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There is for all of mankind but one felicity – a gracious God.

Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews 

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Well, there you go.  Written in 75 A.D.  If only we had the wisdom of Flavius Josephus!  But alas it is absent.

Nowhere in public discourse is there much thought of God, of life in the Spirit, of our historical record or wisdom of the many centuries.

No, in its place – talking heads, the chattering class of ill bred, poorly schooled, ideologues incapable of holding two contradicting ideas in their head at the same time.  And yet the most astonishing thing is this: their words pass as worthy of our attention. Who is the greater fool there?

RETREAT while you can.  Take safety in wisdom and reality.

Imagine a God of felicity – a gracious and loving God.  Such a novel thought today in this deflated culture flooded with harmful utterances and ideas.

In contrast, I can offer this.  I have never doubted that there is a God and that this God had an interest in me and all others.  That is not to say that I acted without sin, nor that I did not attempt a life of self-reliance, a life in which I acted as if it all depended on me, my efforts.  Yes, we are foolish for a time until we prove ourselves less than we think we are.

There is nothing, by the way, like tragedy and injustice, chaos whose actions abound to your loss and pain to bring you to God … and, in due time, to Flavius Josephus and his insight.

In retrospect, I can now express daily sincere gratitude for the grace to have always known there is a loving and merciful God – and that God, not man, reigns over mortal and eternal life.

After years of life, I know the valuable gift of humility, in knowing that I am His subject … and you are too.  Likewise, I know in that reality, that relationship – the priceless value of intimacy … God’s love of me, of us and our divine opportunity to love others as God loves each of us.

Imagine if we knew what Flavius Josephus knew, we would not live in fear and think in that fear of the world as governed by race, or gender, or class, or force, or power, or money, or intellect, or sex, or status, or nonsensical ideologies.

No, on the contrary – tension and anxiety would dissipate; we would know certainty, live in confidence and gratitude, know peace and fellowship.

Best of all – if we were as Flavius Josephus – there would be no place for those who spread words of hate, who divide and speak so carelessly, so ignorantly.

That, Dear Friends, is a step toward Eden and you have been given the opportunity to step toward that Paradise.  Alas, seize it … or suffer more, and continue to hurt yourself and others until you die and face this question: Why did you not take the path I gave you?

God help us all.

Shalom.

God, let the words of Flavius Josephus rest in our heart and animate our every thought and action in the confidence of your gracious and loving dominion.

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A beautiful fall day in the Virginia countryside.  The fallen leaves call.  And I shall meet them in the challenge posted.

I offer a prayer for your quiet contemplation and closer walk with God.

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There is God

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are found, there is God.

In every flake of snow, in every grain of sand – there is God.

In the stout and stoic strength of our brother, the mountain, in the swift and sure vigor of our sister, the sea – there is God.

When the cold winds whip the head, when warm breezes brush the face – there is God.

In the darkest hours of the blackest night, in the brightest light of a golden afternoon – there is God.

When we are uplifted by the joys of victory, when we are wracked by the sorrows of defeat – there is God.

When we are surrounded by companions, when we are isolated in solitude and loneliness – there is God.

In the laughter of a friend, in the smile of a stranger – there is God.

God is always there.

Lord, grant that we may always walk with you and that we may have the peace, joy and love that is your countenance.  Amen.

Jared Sylvester, Class of 2006 – University of Notre Dame

Jared wrote this prayer while a freshman at Notre Dame.  This and many other excellent prayers can be found in Lead Kindly Light: The Notre Dame Book of Prayers.

Yes, God is alway there!  Have faith.  Maintain a steady hand and live in joy and humble confidence.  It is nothing new to swim against the currents of discontent and falsehoods.  It is the way of Christ, our Way.

Shalom.

Please feel free to share this with others who may be helped by it.

 

 

If someone believes that he is a Christian and yet is indifferent to the fact that he is, then he truly is not Christian.

Soren Kierkegaard, in Works of Love

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Kierkegaard is not the only person to raise this issue.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jacques Maritain and Christopher Dawson said much the same thing.

The point that is raised is this: what is required of a Christian?  Are we justified in sitting back and waiting for God to correct errant conduct, evil, hatred, violence, abhorrent behavior and the actions of those who would de-sacralize institutions and drive God, religious liberty and faith from culture?

The answer would seem (to Kierkegaard for sure) “No, we are not justified in silence and retreat.”

This leaves one to ask: if I am a Christian am I not obligated to speak up when I encounter godless behavior, see others advocate those things that do harm to self and others, destroy sacred institutions, divide and make enemies of groups based on race, sexual ethos, gender and such?

It is difficult for many to speak up when the crowd favors a view the is contrary to you.  The desire for social relations and acceptance is strong – people fear being isolated, and alone.  Hence, silence is common and in that we are often under siege in a secularized mass culture.

Sadly, I know Christians who recede from public discourse because they do not wish to address hatred and disorder that is publicly expressed and politically advanced.  Of course, this was St. Peter when asked by others if he knew Christ when Christ was apprehended on his way to crucifixion.  It is human but not our best conduct, and to Kierkegaard and others it is not Christian in nature.

We have some hard questions in today’s environment.  On this matter we are divided: godlessness vs. godliness.  It is a “St. Peter time.”  A very serious moment with high stakes.

Shalom.

Boy Scouts.  Well, the Boy Scouts will now include girls in their ranks.  Sounds harmless enough if thought of as an isolated matter.  But is it an isolated matter?

Regrettably, feminism carries an overt antagonism aimed at men.  It is (like all Leftist movements) saying this: hurray for me (woman), the heck with you (man).  Yes, the broad thrust of feminism is anti-man.  Forget the “war in women” – feminism presents “the war in men.”

You wonder if that is so?  Look at social welfare dependency, abortion, the sexual “revolution” – where are the men in dependent families?  In out-of-wedlock births?  Fatherless families – especially (but not exclusively, for sure) in Black families?

Liberals, having successfully driven Black men from families, continue on their way to undermining the role of men and manliness in general.

Simone Weil was a French Jewish girl with a devotion to Christ.  She was born in 1909 and died in 1943.  My wife Sylvia was taken by Simone Weil and her remarkable life in search of God.  The next few blogs I offer on Simone Weil are for you and for Sylvia whose birthday was this month.

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I always believed that the instant of death is the center and object of life.  I used to think that, for those who live as they should, it is the instant when, for an infinitesimal fraction of time, pure truth, naked, certain, and eternal, enters the soul …  I never desired any other good for myself.  I thought that a life leading to this good is not only defined by a code of morals common to all, but that for each one it consists of a succession of acts and events strictly personal to him, and so essential that he who leaves them on one side never reaches the goal(Emphasis added.)

Simone Weil, in a Letter to a Friend

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Such a cogent proposition laid upon our table.

The object of life is the exact moment of our passing for that is the moment in which we might know Truth in our soul.  

One lives for that moment by living a moral code “common to all,” and by our particular acts and our accepting the events that come to us (each uniquely personal to us) with the clear proviso if we deny the events and avoid the acts we are called to do in our mortal life we will fail to know that sublime moment when Truth is imparted to our soul in an eternal life.

Well there you have it.  Do you live the life you are given?  Do you avoid the actions required of you by the events that are brought to you?  Are you living for you, or are you living the life God has made for you?  Do you live and act in the context of a common moral code?

So we ask: Are you moral?  Do you long for Truth and eternal life?  Do you accept what God gives you and act accordingly?

Shalom.

I don’t know how the kind of faith required of a Christian … in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on (the) experience … of unbelief.  (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of May 30, 1962

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We have had a difficult time understanding what provoked Stephen Paddock to kill defenseless people at a Las Vegas outdoor country music concert.  Mr. Paddock’s action has been lost to law enforcement, public officials, media mavens, security experts and the mental health community.  But the truth is it is not that difficult to explain or understand.

Flannery O’Connor gives us the answer: we live in a treacherous age of unbelief.  It is a treacherous time in which God has been exiled.  Ms. O’Connor reminds us that without God life has no meaning.

Mr. Paddock’s brother, from whom he was estranged, said Stephen Paddock had “no politics, no religion.”  We know that Mr. Paddock had two short failed marriages, that he was a CPA – bright, good with numbers – yet, a loner with seemingly no close friends or neighbors who have come forward to tell us who he was.  He was a successful gambler, not a joiner.

Loner, smart, wealthy, no religion, no close relationships: a godless life – one without belief.  This a barren existence – a daily suffering.

One has to enter the depth of relationships to experience love, to find meaning in life – to see the animation of God in self and others.  Mr. Paddock was largely estranged from others, even his brother with whom he had prior business relationships.  Without God such estrangement is murderous and suicidal.

Mr. Paddock’s strength was his intellect but intellect narrows existence – in itself, it keeps the person in the head while starving the heart and soul.  Nothing promotes unbelief like the exclusive emphasis on intellect.  (Does this not explain a great deal about the failure of the education system and the educated class, their disposition and ideas – and their trusted tutors and favored ideologues.)

An exclusively intellectual life sterilizes life; it kills feeling and intimacy while isolating one from others.

In a purely intellectual life that neglects God and social, emotional and spiritual growth – one cannot see the divine image in others.  Mr. Paddock acted from that base – that was the genesis of his motivation and his mass murders and suicide.  Over-intellectualized, unbelief, personal under-development, isolated asocial existence were the seeds that took root in Mr. Paddock and produced his ethos and his final life-ending acts.

That said, the lesson for us must be this: we are so out of touch with the critical role of religious belief in contemporary life that we have created estrangement that kills and destroys in many forms – daily in this land … and we cannot even name it when we see it and suffer its consequences.

Forget all the “isms” – we have a greater problem in this land.

Finally, the answers to riddles often are conveyed in the facts offered.  In the Las Vegas killings innocent people were attending to the music of America, country music, with its stories of hard work, marriage, family, the land, faith, small children and small towns, first loves and love lost, hardship and reconciliation – these were Mr. Paddock’s target.  He made that which he did not have his targets.

Yes, a man without these intimate things confessed his godless alienation in this heinous massacre. 

Time to wake up – and get serious about what we have created and what we excuse and tolerate.  We are not the people we have been made to be.

“I do believe; help my unbelief.”  (Mk 9:24)

Shalom.

Please share this post with others if you wish.  Restoring belief is very important.

 

 

 

All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and change is painful. (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of December 9, 1958

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We are willful.  We prefer our ways to the ways of He who made us. This one thing accounts for our disorder, and eventually to a demise.  It is for each of us the single challenge in our life.

Done well life is a process of submission to God.  Yes, we grow when we decline so He might gain. In shorter the shadow we cast, the greater we are – the healthier we become, the more certain and the calmer we are.

Look around you.  We now have organizations that work to advance selfishness, sin – one preferred method of rebellion and godlessness or another … and we have many who co-exist with those who advocate disorder and sickness.  The enablers can sink this culture, jeopardize our health and wellbeing.

The tug-of-war between good and evil is a consistent part of the human story from the beginning of time.  Flannery O’Connor reminds us in this December 1958 letter that God does not miraculously meddle in each and every human affair, rather He offers the grace to grow, mature, come to faith and meaning through life experience, the sacraments, belief, worship.  In grace we grow in dignity and our implicit responsibility is to defend and preserve the sacred value of life itself.  Yes, this may put us at odds with others … but is it not Jesus who asked: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mt 12:48)

To reject grace is to reject God and life itself.

Look about.  Do you see bad being called “good?”  This is the condition of our time, and the ageless challenge: good or evil – life or death, God or His adversary?

Shalom.   

 

Difficult subject.  I have tweaked this several times in the hopes of not alienating others while trying to focus on restoring some good to our present circumstances.

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The psychology of the individual can never be exhaustively explained from himself  alone: … clear recognition is needed by the way (one) is also conditioned by historical and environmental circumstances … individual psychology is not merely a physiological, biological, or personal problem: it is also a contemporary problem. (Emphasis added.) 

Carl Jung, M.D. in “Psychological Types” (Collected Works, Vol. 6)

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Mass murder in Las Vegas.

Disorder does not spring up by itself no more than a flower blossoms without a seed.

The individual person does not (even in the best of times) possess much self-understanding.  In our mass communication culture, where God and religious belief is minimized or attacked, disorder is magnified.  Today we seem intent on division and antagonism.  Political correctness is not a moral structure.

When “isms” proliferate disordered conduct can displace healthy and trusted beliefs.    Those in authority can even advance chaos.

An individual’s disorder is conditioned by history, personal environment and culture – all the more when faith is lost and society has gone astray.

Evil seems to flourish when antagonism is more common.  We pay a very heavy price for division and godlessness.

It is a time to draw together, to seek what we share in common, to build friendships and foster individual responsibility so each might know prosperity and the contentment of personal achievement. 

It takes discretion and determination to avoid disorder today.  Only those with considerable self-understanding maintain a healthy distance.  Religious narrative and a relationship with God are critical today.

You had best see who you are and what precisely your culture conveys … and most certainly turn away from those who advance disorder.  Destruction is the obvious product of disordered people.  We need to get well.  To listen carefully and choose wisely.

The healthy person today will be more likely he or she who resembles as to modern society and disordered godless mass culture the disposition of a monk in plain clothes.

Shalom.

If you find this post helpful, please pass it along to others.  Thank you.

Being Reported – It is being reported by several news organizations that a senior attorney at CBS expressed an absence of sympathy for those shot in Las Vegas because “country music fans often are Republicans – (and) gun toters.”  One can only hope this is not accurately reported.  Yet, it is surely the case that political hostility must be reduced by all.

If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things work out.

Randy Pausch, in The Last Lecture

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I’ve never been a fan of whiners so the well-healed NFL football players, coaches and owners who put their social complaints on the captured audience of ticket-holders and television viewers have lost my interest and respect.  Shame on them.  Nothing admirable about them – nothing.

Just watched Patriots Day about the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Excellent movie.  More than that a terrific story about tough-minded, loving men, women and children who rallied together as one to see that those who killed innocent people were apprehended and punished.  It is a story about courage, toughness, achievement, honor, resolve, determination, individual strength, shared mission, sacrifice, community, love.

I grew up in Boston in a very testy public housing complex.  I know these people.  Many have been my friends for 64 years and more.  They are my family.  They would sacrifice for me and I for them.  Several recently faced tragic medical situations, I kept in touch: encouraging and caring.  I prayed for them and, as is always the case in tragic situations, I drew closer to God and became more thankful for all that we are generously given – especially for friends, neighbors, the capacity to care for others – and love God and others more than self.

Today, I see the legions of complainers in American culture today and am sickened by this – disgusted with them.  I knew a far different life.  I knew the life of taking what you get and moving forward, proving the obstacles non-existent, defying others who thought less of me by being more a person than they were.  I was not a genius but I was a hard worker, determined, tough, a realist who saw the near-empty glass and said: “Damn, I’ll fill the thing and more like it.”

I knew the bigotry that befalls the guy from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  The thoughts others affix to the poor neighbor and its residents.  This was my badge of courage – a badge shared by others in my same situation.  I saw life being raised with one parents and not much money.  I lived that life.  Became the first in my family to go to college.  First to graduate from college, go to law school, become part of a profession.

I became an Army officer.  Went on to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, worked in the U.S. Congress on foreign policy matters, had a successful law practice helping the poor, the sick, the under-represented.  People wrote articles about my work, about me.  I walked my wife through a devastating illness that took her life at age 29.  I left law in my late 50’s to earn a graduate degree in theology at Notre Dame, became a Catholic convert and vowed religious Catholic Brother.  I raised a successful son with his own Ph.D.  By the grace of God, he is a better man than I am – talented, smart, a terrific son, father and husband.  Ya, I was busy … I had no time to whine nor taste for it.  Like those around me, I saw bigotry and said “Screw you, I’ll show you who I am and what I can do.”  Their bigotry was motivation to me.  I didn’t sit on my fanny or make a political statement: I lived and defied those who discounted me and my friends.

At the end of the movie Patriots Day the men and women who participated in the hunt for the hate-filled brothers who killed and maimed children and adults spoke of visiting those wounded and without limbs and made this point: none were bitter – but rather they were optimistic, courageous – ready to strive, to live and prosper.  Yes, working class people I know are – not whiners … they are Boston Tough. 

Damn it, we ought to learn from them.

Shalom.

 

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer … Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life …”

Rev 2:10

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There are probably very few who read and think about the Book of Revelations.  Yet, the above is an excerpt written to one of several Christian communities at the beginning of the Book which assesses the life and faith of early Believers.

Reading these messages reminds me of our plight today.

We are undergoing a very fundamental assault on our culture.  This challenge presents us with the prospects that the place of religious liberty under the U.S. Constitution will be diminished.  Yes, religion is now suspect in the United States.

Make no mistake, the Marxist Left advances secular existence and, as Marx, Lenin and Stalin did, counts religion as its enemy – especially Christianity.

So what is my point?  Who among you thinks each day that you are living in a moment when Christ and Christianity is under serious siege?

Who among you realizes the fundamental challenge we face?  That our nation and its culture may be altered in a very significant way?  That morality may fade out of view?  That expediency may govern and politics and power will control all thinking, being itself?  That when faith is lost, we are profoundly altered – impaired, reduced.

Reading the initial words in The Book of Revelations might be worth your time.  Is its message, a message to us today?

Shalom.

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