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Short Post, Swollen Knee

… God speaks in the silence of our heart.

Mother Teresa

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For God to speak, we must listen.

I give you a short story.

A short numbers of years ago, when I was a vowed religious Brother in the Congregation of Holy Cross living at the University of Notre Dame, I said to my colleague and Dear Friend Br. Tom (a remarkable guy in so many ways), “Tom, you look like you need a break.  How about we take a road trip.”  (I often drove Tom on over-the road journeys and on them we had some of the most insightful and restful conversations.)

Tom took the bait and suggested that we go to see a very special exhibit of the terracotta Chinese Soldiers at the Indianapolis Children’s Art Museum.

Arriving before our chosen exhibit opened, we noticed there was an early morning one-person play in memory of Anne Frank.  Just right for us.

So we entered a small theatre in which there was a set that replicated the small attic room in which young Anne hid from the German Nazis who were intent on sending her and other Jews to labor or death camps.

The theatre lights dimmed with Tom and I sitting alone at center stage.  Then a petite, dark hair young girl walked on stage and paused in the stage light to speak eagerly.  Indeed, she was offering us the words Anne had recorded in her extraordinary diary of those months in hiding.

Her words were hopeful and candid, youthful and optimistic.

The young actress instantly transported us back to that time and its deadly peril.  Yet, our guide was full not of dread, but of vitality and spirit.

The one-act performance lasted about 30 minutes and our young, lovely guide exited.

Tom and I sat unmoving.  Our still silence seemed right.  Our Anne Frank had brought us to quiet tears, humbled us, caused us pause, regret for those lost … shame for what we do when God is rejected, dismissed … ignored.

In young Anne – in her truth, and courage, and spirit  – we heard God speak.

We exited in time without a word – waiting moments to speak so we might live in the sound of God’s voice.

… be still … and hear God speak … 

Shalom.

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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.

You are so hard on yourself.  Take a moment.  Sit back.  Marvel at your life: at the grief that softened you, at the heartache that wisened you, at the suffering that strengthened you.  Despite everything you still grow.  Be Proud.

Tibetan Wisdom

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Grief gives.  Heartache gives.  Suffering gives.

Gifts come in unexpected wrappings.  Receive the gift.  Live in the gift.  Breathe in the gift.  See the sky in the gift.  See the sun in the gift.  See the trees and the mountains in the gift.  See the sun and its shadows in the gift.  Feel the wind in the gift.  Touch your memories in the gift.

Never be captured by things less than God.  There is no daily confusion that surpasses eternity.

See the gifts.  Accept yourself – a child of God.  Smile at it all.  Be settled in what is reality not what is less.  What is temporal is only temporal.  What is Divide is Eternal.

See the gifts.  Life is a gift.  You are a gift.

See the gifts.

Shalom.

More Money for YOU!  Well this week you are getting more $$$ in your paycheck because of the Trump Tax Reform legislation.  Mind you, Democrats in the Congress opposed this legislation.  The message is plain: Democrats want more of your money for them, for bigger government, to give to others.  Progress?  Yes, we are ATM’s no more! 

Weasels and Liars.  Yesterday a dismissed former F.B.I. Director tweeted about “weasels” and “liars.”  Irony is interesting.  Introspection is essential – humility its product.

FISA Memo.  Will the release of the FISA memo spell the end of the Democrat Party?  One might think so given the energy its Party members are putting into fighting its release to the public.

Reading is bound in silence … constant and attentive reading done devoutly purifies our inner self.

Peter of Celle, in The School of the Cloister

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The digital world has begun to diminish the world of the book.  This is a great loss.  The quiet of reading attends to the heart.

Have you noticed the demise of bookstores?  Amazon has a great deal to do with this.  Indeed their presence in the world of commerce has dehumanized commerce – taken us from people to people exchange to anonymous, impersonal event.  Our response?  We glorify the father of Amazon.  Yes, we applaud dehumanization.

Personally, I try to avoid buying anything from Amazon – preferring to engage with people in the marketplace.

I prefer what feeds the soul and makes us whole.  Reading is one such thing.  Ironically those who read live in a de facto monastery – set themselves off and aside in the quiet that is reading, the growth and contemplation that comes with it.

As Peter of Celle wrote in the 11th Century: “(Reading) continuously tells of the clash of virtue and vices … Reading is the food, light, lamp, refuge, solace of the soul, the spice of all spiritual flavors.  It feeds the hungry, gives light to the one sitting in darkness, offers bread to the one fleeing a shipwreck or war, comforts the contrite heart.”  (Emphasis added.)

Don’t you wish those in who speaks so publicly and so often in our secularized mass communication culture showed the slightest evidence that they have read something and thought deeply about it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the unread political class, the media types and the grossly over-values celebrity cabal just shut up.

Do you read regularly?  If not, why do you suppose others ought to listen to you?

Shalom.

The charism of the monastic community is one of simplicity and truth.  The monk … abandons routines, the clichés … the empty formalities of the world …

The purpose of monastic detachment … is simply to leave the monk unencumbered, free to move, in possession of his spiritual senses and his right mind, capable of living a charismatic life in freedom of spirit.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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Without thinking, we live tied to the world.  The question is must we be tethered to its ways, subsumed by its noise, demands, foolishness, rules, structures, dysfunction – encumbrances?

More to the point is health and happiness possible within these encumbrances?

When captured by the world does one have any remote chance of being in possession of his or her spiritual senses and right mind, free to live spiritually?  I would say, “No.”  That is “no” without reservation.

The move complexity, the less simplicity.  The less simplicity, the more discomfort and illness.

How can one ever expect to know himself or herself – understand what it means to be a full human being, spiritually alive when we give way to the complexity of secular culture and its demands on us?  In godlessness, God is lost to us – to our consciousness.  In short disorder breeds illness – emotional, social, psychological, physical.

Have you ever stopped to consider that much of your personal distress is the result of being in contact with those who are disordered, who literally have no idea of what being human entails?

When you are engaged with disordered people, your life becomes disordered.  If a person does not know themselves, has not examined who they are – how much health and stability can they offer others?

There is wisdom in what Merton say – who among us would not be healthier and more contented in a life of simplicity and truth?  The answer: “None of us.”

In short our peace, health and happiness flourishes in simplicity and truth.  Knowing self quiets us, holds disorder at-bay and brings us to peace and to God.

Shalom.

Fan Belt Inspectors – The way the upper levels of the F.B.I have behaved makes them look like “Fan Belt Inspectors” not the nation’s elite criminal investigative agency.

Let’s see – key investigators (both married) having an affair and teaming up (according to their emails) to do what they can to apparently forestall the election of a Republican president. A significant member of the agency in some form of contact with a Democrat “operations research” firm.  The agency’s failure to turn over documents to Congressional Committees who oversee their work.  The inexplicable loss of five months of emails requested by those Committees.  James Comey and the absurd handling of “the Clinton Matter.

Hardly apt to build one’s confidence in their impartiality and competence.

Life and death are at war within us.  As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die … If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in the flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an agonia not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Last night I watched Part One of Ken Burns film on the Second World War.  I saw the war from the perspective of the common man and woman, the families in small towns and large cities.  It is, of course, a story of all ethnic groups, all races and religions, rich and poor, farmer, factory worker, school teacher, professional. Yes, it is the story of Americans when we were once One and united – neighbors, friends, a community, a proud and patriotic nation – people from foreign shores who arrived to make a new life and seize opportunity in a free society.

Burns shows us what we once were – before we became “fat” and fancy, successful, too expectant, spoiled, too focused on our own welfare and too rooted in demands and divisions from one another.

Once we lived implicitly what Merton describes: we were conscious of our supreme value – yes, of our God-given value – the divine equality of the soul.  Friends, this was how we once lived … You see victory in this world and the next comes only to those who live this way.

I grew up on a street with World War II vets in a working class city known for producing more U.S. Marines per capita than any city in the country.

The ethos of our greatest hour is now misplaced.  You see its absence in Members of the Congress – in the Flakes, Schumers, Pelosis, Durbins, Waters, et al … in the public chorus of “me first, only me” special pleaders whose arc of complaint stretches from the banal to the bizarre, and among the over-privileged in the entertainment industry and in the lost souls of media.

What we see is clear evidence of a loss of faith – of wisdom, perspective, patience.

In a secular society there is no transcendent purpose, no eternity – no moral context and all-embracing narrative.  No – secular life lacks meaning, leaves us shallow and self-absorbed – dependent, unhappy, … with an emptiness that breeds drug use, sexual chaos, hatred and violence.  Godlessness, we see, produces self-destruction.

Time to wake up.  We have regressed.  We lack the honor we once had – and the valor, bravery, virtue, honesty, confidence, integrity and purpose of our recent past.

Shalom.

God abandons only those who abandon themselves, and whoever has the courage shut up his sorrows within his own heart is stronger to fight against it than he who complains.  (Emphasis added.)

George Sand, in La Petite Fadette

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Yesterday I spent much of the day alone.  That gave me time in all the quiet to think about the joy of seeing my son, his wife and my grandchildren and gave me mind to think about loved ones and friends who have passed away.  My mother has now been gone 21 years.  I have no siblings.  My uncles and their wives are now gone almost as long as my mother.  My wife Sylvia will have been gone 40 years this year.

I have spent a great deal of time without people who I loved and who loved me.  I have in absolute truth borne the weight of these years alone without complaint.  Honestly I have done so courageously – as Sand says I have “shut up the sorrows within (my) heart.”

Against this backdrop I call tell you I never liked complainers.  I was born to modest means and soon enough loved ones (grandparents with whom my mother and I lived) died.  Yes, each by the time I was just out of the sixth grade.  In short order my mother and I were in public housing and poverty took up residence in our reality.  Complaining was out of the question.  Complaining does no good.  It accomplishes nothing.  Doing is what problems and hardships demand.  Doing makes us stronger, wiser, more cunning, more empowered, more defiant, more confident, more independent.

That said, we live in a nation of complainers.  I am so sick of hearing about racism.  So sick hearing about income transfers, diversity, the plight of the dependent class, women who feel slighted, poor immigrants, etc.  Nothing gets better without parking your sorrows by the roadside and getting after life.  Wrong side of the tracks?  Show those who might demean you that you can outwork them, are stronger, more determined, bolder, more focused, unbeatable.

In the course of my life I have (despite a learning disability and poverty) graduated from college and law school, earned advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, practiced (serving poor clients, mostly), entered religious life, become an Army officer, purchased a home, a car and a small business for my mother, cared for a wife with cancer, raised a son who now has his Ph.D. and a nice wife, two lovely children and a good job where he is valued.  Mind you I am no genius.  I work. I had no time for complaining – I was a doer. 

We tolerate too much whining.  Too much complaining.  The best we can do for people who complain is this – tell them to be quiet and “get after it.”  Better we challenge others to show all the doubters wrong than waste time complaining or listening to their complaints over and again.

As legendary football coach and sidewalk philosopher Lou Holtz says: “Don’t tell people about your problems.  Twenty percent don’t want to hear about them – and the remaining 80 percent are glad you have them.”

Shalom.

The NEW Democrat Party.  Former Army enlisted clerk and transvestite Bradley Manning who was convicted for the illegal release of thousands of classified security documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison (before being pardoned by President Obama for no particular reason) has announced he/she is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against a seated Democrat Senator who has spent (as Democrats do) a lifetime on the public tit.  The New Guard is replacing the Old Guard.  (Same tit, by the way.) How charming.

This is exactly where the Democrat Party has been driving the bus.  George Orwell must be tickled pink – yes, isn’t that the color perfect.  The pinkos have more than one screw loose.

Prayer at Dressing

Bless to me, O God, my soul and my body;

Bless to O God, my belief and my condition;

Bless to me, O God, my heart and my speech;

And bless to me, O God, the handling of my hand.

Strength and busyness of morning, habit and temper of modesty, force and wisdom of thought, and Thine own path, O God of virtues, till I go to sleep this night.

Thine own path, O God of virtues, till I go to sleep this night.

Old Celtic Prayer for the Morning

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The Celtics lived close to nature, to one another and to God.  Do you?

This lovely morning prayer “Bless to me, O God” was passed along to author Alexander Carmichael by Catherine Maclennan who said in the giving “My mother taught us what we should ask for in prayer, as she heard it from her own mother, and as she again heard it from the one who was before.”

Morning Prayer.  Do you have a morning prayer?  Do you offer a morning prayer?

These matters were routine in our origins.  Why let what is so good die?  A fire in winter is better warm and alive, than cold and dead.

Life without God is cold and dead.  Live again!  Morning prayer.  Be smart – do it.

Shalom.

Celebrity and Politics.  Robert de Niro is a gifted and accomplished actor and film director and a seemingly likeable fellow.  But why his views on Donald Trump or politics in general warrant any public attention is worth pondering.

He has no particular education to qualify him as someone more informed than any other private citizen.  His views on politics would seem to carry no greater weight than the neighborhood barber, butcher or candlestick maker.

Celebrity does not confer any particular expertise on public matters.  Do we welcome the opinions of celebrities as to brain surgery?  I think not.

Christian monasticism dates from the early part of the fourth century.  It sprang up almost simultaneously in Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. While it expressed its inspiration in various concrete forms, all of them shared the same fundamental dedication to the search for God through silence, solitude, simplicity of life-style, and spiritual development. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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We live in an overtly secular culture.  For the most part our public discourse is godless.  Day-to-day there is no shortage of reports of heinous behavior – a father and mother torturing their small child, a ritualistic killing associated with an immigrant gang – one sad and cruel act after another.  Likewise we are engaged in one task after another – almost nonstop – day-to-day, week to week, month to month – year after year.

We are not living as a monk lives.

Where they have silence – we have endless noise and chatter.  Where they have solitude – we have immersion in the mass.  Where they have a simple life – we have a complex life. Where they tend to their spiritual wellbeing – we are dominated by our material existence.

We are NOT monks.  But maybe we need to be.

What level of comfort, contentment, peace, good cheer, health and calm does your life in secular culture bring?

On a scale of zero to ten with zero being “none” and ten being “perfectly fulfilled in these things,” my guess is that few among us confidently exceed 5 at best – likely three or four.

Why do I say this?  We are otherwise engaged.  And this present engagement keeps us from access to our whole and true self – our self as we are made to be: stable, at peace, content, insightful, patient, wise, healthy, congenial, secure, comfortable, un-worried, calm, at ease …

Simply stated each of us is made for the ways of monastic consciousness.  Yet, look around you – look in the mirror – are you not more or less fully engaged in the things of secular cultures?  Do you not act and think like a secularist – a sort-of human machine, fully and uncritically absorbed with the never-ceasing dance of secularism and all its inane lunacy?  Are you not sucked into listening to whomever appears on the Boob-Tube?

Dear God!!!  Do you not want to escape this in-crazed nonsense of the mindless, lost secular herd?

Be the monk you are made to be.  Silence.  Solitude.  Simplicity.  Spirituality.

Shalom.

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.

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