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Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
∼ T.S. Eliot, Choruses from the Rock
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Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. It is, at last, the Twelfth Day of Christmas.
…the Feast of the Epiphany is a feast of light because it reminds us that God is not an inert philosophical argument, but the truth. And the truth is light to see God and the world as they truly are, unclouded by delusion or desire. Reality, in short, cannot be seen or fully understood without God. (Source)
Sometimes people ask me what God will do with all the peoples of the world who have never heard of Jesus Christ. Are they damned? Are they saved in some other way? I leave those matters to God. I would rather ask how Christ will judge me because so many have never heard His saving Word – precisely because of my lack of enthusiasm or my desire to keep aloof from the missionary work of the Church. (Source)
Ok, I’ll stop now. Happy Feast of the Epiphany!
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During 2016 the populace seemed to become obsessed in its tracking and then lamenting the deaths of several pop culture celebrities. I’m not making light of this other than to say I don’t see 2016 any differently than any other calendar year. People were born. People died. And not just celebrities that entertained us or gave us those warm emotional warm fuzzies. We lost friends and family. In this regard 2016 was to me just like any other year.
On the last day of the year a man died at the age of 84. For eleven of those 84 years William Christopher played the role of Fr. Mulcahy on the television show M*A*S*H. For the other 73 years (and for the 11 that we watched him perform) he was a very real and warm friend and family member to those who knew him best.
In the 1981 episode “Blood Brothers”, Fr. Mulcahy delivered one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard, fiction or otherwise:
I want to tell you about two men. Each facing his own crisis. The first man you know rather well. The second is a patient here. Well, the first man thought he was facing a crisis. But what he was really doing was trying to impress someone. He was looking for recognition, encouragement, a pat on the back. And whenever that recognition seemed threatened he reacted rather childishly. Blamed everyone for his problems but himself because he was thinking only of himself. But the second man was confronted with the greatest crisis mortal man can face, the loss of his life. I think you will agree that the second man had every right to be selfish. But instead he chose to think not of himself, but of a brother. A brother! When the first man saw the dignity and the selflessness of the second man, he realized how petty and selfish he had…I….I…I had been. It made me see something more clearly than I’ve ever seen it before. God didn’t put us here for that pat on the back. He created us so he could be here himself. So he could exist in the lives of those he created, in his image.
Thank you Mr. Christopher, for your portrayal of this role. I’ll think of you every time I say “Jocularity, jocularity!” And I’ve always wanted my own hat like the one you wore all those years.
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I had never heard of Carlo Carretto until Heather King mentioned him the other day. She cited something written by him that struck me during the holidays, the time when our awareness is heightened concerning the juxtaposition of gift-giving, gift-receiving, and the poverty that is still rampant among us. And that Christ was born into the midst of that poverty.
Judgments on the question of poverty are difficult to make. The garb of a pauper, a small house, a wooden table, a chipped cup, the plaited haversack—these are external signs. Then there is the reality, the true poverty, which is altogether interior and invisible.
Today, I prefer the reality. And I actually see it is better, see it in its real essence, because now it has become something more vast, and universal.
The one who cannot meet the rent is not the only poor person. He or she is poor as well who is suffering from cancer.
Those who live in burned-out slums are not the only poor. He or she is poor as well who is on drugs, who is unloved, who is marginalized, who is alone…
So it is difficult to judge.
And I do not wish to judge.
So I only say, place yourselves directly before God and be judged by him.
And keep one thing in mind.
At the vespers of your life you will be judged by your love, not by your poverty.
I say this because out on the frontiers of the Church poverty has become a battlefield, where the poor hate the rich, and the laborer hates his or her employer.
This is no longer blessedness. It is not even the Gospel. This is Marxism…
Never forget, God is love. Poverty is but his garment.
At the vespers of your life you will be judged by your love, not by your poverty. I really like that line.
— 5 —
A few months ago I decided that in 2017 I would write less, and read more. In particular I am dedicating the year to the study of the virtues, for it is in the lack of the practice of virtues that I see much of the darkness in our world.
In the Introduction to his book The Book of Man, William Bennett writes:
But the decline in foundational virtues—work, marriage, and religion—affects more than the lower class. It appears to affect the upper reaches of the wealthiest also. For instance, we once believed that the wealth and successs for men were connected to and were a product of diligence and virtue. We are not so sure anymore.
Walter Russell Mead, the accomplished cultural essayist, put it this way about some of America’s elite men: “What a surprise! We raised a generation of bright kids without a foundation in religion, and they’ve grown up and gone to Wall Street. We never told them that the virtuous life was both necessary and hard, that character was something that had to be built step by step from youth, that moral weakness was both contemptible and natural: and we are shocked, shocked! when, placed in proximity to large sums of loose cash, they grab all they can.” In short, from the top to the bottom of American society we have a problem with a good number of our men.
One such symptom is the collapse of what is known as the code of men, or the code of a gentleman. There was once a common understanding in our society among men that there are standards of action and behavior to which men should hold themselves. Men, the code dictates, among other things, keep their word, whether in writing or not, men do not take advantage of women, men support their children, and men watch their language, especially around women and children. The code of men is fading.
[To those who dismiss the above as 1) old fashioned; and/or 2) sexist I will say right here and now: “So?” In short, I don’t care. I’ve tried things your way (and by your I mean the current zeitgeist of the world). It isn’t working. Not just for me, but obviously for a lot of us. Obviously I believe that these virtues apply to women as well as men and recognize the context in which things were written. So until you can present a more cogent argument than the two I listed above, save your breath.]
Initially I struggled to come up with a list to study. There are the twelve virtues as put forth by St. Alphonsus Liguori in his book The Twelve Steps to Holiness and Salvation which I own and enjoy. There are also twelve virtues listed in the daily devotional Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery with the Saints. This is a reprint of a book published in 1891 as A Year with the Saints: A Virtue for Every Month of the Year (available online). There are the Five Cardinal Moral Virtues as defined by Socrates. And as a Catholic I’m aware of the four Cardinal Virtues, the three Theological Virtues and the seven Capital Virtues. And of course there are more and various lists. There are the seven virtues listed in Manvotionals: Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues. William Bennett wrote a best-seller twenty years ago called The Book of Virtues.
When I laid the above out in a table I was able to quickly assess that several of the lists mentioned contained the same or similar virtues. This means the list of forty-three is a lower number and not so daunting.
I’ve flirted with the idea of writing about a virtue at the end of each month, but I think it more likely I will be content to read, study and lightly journal about each one instead. Perhaps when all is said and done I will write about what I find. But for now I think it best to limit myself to their study instead. I need to absorb them more deeply before I dare to put forth my thoughts.
Stay tuned, and have a great week (and 2017).