testing point of the saint

Every martyr knows how to save his/her life and yet refuses to do so.
A public repudiation of the faith would save any of them.
But some things are more precious than life itself.
These martyrs prove that their 20th-century countryman,
C. S. Lewis, was correct in saying that courage is not simply one of the virtues
but the form of every virtue at the testing point, that is, at the point of highest reality.

(as seen on the CSSF site / Felician Sisters)


(Virgin entroned with angels and saints / Duccio di Buoninsegna 1285)

This past week has seen me so incensed over the absurdities that are taking place
all over this country…
Absurdities being shared as “news” stories, taken from across the land…
yet stories with one central missing theme…that being the key theme of common sense.

So incensed that I had a few volumes of the assinine posted in order to shed some
light on our glaring lack of common sense.

And I should note that the absurdities just keep coming as I now must confess that
I am actually finding myself feeling a bit sorry for the current Speaker of the House
as she toils to keep her Fab 4 newbies in line as they continue having
temper tantrum after tantrum.

They may be known best as formidable twitter warriors, but they fall woefully short in
the area of common sense.
Theatrics yes, common sense no.

Throw in a serious lack of humility and we have a wealth of trouble on our hands.

But I digress and must move on because their finger waging tantrums simply leave me
tired from all the eye-rolling and head-shaking I’ve caught myself doing as of late.

So today we won’t focus on the wealth of lack of common sense that is now engulfing our
land but rather we will look at something much more nobler than any one of
our legislators or governing officials seem to demonstrate,
acknowledge let alone possess.

So yesterday I was reading a post regarding the Saints of the Day from one of the
Felician Sisters blog sites.

The saints were actually two Englishmen…
John Jones and John Walls.

These two friars were martyred in England in the 16th and 17th centuries
for refusing to deny their faith.

John Jones was Welsh. He was ordained a diocesan priest and was twice imprisoned
for administering the sacraments before leaving England in 1590. He joined the Franciscans
at the age of 60 and returned to England three years later while Queen Elizabeth I
was at the height of her power. John ministered to Catholics in the English countryside
until his imprisonment in 1596. He was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
John was executed on July 12, 1598.

John Wall was born in England but was educated at the English College of
Douai, Belgium. Ordained in Rome in 1648, he entered the Franciscans in Douai several years later.
In 1656 he returned to work secretly in England.

In 1678, Titus Oates worked many English people into a frenzy over an alleged papal plot
to murder the king and restore Catholicism in that country. In that year Catholics were
legally excluded from Parliament, a law which was not repealed until 1829.
John Wall was arrested and imprisoned in 1678, and was executed the following year.

John Jones and John Wall were canonized in 1970.
(Felician Sisters)

And so let me be clear, saints are no different from you or me…
We are all sinners and we are all also very capable of eventually becoming a saint.
For saints are simply the ordinary doing the extraordinary.

The one important thing we need to remember, however, is that saints
are of a humble lot.

And humility is often in short supply in our land these days.

Saintly is a matter of doing what is right when no one is looking,
listening or paying attention because what is being done is for the betterment
of others…with no regard to self and no recognition or applause.

Saints have no twitter accounts or Facebook posts.

It’s doing those things that are not popular, trendy or politically correct but are being done
because they are the right thing to do regardless of what the world may have to say.

Even despite the threat of harm or even death.

It’s a conviction.
It’s a drive that reaches far beyond personal desire.

It’s falling face down in the mire.
It’s being the sinner who picks himself up and says no more.

Sights shift.
Hearts change.

It’s doing what God calls to be done…not what the self would want done.
It’s discernment along with death to self.

It’s hard.
It’s not easy.
It can be dangerous.
It might be life-threatening…
…but none of that seems to matter.

The thought of self is never even considered.
Self is never an issue.
There is no personal gain but rather personal loss.

The spotlight shines elsewhere.

There are no stats or likes.
No followers.
No trending.
No polls.
No cameras.

No, saints are not far from sinners at all.
In fact, a saint is a sinner who simply turned his eyes outward rather than inward.

Some things are more precious than life itself…

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the
twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp,
and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8

politicians destroying art…vol. II in the Chronicles of the Asinine

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Thomas Merton


(just one wall section of the murals at George Washington High School in San Francisco)

Today we continue our venture into the tales of the asinine with another example
of idiocy outweighing common sense.

It is now officially a sorrowful fact that we, as a culture, have a serious issue
with common sense…as in, we don’t possess any.

Case in point, a high school in San Francisco—oh wait, that alone probably says all you
need to know…but I digress.

This particular high school has some very historic murals that have sadly found their
way into the sites of the Political Correctness Police.

Wait.
“Are they a thing?” you ask.
“What?” I ask…”You mean the PC Police?”

Well, sadly yes…I’m afraid to report that it does seem that the
PC police are indeed very real, very powerful and very scary.

George Washington High School in San Fransico has a collection of murals that
are on display throughout the school and have been there since the 1930s when they
were painted and funded by FDR’s New Deal.

The murals depict the life cycle of George Washington.
They show images of slaves and even Native Americans—some living, some in battle
and some dead.

Images in part because this was part and parcel of this man’s life in the 1700s
during the inception of this nation….not all positives yet realities of the day.

The San Francisco School Board has voted to allow approx. $600,000 to go toward the
destruction of the murals.

All because our culture no longer likes the truth about how life used to be in the early
days during the founding of a nation.

And so we are now seeing that art, which depicts a life that was, is being deemed to be
politically incorrect–as it is viewed through the closed lenses of a 21st century
gone mad.

The culture we live in has deemed that the life of George Washington is obviously
politically incorrect…
Incorrect to those liberal progressive nuts of the 21st century who don’t like the reality
of a man’s life in the 1700s.

I was an art student at the University of Georgia in the late 70s into the start of the 80s.
Well, let’s make that an Art Ed major who took a copious amount of Art History courses,
as well as a great many studio classes, right alongside painting majors, printmaking majors,
sculpture majors, interior design majors…

And it’s never been much of a secret that art majors tend to be a more liberal lot.
Which is in part as to why my conservative younger self sometimes looked a bit out of place,
However, I managed to find a love for many of my professors and fellow classmates.

It was a different time when differences of opinions and lifestyles could still enjoy
one another’s company while still offering nuggets of growth and wisdom to one another.

I did not like modern art…Post-impressionism, Postmodernism, Op Art, Surrealism, Dadaism,
Pop Art, assemblages, installation art, etc…
but rather I loved Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionism periods.

Yet I learned early on that art tells a story.
And I do not believe in the notion of art for art’s sake…
Because there is responsibility to art as well as a responsibility from the artist.

I would often tell my students that art must be aesthetic…
that which is “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.”

As a class, we would spend hours discussing the blatant destruction of the ancient
artworks of Iraq and Syria by ISIS fighters. From the smashing of statuary to the actual
blowing up of temples and centuries-old carvings.
Destroying the stories of a previous people—whose breadcrumbs were left as gifts to
future generations—left to be everlasting in order to tell a story—-
telling their story of then to us today.

Much like the murals in George Washington High School in San Francisco.

According to an article on artnetnews.com at least 400 writers and academics are
protesting the planned destruction of the murals.

The 13-panel painting was created by Russian-born artist Victor Arnautoff in 1936
through the Works Progress Administration. The cycle depicts the life of Washington,
and includes images of America’s first president as a slaver.

But the decades-long debate—which pits activists who take offense at the startling
images against those who say the works were specifically meant to be critical,
not celebratory, and should be used as a teaching tool—is lingering on.

Last week, the academic online journal Nonsite published a fierce defense of
the murals in a letter that has since been signed by nearly 400 writers, historians,
and artists, including prominent academics such as Michael Fried, Aijaz Ahmad,
Adolph Reed, and David Harvey.

“It is an important work of art, produced for all Americans under the auspices of a
federal government seeking to ensure the survival of art during the Great Depression,”
the letter reads. “Its meaning and commitments are not in dispute.
It exposes and denounces in pictorial form the US history of racism and colonialism.
The only viewers who should feel unsafe before this mural are racists.”

The letter has since been submitted to the San Francisco Unified School District,
which had not responded to Artnet News’s requests for comment.

Rocco Landesman, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts,
wrote a letter to the New York Times decrying the planned destruction of the
painting cycle.
“This just in: A significant segment of the liberal community is turning anti-art,”
he wrote.

“When important artworks of our cultural heritage are not just hidden away but destroyed,
how do these desecrations differ from those of the Taliban, who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas
in Afghanistan, or the ISIS commanders who destroyed ancient monuments near Palmyra, Syria?”
Landesman asked.

These continuing tales of the asinine are more than simply stupid happenings
by self-righteous ignorant people.
They are a blatant reminder that we are not progressing as a culture…but rather
rapidly regressing.

And the sad thing is, as much as these rabid masses fuss and cuss that which they
claim to be politically incorrect, we as a global family are suffering
due to some odd sense of entitled hatred.

When will we say enough is enough?

Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.
Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.

Isaiah 1:5-7

think not of the world, but of Christ

“O man, when the world hates you and is faithless toward you, think of your God,
how he was struck and spat upon. You should not accuse your neighbor of guilt,
but pray to God that he be merciful to you both.”

St. Nicholas of Flue


(detail of The Mocking of Christ / Fran Angelico / Convent of San Marco, cell #7 / Julie Cook / 2018)

“This world is filled with many vulgar and dishonorable things that will claw and tear
at your Christian purity if you allow them to.
Don’t let them! Seek instead the things of God.
He will purify you and free you from your slavery to profane and inconsequential things.”

Patrick Madrid, p.1
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

humble thy self—if you really want to understand…

“This is the great work of man:
always to take the blame for his own sins before God and
to expect temptation to his last breath.”

St. Anthony of the Desert


(artwork by Marcel van Luit)

“My daughter, love has brought Me here, and love keeps Me here.

My daughter, if you knew what great merit and reward is earned by one act of pure love for Me,
you would die of joy.

I am saying this that you may constantly unite yourself with Me through love,
for this is the goal of the life of your soul.

This act is an act of the will.

Know that a pure soul is humble.

When you lower and empty yourself before My majesty,
I then pursue you with My graces and make use of My omnipotence to exalt you.”

St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, p.244
An Excerpt From
The Diary of St. Faustina

God shed His grace on thee…

For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction,
to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean
themselves as good citizens…
May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land,
continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants.”

(excerpt is taken from a letter written by George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation
in Newport, Rhode Island)


(Washington before Yorktown / Rembrandt Peale 1824)

Okay—long story short…
I began this post day’s ago…when I caught a news story about a letter from,
a soon to be President Washington, expressing his belief in God…
or who Washington so often referred to as “Providence” (’twas the times).

It coincided with the news story regarding Representative Ilhan Omar’s disparaging remarks
concerning Israel and Jews.
Shame on you Ms. Omar….but more to you later.

I have many other choice words to say to our new dear darlings of the House,
as well as some not so new senators and congress folks, those who are jumping on the intolerant bandwagon
of antisemitism, anger, and ignorance all while hiding under a Mr. Rogers-like engulfing sweater of all
things equitable, fair and tolerant…those who flock to the altar of Socialism while pretending to
be all things welcoming, inviting and dare I say, American.

They do not ask “would you like to be my neighbor?”… preferring rather to eradicate any and all who
continue to cling to and adhere to the tenants of a Judaeo/ Christian culture—that which our
Nation was actually built upon.

I will save those choice words for another day.

However, with all the current talk and a seemingly nefarious push to eliminate our
Judaeo / Christian foundation by an uber progressive radical culture, finding
a letter by a soon to be President Washington praising God for the ratification of our constitution
was uplifting.

Wednesday evening I sat down to finish the original post.
I wrote all evening until it was time for bed.
I saved everything and thought I was good to go.

The following day there was no finished post but rather only the original post…
sitting there as if I’d never touched it since I started it.

It wasn’t in my history on the computer or in WP.
Odd…to say the least.
So I’ll try to recall what I had to say…maybe it will be better.

Plus this is not to be an in depth thesis on the “faith of our fathers” but rather
a tantalizing morsel to whet your whistle.

There has been a growing debate for years concerning the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers…
A debate now rapidly growing and gaining in interest as many folks now wish to expunge all
references to God from our founding documents, our pledge, our historical architecture,
our books, and even our currency.

It appears that many non-believers and progressive provocateurs look to Thomas Jefferson when they wish
to begin an argument about God’s presence, or lack thereof, in this Nation of ours…
as Jefferson’s personal beliefs have always been a bit grey and convoluted given his keen interest in science
as well as theism and deism.

Jefferson was a devout theist, believing in a benevolent creator God to whom humans owed praise.
In an early political text, he wrote that “The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time;…”
He often referred to his or “our” God but did so in the language of an eighteenth-century natural
philosophy: “our creator,” the “Infinite Power, which rules the destinies of the universe,”
“overruling providence,” “benevolent governor,” etc.
In 1823, he wrote to John Adams referring to
“the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore” while denouncing atheism.

Jefferson said that Christianity would be the best religion in a republic,
especially one like the United States with a broad diversity of ethnicities and religions.
“[T]he Christian religion when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have
inveloped it, and brought to the original purity &; simplicity of its benevolent institutor,
is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, & the freest expression of the human mind,”
he explained. It was a “benign religion…
inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude and love of man,
acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence.”
Based on these understandings, Jefferson demonstrated a deep, even devout, admiration of Jesus,
“the purity & sublimity of his moral precepts, the eloquence of his inculcations,
the beauty of the apologues in which he conveys them…

It was in this context that Jefferson said that
“I am a Christian,” a quote which is often repeated or referred to without context.
What he said was “I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he [Jesus] wished anyone to be;…”

Monticello Organization

And speaking of John Adams…probably my favorite president as well as favorite Founding Father,
it seems we glean much of our knowledge of both Adams and Jefferson, along with their feelings and thoughts
regarding the Christian faith, from their correspondence between one another.

Much of what we know of Thomas Jefferson’s religion comes from letters he wrote from 1811 to 1826
to John Adams. Much more of what we know about John Adams’ views on religion comes from
his letters to Jefferson.
Religion was important to John Adams

“From early entries in his diary to letters written late in life,
Adams composed variations on a single theme:
God is so great, I am so small.
Adams never doubted who was in charge of the universe,
never viewed himself as master of his, or anyone’s destiny.”

There was a strong Puritan strain to Adams’ morality even when he strayed from Puritans’
religious precepts:
Adams wrote at 21 “that this World was not designed for a lasting and a happy State,
but rather for a State of moral Discipline, that we might have a fair Opportunity
and continual Excitement to labour after a cheerful Resignation to all the Events of Providence,
after Habits of Virtue, Self Government, and Piety.
And this Temper of mind is in our Power to acquire,
and this alone can secure us against all the Adversities of Fortune,
against all the Malice of men, against all the Operations of Nature.”

Like Jefferson, Adams was a child of the Enlightenment.
The future president brought to religion a lively interest in science that he developed at Harvard.
Steven Waldman wrote: “Like [John] Locke, Adams believed that since God created the laws of the universe,
the scientific study of nature would help us understand His mind and conform to His wishes.

Like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams believed in the utility of religion even when he had doubts
about religious beliefs themselves:
“Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite society, I mean hell.

Lehrmaninstitue.org

So as we turn our sights to Washington and his personal views…
We know that the General and future President remains a bit of an enigma when it comes
to our understanding anything truly personal within Washington’s true beliefs.

Washington remains a larger than life figure in our Nation’s history
and yet he was a very private man…
probably more so than his fellow fraternity of Founding Fathers.
The Lehrmaninstitue offers this: George Washington worked hard to keep separate his public and
private views on religion.

History tells us that Washington’s life-long love was his dear Mt Vernon, farming and family…
Following his departure from office, disappearing into obscurity at Mt Vernon was most welcomed.

In most later paintings of Washington, we see an often dour man…particularly emotionless.
Some historians credit chronic mouth pain due to, yes, wooden dentures, to Washington’s pained and
stoic portraits.
At the same time, we know that Washington had been raised an Anglican.
Anglicans by nature, both then and now, are characteristically reserved when it comes to their faith.
They are not as demonstrative nor vocal regarding their belief in God or that of their faith.
I know because I was raised under a similar umbrella.

The Mount Vernon Organization shares a private insight with us…
Looking at Washington’s theological beliefs,
it is clear that he believed in a Creator God of some manner,
and seemingly one that was also active in the universe.
This God had three main traits; he was wise, inscrutable, and irresistible.

Washington referred to this God by many names, but most often by the name of “Providence.”

Washington also referred to this being by other titles to infer that this God was
the Creator God.

This aspect of his belief system is central to the argument about whether or not
Washington was a Deist.
His belief in God’s action in the world seems to preclude traditional deism.
Washington believed that humans were not passive actors in this world.
However, for Washington, it was also improper to question Providence.
This caused Washington to accept whatever happened as being the will of Providence.

Notably, Washington did see God as guiding the creation of the United States.

It is also possible that Washington felt he needed to discern the will of Providence.
These facts point to belief in a God who is hidden from humanity,
yet continually influencing the events of the universe.

This does not illustrate conclusively that he was a devout Christian, however.
Washington never explicitly mentioned the name of Jesus Christ in
private correspondence.
The only mentions of Christ are in public papers, and those references are scarce.
However, Washington’s lack of usage may be due to the accepted practice of his day;
Jesus was not typically referenced by Anglicans or Episcopalians of Washington’s generation.

Mount Vernon Organization

And whereas each man had his own personal and private thoughts and feelings regarding a Divine
Omnipotent Creator…each man, however, was very much convinced that this Creator was pivotal
to laying the foundation of the new fledgling nation.
He was intertwined within her birth, invited to play a key role and intentionally injected into
each part of her birthing fibers.

History teaches us that each man agreed that God and the Christian faith were vital
to the birth of the young nation. A unifying base.
And each man demonstrated a unique humility with regard to that which was greater than themselves.

These Founding Fathers provided us with a foundation as well as a guidepost.
It is my hope that we will not depart from the very foundation that our earliest architects
found necessary to our survival as a viable and functioning nation.

May we continue to humble ourselves to the one true Creator who is far greater than ourselves
and may He continue to shed his Grace on us all.

https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/george-washington-and-religion/

https://www.foxnews.com/science/george-washington-letter-on-god-and-the-constitution-surfaces

looking forward rather than at now…

“Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in
carrying it.
God is helping us.
And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says,
we can do anything.”

St. Gianna Molla

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich

I think I’ve touched on this thought before.
I think it was most likely this same time last year.

It never fails that each year, during this particular season of the Chruch calendar,
this season of Advent, this time of notable anticipation,
I just can’t help but look forward.

Maybe I shouldn’t look ahead…
but I just can’t help it…I do.

I just can’t help but not to look.
I can’t help but know already how the story ends.

Of course I’m not alone in that…
most of us who are Believers already do know how the story ends don’t we?!

And yes I know, technically the story doesn’t really end…
but perhaps that’s a bit of a spoiler for those not exactly in the know…

However that’s not today’s worry.

The lamenters will cry “why can’t you just enjoy the moment?!

And maybe I should…maybe I should just turn a blind eye to what I know
while ignoring the facts.
Maybe I should just bask in the magic of this season;
enjoying this time of joyful expectations, of mystery, of hope and of celebrations.

But I can’t ignore the fact that there is a looming foreboding shadow that I
simply can’t shake.
Consider it the ying and yang if you will.

For both Advent and Christmas, this mix of a season that speaks to all that is to be,
happiness and joy, is what some might call the front end of the story…

Or maybe it’s actually what is known as the backstory to the end story…
the story that is behind the real story.

Figuring I wasn’t alone with this notion,
I poked around a bit and found the image above at the front of the post.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one who understood that there is more to this
time of all things of happiness, newness and of birth.

For we all know, whether we like it or not, birth leads to life which in turn leads
eventually to the grave.
But who wants to think about a grave and or death when we can be toasting to what
is happy and bright right?

Not a self-absorbed culture, that’s for sure.

And so whereas we do indeed rejoice, as so we should,
we do so with a knowingness.

I’ve used this image of this particular painting before.

It is a painting by one of my favorite artists, Michelangelo Merisi
(Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio–or just Caravaggio for short.
He’s known by his town of birth and not so much by his birth name.

The painting in question is known as Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri)

Caravaggio’s paintings and subject matter can be unsettling to some viewers.
His life was no less unsettling.
And he was certainly far from saintly as his life would make any modern-day gossip tabloid
green with envy as his life truthfully read of such fodder and yet his talent,
his skill, his gift, his vision, his juxtaposition of his subjects
along with his use of light and dark, shadow and dramatic lighting…
all seem to be an exclamation point to his chosen imagery and subject matter.


(Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) 1605-06 / Galleria Borghese)

I love this painting because it is so dramatic and powerful…

Allegorical yes, but it’s that end story in a very stalk and near visceral nutshell.

The end being the crushing of both Evil and Death.

Leaving us with birth, life, death, grave and yes, finally, victory…
All of which is rolled into this one single painting.

As both Mary and her small son, all under the watchful gaze of both Mary’s mother
and Jesus’ grandmother, St Anne…who watches on as now both mother and child put an
end mark to that which desires nothing more than to haunt their lives…

Mary’s yes to God, along with Jesus’ willingness and sacrifice, are all that was necessary
and needed in the resounding NO to Satan.

In the painting, they figuratively demonstrate victory, our victory, over both Evil and Death,
in a very decisive fashion.
Crushing the head of the snake.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

(Luke 2:34-35)

Mary who was told great things by the angel Gabriel and who was told great things by
the Magi, and who was told great things by Simeon…basked in the celebration of the
birth of her child, all the while looking forward.

She had been told and she knew and she held it all in her heart.
And I doubt that a day did not pass while she lived the life of a loving mother to this
atypical son of hers, that she didn’t feel the same foreboding that I sense now.

My sense of foreboding, however, pales in comparison to the one whose heart
had been pierced the day she said: “yes, I will do your bidding, Lord.”

Mary knew both joy and sorrow, both life and death…but the most important thing
that Mary knew was that there is victory over death…victory that just so happened to be
found in the birth of her son…

And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Blessed Among Women

Luke 1:38 MSG

And Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me
a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 12:44-50

We can’t help but look forward….

the secular stealing the Sacred

As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my
beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a
secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and
promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and
increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation.
Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called
“liberal” and “progressive” elites, God has been progressively erased from
our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of
delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn


(vintage Christmas Card)

About a week back or so, I wrote a post about the fact that we actually have two
Christmases…with the truth being that we do…we do have two.

And in turn, we have what seems to be a melding.

One is the secular Christmas of Santa, presents, stockings, commercialism and merchandising.

The other, of which is the original of the two, is the Christmas of a birth.

A birth that isn’t just any kind of birth…but rather it’s the birth of
a Savior…the birth of the Sacred.

So now that we have all of that clear—I should let you know that I have always tried hard
to keep the two separated yet at the same time, trying to keep them as one.

I think that chore is more of a burden that is not merely my burden alone…
but rather a burden that most Christians have struggled with…that being
the balance of the Sacred and secular.

And it seems as if, every year about this time, I jump on a tiny soapbox pontificating this
same ol conundrum…
And every year I tell myself, enough is enough.
I won’t get sucked in…not again.

There’s a lot of work to do for our secular side.
And it’s really a great deal of busy, and even expensive, sort of work.
And oh how we stress over it all.

We fret over the tiniest of details.
We strive for perfection while always falling short as we are then made to feel as if
we did not live up to the expectation our culture has put upon us.

But let’s be honest, we really put it on ourselves do we not?
If put another way, we actually “allow” it to make us feel as if we have not lived
up to the perfection….
However, me thinks there is something more going on here, more than meets the eye…

It’s actually something which many would consider near criminal…
A crime that is actually taking place in plain sight—
yet none of us appears to be any the wiser.

It is the stealing of the Sacred by the secular.

Yep, you read correctly.

The secular is, or certainly is trying, to steal the Sacred.

Yet here’s the thing…we are allowing it to happen.
We are complicit.
We are falling hook, line, and sinker— while all throughout this theft, we’re being dupped.

It is in our defense, that I state for the record, that we are being hoodwinked.
We are being lulled into this crime of complicity by the shiny lights and sounds
of the slick merchandising of the season that now ramps up sometime after July 4th.

So this year, my one small “rebellion” against complicity…

I opted not to send out Christmas cards.

At first, it was going to be the lights.
Then it was the tree, the gifts, the cooking, the decorating….see what I’m saying??
we’re living on an out of control fast rolling snowball turned avalanche.

Every year, early in the Fall, I’d seek out my Christmas Cards.
I did not take the task lightly.

When our son was little, ours was the basic card of a small family wishing
A Merry Christmas to all.
It was always a photo type card of our little boy with a Christmas Greeting from
all three of us.

Yet as time passed and he grew to be a young man versus that of a little boy, I shifted our
card focus from the greeting of a family through the image of their child to now
a card of only the Sacred.

A religious card that proclaimed the birth of a Savior.

It was not to be one of those types of cards with pictures of the whole family at the beach,
or on some exotic trip or some sort of montage of family feats and accomplishments…
nor was it to be one of those letter types of card that is a laundry a list of who, what
and where of the great and grand.

I understand that the simple sacrificial Christmas card morphed into becoming a surrogate
form of communication…
It became the equivalent of filling in the gaps of a year without having touched base
with the list of names on a list.

The Christmas card turned into the catch-up of life, liberally spiked with a heavy dose
of grandstanding.

It became the litany of a brag sheet of trips, events, accomplishments, and milestones…
Nothing about Christmas…that being Christ’s mass.

Nothing about Christ even being hidden in the details of that spectacular vacation to Machu Pichu
or your eldest now graduating top of her class.

Where is Jesus in the tales of where you went, who you saw, or what you accomplished?
Are there any thoughts or reflections regarding your service to Him or his sheep?

I don’t mind the images of the little children or even those of grandchildren as children
seem to be the connecting glue between the Sacred and the secular…
it is the children…or so that is what it should be.
The Sacred is that of a child and the secular is that of collective children.
Or so it was to be…
Innocence and the mystical mixed with the gift of Sacred birth.

So I figured…I’d send out my card here instead.
Just one big card for friends, family, and even strangers…

And since I would have sent them out by now, I figured I should do so here today.

So I offer you this lovely Italian baroque time period painting of the Nativity–also known
as the Adoration with Saints Francis and Lawrence…
a beautiful image for reflection and proclamation.

Yet it is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio—commissioned in 1609 as an altarpiece
for an oratory in Palermo, Sicily, the Oratorio di San Lorenzo…
A painting with a mysterious past, painted by a rogue of a painter…

It would be centuries following its completion that the painting would be
quietly taken by two men working for the Mafia and in turn
it would be “lost” for nearly 40 years.

A painting of the Sacred, painted by one who was anything but…
A painting that was stolen by those who were perhaps even worse than the artist…

Thus we have an example of the secular literally stealing an image of the Sacred….hummmm

(here’s a little link to the backstory behind the painting and artitst…I’ve written
about Caravaggio before…a very secular rogue of an artist who could paint oh so powerfully
the of the Sacred in a way unmatched by many other artists…one of my favs…
http://art-crime.blogspot.com/2009/12/breaking-news-on-stolen-caravaggio.html )

May we all be blessed as we recall the Sacred birth of Salvation…


The Adoration / Nativity with St. Francis and St Lawrence / Caravaggio 1609)