Friday, November 25, 2016

Remembering Thanks

That title is NOT an error; it was not supposed to read: “Remembering to give thanks.”  No, this is just a short post to recall ---- well, what I recalled.
I had thoughts about Thanksgiving yesterday, and again this morning.  I could have written of so many things, but I was forcing thoughts.  And so instead I went to my blog and, scrolling down the sidebar, I saw the list of “Labels” I had used on prior postings.  And then I scrolled down to the label titled:  Thanksgiving.
There were 17 prior postings with the Thanksgiving label.  I clicked on the label name and the 17 postings appeared in order on my screen.  I took about an hour to read them all, one after another. 
And now I sincerely gave thanks, for the memories of my thanks of prior years.  This is the best posting I could have made this day (and time I could have spent), and a good thing for you to do also if you’d take the time.  And the last posting was, I believe, the best.  (Isn’t it always that way?)
I hope you had a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving Day --- and if you didn’t really pause to give sincere thanks, well, take some time now to read and reflect on how really blessed you are.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What Do Words Mean?

There is lots of talk.  They say talk radio is more popular than music radio nowadays, but what is being said there --- and what is being heard?  Many people talk about “My Truth” and wish not ever to be judged false because if they say something is true to them, then: “Who are you to judge?”  I always wondered if that pious line would work on a cop: “Now officer, you may say that light was red, but I, in truth, see that color as green, so you’ll have to forgive me and let me go.”  I wonder if the word “communication” has any meaning anymore.  It takes two to communicate, to reach a common understanding, not just exchanging your idea of truth vs mine, and never communicating anything of meaning to each other.
I went to a Tridentine Mass on Wednesday morning, at St. Anne’s Church in Gilbert, Arizona.  The mass was said in Latin, as it always used to be prior to Vatican II.  As the priest said many of the words aloud, I recalled them, their meanings, and the appropriate Latin responses.  Despite words said in a now unfamiliar language for me, I understood their meaning; there was communication.
At a certain point in the mass the priest prayed in quiet, and then so did I.  And as I spoke to God, I told Him:  Father, I believe in You; I trust in You, and I love You.  And suddenly it dawned on me that I had spontaneously said (in other words) the words of Faith, Hope, and Charity.  I didn’t need to say those three important words, but from my heart was conveyed their meaning to me, and to God. 
And God and I communicated.
Mary, in many of her apparitions around the world is often said to say: “You need to pray with your heart.”  I think she is saying we need to communicate with God better, whatever the language, and He’ll know what our words mean.
And He waits.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Do Something Different

On the campaign trail Mr. Trump said to the inner cities: “Why not let us try something different; what’s been going on for the past 50 yrs hasn’t worked.”  Bishop Gibson from Harlem (WSJ 11/16 Op Ed) said: “It has to start with the communities – churches, families and fathers.”
Why not appoint a Big City Czar (BCC) --- with no budget.  Money has not helped the problems in the past.  Let the BCC round up experts, study what may have worked, and consider new ways of doing things, and then start a 10 year plan to better the lives of our fellow-Americans living in big cities, to make us a united country again, caring for one another, and perhaps (dare I say it) even one nation under God.
Some say the big banks need to be broken up; what if the big cities were broken into small villages which largely ran themselves.  Small cities, even poor ones, seem to have happier people than our big ones.  Perhaps some US cities which now have sister cities in Asia or Africa could instead adopt sister villages within our big cities, and take practical steps to make the lives of the people there better.  It would be neighbors helping neighbors.  What we’ve been doing hasn’t worked.  Why not do something different?
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Numbers-wise, if the citizens of the 5 largest US cities changed their presidential votes, it would go a long way to uniting this country.
A friend of mine is about to go back to help the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.  The problem there is huge, however he told me the people there are doing a lot to help themselves.  There are 1400 refugee camps in Lebanon, each largely made up of former Syrian neighborhoods destroyed by war.  Now in Lebanon these former neighbors are living together again, helping each other.  Perhaps breaking down our bigger cities into neighborhoods like this would help THEM to better help each, perhaps sharing some city services (like fire protection) and doing some other services themselves (like police, maintenance, trash).  The BCC could help structure and set up village governments, and sister cities could teach them to manage --- and form caring communities, as Bishop Gibson suggested.  If West Germany could absorb and change a poor East Germany, couldn’t we do something on a much smaller scale --- if we really do care for our neighbors?
There is talk about spending lots of money for new infrastructure, bridges and highways.  Aren’t lives a higher priority?  This would be no easy project --- I did say a 10 year plan would be required (at least), but we put a man on the moon with 10 years of focus, couldn’t we put some people here in a better place, one they would be proud to call home?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society

“Why are you so stupid?”  That seems to be the question, these days, which half of our country is asking of the other half --- and not waiting for an answer, because:  THEY KNOW.  And so they riot in the streets, wanting to get their way.  Much of the country assumes it knows the truth of matters (and the other half doesn’t) and it never applies any logic to that assumption, like:  Is it logical that half the country, many of which are better educated than us, many of which have higher IQ’s than us, and many of which are more caring people than us, is it logical to assume that half the country, all these high-functioning people, are stupid?
Mr. Reno delves into the facts about our country --- without making assumptions about intelligence.  He points out , with facts, how most of the social changes in recent years have been brought about by an elite group of people who want to have the unfettered freedom to do what they want, with no laws or religion restricting their freedom.  And the courts have found new reasons to back their desired freedoms to do what they want.  In digging through the results of those new freedoms, however, Mr. Reno found that they have had little impact on the lives of these elites, as their close-knit communities and family ties kept their children and families in line --- so they could continue to get into Harvard and Yale, and continue to make more money, and continue to rise to the elite political leadership positions of our country.  They have their freedoms --- and they manage to live quite well with them.
But then Mr. Reno looks at the bottom third of our country, and here the data shows a different story.  They too now have these new freedoms, but they have no close-knit communities, they have no intact families or churches --- they have no support groups to help them manage these freedoms with any sort of limits.  And their lives have become a living hell. 
This is a book every American who says he wants to bring our country together again should read.  We need to stop calling others stupid, and make sure we are not.  Data-driven, it shows what is tearing us apart.  With facts, Mr. Reno shows that it is not a money problem --- a $15/hr minimum wage will make no difference; the problems faced by the bottom third of our country are not money problems; they are moral problems.  With no moderating influences of family, religion, or community, the plight of many in the country is bordering on despair, and so it may seem natural for them to turn to the government --- or to anyone --- who says they can help.  But as been pointed out in this recent election campaign, and facts bear out, 50 years of government “help” has not helped, and matters are getting worse.
Mr. Reno gives good reasons for proposing the re-starting of a Christian Society, to re-create the moral underpinnings of our communities, but he makes no bones about it:  This will not be easy, nor will it be fast.  But we do need to understand the problem, and START to do something.  Start by reading this book.  If you care about the poor, if you care about souls, if you care about America, you should read this book.  I have never seen the plight of our country so well explained.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

There Is No Heaven On Earth

Sometimes we wonder what other people are thinking; we can’t help it.  And I am no different than you.  This morning thoughts came into my head about what someone who reads these written words might be thinking of me --- and my thoughts.  On the one hand I primarily write these words for myself, a journal of my life to remind myself at some future date of the good times and the bad times of my life.  In good times, like now, the joys I feel I wish to document --- and share, if they can somehow bring joy to others.  And I write of these good times as reminders for in the bad times --- because oh, yes, the bad times will come, and sometimes they seem so hard to bear.  I pray that I remember to look back then and read of these good times, to give me some measure of peace, and confidence that no matter how bad things get, someday there will again be joy.  I trust in God that this will be true.
In writing now about how God has been good to me, I wondered how others see these words.  Do some think:  Oh, I’m happy for him?  Do some think: What an ego, that he thinks God talks to him?  And do some think:  Must be nice; He never talks to me?  I don’t know what others think, nor do I want to influence their thoughts.  But I can write what mine are, even if they are delusional.  And of late, it does seem to me as if God is speaking to my heart.

I recently wrote of the words I read in Revelations on the day after the election.  If you haven’t read them (and to document them here to remind myself), here are some of the words from Revelations 18 which I read and which spoke to my heart that day:
Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  It has become a dwelling place of demons.
All nations have drunk the wine of her impure passion; and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness.  Then I heard another voice saying, “Come out of her, my people … lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.”
Since in her heart she says, “A queen I sit.”
So shall her plagues come in a single day … for mighty is the Lord who judges her.
The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud.
In one hour she has been laid waste.
I read those words not knowing the election results, yet I felt in my heart I did, regardless of what the polls and “experts” had said the day before, and regardless of who had won.  I felt that a good change was coming for our country.  I felt God had spoken to me --- and it is what I felt, regardless also of what you might think.
And as I saw reactions to the election around the country, yesterday I read these words in my daily readings, and again I felt in my heart that God was touching me:
For I can see nothing but violence and strife in the city.  Night and day they patrol high on the city walls.
As for me, I will cry to God and the Lord will save me.
He will deliver my soul in peace … for those who fight me are many, but he hears my voice.
They have no fear of God.
Entrust your cares to the Lord and he will support you.  He will never allow the must man to stumble.
O Lord, I will trust in you.

And then I read the opening line of the Gospel this morning, and these reflections in the book The Better Part:
Then he told them a parable about the need
to pray continually and never lose heart.
He is able to influence our lives and history. …”Ask, and it will be given to you,” our Lord pointed out.
Christ refuses to be a dictator, but delights in being a generous and responsive King.
No prayer that we utter goes unheard.
He is eagerly searching for hearts that trust him enough to ask him unceasingly for everything they need.
On judgment day, one of our greatest regrets will be how little we prayed.
It’s like refusing to turn on the lights because we’re afraid they might not work.
Jesus:  “You may hurt me by preferring your own will and being unfaithful to me, but I will never be unfaithful to you.”
Thank you for the gift of prayer, Lord.  Thank you for giving me a share in your work, for not doing it all yourself.  Now my life can have eternal repercussions as you want it to. Dear Lord, teach me to use my freedom  well.
I believe that the prayers prayed by churches around this country mattered in this election.  And I believe God affirmed that to me.
Were all these words I read this week, and the thoughts in my heart, just delusions?  Perhaps, but they have given me joy at a time when my soul was filled with anxieties over the state of our country, our culture, and the world.  Did these words or thoughts tell me: Well, here’s who needs to be elected president, or here’s what needs to be done?  No, of course not.  But they did tell me that all will be well, if I but trust in the Lord, and continue to pray for his mercy on our country.  And, I believe, He has given me peace on joy in response to my prayers.
Am I some nut?  Perhaps, but I don’t believe so.  Am I some saint?  Again, perhaps but I don’t believe so, for if that were true heaven must indeed be some strange place.
And perhaps it will be, even for people like me and like you. We can only pray.