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

it’s all in the translation–mi vida di por ti

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2


(Christ Crucified, VELÁZQUEZ, DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ DE SILVA Y/ 1632/ Museo Del Prado)

There is an Evangelical Hispanic Chruch that I pass by on almost a daily basis.
There has been a sign in front of the church with the same lettering, sentence, for the better
part of a year.

Now you should know, I love church signs—
they are the quick little lessons I glean during my travels.
Some or cute.
Some are funny.
Some are thought-provoking.
And it matters not the denomination or size of the church—
for God has certainly spoken to me over the years via the signs I’ve passed.

I have found that church signs tend to be found in smaller towns or more rural areas.
Growing up in Atlanta, the churches didn’t really have signs that made statements
or offered tidbits of wisdom…they were more or less signs with simply the name
of the church.

So the signs in these smaller towns and more rural areas really speak in greater ways
than what their congregations may even realize.

The sentence that I’ve passed by now for so very long reads:

mi vida di por ti

So with my limited understanding of foreign languages, I was pretty certain I
was reading it, every day to and fro, with the correct meaning.

I had known enough ‘spanglish’ to get by with my students when I was still teaching,
so I figured I had this.

But those of you who know me or read this site know that I struggle enough with my own
native tongue—throw in another tongue and there’s no telling how that will go.

And to think, I had had French in school from the 4th grade all the way to my sophomore year
in high school–
Yet I think I’m still good with merely ‘Je ne sais pas’—as in ‘I don’t know’–
as in, I really don’t know.

So while driving past this sign, with my infinite wisdom intact, I deduced that ‘por ti’ must mean
door, as in portal.
So I was convinced that the sign read, ‘I am the door’.
Made sense to me.

Yet given my lack of depth with language, I knew it was best to doubt myself.

So I made a mental note to look it up when I got home.

And to say that I was wrong is an understatement.

‘Mi vida di por ti’ translates to ‘I gave my life for you’

Now a well understood and powerful daily reminder that puts a smile on my face each day
I pass this church…
No wonder they’ve left it up so long as that pretty much says it all…

“A dead Christ I must do everything for;
a living Christ does everything for me.”

Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself

deviating with a touch of alchemy and a creative past…

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw


(step 1 to clarified milk punch / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.

Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.

I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.

Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?

Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.

And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.

Today is Oct. 22nd.

That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
you choose.
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.

Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.

We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”

As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
since May.

Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.

“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.

And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
aka Summer,
my thoughts are turning to Fall.

As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.

Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!

My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.

So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.

Enter the clarified milk punch.


(Gastro Obscura)

A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.

One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.

The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.

My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.

I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.

And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.

The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.

I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.

I asked about his drink that was no longer available.

Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.

He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.

As in all good things…right?

He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.

Alas.

He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.

I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.

He made good on his word…

My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.

I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.

My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
He smiled.

(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)

And so in turn, I have researched.

History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.

Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.

But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.

Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.

There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.

But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.

A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
delightfully lingering.

The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.

After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.


(NY Times)

The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.

Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.

I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.

My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.

No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.

Stay tuned…

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

All the cool cats…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in
I wish that I could be like the cool kids
Like the cool kids

Echosmith


(a painting as seen in our vet’s exam room / Julie Cook / 2019)

This is a painting in one of our vet’s exam rooms.
Percy and I are still visiting the vets now every other day as there has been one more last-ditch
effort to close up his wound and now he dons a cone daily.

When I asked about the painting/ collage,
they told me that their office manager had picked up most of the art and photographs gracing the walls at
a hobby store.

Meaning that the painting and photographs were not exactly unique but rather products of mass
merchandizing.

And so naturally when I saw this particular image the song The Cool Kids came straight to mind…
but in this case, the word ‘kids’ was replaced with the word ‘cats’…
as in this was obviously a “cool cat” as in a song lyric as
“I wish I could be like the cool cats”

As I read today’s quotes by both St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Augustine regarding prayer…
what prayer is…what makes prayer effective, etc…
I thought of this business of unique vs mass marketing;
I thought of mainstream and what our culture considers to be ‘cool’–as in
our current pop world, what it is to be in sync with the culture gods, and that which
is not “cool.”

Prayer, Christian prayer, is not cool.

Prayer, be it said privately and individually or en masse by a gathering in public,
has been under fire now for decades.

As the scrutiny, the irritation, the perceived wrong affected by those
who pray upon those who find it repugnant, is growing by leaps and bounds.

And we should note that this is only directed at Chrisitan prayer as no one is asking
Muslims not to publically call followers to pull out a prayer rug and bow towards Mecca throughout the day.

So what is it about Christian prayer that has the masses up in a dither?

What is it that is so offensive about those who offer the Christian prayer of intercession,
thanksgiving, healing, etc…while no one is finding the same offense when hearing the minnuetes
sounding the call to those who demonstratively stop work or schooling in order to bow
toward Mecca 5 times daily?

This is a most perplexing anomaly?

And thus I like what St Therese notes as “a surge of the heart”

May our hearts continue to surge…despite the ‘culturally cool kids’ who are
saying otherwise

For God hears our prayers…be they en masse or uniquely individual…

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

“Prayer is greatly aided by fasting and watching and every kind of bodily chastisement.
In this regard each of you must do what you can.
Thus, the weaker will not hold back the stronger, and the stronger will not press the weaker.
You owe your conscience to God.
But to no one else do you owe anything more except that you love one another.”

St. Augustine, p. 143
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day

pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

ora pro nobis—pray for us

So the religious soul finds in the heart of Jesus a secure refuge against
the wiles and attacks of Satan, and a delightful retreat.
But we must not rest merely at the entrance to the hole in the rock,
we must penetrate its depths. At the mouth of the deep hollow, at the mouth
of the wound in his side we shall, indeed, find the precious blood which
has redeemed us.
This blood pleads for us and demands mercy for us.
But the religious soul must not stay at the entrance.
When she has heard, and understood, the voice of the divine blood,
she must hasten to the very source from which it springs,
into the very innermost sanctuary of the heart of Jesus.
There she will find light, peace, and ineffable consolations.

St. Anthony of Padua


(a mysterious painting of St. Anthony and the Christ child)

The saints pick us, we don’t pick them…
Or so that’s what they say.

But firstly, let’s remember, this is going to be a story about a painting…
nothing more, nothing less…

For starters, I’ve stated this before…I am not a Catholic—rather I was raised in the
fold of the Episcopal Chruch…that of the Anglican Communion.

I am however familiar with the family of Saints.
A seemingly Catholic notion.
Yet also very Anglican…

Also, I love my traditional Anglican hymns…
One little hymn, in particular, I Sing a Song of the Saints of God
I loved singing that hymn when I was a little girl attending children’s chapel.

Saints, in my youthful mind, were individuals who loomed large in our Christian Faith.
Brave, and even stoically defiant, in the face of persecution.
Some had been ardent unbelievers or dastardly sinners who had, for whatever reason,
come face to face with the God of all Creation and in turn, fell into His redeeming arms,
never looking back but rather becoming ardent defenders of the faith.

It was always the 3rd stanza of the hymn that offered me a sense of hopefulness that I too
could one day be counted among that same fold of brave Christian individuals.

they lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still;
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.

I also know that when one is confirmed within the Catholic Chruch,
they are encouraged to choose a patron saint.
A heavenly individual who will walk alongside them as they navigate the world…
all the while the saint helps to provide inspiration along with a more spiritual focus.

The old saying goes, ‘you don’t pick the saint, the saint picks you.’

And I must admit, I actually agree.

We Protestants haven’t always quite understood the relationship our Catholic kin
have had with the Saints, but I’m one who has always appreciated that little relationship.
And that’s in part due to my Anglican upbringing.
As well as spending years in college studying religious Renaissance Art.

So no, it’s not an attempt at replacing Jesus as the focus of our prayers, praise,
and adoration but rather it’s more like having a few more folks in one’s corner
it’s just that those folks are a bit more heavenly than earthly.

Think of it like having a close friend who joins you in prayer and
who walks along by your side…it’s just that they’re there in spirit rather than
in the flesh.

But this isn’t a post about the virtues or vices of Saints in our lives…
rather this is a post about a painting…a painting of a saint…

Well, sort of…

The saint in question is Saint Anthony of Padua, otherwise known as
Santo Antonio di Padova.

Anthony was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195.
Eventually, he became a Franciscan Friar, making Padua (Padova), Itlay home.

He is known as the patron saint of lost things.

But again, this is not necessarily to be a biographical post, just a post
about a painting…

I have had a long connection with St Anthony—one I’ve written about before.
But this particular tale is unlike our other run-ins and lingering relationship.

So just know, Santo Antonio and I have a history.
But this story isn’t about that story, but rather about a painting.

Several months ago, I took a couple of my grandmother’s old lamps over to Atlanta
in order to have then rewired.

They are lovely antique lamps that have just sat, never being used due to ancient
and most dangerous wiring.
My grandfather, who was an electrical engineer would, as a hobby, often turn the
antiques figurines or urns that my grandmother would bring home into lamps…
and so some of these lamps haven’t been updated in decades.
So I figured it was high time I got them up to speed so I could actually use them.

A friend of mine recommended a nice little lamp shop located over in Midtown…
and it just so happened that the shop also had a hodgepodge smattering of antiques.

I made several trips back and forth as I also decided that I needed to update a few lampshades.
Over the course of my visits, the owners and I struck up a nice little friendship.

We knew mutual old Atlanta stories and they knew some customers from Carrollton who
I knew.
Life can be delightfully small like that.

During one of my many trips over, one day my eye suddenly gravitated to an old beat-up
unframed oil painting perched all alone over in a forgotten corner.

The painting was ripped, chipped and cracking as the canvas was coming
untacked from the wooden base frame.
It was old, it was sad and it was unloved…
and it oddly drew me in.

Or rather it was the subject matter which immediately drew me in.

I asked the owners if they would consider selling the picture.

They said yes and it was actually a very affordable penance of a price for such an old painting.

Next they proceeded to tell me the story of how they came about the painting.

It seems that back in the early 1920s, The Vatican reached out to an Abbey in Michigan
about sending them approximately 50 paintings.
Why I’m not certain, but I do know that it was not uncommon for the Vatican to
‘lighten the load’ so the speak by gifting various abbeys, monasteries and churches
with some of their burgeoning collection of artwork.

The abbey kept the paintings until recently.

A nun from the abbey, out of the blue, reached out to these owners…
as it seems that one of the owners has a proclivity for antique
paintings and is known for such.

The nun explained how the abbey had gotten the paintings
but for a reason I never caught in this convoluted tale, asked if they’d be interested in
buying any of the paintings.

When they hung up the phone with the nun, they immediately rented a U-haul and drove
all night to Michigan.

They bought all 50 paintings and brought them back to Atlanta.

Many of the paintings have in turn been sold or were simply kept.

All but the one painting that had caught my eye—sadly because it
was most likely the one in the worst shape.

But that didn’t matter to me.
The painting called out to me and I couldn’t resist.

What I was planning on doing with a dilapidated,
torn old painting was beyond my husband’s soul…
but it mattered not, the painting had called to me.

A few weeks after bringing home my new old broken treasure,
my husband and I ventured down to a small town outside of
Callaway Gardens to spend an afternoon roaming around and having lunch.

I wandered into an antique shop and started looking at a couple of old frames that were for sale.
The owner asked what I had in mind for the frame.
That was when I began to share my tale about my painting and how I was looking for a frame.

She asked if I would consider bringing her the painting as she had a friend who actually
did restoration work on old paintings.

I agreed.
I was curious as to its background and there was just something about the painting
that seemed to plead with me to please bring it back to life.

I think that comes from spending a lifetime as an Art teacher

The short of this long story…we finally picked up the painting today…
It is estimated to be almost 200 years old.
It has been lovingly repaired, cleaned, re-stretched
and now rests in a pretty new frame…nearly 3 months after
I first saw it sitting alone in a corner.

So tomorrow, the painting of Santo Antonio will finally be hung up, surrounded by things
received and gathered during a lifetime of running into St Anthony.

I don’t know its origin.
I don’t know its artist.
I don’t know if the Vatican ever really once owned it or not.
And I don’t know the abbey that held on to it all these years.
I really don’t know anything about it…only but one thing…
it seems that saints find us, we don’t find them…

“I have learned on this journey that we can’t only study the saints who have personalities
or interests exactly like our own.
Our friends, including our Heavenly ones, should challenge us and help us to grow.
In seeing what we lack in our own lives, we are able to forge ahead and grow.
If we never seek out our defects or weaknesses, then we can never begin to overcome them.
So be open to saints who choose you and want to befriend you.
It is God moving in your life through His saints.
There is something you need to learn or I need to learn.
Let us be thankful for the saints who choose us through no merit of our own.
All you holy men and women, ora pro nobis.”

Constance T.Hull
Catholic Exchange