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Beginning the day with Morning Prayer and Allegri’s Miserere.

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Son of God, you were with the Father in the beginning, and in the fullness of time you became a man, give us a brother’s love of all people.  (Emphasis added.)

From the Intercessions of Morning Prayer for weekdays after Christmas.

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There is nothing that might end our division but being as brother’s to others – that is as Christ would have it.

Think about it.  What if those women who disparage men would see men acting with honor as brother’s and protectors?  Imagine what might happen.

I tell you a story.  For about the last three to four years I have had many wonderful conversations with men and women who are African-Americans.  These exchanges have been pleasant, warm – the kind of encounters one has with a good neighbor.  In each conversation I have said – “I am so sick and tired of people dividing us from one another.”  I have not encountered one person in these conversations who did not agree whole-heartedly with me.

If Christ comes as our brother, is it not necessary that we who claim to be Christians be as brothers to others?

You know the answer.  Let’s live up to our obligation and begin doing so today!

Shalom.

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The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their life style.  That is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.

Brennan Manning

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There are many around us who profess Christ but do not act like Christ.  That circumstance is as old as dirt itself.  But what effect does it have on us?

Do we simply forfeit our belief, and on what basis?  Do we conclude that if the man next to me says he is a Christian but does not act thus – are we to abandon our beliefs?  Does this in any reasonable manner justify the rejection of Christ, his denial?

That hardly seems justifiable.

I am from a hard background – one where hardships and injustices, rejections and betrayals, and where deaths, poverty and bigotry were common.  None of those things made me apt to divorce myself from Christ or Christianity.  Perhaps this was simply because hardship made me and others in my family and community tougher – more independent, more loyal to one another and our professed beliefs.

I spent a good deal of time at the University of Notre Dame and in vowed religious life.  I can tell you without any hesitancy – I saw in both religious life and life at Notre Dame that many among each cohort did not live as one might reasonably expect those who professed Christ as their Savior – as the Son of God – might live.  Yet their failures only deepened my resolve to live as Christ would desire me to live.  I concluded from this one simple truth – many who claim Christ are neither faithful enough nor strong enough to commit to a life of faith, a life growing in relationship to Christ.

I guess my hard knocks life in Boston made me one hard dude when it came to living my beliefs … indeed I became more committed the more my faith was attacked and the more the principals in the faith showed their failure to abide by their faith.  About the only thing these episodes showed me is this: I was tougher and they were weaker.

In this regard I think of this historic quotation to encourage you: “Damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead!”

Shalom.

 

 

In the Celtic tradition many stories tell of the warrior or hero who goes off to battle but, before leaving, begets a son.  The hero dies and so the son is born with no father and this is regarded as a Virgin Birth.

Joseph Campbell, in Thou Art That

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In the history of human story over the Ages, the idea of a Virgin Birth is rather common and it linkage is with the quest of the child (often a male child) who must seek his identity as a man and find his spiritual father.

James Joyce in Ulysses has Stephen Dedalus in search to find his spiritual father – the one who gives him his character.

Seeking one’s father is so common a literary event, is it not odd that this presents itself almost not at all in a secular culture whereby many children, and many male children, are born without a father in residence, even born to an unknown or absent father?

I, of course, ask this to point out that we are ignorant of a common human motif and the very critical quest that is presented to a boy who does not know his father.  Likewise, I add this – we talk of Virgin Birth as largely a scientific non-starter … something that cannot be reasoned … as if reason is the source of all truth and understanding.  Odd isn’t it.  This the narrow scope of those who received an “education” such as it limits present.

A boy without a father faces a significant hurdle.  I was such a boy.  My father walked by me when I was a small child and never said “hi.”  He played no greater part in my life.  From him I learned that those who do not love you, do not love you … and that I was largely on my own, left (as I did) to protect my mother and learn from life and the good men and women around me – what it is to be a man.

In the context of this quest – I acquired considerable understandings – many subtle and nuanced – but all trans-generational and trans-cultural truths … In this context I was all eyes – watching and learning.  In this context I learned how to defend myself and others and be aggressive when I needed to be … I saw more clearly the fit between men and women and our indispensable need for one another, and the unique and heroic nature of both men and women.  I learned that two are stronger than one … and that we all have a Spiritual Father.

Shame on us for not seeing the common search of one’s father and the cost imposed by a father who flees his responsibilities, and for damage done by women who make “men” the cause of all that they feel has been wrongly done to them.  Shame on us for not seeing that the violence of fatherless children has a great deal to do with our ignorance as to one’s desire to know who he is and to have a rite of passage to adulthood and an honorable fatherhood.

Is not Christ’s birth one such as our’s and given to us as a guide, a gift, a necessity?

Shalom.

 

What binds together … world religions, as opposed to … ethnic religions, is that they are religions of confession and credo.  (Emphasis added.)

Joseph Campbell, in Thou Art That

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Christianity is a credo religion.  It depends on belief and the profession of belief.

When a culture fails to sustain an environment of belief – religion fades and we are lesser human beings for that failure.  Why do I say that?

A credo religion conveys its believe system through story, through signs and symbols which signify something far more truthful than their apparent message.  That is to say, a miracle is more then the convenance of a supernatural act – indeed, the event establishes a truth about something greater: mortal life, the depth of character available to each of us, a lesson of value, of being itself, of hope – faith, divine reality and such.

Illustratively, when Jesus rubs a mixture of dirt and saliva on a blind man’s eyes and the man can now see – we are not being told of a miracle but rather of a truth statement that a belief in Christ the Savior allows all to see clearly in this world.

Plainly stated, “The biography of a … savior is itself an image statement of the … doctrine” – a manner by which we are presented with a larger truth that applies to us all.

The acts of Christ are signs and symbols of doctrine and truth that we can count on, hold as belief and greater understanding of what it is to be a human in this life and hereafter.

In this season and in other important parts of the Christian calendar – we see truth as the blind man saw the reality that surrounded him.

Shalom.

We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded.  We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing.  Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.

Milan Kundera, in Laughable Loves

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I often say to people that life happens to us more than we happen to life.

What do I mean?  We are not the architect of our existence.  Things happen that we cannot control and cannot anticipate.  More to the point: our life, if we just live it as it comes to us, has a coherence, a continuity that overtime becomes clear to us.

I will soon be 73 years old.  This seems to have triggered in me thoughts of yesterdays, all my yesterdays – the people, places, things, events and experiences of yesterdays.

Yes, the blindfold have been lifted.  I can see the coherence of my life, the purpose of it, its theme and its meaning.

I give you an illustration.  Having suffered losses from my most early years I have come to know what being alone is like and, having accepted that reality, I have come to know how to be alone and to find meaning in relationship with God and others.  Indeed I have grown in strength, faith and wisdom because I have lost and been both deceived and betrayed.

Likewise, I often wondered why I was a “real world” guy – why I always insisted on seeing all that was before me including the harsh reality that posed a wound or injury.  I was, too, always willing to stand up and speak up even if I was the only one willing to do so.

Additionally, I was always willing to fight – to respond to injustice, insult, injury, threat or challenge.  I wondered how that was such a part of my being.  The answer – I was made to be that person who stood firm when travail, threat and injury loomed.

Just a Kundera says – I have come to a point where I have a retrospective that affirms who I am and was made to be.  I have an identity – a divinely given meaning, purpose and identity.  Those who knew me as a 12-year-old, a 20-year-old or a 40-year-old know the same man today as they knew then.

A blessed life is one of consistency … of identity that does not falter and is not denied.  Yes, I have had the grace of consistency … of living as I was called into being.

Now I see and I am – and my soul is at peace.  I wish the same for you.  By living what God gave me I have come to know who I am and why I have been here.

This long journey is not over and it continues in the whole.  What a grace it is.

Shalom.

 

 

 

Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941/Remember Benghazi Too

It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

Early November Morning, Mulching Leaves … such are the chores of life amid the trees and the hills, and the brisk autumn wind.

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Usually grace begins by illuminating the soul with a deep awareness, with its own light.

Diodicus, in Spiritual Perfection

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Grace – the Divine action within us.

If I were asked to describe grace I’d go right to something that happened to me when I was a small child – not old enough for kindergarten – probably about two or three.

As a small child my mother suffered from depression and often remained in her bedroom with the window shades drawn.  We lived then with my grandmother and grandfather – by mother’s Mom and Dad.

I remember the darkness of her room and I remember feeling that I must be careful to be at my best so that I might help my mother.

This sense of needing to help my mother blossomed to an attitude that I did not want to add to my mother’s hardships.  I became ever sensitive to giving her no reason to worry about me.  I was always considerate of her throughout my life.  She deserved nothing less and God supplied me with the insight I needed to love and care for her as I grew in age.

What I am talking about is not the result of reasoning for I was too young for such thoughts.  Nor was it because of others cautioning me.  Rather, it was just a recognition – a sense that I would help my mother – not give her reason to worry about me, cause her pain or worry.

Yes, this was grace illuminating my soul … giving me an awareness that a boy of my age could not come by through his own capacity to reason at such an early age.

Grace is real.  It supplies you with insight and understanding that is perfect for the situation you face.

I do not know how God dispatches grace to this person and perhaps not another.  I know only this: I was given insight that I could not have mustered on my own – and I have come to believe that it was indeed the grace of God – an awareness that God desired I have so I might serve my mother as a loving and reliable son.

That relationship with my Mother was such a blessing to me – she got well in the course of her life and was a wonderful mother to me – I often say: she saved my life.

Shalom.

Want to be dumbed-down?  Watch TV and accept without discretion what people say.  Case in point: Joy Behar of The View offered this stunningly stupid opinion: the Republicans won more seat in the U.S. Senate because of “gerrymandering.”

God, good!!!  Memo to Ms. Behar: under the U.S. Constitution every state is represented by two Senators.  Ergo – it is impossible to gerrymander when each state is afforded two Senators elected state by state.

Behar and the people on chatty-TV shows – along with many in the news media and the press subtract from the sum of human knowledge when the open their mouth.  Any performance of the White House press corps pretty much establishes this all by themselves.  Yesterday’s behavior of that crew destroyed any reason for holding these “Q and A” briefings anymore.  We have enough foolishness floating around, no need for more.

 

 

… there’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understoodAnd understanding someone else.

Brad Meltzer, The Inner Circle

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When you hear the word “intimacy” in our present culture you almost always think of it in a physical context – and hardly ever as Brad Meltzer refers to it.

This tells you something significant about our culture.

It tells you that in a material culture we are far more physical than interpersonal, cordial, communal, familial, or spiritual.

Just look at the drivel that emanates from the “entertainment” industry.  One denizen of that environ recently offered naked pictures of herself (ugh!) to “get out the vote” for Democrats.  Go figure?

Yes, we have destroyed, or badly injured, the idea of “intimacy” (and of sexuality) by our ignorance as to what intimacy is and what an absolutely critical, indispensable role it plays in human well-being, friendship, and cordial and communal relationships with others.

Frankly, there is no friendship without the intimacy Mr. Meltzer identifies it.  The health of a human being is dependent on intimacy.

We are social beings – meant to be known and to know others.  We are recipients of life and hence recipients by nature for life – bound to be received and to receive others.

Likewise we are a story people.  We live by narrative, learn by narrative, record narrative, gain wisdom and insight by narrative, worship through narrative.

Telling and receiving another’s story is sacred, and the bedrock of our psychological welfare and the psychological well-being of another.  That is the field of real intimacy.

Yes, we are contented and feel whole when another person hears our story and accepts it, receives it, carries it in their own unfolding life.

Today we are far from the intimacy Brad Meltzer identifies.

Our well-being and survival depends on moving toward the intimacy Mr. Meltzer identifies.  Short of that objective and disorder and discontent grows and grows, and brings with it homicides, suicides, adulteries, loneliness, corruptions, betrayals, hostilities, divisions, broken families and failed marriages, sexual predators, psychological illnesses, angers, addictions and depressions.

Get “intimacy” right or suffer the grave consequences.  We are made for one another – far more than merely what is material and physical.

Shalom.

It is within your power to withdraw yourself wherever you desire.  Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.  (Emphasis added.)

Marcus Aurelius

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What gives rise to tranquility?  Your tranquility?

If you pause to think about your health and happiness is this not the fundamental question?  I think it is.

Our eyes are the avenue to the brain.  What do you see each moment, each day?  Do you live in an “ordered” realm?  Are your surroundings in chaos, disarray?  If so, how can your eyes not convey this disorder to your brain?  And what of noise?  What do you hear?  Does not noise itself affect tranquility?

Desire tranquility?  Ask yourself what effect the invasion of unwanted ads on the internet have on you?  When you think about it they are intruders – others pushing themselves into your life – ads: from the eyes to the brain.  Do you wish unwelcome intruders into your home whenever they desire to enter?

We live in a culture where intrusion and invasion are common.  Yes, tranquility is denied routinely.  What is one to do?

Wall off these intrusions.  Control your surroundings – have your place of home ordered.  Each thing has a place.  You need not that much.  The less you have the easier it is to know tranquility.  Give no space to the TV talking heads.  You do not know their life – whether it is utter chaos – which it probably is.  Why listen to sick, confused people?  They bring no tranquility – only chaos.  And celebrities?  Ugh!!!

And, problems.  Do you welcome those who bring problems into your life?  To do so does not bring tranquility.

And what about your interior journey?  Have you quietly and diligently examined your life experience and come to know the pluses and minuses of those so important to your development from birth to adulthood?  And what of the losses, betrayals, great disappointments?  Have you faced them honestly and learned what was intended to be learned?  And how about you?  Do you know what triggers your most salient thoughts, reactions, attitudes, convictions?

Finally, can you be silent and alone?  And most importantly, do you have a home in religious narrative?  Do you keep the company of history’s great contemplatives?

When you think about it – tranquility soothes the Spirit and we are all first and foremost spiritual beings.  Tend to that thought and act on it – and you will come to greater tranquility – no more anxiety, no more naked vulnerability to intrusions and the idiocy of the noise and disorder surrounding you.

Shalom.

Postscript – When we see another, do we see a man or a woman or do we see color, age, ethnicity, status, physical attributes?  Can tranquility come from such seeing?

Christianity (is) not … a matter of getting … ideas straight but rather of getting (one’s) life straight.

Robert Barron, in The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path

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Ultimately people want to live well, have peace, experience love, be free of troubles, worries, sickness and injustice, be able to laugh, enjoy friendship, and realize the value of their own good work.

Life is about “getting life straight.”  And that is a faith matter.

Yet, in the course of my lifetime, I have seen interest in faith (particularly Christianity) decline and, in the void that is created, I have seen people seek meaning in ideology and satisfaction the prosperity that has come to us mid-last century in a free market economy with peace at hand.

However as to ideology, I am most troubled.

Ideology is a body of ideas reflecting the “perceived” needs of an individual, group, class or culture.  Needs, mind you, of this mortal existence.

Unlike faith, it is earth-bound and reflects the desires of a class of individuals.  Its goal is not the realization of a full life but rather it is smaller than that – it seeks only the self-authored, contemporary desires of a group – often pursued with force so to impose a narrow and self-interested view of life on all others.  Apropos, politics, propaganda and public tantrums are three of their favorite coercive tools.

Ideologues, you see, care only that their views (which comfort them) be forced on others – never time-tested and never challenged.  Totally accepted as totalitarians demand.

Imagine living with someone who, exposed to an idea, assumes (because they like the idea and feel empowered by it) to make of that idea their world view and the “thing” that  governs their world as they experience it – as if this idea is the prism through which all experiences are, and must be, filtered.

I guarantee that living with such a person is close to living in North Korea or a re-education gulag.  This is where we are today as to ideology – in its public and private hues and noises.

Convince a potential ideologue a hammer is a “hat” and that person will spend the rest of life trying to fit that hammer to their head and expect you to do the same.  Yes, they will abandon all reason in favor of foolishness.  Me?  I’ll take faith – you can keep the hammer.

Shalom.

 

 

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