marvel and rejoice

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter
of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal
likewise with their fellow men.

St. Francis of Assisi


(a snail seeking relief from the sun / Julie Cook / 2021)

Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians,
but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren,
God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ.
For if he is the head, we are the members;
he and we together are the whole man…
the fullness of Christ then is the head and the members.
But what does ‘head and members’ mean? Christ and the Church.

St. Augustine

zen to hell and maybe one day back

“I realize as never before that the Lord is gentle and merciful;
He did not send me this heavy cross until I could bear it.
If He had sent it before,
I am certain that it would have discouraged me…
I desire nothing at all now except to love until I die of love.
I am free, I am not afraid of anything,
not even of what I used to dread most of all…
a long illness which would make me a burden to the community.
I am perfectly content to go on suffering in body and soul for years,
if that would please God.
I am not in the least afraid of living for a long time;
I am ready to go on fighting.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 122
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(a lovely look at The Highlands Botanical Garden’s trail at Lindenwood Lake /
Julie Cook / 2021)

Close your eyes.
Breathe out slowly.
Feel the weight lifting…
ahhh the zen of life….HA!

Today’s image is that of a zenful moment.

And yet, there is no such thing of zen and life–
the two are simply incompatible.

We stepped away from life for a few days, headed northward about 2 hours toward
the North Carolina mountains…taking a belated anniversary get-a-way.

38 years of wedded bliss (cough cough) needed to be celebrated.
And the particular inn that we wanted to visit only had a first available
room about 2 weeks after the fact, so we took what we could get…
and thus off we went.

This escape came at a time when our nation was / is at a such a juxtaposition.
And yes, there is just oh so much to say…
so much dismay, so much pain, so much sorrow, do much disappointment, so much anger…

I looked forward to tuning out for a couple of days.
But how do you tune out the pain you feel for 13 families who just
lost their children, spouses, siblings because of a president who
is nothing but inept?

If you can do so, you have no empathy in your heart.

I am absolutely seething under the surface.
Disgrace does not speak strongly enough.

How in the world could a president have no clue?

We, the average US citizen, all knew that an attack was imminent,
we all received the notice via our various news outlets.
Heck, I received a push notification.
If I got it— if I get it…how come the President didn’t and still doesn’t?

An attack was coming and yet he sat back and basically waited.

So it appears that the deaths of those remaining service members
closing out our stay in Afghanistan could have been readily and easily avoided.
Throw in the 90 billion dollars worth of American war equipment that has been abandoned–
all of which could have been readily evacuated…
had there been a cohesive plan….but there was no such plan.

A plan.

As a longtime educator, I totally get the concept of a cohesive plan.
I know all too well that how you finish is just as important as how you begin.
And yet sadly this administration does not comprehend such.

Stand down from a lengthy occupation…stand down from being in a place
much longer than we ever should have been…yes, by all means, stand down…
but to stand down without precision, order, or a well calculated plan…
well even we simpletons, call that pure negligence.

So off we went Saturday on our little trip all the while Afghanistan
swirled within both our thoughts… a sick heaviness lingered in the pit
of my stomach.
13 American service men and women were killed needlessly.
ABSOLUTLEY NEEDLESSLY!!

Add to this the hundreds of Americans, their Afghani partners, US babies,
and US military service dogs who are all now stuck behind enemy lines…
Yes– left stranded, Jen Psaki…as in stuck in harms way…no thanks to
our President.

Yep, we little people actually comprehend this notion…we call that stranded.
You can’t sugarcoat stranded.

And you can’t sugarcoat what will happen to those left behind.
Think torture, abuse and twisted delight in the demise of any
human or animal associated with the Americans…
but we don’t like to think about such…we don’t like the uncomfortable…
we don’t like that which makes us feel out of sorts.

Explain being out of sorts and uncomfortable to the families of those
Americans who are now hurting today over tremendous loss.

I will be the first to tell you that I agree with the fact that the
length of time we have spent in Afghanistan has been well past its prime.
Pulling out certainly needed to be, however, the manner in which we pulled out
should have been paramount.

Start strong, end strong.

Oh there’s just so much to chat about isn’t there?
However, today, time does not permit those lengthy sort of conversations.

We’ll look at masks, mandates and Covid dilemmas tomorrow.

And of course we’re coming up on 9-11…
so much to say, so little time.

Stand up my friends.
Time is not on our side.

effects

“Thus, brethren, God has loved you from eternity,
and through pure love, he has selected you from among so many men
whom he could have created in place of you;
but he has left them in their nothingness,
and has brought you into existence, and placed you in the world.
For the love of you, he has made so many other beautiful creatures,
that they might serve you, and that they might remind you
of the love which he has borne to you, and of the
gratitude which you owe to him.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 218
An Excerpt From
Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori


(a tiny ghost crab / Julie Cook / 2021)

“The works of man, whether they are good or bad,
are not always isolated, transitory acts; more often,
especially in the case of the leaders of nations and those who are
invested with public authority,
they continue to subsist after they are concluded,
either in the memory of other men or in public acclaim,
as a result of the consequences they have had and the scandal
they have caused.
Thus, at first sight, a particular,
secret crime seems to be only a private, personal deed;
but it becomes social on account of its effects.
Certainly it is of faith that there is a particular judgment,
and that every man, at the instant of his soul’s departure
from the body, appears before the tribunal of God to hear
his eternal sentence pronounced. Yet this judgment cannot suffice,
and it is essential that it should be followed by another public judgment,
in which God will not examine the actions in isolation and taken in themselves,
but will examine them in their effects upon other men,
in the good or evil deriving from them for families and peoples—in a word,
in the consequences they produced and which those who perpetrated
them ought to have foreseen.”

Fr. Charles Arminjon, p. 94
An Excerpt From
The End of the Present World

Night and day

“I will glory not because I am righteous, but because I am redeemed;
I will glory not because I am free from sins,
but because my sins are forgiven me.
I will not glory because I have done good nor because someone has done
good to me, but because Christ is my advocate with the Father and
because the blood of Christ has been shed for me.”

St. Ambrose


(sunset at Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2021)


(morning surprise at Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2021)

fix your sights and do not hide!

“Fix your minds on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Inflamed with love for us, he came down from heaven to redeem us.
For our sake he endured every torment of body and soul and shrank from no bodily pain.
He himself gave us an example of perfect patience and love.
We, then, are to be patient in adversity.”

St. Francis of Paola


(bullseye glass / Paris, France, Julie Cook / 2018)

“Now man need not hide from God as Adam did;
for He can be seen through Christ’s human nature.
Christ did not gain one perfection more by becoming man,
nor did He lose anything of what He possessed as God.
There was the Almightiness of God in the movement of His arm,
the infinite love of God in the beatings of His human heart and the
Unmeasured Compassion of God to sinners in His eyes.
God was now manifest in the flesh; this is what is called the Incarnation.
The whole range of the Divine attributes of power and goodness,
justice, love, beauty, were in Him.
And when Our Divine Lord acted and spoke, God in His perfect nature became manifest
to those who saw Him and heard Him and touched Him. As He told Philip later on:
Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father [John 14:9].”

Fulton J. Sheen, p. 21
An Excerpt From
Life of Christ

East to West, West to East…and a very Merry Christmas to all!

The journey of the wise men took them from the east to the west…
and that’s the journey that Christianity took.
It started in Israel and it moves to Rome, the capital of the world.

Dr. Edmund Mazza
from Rediscovering Christmas


(ode to my world / Julie Cook / 2020)

Is that a bunch of presents, all tied up with a bow?
Oh.
No.
No, it’s not.
Wait, where’s the tree???
Is there a tree??

Yes, it’s in the basement, ready to be loaded on a truck.

What you’re seeing is just a small snippet of boxes and bubble wrapped pieces all
from a home ready for moving.

Who moves during a pandemic?
Obviously, we do.

This will be our last Christmas in a house that has witnessed 21 of our 37 Christmases.
Yet we’re off to see the Mayor and Sherrif for Christmas…so the cats will have to
carry on Christmas day without us.

The catnip is locked up!

The quote I used today by Dr. Mazza is somewhat technically true.
Things did seem to travel from east to west.

I somehow think that our Orthodox brethren might be able to agree on that eastern part—
as when we think of the east…we think ‘Eastern’ Orthodox…
However, they might dispute that notion of Rome being the capital of the world as
that capital kind of moved, at some point in ancient time, to Constantinople
(modern-day Istanbul)–

And of course it did sort of move back Rome’s way before it began heading off west again, spiraling, splintering and dividing– but I digress…
So we’ll just leave that footnote to be argued by the theologians and historians.

And so here I am in the west, preparing to move to the east.
Perhaps a bit backward…however by going east, I might just be heading back homeward.

Things are beginning to look barren and sparse.

Before:

After:

So as I live amongst the boxes and now travel over to share a magical time with both
the Mayor and Sheriff–
just know that I wish each of you a joyous, safe, healthy, and blessed Christmas!!!

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be
taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria).
And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby,
who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread
the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things
they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Luke 2:1-20

refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

seek, praise, proclaim

God is truth, and whoever seeks the truth is seeking God,
whether he knows it or not.

St. Edith Stein
from “Edith Stein” by Waltraud Herbstrith


(a drive through Cades Cove, The Great Smokey MTs. National Park / Abby Cook / 2020)

“Let all creation help you to praise God.
Give yourself the rest you need.
When you are walking alone, listen to the sermon preached to you by the flowers,
the trees, the shrubs, the sky, the sun, and the whole world.
Notice how they preach to you a sermon full of love, of praise of God,
and how they invite you to proclaim the greatness of the one who has given them being.”

St. Paul of the Cross

Contrasts

Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.
Edgar Allan Poe


(Getty image)

For whatever reason, I get daily Travel and Leisure as well as Conde Nash travel emails.
I suppose it’s because once upon a time, I most likely subscribed to something.

Yet during this time of quarantine, I have not much cared to be a virtual traveler.
I might be an armchair quarterback when watching my beloved college football
but I definitely prefer to be a real-life traveler.

And so I’ve pretty much trashed all the travel notices I’ve received these oh so many weeks,
as I’ve wondered if travel will ever be what it was.

While scrolling through emails yesterday, something interesting actually piqued my curiosity.

It was an article with 21 pictures of what a locked-down Italy looked like.

If you’ve ever been to Italy then you know it seems as if the country is comprised of
more tourists than local residents.

Tourism has gotten so overwhelming that the Italian government was having to issue hefty
fines to bring a bit of calm amongst the throngs of madness.
It is said that there are very few real Venetians or even Florentines who still remain
in their collective overrun cities.

And so I was curious as to what a mostly deserted Itlay might look like.

The images were eerily serene.
However, knowing of the death toll that Itlay has experienced and the hardship this tiny country
has endured, viewing the images was not necessarily for a cursory glance on a rainy
Sunday afternoon.

There was a poignancy found in the images.
An emptiness.
A sadness.

There was the image of a single figure, a pope, clad in white and sitting alone in a darkened and
empty St Peter’s square observing the solemnity of the Easter Vigil…

To the ruins of the Coliseum surreally quiet and alone for the first time in centuries.

The empty gondolas bobbing up and down in eerily empty canals…

Yet I think it was the image (seen above) of the small church in Venice with photographs of
its parishioners taped to the pews that touched me the most as to how this pandemic has effected our
collective human family.

The small parish priest had asked his parishioners to please mail or email him
their pictures so he could, in turn, tape them to the pews in order that they could “be in attendance”
with him…there in the quiet and still little church, as he conducted Easter mass…alone.

Since all church services were canceled this Easter,
one pastor in Venice asked his parishioners for their photographs,
then placed them in the sanctuary and performed Mass for them on Easter Sunday.

https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/photos-of-italy-on-lockdown-from-a-vacant-colosseum-to-empty-churches-on-easter?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=cnt&utm_mailing=CNT_Daily_PM_041920&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_medium=email

I next read a heartbreaking story of a woman who was unable to visit her dying father in the
the hospital due to the quarantine.
The hospital was only five miles from her home, but her dad had contracted the virus
after having to go to the hospital following a fall at home.

He had been in good health up to his fall and was expected to be fine.
But while in the hospital, he developed a cough and fever…with the hospital realizing its greatest fear…
their patients were contracting the virus within the hospital itself.

The story is difficult to read as it is helplessly sad.

One of his four grown children relays how she and her siblings
stayed on the phone with their father for his final 36 hours of life
simply listening to his labored breathing before finally, there was no more sound.

‘We hear you, Dad’: A daughter stays on the phone for hours and hours as
her father dies alone from coronavirus

https://www.yahoo.com/news/hear-dad-daughter-stays-phone-120345094.html

And yet the enormity of all of this heartbreak, sorrow, isolation and emptiness is contrasted
by petty partisan politics.

Following the first two articles, I read two very different types of articles.
Articles by Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Gingrich is indeed a very smart and astute man.
He is currently on lockdown in Itlay as his wife is US Ambassador to the Vatican.
A position the late journalist Cokie Robert’s mother once held.

The former Speaker of the House was expressing his frustration with the current speaker,
Speaker Pelosi, and the squabbles she is currently having with the President over passing
a bill intended to bring financial aid to small businesses.

If anyone is hurting right now, it is our small businesses.
They have had to either shutter their doors or operate
very sparingly.
They have had to let go of employees.
Many cannot contiue paying their bills with no business to be had.

Yet the Speaker continues to refuse to work with the President.

The impeachment fiasco was bad enough…but we now have real people,
not celebrities, not high-end athletes, not entertainers, not politicians, but real people…t
he you and me kind of people..who need help— and they need it now!

And yet…we have people like Madame Speaker who continues to want to play cat and mouse.

Madame Speaker was being interviewed from her home by a late-night talk show host.
It seems she was standing in her kitchen in front of her two rather fancy Wolf sub-zero
refrigerators while babbling on about having to spend 58 dollars for 5 pints of ice cream as she
desperately needed to restock what she and her husband had already eaten.

58 bucks on high end ice cream while there are folks who can’t pay their bills
because they’ve lost their livelihood or worse, their health.

Something is wrong in all of this.

When we need help–many of the very people we elected to help us, choose to eat
expensive ice cream instead.
No wonder Speaker Gingrich sees the correlation between Marie Antoinette telling
a starving French population to simply eat cake while our Speaker of the house
eats her posh ice cream—as a President is trying desperately to bring aid
to those in desperate need.

Newt Gingrich: Coronavirus crisis makes some leaders believe they have god-like decision-making capacity

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/newt-gingrich-coronavirus-crisis-makes-some-leaders-believe-they-have-god-like-decision-making-capacity

Newt Gingrich: Like Marie Antoinette, Princess Pelosi enjoys luxuries but ignores needs of desperate people

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/newt-gingrich-the-job-killing-democrats

In the sound of silence

I posted this on Good Friday, three years ago 2017…

“On Good Friday last year the SS found some pretext to punish 60 priests
with an hour on “the tree.”
That is the mildest camp punishment.
They tie a man’s hands together behind his back, palms facing out and fingers pointing backward.
Then they turn his hands inwards, tie a chain around his wrists and hoist him up by it.
His own wight twists his joints and pulls them apart…
Several of the priest who were hung up last year never recovered and died.
If you don’t have a strong heart, you don’t survive it.
Many have a permanently crippled hand.”

Jean Bernard, Priestblock 25487: a Memoir of Dachau


(worn grave marker, Rock of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook)

“Despite our earnest efforts, we couldn’t climb all the way up to God.
So what did God do? In an amazing act of condescension, on Good Friday,
God climbed down to us, became one with us.

The story of divine condescension begins on Christmas and ends on Good Friday.

We thought, if there is to be business between us and God, we must somehow get up to God.

Then God came down, down to the level of the cross, all the way down to the depths of hell.

He who knew not sin took on our sin so that we might be free of it.

God still stoops, in your life and mine, condescends.
“Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” he asked his disciples,
before his way up Golgotha.
Our answer is an obvious, “No!”

His cup is not only the cup of crucifixion and death,
it is the bloody, bloody cup that one must drink if one is going to get mixed up in us.
Any God who would wander into the human condition,
any God who has this thirst to pursue us, had better not be too put off by pain,
for that’s the way we tend to treat our saviors.
Any God who tries to love us had better be ready to die for it.
As Chesterton writes, “Any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate…
Real love has always ended in bloodshed.”

William H. Willimon,
Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross