losing, looking, knowing, seeing…

“There are two ways of knowing how good God is:
one is never to lose Him,
and the other is to lose Him and then to find Him.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

This past week has been one full of ups and downs, highs and lows,
and a week of all things in between.
Much of which has been beyond our immediate control.

So I think it was Tuesday morning when I actually was afforded my “quiet time”—
a time when I could truly be alone and in fellowship with God.
A time that was once as regular as clock work…
then people retired and mornings were no
longer my own…
Juggling time took on a whole different sort of meaning.

Tuesday morning I opened my morning devotion, a book of The Divine Hours—
I pray the liturgy of hours—an ancient form of
prayer based on a fixed time of prayer during the course of a day—
mine is an abbreviated devotion of morning, midday, and vespers.
A typical monastic cycle is based on a schedule of 7 times dispersed over a 24 hour period.

According to prayerfoundation.org:
The Seven Historical (Canonical) Hours of Prayer is based upon Psalm 119:164
“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.”

6:00 am – First Hour (Matins / Lauds / Orthros)
9:00 am – Third Hour (Trece)
Noon Prayer – Sixth Hour (Sext)
3:00 pm – Ninth Hour (None)
6:00 pm (Vespers / Evensong
9:00 pm (Compline)
Midnight Prayer.

These times basically overlap in the three large liturgical denominations…
Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions.

When I was attending the church of my childhood, Evensong was my most favorite service–
It was small, quiet, and intimate.
And that’s probably because I grew up in a massive Cathedral
and Evensong was always in a small gothic chapel rather than the cavernous sanctuary
and was always sparsely attended…but I digress.

Nowadays, I’m just lucky to be able to get in the morning devotional–

So Tuesday morning, when I began my reading and recitations, I began reading the affixed
reading for the day—a reading from the Book of Revelation:

Because you have kept My word of perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of the testing,
that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth.
I am coming quickly; hold firmly to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God,
and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God,
and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God,
and My new name.
The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Revelation 3:10-13

This is not a revolving sort of reading but a fixed reading.
Meaning it was not chosen precisely for this year of 2020.
It was not chosen for this surreal time but was rather more of a permanent piece of scripture–
it is the same verse read over the years, over the seasons on this particular day–
this Tuesday, the 3rd week of Advent.

And yet here it was staring at me on this particular Tuesday morning,
plain as day— speaking so pointedly to our trying days and time,
speaking plainly to our current prickly world which has been trying our souls day and night
since early March.

We have got to remember that God still sees and He still knows—
He knows we are heavily burdened.
We knows we are down trodden.
He knows.
He sees.
And in that seeing and knowing, He will write his Name upon us.
We will be His and He will be ours.

Hold fast.
The time draws nigh…

Advent.
We wait.
We watch.

dying unto self

“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


(Vasari’s Annunciation / The Louvre / Julie Cook / 2011)

“The life of our flesh is the delight of sensuality;
its death is to take from it all sensible delight.
The life of our judgment and our will is to dispose of ourselves and what is ours,
according to our own views and wishes; their death, then,
is to submit ourselves in all things to the judgment and will of others.
The life of the desire for esteem and respect is to be well thought of by everyone;
its death, therefore, is to hide ourselves so as not to be known,
by means of continual acts of humility and self-abasement.
Until one succeeds in dying in this manner, he will never be a servant of God,
nor will God ever perfectly live in him.”

—St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, p. 126
An Excerpt From
Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery With the Saints

When I read these two quotes, my thoughts went immediately to that of The Annunciation.
That momentous moment in time when Mary willingly died unto self—
all in order to say a simple “yes” to God.

And so I went hunting for an Annunciation image that I had used in some previous post.
I opted for a more obscure image…not the typical Leonardo image.

I wandered back to 2015 and found this image by Vasari.
Curious as to what post I had written prompting me to use the image, I re-read
that 5-year-old post.

Imagine my surprise when reading the post and discovering that I was writing
about an issue that we, as a society, are still allowing to percolate and circulate throughout
our culture–that of white privilege and that of “white” images causing stress to
both whites and non-whites alike.

Irrationality…but more like silliness really.

Here is the story in a nutshell:

“Well it seems that upon a recent visit to the Met,
as this individual was viewing some paintings of the museum’s collection of several
Renaissance and Baroque masters depicting Jesus Christ,
this said individual suffered “personal stress” as the images contained,
typical of the time, images of a “white” Jesus.
This individual is now claiming that these images of a white Jesus are racist and should be removed”

I’ve included that post…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/whats-wrong-with-this-picture/

Thankful (a repeat)

As seen on a rural church sign:
It’s not happy people who are thankful…
It’s thankful people who are happy


(painting by Henry A. Bacon 1877 of Mary Chilton stepping onto “Plymouth Rock” /
Mary Chilton is my long ago relative)

(as I stated earlier in the week, ’tis a busy and or crazy time for so many…
So I thought this post from last year’s Thanksgiving was worth enjoying again…
of course it is, it was life before 2020…)

Back in the early 1950s my grandmother, my dad’s mother, did extensive genealogy work.
She had her reasons and I confess that I am so grateful she did

It is because of her exhausting work that both my family, my cousins and I,
have a valuable gift of our lineage.

Lineage, that being the line from whence we come.
Even the Bible offers us the extensive lineage of Jesus—
We are also all a part of that same extensive lineage, yet that story is for another day.
Today’s tale is about a single family’s lineage and the gratitude for that lineage.

Now if you’ve read my posts regarding my adoption,
you know I actually have two family trees.

I have a biological tree that I know very little about.
And I also have an adopted tree, a tree and a people that have each embraced me
as their own.
It is a most extensive tree.

What my grandmother started almost 70 ago was no easy task.

She had to do a lot of leg work on her own as well as seek the help of many others.
She had to write a myriad of letters and make many personal phone calls to various state
record departments as well as to state historians in order to enlist their help in
researching her family’s past.

This was long before there were computers, databases, DNA Genealogy companies—
as archaic landlines were the standard norm.
Most calls were considered long distance…meaning you paid extra for long-distance calls.
But my grandmother was determined.

What she didn’t realize then, in her seemingly very personal quest, was
that she was giving her lineage, her grandchildren
one of the greatest gifts she could give.

That of a collective uniting history.

In those days there were no immediate connections, so her quest took time.

She had to request birth, death and marriage certificates.
She had to scour family bibles and records.
She had to have documents notarized and verified.
She traveled to courthouses.
She had to get the assistance of others in other states to visit distant courthouses
and churches and cemeteries in order to do a large portion of the digging.

For you see, my grandmother knew she had come from a line of people who
were important to the founding of this now great nation and she needed the proper
validation to be able to be granted the acknowledgment by such organizations as
The Daughters of The American Revolution, The Daughters of the Mayflower, The Pilgrims Society,
The Colonist Society, The Huguenot Society, etc.

This woman, who was born in 1896 in a small country town in the middle of the state
of Georgia, had actually come to be there by way England.

But from England, it was first to Plymouth…and from Plymouth, Massachusettes it was
to various towns in the colony of Massachusetts then to the city of Bristol in the colony
of Rhode Island, next, it was to the city of Savannah in the colony of Georgia
and finally to the tiny town of Molena in the state of Georgia…
but the final resting place was to be Atlanta, Georgia.

Her 10th great grandmother was Pricilla Mullins of London, England.
Pricilla Mullins was married to John Alden of Essex, England.
John was a cooper aka, a barrell maker.
John had a dream and Pricilla shared her husband’s dream.

They were on that fateful ship that we tend to remember each Thanksgiving,
just as we remember that first colony of Plymouth and of that first
celebration of not only survival but the beginning of thriving in a new land.

The Alden’s first daughter born on this new mysterious land was named Elizabeth–
the purported first white European girl born to the Plymouth Colony.

So yes, Thanksgiving is important to me on a family’s historical level…
but it is more important to me as a grateful American.

For it matters not how we came…be it those who were first here on the continent,
or if we came via Plymouth, a slave ship, Ellis Island or came with a visa in our
hand seeking citizenship…we have come…
We also have come in various shades of color.
Red, White, Brown, Black, Yellow…

We fought and died creating a new nation just as we’ve fought and died keeping her free.

It troubles me terribly that our society has developed a tendency to gloss over Thanksgiving…
basically jumping from Halloween to Christmas in one fell swoop…
But we can blame that on our obsession with materialism…
which is in actuality a loss of thankfulness.

Yet what is most troubling is that we now have many voices crying out that we rename this
day of thanks.
Some smugly stated that this is only a day of overindulgence and eating.
They claim Thanksgiving is not a day this Nation should recall let alone recognize.

One of our fellow bloggers, Citizen Tom, offered the following post regarding
our Nation’s Thanksgiving observation and celebration.

I highly recommend taking the time to read his post as it is a beautiful reminder
as to why Thanksgiving matters.

AN AMERICAN FIRST THANKSGIVING

This from President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789:

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next
to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being,
who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is,
or that will be–
That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–
for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming
a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions
of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–
for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty,
which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner,
in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government
for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–
for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed;
and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;
and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath
been pleased to confer upon us

greater things than this…

“Nor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still,
when you delight in your vices and sins.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(one of my paintings from back in the day / 2010)

“Now, as he was riding one day over the plain of Assisi he met a leper,
whose sudden appearance filled him with fear and horror;
but forthwith calling to mind the resolution which he had made to follow after perfection,
and remembering that if he would be a soldier of Christ he must first overcome himself,
he dismounted from his horse and went to meet the leper,
that he might embrace him:
and when the poor man stretched out his hand to receive an alms,
he kissed it and filled it with money.
Having again mounted his horse, he looked around him over the wide and open plain,
but nowhere could he see the leper; upon which, being filled with wonder and joy,
he began devoutly to give thanks to God,
purposing within himself to proceed to still greater things than this.”

St. Bonaventure, p. 4
An Excerpt From
The Life of St. Francis

interesting musings—both good and bad…

“If you take temptations into account,
who is to say that he is better than his neighbour?
A comfortable career of prosperity,
if it does not make people honest, at least keeps them so.”

William Makepeace Thackeray


(Eco Canada header)

Okay—I’m back home from having watched over a sickly Mayor for the past couple of days.
The Sheriff shared his viral infection with his sister and these sort of sharings preclude
anyone from attending daycare while mom and dad attempt to work…thus—
in walks “mom”

“mom” is now tired and has some of that “cold” floating around in her head shared
by both the Mayor and Sherrif…
Yet before much more time passed us by,
I wanted to share a few observations that I’ve taken in
over the past couple of days…

Firstly, I saw this today on a Catholic site which got me thinking…

There’s good news and bad news.

In 1964, a Benedictine monk named Hubert
van Zeller wrote that “the prevailing weakness
among Christians of today” is the fact that we
see the apparent hopelessness of the situation
in our world…think we can’t do anything to
change it…and lose our effectiveness as
witnesses of Christ and His Church.

So that’s the bad news.

But here’s the good news.

We can do something to change the
current situation, and it starts at home.

“starts at home”…haven’t we heard that before?!

The other thing that caught my eye was on Sunday.

I was on my way to Atlanta, leaving town when I passed by a little country
church headed my way to the interstate…
the church had a sign that read “Beware Marananta”

Now I know that I was not raised in the Baptist fold and from all I know, Maranatha simply
referred to a choir, thus this little foreboding warning piqued my interst.

And so I tucked away this little obscure warning into the back of my mind, with the intent of
investigating such once I had a bit of quiet time to delve further.

And so this is what I discovered.

Maranatha
(1 Corinthians 16:22 ) consists of two Aramean words, Maran’athah, meaning,
“our Lord comes,” or is “coming.”
If the latter interpretation is adopted, the meaning of the phrase is,
“Our Lord is coming, and he will judge those who have set him at naught.”
(Compare Phil 4:5; James 5:8 James 5:9 .)

And according to Wikipedia:
Maranatha (Aramaic: מרנאתא‎; Koinē Greek: Μαρανα θα, romanized: marana-tha, lit.
‘come, our lord!’; Latin: Maran-Atha) is an Aramaic phrase.
It occurs once in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:22).
It also appears in Didache 10:14, which is part of the Apostolic Fathers’ collection.
It is transliterated into Greek letters rather than translated and,
given the nature of early manuscripts, the lexical difficulty rests in determining
just which two Aramaic words constitute the single Greek expression,
found at the end of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (16:22).

So I take that this might mean that we should be careful about what ask for…
and that asking, as I keep reading from various folks, being, Come, Lord Jesus.
Because the aksing of the coming of the Lord…in turn comes with judgment.
And the question which remains, are we ready for that judgment for which we are
therefore calling upon?

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else,
for at whatever point you judge another,
you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Romans 2:1 NIV

the power of color

The problem with racism as the new thought-crime is that it’s not really about race,
or skin colour, it’s about power using colour.
When I look at someone, I see character not colour.

Dr. Gavin Ashenden


A page from Moses Harris’s The Natural System of Colors. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

As a high school art teacher, I always taught a color theory unit to my Art I classes
before letting everyone jump right into using color…be it colored pencils, pastels, paints, etc.
Color was much more complicated than just grabbing some paint and a brush…
and my anxious charges needed to understand such.

We would explore the whole physiology of how our eyes and brain see color and perceive color.
We talked about prisms, refraction and the bending of light.

We would talk about what it meant to be color blind…as several of my students were color
blind and how’d we’d work with that.
We even had blind students come to talk to those of us who could see about
how they actually perceived color.

We studied Joseph Albers, the father of color theory.

We talked about warm /hot colors, cool/cold colors, monochromatic colors,
polychromatic colors.
Even beginning with the simple word, chroma.

We studied the effects that color played in our psychological wellbeing and
how colors could actually affect our emotions.

And so yes, color is much more nuanced than simply consisting of primary and secondary colors.

I would place three cups of clear water on a desk.
Next, I would use food coloring and drop in enough drops to have a solid red cup
of water, a solid blue cup of water, and a solid yellow cup of water—our primary colors.
I would then put three empty cups on the table.
I would pour equal proportions of yellow and red into a cup to make orange,
blue and red to make purple, then blue, and yellow to make green–our secondary colors

I’d next pull out a new empty cup and pour a bit of each of the second set of colored water cups
into the last empty cup—coming up with a muddy brown yucky color what is known
as tertiary.
Something that happens when a bunch of colors are blended into one.

I’d explain that sometimes when we’d paint and mess up a color we were going for,
we would unintentionally make things worse when we kept trying to add more and more
different colors thinking we could ‘fix it’…less is more I would implore…

And so when I was reading Dr. Gavin Ashenden’s latest post, Resisting Group Think,
this whole business of color theory came racing back to my thoughts.

Our dear friend from across the pond is just about as baffled as I am
with the new intense obsession, our culture is now having with color.
But rather than paint, our culture is obsessed with skin…
and the color of that skin.
And that obsession with skin color has a dubious name…Racism.

Dr. Ashenden notes that…“racism morphed.
It moved from doing something to thinking something, and then much much worse,
it became someone thinking you thought something.
This summer everyone is guilty, if the new anti-racist posters are true:
“silence is violence.”

But I have three reasons for not believing in racism as people now accuse one another.
It’s not easy to tell what race someone is; there is a sliding scale of skin colour;
and there is a better, healthier way of describing why some people don’t like some other people.

The races are mixed for most of us. Last year I was bought a DNA kit for a birthday present.
It turns out I am roughly 30% Anglo-Saxon’ 30% Celt; and 20% Jewish
(with a bit of Russian thrown in -!) God forbid one racial bit of me should ever fall out
with one of the other bits. Does the Celt in me deserve reparations from my Anglo-Saxon
invader bit?
Don’t even start with the Jewish persecution stuff, the massacre in York in 1190,
the mass expulsion in 1290 by Edward 1st. Luther? Hitler?

And I’m white. But I have never thought of myself as white. This skin tone stuff is
equally confusing and on a sliding scale of pigment.
Megan Markle looks white to me. My more remote Aryan ancestors came from India.
When I look at someone, I see character not colour.

The problem with racism as the new thought-crime is that it’s not really about race,
or skin colour, it’s about power using colour.
It’s the imposing of the American cultural crisis on the rest of the world,
which has different cultural issues. It seems to be about transferring power
from ‘white’ (whatever that is) to black (whatever that is).

The worst thing about the new racism is that it uses a prism through which everything
and everyone are assessed through the lens of power.
This new language of power-relations replaces one moral world with another.
It changes our worth from what we do, and replaces it with what group we belong to.

We face a crossroads in morals and culture, and the new racism is
the tool used to shift the direction.

We are losing a simple and direct morality which invited you to love your neighbour
as yourself, and held you accountable if you failed or refused; we are replacing it
with thought-crime, collective guilt, censorship and the re-writing of history.

Resisting ‘group-think.’

And so we see that today’s culture indeed uses a prism in which to see…
but rather than bending light waves to see color…this prism bends peoples perceptions
to that of power and control.

I’m beginning to wonder if being color blind might not be the way we need to proceed…
yet we know that we have tied so much baggage to our ideas of societal color that we will
never be able to offload such a burden that we have created.

Unfortunately, I will never look at a color wheel the same, ever again.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number,
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,
with palm branches in their hands,

Revelation 7:9

21st century iconoclasm… it’s all about color

To [Shuan] King, the only proper response to any fossil of racism or
oppression is to destroy it.
As any depictions of Christ or the Virgin Mary with light skin represent
“white supremacy,” according to King they’ve all got to go.

Nathan Stone


(Michaelangelo’s statue of Moses / Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli/ Julie Cook / 2018)

Back in 2014, I wrote a post about Pope Paschel I and Iconoclasm…
you may find the link to that post here:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/pope-paschal-i-iconoclasm-and-hospitality/

I went back to read that post today, in part because of a dangerous trend
I see happening these 6 years later…
This trend has been taking place over the past two months or so and it’s been happening
on both a national level as well as a global level.

The trend is that of vandalism—vandalism directed toward Chrisitan Houses of Worship.
As in… that of churches, stained glass windows, and even statuary.
There has been a call to vandalism by Shaun King, the leader of Black Lives Matter.
A call to eradicate any and all depictions of a light-skinned Christ

In yesterday’s post, a post based on an article by Nathan Stone, Stone wrote
extensively about why King would call his “followers” to arms…a call to
bring destruction to Churches, stain glass windows and images of Christ, Mary
and the saints.

Recently, Shaun King, a champion of the Black Lives Matter movement,
called for the destruction of Christian iconography, statues, and stained glass,
if they represent Christ, His mother, or any of the apostles as white.
This, according to King, makes the iconography nothing more than a
“gross form of white supremacy” and “racist propaganda” created
to be “tools of oppression.”

To King, the only proper response to any fossil of racism or oppression is
to destroy it.
As any depictions of Christ or the Virgin Mary with light skin represent
“white supremacy,” according to King they’ve all got to go.

Nathan continues…
True Christianity Was Never About Race

The idea that Christianity is or has been infected with white supremacy
is not new.
Susan Abrahams, the dean of faculty at Pacific School of Religion,
blamed “White Christians” for Charlottesville.
Jeannine Hill Fletcher wrote a book in 2018 that purportedly showed racism was a
natural outgrowth of Christianity, springing from “Christian superiority.”

This premise is wrong, first because of the existence of black saints.
There is a rich tradition of African Christianity.
Many of the earliest fathers of the church hailed from Africa,
including Cyprian and St. Augustine of Hippo.

Furthermore, multiple men and women are recognized by the Catholic Church
as saints who were black, including St. Moses the Black, St. Benedict the Moor,
and St. Martin de Porres.
It is a strange racist and oppressive system that recognizes the sanctity
of people from across the world, regardless of their color,
and bequeaths upon them the title of “saint,” a moniker that designates
all who possess it as attaining ultimate equality before the throne of God.

All this is a reminder that skin color doesn’t make an ounce of difference
in Christianity. As St. Paul wrote in Galatians,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free,
there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Pigmentation did not matter in Christianity; what mattered was faith in Christ.
This is also why, contrary to the implication in King’s ridiculous tweets,
Christianity often adapted itself to the environment of indigenous peoples.

To buttress this, we even have proof that Africans were accepted in medieval Europe.
There is evidence that Christians from Ethiopia pilgrimaged to Spain and were
present in medieval Rome to the extent that the church of
Santo Stefano degli Abissini was built, and rebuilt,
specifically for Ethiopian Christians.

The Radicals Want to ‘Cancel’ Christianity.

Stained glass and statues do not show Christianity to be racist.
A quick Google search would have shown this to King.
So why King would make a statement that could be so easily refuted?
The answer is that this outrage over white portrayals of Christ and the apostles
is a blind meant to detract us from the real goal: canceling Christianity.

Just a year ago, believing the radical left had such a goal would
have sounded conspiratorial. Within the last four weeks, however,
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was vandalized.
Across from the White House, St. John’s Church was attacked twice.
Neither church nor the statue was involved in any way or form with
the deaths of George Floyd or Rayshard Brooks.

More recently, in the Polish city of Breda, a memorial to World War II Polish
soldiers was vandalized with BLM graffiti. Never mind that the memorial
features a replica of the Virgin Mary as a black woman,
the soldiers the memorial heralds were fighting fascists,
and Poland has no history of colonization anywhere.

Recently “The Catholic Church in the United States experienced a series of
attacks this weekend all over the country.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles saw a fire in an eighteenth-century mission church,
San Gabriel, founded in 1771 by St. Junipero Serra. Firefighters
responded to the call at 4:24 a.m. on Saturday, July 11.

Archbishop José Gomez tweeted about the fire,
asking for the intercession of St. Junipero.

St. Junipero has become a point of attack during recent protests
in the United States.
The Spanish Franciscan priest converted thousands of native Californians
to Christianity. Pope Francis canonized him while in the United States in 2015,
recalling how the saint “defended the dignity of the native community.”

Meanwhile, in Ocala, FL, the Marion County Sheriff’s office reported
someone set fire to Queen of Peace church just before Sunday morning Mass on July 12.

The police allegedly found a car crashed into the front of the church.
The suspect then poured gasoline in the narthex and lit it on fire,
before escaping in the same vehicle. No parishioners were wounded.
The suspect was arrested and is in Marion County jail on no bond.

The Boston Police Department is currently investigating an arson of a
statue of the Blessed Mother at St. Peter’s Parish Church in Dorchester
on Saturday, July 11.
They report an unknown suspect lit the plastic flowers in
the Madonna’s hands on fire, resulting in burning on the statue’s
face and upper body.

Another statue of Mary was vandalized on Friday, June 10 at 3:09 a.m.
at Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in New York. The statue, which had
been at the entrance of the all-boys school for more than 100 years,
had the word “IDOL” written on its front. It was cleaned Friday morning by staff.
The Diocese of Brooklyn announced that the New York Police Department
is currently investigating the case.

These acts of vandalism come as Catholics are returning to churches
in many states, after the lockdown and closure of parishes due to coronavirus.
The actions also coincide with protests and the removal of various historical
statues across the United States, spurred by the death of George Floyd.

https://www.romereports.com/en/2020/07/13/churches-burned-and-statues-of-mary-vandalized-in-catholic-churches-across-us/

And then there was the fire at the Cathedral of Saint Pierre-et Saint Paul in Nantes, France

A fire at the cathedral in the French city of Nantes is believed to
have been started deliberately, prosecutors say.
Three fires were started at the site and an investigation into suspected arson
is underway, Prosecutor Pierre Sennes said.
The blaze destroyed stained glass windows and the grand organ at
the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral, which dates from the 15th Century.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53455142

And so finally, it seems that someone in Washington is taking notice…
Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks is demanding federal authorities
at the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate mob attacks on Christian statues
and churches in their continued purge of human history in the name of “social justice.”

“Over the last two months as Americans have seen statues of American heroes
toppled and memorials dedicated to our national memory desecrated,
those responsible for these acts have also in their sights Catholics,
statues of saints and churches,” an email from Banks’ office read Wednesday.

Let us pray for The Chruch, the global Christian family…

One man’s torment is another man’s gift

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength,
and whosoever loves much performs much,
and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

Vincent Van Gogh


(a box of absente or absinthe / Julie Cook / 2020)

Let’s talk about art and food and drinks…
let’s talk about torment and gifts…

And so I must share a small revelation.

One that I have discovered during this time of lockdown****.

(**** a lockdown being a state of never-ending sheltering in place—
A state of being, of which, we have all been living now for nearly two solid months…
a state that started back on St. Patrick’s Day…but I digress)

I have learned that throughout this virus imposed social exile…
well, probably there are multiple things that I have learned but for today,
we shall leave it at one thing…
I have learned that we each possess a seemingly innate desire for some sort of
creative outlet!

The desire to find creativity within the mundane has oddly become a most
dire consequence of being ‘confined”.

The choice is either we go bonkers from madness—
or instead, we release the pent up weariness and channel it into something grand.

Yet perhaps that is simply my delirium talking.

Cooking, cleaning and caring for family who are now all living together
under one roof, while some are working from home, leaves one drained
both physically and mentally.
Throw in a 1 and a 2-year-old who are in constant motion, plus who are in constant need,
from sunrise to sunset…thus, the desire for some sort of diversion, any diversion,
becomes critical…critical for all who reside under the same said roof.

For if one blows, they all blow!

Enter the colorful picture of the box shown above.

The portrait should be familiar.
It is a picture of Vincent van Gogh but not exactly a portrait we are familiar seeing.
It is on the packaging for a bottle of absinthe.
A bottle I recently purchased.

Now before you say anything, let me explain.

During this lockdown, I have been cooking three big meals a day.

Those who know me, know that I have always loved to cook.
It was oddly this art teacher’s outlet into the creative.
I was always happier cooking than I was painting.
Go figure.

It was a joy, as well as a foray, into the world of taste, texture, and visual imagination.

But now let’s throw in a pandemic…
of which means cooking has suddenly become both a necessity and a chore.

Gone are the days of excitement and the desire of what might be—gone is the frill and flair…
as that is now replaced by the need for speed, fulfillment, and satiation.

Only to wash the dishes and get ready to do it again.

Enter the l’heure de l’apéritif or the aperitif hour…
aka— the happy hour.

There is an American ex-pat who lives in Paris—he is a cook, author,
as well as food/travel blogger.
His name is David Lebovitz and just before the pandemic hit, he had just released
his latest recipe book for classic Belle Époque French cocktails.

Drinks that harken back to a time of sophistication and elegance

So guess what…
L’heure de l’apéritif has become my new creative outlet.
The moment of the day, other than the bed, that I look most forward to.

For each afternoon, I am offering the adults in this lockdown of mine,
a sample of days gone by…as I concoct libations found in David’s book.

Libations that have me pulling out and dusting off my grandmother’s finest crystal glasses.
Coupes, flutes, sherries, and highballs.

Libations that have sent me to the curbside liquor store in search of liquors and liqueurs
some of which, I can hardly pronounce.

Enter Absinthe.

According to Wikipedia:
Absinthe (/ˈæbsɪnθ, -sæ̃θ/, French: [apsɛ̃t] is historically described as a distilled,
highly alcoholic beverage (45–74% ABV / 90–148 U.S. proof).
It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers
and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise,
sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color but may also be colorless.
It is commonly referred to in historical literature as la fée verte (“the green fairy”).
It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur,
but it is not traditionally bottled with added sugar and is,
therefore, classified as a spirit.[6] Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a
high level of alcohol by volume, but it is normally diluted with water before being consumed.

Absinthe originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the late 18th century.
It rose to great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th-
and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers.
The consumption of absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists,
partly due to its association with bohemian culture.
From Europe and the Americas, notable absinthe drinkers included Ernest Hemingway,
James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust,
Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, and Alfred Jarry.

Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug
and hallucinogen.
The chemical compound thujone, which is present in the spirit in trace amounts,
was blamed for its alleged harmful effects.
By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe,
including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria–Hungary,
yet it has not been demonstrated to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits.
Recent studies have shown that absinthe’s psychoactive properties
have been exaggerated, apart from that of the alcohol.

A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s,
following the adoption of modern European Union food and beverage laws that removed
long-standing barriers to its production and sale. By the early 21st century,
nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries,
most notably in France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Spain,
and the Czech Republic.

In fact, the 1875 painting below, by Edgar Degas, of a lonely stupified woman is rather reflective
of the effects of what imbibing too much in absinthe could lead to.


(L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas 1875 / Musée d’Orsay)

And thus I have always been leary of absinthe.
It was cloaked in intrigue as well as the forbidden.

That is until I needed a bottle of it for one of my new recipes.

So off I trotted…driving myself to the local curbside liquor store where
I handed the masked and gloved young man, on the curb, my list of needs–
I asked for a mid-range priced bottle of absinthe…
and he returned with the same box you see above in the picture.
Complete with an absinthe spoon.
Ooooo.

I felt a slight thrill and rush as I placed a single toe into the world of the forbidden
as I marched my new bottle into the house.

And so this is the spot where the gist of my post comes into play…
that of both torment and gift.

As an art /art history teacher, I have always had a soft tender spot in my heart for
Vincent van Gogh…the ever tormented, isolated Dutch Impressionism painter…

Vincent never sold a single painting during his short lifetime—except to his loving
brother Theo.

It is true he cut off his ear.

It is true he loved a prostitute.

It is true he originally wanted to enter the priesthood.

It is true that he was sickly much of his life and in turn, ate very poorly.

It is true he lived with and fought physically and vehemently with his friend and fellow
artist Paul Gauguin.

It is true he was mentally troubled…most likely what we today might call bi-polar
or even schizophrenic.
And thus, he spent time in and out of mental hospitals.

It is true he was broke and financially destitute throughout his life.
His brother Theo provided financial assistance throughout most of Van Gogh’s life.

It is also true that he drank—and drank heavily.
Depression has a way of leading the depressed to that which might dull the unending ache.
And for van Gogh, much of the drinking was of absinthe.

Was it the wormwood?
Was it the hallucinations that lead to his vision of beauty, of colors, of texture?

At the age of 37, Van Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself in a cornfield.

It is debated as to what exactly lead to van Gogh’s mental instability.

Was it genetics?

Or was it the effects of a poor diet, artistic frustration, romantic rejection, or
was it just the alcohol?
Or perhaps…it was merely a combination of it all.

There is no doubt that Van Gogh was both troubled and tormented—this much we know.
But we must also know that it was in his death that we, the world, was actually given the
true gift of his talents..that being his art.

His brother Theo made certain, after van Gogh’s death, that the world would
finally, see his brother’s art.

In 1990, one of Van Gogh’s paintings, the portrait of Dr.Paul Gachet,
was sold at auction for $75 million dollars— making it, at the time,
the most expensive painting to have ever been sold.

A tormented soul who would be loved by a different time and a different generation of people—
He would finally be embraced by a world that would fall in love with him and his art.
Yet it is a relationship sadly too late for Van Gogh to have ever known and enjoyed.

And thus, in this vein of thought, I was struck by the notion of both torment and gifts.

A ying and yang of life.
A conundrum.
An anomaly.

My thoughts turned to a different man.
A different time.

A man who was not haunted by personal demons but rather a man who came to quell the demons.
To quell the demons in man.

A man who was loved by some yet hated by others.
A man who is still deeply loved as well as deeply hated.

A man whose gifts healed the souls of those he touched.
A man who was willingly tormented and was, in turn, killed by his tormentors…
killed in order to give others the gift of life.

So yes—it seems that there can be beauty found in torment.
As therein can lie the gift of life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

not of this world

“We are Christians, and strangers on earth.
Let none of us be frightened; our native land is not in this world.”

St. Augustine


(etching of a Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer / 1515 / The Biltmore House/ Julie Cook / 2020)

“Christian life is a retreat.
We are ‘not of this world’,
just as Jesus Christ is ‘not of this world’ (John 17:14).
What is the world? It is, as St. John said, the ‘lust of the flesh’,
that is, sensuality and corruption in our desires and deeds; ‘the lust of the eyes’,
curiosity, avarice, illusion, fascination, error, and folly in the affectation of learning,
and, finally, pride and ambition (1 John 2:16). To these evils of which the world is full,
and which make up its substance, a retreat must be set in opposition.
We need to make ourselves into a desert by a holy detachment.
Christian life is a battle …
We must never cease to fight.
In this battle, St. Paul teaches us to make an eternal abstinence, that is,
to cut ourselves off from the pleasures of the senses and guard our hearts from them…
it was to repair and to expiate the failings of our retreat,
of our battle against temptations, of our abstinence, that Jesus was driven into the desert.
His fast of forty days prefigured the lifelong one that we are to practice by abstaining
from evil deeds and by containing our desires within the limits laid down by the law of God.”

Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, p. 17-18
An Excerpt From
Meditations for Lent

lose not our soul…

“One should not say that it is impossible to reach a virtuous life;
but one should say that it is not easy.
Nor do those who have reached it find it easy to maintain.”

St. Anthony of the Desert


(the invasive lionfish composed of found invasive plastics / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2020)

“That which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did and suffered for all men,
He did and suffered for each one in particular;
and He would not have thought it too much to do if it had been a question of saving
only a single soul.
The salvation of a soul is, then, the price of the blood of God,
the price of the death of God, the price of the greatest sacrifice that God,
clothed in our human nature, could possibly make! This is incomprehensible!…
It proves that the dignity of a soul is beyond understanding—for God to abase Himself,
for God to annihilate Himself, for God to sacrifice Himself,
only to save that soul and make it happy forever!…
As for us, who believe humbly and firmly all that God has revealed to us,
let us learn, by the contemplation of God upon a Cross, what is the value of our souls.
Let us not lose our soul; let us not prostitute it to creatures;
and to make sure of our eternal salvation, which cost so much to the Son of God,
let us beg of Jesus Christ Himself to take charge of it,
to lead us in the right way and guide us always.
Such an inestimable treasure runs too great a risk in our own hands.
Let us trust it to God and our Savior. Let us make Him the Master of our liberty,
which we may so easily abuse, and the abuse of which may bring about
such terrible consequences.
Once abandoned to the safe and infallible guidance of His grace,
we have no more to fear.
He loves us too much, He takes too much interest in our salvation,
ever to lose the price of His blood and His sufferings.”

Fr. Jean Nicholas Grou, p. 7-9
An Excerpt From
The Spiritual Life