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Time To Simplify

Feeling stressed?

It seems that each time I ask this question I get the same response. It doesn't matter if the person is a Christian, non Christian, an atheist, agnostic, or spiritually indifferent. Pretty much each person has told me the same thing- they can't wait until Christmas is over.  I have to admit I have found myself thinking the same thing many times, especially during this week.

Why is this so?  Why do we want Christmas to end before it has even begun?  The answer is simple.  We are all too stressed. Christmas instead has become a burden not a joy. 

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon this meditation from Pope Benedict XVI I think it is very fitting:

"God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby – defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear …

The Passing of A Great Freedom Fighter

Yesterday the world lost a great freedom fighter; that freedom fighter was Vaclav Havel.  Even though most Americans might only vaguely remember him, his contributions to the defeat of Communism in the former Czechoslovakia were monumental.   Through his peaceful resistance and writing he was able to provide the philosophical inspiration for the successful overthrow of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989.   As the son of a Slovak mother I remember poignantly the momentous events of 1989.   I remember how we all watched in excitement on the TV as the Velvet Revolution took place.   None of us ever believed that this could happen.   In many ways Havel can be compared to Nelson Mandela.  Both of them were imprisoned by repressive regimes, both of them provided the inspiration to their people through their peaceful resistance, and both of them emerged victorious eventually becoming the respective leaders of their countries.   In this age of phony politicians it is only fitting to remembe…

The Timeless Allure of Marxism

"In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."- Karl Marx from The Communist Manifesto
There has been much talk about Marxism today.  You hear it everywhere from the Occupy Wall Street crowd, to the conservative pundits who criticize president Obama's big government programs, you hear it spoken about by sympathtetic and unsympathetic college professors alike, and you even hear it being spoken in the churches.  It seems that everywhere, the spectre of Marxism is there.   So what is it about Marxism that makes it so appealing?  Like all enduring movements I believe there are several reasons for this.

1. Marxism seeks to create a worldwide utopia.  Marxism, or more accurately the philosophy of Karl Marx seeks to create a communal world of justice where every person gets their fair share. There is no such thing as individua…

The Terrifying Tim Tebow

Elizabeth Scalia writes an excellent article about how Tim Tebow is changing our society's definition of a hero.  Here is an excerpt:

"It says a great deal about the depths to which America’s values have fallen that Tim Tebow--who, once upon a time, would have been the wholesome, women-and-mom-respecting, clean-playing, fresh-faced and faithful Hollywood ideal of a football hero—is the target of such deep derision from so many sources, and in an era of such vaunted “tolerance.”
To read the entire article click here.

Hope Endures All Things

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tunes without the words, and never stops at all." Emily Dickinson Advent has been called the season of hope and rightfully so since it is the season in which one prepares mentally and spiritually for the coming of Jesus in Christmas.  But what is hope in a non Christian context?  What is hope at its core? 

Hope I believe is the aspiration or belief in something that is better than the present reality.  Think about it for a minute... 

A person who continues to work that job he/she hates works because somewhere in their mind there is a belief that things will get better one day.  Or how about a New York Mets fan who despite no encouraging prospects for the 2012 season still roots for the team on the hope that someday they will return to their 1986 glory.  Or how about that parent of a wayward child who hopes that one day their child will wake up and begin to live a decent, honorable life.  Or how about …

Don't Lose That First Battle

"Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness.  If, with the help of God, you conquer yourself at that moment, you'll have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day.  It's so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish!"   St. Josemaria Escriva from The Way, (191)

Here is the scene:  You a hear an annoying, glaring sound coming from your phone. No, it isn't a nightmare you are aware that you are awake.   You also know that it isn't a call since the sound is different.  You look around the room and you realize that it is still dark.  A part of you hopes that this is one of those semi conscious states where you are sort of still dreaming, but not awake.  However hard you try to believe this you know that it's not true, your eyes are open and you are awake.  It can't be! You think to yourself.  It's time to get up.  You try to get up, bu…

How Could America Be Just If It Didn't Abolish Slavery Right Away?

December 6th marked the 146th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment which formally outlawed slavery in the US.Here is a snippet from the excellent article written by Julia Shaw of the Heritage Foundation.  Here is a snippet:

"On this December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment was adopted and slavery was abolished. There has always been intense debate about the existence of slavery in American history, precisely because it raises questions about this nation’s dedication to liberty and human equality. At the time of the Founding, there were about half a million slaves in the United States, mostly in the five southernmost states, where these individuals made up 40 percent of the population."

To read the article in its entirety click here.

Its Time To Tune Out The Noise

Christmas is here:  Well - at least that is what retailers want us all to believe.  Actually, Christmas arrived at 10 PM on Thanksgiving and at Kohl's Christmas arrived in August.

Everywhere you turn all you see is Christmas.  From the decorated houses, to the Christmas Carols playing on the radio stations, to the trumped up window displays, to the never ending 0% financing car commercials, to the Frosty, Rudolph and Peanuts Christmas specials.

All these things although wonderful convey the wrong message of Christmas.  The reality from a Christian perspective is that Christmas is not here yet.  Before Christmas there is advent.  Advent is a time of hopeful expectation, a preparing of sorts for the ultimate gift which will really arrive on December 25th.

Lost in all of this hoopola is the advent season, the time for inner and spiritual reflection.  Our society likes us to believe that Jesus is already here and that there is no need for preparation.  Why wait?  Our society's vie…

Cicero Was A Cool Dude...

I recently read an titled "Cicero Superstar" written by Mary Ann Glendon in "First Things Magazine. It is a well written and researched article about the life of Cicero.

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a philosopher/ politician in Rome during the first century BC. It was a tumultuous time in the history of the Roman republic. Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Cassius, formed a triumvirate to consolidate their power. Cicero opposed all three of them because they wanted to subvert the power of the senate, the consuls, and tribunes. In short they wanted to end Rome's status as a republic. Cicero eventually payed a heavy political price when all of his property was seized and he had to flee to Greece. He summarizes his views about politics in his work,"De Republica",

"Of what value, pray is your human glory, which can barely last for a tiny part of a single year? If you wish to look higher...you will not put yourself at the mercy of the masses' gossi…

Wisdom Nuggets For Daily Living

Since I don't have too much time to write today I thought that instead I would share 3 great quotes from St. Josemaria Escriva.  Enjoy! More importantly meditate and reflect upon them.

"Suffering overwhelms you because you take it like a coward.  Meet it bravely, with a Christian spirit, and you will esteem it like a treasure." from The Way (169)
"Cheerfulness, and supernatural and human optimism, can go hand in hand with physical tiredness, with sorrow, with tears ( because we have a heart), and with difficulties in our interior life or our apostolic work. He who is perfect God and Perfect Man-and who enjoyed every happiness in  Heaven, chose to experiencefatigue and tiredness, tears and suffering...so that we might understand that if we are to be supernatural we must also be very human."  from The Forge (290)
"The appropriate word you left unsaid; the joke you didn't tell; the cheerful smile for those who bother you; that silence when you're unjustl…

The Pulpit of Human Imperfection

"The appropriate word you left unsaid: the joke you didn't tell; the cheerful smile for those who bother you; that silence when you're unjustly accused; your kind conversation with people you find boring and tactless; the daily effort to overlook one irritating detail or another in those who live with you...this, with perseverance, is indeed solid interior mortification."- St. Josemaria Escriva from The Way (173)
Life is difficult, very difficult. Living and getting along with people even more difficult.  So what is it about us humans that makes it so difficult to live and get along with each other?  It's simple.  Human beings although inherently great are imperfect.  It doesn't make a difference what religion one believes in or what country one is from, all sane humans acknowledge this fundamental fact.  "To err is human..." Benjamin Franklin once said.

I have been thinking much about this reality especially in my workplace where I literally deal w…

Black Friday Eve aka Thanksgiving

Today is Black Friday.  Why is it called that?  Because the day after thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday shopping season, so black Friday indicates the day that retailers begin to turn a profit and are in “the black.” It’s a wonderful thing, especially in a poor economic climate. Of course we want merchants to do well.  We all benefit from a thriving economy.
The “black Friday” concept goes sour when it gets elevated to a high holy day status. Sorry mom and dad.  I know Thanksgiving only happens once a year but we can’t stay for pies and cider tonight. We need to pitch a tent at Walmart so we can be the closest to the doors when they open at 10pm.  After all, little Jimmy is four years old now and he needs his X-box.
Our bellies haven’t even digested the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce before we are swiping our debit cards at Kohls. When did we decide to put shopping for material goods ahead of the one holiday that really promotes family togetherness, gratitude, wa…

So what are we grateful for?

Since it is Thanksgiving today I decided that I would create a gratitude list. Before I begin my gratitude list I wanted to attach Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving address of 1863.  What makes this address so moving is the fact that it took place while our country was mired in the Civil War.  But despite the terrible sufferings of the nation Lincoln still found compelling reasons to remain grateful.  It is a must read. Here it goes:
"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign…

Seek First To Understand

There is a famous line in St. Francis of Assisi's prayer that goes, 

O Divine Master,grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;to be understood, as to understand;to be loved, as to love. Lately I have been thinking a lot about understanding, what it really means and why it is so important to do so to others.  So why do we as humans need to understand one another?

I know that many philosophers, psychologists, and theologians have written extensively about this.  I am not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I am merely reflecting on the importance of understanding.

So-why this need to be understood? I think that the reason is that we all crave to be valued. When someone shows that they understand you, they are in essence telling you that you are important and they want to enter into your world.  If I am to be successful in my marriage, in my relationships, and as a Christian I need to seek to understand others before myself.

Sometimes there is reluctance to se…

The Five Most Terrifying Civilizations In History

Since today I had no time to write anything substantial I decided to post this interesting article that I found.  It is titled, The Five Most Terrifying Civilizations in History.   To see which civilizations made the list click here.




Beautiful Soul

Last night I had an encounter with a wonderful soul.  It wasn't supposed to happen.  The only thing that I was expecting was a normal visit to my mom's house.  But the Lord in his wisdom decided to use that planned visit to witness unexpected greatness.

My sister in law decided to bring home a boy from her work. I introduced myself and he did the same.  His name was John.  Immediately when I saw John I knew that he had Autism. What I didn't expect was how much John would impact me that night.

It all began by him showing me the cupcakes that he had made.  Then he told me how he was so excited to have potato dumplings with bacon. ( a Slovak specialty)  However, nothing could conceal the joy that he had when my brother came home.  He had waited the entire time just to get a chance to feed the dogs.  That made him the happiest kid in the universe.

I then bonded with him through music. We began jamming out together and there weren't even any  instruments.  I just provided …

No Umemployment

There is much talk about unemployment these days.  Just turn on the news, listen to the radio, go on the Internet, or simply have a conversation with a friend, co worker or relative. Unemployment is very much in our public consciousness.  Everyday we are bombarded by dire economic news.  Fear dominates as we all struggle to stay afloat.

I know that during these difficult financial times it is tempting to despair, to view these moments as lost time.  However this pessimistic point of view is not compatible with our faith.  Last week (when I was in the bathroom) I began reading the day's reading from God Calling.  These are the lines that stopped me in my tracks.  Figuratively of course:

"If he has not work let him make himself a conquering force, beginning with the conquest of all evil in himself...There are no idle hours in My Kingdom.  Waiting may seem a time of inactivity, as far as the outer world is concerned, but it can, and should, be a time of great activity in the in…

The Greatest Injustice

There is a lot of talk about injustice in our world today.  Injustice against the poor, injustice against immigrants, injustice against racial groups, injustice against religious groups, injustice on Wall Street, injustice in the corporate world, injustice in politics.  However, hidden from all these legitimate injustices is the greatest one of all...injustice against God.

Justice simply defined in this context is giving God his due.  Our society I am afraid has lost sight of this injustice.  So why does one need to be just towards God?  The answer is simple, God created everything.  Not giving God is due would be equivalent to a child not acknowledging that it is alive because of its parents.  Sure the child can deny this fundamental fact, but to deny this would be in essence to deny itself.  Because as humans we are not created in a vacuum we are created by other humans.  So by not acknowledging God and giving him his due we are denying ourselves.   The cost of this injustice is fai…