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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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The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia

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These words are from an address given by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1996.

Among his observations are these:

  • “a Christian should not support a government that suppresses faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life”
  • he knows of “no country in which the churches have grown fuller as the government has moved leftward”
  • the most religious nation in the West (the U.S.) is a capitalist society that is “least diluted by socialism”  (Emphasis added.)
  • since FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. has taken on the increasing role of a welfare state (i.e., taking tax proceeds of all and dispensing them to select individuals and groups that are deemed “needy” – and building political constituents in the process)
  • “Christ’s view was that you should give your goods to the poor, not that you should force someone else to give his (to others)”  (Emphasis added.)
  • “to the extent that the states takes upon itself one of the corporal works of mercy that would have been undertaken privately, it deprives individuals of an opportunity for sanctification and deprives the body of Christ of the occasion for interchange of love among its members”
  • the welfare-state does not contain or convey the Christian virtue of altruism
  • “governmentalization of charity effects … the donor but also the recipient … What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement … the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world owes everyone a living.”

What Scalia lays out is the decline of the role of faith in secular culture – and with it the loss of moral conduct long displayed by acts of religiously inspired service.

Likewise socialism fundamentally changes the way humans experience themselves, others and the nature of fellowship and community – indeed it blunts the power of love and hope … it deprives us of faith and sanctification.

Make no mistake, religion and God have been shunned in the post-New Deal environment – and, frankly, when moral conduct is not fostered through a population who has an active faith – hostility and faithless division takes its place.  There we become a troubled and self-destructive culture with less opportunity to make of us brothers and sisters to one another.

Converting to socialism and BIG government is, quite simply, destructive.

Shalom.

the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taster receptors.  Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors – either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice.  But people have so many powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.  (Emphasis added.)

Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., in The Righteous Mind

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Well if you want to understand the basic rift between the Left and others (moderates, Conservatives, and “neutralists”)?  Haidt gives you that understanding.

The Left is secularized – removed from faith, anchored in material existence, the narrows of intellect and ideology devoid of psychological or spiritual depth and the understanding and experience that each provides.

In matters public and political they are so narrowly focused, they neglect or dismiss our natural desire for liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity (as Haidt notes).

You see, esteemed Social Psychologist Haidt is telling us that as a matter of innate design the human person thirsts for morality that attends to more than fairness and equality.  Mind you, this thirst is an involuntary desire.  Hence, we are “hardwired” for a morality that extends beyond the shallows of the Left.

The distinction that Haidt describes explains why the Left is intolerant and must force their views on others much as totalitarians do.

Ironically, on an even playing field (i.e., one not corrupted to protect their views) the Left is destined to fail because the public’s natural moral appetite is larger than what they offer.  Humans are more complex than the Left reckons.  No, we are not all like them or their ideology.

Think about the many positions the Left advances or defends and you realize that their positions are at odds with the innate moral desires of the human person at-large.

Once that thinking is done, you can see how the Left forestalls the full development of the human person.  Indeed, they create unnecessary conflict (and division) by attempting to impose exceedingly narrow views on others that are, as a consequence, antagonistic to our broader moral needs.

Haidt, applied to our present situation, leads to greater understanding of the unhealthy antagonism that the Left generates.

You would be wise to get to know Haidt and his excellent scholarly work.

Shalom.

 

July 6th, 2018 – Hope it is a good one for you!

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If you want something too much it’s likely to be a disappointment.  The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk – and feisty gentlemen.

Larry McMurtry, in Lonesome Dove

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Re-reading a favorite book or watching a movie you have already seen can restore a perspective you once possessed and need to acquire again.  Yes, the pace of present day secular culture occupies us so thoroughly that we can easily lose our orientation, perspective, way of being when we are at our most relaxed best.

The above words are those of Gus McCrae, a crusty old witty and practical ex-Texas Ranger with a philosopher’s disposition and a desert dry sense of humor.

Old Gus proceeded through life with joy.  He never missed the fun, nor fooled himself as to the world he lived in, the nature of people in it, or himself.  He was hassle-free.  I do not mean problem-free – for the world is the world even for honest and balanced characters in Western novels.

Seeing Gus’s humor and wisdom, sense of justice and courage, fidelity to friends and principles reminds me of how not like Gus so many people are now.  The contrast is striking.  Gus stood tall – saw what was before him and never shunned the call to honor.

Unlike many with public voice today, Gus was not a complainer – not a whiner, and in contrast to the multitude of Left and liberal voices we hear – he was not sour, frantic, perpetually irritated, obnoxious, and demanding.

Gus had fun with life – the Left and the liberals do not.  The Left today is disgruntled or angry about anything and everything that is not what they want, do, think, believe, expect, or demand.

Mind you, Gus’s life on the Western frontier in the late 19th century was hard and unpredictable.  But Old Gus took all the hurdles, bumps, twists and turns with same panache that Sinatra sang – smoothly and self-assuredly while resigned to the magistry and mystery of it all.

How we’d help ourselves to be like Gus: funny, witty, courageous, sober, loyal, grateful, clever, loving, generous, and wise.

Right now, those most vocal among us are anxious or offended, or hostile, or loud and unhappy – unpleasant and constantly frantic.  No Gus for them.  Unlike Gus – they take nothing in stride.

Life in the West in the late 19th century, or life today in cyber-secularism?  Where’s my horse and gun?

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.

 

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.

 

 

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, / Hath had elsewhere its setting, / And cometh from afar. / Not in entire forgetfulness, / And not in utter nakedness / But trailing clouds of glory do we / From God, who is our home: / Heaven lies about in our infancy!

William Wadsworth, in “Intimations of Immortality”

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A 30-something man fixated on a running feud with a local small town newspaper shows up and kills five staff members.  A large crowd of plump, disgruntled (but well fed) middle age women show up in the Capitol to air their “grievances” (which seem more like proclaiming themselves rather than establishing a claim of injustice).

In any given day, on multiple fronts, some strange things happen (some violent and others just noisy) and one wonders: Has the door to the loony-bin been left open?

My point?  If you look around and wonder what is going on with these people you see – I might suggest two things: one, many people are not well-formed, fully matured, and, two – some are genuinely ill.  I add: the line between the two is thin and hard to see.

That said, what does Wadsworth have to do with anything?

Well, this – throughout time stories have been told (as in the above) that proclaim that prior to our birth we knew a celestial existence and that we were born to the mortal world to journey in it in a manner whereby we grew in understanding, maturity, in faith so we might one day return to our celestial beginning.  Yes, for many the journey was from God – to God, again.

Well, so what – you say?  My response: classical and religious narratives and as with myths and stories present an account that can guide us in this life – help us retain meaning and sanity and grow in patience, wisdom and understanding.  Note, please analytical psychiatrists may well be familiar with these ancient sources of understanding and do incorporate these stories in their appreciation for human wellness and the journey from ego to self (and human wholeness and sanity).

Now back to what we see daily that concerns us.  The day’s events give us these lessons: (1) many people are not fully developed, and their conduct tells us this, (2) some are acutely disordered and they carry real risk for innocents, (3) we do a lousy job providing people with an education that helps them understand their task is to grow in knowledge and stability over time, (4) in our present state we have many people who do not “play well” with others in the sand box, (5) our welfare rests on knowing the wisdom of ancient narratives – religious included – and applying ourselves to growing up to be healthy people – one by one.

Finally, today we are a LONG way from the maturity we are offered.  A starting point for us?  Stop the complaining in the streets and the demonizing of others (such efforts only establish your own immaturity).

Shalom.

… she seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching …

Lk 10:39

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Here we refer to Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus feet listening to His words, His teaching while her sister Martha prepared a meal for others.

As you recall, Martha complained to Jesus that her sister sat while she worked.  And you likely recall that Jesus remarked that Mary chose the better way.

We in this Nation are, in my opinion, at the most significant historical point in my lifetime of 72-plus years.  We face today a political, moral and spiritual crisis which I believe to be the most ominous threat to our existence that we have faced.

There are those among us who seek to secularize us completely, to disgorge us of faith and morality, substitute socialism for free market capitalism, concentrate power in Washington, regulate human behavior, thinking, and opinion, and institute a government of a small and privileged ruling class.

So why reference Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus?  Well, because there is a profound and urgent lesson in this story.  The lesson?  Our welfare, security, prosperity, peace and the preservation of this unique free nation, built on belief in God coupled with freedom, can best be maintained by listening to the Word of God, being guided by it and incorporating it into our life and political views.

“If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.  Out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water.”

Jn: 37-38

Shalom.

 

 

Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another.  It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing and fostering effective selfexpression and communication.  Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners as well as a matter of good health.  (Emphasis added.)

P. M. Forni, in Choosing Civility

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One reason I have come to the open space of the country is this: the disordered nature of people is, at the least, disquieting and often so distasteful that one risks being sucked into useless conflict with the immature and uninformed.

Unpleasant conversations with fools has never been a favorite pastime with me.

Yet, today the public discourse is so poor that I have turned away from anything but a glancing pass over the “news of the day.”

We have hit a new low with female Senators swearing in public, and entertainment celebrities crudely voicing in tantum-like manner their profanity laden dislike of party A or policy B – as if anyone really cares what they have to say.

Not-so-astonishingly, the cable and network “news” people, like lemmings, fall right into line – mimicking the ill-bred and poorly educated actions and views of the foul-mouthed celebrity.  Of course, the crass conduct of Leftist advocates makes matters all the worse as to civil discourse.

As to the latter point, the destructive objectives of the Leftist advocates is patently clear when they “game” the system by offering this or that feigned outrage simply to get their own way.  No civil discourse there.  It is all the aim for power.  And that means always – an idiotic and destructive policy turn in which faith in democracy and civil discussion are both lost.  Indeed we are at that juncture now.  

I am often surprised that those who push an ideological agenda have not met with forceful response.  Knowing human nature, I suspect that relative passivity may not sustain.

These are unpleasant times.  Civility is lost, and democracy and community are on the wane.  We listen to those we ought to ignore.

Shalom.

Trust – Trust is a funny thing.  There are not a whole lot of people in your life that you can trust for the entire length of your life.  More people jump ship than stay the course.  That’s just people.  Most seek an advantage or cannot sustain the exactness required for a trusted friendship.

A long term trust-relationship requires complete honesty and that means honest self-reflection and continual growth.  There are more people who cannot meet the terms of a trusted relationship than can meet those terms.  Cherish the trusted relationships you have … do not expect to have a great number of them.  Indeed, does this not underscore the place of a faith narrative, God as we have come to know the idea of God?  When all else fails – you and God can do wonderful things together.  Imagine me painting or writing – is that not God and me in a state of trust?

 

 

A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced because they love the servitude.

Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World

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This describes the trajectory of the Liberal Left in America from FDR to the last administration … and it surely describes the vocal activists on the Left and their lemmings in elected office, in the judiciary, in education, the media, and those running government agencies, departments and bureaus.

We have witnessed what Huxley identified.

The tension today is between totalitarians and those who embrace freedom and welcome individual responsibility.  This is a serious division.

Religion figures into this rather substantially as those who favor freedom and individual responsibility arise from a religious ethos that stands for both freedom and individual responsibility.  Yes, one side sees the person as a sacred being and the other sees such notions as an obstacle to power and control.  The former thinks of others as substantive and the latter thinks of them as a bridge to power.

We meet today a very fundamental conflict.  One can be concerned by this: those in significant places in the society have been led to an ideology that does not value the propositions and beliefs which our Founders cherished so.

Shalom.

Democrats and Children – Astonishing.  The Democrats have a new-found passion for children.  They cannot stand to see children at the border separated from their parents as law may require (in some cases).  Yet, as to unborn children they have no emotions, it seems, otherwise abortion would be rare now that conception is widely and easily available.  Their “sincerity” did not motivate the Senators and Congressmen to do a darn thing to correct the situation.  You see they prefer government by the fiat of Presidential Executive Order – that way they never have to be on record as to the hard issues we face and they can sit on their fannies, count their money, and complain endlessly.  Lest you see this clearly, this is the totalitarianism which Huxley saw coming.

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