finding equality in our atrocities

The way we respond to ideas has morphed.
They work differently now.
We experience them more like a virus spreading a plague than they do building blocks
one can take and reshape and build concepts and patterns out of.

Gavin Ashenden


(a chilly January night in Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must admit my head has been a bit in the sand as of late—not due to hiding, but just due to life.
Be it the pollen or the crud I’ve been battling on and off for the past several weeks, or
a few personal diversions, or simply be it from the clanging din from all things media
of “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming….”

All of whom were never coming…
So we can all pull the vodka back out because I think we’re safe…

And so I say all of this because I have had precious little time to
read…. much…of anything…

Needless to say anything from our favorite across the ponds clerics.

It’s been months, sadly I must confess, that I’ve had the chance to watch an episode of
Anglican Unscripted…and rarely can I take in a full post by the Wee Flea, David Roberston.

And that’s really how Satan likes it—divert their eyes lest they see what’s truth
and what is actually coming…

So when you’re running at full tilt like I have been, you try to stop long enough just to
snag a bit of news….just to see if the planet is still spinning or whether we’ve simply
gone off tilt and are wildly spinning out of control…
of which it so often seems.

Yet I am reminded that…
today, trust in the media is at an all-time low,
and it is easy to understand why so many Americans are absolutely sick and tired of being
lied to by the big media companies.

Tyler Durden

And so like so many others who want to know the truth,
I work hard to sift out the truth from the spoils…

It is such a difficult task to find that truth…so much so that that is why I seek out those
who use Christian filters in order to sift through those spoils —
hence why I find the offerings of David Robertson and Gavin Ashenden
so keenly important…

They sift through the muck and find God’s light.

So I did stop long enough this morning to squeeze in the latest posting by our favorite rouge Anglican,
Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

Is it just me or did you hear, see or read anything about the mass murders of the Nigeran Christians???
Because I know I didn’t.

I did hear a great deal about the Christchurch mosque murders in
New Zealand which came by the hands of a madman.

But what of the madmen who massacred the Nigerian Christians??
I didn’t hear about that at all.

In fact, I’m really upset I didn’t read, see or hear about it.

I may not get to always catch a lot of television but I do get breaking news alerts on
my phone, I read the headlines from local and national news sites and I do even
receive alerts from the BBC…

But nothing about 140 murdered Nigerian Christians.

Is it because it was in Nigeria?
Is it because they were Christians?

Bishop Ashenden wonders the same…

The Media lamented profoundly with the victims (those of the Christchurch mosque killing); rightly.
But so deep did its sympathies run, that it told only one side of a wider story.
49 people were killed by a callous white secular Australian murderer in the Christchurch Mosque.
But in the same week, 140 Nigerian Christians were butchered by their Muslim neighbours;
and the media were silent. Sometimes what you don’t say is as powerful
a way of distorting the truth as telling a lie.

https://ashenden.org/2019/03/28/we-need-new-universities-to-help-people-love-ideas-without-hating-people-jordan-peterson-islam-and-freedom-of-speech/

And so it is in the same vein of thinking that my cousin sent me a link to a story
that she recently read regarding the Nigerian massacres.

Knowing that I often write about those under the radar reported stories regarding the global attacks
on Christians, she thought I would find the article interesting if not actually telling.

And I did…

Now I don’t read Breitbart nor am I familiar with the Zero Hedge site of which she shares,
but I still found the reported story very telling.

Why didn’t I hear about this on a mainstream news site?
Have we been so consumed with all things “collusion” that we fail to hear or see the atrocities
that continue happening to the faithful worldwide?

I wonder if we have not become so utterly divided that we are now mindlessly
defining our collective human atrocities separately.

In Nigeria, more than 120 Christians have been gunned down or killed with machetes over the past
three weeks, but Breitbart was the only big media outlet to report on it…

As Breitbart News alone reported among major news outlets,
Fulani jihadists racked up a death toll of over 120 Christians over the past three weeks
in central Nigeria, employing machetes and gunfire to slaughter men, women, and children,
burning down over 140 houses, destroying property, and spreading terror.

The New York Times did not place this story on the front page;
in fact, they did not cover it at all.
Apparently, when assessing “all the news that’s fit to print,”
the massacre of African Christians did not measure up.
The same can be said for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune,
the Detroit Free Press, the LA Times, and every other major paper in the United States.

And of course, Breitbart is not exactly “mainstream” media.

So why won’t anyone else report on this?

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Last June,
twelve entire Christian villages in central Nigeria were completely wiped out…

In only days, a dozen villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state were wiped out.
The affected communities surround the city of Jos—known as the epicenter
of Christianity in northern Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

As many as 200 Christians had been killed, however,
some residents fear the death toll may be even higher, as more bodies are yet to be recovered,
while others were burned beyond recognition. On Sunday,
75 of the victims were buried in a mass grave.

I’ll bet that most of you had not heard about that until now.

On the other side of the world, 20 innocent people were slaughtered
when Muslim radicals bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral in January…

On January 27, Muslim extremists bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral on the
Philippine island of Jolo, killing some 20 people and injuring dozens of others.

Once again, this is yet another mass killing that was almost
entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

Is the anti-Christian bias among the mainstream media so strong that
they can’t even bring themselves to report the basic facts to us?

People deserve to know what is happening.
Christian persecution is rising in almost every nation on the planet,
and this huge ongoing crisis should be on our front pages on a continual basis.

But instead, we never get to hear any of these stories unless
we seek out alternative sources of information.

Over in China, the persecution of Christians has reached a frightening crescendo.
Recently, officials have been going house to house and replacing pictures
of Jesus Christ “with pictures of dictator Mao Zedong and/or
China’s current authoritarian president, Xi Jinping”…

If you were to replace “Christians” with some other favored group in any of the examples
that I have just shared, you would instantly have front page news all over the planet.

The mainstream media is definitely not “independent”,
and they are not looking out for you.

They have their own agenda and anything that does not fit that
agenda does not get to be part of “the news”.

So far in 2019, there have been 453 Islamic terror attacks in which 1,956 people have been murdered.
But you will never hear those numbers from the mainstream media.

Instead, when the mainstream media talks about Bible-believing
Christians it is almost always an attack story.
As a recent Breitbart article aptly observed,
having “an anti-Christian bias” has become “the last acceptable prejudice”…

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-03-18/why-does-mainstream-media-purposely-ignore-mass-killings-christians-across-globe

Our news, our politicians, our very nation is so utterly divided and skewed that sifting
through the spoils has now become vastly important…
because if not—the truth will be hidden from plain sight.

Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation; for you, I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:5

chains

A christian martyrdom is never an accident,
for Saints are not made by accident.”

T.S. Eliot

“What Saint has ever won his crown without first contending for it?”
St. Jerome


(The Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli / the Basilica of St Peter in Chains / Rome, Ialy /
Julie Cook / 2018)

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter was sleeping between two soldiers,
bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell.
He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.
“Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.”
And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him.
Peter followed him out of the prison,
but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city.
It opened for them by itself, and they went through it.
When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
(Acts 12:5-10)

The bonds, according to tradition, once held fast the limbs of St. Peter the Apostle
and have been cherished by Christians since the first century.

The story of their veneration first appears in the ancient Acts of Saint Alexander,
an early pope who died as a martyr in AD 115.
As he awaited his own execution, he received a visit from Quirinus,
the nobleman who oversaw the prisons in Rome.
The man’s daughter Balbina was desperately ill,
and he had heard that Pope Alexander had the power to heal her.
She was completely cured when the pope touched her with his chains.
Balbina wanted to kiss the chains in gratitude —
but Alexander instructed her to find the chains of St. Peter and honor them instead.

Balbina became a Christian–and, according to some accounts, a consecrated virgin–
and she arranged for the construction of a shrine for St. Peter’s fetters.
It would be rebuilt and moved and expanded through the centuries.

As Rome’s Christians honored Peter’s chains from the Mamertine,
so the Church in Jerusalem kept his chains from the Herodian prison.
In the fifth century, the Christian empress Eudocia, the wife of Theodosius II,
sent a length of Peter’s Jerusalem chains to St. Leo the Great.
According to tradition, Leo held it beside Peter’s chains from the Mamertine Prison,
and the two miraculously, inseparably fused together.

There are abundant testimonies to the presence of these chains in Rome.
St. Gregory the Great, who reigned as pope from 590 to 604,
was intensely devoted to the relic and often sent small filings as gifts to dignitaries–
to Constantina Augusta, the Byzantine empress; to a bishop named Columbus;
to King Childebert of the Franks; to King Rechared of the Visigoths; and to Theodore,
the court physician at Constantinople.
He would place the filing in a key-shaped reliquary–
the key representing Peter’s authority.
He sent each particle with a prayer
“that what bound [Peter’s] neck for martyrdom, may loose yours from all sins.”

The chains are today exposed for veneration in a gold and glass reliquary in the
Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli, on Rome’s Oppian Hill,
a church built in the fifth century during the reign of Leo the Great.
(Catholic Education Resource Center)

The Basilica of St Peter’s in Chains is what we consider, by Catholic Chruch standards,
as a minor basilica…meaning it is not one of the four Major Basilicas in Rome…
Rather it is a church of perhaps lesser significance but, in my opinion, it is still
significant none the less.

Say what you will about the Catholic Chruch, there is simply no denying that our roots,
our Christian roots, run deep in and through Rome.
That which had become known as the Latin West Chruch.

In the very dust of this city that is oozing with a vast array of sensory overloads,
rests the shadows of those who went long before us, all helping to create the history
we hold dear to this day.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, and eventual death, Rome was considered to be
the center of all that was and is.

A great and mighty empire who’s arms reached far and wide…even to the obscure
desert outpost of Judea.

The Roman Empire and the life of a Jewish carpenter were on a collision course.

Rome was considered the epicenter of this once mighty Empire…the seat of its government.

Scripture tells us that both Peter and Paul traveled to, preached throughout,
were each imprisoned in and were both eventually executed in this once important
center of all of humankind.

Yet today’s chaotic, trendy, chic and often very dirty city is a far cry from the city
that once “ruled the world.”

Just this past weekend there was a massive citywide protest as demonstrators took to
the streets showing their disdain for Rome’s crumbling infrastructure,
its overflowing trash and the fact that rats and even wild boar now roam this once
orderly city seeking out the overflowing trash.

Decades of inept and governmental corruption has taken its toll of what was once
Imperial Rome

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46003670

Yet Rome remains a rich treasure trove of our human history.
From art to architecture, from the sacred to the mysterious, Rome offers the curious a
fantastic feast.

The Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli is but one treat in this Roman feast.

Many people come here not so much to see a box of old chains but rather they wish
to see a masterpiece of marble and craftsmanship–
up close and personal, that of Michelangelo’s Moses.


(all images by Julie Cook, Rome, Italy / 2018)

The statue of Moses is only a part of what was to be the massive tomb for Pope Julius II—
the same pope who had a lifelong love-hate relationship with Michaelangelo

The Pope had charged Michaelangelo to construct a massive tomb to be used after his death.
Yet during the same time, the Pope had commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.

As Michaelangelo never considered himself to be a painter but rather a sculptor only, he felt
a deep sense of angst over having to work on such a massive undertaking of painting.

A painting that millions of people now flock yearly to see.

He actually ran away at one point, attempting to escape the demands of the man who history
now attributes to be the pope who brought St Peter’s to the glory that we marvel over today.
The Pope actually sent his soldiers to Florence to retrieve Michaelangelo…
bringing him back to finish his commission, of which they did and Michaelangelo in turn
eventually did.

Fortunately or unfortunately, however, Pope Julius II died before Michaelangelo could finish
the massive tomb. Yet luckily today for both the curious and the tourist,
we may view this lesser monument here in the Basilica.

The statue of Moses is the central figure that draws all attention.
It is a single massive piece of Carrara marble.

Looking closely one sees that Moses has what appears to be horns protruding
from his head. But the horns are due to a mistranslation.

Michelangelo’s Moses is depicted with horns on his head.
He, like so many artists before him, was laboring under a misconception.
This is believed to be because of the mistranslation of the Hebrew Scriptures
into Latin by St Jerome.
Moses is actually described as having “rays of the skin of his face”,
which Jerome in the Vulgate had translated as “horns”.
The mistake in translation is possible because the word “keren”
in the Hebrew language can mean either “radiated (light)” or “grew horns”.

(Rome.Info)

And whereas I will always stand in awe and marvel anytime I have an opportunity to stand
and gaze on a massive piece of marble that a seemingly otherworldly gifted man managed to
coax out an unbelievable miracle of vision and craftsmanship,
it is to the box of chains that held my fascination on this most recent visit.

Those who are jaded or who scoff over the significance afforded to something, that may or
may not be what it claims to be, may certainly be that way and question.

And whereas I cannot say yay or nay as to the authenticity of these chains…
Were these the actual chains that held Peter?
I don’t know if any of us can ever say, and  yet to me,
it is not whether they are or are not what they claim to be which is important
but is to where they direct my thoughts.

They have been on display since the year 115,
roughly 47 years following Peter’s execution in Rome.

I have sat in the Mamertine prison.

Sitting in the dark, on a small ledge, contemplating the fate of those who
were once kept in this underground dungeon.
It is, as it was then, a dark enclosed dungeon..an outcropping that now sits at the
foot of Capitoline Hill. A Christian church now sits atop this prison.

Prisoners were lowered by ropes down into this pit of a prison.
It is the prison said to have once held both Saints, Peter and Paul.

Peter was bound in chains when he held as a prisoner in the Herodian prison
as well as the Mamertine prison.

So as to this miraculous union of two separate sets of chains binding together as one,
again, is beyond my ability to say…

But what I do know is that these mysterious chains draw me back to scripture,
they draw me back to a mighty God who uses simple men and women to do mighty works.

No chain, no boundary, no weight, no limitation exists that can hold our Mighty God.
Small things such as a box full of historical chains are but a physical reminder of this.

Sometimes we need, I need, those physical reminders because my mind, our minds,
are so limited whereas our God is so limitless.

And so as Pope Gregory the Great reminds us…
“that what bound [Peter’s] neck for martyrdom, may loose yours from all sins.”

Amen…

sinking ships

Democracy requires common ground on which all can stand,
but that ground is sinking beneath our feet, and democracy may be going
down the sinkhole with it.

Pat Buchanan


(Canterbury Cathedral)

I grew up in a very large church in a rather large denomination in an
increasingly large city.

The Cathedral of St Philip.

A beautifully large Episcopal, southern Gothic, church reminiscent of something that
should have been found somewhere in the UK rather than Atlanta, Georgia.

The Cathedral is the diocesan seat of the North Georgia chapter
of the Episcopal Church in Georgia.

The Episcopal Church of America, in a nutshell, is a part of the World Wide Anglican Communion and is basically a sibling to the The Church of England.

Many consider the Episcopal and Anglican Churches kissing cousins to the Catholic
Church. And perhaps there is a good bit of truth to that as we are each liturgical
churches that follow a similar service format with very similar
creeds and doctrine.
Yet whereas the cousins are related, they are also different.
The cousins have a pope and we have the Presiding Bishop in American and the
Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK.

Confused yet?

It is not my intention to give a history lesson here as I’ve done that in the past.
I don’t want to have a theological discussion as I’ve done that in the past as well.

But what I do want to do is share a bit of sad frustration that just might have
finally found a slight ray of hope.

Have you ever found yourself on a sinking ship?
Probably not, but stay with me for a minute…

It is a ship that is actually on fire.
In the middle of a moonless night out upon a vast body of water.
You know the ship is burning as well as sinking…
plus you know you need to get off ASAP!

Problem is there are no lifeboats, no fire extinguishers…
the water is dark and cold as well as shark infested.
Your options are limited.
Things just aren’t looking too good.

I have felt this way for a good many years now.

Both The Episcopal Church and the Church of England have become that sinking
ship.

It’s a long story which I suppose got really going in the late 60’s
and early 70’s.

We may remember that we were coming off a very difficult time in the country.
Vietnam had been a mess, women were burning bras,
demanding equal rights, demanding the right to abortions,
while the youth had enjoyed a “season” of open and free love as we had witnessed
the demand for birth control and open sex.

That was also about the time women were wanting into the priesthood.
Then came the openly gay and practicing clergy.
Then came the approval of same sex marriages within the church.
Ad nauseum it goes.

I’ve spent my life as an ardent Christian and ardent church member who has always
clung to God’s word…as in His word is actually the final word…

As His word has been and will continue to always be that final word….
Yet that Word is basically being chopped to bits by the church…..
while the sinking has been hard.

That is part and parcel as to why I quit attending long ago as
I found it increasingly hard to reconcile myself with leadership of a church body
that made decisions that I believe run counter to the Word of God.
Yet my heart remained with the liturgical church.

I am a person who has always liked, as well as admired, those lone voices among
the noise.
Being a person who actually yearns for such voices.
Because I believe those voices speak of our hope.

The voices of those who stand alone in the desert while shouting to the moon
and back as to what is Truth.
Those who speak Truth while the entire world is losing its mind and running
like freaking lemmings to the cliff.

Think John the Baptist.

Think the early Christians persecuted by Rome.

Think even Winston Churchill in our more modern times.

Think anyone who has seen the reality of the times and dares to speak up
by saying so.

I’ve just recently happened upon the blog of an Anglican priest who just so
happens to be one of those lone voices.

A single thread of sanity found in the middle of the madness.

His name is Gavin Ashenden and he is the former chaplain to the Queen…
a position he held until he could no longer support the direction in which the
Anglican Church was going…
that being to the cliff with the other lemmings.

Yesterday Father Ashenden posted a column by the a catholic priest, Fr Ed Tomlinson,
which has hit the nail squarely on the head for both these kindred siblings and cousins.

For you see what is happening in the Episcopal and Anglican Churches is just
a reflection of what is actually taking place on a larger stage.
It is a reflection which mirrors what is actually happening in both the
United States and Great Britain as a whole…
as we are currently watching both our Governments capitulate to all things
Politically Correct, those things deemed holy only by man and a blatant
refusal to acknowledge the Christian foundations of Western Civilization.

The ship is on fire, it is sinking fast and those of us who know better,
have got to get off ASAP but there are no lifeboats….

Below are a few key points from Fr. Tomlinson’s column along with a link to the
full post:

“Highly political synods shattered Anglicanism’s fragile unity.
Catholics should take note”

“A former Anglican Chaplain to the Queen, the Revd Gavin Ashenden,
is spearheading a revolt in the Church of England Synod over the thorny issue
of homosexuality.
Anglicans are talking openly about schism.
Catholics the world over should be watching very carefully.”

Anglicanism’s real problem has always been a theological schizophrenia –
the result, perhaps, of it having formed to appease a lusty monarch rather
than to preach a creed with clarity. Ask a hundred Anglicans what
Anglicanism actually is and expect a hundred answers.
The Church of England isn’t, really, one Church at all.
It’s an Erastian umbrella organisation holding together,
by virtue of the Crown, a huge range of competing theologies.

“And it didn’t take long for the liberal lobby, strengthened by trends
in society and over-represented on the bench of bishops,
to realise synod worked in their favour.
Did the Holy Spirit say no to women priests in July’s Synod?
Fret not: table the motion again in February, then repeat ad nauseum,
until the Holy Spirit finally gets the message!”

The second development which disrupted Anglican unity occurred when the
Book of Common Prayer became optional not mandatory.
You are what you pray: lex orandi, lex credendi.
With the shackles removed, parishes started to go their own way.
Today, there is almost no common ground between an evangelical parish
on one side of town and its liberal counterpart on the other.
This represents a massive problem for the Church of England:
how can you bring people together in love when there is zero shared praxis
between them?
The situation has become so grave that the Lambeth Conference can no longer be held,
due to deep divisions even at the level of the episcopacy.

So it is that the Revd Gavin Ashenden finds himself embroiled in this final
battle for the soul of modern Anglicanism. He and a few others are making
their last stand against the powerful modernist liberal consensus
that dominated the most recent Synod.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2017/07/26/the-lesson-of-anglicanism-liberalism-will-tear-you-apart/

So I am somewhat hopeful when I read the tales that there are a few lone
voices still out there that have yet to be silenced by the masses…voices who
know the truth for what it is….
God’s Truth…

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ;
and He will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15

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 tale of The Great Litany. . . hear us oh Lord. . .

“True prayer is done in secret, but this does not rule out the fellowship of prayer altogether, however clearly we may be aware of its dangers. In the last resort it is immaterial whether we pray in the open street or in the secrecy of our chambers, whether briefly or lenghtily, in the Litany of the Church, or with the sigh of one who knows not what he should pray for. True prayer does not depend either on the individual or the whole body of the faithful, but solely upon the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows our needs.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DSC00307
(a painting I did years ago of a meeting between Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa—I include it as you can see in her hand that she holds onto a rosary as Mother Teresa was known to be in a constant state of prayer–that she had trained her mind and heart to be at constant prayer even while simultaneously engaged—just as John Paul was known to do the same. . ./ Julie Cook / 2011)

Looking at the word count, before I even typed a single letter, it was topping out at 1188—
Makes one not want to read what’s going on in such a post as that is just way too many words. . .but I promise, I didn’t write them!!!
The reason behind such a hefty tally was the fact that I had cut and paste a copy of The Great Litany as taken from The Book Of Common Prayer–all before typing a single word–1188 words!!
Yes, the “prayer” is that long. . .
Which brings me to the meat of this post. . .

Growing up in a liturgical church, during various services, we would often recite The Great Litany, all while kneeling mind you!

I can remember when I was in high school attending church—it was (still is) a beautiful gothic Cathedral. Cavernously deep, tall and wide as the traditional architectural shape was that of a latin cross.

I’d settle into my favorite pew, the third down from the top, on the right side of the aisle, listening to the massive organ gently offering the ‘music voluntary’–those random tunes played pre- service as members ambled in taking their seats.
Eyeing the day’s service program, my heart would sink when I saw that The Great Litany was to be included in the service. It was almost enough to make me want to get up, walk out, cross the street and head over to the Catholic Cathedral for service (of which I had been known to do if I wasn’t keen on who was preaching).

A reiterated Litany could leave one perched on a kneeler for what seemed to be an eternity.

“hear us Oh Lord. . .” over and over and over. . .as the monotone priest would offer each sectioned prayer before God and congregant with each recited response rising equally as monotonous from the congregation. . .

“Good Lord, deliver us”

Yet I must admit there was always something I found deeply soothing about that prayer–just as I do so still to this day.

The Great Litany traces it’s roots back to 5th century Rome, when during the early days of the Christian Church’s service, there was a repeated petition to God—it began as the latin prayer
Kyrie Elesion–

Kyrie Eleison
Christe Eleison
Kyrie Eleison

or

Lord Have Mercy Upon Us
Christ Have Mercy Upon Us
Lord Have Mercy Upon Us

It wasn’t until 1544 when the Anglican Archbishop Thomas Cranmer actually put together the litany into the format we know today. . .

On my knees, reading along in the prayer book, I always made a mental note that The Litany hit all the bases as it covered everything—and I mean everything and everyone. . .
It pleaded for our redemption, our pardon, for our need of forgiveness. . .
it espoused our wickedness, our sinfulness and our deep need for Grace. . .

“have mercy upon us”

Blessings were asked to be poured upon our leaders, our families, our churches, our nation, ourselves, our clergy, our world. . .you name it. . .it was petitioned and we implored. . .

“we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord”

Yet for all of its verbose manner it was keenly focused.
It was succinct.
And if the truth be told, it was razor sharp and efficient.

There are those who have never quite understood repetitive prayers in those more liturgical church services—the saying of the rosary or even that of the Jesus prayer. . .

Yet there is one thing I’ve learned over the years and that is prayer, just like anything else, needs to be practiced and honed—just as a learned skill.

Oh I can hear the free thinkers and spontaneous ones among us now grumbling. . .
Prayer, which is a form of conversation with the Divine Being of God, requires a clear heart as well as mind and much focus. . .

How many times, when you’ve gone to God in prayer, that as soon as you close your eyes picking up your rosary, or prayer beads, or folding your hands it’s—suddenly it’s as if thought after thought comes crashing to mind. . .
“was that the phone?”
“Did I turn out the lights?”
“Did I lock the door?”
“Did I feed the dog?”
“Oh gosh, I need to call the bank, NOW!”

An assault of thoughts begin to assail the mind, urging the body to take immediate action—
It’s rather hard to pray when a million thoughts, along with an ever growing to do list, all begin to formulate in one’s head. . .the dark one is insidious that way. . .like a fly that just won’t stop buzzing around your face, demanding to be dealt with immediately.

Prayer, that sacredly private one on one time with The God of all Creation, requires our reverence, our determination, our hearts, our souls and our very busy crowded minds. . .

So there is definitely something, for me, soothing, cathartic and training about utilizing a litany, or repeated prayer as it were, when praying. It helps to provide a place to recenter, reconnect, to come back to when the mind takes off in a million different directions.
It is meditative, reflective, recentering and actually quite necessary. . .

So on this lengthy note—it’s time I get down to business while on my knees. . .
“hear me Oh Lord. . .

The Great Litany

O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the faithful,
Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God,
Have mercy upon us.

Remember not, Lord Christ, our offenses, nor the offenses
of our forefathers; neither reward us according to our sins.
Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast
redeemed with thy most precious blood, and by thy mercy
preserve us, for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From all evil and wickedness; from sin; from the crafts
and assaults of the devil; and from everlasting damnation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory,
and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want
of charity,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all inordinate and sinful affections; and from all the
deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness
of heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and
flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from
violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and
unprepared,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity
and submission to the Law; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and
Temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion;
by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection
and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in
the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

We sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God; and that
it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church
Universal in the right way,
We beesech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to illumine all bishops, priests, and
deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy
Word; and that both by their preaching and living, they may
set it forth, and show it accordingly,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to send forth laborers into thy
harvest, and to draw all mankind into thy kingdom,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all people increase of grace
to hear and receive thy Word, and to bring forth the fruits of
the Spirit,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such
as have erred, and are deceived,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us a heart to love and fear
thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee so to rule the hearts of thy servants,
the President of the United States (or of this nation), and all
others in authority, that they may do justice, and love mercy,
and walk in the ways of truth,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to make wars to cease in all the world;
to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; and to
bestow freedom upon all peoples,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to show thy pity upon all prisoners
and captives, the homeless and the hungry, and all who are
desolate and oppressed,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the
bountiful fruits of the earth, so that in due time all may enjoy
them,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to inspire us, in our several callings,
to do the work which thou givest us to do with singleness of
heart as thy servants, and for the common good,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve all who are in danger by
reason of their labor or their travel,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve, and provide for, all
women in childbirth, young children and orphans, the
widowed, and all whose homes are broken or torn by strife,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to visit the lonely; to strengthen all
who suffer in mind, body, and spirit; and to comfort with thy
presence those who are failing and infirm,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who
are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to have mercy upon all mankind,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive
us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue
us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives
according to thy holy Word,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors,
and slanderers, and to turn their hearts,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand; to
comfort and help the weak-hearted; to raise up those who
fall; and finally to beat down Satan under our feet,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant to all the faithful departed
eternal life and peace,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant that, in the fellowship of
[__________ and] all the saints, we may attain to thy
heavenly kingdom,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace.

O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, hear us.

Lord, have mercy upon us. Kyrie eleison.
Christ, have mercy upon us. or Christe eleison.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Kyrie eleison.

Pope Paschal I, Iconoclasm and hospitality

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(detail from the mosaic tiled ceiling in the Church of Santa Prassede, Rome, Italy of Pope Paschal 1)

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(a small detail of the mosaic tiled ceiling of St Cecilia’s Church Trastevere, Rome– of Saints Valerian and Cecilia–a church founded by Pope Paschal I)

February 11th, in the Catholic Church, is noted as the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. Undoubtedly we’ve all heard of Lourdes, that small town in extreme southern France with the mystical healing waters and the grotto dedicated to the Virgin and of her apparitions to the young peasant girl Bernadette. . . even those of us non Catholics and the most jaded among us are familiar with Lourdes. . .but who, I wonder, has heard of Pope, or should I note saint, Paschal I? — even those die hard hagiographers, those who study the lives of the saints, no doubt gloss over this lesser known saint who sits among the giants of the church.

Yet it must be noted that February 11th is also the feast day Pope Paschal 1

Why in the world would a little known pope from the 9th century, who reigned as pope for approximately 8 short years, be of any consequence to us today?
Good question.
Pope Paschal I is but a blip on the historical map of an ancient church whose history spans 2 thousand years. Some of the popes have certainly been anything but virtuous—more along the lines of scoundrels and scalawags which leaves many modern day observers, especially those of us who are not members of the Catholic Church, wondering why in the world these people (Catholics) would ever venerate, let alone consider to be of any significance, many of these unscrupulous, lecherous, self indulgent men.

Now I cannot comment upon the virtuous life of or lack thereof for Pope Paschal I.
Little is known.
He was born in Rome and served as Pope form 817- 824. His pontificacy is laced with a bit of intrigue and questions of complicity to executions, all of which lead church members, at the time of his death, to not allow the burial of his body to take place in St Peters.
Certainly sounds a bit scandalous.

It is however of one particular incident, of rather some significant importance, which has lead me to dig a bit deeper into the history of this man whose feast day the Church celebrates today. It is upon closer study that one learns that Pope Paschal I was head of the Latin Church (the western branch of Christianity) during a period known as the Byzantine Iconoclasm—or simply the time of The Iconoclast.

A dark time in history when many fanatical members of the Eastern branch of Christianity, including Emperor Leo III, decided that any and all images (Icons, statues, paintings, mosaics. . .) of God, Christ, and other Holy and sacred individuals were considered sinful, idolatry, and must be destroyed— along with many of the artists, owners as well as those who venerated such images. A dark time of vast persecution of a people who had loved the sacred images and had used them as part of their very deep personal services. Photographs, as it were, of a Savior for a people who wanted, and continue to want, to put a face with that of the Mysterious. Do we not still yearn for such images today?

It is in these dark times of such fanatical ignorance, which has been laced throughout much of the history of mankind, that I believe is one of man’s greatest faults. As an art educator and humble historian, the destruction of various Cultures and their artifacts, which simply boils down to the pure essence of the identity of a people is, in my humble opinion, catastrophic.

This ancient sort of destructive “out of sight out of mind” feeding frenzy has actually played out throughout much of history with a few of the more notable and infamous being that of the Italian Dominican monk Savonarola and his Bonfire of the Vanities, to more recent times with the book burnings of the Nazi’s during the early 1940’s, to the more recent destruction of the giant ancient carvings in Afghanistan, those known as the Buddhas of Bamiyan, by the Taliban in 2001. A warped mindset that if the powerful can simply destroy the “things” and or creations of a certain people, then the people will also cease to exist. History teaches us that perseverance is more than things..

Pope Paschal I was a sympathizer to those members of the Eastern Orthodox church who not only created the sacred art images but to those who continued to want to display such in churches and in homes. He afforded those who fled the persecution in Greece and Turkey a safe haven. He actually encouraged the creation of mosaics and other sacred art by these individuals in many of the churches in Rome. This during a time of great divide between the two Churches.

This little known Pope overlooked the differences of the two bickering arms of a single faith in order to offer hospitality to those victims of persecution. It is because of the very amnesty offered by and of the preservation afford to such treasured pieces of the Christian faith by such individuals as Pope Paschal I and those long forgotten monks who smuggled many of the sacred images to remote monasteries such as St Catherine’s’ in the southern Sinai Peninsula, that those of us today may glance upon images that date to the very inception of our faith.

So on this Tuesday, February 11, may we be reminded of the lesser known names in the annuals of a history, who, such as Pope Paschal I, have helped to preserve important pieces to the puzzle of our past. To those who have demonstrated moments of brave compassion by offering safety to those suffering the persecution of faith.

Hospitality, compassion, benevolence—words to take to heart on this chilly February morning.

Hospitality means we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts. Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step towards dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.
Sister Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B

Santo Subito

DSC00317
(Photograph: detail of painting by Julie Cook)

“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
― John Paul II

DSC00312
(Photograph: watercolor/ mixed media painting by Julie Cook)