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The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

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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.

“… the guys I couldn’t save … “

” … we take care of each other.”

Chris Kyle, in American Sniper

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These words come into play near the end of the movie American Sniper.  They arise in an exchange between the distinguished Navy Seal Chris Kyle and a doctor who is talking to Chris about the effects that sustained combat tours might have had on Chris.

These are the words attributed to Chris in that exchange.

When asked about the things he saw in his four tours of duty in Iraq (approximately 1000 days as suggested by the doctor) – Chris says he is not concerned with the killing he engaged because he was protecting his guys – but rather he is concerned about the guys he couldn’t save.  And he explains that we take care of each other.

What if we in this country cared about protecting one another and caring for one another and acted accordingly? 

What if we cared so much that we would routinely risk our life to protect others and to care for each other?

Quite honestly this would be a very different country.  Indeed, it is hard to envision the range of bad behavior we see and tolerate today if we lived to protect and care for others.  Likewise, it seems that fear would dissipate … crime would diminished.

But you know the most interesting aspect of this proposition is this: what do you suppose the effect might be on men like Chris Kyle in a self-serving culture when he is one of only a few with such courage, with a willingness to sacrifice and care for others more than self as he did?

Imagine what it would be like for you if you were the guy who cared for others as he did, who sacrificed for others while the vast majority of population went about serving their own needs to the exclusion of others – and doing so day after day, month after month, year after year.

What might the man or woman feel who sacrificed all his or her life and put others first, defended and fought for others in a society where many felt obliged to serve self first, exclusively and endlessly?

Imagine if we lived in a society with only a few like Chris Kyle.

Shalom.

 

 

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

Thucydides

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Our culture does not look kindly on men.  We are more the suspects than the welcomed.

Secular culture does not honor the nature of things nor the historical record.  Aside from rejecting religious narrative and God, groups of “special pleaders” adopt a variant of Marxist analysis and divide us by gender, skin color and political views.

In the present age, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is reflected in disparaging men.

Thucydides speaks a Truth.  The bravest among us face the difficulties that come to their families, their clan, their children, their spouse, their friends, their community, their country, their Church, their neighbors, the old, the weak, the poor, the young.

History tells us the task of facing danger and risking death has been the job of men.  To disparage men is to lose sight of who they are.  Yet, we disparage them without thinking – “Who will fight for us, protect us, do the dying that life demands so others might live?”

We are at this point a foolish culture.  I see those who garner public attention – but I do not see the men I know – those who stand ready when trouble approaches.

Life is combat.  And men do combat.

Shalom.

 

March 19th, The Feast of St. Joseph

My Mother’s Birthday

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Blessed is the one whose will is the law of the Lord.

Antiphon – The Psalter, Vigil of the Office of the Saints,

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My mother was born on March 19th, the Day of the feast of St. Joseph – the Christ child’s Guardian.

There are no coincidences.  

As it is said: St. Joseph was like the tree planted near running waters which brought forth its fruit in due season, so it can be said of my Mother.

So many times I have said to others about my Mother, “She saved my life.”

Selfless, strong, loving, determined, thoughtful, sacrificial, savvy, tough – with a tender interior, a compassionate heart and eye for justice with a most merciful touch … and an inexhaustible love of children.

She taught by example.  Never placed herself first – preferred to serve rather than be served.

If there are two earthly things that I might say made the greatest difference in my life they are these: one, I had my Mother as my Shepherd and guide, and two, life brought us hardships, losses, challenges and misfortunes that strengthened us, grew us, increased our faith and made us One.

My Mother passed away 21 years ago, but the truth is she has never left me or my Son (her Grandson) – now a successful adult, father and husband.

Now she sits aloft to see her lineage extended to Grandson Jack (3), and Granddaughter Fiona (1).  Yes … fruit in due season …

Happy Birthday, Mom.  Love you always.  No one lived better than you.

We send our love to you … and think about you often.  You were one of a kind.  Unforgettable!

Shalom.

   

… taking ownership when things go wrong requires extraordinary humility and courage … (Emphasis added.)

Jocko Willink, in Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win

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Look around today.  Listen to the daily news.  Adults realize that in life “things go wrong.”  Some might say – things go wrong daily, perpetually.  Would anyone expect less from imperfect people?  No.  Not unless one was delusional.  And, yes – some people are delusional.

Learning requires taking ownership for our actions and inactions that produce error and failure.  Doing so requires humility and courage and is the mark of a leader.   

Looking at the daily news suggests we have a shortage of leaders.

When you find yourself in chaos and recognize that those who speak to the moment look neither humble nor courageous, you realize that you are called to fill that void – you are called to lead – to manifest that humility and courage, to take responsibility, to candidly identify and speak of errors that must be corrected, to call others out.

Today we are far from seeing daily examples of leadership. The messes in the Parkland, Florida school shooting, at the FBI and Justice Department, in the Obama Presidency and within the intelligence community are sufficient evidence that we have a leadership problem – because we have a maturity problem, a character problem, a faith problem, an honesty problem, a courage problem, a humility problem.

What are we to do?  We must call those out who fail to lead.  Identify failure.  Rid ourselves of those who fail to own their errors.  Realize valor is our mission.  Separate from the indigenous failures among us and lead as you are called to do.

Courage.  Humility.  Onward.

Begin with your family, then your workplace and community.  Keep the company of the humble, the courageous – and speak the truth.

Better the company of the few, the best – than reside with lost souls.

Shalom.

Breaking News

The F.B.I. had specific January 5th warning of the prospective attack by Nikolas Cruz and did nothing with this information – contacted no one. 

Three points – one, incompetence costs lives; two, how could anyone think the F.B.I. can protect us from foreign terrorists if it cannot attend to Nikolas Cruz; and three, this makes the issues raised about F.B.I. (their poor leadership, political bias, Democratic favoritism, corruption) look more and more than simply justifiable but rather accurate.

This sure adds weight to the criticism aimed at the F.B.I. by President Trump and Republican Members of Congress.

Very Serious.  Overhaul due.  Shrink government.

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Reason cannot establish values, and its belief that it can is the stupidest and most pernicious illusion.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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A most interesting observation by Bloom.  It arises in this context: German intellectual Max Weber, formerly dedicated to the Enlightenment, abandoned the naive post-Enlightenment optimism that others had placed on reason and science.

Thinking life governed by reason a “failure” – akin to children playing with adult tools they found too hard to handle, Weber, for his part, parted ways with reason exclusively in favor of the study of religion so to understand those with values – and gods.

For Weber – religion, what is sacred became the cornerstone of human existence.

It is rare today that one hears any echo of the primacy of faith over reason.  Case in point: the post-Parkland homicides and virtually all public problems which adduce in almost all public parakeets (read: politicos, media, talking heads, celebrity types and citizens) this: “we need a program, a plan, a study, a grand humanly designed response of Father-Government, and laws and oversight, and rules and punishments and penalties … and all will be good!”

Horse hockey.  Mousetraps do not distinguish us, nor defeat evil.

Man but armed with reason is no match for Evil.

The match between Good and Evil is a sacred contest, a war of the soul, individual, humbling, purposeful, eternal, fought within more than without, private much more so than public, of the heart not the head, not tidy, not subject to flowcharts, clipboards, spreadsheets, a sea of blue suits and jurists, rehab, fines and what all.

Life is personal.  Each act of evil places us one by one on the scales.

Reason is light as a feather.  The soul carries weight.

Shalom.

Thirty-Plus Times.  Re: The Parkland Killings.  The local police responded to calls to the home of Nikolas Cruz in excess of 30 times in a very short period.  And here we have the “authorities” turning the young man out without any guidance or oversight!!!  Inexcusable!!!

Make NO MISTAKE this is Papa Government, the Nanny State, Big Brother.  This is misplaced faith.  Godlessness and its murderous results.

This is loud cry for smaller government, decentralized authority, limited central government, and end to the nonsense and fantasy of the New Deal, the Great Society and alike.

It speaks to the need for individual responsibility, the restoration of faith – humility … the end of Leftist division, racism, racial consciousness, the war men and gender politics, fixation on “rights” and the envy and hostility that tumbles forth.

Back to the Soul, People.  Back to prayer, modesty and an end to selfishness.  Faith, not reason.

 

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.

A very jumbled schedule today – so a late post.  My apologies.

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A good life does not require that we think less of ourselves, but that we think of ourselves less.

Bob Sylvester

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We need not think less of ourselves to be good people.  Rather, we need only to think of ourselves less.

Being a servant does not mean diminishing yourself – rather the point of service is to put others first – to serve those in need of help.  We serve best when we preserve our sacred value, protect our God-given dignity and act on that.

Today we see people acting as if serving others through government policy is the ultimate form of service.  In these pursuits – the government takes money from people to hire employees to manage the distribution of money or services to others.  There is little sacrifice in this.  No one offers themselves to another and pays a personal cost, nor is the actual experience of personal servitude realized.

In giving we are embellished spiritually because we humble ourselves so others might be assisted, receive our care, concern, love and attention.

I often say to others: in my lifetime secular culture has diminished both imagination and intimacy – robbed life of its spiritual content, numbed us to our full humanity – created distance between man and God.

When we do experience the capacity to serve, we draw closer to our sacred personhood – the experience of knowing service as Christ knew service.

With your dignity in tow, serve with humility … Yes, thinking of self less makes us whole – amplifies our sacred being.

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.

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