The noblest of acts

“Cheerfulness prepares a glorious mind for all the noblest acts.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton


(the only sign of color this fall / Julie Cook / 2019)

“The true reason for which God bestows so many graces upon the humble is this,
that the humble are faithful to these graces and make good use of them.
They receive them from God and use them in a manner pleasing to God,
giving all the glory to Him, without reserving any for themselves…
It is certainly true that he who is humble is also faithful to God,
because the humble man is also just in giving to all their due, and above all,
in rendering to God the things that are God’s; that is,
in giving Him the glory for all the good that he is,
all the good that he has and for all the good that he does;
as the Venerable Bede says: ‘Whatever good we see in ourselves,
let us ascribe it to God and not to ourselves.’
To give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received and are
continually receiving is an excellent means of exercising humility,
because by thanksgiving we learn to acknowledge the Supreme Giver of
every good.
And for this reason it is necessary for us always to be humble before God.
St. Paul exhorts us to render thanks for all things and at all times:
‘In all things give thanks.’ (1 Thess. 5:18).
‘Giving thanks always for all things.’ (Eph. 5:20).
But that our thanksgiving may be an act of humility it must not only come
from the lips but from the heart, with a firm conviction that all good comes
to us through the infinite mercy of God.”

Rev. Cajetan da Bergamo, p. 87-8
An Excerpt From
Humility Of Heart

A new saint with an old soul

When it comes upon me how late I am trying to serve the Church,
the obvious answer is, even saints, such as St. Augustine, St. Ignatius,
did not begin in earnest till a late age.

Blessed John Henry Newman


(courtesy AP)

Today Pope Francis will canonize a new saint.

To those of you who are non-Catholics, this news is no more than a blip from some
religious news feed, but to me, I find it quite interesting.

As many of you reading this already know, I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church—
which is, in a nutshell, the American branch of the global Anglican communion.

Anglican being the Chruch of England.

A denomination I once loved, but for many years have found myself at a crossroads of odds.
I have found that I cannot remain in a fold that disregards the Word of God while
preferring to re-write God’s tenants to suit a disgruntled liberal culture.

John Henry Newman was an Anglican priest, writer and intellectual who was considered
‘an evangelical Oxford University academic.’

He too felt at odds with his “church.”

And so I offer you a little background from a few periodicals who offer us a bit of background
to this new saint with an old soul…

According to Wikipedia,
He [Newman] became known as a leader of, and an able polemicist for the Oxford Movement,
an influential and controversial grouping of Anglicans who wished to return to the
Church of England many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals
from before the English Reformation.

In this, the movement had some success.

In 1845 Newman, joined by some but not all of his followers,
officially left the Church of England and his teaching post at Oxford University
and was received into the Catholic Church. He was quickly ordained as a priest and
continued as an influential religious leader, based in Birmingham.
In 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services
to the cause of the Catholic Church in England.
He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854,
although he had left Dublin by 1859.
CUI in time evolved into University College Dublin, today the largest university in Ireland.

Newman came to his faith at an early age.

At the age of 15, during his last year at school,
Newman was converted, an incident of which he wrote in his Apologia that it was
“more certain than that I have hands or feet”.
Almost at the same time (March 1816) the bank Ramsbottom, Newman and Co. crashed,
though it paid its creditors and his father left to manage a brewery.
Mayers, who had himself undergone a conversion in 1814,
lent Newman books from the English Calvinist tradition.
It was in the autumn of 1816 that Newman “fell under the influence of a definite creed”
and received into his intellect “impressions of dogma, which, through God’s mercy,
have never been effaced or obscured”.
He became an evangelical Calvinist and held the typical belief that the
Pope was the antichrist under the influence of the writings of Thomas Newton,
as well as his reading of Joseph Milner’s History of the Church of Christ.
Mayers is described as a moderate, Clapham Sect Calvinist,
and Newman read William Law as well as William Beveridge in devotional literature.
He also read The Force of Truth by Thomas Scott.

Although to the end of his life Newman looked back on his conversion to
evangelical Christianity in 1816 as the saving of his soul,
he gradually shifted away from his early Calvinism.
As Eamon Duffy puts it, “He came to see Evangelicalism,
with its emphasis on religious feeling and on the Reformation doctrine of
justification by faith alone, as a Trojan horse for an undogmatic religious individualism
that ignored the Church’s role in the transmission of revealed truth,
and that must lead inexorably to subjectivism and skepticism.”

According to a news article on the Washington Post,
Pope Francis on Sunday will canonize John Henry Newman,
a Victorian-era intellectual, Catholic convert and cardinal.
A self-described “controversialist,” Newman was an early leader in the Oxford Movement,
an attempt to reinstate ancient forms of faith and worship in the Church of England.
After converting to Catholicism at age 44,
Newman went on to found a Catholic university and a religious community,
as well as a school, and he clashed with authoritarian,
or “Ultramontane,” Catholics over the issue of papal infallibility.

Newman called liberalism “false liberty of thought,”
or the attempt to find truth through reason alone independent of faith and devotion.
He characterized his life as one long campaign against this view in his spiritual autobiography.

The Wall Street Journal continues Cardinal Newman’s story…
noting that he could well be known as the patron saint of the lonely…

On Sunday Pope Francis will officially recognize as a saint the
British clergyman and Oxford academic John Henry Newman (1801-90).
Nearly 130 years after his death, Newman’s writings still offer readers
incisive theological analysis—and practical wisdom.

A theologian, poet and priest of the Church of England,
Newman found his way to Catholicism later in life and was ordained a
Catholic priest in his 40s.
Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1879.

Cigna, a global health service company,
surveys feelings of social isolation across the U.S. using the UCLA Loneliness Scale.
Last year Cigna released the results of a study of 20,000 Americans.
It found that adults 18 to 22 are the loneliest segment of the population.
Nearly half report a chronic sense of loneliness.
People 72 and older are the least lonely.

I spend a lot of time with young adults in my job,
and the results don’t surprise me.
I often observe young couples out on dates, looking at their cellphones rather than each other.
I see students walking while wearing earbuds, oblivious to passersby.
Others spend hours alone watching movies on Netflix or playing videogames.
The digital culture in which young people live pushes them toward a kind of
solipsism that must contribute to their loneliness.

“No one, man nor woman, can stand alone;
we are so constituted by nature,” Newman writes,
noting our need to cultivate genuine relations of friendship.
Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter connect people,
but it’s a different sort of connection than friendship.
The self one presents on Facebook is inauthentic,
someone living an idealized life unlike one’s daily reality.
Interaction online is more akin to Kabuki theater than genuine human relations.

When young people do connect face to face, it’s often superficial,
thanks in part to dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble.
Cigna’s study found that 43% of participants feel their relationships are not meaningful.
Little wonder, if relationships are formed when two people decide to swipe right on their phones.

Cardinal Newman never married, but warm, sincere, and lasting friendships—the kind that
we so seldom form through digital interactions—gave his life richness.
He cultivated them with his neighbors in Oxford and, after his conversion to Catholicism,
at the Birmingham Oratory. He sustained them in his correspondence,
some 20,000 letters filling 32 volumes.

In one of his sermons, delivered on the feast of St. John the Evangelist,
Newman reflects on the Gospel’s observation that St. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
It is a remarkable thing, Newman says, that the Son of God Most High should have loved
one man more than another.
It shows how entirely human Jesus was in his wants and his feelings,
because friendship is a deep human desire.
And it suggests a pattern we would do well to follow in our own lives if we would be happy:
“to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”

On the other hand, Newman observes that “nothing is more likely to engender selfish habits”
than independence.
People “who can move about as they please, and indulge the love of variety”
are unlikely to obtain that heavenly gift the liturgy describes as
“the very bond of peace and of all virtues.”
He could well have been describing the isolation that can result from
an addiction to digital entertainment.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he chose as his motto
Cor ad cor loquitur.
He found the phrase in a letter to St. Jane Frances de Chantal from St. Francis de Sales,
her spiritual adviser:
“I want to speak to you heart to heart,” he said.
Don’t hold back any inward thoughts.

That is a habit of conversation I hope we can revive among our sons and daughters.
Real friendship is the cure for the loneliness so many young people feel.
Not the self-referential stimulation of a cellphone or iPad;
not the inauthentic “friending” of Facebook; not the superficial hooking up of Tinder,
but the honest, intimate, lasting bond of true friendship.

Mr. Garvey is president of the Catholic University of America.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.”

John Henry Newman

Deus absconditus

“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man:
to know what he ought to believe;
to know what he ought to desire;
and to know what he ought to do.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


(a fallen leaf hangs in the balance by the thread of a spider / Julie Cook / 2019)

“One of the most formidable obstacles to the conversion of a soul is the fact that
God is a hidden God: Deus absconditus.
But God, in His goodness, reveals Himself, in a certain manner, through His saints,
and even through fervent souls.
In this way, the supernatural filters through and becomes visible to the faithful,
who are thus able to apprehend something of the mystery of God…
make no mistake, there is a sort of instinct by which souls,
without clearly defining what it is they sense,
are aware of this radiation of the supernatural.”

Dom Jean-Baptist Chautard, p. 124-5
An Excerpt From
Soul of the Apostolate

Where is the Love? Where is the kindness?

We are sailboats; our hearts are the sails, and God’s love is the wind.
We are called to receive the love of God and then to make all of our decisions
from out of our communion with Divine Love.

Fr. Scott Traynor


(a hint of fall / Julie Cook / 2019)

I don’t know about you but I’m so over this madness.

Can we, will we, ever get back to just living life side by side?

It is more than apparent that our country is at a stalemate,
unable to move forward on any sort of positive drive toward any
meaningful progress with our woes.
And it’s all because of the reigning mania regarding our President…
as Newt Gingrich says, this is all about the ‘impeachment coup.’

Now throw into the mix a gay Hollywood female actress/ comedian
enjoying an NFL game with a former Republican President of the United States.

She took flack for sitting with him and his wife in their booth at a football game.
She found herself having to defend enjoying her time with the former President.
Her ilk has turned on her.
She is now a traitor.
She enjoyed her time with this former Commander in Chief and in turn, has
had to address her critics.

She told her audience, during her daily talk show, that it’s just a simple matter
of being kind to one another despite having a difference of opinion.

When I saw the clip on the news of her attempt at justification,
I thought to myself…
‘hear, hear Ellen—-kindness indeed!’

But the ire of her ilk has only grown exponentially against her.

They obviously will not tolerate a break in ranks.

She will be a sacrificial lamb for the rabid progressive left.

I admit that I don’t agree with her lifestyle or her choices.
And in turn, I doubt I’d agree with her or her take on politics…
but I do believe in treating all people with kindness…
and so we have a bit of common ground in which to have dialogue.

And have we all not been told…have we all not heard…

Love your neighbor as yourself???

So I ask…Where is the love?
Where is the kindness?
Love and kindness that extends to those who we disagree with?

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with
all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

Kindness and love…
what lovely ideas…

Our response to God, loving Him and loving our neighbor for His sake,
always is the result of having generously received His love for us.

Fr. Scott Traynor
from Parish as a School of Prayer

honey and locust… or would that be grasshoppers?

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth;
and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word,
to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God,
men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(a locust passing by / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes I just think it would be best if I found some hollowed-out tree, ditched
all the trappings of this life and opted to survive off of honey and locust.

Think John the Baptist.

The voice of the one crying out in the wilderness.
The man who lived in the desert eating only honey and locust while preaching about the
repentance of man…

So in my case, maybe we should make those grasshoppers because grasshoppers are more prevalent
in my neck of the woods.
But if the truth be told, I could easily do honey all day long, grasshoppers, however,
are things that I’m just not so certain about.

But this little reflection is not about eating bugs or living in
a hollowed-out tree—
but rather this post is about ridding oneself of all the trappings of a distracting world.

Giving to God all that I am and all that I have…which is simply me and me alone.

Because isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
What we’re supposed to be about?

So maybe this IS a post about living in a hollowed-out tree, or in a cave or in a hut
or in the desert…

It’s about giving all and crying out.

It’s much like having a St. Francis moment.

Stripping down naked in the town square, tossing off all the fine clothing given
by one’s well to do parent and opting instead to offer the only thing one truly has that
is his or her own…that being one’s unclad naked self.


(St. Francis’ renunciation of worldly things / Giotto /1295 /Bascillica of San Francesco Assisi, Italy)

Yet Life gets complicated.

Our culture and society have both grown caustically complicated.

We can get so caught up in the minutia of living.
We tend to worry about things that are totally trivial in the grand scope of what is
truly worthy of concern…

We fret over silly little things like matching appliances, buying name brand purses, shoes, and cars.
We want a house in that oh so special neighborhood while putting our kids in the best of the best schools…
We live on our phones, on Facebook, on twitter on Instagram…
We have become the masters of making nothingness into life-altering concerns and thoughts.

The proverbial mountain verses the molehill.

Throw in the daily constant fixation with our toxic political sludge…
and well, we are all living a life of perpetual distraction— and if the truth be told,
it is a life of heaviness and negativity.

What then do we have left to give God?
What remains?

Maybe having a St. Francis moment is in order for us all.
Throwing off the trappings of this world and giving to God what it is at the heart of the matter—
that being ourselves and ourselves alone…
ourselves with nothing covering us or allowing us to hide behind…no distractions.

Just us.

Just us making Him our focus..the focus of what truly only matters.
Because in the end…nothing else in this world does matter…
Everything and everyone will eventually die and or pass away.

So only Him and us…

Creator and created…

“We live in a fallen world.
We must, therefore, work out our destiny under the conditions created by sin.
Did we but realize this truth, we would accept each of life’s trying changes in the same spirit
in which we accept the penance from the confessor.
Were we truly convinced that our hope of pardon, and consequently our salvation,
depends upon repentance, we would willingly undergo all the sufferings of life’s warfare.”

John A. Kane, p. 81
An Excerpt From
How to Make a Good Confession

Exchanging the present for the future

“In everything, whether it is a thing sensed or a thing known,
God Himself is hidden within.”

St. Bonaventure


(self fungus grows on the end of a fallen cut tree/ Julie Cook / 2019)

“What made the holy apostles and martyrs endure fierce agony and bitter torments,
except faith, and especially faith in the resurrection?
What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside,
leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain?
It is living faith that expresses itself through love…
It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.”

Pope Benedict XIV, p. 205
An Excerpt From
Witness of the Saints

critical mass

I actually don’t think it matters how early or late you are as long as you
hit critical mass.

Drew Houston


(someone is hiding / Julie Cook / 2019)

According to Merriam Webster:
Critical mass, [is] in nuclear physics, the minimum amount of a given fissile material
necessary to achieve a self-sustaining fission chain reaction under stated conditions.

Critical mass is a term most familiar in the world of physics but it is also now a key
term found in the world of business, retail and even social media.

Having recently returned from spending a bit of emergency time with the Mayor,
I have come to the conclusion, along with her parents, that she has reached critical mass…

That being the state in which the chain reactions, under stated conditions, are self-sustaining.

In laymen’s terms, we call this phenomenon the ‘terrible twos.’
A tantrum of the utmost extreme as demonstrated by the only age that can do justice
to such…that being the toddler.

We have all decided that the Mayor is obviously highly gifted as she is demonstrating this
most profound attribute actually 4 months before officially turning 2.

Meaning, given just the right conditions…such as a heightened sense of anxiety,
extreme irritability, cutting teeth, being under the weather, overt frustration and the
lack of not getting one’s way…all creates the perfect storm of emotions.

A complete meltdown ensues.

Wailing, flailing, streaming tears, screaming, snot, drool, kicking, hitting, slapping…
and what we have my friends is not a pretty picture but rather the example of critical
mass as demonstrated by one of the most powerful forces on the planet…
that of an angry toddler.

So opting rather not to capture those red alert critical mass moments from this
recent visit of caregiving, I chose instead to focus on those calmer
and happier moments as they just seem so much more fun…and so less stressful
for this said caregiver / grandmother.

The Sherrif is channeling his inner “Pops” aka my dad by donning his driving cap…