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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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… the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing?  For this man is preforming many signs.  If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him and the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation.”

Jn 11:47

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Power is intoxicating and easily so.  Herein, we see the chief priests and Pharisees gathering after Jesus calls Lazarus back to life.  Their thoughts?  How can we preserve our status?  

Is this not the way of the “powerful” and the privileged?  Is this not a truth that conveys over all time?  Those at “the top” of the ladder want to remain at the top of the ladder.

Such a disposition turns one’s back on God.  ‘Tis the way of political people, the self-important, far too often.

Oddly, the strongest among us are not those at “the top,” but those who are humble and guided by faith, knowing full well there is a God and they are not God.  In their mortal existence the strongest are immortal by choice, by faith, by belief.

It is an old story – one we prefer to neglect.  Offered a Messiah, we guard our vaunted place in the pecking order.  This is tedious to those who know and believe.  Tedious indeed!  Why concede the tedious ones a grant of authority?  Would you not prefer those who welcome the Messiah be those who lead?  Are they not the wiser?  Braver?

Where are you on such things?

Shalom.

 

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.

 

 

The 4th of July is our beginning, our heritage!

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 There was no American nation, no army at the start, no sweeping popular support for rebellion, nor much promise of success.  No rebelling people had ever broken free from the grip of a colonial empire … And so, we must never forget, when they pledged “their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor,” it was not in a manner of speaking.  (Emphasis added.)

We call them Founding Fathers, in tribute. … it has meaning in our time as never before.

David McCullough

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These words appear on the jacket cover of Mr. McCullough’s superb biography of John Adams (John Adams, Simon & Schuster, 2001) – a book that tells, in eminently readable detail, of the colossal, selfless, grinding work and courage, genius and fellowship among a small handful of brave men willing to chart a course of national independence from the power of a mighty Great Britain in late 18th century.

“Old Dead White Men” indeed!  Shame on Leftists who know nothing and have accomplished even less for dismissing these brave men.

Yes, shame on them – their ignorance is only matched by their substantial ego.

We can only wait patiently for these sons and daughters of the post-1968 nihilistic cabal to pass away.  Then, perhaps – just perhaps, we will restore our senses and return to actual learning, real education (sans snowflakes,”safe” spaces, etc.), and a love of liberty, this land, our sacred heritage and each another.

I cite one story to suggest the price these “old dead White men” paid in forming our nation and crafting our Constitution.

John Adams of Massachusetts, having traveled from Boston to Philadelphia on horse back to be separated from his wife, children, extended family and professional work for months on end – endured enormous worry for his loved ones when a deadly small pox epidemic swept through Boston.  Letters their only communication.

Yes, men sacrificed as did their families and worked day and night, day after day to establish and defend this daring independence from Britain.  The burdens were plenty and hard problems and choices abounded at the same time they sat apart from their home and family.

Perhaps this 4th of July we might just gather our thoughts and begin to see how blessed we have been because of the efforts and sacrifice of these men and their families … and perhaps, you might just remind the perpetual complainers that they are an embarrassment to our Founders.

“Old dead White man,” my fanny!

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.

If the word is lost, if the spent word is spent / If the unheard, unspoken / Word is unspoken, unheard; / Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, / The Word without a word, the Word within / The world and for the world; / And the light shone in darkness and / Against the Word the instilled world still whirled / About the center of the silent world.

T. S. Eliot, in Ash – Wednesday

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Between World War I and World War II, the American Eliot joined the Anglican Church.  In his poem Ash – Wednesday, he works out his commitment to Christ and Christianity.

His words might serve is well in the time we now share – a time of disintegration, and violence emerging from within, with hostility on display and a legislative body “of the people” which does not legislate … does not work, and leaves the task of governing to executive fiat, the force of bureaucracy and oft-enfeeble courts of law.

We have become too comfortable, too fat, too expectant, too brittle with false thoughts of self to the exclusion or our whole being, or the others standing near.  Free speech fades as the voices of intolerance grow louder.

We have lost a generation to education – not of what has worth but rather degrees in “studies,” ideological droplets tailored to bias and division : “studies of gender,” “women studies,” “white privilege studies,” “Black studies,” “Latino studies,”  “Immigrant studies” … We no longer teach how to reason, think, explore, build relationships, maintain an open mind, defend the rights of all, turn to God and prayer …  Having won the war, this is our postwar debris, our landscape –  homeless heroin users in San Francisco, burnt headless animals left to intimidate a public servant, shameless vulgarity, value shaming in many forms delivered by moral vagrants, legions upon legions trapped in government dependence and no expectations … talk of injuring others – – – innocents no more … blood nears …

Do you hear the Word?  That which is and was before all time – Word waiting to be heard?

Time is ripe for a return to the Word – for word in action, word making us solemn and assured – unafraid … Shepherds seeking their sheep danger notwithstanding.

We seek our sheep in twilight, as night closes and violence and division grow … 

Poor sheep, what will the Shepherds do?

Shalom.

 

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