late but still very timely–no chaining the word of God

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do
with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Ok, I admit, I’ve let this one sit a bit too long…as in this was from about two weeks ago…
Hence the story of my life in a nutshell…a day late and many dollars short!!!

I wanted to share something I read…about two weeks ago.

It came from a daily email I receive from the American Catholic Bishop Robert Barron.
The e-mail is actually a small reflection based on the day’s religious reading.
Be it Catholic, Anglican or Episcopal…or other like-minded denominations, we keep a
liturgical based calendar…

This particular calendar is one that reflects the life cycle of the greater Christian body.

And for those of you unfamiliar with liturgical calendars…
in a nutshell from catholicextension.org, here is an explanation:

The liturgical year serves as the Catholic Liturgical Calendar.
(We could insert Episcopal here as well)
It consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons that determine when feast days
and other holy days are observed, and which Scripture and Gospel
readings are used at Mass.

Aside from the readings,
the liturgical calendar also determines the interior decoration of a Church,
the priest’s vestment colors, the timing of spiritual seasons and practices such
as Lent, and much more.

The Liturgical calendar year begins on the first Sunday of Advent.
It is divided into six seasons.
The shortest but most holy season is the three day Sacred Pascal Triduum leading up to Easter.

My church raising, in the Episcopal Chruch, was based on the same line of calendar seasons.
Our services revolve around the seasons that are recognized by the greater Chruch…
Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost…

That being said, each Sunday is recognized as a Sunday within a certain seasonal time…and each
Sunday has its own specific readings from the epistles and Gospel that follow along
with the said season.
(Each day does as well but most folks do not attend Chruch services on a daily basis…)

Ok, so now that we have that straight…

Two weeks ago, that particular day’s reading was from Luke 11:27-28
It’s a reading based on a small exchange between Jesus and a woman who had been in a
crowd listening to him.
In her zeal and excitement, this woman shouts out to Jesus “Blessed is the mother who
gave birth and nursed you”

Jesus heard her words and responded much differently than what the woman may have imagined
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it”

He was always, as He remains, pulling our sights to the bigger picture…
or more precisely, to the right and correct picture.

We hear him tell us to obey the word of God…for blessed will we be for doing so.

Bishop Barron reflects on this notion of obeying God and thus being blessed
by looking back at a time in history that was more or less a catalyst rather than
being just a single incident.

Since Hitler’s Nazi war machine marched on Polish soil on September 1, 1939
until the fall of that infamous wall in November of 1991,
the Polish people lived under two iron-fisted atheistic regimes …
The Nazis and Communists…fascism, socialism, atheism, authoritarianism, ultranationalism…
you name it–the Poles suffered.
Their Jewish population was almost decimated during the Holocaust.

Poland had been a staunchly Catholic nation almost since its first Christian king in 966.

Yet for over 50 years, Christianity was the bane of two of the
20th century’s bloodiest ruling regimes.

Both the Nazis and Communists worked meticulously to silence the Chruch.

In Germany, the Lutheran Chruch had already capitulated by becoming the official
state-run Chruch. A puppet church of Hitler.

The Chruch in Poland would not fall as easily.

Both regimes outlawed the Chruch, they arrested and murdered priests and nuns,
as well as the pastors of other denominations.
They threatened the faithful with torture and death.
Doors to churches were locked and padlocked.

Yet the faithful remained just that…faithful.
They simply went underground.

This was no more evident than the day the first Polish Pope made
a homecoming visit of sorts on May 8, 1979–
The leader of the global Catholic Chruch visited a bleak and battered Communist nation…
A nation whose leadership was stymied as to stop such a televised and historic trip.

Bishop Barron notes that during the open-air masses attended by the millions of
hungry souls, the crowds would break out chanting, “we want God”

I can remember watching the televised trip.
The people were so hungry for God.
They were determined, they would no longer remian silent.
Because as Bishop Barron reninds us…
“There is no chaning the word of God”

Regimes have all come and gone, each having discoverd what happens when the
people obey that Word regardless of the risk to life…
because be it sooner or later, blessings will indeed eventually follow.

Here is Bishop Barron’s “homily”

Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 11:27-28
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out,
“Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Friends, our Gospel blesses those who hear the word of God and observe it.
In this regard, I would like to speak about the response of the Polish people to
the word proclaimed by St. John Paul II.
The power of the Polish Communist state, and behind that the power of the Soviet Union,
is what John Paul faced at the beginning of the 1980s.
But he was practiced in the art of facing down oppressive political forces,
having grown up under Nazism and Communism.

He spoke of God, of human rights, of the dignity of the individual—frightening
at every turn, his handlers worried about diplomatic repercussions.
As he spoke, the crowds got bigger and more enthusiastic.
This went beyond mere Polish nationalism.
At one gathering, the millions of people began to chant “We want God! We want God!”
over and over for fifteen minutes.

There was no controlling this power, born of the confidence that God’s love is
more powerful than any of the weapons of the empires of the world,
from crosses to nuclear bombs. This is, of course,
why Communist officialdom tried vehemently to stop John Paul II.
But there is no chaining the Word of God!

Bishop Robert Barron

Our Judaeo / Christianity roots keeps us disciplined

“The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence,
were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite,
and these Principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer.
And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity,
in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty…

“Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe,
that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable,
as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty,
are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.”

Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson.


(image Memoria Press)

Monday night, once the dishes were finally finished, I sat down to catch a bit
of the day’s news.
I came in right at the beginning of a sit-down interview between Fox News journalist
Martha Maccallum and Wall Street editorialist, Bill McGrun

The subject topic was ‘Faith in American Politics’ as both journalists were offering
their take on the speech given by Attorney General William Barr Friday to a closed-door
audience at Notre Dame’s law school.
The gist of the speech has been called Barr’s take on the ‘coordinated
campaign to destroy the traditional moral order.’

I’ve written about this very subject for quite some time here in my small little corner
of the blogosphere.

Mr. McGrun observed that Barr was basing much of his thoughts on that of the
Founding Fathers and the sustaining of a ‘free’ society.
McGrun noted that “if you want a free society,
it requires people capable of self-governing
which means restraining your passions.
Religion contributed a lot of that morality that made people disciplined—allowing
them to be free and so when religion is in decline, you then get anything goes…”

Below is the link to the interview between Maccallum and McGrun…
it is a short interview and worth the viewing
but below that is the link to the full video of Barr’s address.

When I was searching for a video clip to share regarding Barr’s speech,
many news outlets offered clips with a few key soundbites along with their
overtly negative reactions.

I simply wanted the speech without any added commentary, con or pro.
So what I found was actually marked as a banned video.
Why that is I am uncertain.

The other item I sought to share was the column Mr. McGrun referenced that he’d written
following his having watched and digested the Barr speech…however,
in order to do so, I would
have to be a Washington Post on-line subscriber…
of which I am not nor do I wish to pay for.

So perhaps there is some other place where his column may be found…
but due to my limited social media connections, I’m not certain.

And as an aside I should note that both Barr and Maccallum are Catholic.
Maccallum’s son plays football for Notre Dame.
And Barr has younger family members attending Notre Dame
My Bulldogs beat the Irish, but could not beat the roosters (South Carolina)
so if you think this is a biased observation, think again.

Lastly, I’ve included a link to the Notre Dame student-based school newspaper
which published a story regarding the speech.

All of which are well worth the time to both watch and read…

https://video.foxnews.com/v/6094808752001/?playlist_id=5410209611001#sp=show-clips

William Barr speaks at Notre Dame about ‘militant’ forces of secularism, religious liberty in America

PS—I might be out of pocket for a day or two as illness has once again struck the home
of the Mayor—dad is now ailing and so we are off to help out…

pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

fervent determination

People often ask me:
What should we do?
When division threatens, it is necessary to strengthen unity.
This has nothing to do with a team spirit as it exists in the world.
The unity of the Church has its source in the heart of Jesus Christ.
We must stay close to it, in it.
This heart that was pierced by the lance so that we might be able to take refuge
there will be our house.
The unity of the Church rests on four columns.
Prayer, Catholic doctrine***, love for Peter, and mutual charity
must become the priorities of our soul and of all our activities.

Cardinal Robert Sarah
from The Day Is Now Far Spent


(detail of the intricacies of a web /Julie Cook / 2019)


(the intricacies of the spider /Julie Cook / 2019)

Given the surge of sins in the ranks of the Church,
we are tempted to try to take things into our own hands.
We are tempted to try to purify the Church by our own strength.
That would be a mistake.
What would we do?
Form a party?
A movement?
That is the most serious temptation: the showy disguise of division.
Under the pretext of doing good, people become divided, they criticize each other,
they tear each other apart.

And the devil snickers.

He has succeeded in tempting good people under the appearance of good.
We do not reform the Church by division and hatred.
We reform the Church when we start by changing ourselves!
Let us not hesitate, each one in his place, to denounce sin, starting with our own.

Cardinal Robert Sarah
from The Day Is Now Far Spent

****Whereas Cardinal Sarah (1945 Guinea) is a prominent
Catholic prelate, as a non-Catholic, I can still read and take heart in his words.
In this case, I consider ‘Catholic’ to mean the global Christian family, just
as I consider ‘the Chruch’ to mean the collective Christian family…

dystopian or reality?

“Friendliness took the place of charity, contentment the place of hope,
and knowledge the place of faith.”

Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World


(Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson)

First, read the following intro to a new book I’ve recently learned about, along
with a few of the following reviews—and then we’ll talk…

Oh, but keep this in mind, the book was written in 1907.

What would you do if you were living
at a time when the entire world regarded
Christianity as a dangerous superstition…

When governments ridiculed religion
and exalted the progress of humanity…

And materialism and psychology seemed
to provide for man’s every need?
Can you imagine a world where
faith is replaced by “information,”
hope with “contentment,” and
charity with “friendliness”?

Where politicians are lauded as prophets,
and the greatest politician of them all
is worshipped by the masses as the
Messiah, they’ve been waiting for?

A world where Humanitarianism is the
new “Kingdom of God,” and madness
descends like a fog on the nations?
What would you do if you saw priests, bishops,
and Catholic laity falling under this great delusion
and apostatizing from the Faith in masses?

What would it be like to see everything
and everyone rapidly coalescing into
two distinct yet unequal camps:

…the World and its massive secular power—
and the small flock of Christ’s true Church?
And all the while God
seems distant and silent.

His Church appears to be defeated,
with all hope lost; Rome seems
as vulnerable as a sandcastle
before the crashing tide.

The Church has no men who are
strong enough for the decisive
fight that is approaching.

Except one.

Father Percy Franklin.

On the surface, he is a young, unassuming priest,
but deep down he is a man-made for the times—
like a brilliant general who sees with strategic
and intuitive eyes the powers that are at play.

He rises in the ranks to lead the
Church in its darkest hour.

How will he endure the impending
assault of the world’s combined powers?

All this is the apocalyptic scene
placed before you by novelist
Fr. Robert Hugh Benson.

In this dystopian novel, we can
see prophetic elements of our
present real-world crisis.

“Classic and prophetic work.”
—Joseph Pearce

You will find yourself in a world
that feels hauntingly familiar…

…a world in which there is a magnetic
temptation to apostasy, and even the strong
struggle to keep their faith in Christ.

Author Robert Hugh Benson
will make you ask yourself:

Would my faith in Christ and His Church
remain unshaken if I lived in a world like this?

Robert Hugh Benson was a famous Anglican priest.
His father was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But he stunned the world when he left the Church
of England and became a devout Catholic priest.

A brilliant author, he was also an astute
observer of the great world powers
that were at work in his day.

He predicted that a modern rise in mass communication
and weapons of mass destruction would culminate in a
future clash of the world against God and His Church.

‘Lord of the World’ is his apocalyptic novel,
written in the years leading up to the Great War—
the war that would bring Our Lady to Fatima—and
he places the reader into a prophetic re-telling
of the Book of Revelation.

“[Robert Hugh Benson] was a magnetic preacher,
an excellent story-teller, a ready writer; he had
enthusiasm and unremitting energy, a rich
imagination… but he knew that there was
only one relationship of absolute
value, that of the soul to God.”

Evelyn Waugh
Author & Convert

“Lord of the World is the right book for Christians
in the modern world—and there may be no
message more critical for our time.”
Most Reverend James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln

“A relevant and readable edition
of a harrowing 1907 novel that,
in places, seems all too
familiar and timely.”
Elizabeth Scalia
Acclaimed Catholic Writer

Ok, so let’s chat a minute.

Firstly, I’m not a big fan of fiction or novels.
I’ve always just preferred more actual, realistic, biographical or historical works.
But that’s not to say that I’ve not read my fair share of both good and bad fictional
tales over the years.

So I’ll admit that my interest was certainly piqued when reading this particular intro–
especially when I read the line
“Would my faith in Christ and His Church
remain unshaken if I lived in a world like this?”

For starters… because you and I need to understand that we are indeed living in such a world
as outlined in this intro of a 1907 dystopian novel.

The troubling thing is that we don’t exactly see or “get” that we are living in such a world.

And secondly, the question asked is a very relevant question for both you and me…
the question being, ‘would, or more likely will, our individual faith in both Christ and the
Christian Chruch remain in such an anti-Christian, anti Chruch, anti-Christ culture?
…Not simply be unshaken, but more correctly, will it actually remain??

Because the reality of this particular fictional tale is not whether or not we are actually
living in the world of this 1907 prelate’s fantasy—bur rather are we living one man’s
fantasy which has in actuality become our very own reality??

And thus the looming question that you and I need to be asking ourselves
is whether or not our faith is holding–
is it fast, firmed and fixed…
or is it simply slipping too quickly through our oh so slippery fingers of doubt?

I ordered the book.

ora pro nobis—pray for us

So the religious soul finds in the heart of Jesus a secure refuge against
the wiles and attacks of Satan, and a delightful retreat.
But we must not rest merely at the entrance to the hole in the rock,
we must penetrate its depths. At the mouth of the deep hollow, at the mouth
of the wound in his side we shall, indeed, find the precious blood which
has redeemed us.
This blood pleads for us and demands mercy for us.
But the religious soul must not stay at the entrance.
When she has heard, and understood, the voice of the divine blood,
she must hasten to the very source from which it springs,
into the very innermost sanctuary of the heart of Jesus.
There she will find light, peace, and ineffable consolations.

St. Anthony of Padua


(a mysterious painting of St. Anthony and the Christ child)

The saints pick us, we don’t pick them…
Or so that’s what they say.

But firstly, let’s remember, this is going to be a story about a painting…
nothing more, nothing less…

For starters, I’ve stated this before…I am not a Catholic—rather I was raised in the
fold of the Episcopal Chruch…that of the Anglican Communion.

I am however familiar with the family of Saints.
A seemingly Catholic notion.
Yet also very Anglican…

Also, I love my traditional Anglican hymns…
One little hymn, in particular, I Sing a Song of the Saints of God
I loved singing that hymn when I was a little girl attending children’s chapel.

Saints, in my youthful mind, were individuals who loomed large in our Christian Faith.
Brave, and even stoically defiant, in the face of persecution.
Some had been ardent unbelievers or dastardly sinners who had, for whatever reason,
come face to face with the God of all Creation and in turn, fell into His redeeming arms,
never looking back but rather becoming ardent defenders of the faith.

It was always the 3rd stanza of the hymn that offered me a sense of hopefulness that I too
could one day be counted among that same fold of brave Christian individuals.

they lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still;
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.

I also know that when one is confirmed within the Catholic Chruch,
they are encouraged to choose a patron saint.
A heavenly individual who will walk alongside them as they navigate the world…
all the while the saint helps to provide inspiration along with a more spiritual focus.

The old saying goes, ‘you don’t pick the saint, the saint picks you.’

And I must admit, I actually agree.

We Protestants haven’t always quite understood the relationship our Catholic kin
have had with the Saints, but I’m one who has always appreciated that little relationship.
And that’s in part due to my Anglican upbringing.
As well as spending years in college studying religious Renaissance Art.

So no, it’s not an attempt at replacing Jesus as the focus of our prayers, praise,
and adoration but rather it’s more like having a few more folks in one’s corner
it’s just that those folks are a bit more heavenly than earthly.

Think of it like having a close friend who joins you in prayer and
who walks along by your side…it’s just that they’re there in spirit rather than
in the flesh.

But this isn’t a post about the virtues or vices of Saints in our lives…
rather this is a post about a painting…a painting of a saint…

Well, sort of…

The saint in question is Saint Anthony of Padua, otherwise known as
Santo Antonio di Padova.

Anthony was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195.
Eventually, he became a Franciscan Friar, making Padua (Padova), Itlay home.

He is known as the patron saint of lost things.

But again, this is not necessarily to be a biographical post, just a post
about a painting…

I have had a long connection with St Anthony—one I’ve written about before.
But this particular tale is unlike our other run-ins and lingering relationship.

So just know, Santo Antonio and I have a history.
But this story isn’t about that story, but rather about a painting.

Several months ago, I took a couple of my grandmother’s old lamps over to Atlanta
in order to have then rewired.

They are lovely antique lamps that have just sat, never being used due to ancient
and most dangerous wiring.
My grandfather, who was an electrical engineer would, as a hobby, often turn the
antiques figurines or urns that my grandmother would bring home into lamps…
and so some of these lamps haven’t been updated in decades.
So I figured it was high time I got them up to speed so I could actually use them.

A friend of mine recommended a nice little lamp shop located over in Midtown…
and it just so happened that the shop also had a hodgepodge smattering of antiques.

I made several trips back and forth as I also decided that I needed to update a few lampshades.
Over the course of my visits, the owners and I struck up a nice little friendship.

We knew mutual old Atlanta stories and they knew some customers from Carrollton who
I knew.
Life can be delightfully small like that.

During one of my many trips over, one day my eye suddenly gravitated to an old beat-up
unframed oil painting perched all alone over in a forgotten corner.

The painting was ripped, chipped and cracking as the canvas was coming
untacked from the wooden base frame.
It was old, it was sad and it was unloved…
and it oddly drew me in.

Or rather it was the subject matter which immediately drew me in.

I asked the owners if they would consider selling the picture.

They said yes and it was actually a very affordable penance of a price for such an old painting.

Next they proceeded to tell me the story of how they came about the painting.

It seems that back in the early 1920s, The Vatican reached out to an Abbey in Michigan
about sending them approximately 50 paintings.
Why I’m not certain, but I do know that it was not uncommon for the Vatican to
‘lighten the load’ so the speak by gifting various abbeys, monasteries and churches
with some of their burgeoning collection of artwork.

The abbey kept the paintings until recently.

A nun from the abbey, out of the blue, reached out to these owners…
as it seems that one of the owners has a proclivity for antique
paintings and is known for such.

The nun explained how the abbey had gotten the paintings
but for a reason I never caught in this convoluted tale, asked if they’d be interested in
buying any of the paintings.

When they hung up the phone with the nun, they immediately rented a U-haul and drove
all night to Michigan.

They bought all 50 paintings and brought them back to Atlanta.

Many of the paintings have in turn been sold or were simply kept.

All but the one painting that had caught my eye—sadly because it
was most likely the one in the worst shape.

But that didn’t matter to me.
The painting called out to me and I couldn’t resist.

What I was planning on doing with a dilapidated,
torn old painting was beyond my husband’s soul…
but it mattered not, the painting had called to me.

A few weeks after bringing home my new old broken treasure,
my husband and I ventured down to a small town outside of
Callaway Gardens to spend an afternoon roaming around and having lunch.

I wandered into an antique shop and started looking at a couple of old frames that were for sale.
The owner asked what I had in mind for the frame.
That was when I began to share my tale about my painting and how I was looking for a frame.

She asked if I would consider bringing her the painting as she had a friend who actually
did restoration work on old paintings.

I agreed.
I was curious as to its background and there was just something about the painting
that seemed to plead with me to please bring it back to life.

I think that comes from spending a lifetime as an Art teacher

The short of this long story…we finally picked up the painting today…
It is estimated to be almost 200 years old.
It has been lovingly repaired, cleaned, re-stretched
and now rests in a pretty new frame…nearly 3 months after
I first saw it sitting alone in a corner.

So tomorrow, the painting of Santo Antonio will finally be hung up, surrounded by things
received and gathered during a lifetime of running into St Anthony.

I don’t know its origin.
I don’t know its artist.
I don’t know if the Vatican ever really once owned it or not.
And I don’t know the abbey that held on to it all these years.
I really don’t know anything about it…only but one thing…
it seems that saints find us, we don’t find them…

“I have learned on this journey that we can’t only study the saints who have personalities
or interests exactly like our own.
Our friends, including our Heavenly ones, should challenge us and help us to grow.
In seeing what we lack in our own lives, we are able to forge ahead and grow.
If we never seek out our defects or weaknesses, then we can never begin to overcome them.
So be open to saints who choose you and want to befriend you.
It is God moving in your life through His saints.
There is something you need to learn or I need to learn.
Let us be thankful for the saints who choose us through no merit of our own.
All you holy men and women, ora pro nobis.”

Constance T.Hull
Catholic Exchange

lessons from a difficult sister

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
for myself, I have chosen your altars,
my King and my God.

Psalm 84:3


(Léonie Martin, known as Sister Françoise-Thérèse)

Since I was adopted as a baby I’ve never known whether I had a sister or not.
I did not have a sister in my adoptive family.
However, I do know what it means to have been a bit of a difficult child.

I was rather headstrong growing up.

I wouldn’t say I was difficult, but that label might need to be addressed by my mom and dad,
and since neither of them is here to add to or refute such a claim, we’ll just keep it as headstrong.

I was often willful, somewhat defiant and had a mind of my own.

I knew what I liked and what I wanted despite those wants and ideas not always being the
wisest of thoughts.

After reading the following story about a rather obscure woman and nun,
I found that I could actually relate to her story.

She is what I call a shadow dweller—a person who lives in the shadows of a more prominent sibling.
A girl who wrestled with her own standing in life and what hand she had been dealt.

That’s the thing…isn’t life just merely a matter of what we make of it…
or on the other hand, it’s what Life makes of us?

Either of which makes us, in turn, who we will become

Will we choose to rise above or will we simply succumb?

Will we allow all of the negative to swallow us whole or will we learn to stand up and out
of the negative, rising up to our true potential?

We can either give in and up or we can purposely and willfully fight our demons in order
to be who we are truly called to be.

And who we are called to be might just be a person who is content living in the shadow
of a more famous sibling…

“Léonie Martin is arguably the least known and admired member of her entire family,
but I doubt she minds.
She’s used to being in that position.”

I’ve written often about one of her sisters.
A now well know sister, who despite having lived a very short life, dying from TB at the age of 24,
made a tremendous impact on the world.

Her parents were just recently recognized by the Pope as exceptional.

All of her sisters sought the vocation of serving Christ.

One sister, however, had a more difficult path to walk than that of her siblings.

And the thing is that once she found her way…Grace prevailed over a lifetime of trial,
willfulness, and difficulty.

Here is the link to Léonie Martin’s story…the sister of The Little Flower.

What We Can Learn From the Forgotten Sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux