the Holy Spirit is on the move…

“Often, actually very often, God allows his greatest servants,
those who are far advanced in grace,
to make the most humiliating mistakes.
This humbles them in their own eyes and in the eyes of their fellow men.”

St. Louis de Montfort


(detail from an altar’s funerary tomb within the Chruch of Santa Maria sopra Minerva/
Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

On a warm October afternoon as my husband was back in the hotel taking a much
needed and long awaited nap—
I opted to step out into the streets of the madness which is synonymous
with the Eternal city of Roma…
Wandering with a purpose while drinking in both past and present.

Now I will say that ever since I was a wee child,
napping was just something that was never ever on my radar.
Mother would ‘put me down’ for my nap, gently closing the door, as I’d wail in protest…
Once I realized I was pretty much stuck, I would then defiantly stand up on the bed with
little elbows resting on a windowsill as I’d stare out wondering about the world outside.

What was I missing?
I wasn’t sleepy.
Why waste this precious time offered for living by sleeping??

And before all of you nap advocates out there begin to read me the riot act over the
glorious benefits of naps…
with those first protestors being my cats and my husband…
I will simply plead my defense to my odd wiring…
I am simply not a napper.

So on this early October afternoon, I chose not to nap but rather to explore, meandering
the overtly crowded streets near the frenetic sea of tourists milling in and around
the Pantheon in Rome.
And as usual, I found myself drifting off course.
I cut down a side street that gave way to a quieter and much smaller piazza.
The Piazza della Minerva.

Seeking peace amongst the madness.

I quickly realized I was standing outside of the Dominican Chruch of
Santa Maria sopra Minerva, or rather known to English speakers as
Saint Mary above Minerva—
The name is due to the fact that a Christian Chruch was built over an early temple
dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, or rather the Latinized version being
that of Minerva.

Nothing gives me a greater sense of peace when I’m visiting a large frantic historic city
then finding a hidden, off the radar, church…be it big or small…

Ode to the sacred that beckons me to come in…
Coming in to marvel,
to rest,
to wonder
to ponder,
to think,
to pray…

I am drawn in to such places like an iron ball is drawn to a magnet.
With my eyes open wide, usually adjusting to the dim flickering candlelight,
as my head tilts upward, all the while I try to find my balance as I take in the size
and scope of what it is I’ve been drawn in to.

I allow myself to bask in the utter majesty or rest in the pure simplicity of our
Christian roots.

Such was the case in this ancient gothic church constructed in 1320.

I’ll share more about this visit later as there is a beautiful statue of the risen Christ,
flanking the main altar, carved by Michelangelo…along with the beautiful frescoed altar
paintings by Filippino Lippi
(you remember I was an art teacher right??)

I reverently wandered in this cavernous church while the footsteps of both myself
and those who had also come inside..those who were both curious as well as seeking,
echoed throughout the massive sanctuary.

I stopped before each niche and each chapel, studying and soaking in what I saw.
Soaking in the stories, the emotions, the glory, and even the sorrow offered
to those who take the time to look, read, ponder and imagine.

When suddenly I found myself gazing upon what
appeared to be a large collection of various polished white marble statues.

It was actually more like one particular statue that was just one piece of a much larger
carved funerary tomb which held my gaze steadfast.

There were several statues of women and angels.
Large and imposing, they made me feel very small…both physically as well as metaphorically.

One figure, that of a woman who I initially assumed to be Mary, turned her body away from
the viewers, as well as from her fellow statues.

She was covering her face, turning her body, in what appeared to be a
state of anguish or perhaps even shame…
All the while, a small cherub, also known as putti, looked directly at her in a most knowing
and penetrating fashion.

What did he know about this woman?
What had happened?

Yet rather than being a statute of Mary, this woman was actually a portrayal of Justice…
And rather than being a typical blindfolded image of a woman, as Justice is usually depicted,
this statue, designed by Bernini, was portrayed as a woman who seemed consumed by grief.

There were suddenly a thousand thoughts racing through my mind as I gazed up at this somewhat
painfilled moment of time.
A moment that should have otherwise been private, was here on display for all to see.

No hiding her grief.
No mourning and crying privately.
The putti knew…and now I knew.

But what did I know?

I felt compelled to offer, albeit in some distant fashion, comfort.
I could feel the weight of her pain.
But why?
I had no idea.

Fast forwarding to yesterday morning, I was reading my morning devotions when I came to
the following excerpt from Father Jacques Philippe.
I had a similar reaction to his words as I did to that statue…
there was a sense of the deep weight of both pain and understanding.

Like I say, we will come back to take a deeper and wider look into the beauty and mystery
of Santa Maria sopra Minerva but for now…
The Holy Spirit is busy…
this much I do know…

“When uncertain about God’s will, it is very important that we tell ourselves:
‘Even if there are aspects of God’s will that escape me,
there are always others that I know for sure and can invest in without any risk,
knowing that this investment always pays dividends.’
These certainties include fulfilling the duties of our state in life and practicing
the essential points of every Christian vocation.
There is a defect here that needs to be recognized and avoided:
finding ourselves in darkness about God’s will on an important question . . .
we spend so much time searching and doubting or getting discouraged,
that we neglect things that are God’s will for us every day,
like being faithful to prayer, maintaining trust in God, loving the people around us here and now.
Lacking answers about the future,
we should prepare to receive them by living today to the full.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 55
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

looking up and being reminded


(a pigeon rests on a statue placed above the ridge of the Assumption chapel at the corner
of Garancière street and Palatine street, behind the Saint-Sulpice church. / Julie Cook / 2018)

Back in the summer, back when the beach was consuming so many of our minds,
I offered a post featuring some shots I’d taken of some pelicans I’d seen while enjoying
our summer trip to the panhandle of Florida.

Nothing says beach and ocean like seeing a brown pelican sitting on an old weathered pier or that
of a formation of these gangly birds gliding effortlessly just above the surf…

Days such as today…days that are damp, windy, overcast and grey quickly push our thoughts
to warmer sunnier days. This as we are just entering into our darker colder days of the year.

I noted in that previous post how much, for reasons unknown, that I love pelicans…
They are my favorite birds oddly enough.

Birds that eat whole fish and hold them in their gullets for later…
my husband calls them nasty birds while I call them resourceful.

My previous post touched on the seemingly odd relationship pelicans have had in Christian lore
and tradition.

I did a little research and offered a bit of teaching from the information that I had gleaned…
The premise was that during times of famine, mother pelicans have been known to pluck their own
breasts until they bled in order to offer their own blood to their hungry babies…
offering life-giving sustenance.

A direct reference to Christ who offers His own blood for our spiritual hunger and
our own salvation.

So recently when visiting Paris, we were staying at a small hotel just outside of
the Luxembourg Gardens.


(just a tiny area of the Luxembourg Gardens with a shot of the Senate building behind/
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

This boutique hotel sits in the shadow of the second largest church in Paris,
Eglise Saint-Sulpice.


(Eglise Saint-Sulpice / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

I happen to really love this church as it is not Notre Dame.


(Notre Dame / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

It is not consumed by crowds and tourists.

It was the anchor to the neighborhood my aunt and I called home for a couple of
days about 8 years ago and the same anchor to the same neighborhood my husband and I called
home more recently….the Germain-des-Prés, Odéon of the 6th arrondissement.

Entering this historic building is definitly otherworldly.

It’s like walking into an ancient, silent and dark crevasse…as well as
stepping back into a far removed time…think pre-Revolution and pre-Bonaparte.
Yet the Revolution did hinder the finishing of the facade.

The original church was constructed in the 13th century but the building we see
today dates to the early 1600’s—finally being completed in the late 18th century.
Yet it suffered, as did so many in Paris, during the Revolution.

There are some famous paintings by Eugene Delacroix…

Along with some masterful statues and some simple but lovely stain glass…

Along with the scars from living through the days of a revolution down to
simple neglect and decay…

Add of course the massive and impressive organ

And yet there is reverence…
There is a deep and mystical yearning by many who come here…
those who come curious or those who come seeking.

They come to sit,
to pray,
to sleep,
to hide,
to rest,
to wander,
to wonder…

And so it was when I was actually outside on a side street…
walking alongside the perimeter of this massive hulking building that I looked up
and actually saw it…
the mother pelican sitting atop a spire of a side chapel.

The same imagery that came to mind back in July…and here it was again in September.
Found not at the beach and not in some warm tropical locale but rather in the midst
of a massively large city whose people are often too busy to glance upward albeit toward
their rather famous tower…

And yet here it was…as always, a powerful reminder of sacrifice.
Life, death, redemption, and salvation…


(all photos by Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Remember to always stop long enough to look up…

And may we now offer our prayers for our Jewish brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh
as well for all the first responders…

Lord have mercy…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/pelicans/

altars

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator
as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

Augustine of Hippo

dscn0509
(altar tomb in the Rock of Cashel, the Cathedral of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

A thick blanket of smoke hangs heavy in the air.
It’s not the result of burning effigies or burning communities
but rather from the woods of North Carolina and northern Georgia which are on fire…
and the winds have shifted…

The sinking grey smoke is a somber reminder that there is a dangerously severe drought…
and the parched land is now beyond thirsty…

Yet there is more to this current drought than simply a lack of rain…
for there is more that is dry than mere vegetation and brush…
And there is more to this endless thirst than a need for water….

Vehemence and anger are filling the air, accented by vile and profane sentiment.
As the mobs march toward the altars of self indulgence and guile.
Immaturity laced with ignorance stokes the fires of rage as the hate filled
smoke fills the nostrils of a nation.

Self absorption and egocentric worshipers have taken to the streets.
They have taken to their computers and to their phones…their current altars of choice.
All the while they shout vile rhetoric as they stomp their spoiled bored feet.

If you must…
Protest against atrocities,
demonstrate against hunger,
fight against killing…
but not because you’ve simply forgotten, or have never known, how to lose.

Young dismayed parents now publicly lament how are they to console their
confused children who cry in fear from the big bad what ifs of hysteria…
simply because democracy has been at work–once again…

Nay, answer with truth…
the truth that one person lost while another person won…
For that is how this game is played…one person wins while one person loses…

Yet ours is a culture currently obsessed with the win win…
because we’ve grown moralistically soft while deciding everyone should be a winner…
We cannot live with the sad notion of losing…
Never mind old adages of always trying again…

There are those who are falling at the altar of womanly feminism…
which is currently shored up by gender neutrality, resentment and anger.
Marching not for policy or real equality but rather for the notion that
the wrong sex was the victor…as the votes which were cast are ignored….

Tears are being shed not because freedom has been lost
or because lives have been lost,
nor because a nation has lost all hope…
No…
rather tears are flowing because an election was lost…

And now we no longer want to play…
Because reality is simply no longer considered fun.
While we have found ourselves kneeling before all the wrong altars…

Ours are the empty altars of hero worship and of self…
the altars of gadgetry, boredom, appeasement and ignorance.
Altars of fear, anger, hostility, emptiness and divisiveness…

For what or whom has become our idol, our god?
Who or what are those hungry deities which have left us empty, sad,
frustrated, angry and resentful…
as we turn upon one another in the feeding frenzy of resentment?

We have gathered before all the wrong altars for far too long…
These altars have left us shallow and empty while also full of loathing and contempt…
We continue to march without leadership and direction…
lost and wandering…all the while lashing out at those we assume to be our enemy…
never realizing that we are all actually one.
One people…one nation…

And all the while hidden deep within the suffocating smoke of our thirst
lies the only One true proven path in which we need march…

Yet we have decided it’s far easier to wander angrily in the parched darkness
while hiding behind the vitriol sputum which oozes forth from our mouths…
spewing out upon our fellow human beings…

As it seems we’d rather choose…
paranoia to Grace
greed to Offering
ignorane to Enlightenment
darkness to Light
death to Salvation
egregiousness to Gentleness
hate to Love…

May we all fall at the foot of the one true altar,
the cross of Resurrection, Salvation, Hope and Life.

The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son,
whom he gave to us and who was born for us,
should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross.
This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made,
but for our sins.

Francis of Assisi

finding a faith stone through the dark times

“…in our willful desire to live independently of God, we have severed the lifeline that flows from the source of all life”
Billy Graham

DSCN0438
(Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There are no exemptions in this life when it comes to difficulties, struggles, trials and conflicts.
Some are self imposed, some are random and some, for the believer, can be most vexing…
for it can often feel as if God has…
walked away,
deserted us,
or…
is proving to be more stubborn than ourselves.

Some periods will be more severe than others and there is certainly no clear window as to how long or how short such episodes will each last.

There will be times of great dryness…a rough patch of road that leaves one feeling empty…
or better yet, feeling nothing at all, as in void of feeling or emotion…
A sense of isolation, depression and emptiness…

Other times there will be the feeling as if the rug has been pulled out from under foot …
As one is left wondering if facing one more moment, let alone one more day, is even possible…preferring simply to throw in the proverbial towel while gladly giving it all up.

Maybe it’s seasonal…
What with these long cold winters of shortened days, limited light, constant gray, heavy clouds, cold rains, blanketing snow and a never ending feeling as if one can never get warm.

Maybe its the long hot summers of endless days, excessive heat, dry barren ground that becomes brittle to the touch..leaving one and all the only option of slowing down to a crawl in order to preserve energy while hoping to sweat a little less while praying for a cooling breeze to quench the fire .

Maybe life has simply dealt a wicked hand.
Tragedy has struck,
illness prevails,
and loss is paramount.

Or maybe it’s as if one has been left to simply bam ones head against a wall…as in the wall isn’t budging and neither are we. Frustration has taken hold and we are stuck in our dead-end tract of never-ending madness.

Whatever the reason, life is…
hard and difficult,
frustrating and tiresome,
sad and often unbearable…

I was offered some wise counsel yesterday from a dear friend—which I hope he won’t mind that I now share…
In our conversation my friend offered up an interesting perspective as to when we find ourselves in the midst of struggle and suffering…

“sometimes its better to go back to the last place you encountered God in a mighty way
in your life and use it as a marker….
When Moses parted the red sea and the children of Israel crossed over, the first thing they did was build a stone altar there and gave thanks to God for their deliverance…
So it is with us….
When God does something in our lives and we know it was Him, it is a marker…
A faith stone that repairs our hope in troubled times.
It is good to remember that place and a good starting point to carry on….”

For me that moment, that mile marker , when I knew that I had encountered the Omnipotent I AM, was during my fall trip to Ireland…I think we all have a myriad of moments throughout our lives, but for whatever reason we may simply miss the significance, write it off as mere happenstance, or we may have felt so dreadfully barren for so very long that perhaps it feels as if it were the only real true encounter we have ever experienced….

So my marker, my road of Damascus moment, was one September evening in Ireland.

Yet to literally re-vist that very moment in order to restudy, review, re-live that exact moment in time is impossible, impractical and far from feasible…

It is impossible for me to fly back over, gather those 3 particular friends together again on that lone September evening, at that exact restaurant table up in County Donegal…it is impossible for me to have that exact same conversation which lead to the words being spoken that shot into my mind and heart like a hot arrow piercing my very soul…unleashing the overwhelming sensation that time was standing still and I was suddenly alone with God.

It was all of a second, maybe two, for those words to be uttered and in turn to be heard…
however it seemed much longer as each word reverberated throughout my entire being…

Whereas I may not be able to actually re-live that amazing turning point, it’s not impossible to recall those three life changing words….
“Be at peace…”
“Be at peace with your God”….

Yet it was the first three words of that simple sentence that knocked me and my current world upside down.
Yet…the words were not for that night…not then…

Those simple words which were offered over dinner were not intended for that moment…not for a moment that was indeed peaceful as four friends enjoyed a good meal and drink, with good conversation in an ideal setting.
For that particular moment was of peace itself…

It was to be later when I would need to revisit those words.

As I have needed to do so this very week.
As well as last week and mostly likely next week and the many weeks which lie ahead.
Life is that way.
Life has a way of sucking out the very life of one’s being.
It can be hard.
It can also be joyous as well…
yet frustratingly those joyous times are often forgotten as one is wading through the hard with the muck of madness clinging to one’s boots.

So yes… it behooves me to remember my marker.

Three words….

Be at peace….

Thank you my friend for reminding me to find my marker, my faith stone and to return to that place where God had made His presence known….