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To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.

Lao-tzu

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The older I get, the more I settle into quiet and keep things as simple as possible.

I have no taste for crowds, fast roadways, complicated gadgets, air travel and such.  My diet is simple and ample.  Time with friends and family matter so very much.

The quiet seems right.  It leads to peace and prayer and conversation with God – a rendering of spontaneous gratitude for all I have been given, for the love I have received and the experiences large and small – the memories of people, places and events.

Now I see how grandchildren carry hope for tomorrow and bring that hope to me.  I see in them hope alive in their days, and their joys and pleasures, and a love so readily shared – so openly proclaimed by these little people.  Wonderful, so wonderful.  For me, they are proof of God’s existence and signposts for who we are meant to be, and how we are meant to live.

In the quiet and the solitude I am acutely aware of the confusion and pain that others create out of pride and their own disordered thinking.  Full of energy and themselves they make matters worse by insisting on changing things “for the better.”  They are not quiet people.  They seem to prefer the crowded clown car of the circus – yet, they always fight one another to be the driver.

In quiet I know both joy and sadness, I hear my breath and feel strongly the experiences that gave me depth and comfort, improved my vision, produced understanding – led me to faith and to God.

Now the voices of those I love are symphonies for me.  The memories of those I loved who have died are my favorite movies.  The memories of yesterdays my treasured photos.

Now I do not need much and in my days little tasks bring appreciation and satisfaction – sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, keeping the grounds clean … I notice the pleasure of such things – the cool afternoon breeze off the mountains and the changing landscape as the sun moves west and fades slowly into tomorrow.

Proper quiet gives the fullness of being.

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.

 

God, Who is everywhere never leaves us.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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It seems to us from time to time that God is not present to us.  But this would appear to negate what Merton says above.

What might one say?  Merton says this: sometimes God seems present to us and sometimes He seems absent from us.  This is normal.  Merton tells us this: God may be more present to us when he appears absent than when He appears present.

Strange, you might think.  And you might ask: How can this be?  More present when we think He is absent?

To figure this out Merton points out that there are two kinds of “absent.”  One is a condemnation – God is absent from us “because we put some other god in His place and refuse to be known by Him.”

In the second form of “absent” we are not condemned but sanctified!  In that experience of His absence He “empties the soul of every image that might become an idol and of every concern that might stand between our face and His Face.”

Condemned is what our culture has done presently – how we live at-large in a secularized culture that intentionally excludes God and foolishly elevates the human person – their physical and intellectual desires above God.  All of the homicides, violence, broken relationships, addictions, predatory behavior, conflicts, divisions, abortions, child abuse and neglect, abhorrent inter-personal behavior and actions intended to destabilize the country are acts of condemnation on our part.

The sense that God is absent to us in the whole is an accurate indication of our present day experience.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

Sanctification is something else again.  Here God acts positively and protectively to insure that we do not personally (one by one) acquire the means to divide ourselves from God.

In sanctification God loves us so that He leads us to a place where we realize that the things we have cherished are NOT God and as such can never satisfy or fulfill us in and by themselves.  You see when find that we have begun to place even the best things we do or encounter above God, God reminds us that even the good we do cannot satisfy as God can for the good we do does not love us the way the God who is Love does.

When the day grows quiet and you are alone, ask yourself if you have placed things above God – even the good things you do.  If that might be so, ask God to bring you back to Him.

As for the serious disarray we have in our culture and country, it is way past time to seek that God might bring us back to Him.

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.

The monk is a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and the confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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A monk lives in response to existing culture.  His thinking is both critical and healthy.  He sees that a present culture does not promote his values, virtue or an integrated, well-formed life.

A monk seeks wholeness and a depth of spiritual existence that cultures usually ignore in their all-consuming demands and expectations.  A monk seeks to understand life and people.  He seeks psychological, emotional and social fitness.  His path is to Truth and to God.  Clarity, peace and wisdom come to him.

His days are composed of work and prayer, silence and listening – quiet, reading and worship.  He finds time to contemplate life at large, its meaning, its best use and ways of being.

The ways of a monk are the perfect counterpoint to the disintegration that is today’s secularized America.

Today we are rife with conflict, antagonism turned to hatred in many instances, division, hostility, abandonment of virtue and morality, to the intrusion of state and the destruction of critical institutions, the lost of a nation’s boundaries and heritage, and its common understandings.

Chaos displaces the order of common understanding and mutual respect.

Each day brings evidence of disorder and often brutality – conduct whereby those who might otherwise lead discredit themselves.

We are no longer unified and living as neighbors guided by good.  Too many force their views on others, advance their disorder on others as if our acquisition of their strife and sickness normalizes them – makes true what is false.

At a time like this – in a culture like this … think of those who go “off to the mountain as the fish to the sea.”

Maybe you can learn from the way of monks.  Can you not acquire their ways in forms that create healthy distance between you and what is destructive?

Your health, wholeness, peace and wisdom resides in the ways of the monk.  In your culture today comes disintegration, illness, hostility, confusion, amorality, untruth and self-destruction.  Your life need not be composed of these things.  

Shalom.

A Book of Interest – You might like a short book entitled Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life by Hugh Feiss, a priest in the Order of St. Benedict.  It is a fine resource for those who wish to make healthy adjustments in the face of rank disorder and destruction that is exclusive secular culture today.  Peace be with You. 

 

Most of the time, we are lost in the past or carried away by future projects or concerns.  When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, we can see and listen deeply …

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Today with all its fury, demands, confusion, transgressions, noise, deceit, foolishness and injuries has a way of capturing us.  But we need not be locked into its mischief and destruction.  Indeed it is quite unhealthy for us to be captured by all the chaos and malfeasance, the untruths and disorder.

‘Tis much wiser and far healthier to be mindful.  To focus on our interior.  Seeking quiet and listening to it gives rest, understanding – transcendence, yes, liberation.

In the fury of today, do you hear your breathing?  Most would answer, “No.”  To them I say: “You are NOT mindful.  You have been captured by chaos.  You are forfeiting your life – cheating yourself out of the life you have been given.  Making yourself sick.  Settling for far less than you have been given.”

Cistercian monk Thomas Merton had an affinity for the existential writer Albert Camus.  He saw in Camus “a man who … loves the world yet stands apart from it with a critical objectivity which refuses to become involved in its transient fashions and its more manifest absurdities.”  (Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World in Action).

So many are captured by the chaos.  The digital world, much like the organs of mass “communication” (or shall we say “miscommunication“) that sow chaos and confusion – reduce us drastically from whole to but fragments.

Better to hear your breath.  Be mindful.  Stand apart.  Maintain critical objectivity – you can dismiss most of what is going on around you … there are so few healthy voices after all.

Shalom.

Listen, O my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth … tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord … He commended our fathers that they should teach them to their children … even the children yet to be born that they might arise and tell them to their children … (Emphasis added.)

Psalm 78: 1, 4, 5, 6

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I have written lately of our need to separate from the pagan, secular culture and turn away from the public discourse for it is destructive and devoid of God.

Yet, turning away is not enough.  We must turn to God, His words and instructions – to the good and faithful ways of His Prophets and Saints – His Disciples and Teachers.

We live in serious times, in a time of great deception and destruction whereby we jeopardize our nation and its legacy, and that of Western Civilization.

Our faith, beliefs and ways of living are attacked by those without God.  Yes, we are attacked by those who occupy positions of authority and command public presence.

We have failed to teach our children well.  We have been silent when we should have spoken.  Our silence has allowed evil and division to take root.

It is fair to say that we have not lived in more serious times than these.

I ask, then: do you read Scripture each day?  Do you grow in holiness?  Do you teach your children?  Do you stand in opposition to what is godless?  Stand against even family members who deny God and live in opposition to what is right and good and just?

This is a time of fundamental challenge.  Where do you stand today?

Shalom.

Men and Boys.  The state of men and boys is not good.  Men have more suicides than women.  Mortality among working class men shows men are dying younger than they once did.  Institutions like schools thwart the masculine aspects of young boys.  White Men are assumed to have a privilege and held suspect for it.  It is no surprise that police officers are targeted, hunted, killed regularly.

That said, we do not own this reality and its origin.

Its origin is explained in no small part by the division between men and women that Feminism has promoted.  Feminism, of course, is a simple variation of Marxist dialectic – that is, the notion that one must have an enemy to oppose in order to gain power.

Yes, Feminism has been at war with men for several decades.

Funny thing – having reduced men, one wonders how Whoppi Goldberg (62) and Joy Behar (75) will defend us from foreign enemies now that 71 percent of young men subject for military service are disqualified by reason of intellectual deficit, addictions, criminal records and health (obesity and mental health issues among them).

To the barricades Joy – to the barricades Whoppi!!!   What a mess the Left has made!

 

The coming of Christ into the world is the most stupendous event in human history.

Malcolm Muggeridge, in Jesus: The Man Who Lives

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Does Christ enter human history, or does human history enter Christ?

I prefer the latter to the former.  Why?

When we say Christ enters human history we are the landlord and Christ is the renter.  Such a view places us in a superior position.  We are the center of Nothing.  Bit players without any lines to say – we walk on in a crowd and leave.  Not so God.  Not so God’s Son.

Looking through the wrong end of the lens always distorts size, distance, Truth and us.

Christ is larger than history.  He consumes history, all in it – all the folly and destruction, evil, corruption, lying, selfishness, sickness, dishonesty … He reigns over all – what is right and what is wrong.

I have been reading Paul Johnson wonderful history of the last century (Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties).  There is no way one could not conclude that we are in the aggregate screwed up.  Yep, our history aint’t a flattering one.  Whatever bad could be done – we did it … Governments and politicians in the “lead” so often!!!  Elites commiting all sorts of injurious deeds and persisting in them.

To this day we place too much hope in elites, government, academics, politicians, public figures.  The facts do not support such trust.  Indeed, each of us is called to what is Good – there are no magic paths but self in contact with the Divine.

Matching Paul Johnson’s work with the utter nonsense and insanity of today in the Western World and you can hardly imagine that we might house Christ.  No.  No.  No.  Despite who we are – and maybe because of who we are – Christ houses us … we do not house Christ.  

I come to this question.  What will become of my grandchildren?  How can I help them live a good life, a life of love and service, happiness, contentment and tranquility?

My answer?  I shall have to teach them to keep proper distance from the mass and the idiocy that comes from herds of misshapen people – those who reject God in favor of themselves, the moment, mortal existence and their inane desires.  I shall have to teach them to say “no,” to be independent … to realize that Christ houses them – they are the tenant and He the landlord.

One can only hope that we will come to our senses and turn away from the destruction that others bring in increasing volumes and forms today.  Remorse.  Pray for remorse to take hold …

Shalom.

To maintain monastic culture, monks limit their contact with the surrounding culture by means of cloister or separation 

Hugh Feiss, in Essential Monastic Wisdom

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Separation from existing culture in order to maintain one’s values, virtues – indeed to stay free of insanity, brutality, immorality and a range of toxic disordered and destructive dispositions in culture is a sacred act.

Monks have pursued such separation for good reason over the centuries.  We see in this practice – necessity, common sense, faith, peace and preservation.

A sacred separation comes from maintaining a critical eye on existing culture.  When cultures destroy people, institutions and what is good, those who seek healthy and peaceful existence separate.

In separation one preserves heart, mind and soul.

In separation one spends time carefully – at work, in quiet, in community, in silence, in thought and prayer – while the world about turns on itself much as Syrian bombing of unarmed civilians does today or as the American Left does by destroying standard identification of gender in favor of disintegration, confusion, disorder, untruth which they much prefer.

In separation there is no more gossip, useless “news,” talking heads, daily destruction of what is good and essential to peaceful existence.

In separation: prayer emerges, reading too, careful listening, care of self and others, soft discourse, contemplation, faith comes alive, consciousness of God is daily sustenance.

In separation you meet yourself, become re-assembled, restored to wholeness – stripped of the “needs” of the frantic culture.  In separation, life is simpler … life is life.

In separation: God, your own self, your thoughts, others and all that is under heaven.

Shalom.

Condolesse Rice wants to “modernize” the Second Amendment.  Easy for her to say – she’s among the elites — life for them does not carry the burdens the rest of us face.  Perhaps, Ms. Rice might think of the unarmed civilians in Syria whose government is bombing them daily, killing them – men, women and children.  

A little note to Ms. Rice – maybe you might want to civilize people before you “modernize” the Second Amedment.  Those of us who are not in “the elite” live far different lives than you do.  In short words – put a sock in it, no one needs to hear from you.

What (other than pride) makes you think you know anything and must be heard from?

 

I would like to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue

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There is wisdom in what John O’Donohue says.  Indeed his words tell of our growth and mission in life, our divine identity – how we have been made to be.

A very smart and pleasant young doctor confided in me recently that he and his wife often wondered if they were doing enough with their skills to help others.  This, of course, is a wonderful way to think.  Their interest was to use their skills to help others.

Implicit in this desire is a proper and good orientation to life.  Their desire to serve registered with some urgency – they wanted not to waste a day in which they were not doing their best for others.

He asked my thoughts.

I offered him this: patience.  I assured him that life will unfold as it is intended and in the process he and his wife would know with a compelling certainty that there was a next step to which each would be called.  In what I said I was stating what O’Donohue has said, namely – be as the river and let life flow and in the flow unfold.

When you think about it – there can be no wisdom without a practiced patience and the peace and humility that patience brings.

The river does not get impatient, nor does it create its own sea into which it might flow.  Rather it merges with the circumstances of its path, the terrain it traverses.  Our life is no less river-like.

Yes, we can have a broad direction.  We can elect an orientation – to teach, to write, to paint, to build, to care for others or what have you.  But the details for our life await in life’s flow.  Our purpose is told to us over time, played out in time.

Yes, we know with reflection and life experience who we are.  This is a process that takes a lifetime – with definition being more refined as years pass.  But the key to the larger nature of our journey is to let the journey happen.  We are all on a sacred mission, called to be – and in this we must first of all relinquish command and let life happen to us.

Be as the river that flows and unfolds.

Shalom.

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