the myth of man’s material perfectibility.” 

This is precisely the challenge we face today in America and the West.  Can we awaken those smitten by Marxism?  Yes, those among us on the Left.  Can we change the nature of this disordered culture, its personal conduct and belief, and its destructive public discourse, advocacy and action?

What Chambers came to know we too ought to know and that is this: man without God destroys man.

Yes, as Whittaker Chambers said so well: “The gas ovens and the Communist execution cellars exist first within our minds.”  This is evident in the hostility and nihilism that has become Leftist politics, policy and action today.

Shalom.

 

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.

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.

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.   

 

Difficult subject.  I have tweaked this several times in the hopes of not alienating others while trying to focus on restoring some good to our present circumstances.

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The psychology of the individual can never be exhaustively explained from himself  alone: … clear recognition is needed by the way (one) is also conditioned by historical and environmental circumstances … individual psychology is not merely a physiological, biological, or personal problem: it is also a contemporary problem. (Emphasis added.) 

Carl Jung, M.D. in “Psychological Types” (Collected Works, Vol. 6)

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Mass murder in Las Vegas.

Disorder does not spring up by itself no more than a flower blossoms without a seed.

The individual person does not (even in the best of times) possess much self-understanding.  In our mass communication culture, where God and religious belief is minimized or attacked, disorder is magnified.  Today we seem intent on division and antagonism.  Political correctness is not a moral structure.

When “isms” proliferate disordered conduct can displace healthy and trusted beliefs.    Those in authority can even advance chaos.

An individual’s disorder is conditioned by history, personal environment and culture – all the more when faith is lost and society has gone astray.

Evil seems to flourish when antagonism is more common.  We pay a very heavy price for division and godlessness.

It is a time to draw together, to seek what we share in common, to build friendships and foster individual responsibility so each might know prosperity and the contentment of personal achievement. 

It takes discretion and determination to avoid disorder today.  Only those with considerable self-understanding maintain a healthy distance.  Religious narrative and a relationship with God are critical today.

You had best see who you are and what precisely your culture conveys … and most certainly turn away from those who advance disorder.  Destruction is the obvious product of disordered people.  We need to get well.  To listen carefully and choose wisely.

The healthy person today will be more likely he or she who resembles as to modern society and disordered godless mass culture the disposition of a monk in plain clothes.

Shalom.

If you find this post helpful, please pass it along to others.  Thank you.

Being Reported – It is being reported by several news organizations that a senior attorney at CBS expressed an absence of sympathy for those shot in Las Vegas because “country music fans often are Republicans – (and) gun toters.”  One can only hope this is not accurately reported.  Yet, it is surely the case that political hostility must be reduced by all.

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.

 

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