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It is for God to grant His grace.  Your task is to accept that grace and guard it.  (Emphasis added.)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in Catechetical Orations

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A friend of mine wrote to me this week and asked that I might be available to talk to her.  Her mate had passed away after a long illness.  The passing was about three months ago.  She knew I have experienced a number of such losses of loved one in my lifetime.

In responding that I, of course, would be available for her call.  I thought immediately of grace and its gift to us – a gift that we often overlook and that is so, so powerful in facing life’s losses and its extraordinary hardships.

Knowing the grace that has been bestowed on you (in my experience) is best identified my thinking about the parts of your life to which you have been drawn over time.  Or the recurring events in your life.

Are you one you cares for the injured?  Or the less fortunate?  The lost or abandoned?

Are you one who defends the innocent?  Stands up to the aggressor?  Whose foundation is kindness?  Or courage?  Whose skills are in seeing behind the veil?  Understanding human behavior and explaining it to others?

Are you one who sees the missing parts of others and how conduct and language tells you of another’s fears, limitations, or the constraints that have been imposed on them?

These, to me, tell of the grace that you have been given.

In times of hardships the grace is your strength.  Grace blossoms in difficult times.

I give an illustration.  If you suffer the death of another so deeply that you feel utterly lost and deeply saddened, does it not say that you loved deeply and gave all of your heart and soul to another?  I believe the answer is, “yes.”  That is a grace – to love so deeply.

Think about it.  Loving deeply is a capacity you have been given.  It is natural to you.  It is what you do.  It is you.

That grace exceeds all that has been lost, and anything you might be able to muster-up under your own power.  That grace is given by God and brings you closer to God – in this you are made more whole and come to know that all that befalls a human in this mortal existence only speaks of what is eternal and Eternity itself.

There is nothing that can exceed God’s grace.  There is triumph in all that appears as defeat – when one believes.

Shalom.

State of the Union and the Democrats.  It is revealing to watch the Democrats at the State of the Union.  They are not happy unless they are unhappy.  Members of the Black Caucus sat on their hands when President Trump noted that Black unemployment is the lowest it has been since the records were firsts established.  One thinks that the Black Members of Congress are more comfortable when their constituents are less well-off.  One supposes then the Black Members of Congress will have little to do but continue to complain and ferment racial divide.

The Democrats are in-large no different.  They specialize in exploiting division so they too showed no indication that they intend to cooperate in a bipartisan way with anything the President proposed.

They seem to have worked themselves into a Leftist cul-de-sac of racial, gender, ethnic and ideological division that has frozen them in their division and bias.

Nations are weakened in this manner – and our adversaries know it.  We had best snap out of this and doing so means rejecting the Leftist Party of Discontent and Division.

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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.

Shalom.

… the fact remains that for Christianity, a religion of the Word, the understanding of the statements which embody God’s revelation of himself remains a primary concern.  Christian experience is a fruit of this understanding, a development of it, a deepening of it.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thomas Merton on Zen

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Merton, like others, stressed the importance of acquiring the Christian experience – the full integration of Christ into one’s life.  That is, not merely treating Christian existence as the acquisition of a system of truths about God, or an explanation of how the universe came into being or how it might end.  Nor did he think that the Christian experience was meant to explain the purpose of Christian life or a set of moral norms per se.

He saw the Christian experience as more – more than “a world view,” or “a religious philosophy” sustained by a cult of believers, or a moral discipline, or a code of Law.  No, he saw the Christian experience as “a living … experience of the presence of God in the world and in mankind through the mystery of Christ.”

Yes, the integration of the reality of God’s existence through the mystery of Christ in one’s mortal life in this world.

Indeed the Christian experience is nothing less than the daily – moment to moment understanding that God is with us, in companionship, through the mystery of the gift of Christ.

Imagine, if you will, what one’s life and each breath can be like if this is the cornerstone of your human experience.  Surely if men and women acted on the strength of the Christian experience, all that is sordid, treacherous, hateful, etc. would pass from view or at the least be less present in the world.

In this coming new year, think about this.  An integrated Christian life is offered to you.

Shalom.

All efforts based on parliamentary control and free-market economic mechanisms proved useless in quelling the growing polarization in opinion and stance.  Different propositions were put forward, ranging from anarchism to autocratic rule, and for many young people each seemed preferable to the rotten democracy they lived under.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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These words describe the deteriorating political climate in Poland in the 1930’s and to some extent the political climate in Europe at the same time.

They so remind me of the extraordinary state of affairs and discontent in the U.S. today.  Partisanship reigns.  One Party houses the extreme Left.  Liberalism embraces nihilism and its echoes ring in the public square, mass media and the courts of law.  Anarchists, while small in number, dressed in black slash and burn.  Foundations fund the voices of Black racism.  We live in uneasy times.

Circumstances have changed.  The once stable America is less a source of certainty than it has been and the world becomes more dangerous.

We tilt Left and morals have been mothballed.  Trusted government institutions have lost their glow.  Public corruption tarnishes democracy.  Religious belief itself is in thin supply.  Education is below the waterline.  It is a troubled time.

History tells us that in such times the best young men mature more quickly … and across the land the wise turn back to faith.  Yes, extreme moments snap us into what is fundamental, personal, sure, uplifting, good and eternal – humanizing, strong, kind, heroic – the only option in dark days.

Beneath the flawless manners of a worldly gentleman he hid his compassion for all that is living.  Some people perhaps could sense it, but it was certainly known, in ways mysterious to us, to the small birds that would perch on his head and hands when he stopped in a park alley.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Goodness

Lord, bring us to our senses – to morality, honesty, kindness, compassion – Make us One.

Shalom.

 

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 do not know … by what subtle stages this conflict of the spirit of man gained on the doctrine and practice of Communism in me.  I do know that over the years the unwanted thought … crossed my mind: What is lacking in Communism?  What lack is it that keeps the human level of Communism so low, that makes the party a rat’s nest of intrigue and faction?  What is the source of its corroding cynicism … that makes us waste human life and effort without scruple …?  Why … thirty years after the … revolution … Communists have not produced one single inspired work of the mind?  What is our lack?  (Emphasis added.)

… I asked at last: can it be God?

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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Chambers, an American and a Communist Party member, recounts his thoughts in 1937 prior to his break with the Party and his renunciation of his role as a Soviet spy.

His words then are applicable today.  Why?  Liberalism and one of our two prominent political parties and its many activists groups have taken on a Marxist disposition as their guide, and foundation of their political discontent.

Indeed, how else can you explain a President signing off on selling our uranium reserves to our Russian adversaries?  How else can one explain the cozy relationship between the Clintons and Russia?  How can one explain Russian oligarchs enriching the Clinton Foundation by millions of dollars?  Or explain the Leftist feminists who link their complaints to the Marxist dogma of class, race, and “imperialism?”

We are in a Chambers Moment.  Will we conclude as he did – that we, too, need God?

I know of no other way to restore this culture or the human person to health and sanity.  We are badly disoriented and artificially divided.  God alone can make us healthy again.

In the strangest way – in a mystifying way, I see our healthy turn in the troubles of the day.

The bark is being (incident by incident) stripped off the Left.  Its principal Party is being exposed for its lying and corruption.  Its special pleaders are losing favor with the public.  The media that echoes Leftist views is dying – its newspapers have been discredited time and again.  Its campus hold seems farcical and cartoonish – a Doonesberry character of the absurd.  Feminism, too, seems like this – gender politics the same, occupying a juncture of absurdity, fantasy, abject foolishness – too much the curse to warrant any serious reflection.

Take heart.  The spirit of man cannot be denied for we are spiritual beings before we are anything else.

Shalom.

 

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak …

Gen 32: 24

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This is taken from the story of Jacob returning, after many years of estrangement with his brother Esau  – whom Jacob had cheated from his birthright inheritance many years earlier.

The passage refers to Jacob’s great fear of encountering his brother.  Jacob, in returning to Esau, did not know what his brother might do.  Jacob had to face his guilt and the sentence above refers to Jacob uncomfortable sleep where he “wrestles” with his conscience or (as some say) the Angel of God.

What might we focus on?  The Angel of God.  

Think about this.  Assume that God sends an emissary to sort out malfeasance and prompt others see their errant ways, their transgressions, their sins and betrayals.

The question you might ask is this: Are you called in a way to be God’s emissary?

Specifically, have you ever found yourself planted in a family of chaos?  Among people who betray one another, who advance their own exclusive, selfish interest at others expense – without regard to their brothers and sisters, to others?

The point to be made is that you might be the Emissary … the Angel of God.  You might well be present in adverse situations to serve as witness to what is good, to God and God’s ways, a catalyst of change – a messenger of good, and agent of salvation.

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.

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.

 

 

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