wisdom found in the obscure

“My mission, to make God loved—will begin after my death.
I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.
I will let fall a shower of roses.”

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux


(the cover of an 1881 edition of a book by Fr. Charles Arminjon)

I’ve written in recent weeks about Saint Thérèse of Lisieux–known as the Little Flower.
She possessed a great depth of Spiritual knowledge and vision despite dying at the tender
age of 24.

A sickly, quiet, servant of God who, despite her frailty and age, became a giant for
the Christian Faith.
Her devotion to loving and serving Jesus was undeniable.

Yet I am always curious as to the backstory behind such “gentle giants”

Knowing that the work of the Holy Spirit is a mystery beyond our comprehension,
I marvel over the factors that are at work…mysteries which direct an obscure young
French girl to devote her life to God…entering a convent,
living a short life of service yet such a life that it influenced the path of another
tiny giant…Mother Teresa

31 years following the death of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, an equally young Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu
(Agnes), left home in Albania, at the age of 18, taking herself to an Irish convent…
eventually choosing the Little Flower’s name as her own as she professed her vows as a nun…
a nun who also chose service and charity…
eventually becoming known as Mother Teresa…

A domino effect of Spiritual guidance and grace.

So my curiosity was pricked when I read about an obscure book written in 1881 by an
elderly French priest, Father Charles Arminjon…

It was a book which became the impetus for a young Thérèse…
a book prompting her to seek more…

It was a long forgotten book, hiding in obscurity yet was recently sought out,
rediscovered and translated into English.

The following excerpt from the book comes blowing in across the winds of time,
speaking equally as clearly to us today…

“Although Christ chose to leave us ignorant of
the exact time of the end of the world, He deemed
it fitting to give us detailed information on the
matter and circumstances of this great event…”

“…The end of the world, Christ says, will come at
a time when the human race, sunk in the outermost
depths of indifference, will be far from thinking about
punishment and justice. It will be as in the days of Noah,
when men lived without a care, built luxurious houses,
and mocked Noah as he built his ark.
‘Madman!
Dreamer!’
they cried.
Then the flood came and engulfed the whole earth.”

“So,” writes Fr. Arminjon,
“Christ warns us that the final catastrophe will take place when the
world is at its most secure:
civilization will be at its zenith, markets will be overflowing with money,
and government stocks will never have been higher.

“Mankind, wallowing in an unprecedented
material prosperity, will have ceased to hope
for heaven.
Crudely attached to the pleasures
of life, man, like the miser in the gospel, will
say ‘My soul, you possess goods to last for
many years.
Eat, drink and be merry.'”

Fr. Arminjon reminds us that “the present world,
precisely because it was created, necessarily
tends toward its conclusion and end.”

Perhaps we should be as mindful, just as a young Thérèse became mindful
when she first read the words of Fr Arminjon,
that the world will eventually cease and we will either perish
with the world or we will have chosen to be bound up in the Saving Grace of
Jesus Christ.

A timely choice indeed.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today,
that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.
Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

Deuteronomy 30:19

the portrait of a saint

I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like,
but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us,
He will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’
rather He will ask,
‘How much love did you put into what you did?”

Mother Teresa

DSC00398
(photo A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy)

It matters not whether you are a fan of the Catholic Church.
It matter not whether you believe in saints and sinners…
It matters not if you are a fan or critic of this particular individual…

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, a humble woman from Skopje, Albania was canonized yesterday…
To you and I, she was known simply as Mother Teresa.

I’ve written extensively about this tiny woman before…

the following link is more about the feet…
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/)

But what does exactly matter is that despite her detractors,
for she had many,
is that she spent a life time
tending to the lesser of the least…

There are those who felt she was too difficult a task master…
Demanding the impossible from those woman who gave up all to follow her way and direction.

There are those who criticized her notoriety, her popularity,
but one glance at those feet begs to ask if these feet belonged to someone who played to
the limelight.

She spent 50 years of her life feeling cut off and disconnected from the very God she
sacrificed her entire life to serve.

And yet…
she served…
She never publicly complained.
She never threatened to quit.
She never gave in.
She never gave up.

She brought attention to life, to love, to living and…
to dying.

Think what you will, but know that we are all the better for her life….

“By blood, I am Albanian.
By citizenship, an Indian.
By faith, I am a Catholic nun.
As to my calling, I belong to the world.
As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

Mother Teresa

“The Cost Of Courage”

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
“Atticus Finch”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

“There is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you.”

― Charles Dickens

“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.”
― Napoléon Bonaparte

DSC02492
(the cover of my most recent read)

According to Merriam Webster, courage, a noun, is defined as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”

Is it something we are born with?
Perhaps something hardwired as well as innate?

It seems as if it’s something that transforms ordinary human beings into the extraordinary–
Beckoning some to run towards a catastrophe. . .while others run as far away as possible.

Yet when it comes to courage, there is always tragically a flip side. That’s the thing about courage, it exacts a toll.
For each act of courage or bravery, the remnants can result in a tremendous cost—a willing sacrifice of everyone and everything which the courageous holds dear. A sacrifice offered up within a nano second, sans decision making, without thoughts of consequence or possibilities of regret–all of which are assumed and accepted rapidly without remorse. . .

Throughout the duration of WWII there are many known stories of bravery and sacrifice offered by ordinary citizens.
Yet for every known account of courage and sacrifice, there are countless tales of the extraordinary that are simply lost to the annuals of time. . .of which stretch from Italy, to Poland, from Russia to Czechoslovakia, From Albania to Turkey, From Japan to Hawaii, from France to Great Britain. . .

I’ve read countless numbers of books about the lives and exploits of those known and unknown average individuals, across the globe, whose private moments of sacrifice changed the course of destiny for vast numbers of the unsuspecting—all of which saved and spared those otherwise doomed.
Sacrifice which often left the courageous individual on the losing end of life.

And that’s the thing about courage and the courageous—the ultimate cost is readily paid with no expectation of reparation.

Author Charles Kaiser has compiled an extraordinary tale of the greatest cost paid by one Parisian family during the Nazi Occupation of Paris. The true story, untold until Kaiser’s personal connection with the family wove itself into a printable format, is but a scant microcosm of the real price paid by the average French citizen during the French Resistance which grew from the defeat and eventual occupation of France by Nazi Germany.

Not only is this a tale about a single family’s war tragedy and of the tiny ensuing triumphs found in liberation and freedom– freedom of which should ensure that life in one’s own county is lived as one culturally and religiously should live—rather it is a tale of all those individuals and families who believed in a life free from murderous tyranny and of the choices they each took to guard against its ultimate conquest.

I think such a story of the sacrifices made for the betterment of not merely one’s self, but rather for the betterment of all of humanity, is so vastly timely as well as important for those of us living today in the 21st century. . .
It is a story that is not only to be shared and remembered, but it is a story which reminds those of us who enjoy the freedom of life today that we owe an endless depth of gratitude to those who once gave so very much. . .

Merci mes amis. . .

A must read. . .

Show me your Glory

“I caught a glimpse of Your splendor
In the corner of my eye
The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen
And it was like a flash of lightning
Reflected off the sky
And I know I’ll never be the same”

Lyrics by Third Day
Show Me Your Glory

“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word “love”, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest “well pleased”.”
― C.S. Lewis

DSC00323
(rain droplets dangle from a blue spruce / Julie Cook / 2015)

Isn’t that what we all want. . .
We want to see and then we want to see more.
We want God to show Himself, to prove Himself, to, in turn, prove ourselves—
our existence. . .
To prove that’s it’s all been worth it—that we were right to believe all along.
We want Him to make things right, stop the badness, set the world right. . .
We want to see.
We want to know.

One day, we catch a glimpse, a momentary shining light.
We feel something.
We hear something.
We actually see something as if a dream had come to life.
A wave washes over us.
We are filled with something we can’t explain.
A peace, such as we’ve never known, engulfs us.
Time stands still.
Certainly, everything, no matter what is within this single moment of time, okay.
Instantly we suddenly know, we are certain, it is all real.
He is real.

And just as suddenly, with the mere blink of the eye, the moment passes.
We desperately try to conjure back the moment, holding on to the rapidly fading wonderment.
However our senses are back.
Sound has returned.
The noises are blaring.
The lighting is now back to normal.
Movement, all around us, is passing rapidly by.
There are people.
There is pain.
We feel reality again.

And then we wonder.
Was it really real?
Did what just happen really happen?
We doubt ourselves.
We doubt Him.
We want it back.
We long to have the moment back.

And just like that, it is gone.
We are left wondering what to do.

Mother Teresa had such a moment.
It was the time she experienced what she later referred to as the “call within a call” experience.
It was when she was still a young nun and teacher, it was 1946. . .

In 1928, 18 year old Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu had left her native Albania for Ireland, to join the order of the Sisters of Loreto.
It was there that she would eventually make her solemn vows, taking the name of Teresa after the gentle saint known as the Little Flower, Thérèse of Lisieux.
Eventually her journey would take her to India, where she worked as a teacher and later principal at the order’s Calcutta run school for the local children.

One bright morning, 20 years into her life in India, while sitting on a train as she was embarking on a brief annual retreat, she had a profound encounter with Jesus. Time stood still and she was aware of only one being, that of Jesus himself.
He called out to her to help feed His poor. He revealed the pain of His heart over those who were hungry and dying. “Feed my lambs” He implored —yet He also implored the little nun to satiate His thirst. His thirst for the world filled with the hungry and hurting souls so in need of the literal and spiritual feeding of which He yearned for her to take upon herself.

It wasn’t until several years following her death, that through her letters and conversations with her confessor, when the world actually learned of this tiny obedient nun having never experienced that vision and feeling of nearness again. Despite her longing to hear and to see Jesus again, she was filled with only silence and emptiness.
There was nothing.
The only thing that remained was the daily task, each and every day, of doing what she was told to do that fateful day in 1946. . . “Satiate my thirst”. . .
Alone within herself, Mother Teresa felt empty, frustrated, and sad.
Yet no one was the wiser. No one knew of her pain, her emptiness, her “dark night”. . .she spent the next 51 years doing as He had instructed—working to satiate His thirst and to feed and care for “His lambs.”

Some may say that it must be a sadistic God who would play hide and seek, as it were, with someone as good and as holy as a Mother Teresa. Yet we must understand that it goes well beyond such simplistic observations. To us God may seem vexing and fickled, yet that is the human mind attempting to explain the behavior of the Divine and the Omnipotent—it simply cannot be done.

As C.S. Lewis so eloquently reminds us, “God does not exist for man’s sake.” Nor do we exist for our own sake.
God does not “need” us– it is us who needs God.
The crux of the matter is simply that God wants us.
Made, created, out of Love.

The difference between our need and His want.

Oh I suppose there are those who proudly exclaim that they do not need some invisible God, some deity to serve and to worship.
Self puffs up as we become our own deity—full of failures, let downs, pride, selfishness, vain glory. . .One would think time would be our teacher, yet we continue ignoring the past as we march forward, waving our own flag and thumping our own puffed up chest. . .

It is to these few and far between glimpses, of those miraculous moments, the overwhelming senses, and unexplained experiences, time and time again, that push us forward. . .still looking, wondering, hoping. . .forward to an encounter with the Divine—yet we simply cannot “will” it to happen. It is for God, and for God alone, to reveal Himself in such intimate ways—we cannot force His hand. We cannot trick Him or persuade Him. He is the Creator and we are but the created.
Yet we were created in and for Love. . .

We know that from such moments and chance experiences that we are forever changed and forever different, no matter if we never experience such a moment ever again in our lifetime. . .just knowing it happened, we know it can happen again and we know we won’t rest until we see Him again. . .

“When I climb down the mountain
And get back to my life
I won’t settle for ordinary things
I’m gonna follow You forever
And for all of my days
I won’t rest ’til I see You again
Show me Your glory
Show me Your glory
I can’t live without You”

lyrics by Third Day