the true test–examine

“Always be impartial and just in your deeds.
Put yourself into your neighbor’s place, and him in yours,
and then you will judge fairly..
Frequently, therefore, examine your heart,
whether it is so disposed towards your neighbor,
as you would have his disposed towards you, were you to change places;
for this is the true test.”

St. Francis de Sales, p. 226
An Excerpt From
Introduction to the Devout Life


(a wee hidden fungi in the woods / Julie Cook / 2021)

Ok, I think we can all admit we don’t like tests.
Be it the studying.
The nerves.
The wondering.
The sweating.
The fear of not measuring up…

The list is pretty endless.

And I suppose there is probably a slight percentage of folks out
there who don’t bat an eye at a test.
More power to you…all two of you! HA!

I was never a good test taker.
I never felt that the typical classroom test captured if I really knew
my material or not.
Math, well, that’s a whole different ball of wax…you either know it or you
don’t and I never did…

But we digress…

Today’s post was actually going to focus in on our disenfranchised police
departments and the woeful and shameful way in which they are being treated…
be it our Border Patrol, various State Patrol, city police or rural sheriffs…
their situations are all abysmal and we should be ashamed.

But I’m going to have to hold off on that thought today as several different
things came racing at me that I felt might need attention.
and if I think about it, it will also tie into how we are
treating our law enforcement as they are just another branch of the tree
of the trouble.

Today, especially today, I have kept reading, seeing and watching
something very troubling taking place between Americans…
and I bet we can all guess as to what that thing might just because
I know you’ve seen it too.

There is a growing and gapping hole in our hearts.

It is a widening gap in our lack of and ability to offer empathy.

Empathy, the dictionary tells us is:
‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.’

And what we are witnessing play out in real time right here and now
is how very little in the way of empathy we have—
especially in the way of offering any of it to our fellow human beings-

In particular to those who we do not see eye to eye.

Loathing enters in.
Despise and resentment each set a hard rock in the midst of the heart.

We no longer want to hear the side, thoughts or feelings of those
who we disagree with because we have already rendered them null and void.
They might as well just disappear into thin smoke,
banished away from our presence, our lives, our world…
all because we don’t like their color,
their politics,
their religion or lack thereof…
their views…
or their lack of vaccinations…

So instead we look at them sideways and glare…
we find ourselves wishing them ill or harm.
Some of us have even verbalized such to their faces.

“you need to die”
“you need to rot in hell”
“I hope you are raped”

It’s all actually quite anti-human, de-humanizing.

I see, with my own eyes, that there is a tremendous lack of care, patience
and or regard for our fellow man.

Be it the nurse or doctor who curses the patient who is deathly sick with
Covid, or something else, when they reveal that they had not been vaccinated.
Suddenly contempt and resentment quickly flows freely toward that sick,
and in many cases, dying individual.
Or that contempt is simply heaped upon the grieving surviving family.
Or upon anyone who has opted not to get vaccinated.
It is indeed the clean and unclean..
We are told to trust and follow the science but that science just
happens to be fluid because we are learning on the fly.

“they were foolish”
“they were selfish”
“they got what they deserved”
“they have caused great harm and wasted precious time and money”
“had they not been overweight, smoked, drank or…”
fill in the blank with any other poor habit that might have
contributed to them being sick and dying.

Then there are those who have lost loved ones and now publicly denounce all others
who are unvaccinated for, in their minds, they are the ones who caused
the death of this said loved one.

And maybe all that is true.

Maybe that pro-life person out there should be raped so they can
see first hand how decisions now must be made.

Maybe that person who choses not to be vaccinated should simply
get sick and die.

Maybe the young mother to 6 kids, all with different fathers
should be forced to live on the streets.

Maybe all white people want blacks to be slaves again–
so says Maxine Waters.

The list lengthens daily.

And so our society wrestles with its response.
We wrestle as individuals.

Overlook everything or we simply cherry pick the issues we find most egregious.

I know that I don’t agree with a lot of folks out there right now
about very much.

I can find many ills and reasons as to why I disagree or even get angry with
others and or their views.
Just as others do with me and my way of thinking or seeing.

Yet I still know that all of this is really all wrong, it’s flat out bad.

Maybe I can’t change your views or feelings and maybe you can’t change mine…
but I would not wish ill upon you or those you love.
I wasn’t wired that way and I don’t think you were either.

So that’s why I felt St. Francis de Sales quote, the one I offered at the
start of this post, was so moving and so on point.

We are to have empathy by walking in another’s shoes.
Yet, sadly, our culture is long past that notion.

I won’t walk in your shoes, let alone walk with you period…
that is our society’s current mindset.

Yet I know that empathy does not equate to buying in or giving into the sinful
or the evil—we are not to give such a free pass.
Accountability for our actions remains paramount.

Yet self examination must remain ever present.
Self examination…not hubris and pride, but real deep introspection…
It is most difficult to do because it begins to expose the cracks
in our own facade.
Yet it is what God requires of all men…
The being….to see, to look, to feel, to offer grace, to hold accountable…
but to do so by His rule of play and not our own.
He calls that Grace and He has given it freely…
I think we are to do so as well…

Would you pass the test?

I need to go study…

“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that
I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man:
or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner….
I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction:
how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man?
But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom
I had been doing this all my life — namely myself.
However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed,
I went on loving myself.
There had never been the slightest difficulty about it.
In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man.
Just because I loved myself,
I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

lost sheep seeking the Good Shepherd

Sinners have a spiritual vision that Pharisees do not have.
They look at Christ, and their humility allows them to perceive
in him their only hope of salvation.
The Pharisee sees merely the man, whereas the lost sheep sees the Good Shepherd!

Fr. Sean Davidson
From his book Saint Mary Magdalene:
Prophetess of Eucharistic Love


(My most favorite sheep, ever / Co Donegal, Ireland / Gleann Cholm Cille /
Julie Cook / 2015)

Growing up a city girl, I always assumed that there was but one type of sheep;
White and fluffy.

And for reasons that escape me, I have always had a deep affinity for sheep.

I’ve shared this notion before but I think this affinity was born from a prayer.
It is derived from the prayer of the penitent…a prayer I grew up praying
since childhood– found in The Book of Common Prayer.

The prayer begins…Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep…”

A prayer that speaks straight to the root of my heart…erring and straying.
I think I’ve always identified with both that whole straying and lost
sheep business.

So bah bah I go…

I have been known to vow that one day I would escape to someplace obscure,
becoming a shepherd…
or if should I need to be more PC, that would that be shepherdess…
but I’ll just stick with shepherd since I don’t care for the interchangeability
of pronouns and monikers.

A shepherd of sheep.
The shepherd calls and sheep know his name….

Over the years, my various moves from city to rural life, along
with various travels, taught me otherwise…sheep come in many sizes,
shapes and colors…but it wasn’t until a trip to Ireland that the whole sheep
variety thing played out in real life.


(Julie Cook / 2015)


(Julie Cook / 2015)


(Julie Cook / 2015)


(Julie Cook / 2015)

And so knowing human beings as I do…I know that we seek that often
elusive shepherd…
We seek the voice of the one who will guide us and care for us…
We seek it in our relationships.
We seek it in our jobs.
We seek it in our leaders—
for we are innately seeking one who will care and lead.

The trouble is that we most often seek the wrong voices, the wrong
lights, the wrong directions, the wrong glitz…
We seek temporary satisfaction in our shepherds.
We seek more of the immediate gratification and quick easy fit.

Yet sadly, those that we seek are limited, short-lived,
or most often then not, fleeting.

There is only One who is consistent and constant…never changing.
He knows each of his sheep…both lost and found.
He will leave the found 99 in order to go find, rescue and fetch that 1
who is lost.

How fortunate we are those who have erred and strayed!


(one of a kind / Julie Cook /2015)

“There is another reason also why the soul has traveled safely
in this obscurity; it has suffered:
for the way of suffering is safer, and also more profitable,
than that of rejoicing and of action.
In suffering God gives strength,
but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own weakness
and imperfections.
And in suffering, the soul practices and acquires virtue,
and becomes pure, wiser, and more cautious.”

St. John of the Cross, p. 149
An Excerpt From
Dark Night of the Soul