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… we seek nothing but the particular place willed for us by God …

Then we discover what the spiritual life really is … It is the silence of our whole being in compunction and adoration before God, in the habitual realization that He is everything and we are nothing, that He is the Center to which all things tend, and to Whom all our actions are directed.  That our life and strength proceed from Him, that both in life and death we depend entirely on Him, that the whole course of our life is foreknown by Him and falls into the plan of His wise and merciful Providence; that it is absurd to live without Him, for ourselves, by ourselves … and in the end the only thing that matters is His glory.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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In the Mass readings today we hear God lamenting that His children have moved away from Him and we hear Jesus advise us to move away from those who do not receive or listen to his words.

Our dilemma is that we live in an age where many of the most public and most vocal have moved away from God and do not listen to the words of His Son.  Likewise the culture in its digital discourse and mass communication is crowded with those who operate largely by themselves – without reference to God.  Indeed, that is the bulk of present day discourse and we are obviously affected negatively by this.

What is one to do in such circumstances?

Yes, we are assured in the Old Testament reading of today (from Hosanna) that God will act mercifully as to those who rebel.  And, we know that Jesus in today’s Gospel (from Matthew) would have us separate from those who do not receive his words or listen to him.  So we have a plan: be merciful, yet separate from those who reject the Savior’s words.

But how is this to be done?

Merton offers a way: seeking time in silence and the company of God in that silence.  For in that silence the primacy of God is known and experienced and we are in the form that we are designed to know and in which we will find peace when all about are in discord and distress.

Yes, our confidence is in God and our task is to stand apart form those who reject God outright, and in their rejection of the Son, reject the Father.  Our remedy for this is silence – a singular silence where God is heard – much as the Son shows us in his regular retreats to the quiet of the desert.

In silence we can find stability, meaning and fulfillment.

Shalom.      

 

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All sins are attempts to fill voids.

Simone Weil

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Life isn’t hard if you just listen to people who are smart and leave us some valuable guideposts.  Of course as people – we tend to charge ahead hitting objects head-first without a helmet.

And, then – there are things that find us – hardships, inconveniences, bad deeds and thoughtless things done by others others.  These produce the occasion to sin – to react harshly and “get even.”  But the greatest frontier as to sin – is us, each of us.

We are sinners.  Every one of us.  (That’s why God and mercy are so necessary to our existence, our over-arching story.)

Think about this: when you sin, ask yourself what void has this sinful act uncovered in me? 

Many of the sins we see are “deficits” we experience related to the want of intimacy, or power, or status, or identity, or a place in the group or the world.  Once you discover this, sin can be defused – and then, all the more, when you realize God is vital to your full grow and development – your contentment, peace and relationship with others comes into full form.

The more sin is defuse – the more others become your brothers and sisters.  That joy awaits you.  God speed.

Shalom.

 

Independence Day, July 4, 2018

We live in a unique Nation whose Constitution unites freedom of religion with freedom of speech.  Faith and Liberty united in one Nation.  Unique.  We had best preserve this and refute those who would destroy what we have.  God Bless America.

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Only those men are never separated from the Lord who never question His right to separate Himself from them.  They never lose Him because they always realize they never deserve to find Him, and in spite of their unworthiness they have already found Him.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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God cannot be domesticated.  God is Pure Spirit.  And, the Spirit goes where the Spirit wishes.  In this your spirit must be as clean and free as His in order to follow Him.

Our Constitution underscores this reality.  Yes, our Constitution is not just a legal or political document – it is a Spiritual document.  

In the coming days President Trump is going to nominate a person to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is quite possible the President may nominate Federal Appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Judge Barrett is a Catholic, a married mother of seven children, and former Professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

If she is advanced as the nominee, we will face a significant test.  The test?  Will Judge Barrett’s religion be targeted as “objectionable.”  If we hear this, we will see that those who voice this objection are undermining the very central message of the U.S. Constitution: that we are a Nation of religious freedom that is to be protected – indeed, to be honored and revered.  Our Founders knew faith led a just and free people.

Keep in mind that we are not human being seeking spiritual experience, but spiritual beings who seek human experience.  This is precisely what our Founding Fathers knew and intended to reinforce in drafting the Constitution.  In the next few weeks we shall see if we are still governed by this understanding – its wisdom.

Happy Independence Day!

Shalom.

 

The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline to the religion of solitude.

Aldous Huxley

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It will be 90 degrees again here to today.  In the mountains a breeze persists.  The pastures are green and bathed in sun to make them softer to the eye.

I listen to a CD entitled “Celtic Landscapes” – recordings from nature in Ireland and Scotland.

Last night I saw a Mama bear and her two small cubs.  They were given the order by Mama to take to the trees.  They did.  The little spuds hung one above the other on thin branches near the tree trunk.  No one moves unless Mama says so.

I hung my Scottish flag on the garage this morning then ate homemade raisin rumcake with a cup of dark roast.  All is good on the ridge.

I love the solitude.  The more disorder in mass culture, the better the silence and solitary life in nature.

A thunder storm erupts on the CD.  We shall have our’s this afternoon.

All the flowers are watered and trimmed.  The roses have a good number of blossoms ready to bloom.  The grass is cut.  The St. Andrew’s Cross flies free.

You see there are things that give comfort.  They are near.  They settle the soul and create space between disorder and peace of heart and the quiet of the soul.

Know this: mass culture is sick and it breeds discontent.  It takes its price from you.

Shalom.

That millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make  people sane.

Erich Fromm, in The Sane Society

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It is a little ironic for me to utilize the words of a Left-leaning secular humanist like Fromm but – assuming his words have merit, accuracy and hence a quality of timelessness such that they can be invoked in any era – it seems to me they offer an opportunity for today.

The opportunity?  The opportunity to ask of ourselves in the West and in the United States if some of our prominent ideas and their political advocacy conveys what is ill or what is well.

I think of abortion.  I think of children born to women who are not married.  I think of the collectivist nature of liberal orthodoxy, “borderless” borders, the application of equality that seems to shun individual responsibility and the recognition that people are of vastly different capabilities and drives, a disdain for police officers, a dismissal of religion, the reverence afforded the celebrity – the people in visual media, in the press … and such.  The list could go on.

On many fronts, it is reasonable to ask – Are these common acclamations contributing to sanity or insanity?  Do we look like a healthy or ill society?  Have we put the propositions of the Left to this test?  Fromm himself would ask this.  One wonders why we do not.

Yet for example, that a bundle of people think that there are endless numbers of “genders” neither makes it so, nor makes it sane.

My point is Fromm’s point – a collection of people saying or doing the same thing makes what is said or done neither true nor healthy, per se.  Time to put advocacy and ideology to the test.  Good for us?  Healthy?  Destructive?  Foolish?  Sane?

One wrong idea can make a whole people sick.  Destroy harmony and community, a nation, even.

And the whole multitude sought to touch him; for there went virtue out of him and healed them.

Lk 6:19

Yes, it is virtue that is the measure.  Life seeks the advancement of virtue and the health and fulfillment of the whole person.

Shalom.

One of the symptoms of alienation in the modern age is the widespread sense of meaninglessness.  Many patients seek psychotherapy … because they feel that life has no meaning … these people are experiencing the disruptive effects … of an upheaval occasioned by a major cultural transition … there is increasing evidence of a general psychic disorientation.  We have lost our bearings.  Our relationship to life has become ambiguous.  The great symbol system which is organized Christianity seems no longer able to command the full commitment of men or to fulfill their ultimate needs.  The result … feeling of meaninglessness and alienation from life.  (Emphasis added.)

Edward F. Edinger, M.D., in Ego and Archetype

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Analytical Psychiatrist and Professor Edinger is right on target with his observation.

Wealthy designer, merchandiser and wife Kate Spate dead at 55, a suicide.  Celebrity chef and T.V. personality Anthony Bourdain, age 61, dead – a suicide.  Each in the past week.  Wealthy people.  Successful people.  Celebrities.  Neither had money problems nor drug problems as far as we now.

This news raises the question of meaning in our Age, in our culture.

I have come to believe that one is not likely to find life-sustaining reason without a symbol system and religion is the very best and time-tested symbol system.

Symbols systems allow us to see life more clearly, experience it more deeply, come to understanding.

Symbols give us iconic images and tell stories of human kind – of power and corruption, sacrifice and meaning, produce deep, rich, eternal meaning in man’s actions, thoughts, choices, intimacies, family, community, group, life’s work, parenting, marriage, culture, nation and lifetime.

Symbols tie us to our ancestors and create a bridge from mortal to eternal existence.

Symbol systems have been in existence since man began to walk the earth.  Symbols systems have sustained humans through life’s inevitable struggles and deadly challenges.  Symbol systems unite one person to another – people to a group.

Symbols systems move through time, are added to over time – while maintaining the basic message as to meaning in human existence.  Like myths, symbols provide insight,  set boundaries, create roles, confirm individual and collective identity.

Yet, we seem now to have shelved or abandoned religion, our principle symbol system.

Today suicides, addictions, sexual predators, broken families, corruption in high-places, aimlessness seem more prevalent.  Each suggests to me – a loss of meaning produced by a absence or neglect of a symbol system.  For without a symbol system we are easily lost, most-assuredly less certain, without the wisdom of the Ages and the truths that have withstood the test of time.

Without a symbol system, we live superficially by ego, never evolving to our true self and acquiring the confidence and stability it brings.  In such a culture we fear for our children and grandchildren’s well-being.  We grow concerned that life without meaning takes a brutal toll on others, and puts our family members at risk.

Think about the place religious narrative and ritual has had as a symbol system.  Ask yourself this: How have religions survived and served us over such a long time?  And ask: Are they not symbol systems?  Do they not add to our understanding?  Insight?  Stability?  Provide a very helpful context for living in a peaceful and optimistic manner?  Give us life-sustaining meaning?  Wisdom?  Help build our character and give us ease?

If you have not had a place for faith in your life – do think about religious narrative as the best symbol system mankind has.  Engage the narrative.  See if it does not help you discover your identity and value, give you strength.

Oh, and by the way – ideology is NO substitute for a symbol system.  The voices of the ideologues are frantic voices of people with no particular stability – merely egos seeking power, control as their “Holy Grail.”  The emergence of ideology in public life is the barometer of how lost we are.  Take heed.

I wish for you: meaning and contentment, a life that is understood, and the experience of life’s many daily gifts received each day.

Shalom.

Prayers – for Charles Krauthammer, M.D., journalist and author who writes today to his friends and colleagues that he is approaching his death as his cancer has reoccurred.  He is one of the gentlemen in Washington – smart and kind.  Prayers too for his wife and son.

I often listen to Gregorian Chants to start the day.  It separates me from the world – its chatter and foolishness.  I recommend it.  It connects you with what is calm and eternal.
Who after all wishes to sail on “a ship of fools?”

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We have committed ourselves to exile, that is, we are outside secular boundaries … (Emphasis added.)

Life of Syncletica, in Monastic Wisdom: Writing on the Contemplative Life

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When a culture gives you disorder and the company of fools and “disassemblers” – those who find truth a stranger to them, is it not better to remove yourself and maintain both peace and sanity … contact with what is true and divine?

When you separate from a sick culture, your values are sustained, you retain autonomy, dignity, sanity, integrity, virtue, peace and contentment.  More so, you live as a mortal within eternal reality.  You remain calm and free of the nonsense, destruction and duplicity that is a godless culture.  Yes, you leave the inmates in their self-made asylum.

Enter Gregorian chants.

In separation we are cognizant of the falsity and chaos of the existing culture – but we do not concede its rule over us.  We remain free to be who we were made to be – contentment follows.

In separation we reside in our own cloister, our mind and heart prosper – our soul lives in us and in our thoughts and deeds.

In separation, we dismiss the gossip of the culture, its useless and truth-less “news,” its imagined celebrity status and faux leadership class.

In separation, the cyber world is an option, but trivial – never a master.

In separation – reading and prayer, thinking and quiet, silence and nature, caring and love of others come to form.  God is nearer, beauty is alive.  Hope prevails despite the best efforts of others to destroy all tranquility and our irreplaceable inheritance.

Separate.  Sustain what is sacred and sane.

Shalom.

 

Prayer is lifting up our minds and hearts to God.

The St. John’s Daily Prayer Book

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What might comprise a daily prayer?

  • Expressing our love of God
  • Thanking God for our blessings
  • Seeking God’s forgiveness for our sins
  • Asking that His Grace shine on us, our loved ones and others

One may pray silently.  That is called mental prayer.  Or one can give voice to prayer.  Prayer invokes both heart and mind in each of us.

Starting a day with simple prayer is a wonderful habit and the very best way to begin a new day.

In quiet times I may well simply sit and thank God for all He has done for me, profess my love of Him, and ask for His forgiveness.

Yes, each of us must be forgiven.  We are sinners to whom God generously provides His mercy.  Indeed if you read the prayers of the Doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas you will see his initial recognition that he knows himself a sinner who receives God’s attention and mercy through no merits of his own earthly deeds.

It is so helpful to give yourself time to pray.

Shalom.

In so far as man himself, consecrated by God’s name and dedicated to God, dies to the world that he may live for God, he is a sacrifice.

St. Augustine, in The City Of God

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Is it for the world that you live?  For yourself?  The goods of the world?  Its comforts?  Titles?  Wealth?  Esteem?

Or do you live a life that is first and foremost consecrated to God?

The men, the heroes of wars past and present – those who themselves volunteer to serve at risk of injury, disability or death – they are the ones consecrated to God. They are the living sacrifice.

God bless them.

May they be our guide.  Our inspiration.  Our models.  May they flourish in number among us.  May our sons and grandsons know them and live in their honor.

We give thanks for them – the living and the dead.

We stand forever grateful.

Shalom.

If we remove the obstacles, the ego-self with all its paraphernalia, and surrender to God, we penetrate through the layers of our psyche until we reach the center of core of our being.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Quiet begets interior silence.  In quiet being itself appears as thoughts fade.  In quiet we hear the sound of silence that is deep inside us.  In this is God, awareness of God.

In interior silence social need falls to the Spirit – without others we are nearer our own being and that of all things and beings.  In interior silence eternity exceeds mortality – yes, reality becomes eternity, and all things now and beyond are of God and God.

This interior silence has no words nor need for words.  It is.  IT SIMPLY IS.

In interior silence we are subsumed with the “IS” and its inexhaustible ALL.  This: the experience of the Triune God – our center – the center of being here and beyond.  There is in this eternity and tranquility – our meaning, our purpose, our reason for being, peace and certainty – ease of being, the exceeding of all doubt or pain.

Shalom.

 

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