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“Thanks to Thee, O God, that I have risen today, to the rising of life itself …”

The Beginning of a Celtic Morning Prayer

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How do you start your day? Before your feet hit ground – before you climb out of bed, do you pray? If not, you should.

Starting the day with God is by its very nature – uplifting. It is a proper orientation to the lasting story of your life. You are, remember, God’s intention. You are no random accident. Being born, God resides with you, within you, above and around you.

He is your identity, your coat of armor, your warmth on winter’s day and your refreshing gentle wind in summer’s strongest heat.

The world is a messy place. Its quarrels await in each day. Storm clouds gather now and again. Things beyond our control intrude. Some deceive. Others fuss and argue. Challenges await each day.

But in a morning prayer we are fortified. In a morning prayer we are anchored and firm and certain, ready for the day and what it will bring.

One does less well without God at the start of the day. One is more a small boat at sea when morning prayer is omitted. Why proceed in a more vulnerable manner than is offered? Doing so makes no sense. Morning Prayer.

Shalom.

“Our culture doesn’t encourage people to think such things (i.e., in the broadest most insightful way contemplate what a good life is); indeed, it provides them with an endless stream of distractions so they won’t ever have to.”

William B. Irving, in A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

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A look around the United States, the Western World, and any number of countries today, and suggest to you that each will put in play the above quote.

As to the United States – think of the public discourse: who are the wisdom figures, those who speak humbly and make common sense, show the way to virtue and contentment?

Asked another way: how do you explain addictions – the deadly presence of heroin and opiates? Indeed, how do you explain the widespread rise in obesity? Random shootings? Broken families? The ever-present public anger? Violence, sexual predators? Abortions? The advocacy of infanticide? The victimization of children? Political violence? The hatred for this Nation, its police, the military, those with political views that differ from one’s own? The desire of some to tear down this country, destroy its institutions – its protection of individual freedom- including a prosperous economy and free markets only to replace them with totalitarian rule?

We have not produced individuals who have depth, are familiar with the long story of human history and the lessons therein that lead to contentment, wisdom, humility, compassion, purpose, meaning, transcendence, mutual understanding, fellowship and community, protection of religious belief and law and order.

Today many among us lead uninformed lives and hence live mis-lives … lives of unhappiness and, often, desperation and anger.

The Stoic philosopher Epicurus said, “Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any suffering of man. For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either, if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.”

Whither the wisdom figures? Where are those whose words and lives heal the suffering? Absent them we live among the madness – their victims and the insanity of their advocates.

Shalom.

Postscript – To secure a peaceful life today, I am careful about how I spend my time and with whom I spend it. I seldom sustain long exposure to “news” such as it is, nor to public discourse and argument except that the participants are sufficiently reserved, informed, knowledgeable, insightful, calm and peaceful. Likewise, I spend my time carefully and with dearest friends and family, reading, or in solitude with a backdown of silence with maybe sacred music or restful classical compositions to bring a calm to each breath and moment.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10

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Can you be still? Or are you taken in each day by the tides of technology? Discontent? News? Worry? Work that demands all your time? Anger? Jealousy? Division?

Are you living only that which is around you … but nothing that is within you?

Many people spend no time at all with their interior. We do not educate the person about what a whole person is. What human history tells us.

People with little knowledge of themselves latch on to an ideology – socialism or communism – and sound off in public as if they know something vital about human existence – when in reality they know nothing about human existence. They speak, however, to a mis-educated, uninformed and self-deceiving herd of lost others full of discontent.

To be still is to be calm … and in a noisy world it is to be separated from the clamor and ranting that is so prevalent each day. One is wise to remove oneself from the nonsense and that which spreads discontent and resentment.

To know is to gain wisdom, insight, understanding, calm and stability. Today few know and few are calm. Many talk, few know. The larger and louder the voice the less that is known and the greater the calamity and division.

Take time to separate yourself from the crowd and surely from public discourse and “news” as it is presented by those who do not know.

In troubled times we are called to calm, to separation, to thought, to prayer, to silence, solitude, nature, introspection, contemplation, wisdom readings.

When there is understanding there is peace, humility, gratitude and caring. Be still.

Shalom.

“God, Who is everywhere, never leaves us. Yet He seems sometimes to be present, sometimes absent.”

Thomas Merton, in No Man Is An Island

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Let us assume that it is the case that God is Omni-present … that is: that God is everywhere at all times. Yet let as acknowledge that there are times when God seems absent from us. What can we assume or understand about that feeling that God is absent?

Merton helps us with this. He tells us that God’s absence comes as two distinct statements. That is, that His absence may condemn or it may sanctify.

An absence that condemns comes to us when we have placed another God in His place, when we have acted in a way to deny Him or overtly denounce Him, have refused Him access to us.

In contrast the sense of absence that sanctifies us occurs when His presence remains when others have left us. I think of the loss of loved ones, or the betrayal of family members and others with whom we have placed our trust. I think also of those in the culture and in the public square who, having renounced God in favor of an ideology and its demigods or their own lust for power and influence, seek to replace God with their own craven lusts and half-baked destructive ideas, projects, proposals or their simple-mined, self-proclaiming ambition.

In each case of an absence that sanctifies us, like we experience collectively and individually in these political moments, our sanctification comes in this form: alone with God we are prepared to stand in witness to Him and His intentions that we might be as He created all of us to me.

Yes, in these present moments when the loud voices of the arrogant godless attempt to claim His place in our existence – we are standing with Him in our firm stance that His will, not the will of the godless, will prevail.

Indeed, when God is present when others who deny Him are the MOST vocal and most aggressive – then we are privileged to live in our full freedom, and in the fullness of the Spirit He has imparted within us. In this state we follow where he leads and worry not – certain that we are humbly obeying His intentions. Alas, we live in such a vaunted time.

Believers now live in a sanctifying time! Rejoice and be glad!!! Be silent no more!

Shalom.

“There is only one truth asceticism: that which is guided not by our own spirit but by the Spirit of God.”

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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In fractured cultures – that is to say in virtually all human cultures throughout time – we see people living by the flesh, living by and for themselves. This is precisely how we appear in our culture today, and in the Western World.

That said, who among us in public life speaks of the flaws and abundant errors and nastiness that comes from living by the flesh, acting purely for oneself, acting to secure one’s particular desire? The answer: no one.

Look around you. Democrats graven as they are for power are dismantling the Constitution and expand the reach of government into all human life while they count among their legion of elected Members of Congress a married woman who posted videos or her group sexual encounters and then blamed others for pointing out her own misguided antics. She lives radically in the flesh and finds fault in others! So emblematic of the Left.

Look too at those who insist on abortion and the normalization of sexual behavior that others see as unhealthy, sinful, destructive.

This is the product of living in the flesh. Case in point, the utter nonsense of years of having Democrats and their Deep State officials seek to impeach a duely elected President are, like this female Congress Member, mere extreme expression of the empty desire to seize all control over all things and all others. You see living by the flesh makes fools of all who do. And living by the flesh destroys others not just one’s self.

Mind you today we are asked daily to endorse the conduct of those who live as prisoners of the flesh.

Make no mistake. Counsel these words of Thomas Merton: “Those, then, who put their passions to death not with the poison of their own ambition but with the clean blade of the will of God will live in silence of true interior peace, for their lives are hidden with Christ in God.”

You have been adequately advised.

Shalom.

“To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills … to sit still while the sun comes up over the land and fills the silence with light …”

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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I have chosen a life in solitude or it has chosen me. As a small child I lost loved ones, Yes, I feared being left totally alone, rejected, forgotten, being without others. From my childhood, I possessed significant social skills. I knew people, found it easy to meet people and easy to build relationships. The crowded city was my venue. I found people interesting and amusing. I lived in a diminishing family were people left willy-nilly, or died an untimely death.

Now I am in significant part living in solitude. Here I have silence, and the sounds of Gregorian Chants to start my morning, and visit my day.

I live in a monastic tradition. My thoughts are often of the gratitude I have for what God has given me – one who deserves no particular kindness. Knowing that I fail often, I ask each day for God’s mercy.

Once I was steeped in the practice of law and attentive to politics … that said I saw the unappetizing manner in which one makes public “sausage” and calls it law and public policy. It is not pleasant and it is often far from useful or effective … it is, on the contrary, many times counter-productive and even self-destructive. Make no mistake public affairs are as much or more about personal preference and ambition than selfless service. Yes, its public good is limited.

In this, solitude beckons. Yes, when under developed and hence incomplete people aspire to command the future of a Republic and those blessed to live in one, solitude seems the better choice. In it I can pray and write, and listen to the wind in the hopes of hearing God within, to live by the heart in favor of my soul and the souls of others known and unknown, living and dead and those not yet born – and in this moment subject to their destruction in the womb.

In solitude those who are dear, are evermore nearer than before … and in solitude you aspire to do better by this gift of breath and this sacred life we have been generously given.

Have you thought about solitude, what it is and what it is designed to offer you? Have you even taken on a silent retreat?

Shalom.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”

A.A. Milne, in Winnie-the-Pooh

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Life has presented me this understanding: we are born neither humble nor patient but that living wisely makes it so.

We know the negative consequences of a life of stress. Our present multi-tasking existence with all its gadgets and their implicit intrusive features make of life a restless battle with instant demand and unwanted incidents.

Have we paused ever to ask: why am I so readily converted to the hubbub of the world, its regular upsetting news that renders us smack dab in the middle of some disordered person’s chaotic life? Why are we so willing to let the repulsive yet predicable foolishness of others house itself in our existence? The river does not do this.

The river wanders where the river is made to wander. It is in harmony with its purpose, its own being, its intention, its nature, its reason for being. Yet, one asks what have we learned from the river? Are we not made so much more than the river yet live with far less wisdom than that which flows in time, carrying out its primary nature, its sacred purpose?

May you have the patience of the river … and the daily peace that it knows.

Shalom.

“Love is a portion of the soul itself, and it is of the same nature as it … Love is the celestial breathing of the atmosphere of paradise.” (Emphasis added.)

Victor Hugo, in Treasure Bits from Victor Hugo (ed. Porter)

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When humans love they are, when love is fully understood, taken to the brink of eternity for love is infinite as all things of God are infinite.

So what am I saying?

I am saying that when we love and are loved – we are experiencing God. When we miss those we love and have loved us – we come to a point in this mortal life that we recognize that through they may be gone from this world, we are not without the ones who we loved and who loved us.

Love lives even when distance and time would seem to separate us from those we love and loved us in return – that is simply the nature of Love.

This Dear Friends presents us with the Divine – a God who loves and is Love itself.

My contention is this – if you realize what I have said and incorporate it as a central reality of your life – no loss is a deficit, no death is deadly. Love you see knows no distance and does not perish in time or circumstance. It is forever – it is eternal, ever-lasting.

Shalom.

“I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means for me that the meaning of life is centered in our Redemption by Christ, and what I see in the world I see in relation to Christ.” (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, as reported in Robert Coles, M.D.’s The Secular Mind

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I was asked this morning by a Dear Friend and colleague if I could identify the leaders who speak publicly of the destruction that results from secularism. Other than the school of Southern Catholic Writers (O’Connor and Dr. Walker Percy come to mind), I was unable to name anyone else immediately.

I suspect that is because as to the menace that is secular thought any constructive reaction to secularism and its destruction must, for the Christian, rest entirely with Christ as the foundation.

You see – secularism alters the experience of human experience so dramatically that the very core of one’s identity is lost. Indeed, in our nation and in the Western world – our daily discourse accepts ideas and actions which would never be blithely accepted as normative at any point before in a culture that rested on Christianity as its base.

Think about it. We talk of abortion as if there is no ready availability of contraceptive devises and pills. We talk of “abortion” of a new born child. Yes, infanticide is accepted – no harm, no foul. We have a young lad who desires to be the Democrat Left nominee for President who tells us he is another man’s wife. If elected he would be, it seems, both First Lady and President at the same time. No one flinches. We proceed as if all is normal. It is your old story of Grandpa dead in his easy chair in the living room and no family member cares to mention “the anomaly” that no one mention Grandpa is dead. We seek to have “safe” public places where heroin addicts can “shoot-up.” A married Congresswoman can post pictures of her group sexual behavior and then be offended if anyone is critical of her antics.

What is my point? We are so lost that only a devoted, publicly articulated foundational reality of a belief in Christ and His life incorporated into our existence will begin to restore sanity, sanctity, common sense, society, sobering, health and contentment. Yes, secularism is killing us in many ways.

Other than Christ, where can one go?

Shalom.

Postscript – The chaos that secularism has produced in America has prompted me to very intentionally turn away from much in today’s culture that is destructive.

I prefer quiet and solitude to noise and crowds. I do without a TV. I refuse to be a slave to technology. I prefer to read and think and write, and find I think of God more frequently than I ever have. I see my family and friends as most important. I am disgusted at what I see in this culture and choose to participate in only very few things that I know will nourish the soul. And, I fear what life will be like for my son and his wife and mostly for my grandchildren after I am gone.

Are you drowning in the secular sewage? I sure hope not.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but that thinking makes it so.”

William Shakespeare

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Imagine if reason alone is not sufficient for a good life, for the attainment of happiness and contentment. Well, it is not – eventhough we have many among us who have sunk their entire life into the false notion that reason is the singular dominant aspect of human existence and precisely (they calculate) what makes them better, smarter and more worthy of the praise of others to whom they feel quite superior.

Yes, this is a dominant misconception promoted in the secular cultures of the West and surely a significant aspect of American culture today as well as a singular source of our many social problems and individual frustrations.

You see we fail to understand that the human person is far from having absolute control of life. We have been given a life to live – but we have not been given a life to control. There are, and always have been, wild cards and jokers in the deck … and they cannot be ignored.

Reason and emotions are part of our organic reality but have in mind that much of our unhappiness and discontent comes from trying to live life experience through the prism of thought or feeling as if both reason and emotions can explain and control life itself. On the contrary, psychologists tell us that the rational and emotional realm through which we pass life experience are often the source of our discontent and unhappiness.

You see we are far better off if we simply accept the things life brings to us and make the most of them as if all are gifts, events designed to teach us, open our self to our self and self to God and our to fellow humans.

Aside from reason and emotions – life is more instinctive than planned.

Surprisingly, as Social Psychologist Jonathan Hadith tells us – most people pass all human experience through their mind and have their mind set on “threats” and “useless worry.” In this form, we ignore our own happiness and full human development.

You see our happiness depends more on the humility and wisdom to accept life as it is presented, the ability to build reciprocal relationships with others, honest self-knowledge as to who we are, and our interest in seeking our spiritual development and maturity.

Plainly speaking: happiness, health and contentment are interior and vertical enterprises.

We find happiness within and without, in mortal existence and eternal promise, in virtue, in faith and spiritual development, and in The Divine. Thus, it has been in human history and thus it remains.

Yes, we are sacred beings and hence what is sacred is woven into our individual and corporate existence. Denying this insures discontent, unhappiness and calamity.

Dear Friends, make no mistake the godlessness Left are, unwittingly, in direct opposition to your contentment, happiness, calm and your personal prosperity in the broadest conception of human flourishing.

Go seek happiness in the sensible form that human history so describes.

Shalom.

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