Guard of the heart

Yes, if you or I are not seriously pursuing the real God,
inevitably we will focus on things that can never satisfy us.
We are chasing after dead ends.
Prayer is the path to reality.

Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.


(Master of San Francesco 1272-85 / The Lourve, Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

“The life of prayer calls for continuous battles.

It is the most important and the longest effort in a life dedicated to God.
This effort has been given a beautiful name: it is called the guard of the heart.
The human heart is a city; it was meant to be a stronghold.

Sin surrendered it.

Henceforth it is an open city, the walls of which have to be built up again.
The enemy never ceases to do all he can to prevent this.
He does this with his accustomed cleverness and strength, with stratagem and fury …
he succeeds all along the line to distract us and entice us away from the divine presence.

We must always be starting again.

These continual recoveries, this endless beginning again,
tires and disheartens us far more than the actual fighting.
We would much prefer a real battle, fierce and decisive.

But God, as a rule, thinks otherwise.
He would rather we were in a constant state of war.”

Dom Augustin Guillerand, p. 57

Adding to the pile

“In times like these, it is helpful to remember
that there have always been times like these.”

Paul Harvey
Radio Broadcaster

Our friends at The Catholic Company
have a new interesting book that they’d like to share—
BAD SHEPHERDS
The Dark Years in Which the Faithful Thrived While Bishops Did the Devil’s Work

Given these days and times of scandal, mistrust, misdeeds shrouded by pure evil,
this is a rather timely read that I’ve now added to the ever-burgeoning pile of books
calling for my attention.

The Catholic Chruch, with the clergy leading the way, has become a pariah in the minds of many.
And with this deepening distrust and disgust, the global Christian Chruch is finding herself in the
crosshairs of being guilty by association.

Here is their enticing introduction of the book…

Sexual scandals and improper behavior
among religious leaders are nothing new.

“…the smoke of Satan has entered the
temple of God,”

said Pope Paul VI.

Believe it or not, St. Peter Damian wrote about the problem of active homosexuality
among the clergy over 900 years ago.

He warned that it was
“creeping through the clerical order…like a cruel beast within the sheepfold of Christ.”

Ever since Judas betrayed his Lord, there has been sin and scandal in the Church.

But this is not the time to despair.

In his astonishing, highly revealing and sometimes amusing book,
Church historian Rod Bennett offers some much-needed perspective to give us hope.

“My research, curiously enough, soon revealed a major key running under the minor;
and this was the striking fact that the Catholic laity…
often shone brightest just when their bad shepherds were at their worst.
God, in other words, had not left Himself without a witness.”
—Author Rod Bennett

These eye-opening pages introduce a number
of bad shepherds, showing us that corrupt church
leaders have existed since Christ established
the Church—and have not prevailed.

Instead, goodness has ultimately triumphed.

You’ll read about:
Pope Stephen VII, who so hated his late predecessor that he had him dug up,
put on trial, and flung into the Tiber.

Benedict IX, who bought and sold the papacy—twice!

Pope John XII, whose debauchery rivaled that of the corrupt emperor Caligula.

And here’s the powerful thing Rob Bennet will show you:

While these leaders were doing these evil deeds,
good Catholics not only survived—–they thrived.

They transcended their bad shepherds,
preserved the traditions, and served as the
foundation for a vigorous renewal of the Faith.

By bringing to light what’s happened in the past, this enlightening book shows that
restoration and renewal can happen again!

The notion of the governing Chruch going array while the faithful remain steadfast,
reminds me of a time in the middle of the 20th century when the
German Lutheran Chruch became the state Chruch of Nazi Germany.
And in essence became a pawn of Adolf Hitler…a vocal tool condoning evil propaganda.

Hitler knew that if he really wanted to plant his corrupted seeds within the hearts of the
German people, if he had the Church’s clergy acting as cheerleaders, the German people would be
more apt to listen and agree.

Yet there were committed Lutherans (Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, with a wealth of fellow clergy,
left the state puppet church creating the defiant Confessing Chruch) along with equally defiant Catholic
clergy mounted a counter voice of Truth.

The righteous know the Truth and hold steadfast despite the blanket of evil.

And so our friend the Wee Flea is also reviewing, as well as recommending, a new book—
a book about faith and God in our current troubling times.

God is Good for You—A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times
by Greg Sheridan
A political journalist looks at the impact of Christianity in the West.

David pulls out a few quotable gems to wet our whistle.

“In Charles Murray’s seminal study of the white underclass in the US, Coming Apart,
he reports that the last thing that holds working class and impoverished communities together
is the local churches.
When they collapse, the communities collapse.

(Page 27).

Does atheism explain the universe, life, including human life, consciousness and conscience?
Hyper- rational atheism gave us Nazism and doctrinaire Soviet communism.
Ultra-rationalism does not deliver you any moral compass.

(Kevin Rudd- Page 216).

If we abandon God, and the ethical imperatives that proceed from that,
we are in danger of ending up in an amoral morass,
where the sort of technocratic debates about whether certain human beings should be regarded
as sharing a common humanity, like the Soviet purges of “enemies of the people”
or the Nazi’s belief in the expendability of certain races, most particularly Jews, become possible.
You then land in an amoral jungle, animated only by some mud- begotten social Darwinianism.
This is because there was no longer a guiding moral authority.
These regimes could “reason” their way to any conclusion.”

(Kevin Rudd – page 217).

The only truly acceptable contemporary Christianity for Western political culture now seems
to be a Christianity which doesn’t mention God and which subscribes to conventional
elite wisdom on policy issues

(page 226).

The rule of law came out of a Christian mindset and defined the West.
The enemies of the West still define the West that way. Human rights have degenerated into
identity politics.
We are living now in a post-Christian society but still living on the legacy of Christianity
and that legacy is running down.
This could end in chaos.
For society to work you’ve got to have agreement about basic rules.
You want your rights but you have your responsibilities too.
If we don’t have consensus on the basic rules are we will find it hard to live in a society with each other…
That is a matter of great concern to me. I’m very concerned about where this experiment of being
a post-Christian society will end. It’s an experiment.
We haven’t been there before.

(Peter Costello – page 229).

Christianity doesn’t seek conflict for its own sake, but if it’s to be effective it must
know that conflict is the inevitable consequence of proclaiming its message.
It is also important to have always in mind that Jesus’s two greatest commands,
which he reiterates again and again, are to love God and to love your neighbour.
This does not, however rule out ethical conflict.

(Page 319).

https://theweeflea.com/2019/01/07/god-is-good-for-you-a-defence-of-christianity-in-troubled-times-greg-sheridan/

And so we hold fast to the knowledge that, as we have seen in ages past, when the going gets tough,
we of the Faith hold to our toughness and get going…

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love,
endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence
of many witnesses.
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus,
who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,
I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
which God will bring about in his own time—-
God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light,
whom no one has seen or can see.
To him be honor and might forever.

Amen.
1 Timothy 6:11-16

I will always be…wherever you may go…

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol,
you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:7-10 ESV

God wants to walk with us, speak with us, share our hopes and dreams, bear our burdens and sorrows,
guide us, guard us, and lead us to our perfection in Heaven.

Mike Pacer
from Mercy and Hope


(the Mayor and Geoffery / Julie Cook / 2018)

The Mayor has come and the Mayor has now gone….home.

And so as I find myself somewhat lost in the now palpable emptiness and stillness…
much like any grandparent, the separation of missing those minuscule daily changes
of growing, and the impenetrable bonding of heart to heart…
I struggle with how things are meant to be.

Where is my solace?
Where is the consolation of my now eerily quiet life that was once just so full and constant?

In knowing that my heart will always be with her, no matter what, no matter where,
no matter the time nor the space of life or death…
It is because I know that God is forever mine and I am forever His…
and so… we are all of His heart.

“Let each of us accept the truth of the following statement and try to make it
our most fundamental principle:
Christ’s teaching will never let us down, while worldly wisdom always will.
Christ Himself said that this sort of wisdom was like a house with nothing but sand as its foundation,
while His own was like a building with solid rock as its foundation.”

St. Vincent de Paul

the power to give…or not

“If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor.
If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without
waiting for them to ask you.”

St. Thomas of Villanova


(an olive dries on the tree outside of St Peters, Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

“It is undoubtedly true that each of us, men and women, irresponsible and thoughtless as we often are,
hold within our hands the happiness and sorrows of others.
We cannot help it or escape from it.
The power is in us inalienably almost from birth to death—in us,
because we are persons—and we are responsible for the use we make of it.
Indeed, so mysterious is this power that the very presence of a person who does not realize his
responsibility is often the source of the keenest pain of all…
The failure to exercise the power to give happiness to others is not merely negative in its results;
it is the source of the most positive suffering of all.
Thus there is no escape from the responsibility involved in the possession of this power.
Not to use it where it is due is to destroy all happiness. Strange power,
indeed, to be committed to such weak and unworthy hands;
yet there could be but one thing worse: that none could interfere with the joys and sorrows of others.
We might envy their happiness and pity their sorrows, but we could not help them.
It would be a world of isolated individuals wrapped in inviolable selfishness;
each must take care of himself and the world must go its way.”

Fr. Basil W. Maturin, p. 149
An Excerpt from
Christian Self-Mastery

best to be prepared

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Benjamin Franklin

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him.
If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him.
Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.
If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord,
put division between them.
Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

When I was a young girl, I was a girl scout…well actually I started out as a Brownie then
I rose in the ranks to that of Girl Scout then eventually to that of Cadet…

Life as a Cadet, however, was short-lived as there seemed to be other things for me
to do by the time high school was on my horizon.

But the one thing, the one lesson, that I seemed to have gotten down pat from my time as
a “scout” was that I was to always be prepared.
Meaning…whatever life threw my way I needed to be ready…
even for those out of the blue curveballs…
plus I was to always have a Plan B.

Such thinking certainly served me well during my years spent in the classroom.
Teaching high schoolers meant that one had best be prepared–always…
as well as have a guaranteed Plan B… as both were required for survival…

Now that didn’t mean that I could nor can I see into, let alone read the future.
None of us can do that…except maybe for Sister Grace down on Hwy 16 whose sign out front
of her house claims that she can indeed read the future…

But Sister Grace aside, most of us are not gifted with a clear prophecy for what the
world’s future holds.

Yet for those of us who claim the Bible as the Word of God, well,
we already have a pretty solid glimpse as to what lies ahead…
and we know that things will get pretty ugly before they get really pretty.

And it certainly doesn’t require rocket science to see that things are indeed pretty ugly all
the world ’round.

Our friend The Wee Flea has just offered his view of this new year’s future…
again, not a pretty picture…

https://theweeflea.com/2019/01/02/ten-predictions-for-2019-confusion-china-and-christ/

I think we’d all agree…politics on both a local as well as a global scale is more or less dismal.

We’ve managed to sink to such banal lows having lost any and all sense of dignity, decorum, morality,
manners, and simple etiquette.

We’ve basically come unhinged…be it left or right.

The word “apocalyptic” is used fast and lose on both sides of the aisle when referring
to the thoughts of one another…as in if we are left to one or the other…
very bad and life-threatening things will happen.

And so after reading over David’s predictions and knowing that he has been pretty much on track
and most insightful with most if not all of his observations regarding the Chruch in the 21st century
as well as for politics and life on the Western front—
I’d say that he’s once again on the money with his visions of a 2019 year.

And so this is where it comes in handy to always be prepared.

One of David’s predictions has to do with the plight of the family.
As in the continued attacks on and the demise of the traditional family as defined
by God and later by His own son.

But David was not the first to ring this clarion bell.
Both Pope John Paul II as well as Mother Teresa each saw the demise of the traditional family
as the lynchpin to humanity’s demise.

Our politics are awash.
Our global relations are strained at best, nearly severed at worst.
Our economy is a see-saw.
Our Chruch has lost her focus
And now the family unit, a basis for all things bearing the survival of humankind is
so fractured and redefined that it is no longer recognizable as to what God has sanctioned.

So it’s time to suit up and saddle up.
It’s time to put on that armor…
It’s time to get ready because I think our time of preparation is almost past…

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand
your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the
flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:11-17

freed the chick from the pen

“It is better to be a child of God than king of the whole world!”
St. Aloysius Gonzaga


(a poorly feeling Mayor in her mayorial ride / Julie Cook / 2018)

The Mayor has a sinus infection and an ear infection…throw in cutting new teeth and life
has just become a party and a picnic all rolled into one…

So her two satellite aides had to drive over to Atlanta this morning, in the rain,
all in order to free the little chicken from the pen…
aka– relieve the Mayor from the confines of Daycare…
We’ve brought her back for a bit of rest and recuperation.
We’ve got the prescription filled, the infant Motrin, the Woobooville office is set up…

But her office hours are now a bit limited as most of the time she is preferring simply to be held.
Who doesn’t when feeling poorly 🙂

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Something about that date…

“But no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”

James 3:8-10


one of the side chapels in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018

I don’t know about your phone, but my phone displays, on the home screen, a banner
notification alert to emails, breaking news, missed calls, texts…etc…
One notification kept reoccurring, despite my having already opened and read the email—
weeks ago.

Day after day, the same notification kept showing up.
Despite my having opened it, read it, and closed it.

Glitch?
Power the phone off.
Power on.

The problem was that it kept happening, again and again.

But first, let’s back up a tad…

I subscribe to The Catholic Company’s Morning Offering.
Each morning, bright and early, I receive an email with the day’s quotes, daily office readings,
the saint of the day meditation of the day…etc.

It’s where I find many of the quotes and meditation (observations and writings) excerpts that I use.

I usually save them, only sending them to the trash once I’ve accumulated about a month’s allotment–
making certain I’ve read, savored and pulled out what is needed in my sharing.

Well, I did such for December 18th’s offering…
I didn’t use it that exact day but the following day…I used it when I felt “called” to do so.
I had used the morning of the 18th’s quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
as well as the meditation excerpt from Fr. Basil Maturin.

“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

It is, then, in following the will of God,
in spite of all the difficulties that may arise both from within and from without,
in the constant offering of ourselves to God as the creatures of His hand to do and to be what
He would have us,
in the surrender of one thing after another that comes between us and Him and holds us back—–
it is in such acts that we unite ourselves with those glorious beings who cast their crowns
before the throne and with those unfallen creatures who have never known what it is to have
a wish or thought apart from the will of God.
Amongst those glorified saints there are, indeed,
many whose wills were for a long time in revolt against God’s will and who brought themselves
at last into subjection, many to whom the will of God here on earth meant the sacrifice of
everything the heart most loved, many to whom it meant the sacrifice of life itself.
But all that is past and over, and its fruits remain—the eternal life of oblation and union
with God, where one will rules those countless multitudes and binds them together and to God,
where each one of those countless millions lives his own complete and perfect life yet never
jars on any other, where each is perfect in itself and all together compose one perfect whole—
the Body of Christ.”

Fr. Basil Maturin, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Spiritual Guidelines for Souls Seeking God

My godfather, who passed away 3 years ago December 29, 2016, was the Episcopal priest
who I often reference in many of my posts.
He was instrumental in my life…
especially during my youthful Christian journey…
as he watched and silently prayed as I ebbed and flowed when beginning a life of my own.
He was the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip in Atlanta from 1966-1984…
His birthday was December 18th.

And so ironically, oddly or divinely I kept having that errant notification on my phone from the
Catholic Morning Offering for the day of December 18th.

(and you know I don’t believe in coincidence…only prompting by The Spirit)

Day after day the notification was showing up on my phone despite my having read the email.

After powering down the phone multiple times, closing all apps, yada yada, yada…
it would keep popping up.
So I went back to the original email and moved it to the trash…
of which removed it from all of my devices…
I was suspecting my migrating of old to new computers might be to blame but doubted it.

So that was that.
The email was trashed and I hoped the popup notification would leave me alone.

So then out of the blue on December 17th, I received an errant text message from a dear old friend
from out in Billings, Montana.

He was a former priest at the Cathedral when I was in high school and was our priest for youth.
He and I were always very close friends even following our taking separate paths in life.
He moved back home to a small Montana town in order to pastor a small Episcopal Church
while I went off to college.

We’ve stayed in touch sporadically throughout the years…my husband and I even stopped in Billings
a few years back when we were on a driving adventure to Glacier National Park and met up for a bit of
face to face catch up.

But our contact is usually relegated to the yearly Christmas card…

And so I was really surprised when his text popped up out of the blue.

My friend wrote that He and David (Dean Collins) had had a good conversation the evening prior while
my friend was driving back home from church.

I wrote back a tongue and cheek response that their conversation must have been of the divine…
I then asked how he was besides being delusional…

He told me that sometimes he finds that he still needs to run a few things past the Dean, his former
boss, and mentor, as only the Dean would understand.

I get that…as I wholeheartedly agree.

I can’t count how many conversations I still have with my godpoppa…
I deeply miss that twinkling eye and sly smile and rich melodic soothing voice of his
as he’d take me in his arms offering my angst-filled heart comfort or lovingly place those
gentle hands upon my head calling for prayers of healing.

My friend in Montana has since retired as the rector of the Episcopal Chruch there in Billings
and now enjoys fishing as well as keeping up with the families of all of his now grown foster boys.

I told him that it was funny that he text me out of the blue regarding Dean Collins the day before the
Dean’s birthday which would have fallen on the 18th.

So fast forward to earlier this week.

I’ve written about my crazy dreams before.

I don’t always sleep well due to the vivid dreams I often have.

Some are slap crazy.
Some are weird as hell.
Some are troubling.
Some have me walking up my husband as I’m mumbling loudly while thrashing about as I seem to be
struggling in my sleep.
Some are so vivid that I can actually wake with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Well, the other night I had a dream that seemed to last most of the night…going on and on.
And of course, it made absolutely no sense and it was crazy… but…
the Dean was in the dream.

He was as he was when I was in college, but I was as I am now.
We were seated at a large table or maybe it was a long bench but we were seated side by side.

He was right by my side.
And despite the dream making no sense, there was however a sense of peace having him right by my side.

So when I woke up… I figured I needed to go back in and pull up that Morning Offering from Dec. 18th
that kept nagging me.
I wanted–needed–to see if I was missing something.

Or was I simply suppose to repost the quote and excerpts again…maybe someone esle needed to read
them…maybe again.

The bible verse is listed above—James 3:8-10

The quote was by Archbishop Sheen which is listed above along with the same
meditation by Fr. Basil Maturin.

And the saint for the day was–
ST. WINEBALD
St. Winebald (701-761 A.D.) was a Saxon prince born into a holy and royal family in England.
His father, St. Richard the King, and his mother, St. Wunna of Wessex, are both saints, as well as his brother,
St. Willibald, his sister, St. Walburga, and his uncle, St. Boniface.
After making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his father and brother,
and then spending many years in Rome, Winebald was recruited by his uncle, Boniface,
to join him in evangelizing Germany.
Winebald was ordained a priest and worked as a missionary across Germany, Holland, France, Austria,
Belgium, and Luxembourg, leaving behind many flourishing churches and monasteries
under the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Winebald was an important figure in laying the
foundations of Christianity across much of Europe.
After his death, his tomb became a pilgrimage shrine. His feast day is December 18.

So now let’s look back at today’s picture I posted up above.

Back in October when I was spending a reflective afternoon exploring the beautiful church of
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the Chruch of Sanit Mary over Minerva,
I was slowly walking from side chapel to chapel taking in the paintings, and the statuary—
all of the man-created beauty complimenting the Divine offering of peace.
When I found myself stopping, noting an odd little sight.

Something that I don’t think many of the passing tourists even noticed let alone understood the significance.

Someone had tied a scallop shell to the gate in front of the chapel.

Some of the chapels have gates and are locked most days as many of them contain priceless works of art.
These churches are open to the public with little to no security, so given our day and time,
some areas are simply locked off to a wandering public.

The shell is a symbol of St. James and is associated with Christian pilgrims…
Of which you may read here:
https://followthecamino.com/blog/scallop-shell-camino-de-santiago/
(Lynda I hope you have your shell)

And so I knew that a pilgrim had been here before I had been.

Our paths had crossed…unbeknownst to either of us…all but for the breadcrumb of a simple shell left behind.

And so since I feel as if my blog is often a pilgrimage of sorts, I also believe that my blog is
in turn a place for pilgrims to visit.

And thus since there was obviously something about the day’s devotion from Dec. 18th that
needed for, or rather longed for, me to revisit and reshare. I have done so.
It is for whoever may find themselves stopping by for a bit of a respite during their pilgrimage.

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri