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

Scrutiny, reviews, restrictions… I get it… but…

We seek for truth in ourselves; in our neighbours, and in its essential nature.
We find it first in ourselves by severe self-scrutiny,
then in our neighbours by compassionate indulgence, and, finally,
in its essential nature by that direct vision which belongs to the pure in heart.

Saint Bernard


(ariel view of a portion of the American Cemetery in Normandy, image courtesy of the White House)

For years, long before it became chic or before it became social or before it launched its
commercials with its very own spokes-owl and long before it was pitted against a growing
plethora of similar agencies…I had been writing reviews on Trip Advisor…
way before travel sites were “a thing.”

I have relied on Trip Advisor and its review offerings for everything from restaurants
to hotels to worldwide attractions as well as to the vast array of travel services,
all of which they’ve freely provided…
for,
you guessed it,
for years.

I have been in the top 1% of all Atlanta area reviewers…once again, for years.

I am well aware that each review written and submitted is in turn reviewed by a
TripAdvisor team member before it is allowed to be published…
just as it should be.

Integrity and truth are the driving forces behind companies such as TripAdvisor
that supply the general public with much needed and honest information.

I’ve never had a problem…
that is until yesterday.

I had written a review yesterday regarding the tour group we had used for our D-Day visit
while in Normandy.

I had written the review regarding the guide we were assigned along with an overall
review of the group we had used for this most memorable tour.

I sang the praises of our guide.
I sang the praises of the tour service…and…
here is where I ran into a glitch,
I also included a personal observation…

I wrote why I thought it was important for every American to visit Normandy.
An improbable probability yes, but still something I felt to be very important.

I wrote in my review of how a self-absorbed younger generation…
a generation that seems bent on division, socialism, anthem protests, violence,
all-inclusiveness, etc…
why a history lesson ‘in the raw’…
one such as walking through the American Cemetery in Normandy, would and could be beneficial.

One youthful generation looking out over thousands of crosses and Stars of David of
the sacrifices made by a previous youthful generation.
The lessons from those who went before…
lessons long lost on today’s youthful progressive generation.

TripAdvisor sent me an email about a need for ‘action request’ regarding
my review.
They told me not to include other URLs…
Yes I confess that I did have a link to my D-Day post that I had written here at WP
as I thought it could offer further, and some more in-depth
information, for those who might be seeking more or who were curious about such a tour.

“Okay”, I thought…they’re telling me to cut and paste what I wrote, edit it,
then reload and resubmit.
Okay, I’ll cut out my link.
No biggie.
I get it.

Yet a bit of a problem arose when I figured out that they had only sent me a small portion
of what I had previously submitted. Actually only about 1/3 of what I’d written.
And I quickly discovered, much to my frustration,
that there was no way, not even by going into my history, was I to find the full body of text.

So as I cut out my link, I had to rewrite, as best as I could remember,
what I had previously written.

I cut, edited, rewrote and resubmitted.

10 minutes hadn’t passed before I received the same ‘action request’ email with an added note
that they did not want reviews to include “personal opinions on politics, ethics, religion,
or wider social issues.”

Is this about those so-called trigger alerts?

Okay, I thought…
I’ll try to rewrite it again…rewriting again because they hadn’t provided
the full body of text again…
so I’d be relying on my fading memory, one more time…

But as I thought about this, I said to heck with it!

I opted to write just a bit more in order to finish out the first thought..the portion of the
text body that they had sent back in the email before I proceeded with my new thoughts.

I then proceeded to write that TripAdvisor had asked me to keep my personal observations to myself.

I continued my review by asking how does one write about visiting such powerful places
as the beaches, the various locations, the churches, as well as those overwhelming cemeteries
of that fateful June day in 1944 and not offer thoughts that include “wider social issues?”

Normally I would have kept my review informative with a general sweeping overview…just like
all the hundreds of previous reviews I’ve written…
however, for this particular review, I chose not to do so.
I couldn’t do so.

I didn’t know how I could.

How could I be simple and concise given the sacrifices freely made by all those thousands
of individuals who died that fateful June day?
Those individuals who, unbeknownst to them at the time, died for both you and me?
Do they not deserve more than some simple, generic, sterile, and broad sweeping travel review?

Maybe it’s the impending Veteran’s Day remembrance.
Maybe it’s the craziness currently sweeping our Nation.

No matter what the reason…I just couldn’t keep it simple when talking about
what I saw and what I experienced there in Normandy.

Something very powerful happened that June day in 1944.
Something that greatly affected how each of us lives our lives to this day.
Keeping one’s personal opinion quiet when taking in the raw emotion while visiting
those beaches and those cemeteries is…well…an injustice really.
An injustice to each one of those crosses and stars.

So I suppose it’s all a matter of context…or maybe its a matter of perspective…

No matter what it is…there are just some things that deserve our full attention and our
full voice.

(images from the National Gaurd Memorial of Omaha Beach / Julie Cook / 2018)

We, too, born to freedom, and believing in freedom, are willing to fight to
maintain freedom. We, and all others who believe as deeply as we do,
would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Omaha, Utah, Sainte-Mère-Église


(view from one of the myriad of German bunkers that covered the Normandy coastline /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Several years ago, one Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping through the television
channels in hopes of finding something of interest.
I stopped on what was obviously a dated war movie.
Yet having never seen the movie, I knew immediately what it was…
It was the 1962 film The Longest Day.
A big screen depiction of the lead up to and the event of
the Invasion of Normandy…D-Day.

The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Richard Burton along with a host of
other big name stars of the day.

Despite not particularly wanting to watch a war film on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon, I
hunkered in, none the less, ready to endure a long afternoon watching a long film about
about a truly significant long day.

My purpose here is not to retell the historical events of that infamous day now 74 years ago.
but rather to offer a glimpse into what was and what is.

Our day for the D-Day tour couldn’t have been much worse.

As I noted in a post from the other day…there was rain, lots of rain…blowing wind and
bitter wet cold.

And yet the peaceful ebbing ocean that greeted us this day,
was anything but peaceful 74 years ago


(a parasilor enjoys the surf that was once red from the blood lost by those
soilders who never got to shore)

Rain blew sideways, winds gusted 35 to 40 MPH, umbrellas turned upward and a Patagonia
rain jacket that hails as an H2No…proved to be no match as I might as well
have been wearing a paper bag.

But the weather didn’t seem to matter on this particular September day as it seemed
almost fitting.
I knew that the weather on this northwestern coast of France, a coast right off the
often chaotic English Channel is famous for its squalls and unpredictability.

A predicament that proved crucial 74 years ago as the Allied forces needed a window to open.

During the course of our tour, I learned that the movie The Longest Day,
along with other similar movies such as Saving Private Ryan, are actually more movie
than truth.

John Wayne’s character was not the pivotal commanding officer that decisive day but because
John Wayne demanded the most airtime, his character came across as such.
The true leader of the offensive that day was a mere blip in the movie.

And the real tale of the Ryan brothers was not what Tom Hanks offered us as viewers…
And the currently hanging mock paratrooper who perpetually dangles from the bell tower
of Sainte-Mère-Église did not actually fall on that side of the tower at all.
Today’s manikin hangs from its current wall because it simply offers a better view
for visitors arriving into town.

John Steele, the unfortunate soldier whose parachute got hung up on the church tower, in the tiny
village of Sainte-Mère-Église survived his predicament but unfortunately went deaf
that fateful night—
It was the night that he, along with hundreds of parachuters jumped on a moonless night
out of hundreds of planes sent behind enemy lines just prior to the following day’s
infamous landing.

It just so happened that a fire had broken out in town and the church bells were ringing…
endlessly ringing alerting the villagers and occupying Germans that there was a fire and
that all available hands were needed to assist in putting out the fire.
Steele, having been shot in the foot, had to “play” dead so the Germans would not continue
shooting at him.
He hung for hours beside those ringing bells.

Other soldiers fell into the trees, getting tangled up in the limbs…many broke bones
and suffered traumatic punture wounds…
those lucky enough not to be shot while falling from the sky, hunkered in to fight.

Many who were shot as they helplessly floated in the night sky were killed long before
even hitting the ground.

One soldier that fell into this particular tree worked frantically to cut himself loose
from his shute, cutting off his thumb in the process.
Once he fell free to the ground, bleeding profusely, he managed to
get to a secure location in order to engage the enemy

Bullet holes remain in the rod iron fencing around a home once occupied by the
German commanding officer of the occupying army.
The scars of a small village which are the remaining physical reminders of
a battle fought so long ago.

From Utah Beach, we climbed down, in and around the now chared bunkers.
Soldiers who managed to survive the intial assualt after storming the beachhead
and then scaled the rocky cliffs, tossed grenades into the bunkers or used flamethrowers
to render the giant guns, used to fire at the Allied Naval ships just off the coast,
inoperable…


(one of the large guns remains in its bunker/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(the stone base where one of the “big” guns was once postioned)


(the hedgehog, that giant steel x shapped barrier, is origianl)

These particular beachheads were chosen in part due to the fact that the sand is
extremely dense and compactable.
Not a soft fluffy sort of sand but rather a hard packed sand, hard enough to allow
heavy equipment to be brought ashore.

Beachgoers today continue finding remnants of that fateful day.

What appears to be a grassy covered dip in the landscape is actually a bomb crater…
the shoreline is covered with such craters…

Sheep have been brought in to assist with ground maintenance as mowers cannot traverse
the pockmarked landscape

Bunkers and beaches have been transformed and are now somber memorials…

Eventually, we moved inward, driving a few miles from the beaches,
making our way to a tiny village and its cafe Cafe J. Phillippe….a cafe
that once greeted war-weary soldiers just as it greeted us this cold wet afternoon.

Mike holds a photograph of Allied troops making their way to this same village.
Stopping just as we did for a needed bite to eat…
the cafe remains just as it did 74 years ago–preserved and frozen in time…

Following our late lunch, we made our way to the final leg of our day which seemed most
fitting as it was indeed the final leg for upwards of 9400 men and women.

Yes, there are actually four servicewomen buried here in the cemetery.

The trees that line the cemetery are all capped off at the top…cut off as a purposeful
and visual reminder of all the fallen whose lives were cut short.

As visitors to the cemetery, we noticed that the names on all of the markers appeared
to be turned around as if backwards— facing away from arriving visitors.
However, we were told that there was a purpose here as well… all 9,387 markers face west…
as in they face home…a homeland that these brave men and women would never see again.

Seeing a sea of impeccably white and neatly aligned stars and crosses standing in silent
attention, each turned so as to face the United States which was nearly 5000 miles away
was almost more than my heart could bear.

Oddly the number of the buried in the cemetery continues to fluctuate.

Modern technology now allows for DNA testing on remains that are still being discovered.
As well as for those bodies that, for all these years, have gone unnamed and unknown.
The families of those Americans now being identified are afforded the option to either bring
home their loved one or to allow them to remain in France…buried in the American Cemetery.

The United States has vowed that they will identify all unknown soldiers buried in France.
Thus the number of buried now changes yearly with the latest body
receiving honors this past summer.

There is even one soldier from WWI who is actually buried in this WWII cemetery.

President Theodore Roosevelt, cousin to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had 4 sons.
All four sons served in WWI. The youngest son, Quentin, was a WWI flying ace who was shot
in the head during a dogfight and whose plane eventually crashed.
Two other sons suffered serious injuries during the war but
it was Quentin who remaind behind as he was buried in Belgium.

Years later his older brother Teddy Jr, who was at this time a grown man with a successful
business and political career was also a soldier.
Teddy Jr was actually a brigadier general.

By 1944 Teddy Jr. was in poor health suffering from both a serious heart condition and
crippling arthritis.
Knowing of the impending invasion, Teddy Jr. requested to be assigned as a
leading commander.
Yet due to his health, his initial request was denied.
Undeterred, he petitioned the high command and was allowed to serve as leading commander.

Teddy Jr. bravely lead the assault on Omaha Beach.
Four days later, Brig Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr died from a massive heart attack.

The Roosevelt family was asked if they would like for Teddy Jr’s body to be brought home for
burial at Arlington—however knowing that Teddy would want to remain with his men,
he was buried in France.
The family then asked if Quentin could be exhumed from his grave in Belgium and moved to be
beside his brother.
The request was granted.

And so when I hear of the stupidity, yes stupidity, about over-payed Football players, athletes,
and even now cheerleaders, who are all wanting to kneel during the singing of our National Anthem…
claiming that the flag of the United States does not represent them…
I am incensed.

Those kneeling individuals such as Colin Kaepernick, who is the poster face for
all things disrespectful, are no heroes.
It is not a risk to life to kneel rather than stand at the start of a ballgame.

He and his ilk are certainly entitled to their feelings and thoughts…
Kaepernick may even speak out and state his peace as to why he feels the flag does
not represent him or who he is—and who he is is a young man of mixed heritage
who happened to have been adopted as a child and reared and raised by a white family
who afforded him all the privileges and comforts of a middle-class family life…
He attended and played football on scholarship at UNLV–in part because that was the
only school, as reported by his mom, who would give him a scholarship.

And yet the irony in all of this is found in the lives and eventual death of those
young men from a previous and different generation who were actually the ones who
stormed those Norman beaches…
They were fearful and nervous as to what awaited them on that fateful June day in 1944—

Young men…some who prayed, some who smoked, some who whimpered through tears
and those who sat stoically before they were given the call to charge…

They raced into the sea which turned red with their blood, racing into a hail of
machine gun fire, grenades, and bombs blasting all around them…
they did so for the likes of Colin Kaepernick and his NIKE sea
of followers…they did so as well as for you and me…for those of us who are humbled
by their bravery and for those of us who prefer to show disdain for the same flag these
young men proudly carried and quickly died under…

https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery#.W8j6f6eZP2Q

In war, there are no real winners

“Older men declare war.
But it is youth that must fight and die.”

Herbert Hoover


(The Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux circa 1077 / Bayeux France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Backing up a bit from yesterday, I should have actually started our story here—
here in the historical town of Bayeux, France.

We had journeyed by train from Paris to Bayeux where we would be staying for three days.
Bayeux is most notably known for being the home to the Bayeux Tapestry…

I spent a good bit of one Art History class in college studying the Bayeux Tapestry…
seeing it up close and personal was a treasured treat.

According to Wikipedia, the tapestry is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 meters (230 ft)
long and 50 centimeters (20 in) tall,
which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William,
Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex,
later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.
It is thought to date to the 11th century, within a few years after the battle.
It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans,
but is now agreed to have been made in England.

And so it was becoming apparent that battle and conquest have each been a part of
this Norman coast’s history…
As our purpose for being in Normandy was to visit the sites from a different generation’s conquest…
those areas of the northwestern coast of France which have become seared into human history
for simply being the right place and the right location on an infamous June day in 1944.

It was to be a key and pivotal location in order to guarantee Western Civilization’s
freedom from tyranny…security from tyranny that came at such a tremendous cost to
human life…
a cost that many of our current society’s cultural left demigods have long since
forgotten.

We began our quest with a visit to the German Cemetary.

Normandy is not just the home to the American war dead but to
the British, French, Canadian, and yes, the Germans as well.


(The German cemetery, Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Mike, our guide, explained that the American Government made the promise to bring home
the body of any serviceman whose family requested such in order that they could bury their
loved ones on US soil— otherwise, the burial would be near to where they had died—
in a cemetery that would become known as the American D-day Cemetery—

On the other hand, the German Government following their defeat and division of
East and West, could make no such promise and therefore their dead remained in France…
with often two bodies per grave.

The ages of the German dead are young…many being in their teens or early 20’s
as this was the beginning of the end of Hitler’s reign and desperation was
now very apparent…as the ages of those who are resting in these graves
will forever remind us of the face of desperation…children dying
on the battlefield.

The American cemetery is currently maintained by the US Government…
The German cemetery, on the other hand, is maintained by the German Military.
To this day it is part of every German soldier’s responsibility to journey to Normandy to help
“keep up” the cemetery.

We were told that there was a letter found at the cemetery written by a local
middle school student.
In his letter, a letter that was written to the young men not much older than himself
and long since dead, stated that he had no ill will or bad feelings toward
these young German soldiers who had once occupied his own homeland
as they were doing what they thought was right…that being the defense of their homeland.

And so what we learned as we solemnly looked out over a sea of black crosses,
was that there are no real winners when man battles man.

Perhaps it would behoove our Nation to remember this little fact as our courntry is
so busy marking its hateful divide over both left or right.

We can see this mystical equation of joy and suffering in all the events of Christ’s life,
culminating in His Passion and death, which are neither an accident nor a postscript,
appendix, or addition, but the very consummation, the fruit and flower,
of His life. He lived backward, for he lived in order to die;
and we can understand His life only if we follow his life with our thought and think backward,
as we can understand a rose only if we look backward from the flower to the plant.

Peter Kreeft
from Doors in the Walls of the World

(all pictures by Julie Cook)

The Church at Angoville

“All my life I made it a matter of principle to tend all soldiers
equally whatever their uniforms could be. I could not say to the Germans:
“You sit there and if you are bleeding to death. I don’t care”

Army Medic Robert Wright


(Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain..
the humble church at Angonville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Despite it being September 22 it was an unusually cold and blustery day…
or so it seemed for our little group of four from both Georgia and Florida.
However, this was Northern France, just inward from the North Atlantic coast.

The rain came in spurts…sometimes blowing sideways, sometimes merely misting.
The temperature was in the low 50’s but the howling 35 mph gusts made it seem much colder.

Somber weather for a somber day.

Our driver turned the van we were calling home for the day around a sharp corner along
a quiet narrow street as we came to a stop on a gravel drive just aside a large
ancient oak.

We exited the van, with umbrellas in hand, huddling together, as a small group of 5—
the four from Georgia and Florida and one from Holland who now made
Normandy, France his home as we readied ourselves for something that we all
sensed was going to be so much greater than ourselves.

The guide’s name was Mike.
Mike Van Den Dobbelsteen with Bayeux Shuttle Service.
Mike is a Dutchman who has a nearly perfect British accent…
but of course, this particular day was his 12th wedding anniversary…
his wife hails from England which helped to explain his heavy British accent.

His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding history…in particular this history
was immense.

It was still early in our day’s adventure,
although having just come from the German Cemetary in Normandy,
we now found ourselves standing outside the doors of an extremely humble
little stone church.

A church that would be easily overlooked by passerbys.
A church that harkened back to a different time.
A church that was named for two martyrs who had actually been medical doctors.
An odd coincidence given the role this church played during a day that changed
our world’s history.

The beginning of this tiny church dates back to the 11th century, to 1088 to be exact…
but it was what happened in the middle of the 20th century, 9 centuries following the
inception of this church, that actually puts this church on the map of modern history.

As we stood gathered under the large tree shielding us from the cold pelting rain,
my eyes immediately gravitated to the dark granite cross-like marker standing stoically
on the grounds of this seemingly humble French church.

Toccoa.

My uncle and aunt had made Toccoa, Georgia their home for nearly 50 years.
It was in that small northeast Georgia town in which my cousins had spent their
childhood growing up…
Was there some sort of a connection between this tiny town in northwestern France and that
of the North Georgia town bearing that stone cross’s inscription?

Yes.

Yes, there was indeed a connection.

In the early 1940’s, Toccoa, Georgia found itself home to the World War II
“Screaming Eagles” paratrooper corps.
E Company to be exact.
E Company was based at Camp Toccoa, a rustic training base located in
northeast Georgia that operated from 1942 through 1945.

It was that same E Company which trained in Toccoa, Georgia that would find itself
falling from the sky on June 6, 1944, into and around the tiny French Village of
Angonville-Au-Plain. A far cry from the north Georgia skies where they had practiced
for this very moment.

The French Village Angoville-au-Plain lies between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville,
at the D 913 in Normandy. It is a small village with at its center a small church.
The village was part of DZ (drop zone) D in June the 6th 1944.
Drop zone D was the most southern drop zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion,
501st PIR (Klondikes) of the 101st Airborne Division.
The first 48 hours after the jump heavy clashes found a place between American
paratroopers and German Fallschirmjäger, which are rather elite German airborne infantry.

By Guido Wilmes
Translation Thijs Groot Kormelink

Mike offered us a briefing regarding the Nazis who had hunkered down in and
around this tiny village as well as the allied airdrop of paratroopers who had
floated out of the sky behind enemy lines…

This was to be the first line of a hoped-for offensive.

“Serg. Jim Cox was fighting at Angoville with 52 Paratroopers.
The shelling by mortars and 88 mm guns were so violent that they decided to rejoin
the command post of Bob Sink.

The area of the church at Angoville changed hands several times.
When the Germans arrived in the village they saw the Red Cross flag at the door of the church.
Noticing that German casualties [that] were lying on the pews together with the paratroopers
[so] they left.
The church protected by the Red Cross remained a heaven [haven] of peace
in the middle of a battle.

(excerpt from a brochure provided by the city of Angoville-Au-Plain/
brackets are my corrections)

The impromptu medical clinic was manned by two American airmen, members of the Toccoa
Screaming Eagles, who had only a month’s worth of medical training between them.
75 badly wounded men, both American and German, were under the care of these two haphazard
medics—
Medic Robert Wright and Private Kenneth Moore.

“Robert Wright and I, said private Kenneth Moore, a stretcher bearer,
were the only once to look after the casualties in the church of Angoville.
In the evening we had got 75 of them.
Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.
So we were left alone with the wounded soldiers.
A German officer soon arrived.
He asked me if I could tend the Germans as well.
We accepted.
During the night the churchyard was the scene of a battle.
Two of our casualties died.
But among those I could tend, none lost their lives.
I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin-deep but others were more serious
abdominal cases.”

The blood stains, stains that soaked deep into the wooden pews,
remain clearly visible all these 74 years later.

It is said that the two medics would move the more critically wounded to the front of
the church in order to be near the altar of as they wanted these men to
find a sense of peace should this be their last night on earth.

At one point two German soldiers, who had been hiding in the loft of the church, came down a
side set of stairs holding arms high in the air as they attempted to surrender
to these two bewildered American medics.
They told the German soldiers that there was no time for surrender…they needed them to go
out and fetch some fresh water as they needed their help tending to the wounded men.
The German soldiers willingly obliged.

As I type my recollection of this emotional visit with its surreal story,
I feel the warm tears filling my eyes.

There are so many links to a wide array of sites (some I’ve listed below) that can tell
the story of Angoville with greater detail than I can.
Those who are much more knowledgeable than I…

I wish I could somehow convey the tremendous emotions…emotions from humility to gratitude
that now fill me as I try to share and convey this individual tale…an individual story of duty and
humanity that is but one out of thousands of tales during this particular time of madness.

It makes me feel very very small…and given our current days and time…
I think we might all benefit from feeling small.

The fact that two men who fell woefully short in medical training saved all but two
of the men who were entrusted to their care…men from both sides of battle,
all the while behind enemy lines, is short of miraculous.

As miraculous was the fact that a mortar came crashing down through the roof of this tiny church’s
ceiling landing in the middle of and sticking with a thud smack dab in the center of
the anceint slate floor…

A mortar that did not explode.

Had it exploded, as it should have, the church would have been leveled and all the men killed…
leaving the village of Angoville as just another forgotten causality of war.

Some say it was the saints Côme and Damien who watched over this motley crew of wounded
soldiers and hapless caregivers.

“What allowed that medic to hold for 72 hours without food and rest?
Wright later explained…”The simple concern of helping other people.
When you do something that is worth doing you don’t think of your own life.”

In 1999 Robert Wright made a pilgrimage back to this tiny church.
He noted that “the church at Angoville will never be on the list of the important
churches to be visited in Europe. Yet however small the building is,
it does not prevent God understanding where hearts and prayer are.
They were many in this place.”

Robert Wright passed away at the age of 89.
His wish was to be buried in the cemetery of the same small church where he
had worked alongside Kenneth Moore to save the lives of 80 men.

His grave is simple and yet speaks voulumes in its simplicity.

Today there are only 53 people who remain living in Angoville-Au-Plain.
The local mayor asks those who visit to please remember the importance of this
special place.
I will be sending them a donation…the euros I brought home along with a US monetary donation.

I want to do so because places like Angoville are too important for us to simply allow them to
succumb to the fickleness of time…
because time has an odd way of making us forget what once was while we busy ourselves
so as to not see what will be but rather we allow ourselves to wallow in the current moment
which only hopes to swallow us whole.

There are two stain-glass windows which were installed not long ago which commemorate
the importance of this church.

</a

This will be the first of several tales that I’ll be sharing regarding the big retirement
adventure trip which focuses on the real reason for the trip…that being the visit to
Normandy, France, and the D-Day Memorials…

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/a-veteran-s-story-the-little-church-that-could/article_47f87fc0-5330-554b-8326-4b8cb975a3d9.html

http://klondikes.nl/wordpress/501st-aid-station-in-the-church-of-angoville-au-plain/

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/august/28/toccoa-georgia

don’t mess with Texas….cheerleaders


(image courtesy Click 2 Houston News)

They say that everything is bigger in Texas…
and that also might mean badder…that is, if badder was an actually correct word.

Texas and Texans are known for being tenacious.
As in they can take a ‘licken’ and keep on ‘ticken’ sort of tenaciousness.

As in tumbleweed tenacious.

As in nothing much gets in their way to stop them from doing those Texas things
that they do.

I know this because I have a dear friend in Texas, a tumbleweed of sorts,
who has been fighting the good fight with cancer treatment.

It has not been an easy road, nor a peaceful road, but fight she has.

Unfortunately, life has been such that I have not been the active cheerleader for her as
I wish I could have been or really should have been.

Our ages are slightly different and we happen to currently find ourselves
at different life junctures.

Isn’t that always the way?

Just when she was getting bad news of diagnoses,
I found myself consumed in the care of a new grandbaby.

We were headed in opposite life directions…each going 90 to nothing…

Yet it never left my mind nor heart that she was in the throes of a battle.

I found that prayer was my best recourse because in the end, when all is said and done,
prayer was and is so much better than anything I could have or could continue to offer.

And at last word, she’s hanging tough…

Because that’s how they are in Texas, they are tough.

So just know that I’ve not forgotten you, Natalie.

And so as we speak of Texas and tenacity…I caught a story a few weeks back
about a group of real cheerleaders in Texas.
A group of high school cheerleaders to be exact from the small town of Kountze.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a high school football game but where I come
from, and obviously down in Texas, it is customary for the cheerleaders to paint
a giant run-through banner on a weekly basis as a pre-game ritual.

The banner is usually a sort of visual battle cry that is held aloft just prior to
the team running onto the field.
It’s a banner the cheerleaders hold up, standing on either side holding it taut,
so at just the right moment when the football team comes running onto the field,
they burst through the sign all to the sounds of a roaring enthusiastic crowd.

At this particular school in Texas, the cheerleaders decided they wanted to paint
words of encouragement for their team…Scripturally based words of encouragement…
as in words from the Bible.

The short of this 5-year long story is exactly as you’d think…
the cheerleaders were told by the principal and superintendent that they could not paint
those signs.
Maybe someone complained to the school authorities about a
violation of Church and state…as we all know public schools are state goods.
Or maybe the school administrators were fearful of complaints and they were the ones
to nix the signs.

And as a former teacher, I know first hand that if there is one thing that can strike fear
into a school administration, it is the fear of a lawsuit being filed…in particular
lawsuits that have the potential to be high profile.

And yet this school district’s administration actually decided to fight the girls and their
continued desire to make the Scripturally based run-throughs in court.

I’ve provided the link below to the story as the ending is not what I or you might have expected…
I was actually pleasantly surprised in this story’s end.

Five years have passed.

The girls have all since moved on…only to leave other cheerleaders to carry their torch.

There were filings and hearings in state courts which lead all the way to the Supreme Court,
who actually, just the other week, ruled in favor of the girls.

Ruling that yes the cheerleaders could continue painting Bible verses on the run-throughs
for the football team.

And as Todd Starnes, the author of the article so aptly notes…
“I reckon the Kountze cheerleaders have learned a very important lesson about perseverance
over the past five years. You really can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”

Just as I know my friend Natalie is demonstrating better than most of us!

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/08/31/todd-starnes-texas-cheerleaders-win-victory-for-freedom-religious-expression-praise-lord.html

Standards…all kinds of standards– all equally powerful.

“When depravity and immorality appear more prevalent in society,
one of the main causes can be traced to silent or inactive Christians”

David Fiorazo


(The Queen’s Royal Standard flying over Windosr Castle courtesy the web)

The Royal Standard, otherwise known as the Royal flag, is flown only when the Queen of
England and that of the British Commonwealth is physically in a particular residence—
The flag is her very visible calling card.

According to Wikipedia,
“the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is flown when the Queen
is in residence in one of the royal palaces and on her car, ship or aeroplane.
It may be flown on any building, official or private, during a visit by the Queen,
if the owner or proprietor so requests.
It famously replaces the Union Flag over the Palace of Westminster when the Queen visits
during the State Opening of Parliament.
The Royal Standard was flown aboard the royal yacht when it was in service and the
Queen was on board.
The only church that may fly a Royal Standard, even without the presence of the Sovereign,
is Westminster Abbey, a Royal Peculiar”

So whether the Queen is in Scotland at Balmoral, in London at Buckingham Palace,
in Berkshire at Windsor Castle or simply riding in her limousine–etc…
a flag bearing the royal colors and emblems denoting the House of Windsor
is flown allowing all who see the flag to know that the Queen is indeed present.

It’s how a tourist visiting London, wishing to see the changing of the Gaurd,
knows whether or not the Queen is at “home.”
However, it matters not to said tourist whether the Queen is home or not…
as chances are the Queen won’t be receiving visitors…
yet the flag remains… a powerful symbol of a powerful yet diminutive woman.

Yet the flag actually represents much more than a 92-year-old monarch…
despite her reign being the longest in British history…surpassing even that of her
great great grandmother Victoria, the British Standard is so very much more than simply
the Queen.

Flags, and or standards, are powerful symbols representing powerful ideals.
Think of battlefields…be they ancient or current…as long as troops have marched, rode
or even flown into the face of conflict, a flag has most always been leading the charge.


(Lady Liberty leading the People by Eugene Delacroix 1830 from the July Revolution /The Louvre)

Think of every coffin of any US serviceman or woman that is brought home from a foreign field
of battle—that casket is covered in the American flag.
It is a tremendously powerful and very moving image.


(a 2009 image of Amercian servicemen returning home after offering the ultimate sacrifice)

And so when our favorite rouge bishop, Bishop Gavin Ashenden wrote his day’s post regarding
the soon to be flying of a certain flag high over the tower of Ely Cathedral,
a powerful and most dangerous message is to be sent…
A message that has our friend sounding a grave warning to not only Christians but more
importantly to the Chruch herself.

I’ve actually cut the entire post and added it as simply listing the link does not
do enough to help echo Bishop Ashenden’s alarm.

For you see, I’m slowly making my way into the book The Cost of Our Silence by David
Fiorazo. And this post and this alarm being offered to us by Bishop Ashenden is
exactly what David Fiorazo is talking about.

Will we as Christians simply fade into the woodwork pretending this has nothing to do with
us, or will be willing to speak up and out?

My prayer is that we will find the courage to speak

Ely cathedral has promised to fly the gay rainbow flag this weekend.

Mark Bonney, the Dean of Ely explained.

“This weekend we will be proudly flying the rainbow flag in support of the first ever
‘Pride in Ely’ event.

I am very pleased that Chapter agreed to my request to fly the ‘Pride’ flag from the
Cathedral tower on 11 August when Pride in Ely holds its first festival.
I am pleased first of all to lend my backing to this community event because it
celebrates the breadth and diversity of the community in which we all live.
I am also very conscious that Christians have not always been perceived as being as
supportive and inclusive as some of us would wish, and so I am pleased to fly this
flag as a sign of the kind of inclusion that I wish to promote at the Cathedral”

The Dean of Ely has adopted the secular values of a culture that has set its face against
Christianity, and is waging a war against Judaeo-Christian culture.

Sexual ethics have always been at the heart of the Christian’s struggle with sin,
the world and the devil. But it seems the Dean of Ely is not overly concerned with either
sin, or the distinction between the Church and the world, or the struggle with evil.

But then more and more cathedrals see themselves as civic centres of spirituality,
wanting to embrace the secular.

Jesus warned that you could not more serve God and mammon than you could submit to
the temptations of the devil and still work for the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the case of Ely, the Dean is choosing the Leftist values of so-called
‘breadth and diversity’ (values found nowhere in the Christian Gospels) and wants to make
reparation for the fact that Christians have been insufficiently supportive of
non-monogamous and heterosexual sexual adventure
(code word ‘inclusivity’- another term found nowhere in the teaching of Jesus.)

In brief, why is this an act of apostasy and worse?

The flying of a gay pride flag above a cathedral is more than a
contradiction, it constitutes a blasphemy.

Distorted sexual identity and practice is diagnosed by St Paul as a symptom of idolatry
(in Romans 1).

He warns that the more a society turns its back on the living God,
the more people experience dis-ease and disintegration.
This expresses itself partially in a confusion of sexual identity and equally by an
absence of continence. By contrast, the Judaeo-Christian tradition is a journey into
a deeper sexual and psychological purity, set within the parameters of God’s created order.

The present cultural and ideological assault on the Church takes the form of an attack
on the conceptual integrity of both marriage and the family.

It particularly sets out to undermine the integrity of the given-ness of the ‘binary’
categories of man and woman coming together to co-create, as God’s agents.

Instead of resisting this assault, parts of the church have welcomed it.
By ripping a piece of St Paul out context they have made him say the opposite of
what he intended.

In Galatians 3 Paul explored the basic categories of mutual antagonisms embedded in
his culture. Jews against gentiles, men against women and the free against the enslaved.
Once anyone defined by these categories of adversity entered the new life in Christ,
this baptised life washed these antipathies away into a new identity.
“In Christ, there is no slave or free…”. This can best be summarised by saying that
no Christian can truly be a Christian if they place a defining categorising adjective
in front of their identity in Christ.

So there can be no black, tall, rich, old, feeble, or any other category to define ‘Christian’,
or it becomes a contradiction in terms.

And particularly, of all adjectives, the least desirable would be an adjective
denoting perversion of God-given identity, or a disorder of behaviour whose effect was
the sullying of sexual purity as enabled experienced and understood in the Holy Spirit.

But this is exactly what the gay pride movement has set out to achieve in the
redefining and undermining of Christian sexual ethics and theological identity.

It would be ludicrous to describe people as ‘straight’ Christians.
It is just as ludicrous to define people as ‘gay’ Christians.
Our new anthropology of the Kingdom bestows an identity that is ‘in Christ’.
How can a Christian withdraw that identity and relocate it in a spectrum of sexual
and genital attraction?
What kind of Christian, what kind of church would replace the ‘imago Christi’
with the romanticised stimuli of genitalia?
What kind of Church would replace the call to die to yourself with the psycho-sexual
narcissism of a call to sexual and romantic adventure with a same sexual partner?

The matter is not made any clearer by the observation that the very term gay is
too clumsy to act as a descriptor of the horizon of sexual incoherence that stretches
through the spectrum of LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA etc…

In flying the flag of gay pride from a Christian Cathedral,
the clergy have indicated their allegiance to an ideology of sexual identity that is at
complete odds with the faith that the Cathedral was built to teach and embody.

They have instead adopted the categories, language, and ethics of the enemies of Christ
and his kingdom.
They have betrayed Christ by raising the standard of surrender and offering their
allegiance instead to an over-sexualized, disordered and decaying secularism.

A church built on such a foundation, of ideological sand, is both under judgment
and built upon such shifting sand, that it will inevitably soon collapse.

Ely cathedral and the great apostasy