Christmas Thoughts from Windsor Park, Advice from Thomas Merton

Written by, Tony Mussari
Photographs by, Kitch Loftus Mussari
Copyright, 2010, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. Charles Dickens

As Kitch and I approach Christmas Day, memories of the people we met, the places we’ve visited, the things we learned and the responsibility we have to honor everyone who helped us find the Face of America on its best days preoccupy our thoughts.

During the past twelve months, we have learned invaluable lessons about all those things that make America “The land of the free and the home of the good.” as Dr. Stephen Post would say.  We have also learned many lessons about life, death and everything in between.

As we approach Christmas and the New Year, our hearts are filled with gratitude. Despite the obstacles and they were many, and all the other issues one faces during a project that literally crisscrossed our country ten times, we successfully completed the first phase of our search for the Face of America on its best days.
If you are reading this note, you can take satisfaction in the fact that you contributed to our success.  For that, we will always be grateful.  Because of your help, we are spending virtually every waking moment doing the work that will enable us to transition to Phase Two of our project.

As of today, we have submitted seven chapters of the book we are writing to a publisher who has volunteered to help us. We hope to have the book finished in February. Preliminary reaction from people who have read these chapters is very encouraging.

In December, the North Plainfield School District sponsored a screening of our documentary, Visiting Shanksville in the Rain. It was a wonderful evening of community and confraternity. It will serve as the prototype for similar events in other communities across the country.
Julie Marvel has invited us to return to St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. We were honored to be asked, and we have accepted the invitation.

On Christmas Day, we will give thanks for many things, your friendship, our good fortune to have this opportunity and the gift of life. Some of the most lasting lessons we learned during our journey were about life and how fine the line is between life and death.

On the eve of the holiday that celebrates the birth of the Child of Light, I would like to share some of the most beautiful words I read this year.  They were written by one of my heroes, Thomas Merton. During the long days and nights of our journey, they gave me hope. They helped me to better understand things that, at the time, were incomprehensible. They presented images of a God who is loving, human, understanding, peaceful and joyful. They calm my fears.  They fill my heart with gratitude, and they give me perspective. I hope they will do the same for you.

Thoughts from Thomas Merton:

1. God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers you an understanding and light which are like nothing you ever found in books or heard in sermons.

2. God’s love is peace.  It is a peace that does not depend on houses, or jobs, or places, or times or external conditions. It is a peace that time and material created situations could never give.

3. What matters is to love… Love comes out of God and gathers us to God in order to pour itself back into God through all of us and bring us all back to Him on the tide of His own infinite Mercy.

4. It is only when we refuse His help, resist His will, that we have conflict, trouble, disorder, unhappiness, ruin.

5. When the spirit of God finds a soul in which He can work, He uses that soul for any number of purposes: opens out before its eyes a hundred new directions, multiplying its works and its opportunities for the apostolate almost beyond belief and certainly beyond the ordinary strength of a human being.

6. The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men. A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real.

8. It was my defeat that was to be the occasion of my victory.

9. All men who live only according to their five senses, and seek nothing beyond gratification of their  natural appetites for pleasure and reputation and power cut themselves off from the charity which is the principle of all spiritual vitality and happiness because it alone saves us from the  barren wilderness of our own abominable selfishness.

10. Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.

In a year of searching for the Face of America on its best days we encountered many bumps in the road.  Every time we encountered an obstacle someone would cross our path and give us encouragement and hope. Someone would give truth to the words of Thomas Merton. Someone would give us reason to keep moving forward.

Recently we finished writing chapter seven of the book about our journey. In this chapter, we introduce our readers to two of the most remarkable people we met during our travels, Jack Rushton and Brooke Ellison. It also details one of the most frightening experiences of our journey.  Without question these are two of the most beautiful people we met and two excellent examples of the Face of America on its best days.  They give truth to these thoughts:

It’s great to be aliveand don’t let adversity define you.

Christmas 2010 in our home will reflect these two comments.

They bring the spirit of Christmas to everything Kitch and I do. They pick us up when we are discouraged. They give us comfort when we are sad. They make us grateful for the opportunities we have. They help us to better appreciate what really is important in life. They cause us to give thanks for your kindness and your friendship.

Merry Christmas from Windsor Park, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.
Tony & Kitch Mussari
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