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The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics.  Fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.  (Emphasis added.)

Samuel P . Huntington

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Do not Islam and Marxism display the truth of Professor Huntington’s remarks? Is our national security not, then, contingent upon America and the West knowing who they are and who their rivals are – what is the bedrock of our identity and their identity?

American and Western identity rests on our classical legacy, Christianity, the relationship between church and state, freedom of religious expression, free speech and free elections, the rule of law, civil society and the peaceful transition of political power, free market economics, and our historic national footprint.

When cultures clash, as they do now, one must have a very clear understanding of who one is.

When cultures clash radical variation in basic identity within a society is a luxury that cannot be readily accommodated.  That said, a political party like the Democrat Left whose identity is based on: perpetual radical social and economic “change,” the centralization of cradle to grave power in the federal government, creating conflict through “identity politics” which manufactures angry “victim classes” and enslaved government dependents – compromises the nation’s security.  A state of perpetual internal flux puts in question one’s basic identity – it distracts and creates unnecessary and dangerous discord.

Indeed this is where we are today: division within while those within and without who wish our defeat grow stronger and more intent on our destruction. 

To make matters worse, very few of those who occupy political office have any inkling of the challenge we face and the fundamental question it raises.  The question?  Who exactly are we?

In a clash of cultures not knowing who you are is fatal.

Shalom.

 

 

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  (Emphasis added.)

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

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Do you remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary?  (Lk 10:38-42)

In that story Martha is busy preparing a meal for Jesus and others while her sister Mary is seated at Jesus feet listening to him.  Martha asks Jesus if he does not care that Mary has left her to do all the preparations alone.

Jesus answered Martha – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This is precisely the wisdom Albert Einstein expresses. We all have the capacity to experience the mystical.

A life lived within mortal limits is a life not lived.  It is a life without fullness.  It is “the mystical” that makes a life, that alone completes a life.

Feodor Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov this: “Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystical sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world.”

We have many like Martha.  And few like Mary.  Which are you?

Those like Mary possess calm, certainty.  They see and they are not lured into all that is earthly.  They are not worrisome.  Addicted.  They are not egotists.  They are not trapped in the nonsense that prevails among the masses.  They are not captured in the present day and all its false gods and endless foolishness.

Our culture is full of Martha in many forms.  Ignore them.  They have chosen the lesser things.

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

Russia and Us.  It is interesting that for all the hubbub about Russia over the years, we have not been smart in dealing with them.  We have been, because we have “leaders” who do not live life on a mystical plateau, unable to see the undeniable truth about Russians which is this: Dostoevsky reveals their core, their heart – their orientation to life (even as they try to supplant him with Marxist nonsense).

The truth of who they actually are is their soft underbelly and, not being well and fully formed, our “leadership” cannot see it.

When the blind confront the blind – it is always an “eye for an eye.”  Endless folly. “Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.”

Pain is weakness leaving the body.

A Navy Seal Instructor

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Imagine Christ on the Cross.  He’d have been a natural for the Navy Seals.  How about you?  What are you made of?  What are you capable of enturing?  Have you tested yourself?  Has life challenged you?  If so, did you see the struggle to conclusion?  Did you get up when knocked down?  Did adversity make you more determined?  Are you a “tough out”?

In St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (2 Tim 3:1-5) he writes of the last days as the most difficult time we face.  He says in those times: men will love themselves and money, that they will be boastful and arrogant … ungrateful, unholy.  That they will be unloving, malicious, without self-control … that they will hate what is good.  He says that they will be conceited, love pleasure more than God and that they will proffer their godliness but in actuality not live it. Most importantly, St. Paul says “Avoid such men as these.”

Look around you, what men do you see on the major news channels?  Are they men you can envision as Navy Seals or are they those St. Paul would have us avoid?

Ask this same question about your politicians?  Sports figures?  Celebrities? Actors? Public figures?  News media?  Critics?  Social “activists”?  Intellectuals? Professors? Judges? Lawyers? Doctors?  Public advocates?  Those running public organizations? Could you see Mark Zuckerberg as a Navy Seal?  Jeff Bezos?  Alex Baldwin? Anderson Cooper?  Or are these individuals that fit St. Paul’s advice?

In looking about I see far more people who fit St. Paul’s advisory, and I see that we have the very lax and costly habit of listening without discretion to anyone who has access to mass communication and that this is absolutely foolish to do.

Finally, do you fall into the first of the above paragraphs or the second? The best among us fit the first.  They may be few, but they are the best.

A life of faith, a life fully lived is not for the faint of heart.  Isn’t it interesting that those least likely to excel when troubles arise are so often those we see speaking?  

Shalom.   

… sanity is spiritual.  It simply is.

Gerald May, M.D., in Simply Sane

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Liberals are fearful, frightened.  Having neither faith nor having sufficiently deeply examined themselves and the demonstrative nature of being human, they are in great need of reassurance.  Hence, they are “snowflakes” demanding special zones of “protection” and they relish being victims and asserting all sorts of privileges they associate with victimhood.  Yes, in such “status” they are reassured … at the expense of others – no matter the cost to other, self or society.

Fearful as they are, they seek control.  They do so by making errant ideas their idols and forcing others to conform to their fear-driven orientation.

They root in politics – local, state and national.  In this regard they create and encode fanciful notions: homophobia emerges, fascism assigned to others, genders “multiply” from two to many, “transgenderism” becomes a “human right,” marriage “re-defined” and child sacrifice legalized.

In the extreme, immaturity emerges.  One thinks of the liberal state legislators who fled the state of Wisconsin to avoid conceding power to their fairly elected opposition, or of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s obstructionist tactics intended to thwart America’s legislative business and peaceful governance, or of the bureaucracies use of “leaks” to scuttle an American Presidency.

Liberals were once better than this.  Alas, they are no more what they once were.

In life we must choose – self alone, or self in the Spirit.  That is: life with or life without God.  The liberals mistake – life without God, life without Spirit.  In this, as May notes, sanity is lost.

It profits one not at all to maintain discourse with those who forfeit sanity.  The mere semblance of dialogue with them destroys one’s own sanity – individual or nation.

We live in strange times.

Shalom.

 

All that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, slavery – is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity

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All these citadels of learning.  All this touting “education.”  What good has it done in and of itself?  We have ideology – the equivalent of crip-notes for life – nothing like the real experience.  Ideology gives “direction” in the way an infant has a blankie.  Yes, it makes us infants.

Imagine if Marx was a saint.  How different today might have been.  And yesterday – well even more different … so many lives would have been spared. And, no gulags.  No Che. No Fidel.  No Stalin.  No Mao.  Just disciples and peace of heart and mind.

” … something other than God … ”  Some price.  Some folly.  This is man and reason neglecting heart and soul.   Good bye, CNN … MSNBC, NPR, Washington PostNew York Times.  Good bye, for good. 

Shalom.

 

… He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

Col 1:17

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These are the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians.  Think for a moment about what St. Paul is saying.  He is telling us that we live in God, that we have our being in Him.

Think too about today and how we operate each day.  Do you think in all that you do that you are acting within God’s ambit, framework or are you acting without any thought of what St. Paul is saying?

Think too about the discomfort you might feel in being so responsible for success in a world in which no one feels that they are immersed in God’s dominion, but rather each is alone to navigate all of life’s twists and turns, misfortunes, accidents and mistakes.

In St. Paul’s view one is never so at risk, so apt to be plagued by anxiety or fear, self-doubt or confusion.  In his view, life is easier to negotiate, faith is implicit in one’s disposition and outlook.  Are we not a far cry from that peace and certainty today?  Would it not make sense to restore St. Paul’s view to your life?  Why suffer as you do?

In St. Paul’s view we live and think and experience in a complete way, in a manner that brings us closer to our base identity: that of spiritual beings.

Think about it: your tranquility is simply a matter of adopting a point of view that gives you peace.  In a culture and age that does not understand the relationship between God and the human person, chaos flourishes and its costs are tragic but unnecessary.  This need not be the case, and surely not for you or your children.

Shalom.

 

The loss of the Christian religion is why the West has been fragmented for some time now, a process that is accelerating … (we are) stripped of ancestral faith.

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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What in particular has been lost?

To answer this question is to chart a course back to health and stability, joy, meaning and purpose, resolve, determination, responsibility, identity, intimacy, strength and courage.

So what is the answer?  Well here is part of it.  We once identified God with Creation – with our beginning, our origin, and this nexus of God and Creation placed God in the present moment of each day.  Having disconnected God from Creation, we are lost.

Lost, we are without stability, comprehension, understanding, hope and certainty.  We lack vitality.  We have nothing to fight for or to defend.

In our present state, our capacity for belief and the ability to have a full human experience are absent.  Yes, some among us have become like the Zombies in the Walking Dead – mindless, soulless stumble bums.

Losing the presence of God, nothing is sacred – when once all was sacred.

Having lost sacramental consciousness, the Spirit suffers – we are less than we have been created to be … more uncertain, anxious, frightened, confused.  We have been hollowed out.

Our medieval ancestors had it so much easier.  Imagine that.  They saw God in all things, revealing Himself through people and events, in places and things.  In contrast, we live starved of full human experience, and the experience of the Divine.  A pathetic and tragic disposition.  Those “with less” had so much more.

Think about it.  Without God we lose humility – sit and stand alone – dependent on self; this a desperate state given too frequently to addictions, suicides, violence, desolation, hopelessness – crushed by the burden of life without God, without belief.  In our midst stand sad clowns and crazies, and those in a stunned stupor – flat, nonsensical, troubled, unpredictable, explosive.

So what might one do?

St. Benedict reacted to the corruption and chaos produced by the fall of Rome by removing himself from the destruction and concentrating on his faith life, on Christ, prayer, living a modest, careful and caring life.  He dedicated himself to living his faith daily and in all things.

You can do the same and you need not flee to the desert or take a place in a cave.  No, you can “hunkered down” in place.  Make space between the confused and you, between you and Christ and those lost to belief.

The times call for a Benedictine presence.  Your witness can save others and sustain Christianity just as St. Benedict did.  Fear not.  This, too, shall pass.

Shalom.

 

The Seven Story Mountain … is a journey away from the world through the process of purification of those vices that hold the person back from God as well as an interior exploration of the ground of human existence, which is the presence of God through grace.

Lawrence S. Cunningham, in The Seven Story Mountain

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The Seven Story Mountain is Thomas Merton’s account of his journey in faith – his turn to Christianity, to Catholicism and to life as a monk, a contemplative and writer.  It recounts his interior journey and its relationship to his exterior existence, the world and to others.

Lawrence Cunningham’s above description is that of the journey to God, its path and trajectory is a good guide for anyone who desires to draw closer to God and find in that the solace that only a relationship with God can produce.

Mind you, in moving “away from the world” one is simply breaking the dominating chains of the mortal world and its ways in favor of what is above the mortal, what is divine and eternal.

Notice that Cunningham identifies a “process of purification” that takes us from the vices of our human imperfection and clears the way for our relationship with God.  Yes, the more our errant ways deflate, are reduced – the more buoyant we become, the more we have a course to naturally seek what is good, best in us – what is evidence of the presence of God, God within and without us.

Notice that our closeness to God rests in an interior exploration of our human experience and that this would have us say about life experience: why does this event or experience resonate with me?  Why does this make me sad, or angry? Why does this give me joy?  What experiences have I had that seem to be triggered by a particular external experience, and why?  What is the origin and essence of this experience and why is it such?

The interior journey – a matter of taking what is experienced inside – awakens the good within, our longing for it and the upset we feel when good is denied, when evil intrudes.

We are, as God’s children, made to seek what is good, to realize the good within, to seek the God within and without who is Pure Good, Love itself.

While Cunningham is describing Thomas Merton’s journey, Merton’s journey is your journey as well.  Be not afraid.  Seek what is The Good, for you are called to that Good and the longer you resist that call, the harder, more unsettled and upset you become, the further lost you are.

Come home.  Know peace and contentment … there you love freely and in wisdom.

Shalom.

An Autobiographical Reflection

[Maybe it will help in your unique journey.]

__________

I know what I think when I hear what I say.

So, too, with writing – and more so with writing about one’s story – lived spontaneously breath to breath, scene to scene  – heartbeat to heartbeat, never planned.  In this is the gift of life in the moment, life in one long unbroken strand of time, and place, and experience.

Bobby Sylvester

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Living is story … autobiographical story with interludes of humor, unexpected twists, abject sadness, disappointment, unwarranted delights, war – interior and exterior – personal and communal.

Yes, swings of elevated joy and darkness darker than night … and fear and bliss, betrayal and unswerving loyalty, trust and distrust where losses seem to outrun gains at times … drama and science fiction, fantasy and detailed and specific certainty – or at least attention grabbing with focus on that one thing so odd, or so sublime … so eye and heart-catching that it reveals in time access to the puzzle – at least part of it.

Pieces of time and space and events that reveal a theme and explain the story as youth turns to age.

I have been conscious of my story and life as a story since that day in 1948 or it was maybe 1949 when my absentee father walked by me and never turned to say hello.

If movement and moment were a gripping paragraph that one thing might suffice as the beginning of my story, or its crystallization – it’s clarion theme, it’s overture and it’s one, first and true guidepost: we are abandoned, left … and from this we know that those who don’t love us, don’t love us.

Ah, what a gifted truth to have so young – preparation for what would come to pass.

I never left that point where by I lived within the story and watched it at the same time …

Oddly, I never felt merely a viewer – rather both a viewer and a participant in one body.

And there never was a script.  There was just being … just living the immediate instant while sustaining contact with the yesterdays produced in the same spontaneous manner. Life for me was and is: experience it – whatever “it” was or will be – and learn and grow in depth, insight, strength, faith, understanding, comprehension wisdom and tempered expectation.

As tragedy enters and exits overtime in-and-out, living takes on scope, humor and sensibility increase.  Faith might also grow.

I know what I think when I hear what I say.

May your story come to you – clearly, and give you strength, reveal purpose and meaning.

Shalom.

 

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

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