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… honor is blackened by patricide … no amount of high-sounding formalities will make it white again.

Catherynne M. Valente, in In the Night Garden

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I am regrettably too often stunned by how it is that we can report on daily events and miss their collective message – what the cumulative nature of something that is seen singularly and episodically can tell us.

It seems that those with access to the public stage have no depth or width of intellect. While a trend or recurrent series of like-kind events can connote a pattern, give us a larger context and way of understanding and responding, we are blind, clueless because we are illiterate – largely narrowly educated, not contemplative, thoughtful.

Patricide (the killing of one’s father) is an example.

Patricide spans the mythology and history of humankind in virtually all cultures from the early days of recorded history to the present.

I thought of this in response to the concerted hatred of President Donald Trump. The uniform hatred seems instant and extreme and signals a larger issue.

Then, I thought of the rejection of the Divine – from God is Dead to atheism and the forced privatization of religion and the attack on religious liberty under the Constitution.

Then, I thought of the feminist movement and its implicit attack on men.  Then, of “White Privilege” and its aim at white males.  Then, the rash of assassinations of police officers (a symbol of male authority).  Then, of the general curve of the “sexual revolution” and its bending of gender understandings.  Then, of the assault on Confederate statutes, and now on Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and the assault on the legitimacy of the U.S. Constitution.  And then, the disregard for the loss of the workers (largely men) in the former industrial, lunch pail class.  And then, public policies which have hastened the absence of fathers from families.

There seems to be too many things that implicitly take aim at men not to warrant some analytical thinking which just might detect a movement that is harmful, costly, hostile, divisive.

Societies and cultures rise and fall on the strength of common beliefs (some good and others bad).  Examining themes is essential to self-understanding (individual and collective) – otherwise, we are traveling blindly, ruled by unexamined views, the innate passions they evoke in us … and a mob that soon gathers.

This, indeed, is the environment for grave error, mass error and the powers of darkness it produces.

Our best bet: slow down, see clearly what it before you, put it to a moral test.

Moderation is always preferable to extreme behavior for the former embodies humility while the latter does not.

Shalom.

 

 

 

You live in a deranged age – more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.

Walker Percy, in Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

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Well, Percy came to this without ever watching CNN or MSNBC .  Had he the dubious “privilege” of doing so he might have been even more pessimistic.

One need not ride on the midnight train on a New York City transit line to confirm Percy’s observation.  No, it is enough to listen to an exchange on Morning Joe.

Ah, it’s a hard wake-up call to have coffee and Morning Joe.  ‘Tis much like being dropped into the “rec” room of the local asylum.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest comes to mind, Catch-22 also.

A standard in any metropolitan area is like a Hitchcock thriller, root-canal work without pain-killer.

Ya, people have in this age less and less idea as to what a human is, can be – or why they in particular are here – alive, looking about on any given day, or month, or year.

In the place of self-knowledge we type with our thumbs while being bombarded with thinly educated people (many college “communication” majors – by the by) on television, radio and “social media” who know nothing about anything at all, but talk ceaselessly for a living.

Just for a respite, try ducking into a midtown church – they are usually near empty, and quiet, and quite beautiful (sacred space is that way, you know). Indeed, your interior when free of the clamour and non-stop nonsense (the “big double-N”) is indeed sacred space – you ought to get to know it.  You can meet yourself there – surprise, surprise!!!

Fancy meeting you there.  “Hi, you.  I’m you.”

Shalom.

“In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.  There was a widow in the city, and she kept coming to him, saying. ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’  For a while he was unwilling … afterwards he said to himself  … because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise … she will wear me out.”

Lk 18: 2, 3, 4, 5

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Here Jesus tells the story of “the unrighteous judge” to show us that God attends to justice with his elect in a more urgent manner, not because He wishes to dismiss the cares and needs of others for His own comfort.  Yes, the earthy judge cares not, while God Our Father cares deeply for his children.

My experience as a trial and appellate lawyer is not contrary to what Jesus describes here for caring for others is not a trait so easily found in anyone – including judges.  The reason?  People are apt to think more about their own comfort than that of others.  There are exceptions, of course, but cherish those men and women when you encounter them for they have the compassion that is godly.

Jesus closes this parable with a question, namely: “… when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

The question still stands.  Faith is a condition precedent to justice.

The harangue “no justice, no peace” is idiotic.  It expresses no truth.  It mimics the attitude of the judge who gives attention to things not because they merit his attention and relief but because he wishes comfort for himself.

The wiser and more learned refrain is this: no faith, no justice.

Think about it.  Life in a faithful society is life in a just society … Imagine seamless justice because people care for one another out of a bedrock of faith.

Shalom.

 

 

“Why do you call be me good?  No one is good except God alone.”

Lk 18:18

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These are the words of Jesus in response to a man who addressed him as “Good Teacher.” This rebuff reoriented the man, pointed him toward a truth so easily lost to mortals in the world.  Yes, we are accustomed to thinking we are “good” and things around us are “good,” that we effect “good” easily.  Not so.

Our current disposition places more confidence in man and less in God.  We forget that only God alone is Good … and anything we do to good effect is only a remnant of reality: that we are imperfect and that the good we do is inspired, evidence only of the presence of God within that finds articulation now and again and hardly justifies our imagining that we are good per se.  

In the seven plus decades I have lived I have seen two men occupy the presidency that I identify as particularly good men.  They are President Eisenhower and President Reagan.

That said, in seven decades I have seen exactly one man who I think carried the good of God consistently in virtually all he did in life from childhood to his death. That man: Saint John Paul II.

I caution that we cannot expect good men to occupy public life routinely.  Nor can we scapegoat those who sit in the Oval Office for no one is elected who does not reflect us and the times we live – particularly our concerns, our worries and our reaction to change, loss, and immortality.  

It seems many among us seek to assert with certainty their idea of what is good. Humility is in short supply in our culture today.   Wisdom is absent.  Pride, foolish ideology, selfish interests, even hatred take the place of humility and leave Lady Wisdom without a home.

The question then remains: if Christ was not himself able to claim the title “Good Teacher” how can so many pundits, op-ed writers, media mavens, professors, politicians, judges, advocates of so many questionable “causes” asset with such certainty that what they promote is good and wise?

Shalom.

Postscript – I have tried to write about faith in secular culture in the hopes of showing how we have strayed from faith at great cost.  Yet, today I see we are past the point of discussion, that minds have been closed, positions are set in stone and conflict, hate and violence are on the rise.  Alas, I shall have to focus on God in the humbling knowledge that it is God alone who will correct our troubled ways.

Father, we ask for forgiveness and seek that you might lead us to humility so then we might listen and learn … and it time do what is truly good – live the way you call us to live.  We ask that You free us from what is false and give us the capacity to see what is good and what is not, and to do that which is good while rejecting what is not. Amen.

Peace be with you.

Dedicated to My Son, His Wife and My Two Grandchildren … and All the Parents Raising Children

To be a good parent … we do not need to be people who have arrived; God simply calls us to be on the way, seeking, finding, and rejoicing in what we find. (Emphasis added.)

Catherine Stonehouse, in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith.

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My son and I recently had a very interesting conversation about providing for the spiritual lives of his two small children, ages almost three and almost one.

Yes, children have – as all human beings do – innate spiritual needs and desires.

Throughout the ages people are confronted with all sorts of probative “why” and “how” and “what” and “who” questions.  Why do bad things happen?  How can we be good? What is love? How do you forgive someone? Who made the world? Why go to church?

Yes, we are all bound by these questions.  And, no – politics does not provide the answer.  And, yes – by thinking all things are political as many do in this imploding secular culture we establish one thing for sure: life and cultures demand that individuals pay particular attention to our interior, the spiritual plateau in all human beings or court chaos and destruction, disintegration.  Absent attention to the spiritual: cultures, societies, communities, families, nations, individual people are undone – destroyed – trapped in selfishness, error, hostility, destruction, conflict, injury and despair.

Frankly, we are inclined precisely in that destructive dimension in contemporary America and the West at this very moment.  

We are, of course, not human beings seeking a spiritual experience, but rather – spiritual beings seeking a human experience.

Look around you.  Do you see how costly denying God and spiritual reality can be?

Parents attend to your spiritual existence and invite your children to join you.   Individually you will each be better – together you will be a family – a sacred, life-saving vessel in a world of choppy waters and occasional gales.

I wish you smooth seas – no matter the conditions you meet.

Shalom.

Moral Indignation.  Been alive for seven-plus decades.  Ain’t met a single perfect person, nor an angel.  My conclusion: we are not perfect.  Yet, now some (armed with moral indignation) are set on tearing down statues of people they find unsavory.  With this approach the Democrat Party may find itself banished after their lengthy history of favoring the Klan and racial segregation.

In the language of Boston politics – what goes around, comes around.    

 

 

There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.

Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians.

American Christians are going to have to come to terms with the brute fact that we live in a culture … in which our beliefs make increasingly little sense (to others).

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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Dreher’s short, readable book will tell you better than others I have read (and I have read many) what we live today in a culture that is changing/eroding at a rapid and disconcerting clip.  Yes, a book to be read not once but several times – and referred to often.

For parents and grandparents who desire that their children and grandchildren be safe, stable and sane amid the hellish chaos of our disintegrating culture – this is a “must read.”

As the quotes above suggest, we are moving away from religious narrative and the underpinnings of America as it was created by our Founders.  This puts us adrift, at sea without a point of reference … without a necessary backdrop that affords a context in which to endure hardship, evil, death, betrayal, loss, disappointment, etc. – of a mortal life.

Frankly, it is simply impossible to live without an overriding wisdom narrative – and, yet we are abandoning our narrative in the face of pressure and hostility from the godless ones (hostile secular nihilists) up and down the social and political ladder.  Such is the way of pridefulness and ignorance.

The loss of a wisdom narrative leaves each to drift without guidance.  The loss places an impossible burden on the individual to create meaning out of their meager experience.

How foolish to think you can write your own narrative while you live it day by day.  Such behavior ignores the treasured records of human existence passed on for centuries.

The costs of this abandonment for the individual and the culture pile up: suicides, homicides, drug addiction, depression, insanity, aborted children, obesity, alcoholism, broken families, lost love, dependency, racial conflict, disorientation, lethargy, despair, confusion, the absence of hope – confidence and faith, of courage and optimism – intimacy, warmth, peace, laughter – human existence, itself.

As Dreher points out Christians are at a crossroad – Christ or no Christ.

So what is it?  Soul or self?  Death and despair without God, or life with God.

Shalom.

 

Sanctity is not a luxury, but a simple duty.

St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

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St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic Priest, died in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, 76 years ago today.  He was 47 years old.

He died a martyr when he voluntarily stepped forward to request that he be permitted to take the place, in an execution, of a fellow inmate who had a wife and children.

The Camp Commander agreed and Fr. Kolbe was placed in a dark and dingy cell with nine other men to be starved to death.

Having survived two weeks without food, Fr. Kolbe was given an injection of carbolic acid to kill him.  It is reported that his appearance at death was as if he had been enveloped by the love of God.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is truly an appropriate measure to apply to ourselves and our culture and those in it – and particularly to those in politics who profess to “lead” us, serve us, protect us – keep us sane and safe … and to those in the professions and education, and to those in religious stations who have vowed to keep us close to Christ, and to the Father.

On this anniversary of Fr. Kolbe’s death, I suggest that you take time to reflect on your obligation to live up to your faith, to live as Fr. Kolbe did, as Christ did. Likewise, it is a good time to ask: Do those with public voice live as Fr. Kolbe did?

Remember “Sanctity is not a luxury, but a simple duty.”

Shalom.

Question.  Who among those who clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend resembled Fr. Kolbe?  Answer: No one, it seems.

 

Real history is not made so much by who wins a war, or famine, or an earthquake, real history is made when the sensitive crown the human heart tilts ever so slightly from optimism to pessimism or from despair to hope. (Emphasis added.)

Gabriel Ortega y Gasset

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We live in very disturbing times.  It is not just that religious belief is on the decline, but more importantly people cannot access their interior, cannot imagine as they once could, cannot experience spiritual reality.

Many among us are captured by thought and assume the world can be understood and governed by intellect alone.  Do not the nonsense-thinking of so many college professors show the fault of such a disposition?

And then there is faux communication – the product of machine intercourse – a life of tweeting, of Facebook dribble.  We live in an age where thumbs matter more than quiet introspection.

In short the serious question is this: are we now in a place where the “sensitive crown of the human heart” can no longer tilt?

Are we so very much less than the human beings we once were?

It rather seems that way, does it not.  That is, frankly, frightening and bespeaks of our demise.

Shalom.

Robert E. Lee.  Those on the Left who must be in constant conflict desire that a statute of General Lee be removed from display in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I wonder if anyone of the hostile party realizes Lee was offered command of the Northern Army, but felt a loyalty to his native home (Virginia), that he never owned slaves and that he allowed his estate to be a hospital for the wounded men of the Northern Army while leading the Southern troops in the Civil War. My guess is that the conflict-addicted Left cares not a whit about facts, and are strangers to honor even when it is in plain view.

Me thinks we are less than we once were.

When the soul lies dormant, sight is lost – and fury flourishes.  God help us all.

Shalom.

Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.

Cormac McCarthy, in All the Pretty Horses

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I’ve never been a “wisher.”  The life seemed so much more demanding than something that allowed for wishing.

You know, stuff hits you right in the face.  It happens early and it happens quickly and repeatedly on the right and wrong side of the tracks.  Me? I didn’t have the budget for wishing.  God had another agenda for me.  Hard reality. Wounding reality.  A strange way to love me, but love for sure, for hard things brought me to the experience of the battle and the gift of prayer.

Yes, prayer.  Not desperate prayer.  Not urgency.  No – but prayer of closeness, prayer of real relationship as in: “Okay, God – I see what’s here, walk me through this – you lead and I’ll follow You.”  Man, troubles are gifts.  They are the everyday sacred space between “the wish and the thing” where the “world lies waiting.”

Never fear to live.  Doing so is a common mistake.  Most people hunker down, cower, reach for a place to hide – in ego, in control, avoidance, fantasy, status, power, wealth, food, alcohol, drugs, sex, possessions.  Truth is they avoid the world that lies waiting.  They construct barricades against life.  Opt for pretending.

Listen carefully.  Most people who speak never pass the “I’ve lived” test.  Those who have hidden have nothing to tell you.  That said, your ear will hear the pitch of the ones who speak out of the pain they have lived – they are to be comforted and they can share their experience of living in a world that lies waiting.  

Life is to be lived.  Get after it.  Don’t hide.  Live.

Shalom.

The claim of equality … is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior … he suspects … mere difference of being a claim to superiority.

C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters

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We talk a great deal about “equality” – but like most things common to mass secularized culture – it is often invoked but rarely examined.  The presumption that we understand its meaning is simply accepted.  The likelihood that it may do damage is not contemplated nor examined.

The above are the words of Satan (Screwtape) as spoken to his nephew.

As Satan describes in this discourse – he places a lie at the center of human existence so that each may be divided from another and a perpetual division and conflict may ensue. Yes, the idea of equality was for Old Screwtape a device intended to create discord.

In present day American it seems that he has succeeded.

Think about the endless claims for equality that are raised by those with all sorts of injuries, disadvantages, personal fetishes and preferences.  All who match under the “equality” banner … divide the population and put community and family at odds.

Think about it, if one is treated adversely would not one who believed in what God created in him or her – not proceed to prove their worth?  Now people are too willing to accept their “inferiority” and in contrast impede their ability to excel, achieve.

Had I, a fatherless child, living in poverty believed that I would have been immobilized.

In contrast, I never assumed my inferiority nor thought I could not manage to succeed. In consequence (with but modest skills) I pursued goals, gained experience, kept an open heart and a healthy disposition and moved down the line handicaps and all.

Equality.  Think about it.  Have you noticed that those who counsel this thinking always seem to spare themselves from the greater mass – choosing to live far more privileged lives than the ones they deem to suffer from inequality?

Yes, such things speak to gimmick not sacred cause.  Screwtape smiles.

Shalom.

Funny.  Wouldn’t it be funny if old Bean Pole Mueller succeeded in driving Donald Trump from office only to have Trump run in 2020 and win the presidency again.

Having grown up with Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, I’ve seen revenge – a meal so delicious when served cold.  Those boys didn’t get you with the corrupted organs of the state, they were more direct.

One guy throws rocks from behind a curtain and another looks right at you and whacks you.  I detect a substantive difference.  I suspect crime novelist George V. Higgins would too.  Gimme the old days and the old ways.  We accounted for Screwtape then.  Not so much now.

Keep your head up and your eyes on God.

 

 

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