crisis of faith or living faith…a choice

In a speech to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2011, Benedict XVI
reflected that
“The essence of the crisis of the Chruch in Europe is the crisis of faith.
If we find no answer to this…then all other reforms will remain ineffective.”

The Day is Far Spent / Cardinal Sarah


(a lone turkey feather lost in the woods / Julie Cook / 2019)

When Joseph Ratzinger speaks about a “crisis of faith”,
we should understand that he is not talking in the first place about an
intellectual or theological problem in the academic sense of the word.
He means a “living faith”, a faith that imbues and transforms life.
“If faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength
from the encounter with Jesus Christ,” Benedict XVI added that day,
“then all other reforms will remain ineffective.”

This loss of the sense of faith is the deep root of the crisis of civilization
that we are experiencing.

As in the first centuries of Christianity, when the Roman Empire
was collapsing, all human institutions today sem to be on the
path of decadence.
Reflections between people, whether political, social, economic, or cultural,
are becoming difficult.
In losing the sense of God, we have undermined the foundation of all
human civilization and opened the door to totalitarian barbarity.

Human beings, separated from God, are reduced to a single dimension—
the horizontal—
and this reduction itself is one of the fundamental causes of the various forms
of totalitarianism that have had tragic consequences in the past century,
as well as the crisis of values that we see in the current situation.

By obscuring the reference to God the ethical horizon has also been obscured,
to leave room for relativism and for an ambiguous conception of
freedom which, instead of being liberating, ends by blinding
human beings to idols.

The temptation that Jesus faced in the wilderness before his public ministry
vividly symbolize which “idols” entice human beings when they do not
go beyond themselves.
Were God to lose his centrality man would lose his rightful place,
he would no longer fit into creation, into relations with others

Pope Benedict XVI
Nov 14, 2012

God cannot be confined by our narcissistic ways

Man wounded by original sin often proves to be egocentric, individualistic, and selfish.
Inspired by Christ, he serves his neighbor.
Without Christ, he knows only his own interest.

Cardinal Sarah


(shelf fungus deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2019)

Slowly, as the time for a page or two is afforded, I continue making my
way through Cardinal Sarah’s book, The Day is Now Far Spent.

Each page is a new nugget of wisdom to be digested.

That’s another reason why this book takes so much time to read…
Each page gives its reader pause…making the reader stop, ponder, think and
inwardly digest what is being said.

I was waiting on my car to be serviced two weeks ago and was lucky to take in a few pages.
Sitting in the lobby on a rainy afternoon, I would read, highlight, re-read
and then sit and deeply reflect on what I had just read.

I felt my self lucky just to be able to take in a mere single page last night
before going to bed.

The following is what I managed to read last night…

Even if man wanted to, he would never succeed in confining God.

He must instead love, listen to, and adore God and follow Christ.

In our materialistic civilization, man thinks almost exclusively of his own narrow interests.
He sees God as the one who ought to provide him with what consumption does not give him.

God is utilized to satisfy selfish demands.
If he does not answer prayer, they abandon him.
Some even go so far as to blaspheme his holy name.
The religion that ought to connect heaven and earth then runs the risk of becoming a
purely narcissistic space.

Some Evangelical sects excel in this commerce.
They transform God into a pagan idol that is supposed to assure them of health,
happiness, and prosperity and to grant every human whim.
They command miracles, and he is supposed to shower us with then immediately.
This is how the sects ridicule God and mock the credulous persons who have neither
intelligence nor faith.

…the prayer of petition is based on trust in God’s will;
the rest will be given to us in addition.
If we love God, if we are careful to carry out his holy will joyfully,
if we first and most importantly desire his light,
that is, the law of God in the depth of our hearts so as to enlighten our paths (Ps 40:8; Heb 10:5-9),
then he will naturally help us in our difficulties.

be rich not in this life, but proceed from love…

“Since love completes all, makes all hard things soft, and the difficult easy,
let us strive to make all our acts proceed from love.”

St. Arnold Janssen


(a birthday bouqute graces the dinner table / Julie Cook / 2019)

“The Devil didn’t deal out temptations to Our Lord only.
He brings these evil schemes of his to bear on each of Jesus’ servants—
and not just on the mountain or in the wilderness or when we’re by ourselves.
No, he comes after us in the city as well, in the marketplaces,
in courts of justice. He tempts us by means of others, even our own relatives.
So what must we do? We must disbelieve him altogether, and close our ears against him,
and hate his flattery.
And when he tries to tempt us further by offering us even more,
then we should shun him all the more…
We aren’t as intent on gaining our own salvation as he is intent on achieving our ruin.
So we must shun him, not with words only, but also with works;
not in mind only, but also in deed. We must do none of the things that he approves,
for in that way will we do all those things that God approves.
Yes, for the Devil also makes many promises, not so that he may give them to us,
but so that he may take away from us. He promises plunder,
so that he may deprive us of the kingdom of God and of righteousness.
He sets out treasures in the earth as snares and traps, so that he may deprive
us both of these and of the treasures in heaven.
He would have us be rich in this life, so that we may not be rich in the next.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 152-3
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

time for reflection

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
William Shakespeare


(moi in 2013 / Julie Cook)

What are the types of things that happen to us in a year’s time?
What sorts of things take place to and or around us during the course of a year?

In my world, there were milestones, fieldstones, capstones and stone weights.

The greatest being a baby turned one as another baby came into the world.

And there were, for this small family of ours…

stress tests
epidurals
CT scans
MRIs
X-rays
ultrasounds
bloodwork
surgeries
healings
shots
medicines
waiting diagnoses
dental implants
additions
trips
trips to an ocean
trips to the mountains
trips to the city
family gatherings
quiet time
accidents
demolitions
updatings
hope
despair
surprises
growing
pruning
anniversaries
multiple ER trips
multiple Urgent Care trips
viruses
infections
food poisoning
haircuts
lost hair
purchases
sales
trials, literally
tribulations
disappointments
discoveries
tears
anger
laughter
solace
peace
good news
troubling news
bad news
sad news
happy news
new friends
old friends
new family
found birth parents
lost birth parents
welcomings
shunnings
new decades of life
frustrations
blessings
reflections…

And so here is to reflections…
May there be many more… that both come and go, in the next decade of living…

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 ESV

If a house could….be a home

Children are not casual guests in our home.
They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and
instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.

James Dobson


(The home of past and present while Dad was still living inside / Julie Cook / 2017)

A very long time ago, my mom and I would often go on Saturday mornings to
Symphony Hall of which was adjacent to the then High Museum of Art…
Atlanta’s fledgling art museum.

Since I don’t actually recall what they called those music and brunch events,
I’ll just say it was pastries and music.

The Atlanta Symphony would provide a breakfast/brunch of various
pastries and beverages and then put on a small yet lovely concert.

My mother had joined the museum early on as my grandmother, her mother-n-law,
was one of the early promoters for Atlanta to get her own museum.

She and my grandfather were to have flown on that fateful flight in 1962 to and from
Orlay, France but opted not to go…
This is what Wikipedia has in a nutshell on that flight:
Air France Flight 007 crashed on 3 June 1962 while on take-off from Orly Airport.
Air France had just opened its new office in downtown Atlanta, and this was the inaugural flight.
Air France was doing its best to publicize the flight; hence,
it was filled with Atlanta’s elite.
The only survivors of the disaster were two flight attendants seated
in the back of the aircraft;
the rest of the flight crew, and all 122 passengers on board the Boeing 707,
were killed.
The crash was at the time the worst single-aircraft disaster and the first single
civilian jet airliner disaster with more than 100 deaths.

The so-called “Atlanta elite” were the leading art patrons of the city.
They were hoping to forge a relationship between France and Atlanta as
the up and coming southern city was looking to develop an artistic and cultural footing.

But that is all another story for another day…
today’s thoughts are different.

When I was a young teacher, I found myself spending summers at the High Museum of Art
taking courses for art educators.
I’d spend weeks driving from Carrollton to Atlanta—back and forth daily
for the duration of each course.

During one particular course, our instructor had us keep a journal/ sketch pad
within arms reach at all times.
She would assign various tasks for the sketchpad and would also encourage us to reflect
in the journals about the assignments.

When I found myself at the Museum, wandering about,
I noted just how difficult it was for me not to think almost constantly about my mom.

I had lost her six years prior and so the Museum, along with Atlanta in general, still held
many shadows of my past.
It was often heavy shadows that I was very much aware of.

It was as if some specter was constantly walking by my side when I was in town.
It was often a very palpable sensation.

During one assignment, assignment 6 to be exact, the instructor had us wander off
and write about something…what that something was eludes me now but this
is what I wrote…along with a note I offered to the instructor who I knew would be
reading what we had written…included is also her comment back to me…


(the doodles of an old journal / Julie Cook / 2019)

“locked deep within my heart is someone I no longer know–
Forced back inside by anger and overwhelming pain.

Was it by choice or convenience that you left?

Your agony was short-lived, 6 weeks is what we counted but how long had you been counting?
Your presence lingers in the shadow of my daily life…and I often think I hear your voice
while my heart will skip a beat.

I don’t cry as much anymore.
Six years has brought healing or either a welcomed numbness.

I use to scream and yell at you for leaving me.

I don’t know if I’ve ever forgiven you or not.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to pray.

I’m not the same person that you left, you wouldn’t recognize me–
I often don’t recognize myself.

With your death, there cane a death within my soul.
A part of me went back inside, In life, you never thought you mattered much,
but in death, the impact of you and the lack of you has changed me forever.

(Note: my mother died 6 years ago from cancer.
The illness was very short-lived–
which was a blessing—but so fast it was like a blur.
As a teenager, she was my enemy.
As a ‘grown-up’, she was my best friend.
It’s just that I never told her that.

My mourning and dealing with the loss has been very much a private thing with me.
I didn’t have the opportunity at the time–because of taking care of my dad.
So–sometimes I can write down and express it.
She and I use to participate in a lot of museum/symphony activities—
so one of her shadows haunts me here–
but it is a part of the life long healing)

Response: Julie, I hope you don’t mind but I read this note to your mother–
it’s beautiful and universal-(love the reflection in the eye)

And so this incident and particular journal entry all came flooding back to the forefront
of my consciousness this past week when I found myself back in Atlanta.

While on my recent nursing duties, caring for our ailing Sheriff,
my daughter-n-law and I were chatting…and I think I made some off the cuff comment
about my hating the house…the same house they call home.

You hate the house?!,” she asked with alarm.
Yes” I nonchalantly replied.
You hate what we’ve done to it?” she fretted.
“OH…
No!!!
Not at all…
I love what you’ve all done…making it yours!
I just hate the past part of the house that was mine…

Many of you already know that the house our son and daughter-n-law call home
is actually the house I grew up in…having moved into when I was all of two years old.
Just about the Mayor’s same age.

It is the home of my childhood.
A childhood and growing up that consisted of tremendous dysfunction.

I often wonder what life would have been like had my parents not adopted my brother.
What if they had gotten a different baby?
Or no baby?
Would our lives have been different?
Happier?
More normal?
But what is normal?

There’s not a spot that I can’t stand inside, outside, in the basement,
out in the yard or even on the driveway that I can’t recall some sort of
melancholy or even dramatic event.

I even remember getting out of bed late one night, when I was still in high school,
stealing away to the sun porch where I closed off the door to the rest of the house
and knelt by a chair that had been my grandparents,
praying that God would bless me with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I thought if anything could fend off the madness inside this house,
it would be the Holy Spirit.

I also vividly remember when finishing my prayer…I felt no different.
Fruits, for me, have been a process of living.
I think God knows I need more time to ripen than most.

After having spent the past 8 days at the house, caring for the Sheriff
and the Mayor, I headed home late Friday evening…

It was a terrible sight to behold—A Friday evening, attempting to
merge onto the top-end of the Perimeter…

I found myself, once again, with tears streaming down my cheeks
as I made my way onto the interstate—
not because of the ridiculous traffic nightmare I was about to be entering into but
rather because of what I was leaving behind.

My two precious grandchildren.

I was to have stayed until Saturday night as we had plans to visit
Santa Saturday then have dinner out as a family to celebrate my upcoming
milestone birthday…but…I was headed home to die in bed.

Here it was, the height of rush hour, I was sick with the Sheriff’s crud and
I was headed home only to miss out on the Sherrif’s first Santa visit…
I felt as if I had let them down.
Let myself down.

But that part actually turned out ok…depending on who you ask.

The Sherrif was still too sick to venture out to the mall…
so it was just The Mayor and her father who went to see Santa.

In her pretty red, green and black plaid tafia dress
(I didn’t have a tafia dress until I was getting married),
black tights, black patterned leather shoes and matching hair bow…
The Mayor marched herself right down the aisle of the mall happily holding
her dad’s hand…up until…until she had to go boldly forth,
alone…

The video I later received let us all know that the visit was actually
on the disastrous side as the Mayor squawled non-stop upon Santa’s lap.
I couldn’t help but laugh.

But on that Friday night, feeling like crap and totally exhausted,
which more than likely lead to my melancholy mood, all the while tiptoeing
my way through a sea of red brake lights and cars,
I found myself asking…oddly asking an inanimate structure a question
or maybe it was more of a favor.

If a house could…if a house could actually offer, or perhaps afford,
those within its walls comfort, affection, protection, joy, happiness, peace and warmth…
would it please do so for this next continuum of my world?

The past will always be the past…for good or bad…
but for this newest generation…I ask for your kindness and love…

For what makes a house a home?

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true,
and you have promised this good thing to your servant.
Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant,
so that it may continue forever before you. For you,
O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your
servant be blessed forever.”

2 Samuel 7:28-29 ESV

May we all remember…

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen

“All we have of freedom, all we use or know –
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.”

Rudyard Kipling


(BBC)


(News.com.au)

I know what you’ll say.
I know you’ll shake your head.
I know your pride will cloud your agreement.
You’ll disagree…
You’ll say I’m wrong…
Or you’ll simply be dismissive…subjecting me to a land of ignorance and deplorables.

But never the less… there are just some things that I believe our cousins from across
the pond get right…so much more so then we do ourselves.

And one of those things is the pausing of the day in order to remember…

A Queen, clad in black, sporting the tri bloom of the red poppy.
A stalwart and determined 93-year-old monarch flanked by wreaths of red poppies.
A usually stiff upper lipped emotionless woman who stops to wipe away a single tear.
All because she remembers.

She remembers.

But the question is, do we?

Perhaps she remembers more clearly because she has lived on the soil where
wars have been fought.
Or that her family has borne the brunt of carrying an ancient Nation during those wars.

Our soil has, on the other hand, been spared.
Other than our own war of division and now a new odd war of terror, our land has remained
basically untainted by world wars.

However, we cannot say the same about our people.

We have sent countless numbers of young men and young women toward the sound of gunfire rather
then holding them tightly in our arms, safely back home.

Some of them returned, some did not.
Some returned…different.

For those who did and have returned, they have done so changed…
both physically as well as emotionally.
And as long as humans have wars…this sad reality will continue.


(Dailymail)


(US wounded at Omaha Beach / US Army file)


(image courtesy American Grit)

Remembrance Day
Armistice Day
Veteran’s Day

Call it what you will.

It is a specified day in November, always the 11th, in which the British Commonwealth,
Canada, the European Nations, Australia, New Zealand, The US…
each pause to mark the recalling of the sacrifices made…
sacrifices that were readily and freely offered so that our collective nations might remain free.

Originally it was a day to mark the end of WWI—it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day
of the 11th month that the war ended when the Germans signed the Treaty of Versailles.

Sadly and most ominously little did the world know then that that treaty would actually usher
in a new and even larger horror—only to follow suit not long after…
A more terrible horror than the first…

And so thus the UK, who marked Remembrance Day yesterday on Sunday with the laying of
poppy clad wreaths on tombs, monuments, and graves, now remember two world wars.

Perhaps one of the more poignant moments during yesterday’s ceremony in London was when
the Queen’s wreaths were placed on the Cenotaph.

The Cenotaph is an empty tomb and monument in London that is a physical and tangible reminder that
not all soldiers come home…as many physical remains still lie elsewhere…
on foreign soil, long forgotten.
Buried or merely lost to the decay of time.


(The Telegraph)

And so we Americans will pause today, on this Monday, November the 11th, to offer our
own remembrance.
Banks and the Postal services will be closed.
Some schools and businesses will close.
Some communities will have parades.
As a president lays a wreath in Arlington at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


(courtesy Conservative Daily News)

But I fear that this nation of ours will not unite in its remembrance.
It will rather remain divided.

Say what they will about their monarchy, seeing their Queen shed tears during her public
remembrance of those who gave their all will draw the British closer, not further apart.

Our Nation will continue to throw caustic jabs at her President.
Her governmental leadership will continue insulting and publically hating one another.
Some in leadership will continue to cry out, hoping to drown out the somber markings
with their own shouts for socialism and that of antisemitism and progressive liberalism…
All of which are the makings of the unforgiving black hole that only aids to usher in the very
thing we now pause to remember…
that of broken nations, wars and eventual loss.

Her people will continue attacking one another over perceived political wrongs.
There will be little in the way of a national coming together in order to remember.
The bias will be heard and seen throughout the newsfeeds.

And so yes, I believe the United Kingdom, who has her own wealth of woe, as Brexit comes to mind,
does a far better job standing united in order to recall and to remember those that
they have loved and lost.

There are a few lessons this proud nation of ours still needs to learn…
A humbling remembering is one of them…

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by Major John McCrae, May 1915

are you willing to man up?

“When we contemplate the sufferings of Jesus He grants us, according to the measure of our faith,
the grace to practice the virtues He revealed during those sacred hours.”

St. Angela Merici

When I read the above quote for the day by St. Angela Merici,
my immediate response was…

“Am I ready?”

Am I ready to step up, to man up, to woman up (for those more sensitive to gender)
to the virtues, the trials, the tribulations that Jesus
readily revealed, experienced and endured during his time of suffering???

That of betrayal, arrest, a mock trial, scourging, the Via Dolorosa, being nailed
to a tree, being hoisted into the air…only to hang by his hands and feet…
deprived of relief…
a long, slow, torturous and inevitably painful death…?

Am I ready?
Am I ready, am I willing, to take up my own cross that He is ready and most willing to
handoff to me?

I ran track in high school…
I ran two different relays.
I know about handoffs.
I know about the importance of the syncing of the handoff.
The necessary effortlessness.
The timing.
The precision.
Hand to hand.
Trust.

So the question remains…
Am I ready…
Am I ready when He would desire to extend such a “grace” to me?

It is a tall order.
It is even a hazardous order given our day and times.

But it is one that we, the faithful, must be willing to take.

The day’s light grows dim.
Time is of the essence.
Are we, both you and I, ready to man up?

St. Francis had to ask himself the same question when confronted with what was a perceived
horror of his own day…leprosy.

In his conversion, he had submitted his all to God.
He had humbled himself to man…but was he willing to humble himself to God?
Was he willing to trust with a blind faith?

Would he, could he, walk the talk when faced with a possible and impending doom?

Spoiler alert…he did.

“Now, as he was riding one day over the plain of Assisi he met a leper,
whose sudden appearance filled him with fear and horror;
but forthwith calling to mind the resolution which he had made to follow after perfection,
and remembering that if he would be a soldier of Christ he must first overcome himself,
he dismounted from his horse and went to meet the leper, that he might embrace him:
and when the poor man stretched out his hand to receive an alms,
he kissed it and filled it with money.
Having again mounted his horse, he looked around him over the wide and open plain,
but nowhere could he see the leper;
upon which, being filled with wonder and joy,
he began devoutly to give thanks to God,
purposing within himself to proceed to still greater things than this.”

St. Bonaventure, p. 4
An Excerpt From
The Life of St. Francis